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Need help deciding which airport to fly into...

We just finalized our decision to visit Italy for 11 days this October. I am an avid researcher and use this site for the majority of my research for any trip we take (successfully). I will put in many computer hours reading up for this trip too. But, for now I am attempting to do some quick research on where I want to visit, because I need to book our airline tickets asap. We are using award miles and I have found a couple options, which could disappear at any moment. I definitely don't have time to finalize our plans beforehand. I have never been to Italy so I am starting from scratch.

I don't like to spend a lot of time in cities, except to eat some amazing food. I want to spend my time driving in the countryside, eating and sipping. So, I think I want to visit Tuscany for a few days (yes, I know that is very general) and also spend a few days in Piemonte. My question is, should we fly into Rome and spend 2 nights there and continue on? Or fly into Venice and, after a couple nights, go from there? Either way we will be flying back to NY from Milan airport.

If we fly into Venice I am assuming we would focus more on northern Tuscany. If we fly into Rome then we could more easily focus on southern. I just don't have time to figure out which itinerary I would prefer or makes more sense. I know 11 days is not long, but it is my goal to slow travel as much as possible and get a small feel for those areas of Italy. I am sure we will return.

Thank you for any insight and advice you might offer.

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  1. Is flying into Florence an option? That would plop you in the capital city of Tuscany with Rome, Venice a couple hours by train.

    1 Reply
    1. re: Samalicious

      We would have to leave a day later in order to use our points. I already feel like we don't have enough time.

    2. If you don't mind my saying so, I think your question would be better hashed out on another type of discussion board that is more travel oriented, unless you want to reframe the question and ask for recommendations for which small area of Italy is going to give you the most of what you are dreaming of in terms of going slow and enjoying food and wine. For that discussion, you would get more helpful answers if you included some indication of what you like to eat.

      You seem to want to include non-food related destinations and get advice about including that, so Chowhound moderators will probably kill that discussion anyway.

      Since you say you want to go to Piemonte and Tuscany, and must fly out of Milan, I don't know why you don't simply fly in and out of Milan. But that's what I mean -- engaging in that kind of travel planning is not generally done on Chowhound.

      4 Replies
      1. re: barberinibee

        I was thinking the same thing. Check out the Trip Advisor forum section.

        1. re: barberinibee

          Yes, I understand what you are saying and I woke up this morning realizing that I hadn't really explained properly what I am looking for. I half expected my post to be gone.

          I have to make a decision quickly and would like to visit Tuscany for a few days. When it comes to delicious food and wineries do people prefer southern Tuscany over northern? I think we can only see one smallish area in Tuscany if we want to slow travel.

          It does seem that Rome is more of a food city than Venice. Is that a correct assumption? Although Venice looks beautiful and obviously we could find delicious food there too.

          I have decided to use Alba as our home base for Piemonte. There looks to be a lot around that area within a short drive. I already have Del Belbo da Bardon saved as a possibility for lunch or dinner, along with La Sosta in Montabone and Osteria Veglio as a possibility.

          1. re: JazzyK

            I honestly don't know what a poll of Chowhounders would reveal if the question is whether southern Tuscany or the Chianti area is best for food in October. You will have approximately six meals, maybe fewer, and I tend to think no matter which area you pick, good research between now and October will turn up a dozen promising choices in either area.

            Italy's fast train service now means that even if you had already bought tickets to Rome and suddenly realized you most wanted to be in Chianti, a 90 minute train ride will get you to Florence, or you can make your first stop Arezzo, and in either place you can rent a car. Even if you land in Venice, getting to southern Tuscany is easy, whether you choose to drive or take a train south to Siena or Chiusi and rent a car there.

            That's a long way of saying that if you'd be curious to know if Chowhounders have a definite preference for food opportunities in northern or southern Tuscany, then I suggest putting up a separate question that is just that question, and specify when you are going in October.

            But if you don't get any clear answers, I wouldn't worry terribly about where you land.

            1. re: barberinibee

              I agree, with enough research I am sure I can find delectable meals anywhere in Italy. And that's a great idea to combine the train and a rental car! Thanks for the advice on where to take a train to.

        2. For an 11 day trip, I would focus on just 2 areas, an that would mean 2 different cuisines.
          You can fly into one spot--if Tuscany fly into FLR and you could eat lots of pasta, bistecca, ribollita, Chianti wine--classic Tuscan stuff. Move on to Piemonte--eat truffles, pasta al plin, soft cheese, vitello tonnato, too many wines to list. Fly home from Milan.

          You could do the same flying into Venice--focus on the seafood and local wines including Prosecco.

          Staying in the north allows for less travel time, too.

          Splitting it into 2 areas gives you time to focus your palate on the regional differences.

          4 Replies
          1. re: jangita

            Yes, I think that focusing on 2 areas is a priority for me. I don't want to try and see everything my first trip, I want time to relax and enjoy myself. But if we fly into a city we would want to spend a couple nights there too, especially because we will be exhausted from jet lag. And my husband loves cities (and country thank goodness) so he will want to walk around and see the sights.

            1. re: JazzyK

              Totally agree, limit it to 2 areas and enjoy them. Also realize if you do Tuscany (notably the Chianti region) and Piemonte in October, you will be there during truffle, game and local porcini season. Portions in these two areas are generous and the in season specialties tend to go with heavier fare. You may need time to chill, take a walk and get ready for the next feast.

              I personally would not do these 2 in the same trip. While certainly different, the menus tend to be heavy on the meat, heavy on the sauces and, in October, follow the same cacciatore genre of cooking. When you're eating truffles for breakfast, antipasto and pasta for lunch and at least 3 courses for dinner you need to make sure you can handle it, day after day, and still enjoy your time there.

              October is my favorite time in Italy and we spend months here every year. Enjoy, no matter where you go you will eat well, especially if you can avoid the tourist trail.

              1. re: Ray2

                Yes, I am a bit worried about the heaviness of the food in the regions that I want to focus on. That is why I am considering adding in a coastal town for a couple days. Genoa maybe?

