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Trip Report Italy - 19 days - 6 locations - Family of 4

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Returned a few days ago from likely the best trip of my life. We spent 19 days traveling throughout Italy. We traveled as a family with 11 and 13 year old kids. My husband speaks fluent Italian so we got along great in the communication department with the locals. I realize how lucky we are to have this skill set on board and it greatly influenced the trip in our favor. The hubs also insisted that we take back packs because he knew our travels would take us to some crowded places which would make traditional luggage a total pain in the @ss. Still pondering if he was correct in that regard.....back packing is not something I would usually sign up for but we did it.

I will break this report into locations because it is too much to write in one report. Sadly my back pack was lost by the airline so this is done from memory as my bag contained the cards, matches, receipts and other reminders of the specifics of our trip. Apparently Delta stands for - Don't Expect Luggage To Arrive, I did not know this until recently. Our first stop was Venice.

We flew from JFK in New York and arrived in Venice about 11am local time. We opted for one of the ferry taxis that departs from the airport area. In hindsight we should have splurged for a private taxi. It was crowded and we were half drowsy/half excited and the fumes and crowding were a bit much. After about a half hour wait we were on our way. We rented a VRBO (Sandolo #1788474) apartment at Ca' Nal Apartments. We were met at our ferry stop (Rialto Bridge) and taken to the apartment. I can not imagine trying to find it on our own, seems like an impossible task. The location was between the Rialto Bridge (covered in advertising on one side - I assume a preservation project is underneath the ads) and St Marks. The location was pretty good - in the middle of a busy section but quiet once you got in and made the long schlepp up the stairs.....there may have been 60 stairs, I lost track. The apartment had AC, a washer, 3 bedrooms and two bathrooms (one was microscopic but got the job done) which fit our criteria. We were there for 4 nights and I would recommend it. If we poked our head out a couple of windows and turned left, we had a view of a small canal. Honestly, I thought Venice was magical.

The first night we just wondered to St Marks Square and took in the feel of Venice. It flooded that night which is highly unusual in June. Street vendors were selling plastic booties which ranged from 2 - 50 Euros depending on the desperation and willingness of their potential customer.....we passed on the booties. Had our first meal at a pizza place near the square - Rossopomodoro (recommended by rental agent) - the pizza was good, not great but I would recommend it as it is somewhat difficult to find perfection in such a crowded place which serves a lot of seafood. Later that night we had appetizers at a small spot near the apartment but the name escapes me....it wasn't worth a second visit though.

I did not plan a lot of tours during our stay because we really wanted to just explore and acclimate ourselves to Italy. We did do the Secret Itineraries Tour at Doge's Palace which was interesting. Our tour guide had a strong accent so some bits were lost in the language barrier but still an interesting tour. We also went to a somewhat cheesy show one night - "The History of Venice" at the Teatro San Gallo. Keep in mind we have two kids who would not likely sit through two hours of opera, so....compromises were made. It was interesting and managed to slip in some history in an entertaining way. We were starving before the show and had some really terrible food right outside the theater. My savvy husband knew better than to order anything besides a beer and really tried to talk the 3 of us out of crap food but kids have to eat and my standards are not nearly as high as his....I don't recommend that place despite the charming waiter.

One night we did the "Venice Free Walking Tour". Yes it is actually free and it was amazing. Our guide, Camille, was from a nearby city and was extremely knowledgeable and spoke English very well. This is not your typical tour it is more like a behind the scenes look at Venice - past and present. It lasted around 2 hours and we walked the entire time. You must be physically fit and mentally prepared to return from a lesser known part of the city as you do not start and end in the same location. We stumbled around a bit after the tour and eventually found a good place to have dinner, sadly the name of the place escapes me.

We did a trip to Murano to see the glass blowing demonstration. I thought it was just meh but I know some people go nuts over this stuff. There wasn't a lot in the area we got on/off...somehow we missed the Colonna stop and got dropped at a quieter location. Had a panini at a local spot wandered a bit and came back. My daughter got some earrings. We had 4 days so it was OK, if I had less time in Venice I would skip it.

