WE PARENTS AND TWO ADULT CHILDREN ARE GOING TO ITALY FOR TWO WEEKS IN APRIL. STARTING IN ROME THEN NAPLES, AMALFI COAST, SICILY AND FILICUDI. SHOULD WE HIRE A CAR?
G. THOMPSON, MAROUBRA
Many travellers are apprehensive of driving in Italy, intimidated by the reputation of Italian drivers for speed and risky behaviour behind the wheel. In my experience that's exaggerated. Sure they're fast but they're also tolerant and mostly forgiving. Unless you happen to be sitting in the express lane on the autostrada and travelling at or below the legal limit.
In your case, I wouldn't be hiring a car until you leave Naples. Travel from Rome to Naples by train, it's super fast and there's no reason to have a car in Naples. Pick up a hire car when you leave the city and use it to explore the Amalfi coast. Although traffic in this region is nightmarish in peak season, and parking worse than that, in April you should be well ahead of the hordes.
A vehicle here makes sense since public transport is less than wonderful for getting to places such as Ravello. Be aware that theft from rental cars is a chronic problem in southern Italy. You're safer parking your car with an attendant and in full view, and as far as possible don't leave valuables inside.
Return your hire car in Naples and take the Grandi Navi Veloci gnv.it ferry to Palermo in Sicily. Another option is Liberty Lines libertylines.it, which services smaller ports on the western edge of Sicily. Again you'll need a hire car, public transport is woeful.
Getting to Filicudi is no problem with daily services by Liberty and Siremar siremar.it ferries from the port of Milazzo, on Sicily's north-east coast.
I AM PLANNING A TRIP FOR TWO TO LORD HOWE ISLAND, STAYING IN NICE ACCOMMODATION BUT NOT TOP OF THE RANGE. ANY SUGGESTIONS PLEASE? WHAT TIME OF YEAR IS BEST AND WOULD FIVE TO SEVEN DAYS BE ENOUGH?
K. JONES, RANDWICK
Pinetrees Lodge pinetrees.com.au is an all-time visitor favourite. The lodge has several styles of accommodation at various prices, the food is outstanding and you can organise tours and bike hire right on the premises. Somerset Apartments somersetlordhowe.com.au might also be a good choice since the apartments have basic cooking facilities, which allow you to save on meals. Anytime between October and April is the sweet spot, with November to February as the driest months.
The island gets its fair share of rain and days are often breezy. Seven days is about the minimum. Although it's just 11 kilometres long and less than three across at its widest, there's heaps to do. I've been to LHI three times and I have yet to climb the summit of Mount Gower, one of the island's "peak" experiences. Be warned, LHI is a powerful addiction. One visit is never enough.
MY HUSBAND AND I ARE THINKING OF SPENDING SIX TO EIGHT WEEKS, APRIL–JUNE IN PORTUGAL AND SPAIN. WE ARE INDEPENDENT TRAVELLERS, INTERESTS ARE WALKING, FOOD, WINE AND THE OUTDOORS. ANY SUGGESTIONS RE AN ITINERARY AND TRANSPORT, HAPPY TO HIRE A CAR?
M. HOLLINS, NORTH PARRAMATTA
Highlights of Portugal include the cruise along the Douro River, source of port wines, but for my money the train ride along the river is even better. From Porto's Campanha Station, several trains make the journey daily along the Linha do Douro to Peso da Regua, where you change trains for a sensational journey along the Douro gorge, with the terraced vineyards towering above. Pocinho is the end of the line, and I'd suggest an overnight stay before returning to Porto. North of Porto the Parque Nacional da Peneda-Geres is a wild and exhilarating mountainous region with some lovely walks. Other highlights would have to include Lisbon, the historic town of Lagos in the Algarve, the port from where the great navigators sailed, the fortified hilltop town of Sintra outside Lisbon, Evora, a really lovely university town with a Roman temple, and Coimbra, site of a historic university and former capital.
In Spain, Seville, Madrid, the white villages of Andalusia, Barcelona, the Costa Brava, Burgos Cathedral, the culinary capital of San Sebastian and the Basque Country, Cordoba, Granada's Alhambra, the villages of the Pyrenees, the Prado Museum, Toledo – the feast is almost endless.You might start in Madrid, head south to Seville and Andalusia then east to Valencia, along the coast to Barcelona, north to the Pyrenees and along the Atlantic Coast to Galicia and drop down into Portugal for a north-to-south journey finishing in the Algarve.
In both Spain and Portugal a hire car is the way to go and you might consider a lease deal, such as Renault Eurodrive renaulteurodrive.com.au. You might also aim to finish by the end of June, before the mass migration from the paler parts of Europe begins.
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