                1. re: Ray2

                  @ Ray2

                  Re two topics (one now switched from Italy).

                  I live about 20km. from Lucca and have had decades of experience going to Italian ristorante, trattorie and osterie (almost 2000 meals eaten out) in Tuscany and elsewhere in the north. Almost all of the places I recommend on this board are in very small towns, way off the American/British tourist routes e.g. Calestano, Priocca, Ne', Armentarola, and one I mentioned today in another post, Varigotti.

                  With all due respect, we disagree when you say "Which does sort of indicate responses do not generate conversation." There is a lot of conversation. For example, I think if you look at some of my posts (about Piemonte, Alto-Adige, ER, southern Lombardia), you'll see, in some cases, more than fifty replies and a vibrant discussion. Numerous responses are also rendered to a number of other regular posters. In my mind, this is all to the good and am not sure I understand the points you were trying to make.

                  Again, with all due respect, in one post, you said "Last, we don't go near tourist areas. Not unusual for well traveled people" and in another "I could spend a year in Lucca and not get bored with the restaurants." For a town its size, Lucca is certainly among the most touristed areas in the north of Italy. So... I'm puzzled about the inconsistency. But that is a minor quibble.

                  What I really don't understand is the choice of "non-touristy" restaurants. Too many of the ones you mentioned are supported mainly by tourists (and a few are tourist traps). Certainly Enoteca Marcucci in Pietrasanta, if its still open, fits both categories (it might be closed; The Church did not want to renew its lease). Certainly Buca di Sant'Antonio and Puccini in Lucca, for four or five months a year, are overwhelmingly filled with tourists, but are not tourist traps in the sense that the food is decent (not more), even if the wine lists leave something to be desired. The one that really got me was Da Fiorella in Nicola. From June through August mostly American, British and Germans eat there. There is a non tourist place in town that, in my opinion, has food every bit as good if not better than Fiorella, but in all fairness is lacking a good wine list; but Da Fiorella's is only marginally better.

                  Color me puzzled by some of your comments and recommendations. But... that's what this board is for i.e to have a discussion about what we like and don't like, without ad hominem posts.

            2. We first travelled to Italy 2 years ago. We chose the ER region as being one which offered the sort of food we really loved. Flew in and out of Milan. Based ourselves in Bologna - what a beautiful town. Did day trips to Venice and Florence for lunch. Got a car and drove for a couple of days up around ER and around Parma. Some memorable meals indeed.

              What would we change? Less time in Bologna itself - perhaps a few more days on the road, that was truly wonderful. Also I fell heavily in love with Venice (expecting to hate it) and I would have easily stayed there 2-3 nights.

              Milan makes sense to me as a central point whether you want to go to the middle or to the north. And even then, it's not really that far away from Rome on a fast train!

              I am heading to Rome for a month this September and I am beyond excited, so I hope you have a good time too!

              1. I know some people have a preference for the countryside, but even in the countryside you are primarily visiting small cities, hill towns, etc, I would recommend starting your trip in either Rome or Venice - both are premier cultural destinations, primarily places you would walk around, each with great beauty, artistic and historic interest and distinct cuisines from what you will experience elsewhere, Its hard to imagine a first visit to italy that does not involve Rome, but I think you would appreciate a start in either Venice or Rome. Rome is generally bustling though there are many pockets of peace and quiet whereas Venice, without automotive traffic is relatively quiet if you get out of a limited number of tourist areas ((we started a couple of visits in Venice, and it was an adjustment after the peace and pedestrian/water environment to visit cities with traffic! As a city Milan is less appealing though it too has interest, though I would not want it as my intro to Italy.,

                If Tuscany is a priority and you want to spend time in Piedmont, Id suggest starting in Rome, then Tuscany - you could continue up to Piedmont either along the Ligurian Coast or through Emilia Romagna. Its sort of the beginning of fall at that time - so that there may be a bit of rain - but it is likely to still be warm - we travelled from Rome to Genoa around that same season last year and the weater and menus were still summery although at the end of the trip mushrooms and other late items began to appear,

                Foodwise I dont think that the cuisine of southern and northern tuscany are notbly distinct from each other - there are pockets, like the coast and garfagnana that have their own specialties and the wines differ from town to town.

                If you are really interested in culinary touring, books like Fred Plotkins do a good job of describing the regional cuisines, ajnd a book like the Slowfood Osterie Guide, which lists the specialties of each restaurant, will give you a feel for what you are likely to find,

                4 Replies
                1. re: jen kalb

                  My own feeling is that when somebody tells you they can't imagine visiting Italy except in some certain order, with this first or that last or be sure to include this cultural whatever, then maybe they aren't in the best position to know what hundreds of thousands of other travelers beyond themselves happily discocvered to be a delicious, rewarding introduction to Italy. It is equally valid to make your first trip to Italy about being in the Italian countryside. There are few other places in the modern world like it, and it worth seeing and experience for itself in an unhurried way if you are curious to do so.

                  Sorry, jen, but I think there is no basis for this kind of generalizing and steering. Somebody asked about logistics for a primarily food focused tour with a certain goal of being in the countryside -- where many of us do, in fact, spend our time on farms or wineries, not in visiting cities or towns. And the fact that you don't find tasty Milan appealing culturally -- which I most certainly do as do others -- isn't up for voting here. It's a marvelous food city.

                  1. re: barberinibee

                    Pish tush. I dont expect anyone's trip or tastes to be limited by my opinions or preferences. Everyone comes at this from a different direction, so when I say I have a hard time imagining (not that I CANT imagine), that is because Rome had such a big impact on us

                    In early trips to the country, we loved Rome, Venice and the tuscan country side (not Florence so much) as well as Ravenna, Verona, Parma, Siena and other places. We enjoyed the way that each small city was distinct (even to different colors of stone) from its neighbors,with its own artists, wine and pasta fillings, The very refined yet very local food made in traditional ways and served and eating without hurry. Everybody is entitled to their own slant. Im looking forward to hearing what OP finds on her first journey.