Another chunk of time was spent wandering around Dorsoduro area. We walked by the Peggy Guggenheim Museum as we are not modern art fans but the setting was tempting. We divided our group in this neighborhood - the boys went to have seafood tapas at a local spot and the girls went for more traditional food. We met up a couple of hours later. The meal I had with my daughter was just OK. It was at a random place on the water which faced Giudecca which we only saw from a distance. I had a dish with shrimp and arugola...didn't like the shrimp (tiny, very salty) and there was not nearly enough arugola. My daughter got pizza which she enjoyed more.

I very much enjoyed our time in Venice. The crowds were insane mid day but at night and early morning things were much more manageable. An interesting note, not much is open before 8am. On our family trips I typically get up before everyone else and make a breakfast run. I got up and out before 7am one morning and only found one place open for coffee and pastries. I'm sure this is not an issue if you are at a hotel but apartment dwellers may want to make a mental note. The street vendors can be aggressive in a somewhat polite way. They will literally attempt to put something in your hand whilst sweet talking you....which is quite annoying especially when they approach your children. We took it in stride most of the time. I realize these people are likely immigrants trying to find their way in a new land so I have empathy for them but I still don't want their roses or cheap toys.

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    I just remembered my daughter got one of those fish manicures in the San Polo side of the Rialto Bridge.....she enjoyed it, I would not partake. We also went to the market in the same neighborhood one morning and got some fruit. Interesting neighborhood,

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    Also forgot to mention that we went on a gondola ride in Venice which began on the Grand Canal and went through a series of smaller canals- one of which happened to be the small canal we could see from our rented apartment. A piece of building the size of a deck of cards actually fell and barely missed my head on the left side so beware of falling debris....that was a close call.

    After 4 nights in Venice we were off to Florence via train. A side note the kids and I crossed all 4 bridges of the Great Canal. The last one is the newest and close to the train station.

    Florence - 3 nights

    The ride to Florence was uneventful and relaxing, not crowded. It took the better part of two hours. We took a cab from the train station to the apartment. Another VRBO "La terrazza della Torre Donati". We were met by the mother of one of the owners her name is Anna, she was charming. The apartment was perfect. It was in a no drive zone and it had a lift and a terrace, the views were stunning. The apartment was so well appointed and thoughtful in every aspect I highly recommend it.



    We were meeting up with family in Florence so museums were set to a minimum. My daughter and I had skip the line tickets to Uffizi while my husband and son went to the Galileo Museum. We spent a couple of hours exploring then met up with extended family. The thing about Florence is that art is everywhere. Fountains, sculptors, buildings, basilicas, musicians, portrait artists, painters.....art is everywhere you look. Sure we could have gone to more museums but just walking around was awe inspiring. For instance the Loggia del Lanzi (next to Uffizi)is filled with sculptors that are free to view and they are under cover so great for shade or to avoid rain. There are usually musicians that play near here at night, also free. The point is you don't need to go to every museum here to appreciate the art.

    We walked to Basilica San Miniato al Monte. It was a helluva a walk from Uffizi but so worth it. My husband has a 94 year old cousin who is a retired priest and lives at this place. We were taken to an office in the front of the church (near the store) so we could visit him. He picked up the house phone and ordered four gelatos (made on site) for the kids and sent them over to get it - they loved it. The basilica itself is amazing as were the grounds and the store. I have heard that the residents chant in the oldest part of the church some evenings, I would have loved to have heard that.

    From here we walked down to Piazzale Michelangelo with it's breathtaking views. There are plenty of vendors at this location if you require a snack or beverage (or a souvenir) after the hike to get here. Our walk back to the apartment included crossing Ponte Vecchio which is a crowded shopping area (traditional gold/silver shops) during the day and featured live music at night. We did see a person getting arrested on the bridge one evening and pick pockets are notorious for working this area. Still it is one of the traditional sites to see in Florence, it was a festive environment.

    We stumbled upon a great restaurant the first night - Osteria Ganino - Piazza de Cimatori, 4 - simple, not pretentious and great food. We had pasta, meatballs, prosciutto w/melon, we liked the place so much we brought the Italian relatives back a few days later.

