travel suggestions - Austria and N. Italy

Planning a vacation this summer to eastern Austria and northern Italy, and looking for suggestions on destinations, activities, hotels, etc.

Likely staring in Vienna and moving thru the Alps and Dolomites towards Milan (or vice versa). We’ve been to western Austria (Salzburg, Innsbruck), so no need to recover ground there. First time to Italy, and want to use this trip to dip a toe into the controlled chaos of Italian culture before going farther south on future trips.

I’ve been told Venice is Not on the list of destinations this time around. We will typically drive ourselves, but will ditch the car before getting into a big city.

I’ve read Rick Steves and the respective Green Guides already - just looking for advice from those who have been there before. Off the beaten path is absolutely ok with us.

Thoughts and ideas?


There’s a travel forum which this will probably get moved into.

Do a quick search over there, tons of information. Good Piedmont thread on the first page.

Lucca is a beautiful walled city in the Tuscany region. Not sure how far south you are going, but definitely worth seeing if you are in Tuscany.

Maybe the first question is do you want to stay East and explore Tretino-Alto Adige and Friuli? Or go West and explore Lombardy and Piedmont? Or both depending on how much time, money and energy you have. You could slip down into Italy stay in/near Bolzano. Then drive over to Alba for a few days, about 4 hours drive, and spend your last day or two in Milan. Fly out from Malpensa, the airport is about 40 min outside the city, west of Milan. Alba is the heart of the wine zone in Piedmont. Barolo is 15 min to the West, Barbaresco 15 min to the East of Alba. Great food and wine in and around Alba.


As for Northern Italy, I’d definitely give some time to Alto Adige if possible; a very beautiful region with really excellent wines.

Agree. Balzano is a great town to spend a few nights. The Iceman Museum, the guy they found frozen in a glacier in Switzerland, is there as well. I’ve been all over Italy and Brenner Pass/Balzano/Alto Adige is one of my favorite areas. Have fun.

The intent was to stay more northeast in Italy - Dolomites and such. We’d also like to see the Lake Como region. I don’t think we want to have the energy to get as far as Piedmont. Though I know there’s been a request to visit Cinque Terre, which is obviously farther south west.

My vote in Italy from Austria: Alto-Adige; Cividale del Friuli; Trieste, with a stop in Aquileia.

In my humble opinion, Cinque Terre is not worth going out of your way for. The towns, while pretty, aren’t anything special and are very touristy. I know its not possible on your trip, but if you want to see some awesome coastal Italian towns, work your way to Ravello, Positano, and the Amalfi Coast area. Now that area is something really special.

Some good choices:

You are a long way from Como. Maybe Garda instead? Or you could drive over to como and end up in Milan for your last day or so. It sucks that there is no easy way to Fruili-Udine from Bolzano. You have to come down and take the A4 over towards Venice and then go north.

Bolzano I’m told is lovely (more Austrian/Germanic than Italian), but know 1st hand that Trento (and the wider Trentino region) is wonderful. Indeed we’re heading back to Trento/Lago Molveno later this year, as we liked it so much (Sept 2013). Both should make a natural transition from Austria, as German language is widely spoken and there is often dual signage.

Trento was likened by our friends as “like Verona was before mass tourism swamped it”.

Molveno took my breath away when I saw the view for the 1st time.

Plenty of other places to explore, and if in Summer, going off the beaten track should be ideal.

Logistically this should be pretty good if coming from Austria.

The only other suggestion if set on Milano, would be Valtellina wine region.

I don’t know if Bolzano is a “destination”


Thanks for the suggestions, all. I’ve clearly got some more research to do.

How long do you want to stay in one area?

I spend a lot of time in Trentino/Alto-Adige and can give you an itinerary that combines time hiking, tasting wine, touring towns, etc.

I spend time working there, but i also spend about 10 days every two years just touring around and always find new and interesting experiences.

I prefer the quieter Lake Orta to Como. Personally I found the throngs of people at Cinque Terre annoying and the place a disappointment overall.

We’re looking at no more than a 2 week trip, so we won’t have time for extended stays in any one location. Since this is our first time to this part of Europe, it will probably be a “highlights” trip rather than a deep dive. So let’s call it a week in Austria and a week in Italy.

Covering longer distances between home bases won’t be a problem for us - we’re from the plains, where anything under 2-3 hours is “nearby”.

A plug for Varenna, la Perla del Lago di Como - a lovely town far removed in spirit from the touristy overcrowding of Bellagio but geographically close, via water taxi, to Bellagio or anything else you wish to visit.


Some consider Varenna Italy to be the most heavenly of all the towns on the Lake of Como. Elegant and peaceful, it captures the breath of its visitors with charming rustic houses, a matrix of narrow cobble-stoned alleyways, and its lovely lakeside promenade…

The Hotel du Lac in Varenna is a small, friendly, waterfront jewel. Highly recommended. They can arrange car service from Milan at less than the cost of a rental (which you do not need at Lake Como), or will pick you up at the train station in Varenna.

Two Varenna Restaurants I highly recommend:

  • Il Cavatappi,, a tiny place run by the chef-owner and one assistant. The spaghetti with dried lake fish is exquisite.
  • Osteria Quattro Pass,, with a seasonal menu of regional specialties and an excellent list of regional wines. Get the octopus carpaccio if it’s offered.

Another restaurant we enjoyed, quite good and less expensive than the two above, is Borgovino (no website that I could find). This video doesn’t do it justice, but is fun:

It’s been a long while, but also I loved Varenna. We stayed at the Hotel Olivedo right at the ferry dock. Not sure if it even exists anymore, but it was great.

I´m already in contact with Jeff …


everyone can get infos about Austrian wines, regions, producert etc.