                    Of the three choices, if Tuscany is a central focus, I would lean toward starting in Rome, which would allow for a tour of Tuscany from S to N before heading on toward Piedmont,.
                    Venice to Piedmont gives exposure to several provinces with a variety of fine cuisines and wines, but I think a jog down to Tuscany from Venice and then back up to Piedmont would be less intuitive.

                    I agree that there is plenty of good food as well as fascinating museums churches and fashion on display in Milan, but I hope I am allowed to have my opinion that as a city it is less appealing and remarkable than either Rome or Venice. If OP decides to stop there instead of simply using the airport as a jumping off point, I will be happy to recommend a couple places.

                    1. re: jen kalb

                      Yes, sorry to have reacted as if listening to fingernails on chalkboard. I read too much "gentle" arm twisting and guilt-tripping about first time trips to Italy. Plus, your statements about Milan seemed too declarative to me, as if they were objective truths, not just your reactions passing through.

                  2. re: jen kalb

                    Thank Jen. Some very good advice. I was already thinking of picking up the Plotkin book so that I can get to know the cuisine better by region. Rome is right up my husband's alley, so we may very well just fly into there. But then again Venice might be nice to relax at after an exhausting flight. And I am also tossing around Bologna as an option. I still have not booked my tickets and really have to. I had family at my house for the last few days and haven't had any time ...I'm kinda freaking out about that because these award tickets change constantly.

                  3. We spent 8 days in Tuscany back in 2009, starting and ending in Florence. We were with a tour group because we just didn't feel confident yet in our go it alone options. I would advise against flying into Florence itself. We did, and were diverted to Bologna because of cross winds, which happens rather frequently according to the gal next to us on the plane. And then the airline had 1 coach bus for a full 737. . . Not how I really wanted to arrive, but I digress.

                    If I were you, I would start in Rome and work my way north. The trains are efficient so you could "blast" between areas quickly to slow down after. Our best food memories were from Volterra. An AWESOME cheese ravioli with a radicchio and endive cream sauce, wish I remembered the place. I've been working on recreating that ever since. A chick pea soup with olive oil and shaved parm at a different place. And a picnic in the park with bread, awesome cheeses and meats, and the best peach I have ever eaten in my life.

                    The other thing we did was buy some wine at the grocery store/market, along with some cheeses and fruit, so we could have our own happy hour, as we were starving by the time the group dinners were, and then have a bit of wine on the hotel terrace for a night cap. Bring a good cork screw, our cheep one broke with the screw part still in the cork and the cork still in the bottle.

                    1. Fly into MXP then make your way to Venice. From Venice I suggest the Radda-in-Chianti area (Volpaia, Panzano etc). Stay near in or near Radda and use that as a base for a few days; Siena, (Osteria le Logge in Siena!!!) San Gimignano, train it into Firenze for a meal from Siena. Then make your way to Rome stopping at http://www.hotel-aquaviva.it/ for a night before heading into Rome. Of course returning the vehicle to a different drop-off does add to the expense. We religiously use AutoEurope for vehicle rentals.

                      3 Replies
                      1. re: winemanboy

                        Hmmm....Sounds like an interesting itinerary. I feel like I would need just a few more days for that though. I am so tempted to do 2 weeks, but we both are servers and don't get paid vacation. I am trying to make it so we don't miss 2 sets of weekend shifts. But it's so tempting to throw caution to the wind! Then we could eat and drink in Piemonte, Venice, Tuscany, and Rome and still be relatively unhurried. I am definitely making note of people's favorite towns that have been mentioned here too.

                        1. re: winemanboy

                          First visit to Italy! 11 days! Go to Salo and stay at Hotel Duomo. Next day have lunch at Caffe Italia in Desenzano, on the way back stop by LaTorre cafe roasters. Have dins at Papillon in Salo on the lake, next day drive up to Limone. Then Piemonte. If staying in Alba drive to Barolo and have real home-made fresh pasta at Hotel Barolo Brezza. Really, the pasta is the best I've had in Italy. Dins in La Morra at Bella Vista. You're trying to do too much. In 11 days soak up a small taste of Italy, don't try to guzzle. Or spend 11 days around Lago di Garda, Verona, Franciacorta. http://www.hostariauvarara.it/

                          1. re: winemanboy

                            I wouldnt miss Osteria di Mezzo if in Salo, No view, but excellent cheese, salumi, lake fish, pastas and wines.We have visited on a couple of occasions - friends were back last week and reported a memorable meal.

                        2. So the question I am debating now is whether to we should choose Tuscany for the wine or Emilia-Romagna for the food. We have already chosen Peimonte for the food and wine, but I can't decide what our 2nd region should be. I know I can't go wrong with either so I will just continue my reading and hope to decide soon :)

                          7 Replies
                          1. re: JazzyK

                            If you've only 11 days (and desire to travel slow) I would suggest Parma or the area around Verona/Lago di Garda. Tuscany is 3.5 hours (if you drive fast) from Piemonte. Parma is 2 hrs from Asti and Verona 2.5 hrs. Salo on Lago di Garda has amazing restaurants and is molto tranquillo. BTW Tuscany also has amazing food not just wine.

                            1. re: JazzyK

                              At the risk of sounding a little simple-minded, you can always enjoy Tuscan wines in Emilia-Romagna: they're bordering regions. And Romagna's sangiovese can be excellent, if not always at the rarefied levels of Tuscany's sangiovese.

                              1. re: JazzyK


                                "... choose Tuscany for the wine or Emilia-Romagna for the food" -- ?

                                I don't think there is any separating food and wine in Italy. They have been developed to go together, regional cuisine brings to life regional wine and vice versa. One needn't be dogmatic about this, but that's been my overall experience.

                                Something you might consider is to travel by train from Venice to Bologna, stow your luggage at the train station, see the morning markets (closed Sunday) and either have lunch at someplace like Da Gianni, or to avoid overeating, purchase an array of market treats to eat at Osteria del Sole (can give details later) --- then pick up a car and head to Da Amerigo in Savigno, where you can both have a memorable dinner and spend the night before driving to the Chianti region of Tuscany.