    We also had dinner at Lungarno 23 - Lungarno Torrigiani, 23, Firenze, Italy. This place is notorious for burgers and it isn't cheap. I had a salad which had overly salty anchovies on top. I did steal some fries off my daughter's plate and they were amazing. The burger people at our table seemed happy with their selections. Unless you are super into burgers this would not be my first choice.

    We also went to Mercato Centrale which is the best food court I have ever eaten at. Wide range available here - pizza, pasta made to order, antipasti, fish, coffee, you could eat here a week and not have the same thing twice. Loud, casual atmosphere and you need to jockey for a table.

    We also met a violin maker. He refurbished a violin for the daughter of my husband's cousin. That was an interesting behind the scenes look at an artist/craftsman/philosopher at work. Each of the four kids (2 of ours, 2 of the cousin) got a chance to "play" on a 16th century violin that this man refurbished. It was definitely not your typical tourist thing to do but memorable.

    On our last day we went to Chiesa di Ognissanti a beautiful church which houses some significant art and the remains of Botticelli. Worth a visit if you are in Florence a few days.

    The gelato was very good in Florence (said to be the best in Italy) not sure if it is the best, Venice had some good gelato as well....I would like more time to ponder that perhaps....jetting between the two for frequent taste tests...a girl can dream. One place stood out - it had a wheel for the undecided guest. If you can't decide which flavor to get, spin the wheel and eat what it lands on. We were able to make our own selections. Cantina Del Gelato - Via de Bardi, 31, Florence, Italy. The Italian cousin took us there, it was excellent.


    After 3 nights we were on our way to the next stop - Riomaggiore in Cinque Terre - also by train.

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    Cinque Terre - 3 Nights Late June - Family of Four

    We took a train to CT from Florence which took over 2 hours and required a transfer in La Spezia. All the trains were crowded and hot - too be expected when traveling to a beach in June.

    We arrived in Riomaggiore around 1pm and had some time before our rental was ready. We had a contact person to greet us and he took our luggage up to the rental (thank God). We got the house through VRBO #374786. We didn't have a lot of choices because we had set dates and my husband insisted on AC and I insisted on a washer. We were grateful for both. The place we got was spacious with modern amenities however, it was much further up the hill than we would have preferred. In fact it was next to the castle ruins which tells you something as castles were build high up to be able to clearly see the water (and possible invaders). I mention this because it limited the number of times I was willing to go back and forth to the house the days we were there. Twice a day was my limit and I am a healthy person in my mid 40s who works out regularly.

    The village of Riomaggiore, the most Southern of the 5 villages, was charming and larger than most (exception Monterosso). There were plenty of shops and places to eat and the train station was accessible. We arrived on a Thursday afternoon and found out that the trains were set to go on strike at 9pm that night until 9pm on Friday. Not great news....or was it?

    We thought the train strike might decrease the number of tourists coming to CT for the day so we made the most of it. We took a ferry from Riomaggiore to Monterosso on Friday. Don't bother looking for a ferry dock in Riomaggiore....just go down to the harbor and up the steps on the left (if you are looking at the water). There is a shed which sells tickets to the ferry. Then continue on to more stairs which wrap around the cliff side. You will see roped off stairs leading to the rocks and the water - that's it. I promise the ferry does come there and it all works out.

    We had a fantastic time visiting Monterosso. We went to the beach there - you pay to rent chairs and umbrellas and changing rooms and outside showers were available. We had one of our best meals of the entire trip here. We had lunch at Ristorante Belvedere and according to the members of my family, they had the best sardines on the planet. I am not a fan of sardines but my 11 year old daughter turns into a baby seal when they are placed in front of her - it's equal parts hilarious and disturbing. I had pasta with clams and it was amazing - can't recommend this place enough.

    We got back on the ferry to head south and decided to stop at Vernazza which is said by some to be the prettiest and most romantic village. It was gorgeous with a small beach. Can't speak to the romance aspect as we traveled as a family and it was steamy hot mid day and crowded. Our first stop was a bar near the harbor to hydrate. Then we went off to explore a bit. It wasn't long before we stumbled into the Gelateria Vernazza and had OMFG good gelato.....seriously it was the best we had in Italy (or anywhere, ever). I got hazelnut and pistachio which I highly recommend. Then we wandered a bit more but did not see anything exciting beyond the train station (something fabulous might be up there but we had to conserve energy for the hike back up to our rental in Riomaggiore). We headed back to the ferry and became part of a large mass of of people waiting for the ferry.

