Some time ago, I wrote and asked about favorite European cities. Well, I have narrowed my Italian choices down considerably, now that I have been everywhere except Torino and the lakes (except via train) and Sicily, which I very much want to visit, but various Sicilians on tripadvisor have suggested it may not be a great idea to travel there alone (despite my age), female, blonde and in need of a rental car since there are few day tours).
Here's my own choice:
Bologna does have charm, and the people are nice. But it's a little bit of Piacenza, sort of like Florence, a tiny bit Milanese, and a lot Prato. There are many things to see here, but besides its library (and medical school which goes back to 1088) the main attraction is nearness to Ravenna. One thing I do like is the bells. They ring pretty regularly but differently each time, and its pretty cool. I've spent a lot of time in Tuscany and while the hill towns are lovely, I prefer Umbria. And Florence, well, I guess you have to have seen Florence only once or fallen in love there. It is probably my least favorite city in Italy, perhaps because I've been there about 8 times and it feels somehow 'darker' each time -- maybe I'm internalizing medieval Florence. (Though I was wowed the first time I went there in the 90s.)
I do have to say, however, having eaten at three of what are considered Bologna's better restaurants that I think the cuisine here is WAY overrated. Anyway, I will post on tripadvisor when I get home. The best restaurant I found was Da Nello.
Thanks for the wonderful report!
This is always good information and makes me want to go back to Venice and Rome. Having only been to each place once, it is sort of hard to "Muster" up the desire to "Learn" these cities all over again. However, the reports I am getting back from friends on Rome are really magnificent.
Again, thanks for the information and we will await more from you!
No, I changed my mind and am going to Bavaria next week instead. I am worried about the region and did not want to get "Stuck" in a bad situation in Italy right now.
Germany, is much more "Comfortable" right now and Munich and Garmisch are so lovely around Christmas time.
You have a wonderful trip, and I hope to make Rome soon!
There's actually nothing going on in Italy now. I thought I heard the sounds of a 'manifestation' yesterday but it turned out to be soccer fans. You'll love Rome. Even when I have been in Greece, I have never come close to having a problem, because everything tends to be very site-specific (Syntagma and Omonia in Athens). The Grand Flora in Rome is right near the American Embassy and a few years ago there was a small strike in front (I think it had to do with the Iraq War), but it was very contained and the police handled it well so I just walked by.
Have fun in Bavaria!
I really liked Montepulciano as well as Sorrento. Please tell us why you like Ravenna and why you enjoy Umbria over Toscana. In my mind, my next Italian trip looks something like this. Fly into Venice and stay for 3 or 4 days. I would like for once, to just relax in that city and completely take in and experience it's spirit, stroll as opposed to rushing around amid crowds to see everything (perhaps in the off season). Then I would like to work my way to Lake Como for some scenery and relaxation, via Padua, Vicenza and Verona. Then from Como, over to the Cinque Terre. Then home. A trip to Ravenna would fit in nicely.
You read my mind. I was wondering about that. I would need to determine how many days we would need to work our way through the lovely cities I mentioned on our way to Como (Prof, what do you think? Maybe a couple of nights in Ravenna and a couple of nights in Vicenza? How much is there to invest in within these 4 cities?) Then, how many days to spend in Como. What do you think, Jerry? Is an overnighter in order for St. Moritz or is a day trip sufficient? Does one need a car for the Cinque Terre, or perhaps trains (maybe Cinque Terra should be a side trip from Nice someday?) Then where to fly out of.
It is a "Day trip" for sure!
You will enjoy NOT having to pay St. Moritz prices for lodging. You could even take a public bus from Chiavenna, Itally to St. Moritz and back. Would suggest you do the lunch and walk around the downtown square in St. Moritz.