                                If you spend a night in Savigno, you will have time that afternoon or the next morning for a detour to Castelvetro di Modena, deep in wine country, to shop in its gourmet shops and wine stores and gawk at its medieval chess board piazza. Pick nearby Vignola for lunch and to sample the lovely not-sweet chocolate cake of the region, torta Barozzi (and the town castle is to die for, beautifully painted inside


                                Gourmet shopping in Castelvetro di Modena:


                                (The municipal vinegar loft might have reopened since the earthquake).

                                Chocolate cake in Vignola


                                (There is a highly regarded lunch trattoria in Vignola with a ridiculously simple name I am forgetting, but I'll look it up and post it. It is in the Osterie d'Italia guide.


                                From Vignola, it is a 2 hour drive to the Chianti region, although it is mountainous driving, so buy the wine, don't drink it, and be on the road by 5pm.

                                [Added: It is Trattoria La Bolognese in Vignola, only open for lunch and the tagliatelle al ragu is practically mandatory, so skip it elsewhere)


                                1. re: barberinibee

                                  Barberinibee, it was on your recommendation that we did the drive from Bologna north (or maybe another direction, my geography is not good!), firstly staying at Da Amerigo and ending up at La Buca, before driving back to Bologna. Such good memories! I would add a stay at La Buca if I did this again, just so that I could eat there twice :)

                                  1. re: PixieM


                                    If I am recalling your trip planning correctly, I think you probably owe your thanks to allende.

                                    1. re: barberinibee

                                      Yes! I was thinking about this the other day.....and realised that sometimes I get the two of you mixed up WHICH IS VERY WRONG! So sorry, but I do recall you giving me lots of other really good advice which I followed. Cheers, PM

                                  2. re: barberinibee

                                    Barberinibee, you have given me much to consider. I have decided to skip Tuscany but now that I am rereading your post I am so tempted not too....

                                2. Thank you everyone for all your input! After all the deliberations we have just booked tickets arriving and departing Milan Oct 24-Nov 5th. We found an amazing deal that just happened to pop up over the weekend and jumped on it, even though Milan is a little out of the way. I am hoping to have a rental car the entire time, even though the cost is considerable.

                                  As of now we are planning to focus on the ER region and Piemonte, although I am tossing around spending a day or 2 in Venice. One of the main reasons being that I love seafoodand am worried that I am going to overloaded with meat in the other 2 regions. But I am also considering spending a couple days in Genoa with seafood eating in mind. Any opinions? We eat everything, I would just love some lighter options for our meals.

                                  And for now I am just reading and reading some more. I appreciate the posts that everyone has already responded to in the last few years! It will make my job easier. I am sure I will still have a question or two...

                                  35 Replies
                                  1. re: JazzyK

                                    No need to go to Venice and the extra travel. Just take a day trip from Piemonte to the Ligurian coast. It's very close (an hour and a quarter from Bra or Alba).

                                    Here (in part and with some amendations) is what I wrote on this board a few years ago.

                                    On the way home from Piemonte, stopped for lunch at Conchiglia D'Oro which is our favorite fish restaurant in Liguria. It is in Varigotti, a small seaside town 10 miles west of Savona. We've been there more than two dozen times over the past 15 years. With all sincerity, we have never had one single meal where we would say that it was less than excellent. You walk out of the restaurant and you wonder how Enzo does it i.e. how he keeps his standards so high.

                                    A large open airy modern space with a dozen or so well spaced tables, the restaurant faces the lungomare and the sea just beyond. Beautiful view with scattered palms enhancing it.

                                    An overlooked gem of a restaurant. A real gem. Enzo doesn't care what the guides say (although they are always very positive) or even if the guides drop the restaurant because he hasn't responded to some form or other. He just continues to do his own thing, day after day. And what a thing. Menu changes every day. Really. Depending on what is in the market, that is what he makes, on a large open grill in the dining room (with the fish and shellfish in two large ceste filled with ice, in front of him) and in the kitchen proper behind the dining room. Everything is cooked to order and with exquisite care. Seven or eight antipasti, and the same number of primi and secondi. Desserts, surprisingly for an Italian restaurant, are fantastic.

                                    Extraordinarily careful preparations and great skill. He really lets the first class ingredients shine and he plates the dishes very appealingly. The pasta, whether trenette, spaghetti or one of the stuffed paste, is ethereal and I know of no "grill man" in France who comes close (and I mean that as a high compliment) in cooking fish and shellfish. A good wine list, all whites, mainly from Liguria, but also from Piemonte, the Alto Adige and Friuli.

                                    Whether it is :i fietti di mormora alla ligure with pomodorini, patate, olive, pinoli, capperi; trenette alle cozze, aglio e basilico (which I had yesterday); gnocchi di patate con triglie di scoglio; stoccafisso in Buridda; orata al sale; il passato di pesci di scoglio; i gamberi alla griglia;
                                    spaghetti alle acciughe; trenette con le triglie; in the Spring... rigatoni with tonno e piselli; San Pietro with onions from Tropea; the flavors are just incredible.

                                    1. re: allende

                                      That sounds amazing. Yes, we most will likely do that and avoid the crowds of Venice. We may hike for a day in CT if we have decent weather, so we will be in the Liguria, possibly spending a couple nights in the Genoa area. Do you know what days Enzo is closed and does he serve lunch?

                                      1. re: JazzyK

                                        Here is an Italian link from 2010 with some photos. As you can see, Muaglia Conchiglia d'Oro is closed Tuesday and Wednesday. The restaurant is open for lunch and it really is the best time to go; not only a wonderful meal, but you're looking out at the sea beyond.


                                    2. re: JazzyK

                                      Agree with Allende - no need to go all the way to Venice. Your 11 days split between a town in Piemonte, a town in ER and a seaside town in Liguria would be lovely. A couple of years ago we stayed in Parma (with a car) and had a lovely food-filled 3 days touring the countryside. On the same trip we spent 3 days outside of Alba and had a wonderful time eating and drinkign our way through the area. Splitting those 2 location with some time on the coast would be a good idea - to "lighten the load." :-)

                                      I posted a trip report (at least I am fairly certain I did, although Pixie's post makes me wonder) but if you can find it let me know and I would be happy to email it to you - or re-post it.