    We made it back to our place by early evening. Had dinner at Ripa del Sole primarily because we could walk to it without additional stairs or steep inclines. The food was OK, had to eat indoors as they were crowded. Italians do not rush their guests out the door however, the service was painfully slow we were there a solid two hours the food was OK. My husband did love the Cinque Terre wine. There was a feast that night in town some type of religious ceremony so ultimately we made the trek back down to see what all the hub bub was about. There were priests, musicians, young girls dressed in white and candles everywhere.....it was worth the extra 500 or so steps to experience that.

    On our last full day in CT we decided to take another ferry ride to Portovenere. It was a bit longer by ferry (45 minutes) and seas were a bit rough which left some of us feeling queasy. This place was really pretty and larger than the CT villages. There were castle ruins and a cliff side church which was hosting a wedding that day. Just gorgeous views all over with lots of shops and restaurants. We ate at a place along the harbor. Not spectacular but good, the name escapes me. Late afternoon we headed back to Riomaggiore.

    Our last night in Riomaggiore we decided to take the train to Manarola, it was love at first sight. If we travel back to CT we all want to stay here. We got lost wandering around looking for a restaurant and it was a great way to explore. It was the most beautiful of all the villages IMO. We made our way along the trail near the harbor up to a park which had a small playground and clean bathrooms. The views were breathtaking. Eventually we had to come down and find somewhere to eat, most places were packed and couldn't seat us. We went to da Aristide. We didn't have high expectations and we had to sit inside - the food turned out to be amazing! My husband and I got bronzino and my daughter got a pasta dish with potato and pesto - her dish was fantastic. The hubs and I bribed her with fish and took over her meal. Our son ordered pasta with clams and enjoyed it. the waiter was very charming. One of the better meals on our trip.

    We did not time things well for the return to Riomaggiore and wound up waiting an hour for a train. The real annoying part was that it was less than a mile away but since the trail is closed between those villages it was the only way beside boat to get back.....so we waited.


    Next stop - Lucca.

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    Lucca - 4 nights (late June)

    We rented an apartment through VRBO # 415217. It was a nice spacious apartment located near the entrance that is closest to the train station. It was the only place during our trip that got English speaking channels and I appreciated that. It was so quiet when we arrived on Sunday afternoon I wondered where everyone went.....things picked up when it got a little later toward evening.

    There were several cafes near the apartment so the morning coffee run was convenient and delicious. One cafe in particular rented a large screen which was placed outside to watch the Italy/Belgium soccer game. It was so cool to be with locals during that and our apartment was steps away.

    The first night there we wandered around a bit and walked along the wall which goes around the city and has been there (with several iterations) for hundreds of years - BC and beyond. There is a promenade above the wall that provides a lovely background to walk around the city. It is 4K (2 1/2 miles) and is frequented by bicycles (rentals are everywhere), people walking dogs, families and the occasional musician. It is peaceful and old world surrounded by a beautiful Tuscan landscape.

    We got off the wall to go in to Lucca and find dinner. We wound up near the Roman ampitheatre which was hosting a family event with inflatable slides and balloons. We had a little bit of trouble finding a restaurant and eventually landed at Ammodonostro where we were seated in a lovely courtyard. The meal was excellent. In particular there was a dish my husband ordered based on the waiters suggestion....it was a light pasta broad noodle with potato in the center. It doesn't sound appealing even now but we liked it so much that we ordered a second plate of it.

    The next day was Monday and we went to Pisa which is maybe 20 minutes by train (get off the first Pisa station not centrale it is closer). We got off at the Centrale exit and walked through Pisa to get to the famous tower. The place is filled with shops of all kinds and the place we had lunch was just "meh". Seeing the leaning tower was interesting as 3 out of 4 of us had never been, one of those travel bucket list moments. By then though it was incredibly hot and crowded and we were ready to go back to the calm of Lucca.

    That night we went to a Puccini festival concert in the Church of San Giovanni in Lucca. There is a concert there every night featuring works of Puccini who was baptized in the church. We had a late dinner and called it a night.

