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Italy mid September - pre book rooms or wing it?

Old 12-10-05, 06:00 PM
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Italy mid September - pre book rooms or wing it?

I will most likely be touring in Italy mid September, probably starting in Milan. In trying to locate a room for first and last night in Milan, I noticed a number of hotels with unavailable rooms. Now I suppose the online services are just reporting that rooms are unavailable and rooms may very well be available but I am still concerned.

Our plans are to not take a tent or sleeping bag and stay in hotels or hostels. Should I be worried and prebook the rooms? I hate to do this because we have yet to formulate a plan. In fact our plan is to have no real plan and just play it loose. Other than being back near the airport the night before our return, that is all we want to worry about.

Would calling the next accommodation the night or morning before our next destination be good enough?
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Old 12-10-05, 06:34 PM
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I had little problem finding accommodations around Milan and Lake Como without having reservations, although in both places I had to travel very far to get to a hotel. This was in mid-July.
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Old 12-10-05, 06:49 PM
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Originally Posted by acantor
I had little problem finding accommodations around Milan and Lake Como without having reservations, although in both places I had to travel very far to get to a hotel. This was in mid-July.
I undersatnf mid September is either the end of high season or near the end. What about the rest of the area that you toured?
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Old 12-10-05, 07:08 PM
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No reservations... you'll always find a nice, cheap pensione. I found a nice hotel room in June. It took effort, but I got something going. By September, you'll be able to find a room with so little effort.

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Old 12-10-05, 07:10 PM
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As a P.S., I think you're worrying about finding a hotel for your first and last night? I stayed at a hotel close to the train station. There are tons of them, and they are very quiet. You can always find a hotel room if you want to stay close to the train station.

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Old 12-10-05, 09:22 PM
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Even if you have a reservation, there is no guarantee it will do you any good, as I discovered on the final day of my trip to Italy in 2004.

I was to fly the following morning from Milan airport. While in the city, I made a reservation at a pensione in a town near the airport. I took a train to the town, but when I arrived I could not find the pensione. Nobody I asked had ever heard of it, and although the street existed, the address did not!

It can be reassuring to have a place to stay for the first and last nights of a trip, but sometimes I have to wing it.
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Old 12-11-05, 08:30 AM
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During the year, Milan hosts a handful of major trade shows and a large number of minor trade shows, plus a couple of weeks of fashion shows. During those times, more than a few hotels in town will be fully booked. But if you book 2 to 4 weeks in advance, you should not have a problem finding a room somewhere in town. It is a large city with a significant lodging capacity.

If you do find yourself without a room on a short notice, you can contact the local tourist office (APT - Azienda Promozione Turismo) at +39 02.72524301. They used to have an office downtown in the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele, but that was a decade ago (they don't list their address on their web site). They should be able to help you find a room, especially in one of the many hotels and pensione that are may not be available for reservations online.
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Old 12-11-05, 04:28 PM
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Yes, I wouldn't worry about accommodation in september. There is a lot on offer, and it is low season, so much to choose from.
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Old 12-11-05, 06:36 PM
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Thanks for everyones input. This is my first tour and my first time overseas (if you don't count 20 or so trips to the Caribbean overseas) so I am both nervous and excited at the same time. But I am sure things will go just fine, maybe not always as I planned but things will work out. Countless bareboat sailing holidays have taught me that lesson.

I did find a decent hotel right near the Milan airport. It is the Malpensa Cervo Hotel . It has a shuttle and is only 5 minutes from the airport. A bit pricey at 105 EUR but there are two of us and it is only two nights. I think the shuttle is going to make things easier with transporting the bike boxes and all. Even if they can only transport the folded boxes and not the bikes, that should work, I have sent them an email and waiting for a response to see if they are willing to store our bike boxes during our tour.