If you need a hotel, I have a recommendation, The Best Western, in Chiavenna, Italy.
pluto77 and jerrycoin - I realize this is an old post, but I had to smile when I read it. When we lived in Germany in the 1970's, we always made a point to ski the high-end resorts Thanksgiving weekend (which is not exactly peak season in Europe)... We once skied St. Moritz over Thanksgiving, and it was both reasonably priced and, frankly, empty (and, thus glorious).... Would love to go back, someday....
That sounds like a wonderful time! "Top of the World"!
Do these bring back some memories?
Hauser's Hotel and Chocolate Factory, right downtown! Wonderful!
Driving thru the Julian Pass (Named after Julius Caesar), is a beautiful way to get to St. Moritz from the West!
Going into St. Moritz, with the Hotel Kempinski behind us! Wonderful time!
ssindc, thank-you for bringing back these great memories!
If I were lucky enough to win a contest with the prize being the choice to live in any Italian city for 90 days (all expenses covered), I would choose Siena. Why? I suppose for the same reason a person settles on a favorite color. Of course, if the prize were 90 days in Rome, my only question would be - when do I leave? Dream on!
Thank you for the wonderful insight! My fiancee and I are actually looking at visiting Italy next year and were planning to stop in Bologna for two night on our way to Rome from Paris via TGV. Was debating Venice too, but we don't have a whole lot of time in the area. We may still depending on routing and transit times to visit all 3 cities. Any idea on what the travel times and ease of routing are on Italy's high-speed rail network? Rome will be our departure city though. Thanks!
You will be in for a pleasant experience via the trains, but consider:
Don't try to "Overdo it"! You will easily wear yourself out and Italy is not easy, unless you have a reasonable "Tight plan"
Secondly, be careful, the train stations are notorious for pick-pockets and troublemakers. Be extremely careful where you exchange money and try not to do it at the train station.
Make sure you get actual "Seats" on the train, if you don't get seat numbers, you may be standing in a crowded car for a long time!
Lastly, really try to "Blend in" with the locals.
If you go in Summer, expect huge crowds, and book your rooms now, especially if you are using points.
Let us help you in detail as you have more questions!
If you can use Bologna for a base for Ravenna, the latter is one of the most dazzling sights in Italy. (But it's also actually really inexpensive to stay there.) Had bad shoes not made my fight unusable at the end that was one of the key reasons I went to Bologna - there is a train every hour and it only costs 7 euros. If you do decide on Ravenna, I can give you a detailed itinerary from my long ago trip. It was the last outpost of the Western Roman Empire, by the 6th C. ruled by the emperor Justinian in the east (and his colorful and very helpful empress Theodora who managed to keep his empire for him). About her there are both good bios and a wonderful historical novel (I think just called Theodora). She started as a 'dancer' and 'entertainer' (quotes needed...) and when Justinian married her his counselors wanted to kill him. But when the two local sports teams, the Blues and Greens, went into revolt (more serious than an English soccer riot), he wanted to leave and she told him "You can leave, but you will leave being an emperor behind" (paraphrased seriously). But he paid attention and ignored his counselors, and had a huge impact in Constantinople. Incredible mosaics of him and Theodora are in San Vitale in Ravenna, but it's also spread out throughout the city, including baptistries from the 4th C. On the other hand, if you stayed in Bologna, you could actually visit Venice -- if it's now or never, I'd say go for it.
Hi again Kharada,
Definitely blend in with the locals as Jerry says -- there is no single more important thing an American can do abroad. For women, no sneakers (although Bologna has more Foot Locker stores than in the whole state of Maine) and you need to cover your shoulders for 'real' (not museum) church visits. Even at the Vatican they often let this go a little (even miniskirts, shorts and shoulders if it's not to egregious). But as I said in an earlier email, because of my visits to Istanbul (where women do not have to wear veils, and as many did as did not on both trips), I was helped some by wearing them. They will treat you MUCH better at mosques, meaning at most a scarf and taking off your shoes. The carpet salesmen were the big problem for me -- and that is why I will get a niqab before going there again. Unfortunately, the first time I wore scarfs they didn't really serve the purpose in Turkey (it didn't matter in Egypt since I was entirely in tourist places or on Zamalek at the Marriott) because I was treating them a bit too much like decoration and they usually fell off and never covered my bangs. Serious religious people in Turkey don't expect women (especially visitors) to wear the niqab, but I will to get the carpet salesmen off my back. I even asked my Islamicist colleague how women manage to keep hijabs (scarves) on their head, and he said with a smile, lots of bobby pins.
