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Report 678: Italia - Umbria, Lago di Garda, Lago di Como & Visits with Friends in Empoli and Coccaglio

By girasoli from Hawaii, Spring 2005

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Page 24 of 24: Final Thoughts

Spello

I had a wonderful time in Spello, however, I would have to say that it was just a little too small for my taste. I definitely did not regret one day of my stay there, but probably would not return for another three or four night stay. I thought the town was fun to explore, the views were beautiful, the people were all so friendly, it was very peaceful. There were also many excellent restaurants to choose from, but I felt that I pretty much saw it all in two days and then there was not much else to do. There were only a few shops to explore and after a day or two, I felt that I needed a little more to do.

I am not a nightlife person and usually head back to my hotel after dinner and so the nightlife is never part of my impression of a place I visit. Perhaps it was that I just arrived in Italy and wanted to explore, explore, explore or that I was traveling solo? The nice thing about Spello, besides the wonderful hospitality was that there were only a few tourists there when I was there in early June. As far as it being a home base for daytrips, it worked out fine for me. I did not mind the walk to the train station. I loved staying at Hotel Palazzo Bocci; best hotel on my trip and one of the top hotels overall that I have stayed in when in Italy (I rarely stay in 4 star hotels but the price was right and thought it would be a splurge for my first few days in Italy). I would however like to return someday during the flower festival if I ever get the chance to travel in May.

Trevi

I really enjoyed visiting this town. I had not heard much about this town before reading info on the Slow Travel site. I probably would not have even thought of this town as a daytrip when making my plans if not for Slow Travel. Osteria La Vecchia Posta had the BEST bruschetta! Because of the limited bus service, Trevi may be a more difficult place to stay without a car, especially if you wanted to do daytrips from Trevi, but it was a lovely town to visit.

Gubbio

Because of my bad start, I did not have that much time to visit this town. I did enjoy the time I had in Gubbio. Because of the location, you would really need a car to make this a homebase. I would like to return one day when I would have more time to spend and not feel so rushed.

Perugia

I was very surprised at how much I liked this place! I got lost very easily and was a little worried with all I had heard about the street layout in Perugia, but I never had a problem finding my way around and felt completely comfortable there. There are tons of stores to visit, a COOP which is handy, many internet spots, lots of things to see, easy transportation options, and good food.

I had mixed feelings about my hotel. One crabby person working at the desk, but all others were very friendly and helpful. My room was just ok (on the tiny size), I was not happy that my clothes all ended up smelling like smoke from the closet, but the location was great!

Todi

Unfortunately it rained while I was there, but even so, I enjoyed my daytrip to Todi. There were many little shops to visit, a very interesting museum, good food, and beautiful views. Todi would not be the best of towns to use as a homebase due to the transportation options, but I would imagine that it would be a wonderful place to stay for a few days. I hope to return someday.

Umbria Overall

It was not as touristy as Tuscany (or at least when I was there) and the people were very friendly (especially in the small towns)! Fun hill towns to explore with amazing views. I can just imagine what it would be like spending a week in Umbria when the sunflowers are in bloom! I do have to say though that I still love Tuscany more than Umbria...not sure why, perhaps because of my special stay in Siena my first year studying Italian there and the memories I have of my visits to many of the hilltowns nearby? Also, I think I like the food a little better in Tuscany although I found many excellent places to eat in Umbria. It was nice to hear so much Italian in Umbria as there were not too many tourists in anyplace I visited.

Empoli

My wonderful stay with dear friends...I always have a wonderful time when visiting my friends, Francesco and Irene. I have been so fortunate to be able to experience "Italy" from a local person's point of view. Also, all the homemade food I get to eat while in Empoli is always so delicious ! Although Empoli is pretty flat and so there are not the amazing views that there are from some of the hilltowns in Tuscany, the town of Empoli is still quite interesting. There are many shops to explore and the people there are very kind.

