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    Firbolg in the Playground
     
    Aedilred's Avatar

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    cool Travel Advice: Italy

    This autumn I am eyeing up a potential ďgrand tourĒ of north-central Italy, to take in all the small cities Iíve heard about but still have an air of being slightly off the beaten track.

    I do however have a number of practical reservations before I commit to the plan, on which I would appreciate advice either from seasoned Italy travellers or from Italian natives.

    My current plan is to fly into Milan then head roughly south-east as far as San Marino or Urbino, then west to Pisa via Siena, and thereafter head north along the coast to Genoa (and possibly back to Milan to complete a circuit). There are somewhere around twelve stops planned, on a 14-day trip, notably not including Florence and Bologna, which I intend to avoid, so the idea would be to travel for an hour or two each morning and then spend the rest of a day in each place.

    (The desire to avoid the places that would otherwise be obvious inclusions on such an excursion are the main reason Iím doing this alone, rather than as part of a group: Iíve been to Rome and Bologna, and I feel Florence deserves a trip in itself, so visiting them at the expense of smaller cities seems foolish).

    My preference would be to drive, as this allows for both flexibility and for me to take more luggage conveniently. But Italian roads have a fearsome reputation and I must admit to some apprehension at the prospect of tackling them. Are trains likely to be sufficiently frequent and reliable to accomplish the same sort of trip, or is that a non-starter?

    I am travelling on my own, so I have complete flexibility as to my itinerary. Iím also aware that I might get sick of travelling every day, or equally might fall in love with one of the places Iím visiting and want to stay a little longer. To an extent the purpose of the trip is to see as much as possible but if I get to, say, Lucca, and decide that thatís that and Iím happy to spend more than a day there and forgo something else, it would be nice to be able to rather than have to rush on to check in somewhere else. Equally, if I decide within five minutes that, say, Livorno is a complete dump and I want to get out of there ASAP, it would be nice to be able to do so rather than be forced to spend the night there.

    This means that ideally Iíd find accommodation as I go rather than book it all in advance. Iím aware that there may be a premium for this, but the key question is: is this even feasible? Will I be able to pitch up in Piacenza without a room booked for the night and find one at a halfway-reasonable price (i.e. around Ä100 or less) in late September/early October, or is it out of the question?

    Italy also has a formidable reputation for cost in other respects. In particular Iím probably going to be eating out a lot (there seems to me to be no real point in visiting this part of Italy and taking your own sandwiches).
    As with accommodation crush, I am hoping to avoid the worst of this by getting out of Milan as quickly as possible and thereafter staying away from the bigger cities and tourist draws (Pisa excepted, but Iíll swallow that). But am I still likely to get stung to an eyewatering extent in Siena or Parma as I would in Florence or Rome? If so I may have to reconsider the enterprise.

    Lastly, language. I am making a good faith attempt to learn some Italian but I have to be realistic about it and acknowledge that Iím never going to speak Italian well and certainly not by this autumn. When Iíve been to Italy before Iíve either been to larger tourist centres where English facility is assumed, or had a (better) Italian speaker with me. Will some very basic Italian plus English be enough to get by in Arezzo or La Spezia?

    Thanks in advance for any advice people are able to give.
    Last edited by Aedilred; 2019-04-24 at 07:48 AM.
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  2. - Top - End - #2
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    Cozzer's Avatar

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    Default Re: Travel Advice: Italy

    Italian here!

    For that kind of trip, you'll definitely have to rent a car. The main cities are pretty well connected by trains, but if you want to visit smaller cities and be free to decide things on the fly, I really recommend being independent. Each region has its own bus service, and dealing with all of that is a nightmare if you don't already know the basics. (They're mostly well-integrated with Google Maps though, which makes things way easier). Don't worry too much about the roads! Do worry about finding a parking spot, though.

    As long as you avoid the super-obivious tourist traps, you'll be able to find plenty of great places to eat without spending too much. Walking a few minutes away from a main road is often all you need to reach the best cost-quality ratio.