    The third day was spent with family from nearby Montecatini - we wandered, ate gelato, let the kids play in the park it was a beautiful day. Lucca is a really nice place to just wander. It isn't overwhelming in size or activity level, not too many tourists (said the tourist) just a beautiful calm way to experience Tuscany.

    Our last night we went to visit family where they live in Montecatini which is a short train ride away from Lucca. We loved that place and would consider staying there as well for a future visit. There is an old (Alto) and new (Terme) section of Montecatini. The relatives live in the Terme area and we had dinner in the Alto (older section high up the hill). The views from the Alto area were incredible especially at dusk with twinkling lights and a creamsicle sky with mountains in the distance. We wound up staying so late at dinner that we missed the train back to Lucca so we spent the night there.

    The next morning we packed up and left Lucca. This time we had a car and were headed to Orvieto.

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    Orvieto - 2 nights

    We decided to stop along the way from Lucca to Orvieto and had some trouble picking a destination. So many beautiful Tuscan villages which one to choose? Such a nice dilemma. We decided to stop at Volterra.

    Once we got pointed in the right direction the drive was beautiful. Long windy hilltop roads with the occasional village sprouting up with it's orange rooftops. Lots of farmland in between. The winding roads did get to be a bit much so when we got to Volterre we were queasy and beyond happy to get out of the car for a bit.

    We parked and found some stairs and up we went. What a beautiful ancient place! The town was lined with a variety of flags and shops, some museums and of course churches. This village is known for alabaster and I regret that we did not buy more alabaster wine corks, such a nice compact gift....anyhow, our time here was brief, only an hour. Wandered a bit, got a snack and sadly left without a proper exploration. If you find yourself in this part of the world I urge you to carve a few hours for this rustic village.

    Back on the road and the car sickness continued....the pull over and vomit kind, not fun. So we changed course and ditched the Tuscan Hills for highway driving. We made it to Orvieto around 6pm.

    We had a little trouble getting up to the village and I will state that driving here is not for the faint of heart. I say that as an American that has driven in NYC, Washington DC and LA with minimal road rage and no accidents. I was happy that my husband was driving and he was happy to ditch the car at the first opportunity. We stayed on the top floor of a The Valentina B & B also found through VRBO #584772. Luis assisted us on arrival, he is a charming man from Venezuela. The B & B was located near Piazza del Popolo which was a fine location.

    I have to be honest and say this part of my trip planning was sparse. I focused on the larger cities and thought there isn't much to do here...we will see some caves and be on our way to Rome. I was wrong.

    True, Orvieto doesn't have the same degree of sites as Florence or Rome but I could have easily spent more time here. The first night we were there we went to a restaurant the Inn Keeper suggested, Il Malandrino. We were not blown away which is unfortunate because it is the top rated restaurant in Orvieto. It wasn't bad it just didn't knock our socks off and in fairness to the place, it was being compared against our favorite meals on the trip which occurred in Monterosso, Manarola and Florence.

    The next day was our only full day in Orvieto and we made the most of it. We got Orvieto city cards and became full fledged tourists. Our first site was St. Patrick's well which is not far from the funicular. If you have mobility issues or are afraid of the dark skip this, for everyone else go for it. Interesting history and design make this a top attraction. It was built in 1527, commissioned by a pope that fled Rome and it has two independent and opposing spiral staircases. Basically the people coming down do not see the people coming up.

    After the well we stopped by what remains of the Etruscan Temple of the Belvedere, not much there but you get an idea of what was...then we continued on to the Duomo. We went inside and it was stunning. It is a vast space which is mostly open aside from the alter and a few rows for worshipers. The day we were there a wedding was taking place, it was a remarkable setting.

    Near the Duomo, we went to a 3D exhibit on the Etruscan People and then took a peek into a nearby museum and decided to get lunch. We wound up at Trattoria Tipica La pergola it was close to the Duomo. Lunch was great and I would recommend it. Once again we had a slight issue with being seated outside but my husband was able to negotiate the table. It was a beautiful setting with good food.