                                      1. re: ekc

                                        That's what we plan to do! I think we will spend 3 nights in Cherasco and also 3 nights in Parma. That leaves me 5 more nights. I am thinking 2-3 nights in Liguria and 2-3 nights in Bologna. I am tossing around a day trip to Tuscany from Bologna, most likely the Chianti/Sienna area b/c it's relatively close. My husband is a bit disappointed about not going to Tuscany since he is very interested in wine (he does no research whatsoever, he just feels like it's one of those things we should do and possibly he is right) so maybe we should make a visit. He also mentioned Lake Como, but that's just not going to happen on this trip :)

                                        I will post more specific questions on specific areas in the next couple months, but I do wonder something. From Milan do people think we should go to Piemonte first or Parma first?

                                        I know that it really doesn't matter, but I have a reason for asking. This is our first time to Italy and we don't speak Italian. We speak some Spanish and plan to learn some Italian beforehand (food Italian). We aren't overly nervous about not speaking the language (visited Thailand and Hong Kong a few months ago and ventured off the beaten track). But, do you (anyone on this forum) think that one way may be an easier transition to Italy than the other? Will restaurants and wineries in Piemonte be patient with people like us? I am just curious.

                                        1. re: JazzyK

                                          Hi JazzyK,

                                          Since you are going to Parma, how about making seaside experience a combo of the Bolgheri wine region on the Tuscan coast and then a ride up through Liguria to Piemonte?

                                          Allende often talks about Lorenzo's restaurant in Forte dei Marmi for seafood(look up his past posts), and if you put yourself in the right location with a car, you can visit both le Cinque Terre (only go if the weather is brilliant) and spend a day visiting some wineries in Bolgheri. Consider staying in the pleasant little town of Pietrasanta, which I've also heard has a nice morning market.

                                          After that, drive up the Liguria coast with a lunch stop along the way. For me, it would be farinata and other treats at Luchin in Chiavari. For others, it might be focaccia col formaggio and baked fish at Manuelina or Da Vittorio in Recco, or maybe a pricey but preciise meal at Nonna Nina in San Rocco di Camogli. Or if you can't resist a stunning view, and order carefully, Rosa's just outside Camogli (ordering carefully is lasagne al pesto and either shared plate of fried small fish or whatever is market fish for the day, with potatoes and olives). You can park in the supermarket parking lot (Gulliver) nearby, past the cemetary.

                                          If you are going to Parma, I don't see much added value in going to Bologna for food (or even sights if you bop around to castles and markets in Fontenellato, Reggio nell Emilia, Torrechiara and Pontremoli on you way to the sea). Leaving Parma for the sea, Pontremoli makes a great lunch stop and a chance to eat testaroli.

                                          From Milan, I would go to Parma first, by train. If you like, you could stop off a night in Bologna, but I would suggest that for the markets more than the food. Sort of depends which day you would be arriving. Markets and car rental offices are closed on Sunday, although you can usually find a car at either the Bologna or Parma airport on Sunday.

                                          To my way of thinking, the food in Piemonte only gets better as the October weather deepens, and if you make Piemonte your final stop, you can more easily get to Malpensa, although you will need to move in closer than Cherasco for your last night.

                                          So my way of doing your trip would be:

                                          Milan to Parma by train

                                          Pick up car rental at some point, explore Emilia food region

                                          Head to Tuscan coastal area with car (lunch in Pontremoli, a big lunch at Lorenzo's, wines in Bolgheri, le Cinque Terre if weather is nice, eat local mussels)

                                          Travel up coast with Ligurian lunch stop to Piemonte for wine, truffles, cheeses, HAZELNUTS

                                          Move closer to Malpensa, either around Vercelli/Novara for risotto, or drop off car at Linate airport and take the bus into Milan for last supper.

                                          (don't forget to write back with a report!)

                                          1. re: barberinibee

                                            Oh, this thread makes me want to go to Piemonte! And Parma again! And everywhere in Northern Italy! So much good information.....Maybe the time after next.....JazzyK don't forget your trip report, lol

                                            1. re: PixieM

                                              I will! Sometimes is takes me a while. I still haven't posted about our trip to Sonoma and Napa yet, and it was in May :(

                                            2. re: barberinibee

                                              Oh my god, this is making me so excited for our trip! Thank you Barberinibee, I will be looking into all of this. Love your winery and food recommendations. This could a great way to visit some Tuscan wineries and also eat some seafood.

                                              I think my husband may want to spend a day and evening walking around Bologna. I have been instructed to plan a trip for myself (I plan a lot of travel with others in mind) and that's what I am doing. But I know he is a little disappointed about us skipping Rome. I get the feeling he may want to visit a city or two while there. Of course, when I bring things up he rolls his eyes and tells me to do whatever I want.

                                              I was thinking of renting a car at MXP b/c then we could return it to the same place. I assumed this would be less expensive (sorry, not very CHOW). But I have also tossed around using the train for some travel. I have to look into it more. I want a car in Parma b/c I plan on visiting places in the surrounding area for meals (Hostaria da Ivan, Locanda Mariella Restaurant, Amerigo dal 1934). Keep in mind I am only just starting my research.

                                              Our flight doesn't leave until 3pm on Nov 5th, so even if we are in Cherasco that morning I think we should be fine.

                                              1. re: JazzyK


                                                There won't be any difference in price for picking up a car in one place and leaving it another, and the important thing is that you drive when you are not jet-lagged (CHOW will not delete a safety-related comment).

                                                Amerigo is too far to include if you are based in Parma. If you want to include Amerigo, fly to Millan, and immediately go to Bologna by train to spend the night, see the markets. Pick up a car when you are ready and go spend the night at Amerigo. Go to Parma after that.