Anyway, I digress. But if this is your chance to get to both Ravenna and Venice, stay in Bologna. And if I read in haste and you're spending most of your time elsewhere, now you can plan for a future trip!
Also, if you're in Bologna and not in one of the BIG cities (Florence, Venice, Rome), you can't reserve most seats on trains. But don't give into the temptation to rent a car if you value your life !
I only just did this 6 months ago, and already I can't remember the time tables , but I believe that our train from Venice to Florence was under 3 hours and Florence to Rome was under 3 hours as well. Maybe only 2-2.5. Bologna to Venice would be less, and Bologna to Florence perhaps not an hour. I purchased my tickets from Venice to Florence online prior to my trip, and booked my Florence to Rome leg at the Venice train station. Prices were really reasonable, like under 35€ per person per leg, of course would be more if going from Venice or Bologna all the way to Rome. We had seat assignments.
Here's a link to a post that may help you with your train travel in Italy: http://www.rewards-insiders.marriott.com/thread/10314
I agree with the Professor. Don't miss Venice.
I am going to torture your soul with some links to Venice photos:
I know how hard it is to fit everything into one trip. I am trying to figure out how to fit Prague, Bratislava, Vienna, Salzburg and Garmisch into two weeks. I don't think it can be done; I might have to just take more time off. If you can get the time off, and swing a couple of extra nights of lodging, I encourage you to do try and get to Venice. If you're young, you can manage the pace. We only live once. And with cost, and the fact that you live in Hawaii (long flights), who knows when you'll be able to return? On my first trip to Europe, we stayed in Paris for a week, then took a sleeper car from Gare de Lyon to Venice, and only stayed in Venice a day and a half! Not enough time for sure, but I don't regret it.
Thank you jerrycoin, profchiara, and pluto77! You guys, as always, have proven to be very helpful! And those pictures aren't making it any easier pluto77!
I've actually never heard of Ravenna before. Really basing everything off of travel shows like No Reservations, Layover, etc. I'm a Bourdain fan, can you tell? But, this trip is going to be our honeymoon and constrained more by expense than time. But, so far this is what we have planned for our November 2013 honeymoon:
HNL - CDG: Mileage redemption on AA
Transit time to Europe unknown, as we haven't booked our flight yet. I've enlisted the folks at MileValue to help us get our reward flights. Currently estimating 24-36 hours transit
Disneyland Paris for 2 nights
3 nights City of Paris
2 nights Bologna
3 nights Rome
Rome - HNL: Mileage redemption on AA
Intra Europe transportation will be on the TGV and Italy's ever expanding high-speed rail network.
Disneyland Paris: Disney Vacation Club points for hotel stay on property
Paris: Renaissance La Defense (points and/or cash)
Bologna: AC Hotel Bologna (cash)
Rome: Rome Marriott Grand Hotel Flora (points)
I will be expending all my points to book the Grand Hotel Flora once we get our flight nailed down. I'll get enough points from our wedding to book Renaissance La Defense on points, however, that won't be until sometime in August or September (depending how long it takes JW Marriott Ihilani to credit me the points for our wedding).
We don't really have a list of things to do, as my fiancee doesn't really care to sightsee or visit historical sights. She doesn't even seem to care to see the Mona Lisa or Versailles! Having seen these once in 1999, doesn't bother me that much. What I do want to experience is the food and perhaps a few other sights. My fiancee primarily wants to go for shopping and food. Jerrycoin has already made some great dining recommendations for Paris and I'm still on the fence regarding La Tour d'Argeant and Latellier de Joel Robuchon.
