Mid-December itinerary in Italy: Rome to Venice, or Rome toward Piedmont?

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Randall B.
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Mid-December itinerary in Italy: Rome to Venice, or Rome toward Piedmont?

#1 Post by Randall B. » September 23rd, 2018, 10:10 am

We have the opportunity to visit Italy this December for ~10 days, prior to Christmas. We'd like to balance city experience with visits to producers within moderate driving distance of those cities.

We've been to Rome and Florence, and want to stop in each of these cities once more. Hopefully head into Chianti Classico and towns west of Florence as well.

From there, however, we're not sure whether to head northwest toward Piedmont or northeast toward Venice. Given our love of the wines, I suspect the key question is whether towns in the Barolo and Barbaresco area are active and whether it is a good time to schedule visits with producers. Is December a good--or even decent--time to visit the area? Any particular itineraries you'd suggest? e.g., looking at Google maps, it seems possible to drive along the coast from Lucca and up into Piedmont. Driving possible (we've driven in Italy, but only in fall)/recommended?

On the other hand, Venice is Venice, and if there are opportunities to set up visits with producers in the Veneto, that could be great. Towns like Verona and Padua are attractive options as well.

I know weather may not be ideal for this trip, but given the options, which would you choose? Would love to hear any thoughts and recommendations.
R. Bush – ITB

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Ian Sutton
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Re: Mid-December itinerary in Italy: Rome to Venice, or Rome toward Piedmont?

#2 Post by Ian Sutton » September 23rd, 2018, 12:25 pm

Hi Randall
10 days is not a lot of time, so Rome + Venice + Florence + wineries doesn't feel like it fits well, especially as there are significant transfers involved. It would be useful to know how you see the transport e.g. trains all the way, or trains + driving, or even driving all the way (but this latter approach might not be ideal at that time of year, and indeed for Rome & Florence)

Even Rome + Florence + Piemonte is asking a lot, especially with potential weather constraints in the country. Part of the appeal would be finding a lovely agriturismo which felt like a warm and comforting home from home, such that if the weather was bad, short hops (or walks) to local wineries / restaurants would be all you'd want

My suggestion would be Rome (3) + Montepulciano(4) + Florence(3), with Montepulciano having numerous tasting rooms open, that you can either wander into, or make an appointment with. No need to have a car (mainline route stops at Chianciano Terme and you could taxi from there, or take the pullman service to Montepulciano). Politian apartments in Montepulciano have a very cosy (and classy) feel and the walking is steep enough to ensure you don't feel too cold! You could even get the bus to Chianciano Terme for some warming spa treatments.

Regards
Ian
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Randall B.
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Joined: January 23rd, 2015, 7:03 pm

Re: Mid-December itinerary in Italy: Rome to Venice, or Rome toward Piedmont?

#3 Post by Randall B. » September 23rd, 2018, 2:45 pm

Ian,

Thanks for your reply. I already see that this is too much. But we're hoping to make it to either Piedmont or Venice, and so will need to think about how to do that in wintertime. So we'll likely nix one of Florence or Rome, as we've spent some time in both.

How might you structure a trip from Florence to Piedmont? We're happy to drive between, if it allows us to stop at interesting places. Perhaps a stay on the Tuscan coast for one night? And recognizing the lack of time, it might make sense to focus on winery visits to Piedmont, provided the season is workable. But this all implies that December is a good, or at least workable, time to visit with producers in Piedmont. Would you say that's the case?

On the other hand, we've heard that Venice is at its least touristy in December, so could be worth heading in the other direction.

Thanks for your help!
R. Bush – ITB

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Ian Sutton
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Re: Mid-December itinerary in Italy: Rome to Venice, or Rome toward Piedmont?

#4 Post by Ian Sutton » September 23rd, 2018, 3:42 pm

Hi Randall
In that case make it a Northern trip!

I'd suggest Venice as a starter, on the basis that you'll be walking (or boating) everywhere, so a good option for overcoming jetlag, then get a fast train to Florence (2hr 5 min). From there it is possible to take public transport to (say) Alba, but no faster than the car, so I'd suggest hiring a car in Florence, for a drop-off at Milan Malpensa or Torino Caselle. Google says 4 hrs, but allow for a little longer if the weather is bad. I'd lean towards the Bologna/Reggio route, rather than Lucca/Genoa route, but maybe if a lunchtime stop appeals, that could dictate your route. I'd split it 3 + 3 + 4 in terms of days, but knowing that you may lose two half days with traveling (inc. check in and out). Of course if you do Florence + Langhe then you get more time in each, one less transfer and one less pair of checkin/out. It's always a balance. Plenty of good agriturismi / apartments in the Langhe, but I'd make it a priority that there is a restaurant in walking distance for the evening. Driving in the dark is of course feasible, but much less enjoyable than relaxing over a good meal with good wine and maybe a grappa or digestivo to finish, only worrying about the short walk back.

As well as the jet-lag thought, this route means you'll have you bags at the heaviest at the end .... when you have the car. That is presuming you'll want a few souvenir bottles to take home.

I'll lean on others for suitability (December visits), but there is always work to do in the winery, so they tend to be staffed all year round. You could always check with the excellent tourist office langheroero.it, who last time I checked also had a booking service (free but a fair penalty fee for no shows). One thought for arrival in the Langhe, that a hr+ drive the previous day might make it lovely to take in a walk to a nearby winery in the afternoon, or even make the following morning a walk to wineries plan. The weather may make walking through the vineyards too difficult (which is a shame to miss out on) but quite easy to plan accommodation + winery visits with this in mind. Might make the driver feel appreciated / not feed up of driving.

Having the car does give the option of a stopover, but that will eat into your days, and add another checkin/checkout which for me is wasted time (unlike sitting in a bar with a warm coffee, which isn't wasted time IMO!). One place I've not been, but plan to go is Tortona. This is the city nearest to the vineyards that grow excellent Timorasso and looked interesting from the aerial shots from the Giro d'Italia last year. Might be an option.

As for driving, the autostrade are generally good if a little poorly maintained, though there is a good new stretch near Asti. The biggest tip I'd give is to recognise that when turning off at an Autostrada junction, the turnings invariably become surprisingly sharp, and the seemingly slow recommended speed is entirely sensible. Driving in the Langhe is fine, though not ideal if tired, due to the hairpin bends.

Regards
Ian
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Randall B.
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Joined: January 23rd, 2015, 7:03 pm

Re: Mid-December itinerary in Italy: Rome to Venice, or Rome toward Piedmont?

#5 Post by Randall B. » September 24th, 2018, 6:45 am

Ian, again, this is super helpful. Thanks for your input!
R. Bush – ITB

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