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Three months away - Italy & UK

Antoallison

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If I am going to undertake the long flight from Oz to Europe I like the length of stay to be about 6 weeks. Since I retired I am able to be away for much longer but a 3 month vacation seemed particularly arduous.

I booked the flights online on New Year's Eve (blame the champagne consumed) and booked flights for 13th May. Four months to research and book rail travel and accomodation in Italy and Scotland and England.

My trip report will be light on the flight experience as travel was in economy and there was no lounge experience - sigh !

Flew with Qatar - my first experience after previously using Emirates and Qantas to Europe. I was pleased with the Qatar experience with pleasant FA, reasonable quality food and good entertainment system.

Take off at 22.50pm for the longest leg 11 hours 40 minutes when I have a movie watching marathon and snooze a little on
QR901 PER to DOH on Airbus A380,
then a very speedy transit of just 2 hours and 20 minutes in the enormous and flashy airport at Doha.
Next flight QR127 DOH to MXP on Boeing 777 - selected because arrival time was 13.10pm, which means that your hotel room is ready for check in straight away.

I selected the aisle and middle seats aisle at booking but of course the seats right upfront were blocked out for passengers with status etc. I always get to the airport early ( not because I can use a lounge but because I worry about missing the flight). That has the advantage that if you ask the not yet harried staff at check-in, you can often get a seat much closer to the Business class end or even an exit row seat without any charge.

One cheeky Economy tip I have used in the past to try to get my meal early is to order Low Fat, Kosher or Vegetarian beforehand, that way I know they will not run out of a meal and I don't have to endure the aroma of everyone else's hot meal while I wait for what seems an eternity.
 

Antoallison

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I looked for a hotel in Milan for 1 night as I knew we would be exhausted after that long flight in Economy.
An Aussie lady who runs a B and B that I booked for later in the journey recommended a very reasonable hotel near to Malpensa airport.
The advantage was that they will come and pick you up in a shuttle van after you arrive at Malpensa, and then it is a quick 15 minute drive to check in. Hotel Sempione is a small clean but basic family run hotel, the rate of 55 Euro included breakfast and a lift to the train station the next morning.

The next morning after a good nights sleep we caught the Malpensa Express train to Milano Centrale, which is a very impressive station. Time for a coffee and sweet pastry and a change of platform. Then onto the Fast train to Florence for a week in an airbnb on the Oltrano side of the Arno.
 

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Antoallison

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Arriving at Santa Maria Novella station concerned about the pickpockets that many other friends had warned me about, and this seemed to be a major worry on some travel forums I watch - but they were mainly American tourists.

I am happy to say that I never had a problem during the 5 weeks in Italy. I don’t wear expensive jewellery or carry a designer bag. A combination of being vigilant and a bit of luck or maybe the issue is not as bad as made out.

The first thing was to visit one of the fabulous Florentine 🍧 gelato shops.. I am aiming to try one flavour per day, weight gain to be offset by lots of daily walking !
Then a visit to the main Mercato (market) to stock up on some of meals for the week.

The host at the Airbnb had thoughfully provided a welcome basket of pastries, cereal, milk, fruit, yoghurt, tea, and Italian coffee.

Florence was swarming with other tourists that afternoon, so I set the alarm to get up at 6am the following morning and get some photos.

It was just me and the street cleaners out at that time of day. Interesting sights included a beautiful model doing a fashion shoot in the chilly morning air. It’s not ALL glamour !
 

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RB

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Looking forward to reading more. Agree about getting out early in Florence-seems to be the only way to get photos without the crowds
 

Antoallison

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All travel around Italy was by train, local bus or ferry. The longest sections were prebooked for the Frecciarosa trains, but the short trips using the local trains were either booked online the night before or on the day of travel at the station.

Both Trenitalia and Italo have apps and make booking easy with special rates for seniors, two travelling together, weekend away promo. I would recommend point to point train tickets v a train travel pass like Eurail ... to be cost effective.

The itinerary was to concentrate on northern Italy this time. Start and finish in Milan and included Florence, Lucca, Siena, Cinque Terre, Lake Como - Bellagio, Ravenna etc. Then Bologna, Modena, Bassano di Grappa, Marostica, Mantova, Ravenna, Ferrara, Vicenza, up to the mountains to a tiny town called Polinago, over to Padova, Venice, Trieste.
 