For Italy, I would like to see the major sights, though probably not the Vatican, and we won't be going inside the Colosseum. Other than that, we're both pasta, charcuterie, bread, pizza, seafood, gelato, and crepe (for France) lovers. So, our schedule is very flexible, so long as we stay within the time constraints we have and am very open to itinerary suggestions! I'm planning on spending no more than 2 weeks away, though stretching another day or two should be possible.
Also, my sister has this theory that a Prada bag she wants is going to be cheaper in Italy. Does anyone know if this is the case? I personally don't think it'll make much (if any) of a difference. Thanks!!
First of "Congratulations" on your upcoming Wedding and Honeymoon! You have put together "A trip of a lifetime" and I hope it will go as "Memorable" as possible! Would like to share some travel thoughts with you, (Hope pluto and the professor, and others will comment as well). But here goes:
Upon arrival at CDG, get a 5 day RER/Metro ticket for the two of you at CDG
Take the RER to La Defense for 5 nights. You should get a better deal on points, (Book the hotel on points ASAP, you can always Pay, if you don't have the points, or a portion of the stay on points) I would commute to Euro Disney from La Defense on the RER for your fun at EuroDisney. The Marriott there is nice, but not worth the trouble of going for two nights, plus you will need transportation from there to dine. It is about an hour trip one way, but not having to pack/unpack will give you more time for doing what you want to do. I hope pluto can share with you her thoughts on EuroDisney property, as she has been there most recently than I. Again, I had a car and was coming to EuroDisney Marriott from The Loire Valley and just stayed cheaply prior to going to LaDefense.
I know you have some time to work out the details in France, but here are a couple of thoughts on that portion of your trip:
There is "Little relationship between cost and real value at many Paris places to dine". You may want to "Splurge" one night at La Tour d'Argent, but it will cost you at least $100 pp, and it is worth it. You will need to make a reservation for a window table well in advance. Tell them ( or anyplace you choose), the occasion, and ask for their best. You can order flowers for the table, or whatever you want, they will accommodate you. Frankly, I and others, can recommend places that you will enjoy, at 1/4 of the typical prices of tourists that are outstanding values.
If I had five days in Paris I would plan on:
Louvre, with a walk to Notre Dame and back up Rue St. Germaine
Train to Versailles
Double Decker Bus around town, including Eiffel Tower
Evening Seine River Cruise
You will have the luxury of having The Renaissance as your base, and can utilize the RER and Metro from there.
Try to get a corner room at La Defense, and enjoy a great breakfast buffet in The California Room. The CL is very nice, and the shopping in the huge shopping mall, next door will save you a lot of money. You can get your wine, snacks, etc there at a fraction of retail prices.
kharada46, hope this makes sense, and let us know if you have detailed questions. Wish I could help more on the Italian part of your Honeymoon, but I have only been to Rome and that area once. You will get some great recommendations from pluto/professor and others on that portion of your trip. When the time is closer, will make sure you have photo's which will "Ease" the challenges both time and money wise that confront you!
Thank you for your excellent recommendations and for your well wishes!
Point taken on La Defense, however, for our Disney portion, we'll be staying at one of Disney's own properties thanks to the program they have in place for Disney Vacation Club owners. But thanks for you your booking recommendation as well! Wasn't too sure if I could book with the intent of using points I didn't have just yet and pay cash if I ultimately couldn't come up with the points!
On another note, I was wondering about transportation within Paris. I was looking at the rail pass on RailEurope, but it was expensive! Do you recall how much an RER/Metro pass is? Also, how long is the ride out to Versailles?
Thanks again and I look forward to seeing those photos when the time gets nearer!
Glad you have got the Disney deal! That sounds like a great way to see EuroDisney.
Do you know how you are going to get to EuroDisney from CDG?
I don't remember how much a 5 day pass was on the RER/Metro. I was thinking 40 Euro's but will look it up for sure and let you know!