    After lunch we did a cave tour to escape the sun and learn something. There was an ancient olive press and places where pigeons were bred, just interesting tid bits. Basically, they ran out of space in the village, so they went underground and many businesses did their work utilizing the man made caves. Many families also created caves to suit their businesses such as pigeon breeding. I found it all intriguing and so different from anything at home. We made our way back to our apartment and the B & B after the cave tour.

    On our last night we went two separate ways. My daughter and I went to a place that she selected - Trattoria del Moro - Aronne. What it lacks in ambience it makes up for in taste. We enjoyed our meal and our mother/daughter time. Fast forward two hours and the male duo still hasn't eaten. They tend to over analyze options and eat very late as a result but they did stumble upon something interesting.

    That night there was a community dinner in the Piazza della Republica. It was a white theme. All in attendance wore white clothes,there were white table clothes and white balloons. It was very festive and people took turns singing. It was just a really cool thing to stumble upon. Their travels also led them to a dog park and one of the prettiest views of Umbria. Then we separated again so they could finally eat dinner and watch part of the soccer game. My daughter and I got gelato then found them at their dinning spot and said good night.

    The morning we left there was a market set up in the Piazza del Popolo which was right behind our location. Sadly it was not a great market. It had similar things to what I saw in Lucca at an outdoor market, mostly cheap clothes that had no relationship to the region. There was also produce and meat, if we were staying I would have considered a food purchase.

    Then it was time to pack up and head to Rome. We walked to the funicular and took that to get to the train station and got on a PACKED train to Rome. The train was so crowded we could not sit together, though we were fortunate that we were all in the same car. It is just under 2 hours to get to Rome by train from Orvieto.

    Our last stop on this trip was Rome for 3 nights......

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    Bilboburgler -

    Good point, let me clarify. I meant notorious as in - 2.
    publicly or generally known, as for a particular trait:

    In this case, the trait being really good burgers.

    Thanks for reading the report.

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    Rome - 3 Nights

    We took a packed train from Orvieto to Rome mid day. Our family was all in the same car but we were not able to sit next to each other. Something to keep in mind if you have small children. My husband was seated near our daughter and I was seated near our son. We could each see one kid, would have been incredibly stressful if we could not.

    Got to Rome in just under 2 hours and walked to our hotel at the Radisson Blu. We had been spoiled the earlier parts of our trip with VRBO apartments. Here the location was decided based on points and required two rooms as they did not have anything to for a family of four. The rooftop pool and breakfast buffet were the best parts of the hotel. The location itself is good for the train station but nothing else. The neighborhood is not pleasant and I would not feel comfortable to walk there alone at night. The closest site is the colosseum and that is a solid 15 minute walk at a brisk pace.

    The first day we got settled in our rooms (on two separate floors) and went to the colosseum. Our family has been to Rome before and our last trip was in 2008. Things have changed dramatically since then. Most notable was decreased access to previously free, open spaces - Roman Forum and Palatine Hill. These areas are now added on to colosseum tours with a cost and limited access. We decided to make our way from there to the Trastevere neighborhood. It's a helluva a walk but we decided to stick to shady sides and save our cab back for after dinner.

    We all love the Trastevere neighborhood. It has a great vibe and there is always something going on and about a thousand restaurants to choose from...wefound a great spot in a quieter area, the name escapes me. There was a market set up along the river and we explored that a bit as well. Gorgeous sight as we walked over the bridge in search of a cab.

    On Day 2 we decided to take advantage of the free museums on the first Sunday of the month (July 3). We first went to the colosseum which was already packed at 8:30am. So we decided to grab a cab and go to St. Peter's. We did not have tour tickets we simply wanted to see the basilica.

    Here again we noticed a huge increase in security with a corresponding decrease in access. Sadly understandable in the world we now live in. I had worn a tank top with a light layer over it. The outer layer was transformed into a shawl to cover my shoulders. I was prepared for this as this hasn't changed from our last visit. Keep in mind that some churches have enforced modesty rules which do not allow for bare shoulders and have fluctuating rules on skirt/short length. We were fortunate that they let our kids in with shorts that is not a given. We enjoyed our time wandering in St. Peter's and made our way over to Castle Sant'Angelo.