BTW I was told the online booking services often show unavailable until just a few months before your intended date of stay.
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Old 12-11-05, 07:05 PM
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Koffee,

Can you ride straight from the airport? Or are there some sort of restricted roads? If they just have room for our boxes and not us, we might be forced to ride our bikes to the hotel. But I guess riding is the whole purpose of the trip?
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Old 12-11-05, 09:04 PM
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No doubt there are airports near large cities that you can ride to or from on a bike. The few times I have done this have not been entirely pleasant experiences. There tends to be a lot of traffic and impatient drivers near airports. I have a theory that taxi drivers become a little crazier by hanging out at airports. Maybe it's because they get overexposed to jet fuel fumes while waiting for fares.

I rode out of Zurich airport once, and it was not too bad. But if I were to fly to Zurich again, I would take a commuter train to the city, and skip the airport zone.
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Old 12-11-05, 09:25 PM
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I still think it's a bit much to book a hotel at all. Even with the modicum of trade shows going on, there are way way way MANY hotels... if you were to take a bus from the airport as I stated and drop your luggage at the left luggage deposit and start walking, you'd find so many, it wouldn't be funny. And they are nice, centrally located, and way less than the 105 euro you'd be paying. As a matter of fact, I was going to pass off a nice hotel very close (about a block and a quarter) to the train station that is clean, very nice, very quiet, cable, and totally convenient. They speak english. I go there every time, and no matter what time of the year, they have plenty of rooms available. But then again, that's how it is at many hotels near the train station.

In any case, you can ride from the airport, but I barely remember how. You best bet is to get the most recent maps from the Michelin people or Touring Club Italiano and map it out. Look for the yellow highways, and you should be ok.

Good luck to you. It's definitely going to be nice. And remember... everything is usually closed on Mondays.

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Old 12-11-05, 09:33 PM
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I agree with the rest that reservations are not necessary. I have never been to Italy, but I've never had any problem finding a place to stay the night in any of the other European countries I've visited. I usually stop at the tourist office near the downtown train station. That office can give you good leads for a place to spend the night, and often will even book it for you. You can rest comfortable that they will speak English, too. Also, by not booking rooms in advance, you allow yourself the opportunity to alter your tour daily, rather than be locked into specific destinations.
Attitude plays a tremendous role in the success of a tour. This means a willingness to accept that sometimes things just won't flow perfectly. For instance, I arrived in Amsterdam by train late one night. I had no problem finding a place to stay, but I wasn't willing to shell out the $100 bucks a night they were asking just to sleep for a few hours. So instead, I found a 24 hour taxi stand and hung out with the cabbies all night. This was in February, but luckily it was unseasonably warm. In the morning, I went to the tourist center when it first opened and they found me a room in a downtown hotel right away for less than half the price. I guess what I'm trying to say is that to tour successfully, learn to accept and make the most of the unexpected and occasional inconvenience.
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Old 12-12-05, 07:10 AM
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Totally. And also, there is a tourist information center within the Milan train station. If you plan to leave your luggage with the left luggage depot, it would have been perfect to take the bus into the city center, go upstairs and unpack your bike, leave your luggage at the depot, and proceed to the tourist information center, just steps away from the luggage depot.

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Old 12-12-05, 06:33 PM
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Originally Posted by koffee brown
I still think it's a bit much to book a hotel at all. Even with the modicum of trade shows going on, there are way way way MANY hotels... if you were to take a bus from the airport as I stated and drop your luggage at the left luggage deposit and start walking, you'd find so many, it wouldn't be funny. And they are nice, centrally located, and way less than the 105 euro you'd be paying. As a matter of fact, I was going to pass off a nice hotel very close (about a block and a quarter) to the train station that is clean, very nice, very quiet, cable, and totally convenient. They speak english. I go there every time, and no matter what time of the year, they have plenty of rooms available. But then again, that's how it is at many hotels near the train station.

In any case, you can ride from the airport, but I barely remember how. You best bet is to get the most recent maps from the Michelin people or Touring Club Italiano and map it out. Look for the yellow highways, and you should be ok.

Good luck to you. It's definitely going to be nice. And remember... everything is usually closed on Mondays.

