Introduction - Background facts
I?m a 47 year old widow who planned to take my kids to Europe with life insurance $ after my husband died five years ago. I decided to concentrate on one country and Italy seemed to have the best weather, most interesting things to see and the best food. I have a 16 year old son and a 14 year old daughter. Im in so so physical shape, my son is a couch potato and my daughter a competitive figure skater. She was usually in front, me in the middle and my son bringing up the rear.
We used a travel consultant Sally Watkins http://www.sallywatkins.com/ She arranged our hotels in Sorrento and Florence and apt in Rome, as well as drivers once we got there. She was very helpful with other advice. Well worth it. I made my own arrangements for an apt in Venice. Probably should have let her do it, but more about that later.
I also got a lot of help from Slow Travelers web site (http://www. Slowtrav.com) and the Fodors Message board. I brought along Rick Steves book on Italy and would rip out the pages about the town and carry those in my purse. In Rome I carried around DK Eyewitness on Rome. It was heavy but VERY handy to have around. Pretty good maps and info on public transportation. We took and used recommendations from Sandra Gustafsons Great Eats in Italy and Chow Venice" We also had Rick Steve's Italian phrase book that was helpful. We learned enough Italian to be polite, find the bathroom, point out questo for pasty and order food.
I rented a Piccel cell phone (https://www.piccellwireless.com/piccell/en/index.php) before we left. The prices seemed better than anything else I didn't want to bother with trying to buy and phone and then unload it later. I was relatively pleased except that every once in awhile the phone just would not work, then it would work an hour later. This was a real pain when my daughter got locked in the bathroom and we couldn't use the phone. So I'm not sure I'd recommend it for that reason. If it didn?t work in a real emergency what would be the point of having it?
I wore a neck pouch in which I carried all three passports, an extra ATM card, credit card and sometime a large amount of cash euros (I needed to pay both apartments in cash) and never had any trouble. I carried about 50 euro at a time, credit card and ATM card in my front pocket. Maybe I could have been proved wrong, but I just felt I would notice if someone tried to get in my front pocket, paid careful attention to it all the time. I never had a problem. Isaac had a little incident with a crowd of kids in Florence trying to get into his pockets, more details in the trip report.
We live in a small town in Iowa near Sioux City. A friend drove us to Omaha the day before where we spent the night, and then caught the shuttle to the airport for a flight from Omaha to Detroit, then Detroit to Amsterdam, then Amsterdam to Rome.
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Introduction - Background facts