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Jul 27, 2012 12:35 PM

Good food touring areas - using public transport only?

Im trying to plan a fall trip to northern italy for a total of 10-14 days. Weve previously visited most of the obvious places, but Id like to include a visit a region or area that is new to us, with the constraint that we would not be driving. for example Ive thought a fair amount about Genoa and coastal liguria, but also maybe a bit of piedmont or maybe even friuli-venezia-giulia, but I just dont know whether I would give up too much trying to visit these areas without a car. In addition to really good eating, we are mainly cultural tourists, and like to walk quite a lot. Any thoughts appropriate to this food board would be appreciated.

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  1. You can certainly get around easily by train in the Veneto (Padua, Vicenza, Verona, Treviso, etc.) and in the Po River Valley/Emilia-Romagnia (Bologna, Parma, Ferrara,Modena, Mantua).

    You might want to rent a car for a day or hire a driver to visit some of the Palladian mansions in the countryside of the Veneto, but otherwise you will find plenty to see, do and eat in the cities of those regions.

    If you have not been to the Piemonte in the fall during white truffle season, I would highly recommend doing so. While Torino is well worth visitng, I don't think the wine towns of the Langhe (Alba, Barolo, Monforte d'Alba, Serralunga, etc.) are accessible by train. I imagine there is bus service.

    4 Replies
    1. re: DavidT

      From a food-lover's perspective, the Langhe in the fall would be my top choice (in fact, that is probably my next destination). Sadly, though, I agree with David that a car is probably a necessity.

      What about the lakes, after the summer crowds and pre-ski season? I'm thinking Stresa might make a good base, and definitely visit Lake Orta if you haven't already been. I haven't explored the dining much, though, as my sons were much younger on our visits there and we did lots of picnics and dinners at the villa we rented.

      1. re: DavidT

        You can visit Piemonte by train and bus. Alba, Asti and Bra all have train stations. I visited La Morra using a bus. It takes a bit of patience but it's easy enough. Here's a link to the bus co.

        1. re: badwaiter

          Unfortunately, the problem with visiting Piemonte using train or bus, aside from the fact that the frequency is not the best, is that the great restaurants and trattorie are in the countryside, not Alba, Asti or Bra. You really do need a car there.

          1. re: allende

            thanks, thats what I figured. We will have to find a different solution (probably on a different trip) for Piedmont.

      2. Regarding coastal Liguria, you need to be prepared for the very conservative, limited menu and the absence of delicious wine. Also, my feeling is that it can be quite a drag if the weather is not really lovely. It is surprising how much it rains here in Spring. I like late June, July and August -- but obviously you run the risk of a real heat wave. September to the middle of October is normally quite nice. I wouldn't risk it past Oct 15.

        Last but not least, you need to be positively interested in the history of Genova and Liguria to find it culturally rewarding. It's not got the famous Renaissance names. That said, it is quite simple to combine a bit of urban Piemonte with a trip to Liguria using public transporation. So if you've the urge to visit Torino and Asti -- knowing you won't get to the foodie hotspots without a car -- that can work.

        My personal picks would be Friuli-Venezia-Giulia, combined with a bit of the Veneto, or Umbria or Sicilty, depending on time of year. For FVG, if you are willing to move slowly and hop the occasional bus as well as train, public transportation reaches Aquiliea, Udine, Civedale dei Friuli, Cormons and Trieste.

        I will also point out that driving in FVG is probably simpler and less harrowing than driving the FDR or the Merritt Parkway (and certainly the Cross-Bronx Expwy!) There is a car rental office in Udine in case you changed your mind mid-trip.

        2 Replies
        1. re: barberinibee

          thanks - Im looking at the end of Sept -early Oct time frame for the moment, though I have a spring trip to the South in mind also.

          1. re: jen kalb

            I forgot to mention you might enjoy some time in Gorizia, on both sides of the border, in the midst of wine country. You can reach Gorizia by train in less than an hour from either Trieste or Udine (and both are easily reached from Venice by train). I had a delicious lunch there, but it is probably best to see the town in the morning or afternoon as well, when people are out and about. And you might even enjoy visiting the utterly odd Palmanova (30 minutes from Udine by train.) Just a coffee or cocktail would do. And you might consider the even odder Torviscosa near Aquileia, although I've heard the best restaurant is out of town in the woods.

            I'm also sorry I misspelled Aquileia in my first post.

        2. PS: I just wanted to add, without knowing your travel dates or style, that at certain times of year, a train trip that takes in Genova/coastal Liguria, Torino and a few days visit to Aosta -- which has very thrilling monuments -- before heading to Milano could be very appealing to an Italophile if you choose your restaurants carefully.

          1 Reply
          1. re: barberinibee

            I had one other thought, jen. I have it on my wish list to tour the risotto areas of Northern Italy, and train connections are not bad along the rice belt. Vercelli also stands out as a town of cultural interest (Novara, too, but less so). I also like the cheeses of Lombardy, and I'd like to visit Lodi too.