The ride from La Defense to Versailles is about one hour, with one stop, it's all very easy. I am going to start a whole new post, with prices, pictures and information! Be patient!
Thank you! I patiently anticipate your post!
You know, I've been trying to figure out CDG to Disney transportation. Right now it looks as if the easiest way to do so would be via shuttle bus service, though I'm not sure yet. Likewise, traveling from Paris to Italy (whichever city we choose) is still a mystery as well! But we have some time to sort things out, so I'm not too worried... yet.
Try to get on the 10th floor at La Defense!
That is the C/L and really a nice floor! The C/L is not open for food, but is open as a "Break room". You should get a breakfast buffet to The Californian Room for a very nice breakfast.
Here are a couple of photo's that may help you out!
KH, When you get out of your RER/Metro go up the stairs toward The Arch! Walk to the left of the Arch, for about 1/2 a block, this is what you will see. You may be able to get in on the side door to the left of the building. If not walk down the steps to the right, and go to the front desk. Again, try to get on the 10th floor! You will have a nice view.
When you are up to it, walk next door to the huge shopping mall and orient yourself on the food courts, Auchon, and more. You will be able to save a lot of money by getting some "Snacks" and goodies there!
Its sort of like a Sam's! It is more exotic and extremely popular with the French.
It is the first place you will see in the mall, as it backs up to the hotel! This is where you will want to buy any snacks, refreshments, etc. This wine will be cheaper by the bottle here than most places for a small glass of vino!
kh, when you see this, (If you are taking the RER/Metro) to La Defense, stay to your left and you will walk right to the Renaissance!
Let me know if you have any routing questions!
I've answered your question here, http://www.rewards-insiders.marriott.com/thread/14376, as a lot of good Paris information is now being buried in this Favorite Italian Cities discussion. Hope it helps.
Yes, from The Marriott property, it will take some time. They used to have a free shuttle, but I guess no more.
I thought you were talking about the train station to Disney, they are next to each other. If my memory is correct, you are taking the Eurostar from CDG to Euro-Disney (Marne-a-la-Valley-Chessy). You will get out there and if you walk outside you will see Euro-Disney. You probably have seen these pictures, but it shows the proximity of Disney to the train station.
This will be a "Guide" for you upon arrival!
When you walk outside, that is Disney ahead!
It sounds like they are going to greet you at the station. Hope they also shuttle you back/forth and then get you back for your trip to Paris.
Your return to Paris, La Defense is easy, you should not have to change RER cars. Just get on the "Red" line, it should take about an hour, and you will be at La Defense! Just make sure you buy you RER/Metro pass at CDG upon arrival, buy it for the number of days you will be in Paris, and you are set! Here's what the train will look like, it is nice and relaxing.
A nice "Double decker" car!
Take your own snacks, and refreshments! Just be glad you are not driving!
KH, hope this helps, one more thing, go to "Paris by Train" on google. It will have maps and schedules for you!
Thanks! I really have taken all of the photo's. The funny thing is, I really don't take a lot of photo's, but it's the ones you thing you will never need that seem to always become unique.
For Example, I really wanted to just see what it was like to go by train from Paris to Euro-Disney. It was great! This was prompted by my "Lunacy" on another previous trip to drive from Euro-Disney to La Defense. That was one HUGE MISTAKE! it probably took three times as long to drive, and my nerves had had it! That was my last "Drive" in Paris!
It sounds like KH and the new Mrs. are in for a great trip, and what Pluto and others have done to help them is commendable. That is a great advantage of this site, and it does work for all of us!
that was awful (don't know if you saw it. deleted it and am trying again). all costs in USD's are based on a $1.33 exchange rate. then I multiplied X 2 for two people. the 5 day metro pass is good for use as far out as the airport and paris disney. you can also use it on the local bus out at paris disney, if your hotel property doesn't provide a shuttle.
|Transport and Attractions||Euro||Dollars||x 2|
Tour 1 day
and Space Museum
Oh well, it's messy, but hope you can find some use here.
