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AlexNoir

Trip to Italy Advice

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My wife and I are planning a trip to Italy for Spring '08 and we're trying to decide where to go. We want to experience more of the "rustic / country" side of Italy as opposed to the big cities. I'm leaning more towards Tuscany and possibly Umbria. I was originally thinking the Peidmont region might be nice, but I haven't heard enough about it.

We're planning on about 9-10 days total. I've heard that it's best to try and spend as much time in each area that you visit, so I'm trying to decide if we should spend the entire time in Tuscany or break it up between Tuscany and Umbria or Tuscany and Piedmont.

Any advice would be greatly appreciated!!

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Is this your first trip to Italy? If so, then Tuscany and Umbria is a good choice. My suggestion would be to rent a villa as a base then with a rental car you can venture out and explore. One of the things that is really fun about Italy is exploring the food markets, buying produce and cooking it yourself, which is easily done with a villa. Our first time in Italy we did just that and rented a villa just outside of Siena. Each day we ate out one meal and cooked another. Some days we ate lunch out and had dinner at the villa. Other days were reversed.

Stay in one place and experience the rhythm. Once you have you will be hooked and wish to return and explore other parts of Italy as well.


John Sconzo, M.D. aka "docsconz"

"Remember that a very good sardine is always preferable to a not that good lobster."

- Ferran Adria on eGullet 12/16/2004.

Docsconz - Musings on Food and Life

Slow Food Saratoga Region - Co-Founder

Twitter - @docsconz

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I haven't been to Piemonte but have spent a good deal of time in both Tuscany and Umbria. There are greater artistic sites in Tuscany, overall, but both regions are beautiful and have plenty of countryside. Umbria is more rustic, though, with its rolling hills. You'll get great food in either region. Buon divertimento! (=Have a good time!)


Michael aka "Pan

 

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Consider the Monferrato region in Piedmont. It is far less touristy, very inexpensive and very beautiful. We liked it so much that we bought a house here.

Here are some good links:

B&B’s we really like:

http://www.imandorli.it/ Cardona di Alfiano Natta

http://canonicadicorteranzo.it/ Corteranzo/Murisengo

http://www.castellodirazzano.it/ Alfiano Natta

Travel sites:

http://www.buongustotours.com Gastronomic tours by our friend Paolo Ferrero

Some general information sites:

http://www.alexala.it tourism information for Alessandria county

http://www.terredasti.it tourist proposals and events calendars around Asti (multi-language)

http://www.vignecastelli-piemonte.it Piemonte tourism site (multi-language)

http://www.langa-astigiano.it tourism for southern Asti county

http://www.albain.com tourist proposals, events calendar around Alba

http://www.turismotorino.org tourism information for Turin

http://www.enit.it national tourism website (multi-language)

http://www.monferrini.com intended for Americans of Monferrato descent—but very informative. Comprehensive bibliography and photo gallery (in English and Piemontese)

Some specific events schedules:

http://www.astesana-stradadelvino.it wine tourism around Asti county, with events calendar

http://www.castelliaperti.it schedule of castles which open to public visit during the year

http://www.cherasco2000.com tourism information for Cherasco and the schedule for collector's markets

http://www.piemondo.it includes list of regular antique and flea markets around Piemonte etc.


Edited by SWISS_CHEF (log)

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You've posed an impossible choice; both regions are wonderful; I'll support the Piedmont, specifically the area in the center of the triangle formed by Torino, Milano and Genova which is replete with hills covered with charming vineyards, topped by churches, castles and grand homes and is host to more starred restos, many Slow food-influenced, than other regions of the country. But I couldn't fault you for going to either Tuscany or Umbria either, or Sicily for that matter; isn't it wonderful to have such choices?


John Talbott

blog John Talbott's Paris

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Of course I'd say come to Umbria, but maybe 5 days in the Piemonte region and 5 days in the Tuscany/Umbria region. If you were based somewhere near Arezzo/Cortona you could cover a lot o of Tuscany and Umbria on day trips.

