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    by mkataoka Fodor's Editor | Posted on Nov 28, 16 at 01:31 PM
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Trip Report Italy Trip- Venice, Rome, Florence, Cinque Terre, Amalfi Coast

We landed in Milan Malpensa on a rainy morning (end of October and it was quite cold). we figured we would take the train closer to where we need to go and then take a taxi. When we got out - it was in a residential area, there were no cabs, and all the cabs that passed us on the street had passengers. So we decided to take the subway/metro, but first we went out to eat at Denzels which was good. Then we took the subway to our bread and breakfast Chez Romy K in a residential area- its new, modern, offered free breakfast. It was a perfect b and b to spend 2 days. We went to a shopping area that day and then rested the next.

On our third day we took the earliest train to Lake Como- which was nice, but not exceptional. The train had a lot of seedy people and the conductor warned us to watch our luggage. Then we took the train to Venice- to S. Lucia train station, stored our luggage at the station (near platform 1). We took a boat, vaporetto, to Murano island (around 15-20 minutes)- to see how they make glass structures- its beautiful, and to Burano (another 30-45 minutes by boat)- famous for lace and colorful houses. It was nice, but if you don't have time to do both I would skip Burano, or both. You can buy an unlimited rides per day ticket on the vaporetto. Our next step was back to Venezia S. Lucia- near the train station, where we got off, picked up our luggage, and walked to our hotel, Giardino dei Melograni, located in the canareggio area. Google maps said it would take 10 minutes to walk, but it took us more than 20 with our heavy luggage and we got lost a bit and had to backtrack. The staff is really nice. The rooms are simple, clean, and decent. There is an elevator, free breakfast, spacious sitting area on the second floor near the rooms, on site restaurant. We asked for and got a plug in electric mosquito repellent. Italy has tons of mosquitoes- almost every city we went to. Receptionist, David was nice and helpful. Reception only opens from around 8 am until 6 or maybe 8 pm. If you're checking in later or out early contact them in advance. We were very happy with our stay here. There are guards stationed outside the hotel in the courtyard in this little metallic building. We ate at Gam Gam which was great restaurant about 5 minute walk from hotel on the canal. The next two days we walked around Venice, along the canal, walked to the Rialto bridge at night, went shopping, and rested.

The next stop on our trip was early on the fourth day where we took a train to Monterroso, the northernmost town of Cinque Terre National Park, the highlight of our trip! It is beyond beautiful- 5 towns situated on the coast, surrounded by mountains. It took 3 or 4 trains and 6 hours (no direct route) from Venice to Monterosso. When we got there, we wanted to store our luggage at the station, but they told us they're only opened until 5, so they told us to check at the laundromat- but the lady there also said she's closing early that day and can't watch our luggage past 5 or 6. So I went looking for a hotel that could hold it for us. We found a place opposite the front of the laundromat- that had a restaurant/hotel and they agreed to watch our bags till 8 pm. We bought tickets for Cinque Terre National Park entrance, (pronounced Cheenqwah Terra), as well as unlimited trains between the 5 towns. We set out for our hike from Monterroso to Vernazza, a strenuous but gorgeous hike up and then down the mountain on unpaved trails and many steps, which took us 2 hours - with stops along the way to take pictures of the coastline and to rest. If you want an easier hike, try going from south to north- starting at Riomaggiore, instead of what we did north to south. Then in Vernazza, we took the train to Riomaggiore, the southern most of the 5 towns, explored the waterfront and shops and then took a train back. Our plan was to stop at every town on the way back from Riomaggiore, then Manarola, then Corniglia, and then back to Monterosso, but we got on the wrong train so it went all the way back to Vernazza. Time was running out, so we decided to just go back to Monterosso by train and pick up our luggage. Then back to the station, to catch the last train to Rome, which took about 3 hours.

We got to Rome super late and checked into our bed and breakfast for the next few nights. The next day we took the fresciarossa, fast train to Naples- about an hour ride, and a tour guide from See Amalfi Coast company picked us up. It was a private tour just the two of us and there was a driver and tour guide. They took us to Sorrento, Positano, Ravello, Amalfi. Tour was around 7 hours. We drove along the coastline, stopped at scenic view points, and in each of the little town, they dropped us off for an hour and then picked us up. In Sorrento we took a little trolley tour that lasted half an hour and had an audio guide in several languages. We also walked to a nearby garden which was pretty. Later they dropped us off at the Naples train station, where we took the train back to Rome. When we were in Sorrento we saw cheaper tours for the Amalfi coast, so we could have taken a train to Sorrento and then picked up a tour bus there, but we weren't aware of other options before hand.

We got back to Rome, went out to eat. The next day we toured Rome itself: including the Colosseum, Roman forum, Arch of Constantine and Titus, saw the Tevere or Tiber River and some other things I'm forgetting. For the Colosseum, make sure to get tickets online ahead of time- we did it that morning, because the lines are so long. The next day we relaxed and that night went to the Trevi Fountains- lots of people there, and the Spanish Steps.

Next morning we woke up early and took the train to Florence- It was about 1.5 hours. There we dropped off our luggage at the J & J historic hotel, which was the nicest one. We really liked this hotel, except for smoke from smokers entering our room. (The hotel had exterior corridors to access rooms; however it was safe because you had to bypass the lobby, bar, courtyard, and sometimes steps to get to your room. Because of the exterior corridors, many hotel guests smoked in the courtyard or outside their rooms and you could smell the smoke even in your room. If not for this, the place would have been perfect, and just for this alone, if I went again, I would choose another hotel. Also wifi barely worked.) The staff was welcoming and helpful, toiletry amenities were great, and free breakfast was substantial. Beds were really comfortable. We stayed there for 3 days and explored the city: we went to the Piazza Republica where the antique carousel is went to Pitti Palace, which was full of paintings and sculptures and to the Boboli Gardens, right near the Pitti Palace. The Boboli Gardens, was more like a park, it was big, and we could have spent hours walking in it to see everything--it was really nice. We went to Michelangelo's viewpoint of the city, saw the Florence Synogogue. We were planning to go to Uffizi museum, rose garden but we didn't end up going.

Early on our fourth day we flew back home.

My favorite part was definitely Cinqua Terre and highly recommend hiking it if you're up to it. Even if strenuous hiking is not for you, take the train between each town and walk to the water/coast line.

Miscellaneous:
-There are a lot of mosquitoes who bit me every chance they got. In the hotel rooms ask for the electric plug in mosquito repellent.
-None of the hotels offered hair conditioner- so bring some with you or buy there.
-Taking trains within Italy, is often faster than driving and flying (considering the wait time). Take the fast train when possible.
-Most things do not depart on time including trains, planes, taxis who don't show up at specified time, so factor that in. When train is late 5- 10 minutes it doesn't even show up on the display as being ritardo (late in Italian). If it's 25 minutes late, they might say they are late.
-Alora is my new favorite word- its like a filler work that they use to mean a lot of things like: so, therefore, well let me think....

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