Sirmione and Lake Garda

I thought that Sirmione was a beautiful town that was unfortunately packed with tourists, even at night. I knew in advance that the town would be crowded with tourists but I still wanted to visit this area. I loved touring the Castle and the walk to the Grotte di Catullo in Sirmione, but I felt that the town was very "touristy" when it came to the shops and the food choices. The boats were great to take first thing in the morning before the town woke up, but later on, it was everyone for themselves getting on the boats with the huge crowds. I thought that the towns on Lake Garda were amazing and enjoyed the rides on the lake by boat (once I secured a seat). It is expensive to take the boat from Sirmione anywhere due to the location and the boat rides to visit the rest of the lake would be cheaper when staying midway up on the lake or up north depending where you plan to visit. I loved Malcèsine and Riva del Garda the best. Riva seemed less touristy than many of the other towns. There were also some fun towns to explore midway on the lake. The main language heard was German on most of Lake Garda. I sometimes wondered if I was still in Italy.

Coccaglio

Another wonderful stay with dear friends and another area where I have been fortunate to experience the "local" life. Katia's family is always so kind to me and Katia and Guido spend the weekend each time I visit entertaining me and taking me all over. Although Coccaglio is a very small town, amazingly, the main church is huge with so much detail inside on the walls and ceiling. Also nearby the church in the little town center is an amazing Pasticceria. I loved the food in this area of Italy (both at Katia's house and at all the restaurants we visited). Franciacorta is a beautiful place to drive through and Lago d'Iseo is a great little lake to explore (the lake in Lombardia that has not been as discovered as the other lakes nearby).

Bergamo

I only had a few hours in the morning to explore this amazing place and hope to spend more time there in the future. I really enjoyed my short stay. Great views from the tower (the lift was broken but it was only 228 steps to the top). There were so many little food shops and other places to explore! I must return here!

Cremona

Someday I will actually spend a day there when the weather is nice (two visits, both times, black skies and then rain and thunder and lightening as soon as we arrived). Great duomo and a wonderful tower to climb!!

Bellagio and Lake Como

This was my second visit to Bellagio (first time was a daytrip when I stayed in Menaggio). Here again, I knew in advance that the town would be filled with tourists, this time mainly American tourists. Bellagio was not as crowded as Sirmione, but still, the presence of so many tourists was felt. In Bellagio, English seemed to be the main language and was heard more than Italian. Even though it did not feel as "Italian" as many other places I have visited, I enjoyed Bellagio and thought it was a fun place to explore, with many wonderful views. Although it was crowded with tourists, you could easily get away from it all by walking a little way away from the center. Pescallo was my favorite place. I probably should have stayed there as I ended up visiting Pescallo three times. I also loved Varenna (as I did on my last daytrip visit), and loved taking the boat on the lake. I guess I just love boat rides!! I would like to return to visit the north end of the lake a little more on a sunny day and stay in either Pescallo or Varenna.

Train Travel

Plan on the train being late and be aware of later connecting trains just in case. I think out of all the trains I took this summer, only two or three were on time and even if the train arrived on time, it would then sit somewhere on the track and would still end up being late to my destination. I do have to say that the train ticket system has improved immensely since first visiting Italy with all the automated ticket machines available, which reduces the long lines at the ticket counters. During the week midday, I did not see the need for reservations (in all the places where I traveled) unless required on a eurostar train, but I did travel and do recommend first class whenever possible. It is usually much less crowded and if you are traveling with luggage, most times, you can keep it by you instead of having to lift it over the seat. You do have to request first class though when buying a ticket at the counter or you will automatically be given 2nd class.

TV

I really enjoy Italian TV! I find TV as one more way to learn more about the Italian culture and to improve my Italian comprehension skills. It was especially interesting to find out more about some of the shows after trying to figure them out on my own from friends such as Porta a Porta. I could never figure that show out but found out it is quite a popular talk show. Many of the commercials are quite amusing and the game shows are always a challenge to play along with. I actually answered a few quesions correctly on the Millionare show. I also enjoyed watching many of the American TV (telefilm) shows and movies dubbed in Italian and also the older Italian movies, concert specials, a special tribute to the Pope, and my new favorite show, Carabinieri.

Airport Hotel

My only bad experience of the trip. Perhaps it was my room, but if departing from Malpensa again, I will definitely look into alternative accomodations.

Italy... to me the most wonderful place in the world to visit! I cannot wait to return!! So many places still yet to see and also to return to again and again!

Resources

Ferrovie Nord train site

Ferry Schedules for Lake Como, Garda, Maggiore

Hotel Palazzo Bocci

Hotel Reservations -Venere.com

info on strikes and other misc. Italy info

Italy news - short English articles

Trenitalia English website

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