                                                If you choose to skip Amerigo, then might as well go all the way to Parma your first night. If you are reliably healthy and energetic, and if you are arriving in the morning in Milan, you can take a train from Milan to Bologna, stow your luggage in the station, have lunch, see the food markets, retrieve your luggage and travel one more hour by train to Parma for your first sleep. You can rent a car in Parma, but traffic in that area is such that you should plan food excursions within a tight area.

                                                (PS: If you ask on a message board like Frommer's or Slow Travel, you can learn about historic sights of great interest within your contemplated food and wine itinerary to add to your husband's enjoyment of the trip.)

                                                1. re: barberinibee


                                                  I have to admit to being a little confused over your last post. Amerigo doesn't seem that far from Parma. Google says it's an hour and 1/2 (not allowing for traffic). Of course we wouldn't want to drive that at night, but I am wondering if we could possibly go on our way into Bologna? Of course I haven't looked into when they are open and if they may be open for lunch. We probably would be "passing" by on a Monday (after spending 3 nights in Parma), a day they could very well be closed. That's okay if they are, we have many places to choose from. We'll probably stay 2 nights in Bologna, but only do one dinner, along with a visit to the market.

                                                  If we took the train from Milan to Bologna in order to walk around for an afternoon, wouldn't it be backtracking to then go to Parma?

                                                  I still need to look into the logistics of driving, traffic, and parking etc., but on other websites of course.

                                                  I will definitely add tourist sites to our trip. I'll just be fitting them around our food itinerary :)

                                                  1. re: JazzyK

                                                    You should probably post a list of the places you are considering going and in what order. Right now it looks like you want to land in Milan and go southwest to Parma for 3 nights, then go east to Bologna for 2 nights, then go west to Piemonte (or Liguria?).

                                                    If you are landing in Milan and wish to spend 2 nights in Bologna, why don't you take the fast trains directly to Bologna upon arrival? The markets are closed Sundays, but if you are arriving on a Saturday and staying for 2 nights, the markets will be open Saturday afternoon and Monday morning. You can pick up a car after that in Bologna and drive to Parma, or just take the train to Parma and pick up a car the next day. (Cheaper).

                                                    I don't know what hours Amerigo is open for meals during the time you will be in Italy, but when you are staying in Parma, I don't see an enjoyable way for you to go to Amerigo for a meal on a day when you also want to spend several hours walking around Bologna. Bear in mind that many interesting attractions in Bologna are only open in the mornings, everything closes midday, and that Sundays and Thursday afternoons the markets are closed.

                                                    I personally would not go to great lengths to eat at Amerigo, nice as it is, since you have access to an overload of good restaurants that are easier to reach. But if you personally have it at the top of your list, then I would suggest arriving in Milan, going to Bologna for 2 nights, picking up a car in Bologna and spending the night at Amerigo before moving on to Parma.

                                                    Driving around the gastronomic core of Emilia-Romagna is not always speedy. Your choices are between the traffic-jam prone highways and the spaghetti-tangle of poorly signed, slow-going country roads that track through industrial farms and busy towns, where it is easy to miss a turn. In October, you can't rule out heavy rain making driving a tiring chore. In picking destinations for lunch, dinner, famed food producers, etc, it is better to keep daytrip-type excursions to under an hour at any given stretch. There is much to enjoy in a compact radius.

                                                    1. re: barberinibee

                                                      All very good things to know, which I will certainly take into consideration! Thank you very much. I am going to keep working on the itinerary.

                                                      1. re: JazzyK

                                                        I think you can get overwhelmed by travel options. You just need to consider how much city and how much country you want, whether you want to be staying in a large city or a smaller place etc. Most of the major cultural attractions are in cities while a large proportion though not all of the best eating (and food tourism) will be in the countryside or smaller towns, as well as many places to stay. You can overnight either place (drive into the cities to tour for a day, or rent a car to drive into the countryside, either way). Its about 1-1/2 hr by car from the Milan airport to the Parma area of E-R I believe. If you are heading to a city center, a train (a fairly long ride into Milano then transfer) might be the easier course, but you likely wont be settling in to a nice relaxing arrival lunch, whether in city or country, as rapidly...

                                                        1. re: jen kalb

                                                          It is usually possible for people arriving at Malpensa airport from the US to be checked into a Bologna hotel in time for a relaxing lunch. It is less than 3 hours from Malpensa to Bologna by train or a combination of bus and train. Of course it depends on when one's flight arrives, but typically US flights arrive very early in the morning, and exiting the airport is quick if you are not hauling too much luggage.

                                                          (The drive from Malpensa to Parma is more than 90 minutes, especially when you factor in that you will need time to pick up the rental.)

                                                          It should also be underscored that when it comes to Emilia Romagna, places like Parma, which many people consider "small towns" are actually quite dense with beautiful and important cultural attractions, and ALSO have fabulous eating within minutes from those attractions, either by foot or car. Even if one believes the center of Bologna only has wonderful markets but not great restaurants, a mere 20 minutes on a train or a mere 10 minutes in a taxi will get you to many of the area's most highly rated restaurants, including many Slow Food restaurants plus Osteria Francescana!!!

                                                          So while no one wants to see you get overwhelmed, I think to arbitrarily divide the trip into "how much country" vs "how much city" isn't necessary and could lead you away from relaxing lunches and amazing restaurants and wonderful markets and food experiences. There is much less of a dividing line for finding good food within minutes of historic masterpieces then there is in the mega-tourist areas of Italy.

                                                        2. re: JazzyK

                                                          When we fly into Malpensa, Milan’s airport, my wife and I are exhausted. We pick up our rental car at the airport and head to Lago Maggiore, which is in the Piemonte. Stressa features historic, beautiful old hotels that were good enough for Ernest Hemmingway and Winston Churchill, which we find very relaxing. Fine dining can be found at Lago Orta, a beautiful drive over the hill from Maggiore. With its delicious Nebbiola wines, Gattinara (visit the regional Enoteca) is on the way to the Langhe region of the Piemonte. Refreshed from our stay at the lake, I am ready to tackle the road, except Milan, which is a long way from Malpensa with unbelievable traffic. We have ventured into Milan only by bus or train. After driving over 1,000 miles a year in Italy for over a decade, I have received only one traffic inquiry (no ticket) from a camera around Bologna, whose traffic can be challenging. There were so many new cameras in Tuscany this year that I took to the back, dirt roads to relax. Italy is the easiest country for an English speaking tourist that I have visited; it’s easier than England sometimes. We are always asking for directions to restaurants in the countryside and are never rebuffed. Even in the farthest reaches, almost everyone speaks some English and there are very few that don’t understand some basic English at least.