Koffee
OK I'll take your advice and not worry. So what is the name of the hotel? If the hotels are that close to the train then I suppose we could drop the luggage as you suggested. Grab our bikes. Find a decent nearby hotel. See if they are willing to keep our bike boxes. Go back and get the luggage. Then enjoy the rest of the day in Milan.

It would be nice to have one or two recommendations for our first night.


My buddy just hit me with a broadside today. He is suggesting using rented bikes and a combination of trains to see Italy. I think it is a bad idea. Certainly bringing your own is not without problems but I think renting opens up a whole lot more, including and not limited to a bike that does not fit and/or is a real lemon.
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Old 12-12-05, 10:04 PM
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Renting a bike is okay for short duration, such as a day trip. Your own bike is better for multiday trips. It's good to have a saddle your butt is used to and a bike fitting you in a way you are accustomed to. Also, with a rental, you really don't know for sure the mechanical condition it may be in.
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Old 12-13-05, 07:42 AM
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I did the trains for my first trip to Italy. It was much more awesomely fun when they had the 1500 km passes you could buy for about 150 bucks and ride ride ride. I used to buy those things and ride first class. Then they got rid of them. Grrrrrrr....

Trains can be fabulous. You can cover a lot more ground that way. Bikes are great too- you can get up close and personal and really delve into the cultural experience. You have to decide- do you what to whiz through Italy and just see stuff, or do you want to experience the culture and enjoy what Italy has to offer and see everything up close and interact with the people?

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Old 12-13-05, 08:00 AM
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Originally Posted by koffee brown

Trains can be fabulous. You can cover a lot more ground that way. Bikes are great too- you can get up close and personal and really delve into the cultural experience. You have to decide- do you what to whiz through Italy and just see stuff, or do you want to experience the culture and enjoy what Italy has to offer and see everything up close and interact with the people?

Koffee
I struggle with this dilemma every time I go to Europe. I really like the experiences provided by the closeness of a bike, such as the opportunity to meet locals and see the daily culture and more mundane aspects of a country. Yet at the same time, I really like how going by train allows expanding my exploration to larger areas and allows me to travel much lighter. Grab the bag and go. Mountains on Tuesday, beach on Wednesday.
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Old 12-13-05, 08:38 AM
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Trains and bikes complement one other beautifully. During a recent tour through Switzerland and Italy, I needed to take a time-out. So I boarded a train in Bellinzona, drank in the scenery and read for a few hours, arrived in Bern, and hung out with a friend for a weekend of non-stop talking and feasting. Two days later, feeling refreshed and well-fed, I entrained to Bellinzona and continued my bicycle trip.
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Old 12-13-05, 06:25 PM
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We will more than likely me incorporating trains into our trip. They will get us to an area that we would like to tour. Plus we plan a "one way" trip with return to our "home base" by train.

One think I need to check (I think Koffee mentioned it) is if the long haul trains allow bikes with out boxes. We just might have to take a number of short haul trains back and we will need to calculate that into the time for our return.
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Old 12-13-05, 09:45 PM
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During the daytime, they run some slower trains that go longer distances.... but you will not be able to (for instance) take a long distance night train from Rome to Milan. All night trains are only bike-less, which makes sense considering how cramped it can be in the train compartments and the food cart pushing through there every hour.

Go to www.trenitalia.com and look up the trains for yourself.

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Old 12-13-05, 09:49 PM
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Originally Posted by koffee brown
As a P.S., I think you're worrying about finding a hotel for your first and last night? I stayed at a hotel close to the train station. There are tons of them, and they are very quiet. You can always find a hotel room if you want to stay close to the train station.

Koffee
Dodgy part of town, though.
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Old 12-13-05, 09:52 PM
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Not really. I've walked through that area by myself many many times, day and night with no problems. It's only as dangerous as you let it be... but then again, I feel safer there than some cities here in the USA. Just don't be dumb... be careful wherever you go.

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Old 12-13-05, 09:56 PM
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I haven't had problems there either. But...a lot of the people hanging around the streets near the train station -- at night, mainly-- are really dodgy looking.
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Old 12-13-05, 09:58 PM
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Last time I was there, though, I did stay very close to the train station.
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