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the_dork

Italy-Worth A Long Trip?

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One of the few places in Europe I've not visited.I really feel like I understand the rest of both East and West Europe having spent a lot of time in Ukraine, Poland, Spain and France and also visited most of the other in different forms (other than Scandinavia which doesn't hold much appeal to visit, probably as I'd get jealous comparing them to the UK) but Italy is a bit of a blind spot for me.

I am looking at having a month off work next year and thinking of doing a big solo tour of the country, mainly interested in Rome and Florence but also visiting some smaller towns and areas. I have no real interest in the other biggest cities (Turin, Naples and Milan) but some of the next ones on the list look great and if they overlap I might want to visit one of these big ones. Really want a mixture of 'tourist' stuff and chilling in places off the beaten track and just trying to get a sense of the everyday life.

I love Italian food and have a reasonable appreciation of art/architecture though I won't want to spend that much time on this.

As far as I can tell the negatives are the corruption and local politics which makes us look like Denmark. Positives are the landscapes, history and variety within a relatively small area.

The Italians I meet in London are a nice bunch but I've heard conflicting reports about the ones that get left there

I am incapable of making a decision these days without asking 'the Internet' so does anyone have a view? Anywhere specific to avoid or target?

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I'd say so. I've been three times and haven't scratched the surface. You didn't even mention Venice!

Highlights so far:

Venice: Like no other place. Make sure to visit the other islands Murano, Burano and Giudecca to name but a few. Also explore the lived in parts of Venice away from the tourist bits, it's magical.

Verona: A bargain compared to Venice. Get the tourist card to get free entry into loads of sights including the theatre, town hall bell tower (amazing view), castle/museum and the amphitheatre.

Florence: lovely

Rome: A tourist's dream. Renaissance and ancient sights to see.

Como: mountains and lakes. You could even venture into the Italian part of Switzerland which is nice and visit Lugao and Bellinzona.

Naples: It's okay, but a bit rough-and-ready. Handy for Herculaneum and Pompeii

To do: Assisi, Sienna, Sicily, Dolomites, Pompeii, Amalfi Coast.

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This local lass is from Italy "WHEN Yara Gremoli looks out of her kitchen window, at certain times of year she could easily, she says, be back home in Tuscany. “The hills and woodland, the bales of hay and the yellow flowers of oil seed rape colouring the fields. It’s a landscape I love,” she says. Yara, 35, comes from a small village just outside Montepulciano which, she says, is a similar community to the one in Masham in the Yorkshire Dales, where she lives now" and she goes back for 10 weeks in the year so it must be alright.

http://www.thenorthernecho.co.uk/entertainment/outandabout/11222395.Yorkshire___s_little_Italy/

Take note of her advice, though, "“One thing that I have started eating a lot of is Yorkshire pickles and chutneys. I have never had anything like it before. We don’t do it in Italy. They’re absolutely delicious.”

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One suggestion, if it's a solo trip and you're not obliged to go at a particular time of year, don't even think about visiting in July or August.

I've found Florence, for example, in September/October to be a beautiful place to spend time, considerably less pleasant in high summer.

I'd agree that Italy's well preserved mid-sized towns are its glory. Its big cities are its @rse, and getting @rsier.

Siena's town square is a personal favourite.

As for the Italians that got left there, rather than came here, quite a few of the ones who came here took a lot of Britishness on board within a generation. There can be some quite marked differences between the two groups impo.

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Thanks a lot for replies so far. I should have mentioned that I went to Lake Garda and Venice in my teens so that's the one spot that I don't really feel an urge to go to though I'm sure I'd still have an amazing time. Verona is a great shout.

The trip will be March/April and I will be totally solo though looking to stay in minimal comfort rather than total hovels all the time (shared hostels etc suit me fine though as long as clean and safe).

I am at the moment inclined to go roughly from Florence to Rome via the west Coast at a leisurely pace and decide from Rome where to head in the South whilst avoiding Naples. Really like the look of Sicili but that would really change the trip. Bari also looks worth a visit

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If I were planning a trip to Italy in March/ April, I'd lean more heavily to the South rather than the North, simply because of the weather.