                                                          1. re: BN1

                                                            @ Jen Kalb, barberinibee. and BN1

                                                            I truly appreciate you all offering me your opinions, and I certainly don't mind that they are differing. I know some of this is not very Chow related and so I have started to do some research on other sites in regards to car rentals and driving in certain areas. The problem is that posters on other sites don't seem to be nearly as helpful as the ones on CH! The quality of information on CH, given by well-educated (at the very least in regards to Italy) posters, is something that I value very much. I already know my trip will be 100 times better than if I did not have this board to help me!

                                                            I would like our trip to Italy to be as stress free as possible. Of course, there are always stresses when traveling in a foreign country, but I would like to eliminate as many as I can. I want to spend a little time in Bologna and also in Parma and Cherasco, walking around these cities and eating dinner. I would also like to experience the countryside, perhaps mainly eating lunches. For this trip, I would love to eat regional, rustic food at establishments where we will feel welcome and comfortable as non-Italian speakers. My budget is $200 for our main meal every day, but less is fine too :) That would include 3 courses, wine, and one dessert for two people and possibly a digestivo. I can certainly start a new thread at some point, so don't feel the need to comment here. I wish I could change the name of this post!

                                                            Something that I have not mentioned because of the non-food topic, but I will mention briefly now...I am using hotel points for all of our hotels and so that limits where we can stay. These hotels are normally on the outskirts of cities.

                                                            So far my loose itinerary is to pick up the rental car at MXP after landing at noon (it is quite a bit less expensive to pick up and return there, so I think this is the best option), and drive to our hotel in Parma, which is 2 km outside of the city center. Freshen up and walk/taxi into Parma to have an early dinner somewhere casual and not very expensive, as we will be too exhausted to truly enjoy it. One such place I have saved from a preliminary search is Trattoria del Tribunale. Then get some sleep and hope to feel fresh and well-rested the next day. We will spend 2 more nights in Parma, with day trips to areas outside of the city, with possible lunches at Hostaria da Ivan and maybe Locanda Mariella. I definitely need to do a lot more research into the restaurants and will be asking for more advice.

                                                            After leaving Parma, we would make our way to Bologna via another day trip, arriving in Bologna late in the day, possibly not even eating a meal that night (eat a big lunch somewhere on the way?). We would spend 2 nights in a hotel about 6 km outside of the city (It has free parking, but I am unhappy with how far away it is from the center. I am still trying to figure out the logistics of that since it is not close to a bus line). We would then spend one full day in Bologna, going to the market and having dinner somewhere, maybe Trattoria Gianni.

                                                            Then drive to Liguria, possibly spending a night in Pisa, and 2 nights in Genoa. When we leave Bologna, we may be able to visit a little of Tuscany (this is very ambiguous and needs to be looked into). Then when we leave Pisa the next morning, we may visit the CT area for a day, arriving in Genoa in the evening. In Genoa we would take a day simply to relax and walk around the city center, getting a seafood dinner somewhere.

                                                            When we leave Genoa, we would head toward Piemonte via Conchiglia D'Oro (Allende's suggestion). Arrive at our hotel 5 km outside of Cherasco, and have dinner in Cherasco. We would spend 3 nights at that hotel so we would have 2 additional days in the Piemonte region (not enough, I know!). We may focus on lunches both those days, along with visiting some tourist sites and enotecas. I would love to visit a couple wineries, but we most likely won't purchase more than a bottle or two, so I am nervous about making an appointment and disappointing our hosts. Any suggestions?

                                                            Our flight leaves MXP at 3pm on November 5th.

                                                            1. re: JazzyK

                                                              I wonder, is the hotel where you would be staying outside Bologna the Imperial? We stayed there because we had a car, and it worked out very well. It's a very short drive into the city, and there is a parking garage right in the center. The hotel was lovely and a great deal, with a very nice breakfast. However, if we ever visit ER again, we would travel by train between cities and stay in the city center. The countryside is not very scenic, and the traffic can be annoying.

                                                              Why stay in Pisa? It is not very attractive, and I don't think there are great restaurants. I would stay in Lucca, a beautiful town with Chow-worthy choices.

                                                              1. re: rrems

                                                                No, it is not the Imperial. It is the Quality Hotel Michelino Bologna Fiera, not a very fancy hotel at all but free! Actually the reviews are decent.

                                                                I didn't realize that the ER countryside is not very scenic. I assumed is was at least somewhat so.

                                                                We would only stop in Pisa to sleep, we could spend the day anywhere and get dinner somewhere in the surrounding area. Pisa has a hotel that is also free :)

                                                                1. re: JazzyK

                                                                  The Po valley north of Parma was the only part we found even remotely scenic, and that's not saying much for it. We went there because there were restaurants we wanted to go to. It's flat, and nearer to Bologna and Modena, it's just a lot of farm fields and factories. Not many particularly attractive towns either. The cities are the thing to see in this region, IMO. I do think Bologna is worth seeing, and it makes a good base for day trips to Parma, Modena and Ferrara, all of which can be done by train.

                                                                  1. re: rrems

                                                                    Good to know. But I imagine that the country restaurants that we will most likely want to visit would be hard to get to by train. Possibilities being Hostaria da Ivan and Locanda Mariella, and also one or two that are north of Parma. Maybe I am wrong about this??

                                                              2. re: JazzyK

                                                                Hi Jazzyk,

                                                                If rrems is correct in his guess that you are staying in the Hotel Imperial outside Bologna, than I suggest eating dinner at Trattoria da Gigina or eat at Tubino in San Pietro in Casale rather than da Gianni in the centro. Both have better food anyway.

