|Subject: 3 days between Venice & Tuscany|
I could not agree more with Paolo about spending 2 or 3 days in Emilia
Romagna. My favorite towns in this area are Bologna (where you could spend
a wonderful couple of days just wandering the city), and Modena, which is
west of Bologna by about 30 kilometers. Both are more or less on the
straight-line track from Venice into Tuscany.
Bologna is a medium-sized city known for its gastronomy and its university. There is lots to see in the historical center of town-- the Duomo, the two leaning towers, several museums, a wonderful but small central market, and one of my favorite churches, St. Stefano. The latter is a rambling romanesque affair built over several centuries, consisting of five (or seven?) chapels and cloisters, each built in a different era but in such a way as to be connected in a maze-like fashion. Most of the sidewalks in the city are covered by porticos, which make it a delightful place to explore on foot in any weather.
Modena is somewhat smaller. I think their central piazza is a jewel, especially when viewed from the spot catty-corner to the rear of the small, romanesque Duomo. Modena is also a great spot for food (think balsamic vinegar), music (think Pavarotti), and shopping. The central food and flower market here is oddly larger than Bologna's, and if you're in to that sort of thing you could easily spend a couple of hours there in the morning. As with most towns in Italy, there is a good-sized area of the historical center that is closed to vehicle traffic, which makes for nice strolls and window-shopping.
Both of these towns are almost completely un-touristed, and definitely real in the sense that people are just going about their day-to-day business. You will contrast this to Florence or Venice where the impact of tourism can be a little depressing at times.
More in-line with Paolo's suggestions of towns in the Veneto region, my favorite is Verona. Although more touristy than Ferrara, it is a perfectly charming little town and particularly pleasant when not over-run during the summer opera season. ciao, Joel Chicago