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kookaburra75

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If I am going to undertake the long flight from Oz to Europe I like the length of stay to be about 6 weeks. Since I retired I am able to be away for much longer but a 3 month vacation seemed particularly arduous.
I booked the flights online on New Year's Eve (blame the champagne consumed) and booked flights for 13th May. Four months to research and book rail travel and accomodation in Italy and Scotland and England.
I think that seems like a perfectly ordinary way of planning and booking a trip. I'm well and truly on board for this Trip Report. But most importantly, have fun.
 

Antoallison

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Siena is an easy 77 klm day trip from Florence. Hiring a car would be a better way to see some of the smaller villages in the area but if you just want to spend a day in the town of Siena then the Rapid bus from Florence station runs regularly and only takes an hour. It also means that you get dropped very close to the main centre at Piazza Gramsci and then have a short and scenic walk. If you do hire a car you cannot drive into the CBD and must park outside the city walls.

Everyone heads to the magnificent Piazza del Campo where the annual Palio race is held. This race is contested by the 17 different wards (Contrada) of the city. Each ward has a symbol of an animal and you can pick these out in architecture, fountains, street names, and flags as you walk around the streets.

The 12th century Duomo is a must see with it’s ornate facade. It was a very hot early June day to be walking about at midday, so frequent rest stops were necessary. Where are all the public benches in Italy ?
I am on the sitting exhausted on the steps of the Piazza Salimbeni after looking for for a seat in vain.
 

Antoallison

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Off to the Cinque Terre area next. 23rd May although early in the season was very warm and quite packed already. I believe that even April would be busy in these popular tourist areas.

I made a mistake in choosing to stay the 3 days in La Spezia mainly because it is a train hub with easy connection to the main 5 CT towns and also the rest of Italy. The town is a working port city and I thought grubby and covered in graffitti.

My advice is to choose to stay right in anyone of the CT towns. If you don’t want the noise from tourists right outside your window all day and night, then book somewhere just outside of the main area on a local bus route or get a taxi into town.

Buy a 16 Euro day pass from the train station, this covers any train and access to the hiking trails. A lot of the train journey although right on the coastline can be through tunnels, so take a ferry between towns as well as the views are wonderful from the water. 4F24DE15-97E5-4998-A71D-7A1D0CBE48AA.jpeg4F24DE15-97E5-4998-A71D-7A1D0CBE48AA.jpeg604F3D4B-B983-482B-AE0B-B423209EAFC8.jpeg8FF5058A-33C9-4D31-B4E0-980A09AE1001.jpeg91275DB6-D90E-4DBE-ABA3-38DD434C0CFA.jpeg91275DB6-D90E-4DBE-ABA3-38DD434C0CFA.jpegD588AF52-2F85-4F3F-BDE9-1F0C7D331821.jpeg52AD685E-1D27-4C98-B5BE-2213C9F9842A.jpeg7431543F-4DAE-4965-B1E8-6CE21C3121D7.jpeg
 

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Antoallison

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I grew up in Freo so I love to be near the sea. I thought I might have a favourite CT town but they were all charming.

A jumble of houses tumbling down to the turquoise blue sea, wonderful stone and marble churches to seek refuge in from the midday heat and the smell of seafood cooking.... buy a paper cone of tender squid and chips for a snack.

We caught the train to the northernmost town of Levanto and then worked our way back, stopping at each CT town. 72AA7D53-660C-4DFB-9448-BC40945F3729.jpegD835445B-EB59-4ABB-8D0E-5C01E7087DEC.jpeg

Getting to the town of Corniglia was going to be a challenge with many steps up. Too much of an ordeal for my knees, so there is always the local bus.

The local bus and perhaps a taxi back is also a good way to explore some of the tiny villages beyond the ridge.
 

Antoallison

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Up to the lakes for the next week.. it was a toss up between Lake Lugano or Lake Como. I decided if it was good enough for George Clooney, then it would do me too.

Train journey from La Spezia to Milan, then a change to an older Trenord train to the town of Como - San Giovanni Station is a rail hub at the southernmost tip of Lake Como. 3A0E9CCA-D09B-45C4-86FC-8D5AFF5A43FB.jpeg5E619879-ADE3-4F41-80EB-6D3AFBD6C3B1.jpeg1F5E245F-D110-4BD3-BD9F-B5F8AF87D202.jpeg5AF2159C-96E1-4866-9DC4-9225CF24C7DA.jpeg4C558B69-BB18-49ED-BCBB-86F8F380A96A.jpegAE80E485-31C0-4FB0-8CF5-8F9656CD8336.jpeg
 

Happy Dude

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Along for the ride!

Please tell me that a scoop of gelato is not 8.10 Euro!!??! (post #4, 2nd pic).
 

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