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Trip Report first time big 3 part 1

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This is my first trip report for my first trip to Europe. I thought since I was a new traveller I’d start by passing along things I learned on this trip, things that worried me, and things that took me by surprise. Maybe another first timer will get some useful information. My husband and I had the pleasure of visiting Venice, Florence, and Rome with a quick overnight in Siena and drive through ,wait let’s see if I can recall, Pienza, Montichiello, and somewhere near Bagno Vignoni.

Let’s start with airfare. We booked ten months in advance because we have a tendency to put things off and then end up not doing them. This may be why it took us 15 years to make this trip. I can only hope it won’t take fifteen more to return or try somewhere new. Once booked we were committed.

It took forever to decide on hotels since I didn’t know what areas were central ( everything seems more spread out on a map) and wanted something special as this was our 20th anniversary gift to each other. Of course we are not independently wealthy and had to keep that in mind as well. My husband left the details up to me and I didn’t want to disappoint him either. So I’m sure I spent waaaay too much time on hotels. I probably should have come here first for advice. Everyone was terribly helpful when I did eventually get around to it.

We flew open jaw in Venice out Rome and traveled by train from Venice to Florence. The train was the easiest experience I could have imagined. Purchasing tickets through Trenitalia, a little more difficult. I bought early ,but made a mistake on the date and it took many phone calls and a lot of time to corrrect as well as ending up costing me the full amount. So… lesson learned. Next time I would buy at the station if schedules allowed some flexibility or possibly go through Italotreno. Their website was much more easily navigable and they had a private lounge at the station for their customers which would be nice to use if you arrived with time to spare. Although our train's final destination was Naples there was a screen on board to keep you informed of where you are and what the next stop will be ,so we didn’t need to concern ourselves with missing the stop. Our PNR number was checked twice during the trip , so if you print your confirmation don’t throw it away after they initially confirm your ticket. The ride was quick and comfortable if a little lackluster as far as scenery. Not much to see so bring a good book ,music or magazine that you enjoy. I used Ron in Rome for a tutorial on different train types and a heads up on what to look for on reading the train schedules. This was very helpful and gave me more confidence as we have never used any kind of rail service.

We used a water taxi to get to our hotel in Venice and the vaporetto to get to the train station on the way out. Upon arrival we also picked up our prepurchased vaporetto passes at a kiosk just outside the airport on the way to the docks for transport. You just need your PNR number. So easy and we loved these passes. We used the vaporetti a lot so they were worth it to us. We also had one public bathroom pass but never needed it once ,so I don’t recommend them.

Vaporetto- ok. We stayed at a wonderful hotel just off the Salute stop which only appeared to be serviced by line 1. We caught line 1 going both directions from the same barge, but this isn’t the case with most stops, so be sure you go inside and look at the posted signs which show which lines stop there and which direction it goes and which hours it operates. We only had trouble with this once and then the light bulb went on. Duh. So that’s what people meant when they said make sure you are on the right one. We never got on one going the wrong direction ,but did wait on the wrong barge once not realizing there were two. Also it is nearly impossible to miss your stop if you are paying attention. The fermate ( stop) is clearly marked in huge letters on the barge and sometimes it is even called out in advance.

Maps may not help you in Venice, but make sure you have one anyway. Our hotel supplied a pretty good one. It’s ok to get lost in Venice. It makes a good story and is part of the fun. Just make sure you leave time to get lost in your schedule or do it intentionally. We found a great artisan chocolate shop this way and got to see more of Dorsoduro than we expected. Perhaps keep drinking to a minimum until you are better oriented. We jumped right into the wine with every meal plan and nearly made our way to Guidecca. Good thing there was another canal there to stop us.

Florence, Venice and Rome are very walkable as long as you are in decent shape. Notice I say decent not good shape. If I can do it so can most everyone else. Again maps are necessary. Our hotel in Florence supplied a good one that we used , but in Rome we preferred the one that came in our top 25 Rome guide book. We took a taxi only a couple of times mostly due to time constraints (making a reservation)or convenience sake at the end of a long day.

Reservations- We loved our Firenze Card in Florence. It allowed us to see what we wanted to when we wanted to because reservations are unnecessary with it. There was also a special and much shorter line for the biggies, Uffizi and Accademia. My husband was so impressed that we got to circumvent the line going around the block for the Accademia. At some locations you have to wait in line and present your card for the ticket and sometimes they scan the card and print a special ticket which you must still present at the entrance. We never had a long wait for anything and it was early October so still quite busy.

You must make reservations for the Borghese in Rome. When we were there, they were sold out for the next 6 days.

If you want to eat at highly recommended restaurants make reservations early. I made a reservation at Armando al Pantheon through their website and wish I had made more. Most places we wanted to eat at once we got there were booked solid, sometimes for days. Make the reservations, make more than one. You can always cancel a day prior if plans change or something comes up.

Flying out of Fumicino was an adventure in and of itself. Flying into Marco Polo in Venice was so easy, we were dumbfounded by the number of passport checks and shuttles at Fumicino. We flew US Airways and maybe this had something to do with it, but know your terminal. We didn,t and had to catch a shuttle t the correct one. They really seem to be spread out and there was quite a bit of jockeying back and forth to get to the gate, plane etc. Also if coming back to the U.S. don’t purchase liquids once at the gate in Rome thinking that you have gone through security. In Charlotte (our connection) we had to claim our bags, recheck them, go through customs, passport check and TSA again which means no liquids over 3 ounces. We were repacking in the airport. Fun for all. We also missed the information about not bringing salumi into the country which entitled us to a special search after declarations. Woo hoo. My husband was heartbroken. “NO, not the Barolo soaked salami”. right into the wastebasket.

Whew that was exhausting . I’d love to actually report on our trip so I will add that in part two.

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