I am planning a trip to Cinque Terre (and Florence) in Italy this year. Wondering if anyone has any experience birding in the region - what time of year is best to hike/bird here and which cities are best?
I only know bird areas south of Toscany.
Parc naturel Maremma, Laguna Orbitello, Piombino for sebirds, Riserva naturale Diacca Botrona
Another great place is Parco Regionale Delta di Po about 30 km south of Venezia.
Also interesting but small is Insonzo Delta between Venezia and Trieste.
April is very good time for migration birds.
Some birds like Beeater will come first week of May.
Migration to south is October and even middle of November.
November somethimes comes heavy rain for one or two days.
Of course, most migration in April is between island Sicily and mainland.
Inexpensive accomodation is possible via agriturismo.
Maybe someone in the forum can help about flowers smell.
My friends told me mostly at Italian islands maybe also in Toscany, in spring the is lots of different smell in the air.
Is not like Macchia smell in Corse, but is also excellent.
For the Cinque Terre you can try emailing the people at Liguria Birding http://www.liguriabirding.net, although I recommend avoiding peak tourist season as it can get very crowded thus not very bird-friendly. As for the rest, it depends if you've birded in Europe before and what expectations you have. We are in Tuscany but on the southern border and are not too familiar with birding in Florence, but we could probably circulate your RFI to the EBN Italy mailing list and someone may be able to help. Again, the season is crucial, in the summer migration is over and it gets too hot for anything to move after 6 am and before 8 pm. Best birding areas in northern-central Italy are the ones Albatross mentions: the Maremma part of Tuscany and the Po Delta NP (we were there last spring http://www.birdforum.net/showthread.php?t=323825), but again avoid summer. Any questions feel free to ask, here or PM.