    If you go by car, I think it won't be difficult to find a place to stay either. You can just drive 15 minutes away from the city center, and the prices will drop and availability will improve sharply. (In late-September or early-October, you'll probably be able to find decent deals in the city centers too! Do that if you can, especially in cities that get lively by night).

    Don't worry too much about language either. You probably won't find many people that know English really well, but you will always find someone who knows the basics well enough.

    Have fun! For any more advice, I'm here!

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    Default Re: Travel Advice: Italy

    Naples for two weeks!
    Quote Originally Posted by Aedilred View Post
    My current plan is to fly into Milan then head roughly south-east as far as San Marino or Urbino, then west to Pisa via Siena, and thereafter head north along the coast to Genoa (and possibly back to Milan to complete a circuit). There are somewhere around twelve stops planned, on a 14-day trip, notably not including Florence and Bologna, which I intend to avoid, so the idea would be to travel for an hour or two each morning and then spend the rest of a day in each place.
    Oh, nevermind...
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  4. - Top - End - #4
    Barbarian in the Playground
     
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    Default Re: Travel Advice: Italy

    Also, if you change your mind and decide you would like to see Bologna again, after all, I can give you lots of more specific advice and/or buy you a drink!

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    Default Re: Travel Advice: Italy

    Depending on when exactly you travel, there are some other considerations that are up in the air due to non-board discussable politics:

    EHIC card: If the UK leaves, any UK registered card will no longer be valid, so keep an eye on it.

    Visas: While this shouldn't be an issue, again keep an eye on it.

    Driving license and insurance: check your policy to see whether it will still cover you in Europe and whether you'll need to get an International Driving Permit.

  6. - Top - End - #6
    Firbolg in the Playground
     
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    Default Re: Travel Advice: Italy

    Quote Originally Posted by Yora View Post
    Naples for two weeks!

    Oh, nevermind...
    Naples is definitely on my to-do list, but I think it (and surrounds) will require a discrete visit. Trying to cram it in on the same trip as the northern towns I have my eye on seems like it's asking for trouble.

    I do feel slightly aggrieved that I've been to Naples twice and yet haven't seen any of it, as they were just flying visits on the way to Sorrento.

    Quote Originally Posted by Cozzer View Post
    Italian here!

    For that kind of trip, you'll definitely have to rent a car. The main cities are pretty well connected by trains, but if you want to visit smaller cities and be free to decide things on the fly, I really recommend being independent. Each region has its own bus service, and dealing with all of that is a nightmare if you don't already know the basics. (They're mostly well-integrated with Google Maps though, which makes things way easier). Don't worry too much about the roads! Do worry about finding a parking spot, though.

    As long as you avoid the super-obivious tourist traps, you'll be able to find plenty of great places to eat without spending too much. Walking a few minutes away from a main road is often all you need to reach the best cost-quality ratio.

    If you go by car, I think it won't be difficult to find a place to stay either. You can just drive 15 minutes away from the city center, and the prices will drop and availability will improve sharply. (In late-September or early-October, you'll probably be able to find decent deals in the city centers too! Do that if you can, especially in cities that get lively by night).

    Don't worry too much about language either. You probably won't find many people that know English really well, but you will always find someone who knows the basics well enough.

    Have fun! For any more advice, I'm here!
    Thanks, that's really helpful!

    Quote Originally Posted by Brother Oni View Post
    Depending on when exactly you travel, there are some other considerations that are up in the air due to non-board discussable politics:

    EHIC card: If the UK leaves, any UK registered card will no longer be valid, so keep an eye on it.

    Visas: While this shouldn't be an issue, again keep an eye on it.

    Driving license and insurance: check your policy to see whether it will still cover you in Europe and whether you'll need to get an International Driving Permit.
    Yeah, this is something I'm acutely aware of (having blithely and unthinkingly booked a trip last year that began on 1st April and then panicked for th next several months that it would have to be cancelled). I'm currently banking on the entirety of the extension to Halloween being used up, and doing this before that - I won't be able to travel after that anyway due to family concerns. That's another reason for leaving accommodation towards the last minute: if things do change such that the paperwork logistics of the trip become too much hassle, there's less to have to cancel and potentially write off in deposits.
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