Congratulations on the upcoming wedding! We're glad you have the likes of Jerry and so many other experienced travelers to make this wonderful wedding experience everything you can hope for. I hope this all works out smoothly and you have a wonderful wedding and a wonderful honeymoon!!
And since you are going to be so close to Cesky Krumlov, Melk, St. Gilgen, St. Wolfgang, and Hallstatt.... you need to fit them in your trip, too!!!
Cesky Krumlov - http://tinyurl.com/a7l3bre
Melk - http://tinyurl.com/apojgq5
St. Gilgen - http://tinyurl.com/bznqomy
St. Wolfgang - http://tinyurl.com/bavoxkt
Hallstatt - http://tinyurl.com/d8llrdm
Ah hahahahaha. Now you are torturing my soul! I see where this is going... back to square one. I think I seriously need to re-think this. These places are not to be missed. Beautiful. I can see that I am going to have to make two trips over time.
Thank you very much for posting these, NHM. I would've missed them. If you don't mind, I would like to copy your post over to my Bratislava blog, to keep everything close at hand.
LOL! They are beautiful, aren't they? Loved each and every one of those towns/villages.
St. Gilgen and the surrounding area is where the opening scene (and a number of subsequent scenes) were filmed for the Sound of Music.
Here's another must see.... Stift Rein outside of Graz. Walking into this stunning basilica and hearing the monks singing at noon prayers was breathtaking!
You're very welcome, pluto77!
PS... In Cesky Krumlov, do get tickets to the English tour of the baroque Theater in the Castle. It is one of the very few remaining baroque theaters left in the world. Most of the others have burned down due to them using candles and pyrotechnics for special effects. Only a limited number of people are allowed on each tour. And, there are a limited number of tours each day, so even fewer in English.
Based on my recent trip, I'm adding Turin (Turino) to the list. Photos here: http://www.rewards-insiders.marriott.com/photoAlbums/1488
Also, we're partial to the "other V" cities - Verona and Vicenza. Yes, yes, Venice is gorgeous, but it's painfully expensive and far more touristy....
Curious as to why you didn't like Sorrento. We had encountered a crooked taxi driver, but other than that, enjoyed Sorrento. We only drove through Positano on our way to Amalfi, which we enjoyed. Ana Capri, too.
Has anyone ever been to Bari? If so, thoughts?
I have no desire to ever return to Naples.
I'm with ya on the Naples issue pluto77. We loved Sorrento as well, but we had a rental car (I know, rent a car on the Amalfi Coast) and parking was an issue. Positano had much better parking and is simply a lovely spot to walk up and down the winding road though town.
Let us not forget to list my favorite Italian city of Bellagio.
IAHFLYR is correct. We haven't gone yet! We've got 4 months more to wait!
We all would enjoy and appreciate anything you could share about Sorrento, or Italy. We have many interested Marriott Insiders that admire the area because they have been there or desire to go!
Any places you would recommend to dine or stay would be appreciated!
As you know kh, is headed to Italy in 4 Months!
I've probably mentioned it before, but I think Ravenna (south of Venice on the Adriatic) is one of the most beautiful and historically important cities in Italy, yet few people seem to know about it. It remained the last outpost of the Western Roman Empire once the empire moved to Constantinople [Istanbul] and has beautiful buildings filled with mosaics from the 4th-6th C.
Oh my, yachtzone! This is awesome. Perhaps you can answer a very important question for me then. lol
We went to a fabulous fabulous restaurant while we were there but I cannot, for the life of me, remember what it was called. It was on the same street (I believe) as the hospital, but much farther down. There was only a large wooden door in the wall with a brass placque which just gave a name and nothing to tip you off that there was a restaurant inside. You go in and up some stairs, I believe, and it opens out into this magnificent atrium full of plants and light and soaring ceilings. Please please please tell me you know what restaurant I am referring to.