I spent a couple of weeks in the mountains in Abruzzo/ L'Aquila in May one year, and any kind of accomodation was thin on the ground and only just coming back on line after being closed between the winter and summer seasons. In the cities that's not a problem, in the boondocks things can get patchy in early spring.

Pompei really is a must-see* imho, even if Naples doesn't appeal.

Edit: *though taking a subway trip out of Rome and visiting Ostia for a few hours is not a bad 'Plan B'

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Have been to Viareggio, Venice, Florence, Lorca and Piza....Florence was wonderful....would love to visit Rome, saw flights are £33 each way EJ Jan next year and there are some good hotel deals for a short break...low season, fewer people maybe?....I think the Cities are quite expensive, coffees and drinks etc, people have told me about the 10 euro coffee, bit steep.....Italy very similar to Spain but more sophisticated, both are laid back more so in the South of Italy than the North, a definite North/South divide. ;)

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Have been to Viareggio, Venice, Florence, Lorca and Piza....Florence was wonderful....would love to visit Rome, saw flights are £33 each way EJ Jan next year and there are some good hotel deals for a short break...low season, fewer people maybe?....I think the Cities are quite expensive, coffees and drinks etc, people have told me about the 10 euro coffee, bit steep.....Italy very similar to Spain but more sophisticated, both are laid back more so in the South of Italy than the North, a definite North/South divide. ;)

I believe that the price of 'standard' coffees is still regulated in Italy. What is not uncommon is to sneak some surcharges in there - a seating charge, stuff like that. The 'standard' prices are always on a printed sheet stuck on a wall somewhere.

I had a go at a Florentine bar owner one time for charging my other half three different prices for the same stuff three days in a row. He was very matter of fact about it, and even slightly surprised I was apparently so annoyed. As I clearly wasn't a 'tourist', he said he'd make sure to charge us 'locals' prices in future.

My family are 2nd/ 3rd/ 4th generation emigrants, speak the local dialects and still routinely get their (financial) faces ripped off whenever they're over there and let their guard slip.

We're by no means talking about everyone in Italy but that sort of thing is more common over there (though the gap is possibly narrowing).

The cost of grocery shopping in Italy has become scary expensive, compared to UK prices or typical Italian incomes.

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as this is HPC it's worth noting that prices in the countryside aren't the crazy low prices that can depress you about some other European countries just yet.

Cities are expensive from what I can see.

Suspect there are still bargains to be had though if you know what you want and it's all a lot cheaper than here like for like,

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Naples is interesting, but you have to get off the tourist trail. Herculaneum is supposed to be better than Pompei. I went to Pompei in the autumn and it was deserted, like being in a Roman ghost town.

Turin is a nice city, I can drive there in a couple of hours from my house so go there quite a bit. It is the world center of chocolate.

Rome is obviously a "must do".

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Naples is interesting, but you have to get off the tourist trail. Herculaneum is supposed to be better than Pompei. I went to Pompei in the autumn and it was deserted, like being in a Roman ghost town.

Turin is a nice city, I can drive there in a couple of hours from my house so go there quite a bit. It is the world center of chocolate.

Rome is obviously a "must do".

I've never been but I knew I'd read something about it recently...

Last year, Naples scored the highest among Italy’s main cities on the misery index, a gauge which combines unemployment and cost of living. With a reading of 26.7 percent it stood above Greece, according to Bloomberg calculations. An unemployment rate above 25 percent was a key component in driving up the city’s misery index.
Like Greece
Much like Greece, Naples, hard hit by Italy’s longest recession on record, risked default this year after a court rejected plans to cut municipal debt of about 1 billion euros ($1.3 billion).
Nor do its troubles end there. Located in one of Italy’s poorest and most crime-ridden areas, Naples’ 2013 gross domestic product per capita was one-third less than Italy’s average and its unemployment was more than double the national average. The city is also prey to periodic garbage crises caused by overflowing landfills and saw its transport system come to a halt last year amid strikes and fuel shortages.

http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2014-09-30/draghi-takes-ecb-to-lond-of-gomorrah-as-naples-prays.html

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To do: Assisi, Sienna, Sicily, Dolomites, Pompeii, Amalfi Coast.