And I second Docsconz's idea.....rent a place with a kitchen, and rent a car. Driving in Italy is really not so bad. Honest. But parking?? :laugh::laugh::laugh:

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For more information on Italy than you can devour try slowtrav.com.

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I am a Piedmont fanatic, so I would always recommend it -- especially if food and wine are at the top of your list. (We're going again in November, then again in June.)

But if this is your first trip to Italy at all, I would consider something else. 10 days? Fly into Milan, rent car. Go to Florence for three (you have to see one city and I would pick Florence), Tuscany for three more, then finish with three in Piedmont. You're close to the Milan airport to head home.

If you like this scenario, I have lots of info, epecially on Piedmont, and would be glad to make specific recommendations.

Cheers

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Wow - you guys are awesome! Thanks for all the feedback.

This will be our first time to Italy so we're really going at it blind at this point. I checked out a few villa rentals and that seems like a good way to go. Doc, any particular villa rentals that you'd recommend?

It looks like I'll have to give some more thought to Piedmont...Thanks for all the reference sites, Swiss chef. That all looks like good info.

Hathor, I'm leaning towards your suggestion of 5 days in Piedmont and 5 in Tuscany. Do you think this will give me enough time to get a good feel for these areas?

I'm definitely looking forward to seeing the sites in Italy, but we are more interested in the food, the wine and the culture. Food and wine are definitely our main reasons for going.

I would love any info you might have on Piedmont, pedalaforte. Like I said, I was really excited to go to the home of Barolos and Barbarescos, but I just couldn't find enough info on the region. Do you think 3 days will be enough? I'm almost thinking that spending the full time in just one region might be nice, but I also would like to experience a couple different areas.

It's a tough problem to have to choose which areas to dedicate our trip, but what a great problem to have!

Thanks again guys - any more feedback is appreciated!

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I'm not Doc, but I can recommend Sant'Antonio near Montepulciano without reservation. It's in our favorite part of Tuscany, and the hospitality offered by Nico is superb. We also love the Piedmont, especially the area known as Le Langhe, but for a first-timer, I'd suggest Sant'Antonio -- near Montepulciano, Pienza, Montalcino, Cortona, and Siena. As Dale suggested, you'll find an incredible amount of info at SlowTrav, including numerous reviews of Sant'Antonio.

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It looks like I'll have to give some more thought to Piedmont...Thanks for all the reference sites, Swiss chef. That all looks like good info.

My pleasure! I thought it would be more objective to give you the links rather than personal opinions, that way you can make up your own mind based on what interests you. If food and wine are high on your list, Piedmont is a must do.

If you do come to Piedmont (more importantly the Monferrato) please look us up, we always have a bottle of wine laying around!

Ed


Edited by SWISS_CHEF (log)

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It looks like I'll have to give some more thought to Piedmont...Thanks for all the reference sites, Swiss chef. That all looks like good info.

If you do come to Piedmont (more importantly the Monferrato) please look us up, we always have a bottle of wine laying around!

Ed

One of these days....I'm going to take you up on that offer of some wine! And a look at the new stove. Did you get it hooked up?

I ordered an ILVE....maybe someday, I'll actually get it....

AlexNoir: there is an old Scottish saying, and it's a little bit 'coarse'....you must pee with the 'equipment' that god has given you! It you have 10 days, and you split it 5 and 5...will you see everything there is to see in Piemonte, and Tuscany/Umbria. No, it's not possible. Will you have a damn fine time, and eat and drink very well, yes!!

In my opinion, it would be a nice contrast to see a bit of the different regions of Italy. The food, the wine, the people are very different, from region to region. As you can see, we are all passionate about our particular region, and they are all wonderful.

Look for something centrally located, and plan on taking day trips. In Italy, serendipity is always a treasured experience!

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We want to experience more of the "rustic / country" side of Italy as opposed to the big cities.

I'd recommend checking out Piacenza, in addition to whatever else you do in the area. It is a smaller city that is not as heavily touristed, and when I was there last month I had some great meals there.