    I have fond memories of Castle Sant'Angelo from the last visit when our kids were much smaller so this was a nostalgic visit for me. It had a free entrance as it was the first Sunday of the month and is not nearly as crowded as other attractions. We wandered an hour or so enjoying the views in various locations and had a snack at the cafeteria....something we did 8 years prior. There is a gorgeous view of Vatican City from the cafeteria area and we managed to sit at the same table as the last visit.

    After the Castle Sant'Angelo we wove our way back toward more sites including the Pantheon. We then took a cab back to the hotel to rest a bit. In the late afternoon we went out again to go into the Colosseum and in the evening walked by the major squares and fountains.

    To be continued........

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    Thanks for your reports, fantastic reading.

    We are headed to Italy in summer 2017. Of all the places you visited, or stayed, is there one place that you wish you had stayed longer? We are looking to soak in the culture of a place, spend 7-10 days in one spot, probably a good hub to day trip to other sites. Where would you suggest?

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    giesen5 - I hope you have a fantastic trip next summer. It's really hard to pick one place we had such a great trip. I have to say that Cinque Terre was amazing and if I could stay anywhere there it would be Manarola. From there you can do day trips to the other villages, Portovenere, even Florence and Pisa though I think taking the train there repeatedly would get crowded and frustrating.

    I think Lucca is a good base point for exploring as well. It was a lovely spot and felt very comfortable and a nice break from the more tourist areas - http://goitaly.about.com/od/lucca/tp/Lucca-Day-Trips.htm

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    Lucca was lovely. They have a summer music festival in July so make a mental note of that in your planning. We had a great apartment through VRBO it is listed in the TR. Lots to choose from it wasn't my first choice but it turned out to be great and the location was ideal. I would have preferred a place with outdoor space that is the only thing I would have changed about the apartment.

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    Enjoyed your report, thank you for all of the tips I will use in our trip in May, June 2017. How warm did it get on your trip? I am also concerned about the crowds you mentioned.
    Maybe April, May would be a better choice. We will have forty days for our trip.

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    Harry I think April and May would be a fantastic time to visit though it may be significantly cooler in Northern Italy in April. Not sure where you are going but 40 days is a nice stretch of time. Enjoy! Glad you liked the report.

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    Six of the forty days will be spent in Slovenia and parts of Croatia. Leaving us 34 days for Italy. We also want to spend eight days in Sicily.
    90 degrees is warm for all the walking involved. I guess I will have to plan my trip South to North.
    Thanks again for all of your tips.

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    Day 2 Rome Continued....

    We finished off day two by enjoying the roof top pool at the Radisson Blu for a few hours in the afternoon. In the evening we continued a self guided tour of important fountains and piazzas = Fountain of Trevi, Piazza Navona, Piazza Di Sagna we wandered a bit around the Spanish Steps which were closed for renovation. We wound up eating there at Dilla. It was solidly OK despite an extended visit from a garbage truck which was within 20 feet of our outside table. We wandered back home revisiting some of the sites we had seen earlier in the day and called it a night.

    Day 3 - Last night

    We considered a trip to Naples to get a pizza and decided that the time, temperature and expense was too much to justify so we stayed in Rome. We made our way to the Piazza Del Popolo stopping to see the Quattro Fontane along the way. We split up so the girls could shop and the guys could avoid shopping. We met for lunch at PizzaRe it was the best pizza we had in Italy.

    After lunch we wondered up the hill behind the Piazza Del Popolo and wandered around the park (Villa Borghese) like some other stops in Rome this was a reminder of an earlier trip taken when the kids were toddlers. We stopped for coffee and gelato and took a stroll down memory lane. It was getting hot so we made our way out of the park and found an underground passage that took us to the Metro stop for the Spanish Steps. It was a welcome change from the blistering sun. We wound our way back to the hotel to rest before going out for one last dinner in Rome. We decided to go back to Trastavere my son picked a pizza place which sadly could not replace PizzaRe as our favorite pizza of the trip. We eventually made our way back to Piazza Navona for one last gelato and a peak in the toy store. I believe it was the Al Sogno store. After that it was back to the hotel to pack and get ready for an early departure (5:45am).

    We walked from the hotel to the train station to go to the airport. It was an amazing trip.

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