The Dolomites are the only part I've been to (not counting quick skirts through as the quickest way from one corner of France to the other). Amazing.

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Just back from driving to/from Italy. Visited Verona, Ravenna, Florence (stayed at an old spa town called Montecatini Terme to visit Florence), Lucca, Rome, Pisa. all the usual in the northern half, and all except Ravenna teeming with coach loads of tourists, mostly US (mid-late September). Don't, whatever you do, drive in Rome. In fact, DON'T drive in any Italian city. Autostrada driving is fine. Italian drivers in the cities are very respectful of pedestrians, they have to be, as both drivers and peds use all of the road, footpath and any other space. Drivers park on roundabouts, and in the middle of junctions, if they think they can get away with it.

The Italian national sport is tax-evasion. If you buy something expensive (clothes?) barter and offer cash. Substantial reductions seem to be available.

The Italian holiday season ends on August 31 - we were able to sit in the sun in 28 degrees on the coast near Ravenna on a beach all to ourselves, with a calm, clear sea. Wonderful, but most Italian beaches are not free, and are a sea of sunbeds in season.

My recommendation - visit Ravenna. Hire a bike to get around, everyone cycles there. Lots of history there, especially in the churches. If you visit churches/museums in Italy, look out for the porphyry. Spoilae of ancient Rome, the quarry was lost to sight in about 350 AD.

The food is good, but repetitive, not the same wide range as you find in France. We stayed in a suburb called Garbatella in Rome (booked an apartment) and the place was stuffed with ristorante/pizzeria/trattoria, but pretty much the same menu in all of them. Get a place to eat early, as soon as they open, because they fill up very quickly. There is usually a cover charge, about 2Eu.

Public transport is cheap. In Rome, Euro 1.50 buys a ticket valid for 75 minutes on ALL public transport; bus, tram, metro and rail. Garbatella was a very good place to stay - there are only two metro lines in Rome and Garbatella is on one, three stops from the colosseum. We took a train between Montecatini and Florence, about an hour ride on a fast double-decker, for about 8 Euro each way.

Visiting the ancient sites in Rome is expensive. They charge quite a bit for entry, and sometimes the queues are formidable. The queue at St Peters was 2 hours long mid-day. We visited at 7:30 am to get around this.

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> Last year, Naples scored the highest among Italy’s main cities on the misery index,

yes people are very very poor, I've never been to Northern British cities so can't compare but I wouldn't say people are miserable. The missus and I ate in a pizzeria in the heart of the Spanish quarter (which is supposed to be tourist no go central) and it was basically the front room of a two room ground floor flat.

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Sicily is amazing. Etna / Siracusa / all the Greek temples in the south

+1. The heritage of an ancient Greek island very much in evidence. Siracusa was the home of Archimedes among others. Tremendous heritage, and amazingly friendly. Second time I went I toured by bike, which was hard work but well worth it.

Italy in general, the bigger towns and cities are badly spoiled by modern life with major problems of traffic and pollution. The small towns and villages have a lot more to offer. And many of the ancient Roman (and older) relics are incredible.

Beware art galleries, which often display all that renaissance stuff incredibly badly. Renaissance art is far better displayed in its proper context: the churches (not just the great ones, even humble village churches) and historic houses/palaces that are open to the public.

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There's nowt wrong with Rome driving. As a cyclist, I was less threatened by Rome drivers (who look where they're going) than Brits (who rely more on the rules and less on their senses).

OTOH, when I hired a car in Italy, there was something about having to pay an extra insurance premium if I wanted to take it into Campania (the county that includes Naples). I assured them I had no intention of driving it anywhere near there!

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