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The last time we were in Italy, we stayed at Villa La Selva in Bucine. Bucine is a tiny little town that is close to all of the cities you'll want to visit. If you go on line, you'll come up with a place that is not the one we stayed at so if it's something you want to pursue, let me know and I'll pm you with more info....restaurants, butcher shop, etc. La Selva is also a winery and they have 5 or 6 homes you can choose from. We had a 2 bedroom with a small kitchen that was absolutely gorgeous. Having a kitchen is definitely a must. Markets are everywhere and you'll want to do some cooking.

Jean Blanchard

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Is three days enough to see Piedmont? Of course not! On the other hand, as stated (coarsely, but true!) by Hathor, you do what you can do. Three full days will give you a good taste of the place and, since it's your first trip to Italy, you might be right in picking two places -- Tuscany/Piedmont?

Send me an email and I will send my compiled Piedmont restaurant list. It's pretty up to day, but it's just a compilation of many, many posts here and on SlowTrav, with my own experiences thrown in as well.

SWISS CHEF: I'LL buy the wine if you're around in late November!

Cheers all.

tim.vitale@usu.edu

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SWISS CHEF: I'LL buy the wine if you're around in late November!

Not here in the heart of truffle season? You must be joking!

By all means, please drop in, we love company, particularly middle aged and childless! :laugh:

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... we love company, particularly middle aged and childless!  :laugh:

What if we ARE middle aged but happen to ACT like children? Especially given enough wine!

Yes, we're near Asti from Nov. 21-26; Bologna first, from Nov. 16-20.

Ciao

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Again, you guys rock - keep it comin'!

I think from the advice gleaned form eG and from my own research, 5 days in Piedmont and 5 in Tuscany should be my best bet. I've been researching villa rentals and it seems like most show weekly rates. Are there typically minimum stays at most villas (it seems like there is a one-week min. on most)?

Jean, I'd love to find out more about the Villa you stayed at. Please PM me with any info - much appreciated!

Thanks again everyone!!

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We spent 10 days in Italy in Apr '06. Many places that require longer stays during the summer or other busy times were agreeable to shorter stays at that time. We rented a car and drove from Rome to the Siena area spent a night in Levanto, 4 nites in Alba(Piedmont) and our last night in Milano after turning in the car. We loved the area

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We spent 10 days in Italy  in Apr '06.  Many places that require longer stays during the summer or other busy times were agreeable to shorter stays at that time.  We rented a car and drove from Rome to the Siena area spent a night in Levanto, 4 nites in Alba(Piedmont) and our last night in Milano after turning in the car.  We loved the area

That's good to hear that you were able to travel with a rental car, nyokie. I've been hearing that driving around in Italy can be a nightmare, although it seems like the general consensus is that staying outside of the major Cities helps. I would imagine that renting a car seems like the best way to get around vs. taxi or train. Anyone else have any advice on this subject?

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although it seems like the general consensus is that staying outside of the major Cities helps. I would imagine that renting a car seems like the best way to get around vs. taxi or train. Anyone else have any advice on this subject?

Based on your interests for the trip you are definitely better off renting a car for exploring the small towns. If you decide to spend a couple days in Florence I would recommend the train from Milan and then renting the car there for the continuation of the journey (most big rental companies shouldn't have a problem with you returning the car at Malpensa). If you go down that path there is a bus service from Malpensa direct to the central train station in Milan.

Driving around the country side is a piece of cake. The only thing to look out for is the F1 driver wannabes who like to cut the corners on the winding hill roads. Since you're aiming for small towns the easiest thing we found was to drive up toward the town and find a parking lot on the outskirts. It's a lot easier to park and walk then look for that perfect parking space close in.

Lastly I would recommend a GPS if you plan to do any driving in the cities or at the very least a really good map of the city.

We'll be driving through Piedmont on our roundabout way to Oktoberfest this year so if we find any incredible places to eat or stay I'll come back and post them.


Edited by Frog1879 (log)

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