                                                                I agree with rrems about Pisa not being a gastronomic stop (I happen to like it culturally) but strongly differ from rrems in recommending Lucca for restaurants or food (or even culture).

                                                                Allende's original suggestion to you for a seafood lunch in Varigotti was to do it as a day trip from Piemonte, when you know the weather is tops, and that would be my suggestion as well. I would not bother looking for a seafood dinner in Genova, especially if you are including Varigotti.

                                                                You should feel free to start another thread to discuss your budget for food and wine, especially at specific restaurants. $200 (or 150e) for two people for one main meal is going to be ample in most cases, even overkill when it comes to many charming delicious restaurants. But I think you do need to nail down the costs of a quality seafood lunch in Liguria, or a highly recommended Piemonte destination restaurant. Also, you will want to eat twice a day, and possibly indulge in snacks, cocktails and coffee, and since you are traveling on a budget, you'll want the details about how to put that together.

                                                                I am puzzled what rental car company you are using that is charging you for a different location drop off (and precisely what the dollar differential is), and would advise not driving into Genoa, and a whole lot of other issues that are really beyond the scope of Chowhound. If you are willing to post your itinerary on Frommer's Italy forum, we could discuss it there, plus you will get feedback from other people who are helpful and informed. Yes, those opinions will differ too, but that is a good thing as you note. The devil is in the details here.

                                                                Your first post envisioned a certain kind of trip that your latest posts don't lead you toward, especially if you don't want stress. You are taking on so much urban driving. I hear you that you want this trip to be what your husband wants as well, and we haven't heard from him, but I've been wondering if you both wouldn't be happier with a few days in and around Verona and Mantova if you want cultural urban wows along with memorable food and wine. These are graceful charming places. Skip Bologna and Pisa, and do lunch at Conchiglia d'Oro from Piemonte.

                                                                1. re: barberinibee

                                                                  Well, it seems I still have a lot to consider. Bologna just sounded pretty with all the porticos. But maybe it's just not worth battling the traffic. I will have to look into Verona. I am curious about these "cultural urban wows".

                                                                  I guess I was considering spending a small amount of time in coastal Liguria and Tuscany so that we would have an opportunity to eat some seafood and see the area. Maybe that's not a good reason. Maybe we should spend more time in the north, away from bigger cities.

                                                                  I am going to look on the Frommer's Italy board and ask some more questions. I will be back with a new post when I begin nailing down specific restaurants. I feel I can't do that until I know where exactly we are going.

                                                                  Thanks again!

                                                                  1. re: JazzyK

                                                                    Okay, would be much easier to respond on Frommer's. I think you are right that first you need to set your itinerary and then zero in on specific restaurants discuss. Not trying to steal you away from here and hope others will join the Frommer's discussion, but it is hard to get into much about Verona's Roman ruins, charm, etc, without running afoul of Chowhound mods.

                                                                    You do not need to spend days along the coast to find delicious fish dishes in other locations.

                                                                    1. re: JazzyK

                                                                      When we go to the Verona area we usually stay in Soave. Originally, we followed Joe H’s recommendation for the Roxy Plaza in the thread below and now have returned many times. Their rates have been embarrassingly reasonable. We have had several fine meals at Lo Scudo, Via Cavergnino 9, Soave, Italy. Their Baccala is special. I’m sure you are familiar with Soave Classico wine, one of Italy’s best white wines, but we discovered Recioto di Soave for dessert, an elixir.

                                                                  2. re: JazzyK

                                                                    the Italy board on Fodors is also a good resource.

                                                                    1. re: JazzyK

                                                                      Hi Jazzy K, I have just caught up with this thread and can only add that if you decide to go to Locanda Mariella you shouldn't miss the Black Truffle Fair in Calestano Fragno, which runs from mid-October to early November.

                                                    2. re: ekc

                                                      @ekc Oh, and I couldn't find your trip report! Can you post a link?

                                                        1. re: allende

                                                          I was kind of thinking the same thing. What are your reasons?

                                                        2. re: JazzyK

                                                          Here is allende's take on multiple meals at Lorenzo's


                                                          Some info on wine routes in that area


                                                          The town of Pietrasanta is convenient but there are other choices


                                                          1. re: JazzyK

                                                            Jazzy, here is the link to my Parma report - the Venice and Piemonte reports are separate posts.


                                                            1. re: ekc

                                                              Great report! You went to some places not on my radar yet so I will be looking into them!

                                                      1. Regarding the [potential] Genoa part of your trip, I hope you decide to fit it in. Be prepared for a little more "grittiness" than other northern cities, but I have been there 5 times in the last three years and find it simply fascinating. I still get lost in the caruggi, but that's half the fun!

                                                        Make sure you stop in at Focacceria Via Lomellini [Via Lomellini, 57] and the Oriental Market on Via XX Settembre. Lunch at Taggiou [ taggiou.it Vico Superiore del Ferro, 8, Genova] but get there early.

                                                        The best gelato can be found at Cremeria dell'Erbe [ Piazza dell'Erbe, 15] which is an active place late at night. Stop into La Feltrinelli for some CD's or books [ http://www.lafeltrinelli.it/ Via Ceccardi 18 - 20 - 22 - 24 rossi] just off Via XX Settembre.

                                                        I usually have one dinner at Antica Trattoria Lupo. It was on my first trip to Italy travelling solo on New Years Eve that they welcomed this tired, hungry soul in with open arms. While to food is good, you will find the experience delightful, and more than likely leave having made new friends. [ Vico delle Monachette, near Principe Station http://www.lupoanticatrattoria.it/mai...

                                                        One place that is on my "must do" list for my upcoming trip this September is La Perlage. http://www.leperlage.com/ . I was just "fooded" out last year and had to cancel my reservation.

                                                        Buon Viaggio!

                                                        1 Reply
                                                        1. re: flirtinfilly

                                                          Genoa is certainly still a possibility. Thanks so much for the recommendations!