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Trip Report Our family 5 week adventure in Italy!

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We have arrived in Rome, I though this day would never come. I have planned this trip for months, had so much advice, read many opinions and ideas, read reports on this site and there are many of you that have helped me along the way. To you, I say Thank-you, as I take you on our journey.
Just a recap, we are a family of four. Me, DH, DD (19) and DS (17). This is our first Italian adventure. We have 5 weeks, the kids are with us for 4. When they go home, we have a week on our own.
This is a celebration of our 20 year anniversary, a final family adventure (I think) with just the four of us, and DH turning 50 in a few weeks when we get to Paris. So, it's a big trip!
DH's parents are from Stromboli which we plan to go to, that will be interesting, that happens in a couple of weeks, but for now, our arrival in Rome..... Hope you don't mid if its long...
ROME:
We arrived tired, but excited! Our flight from Australia took 26 hours with a three hour stopover in Dubai. Long, but ok. Arrived in Rome at 1.30pm, after waiting at the baggage terminal for what seemed like an eternity, we were one bag down. It happened to be that of DD! Oh no anyone's but hers.... Apparently it was left behind in Dubai, we should have it the next day! Fingers crossed....My new saying for this trip and one which I have already used a few times, is "It is, what it is" ... Ive decided to take this philosophy, we are in Rome, we are on holidays and we are all together... It is what it is. I'm sure we will hear that saying few times over this trip.
Getting through to the taxi terminal was fun! So many 'genuine' drivers wanting to take us to our apartment. The cost ranged from 50 euros to 95! Thank god I had paid attention to posts here. We paid 48 euros which is the standard price. Tick for me by DH!
Our taxi waved through tiny cobble stone alleys, dodging people and bikes, How they maneuver their cars through the pedestrians is how can I say 'heartstopping! ' He stopped in front of these two beautiful wooden doors in a samll cobblestone street with so much charm and announced we were here... We had Arrived at our apartment Governo Vecchio . Great choice, central and in the hub of everything. I love it! perfect for us. We were met by our check in contact Alessandro, who I had pre arranged to meet a week before we arrived and again when we landed. If you're reading this KWREN, we didn't have to wait for him! Alessandro's grandmother owns the apartment. I had heard to be prepared for a long wait, but he was waiting for us when we arrived, showed us around the apartment and I think took a liking to DD! That twinkle in the eye, that confident lingering look was a dead give away. One that I have seen numerous times just in one day! DH is staying very close to her :) on the other had, DS has surprised us by telling us he wants to sit and just watch people, DD told us that's code for 'I just want to sit and watch all the beautiful girls!' I think this will be interesting...
Back to the apartment... What a great find! Perfect for us and charming. The beds are quite firm but ok. Has everything we need. Being above all the restaurants we can hear people singing, playing the clarinet and laughing! But that doesn't worry us, we are good sleepers.
Our first afternoon was just spent walking and taking in the sights and atmosphere. Just a note, definitely flat comfortable shoes required... The cobblestones will sort you out quick smart.... Found the Piazza Navona, ahhhhh, the people watching begins! We walked for a good hour, didnt get to anywhere specific but just took in the area. Wow, the traffic! All I can say is walk with confidence! We decided to take in an early dinner and rest up for a full day of exploring this beautiful city.
Dinner was at a small trattoria outside our apartment. Had a quick pasta and pizza. Funny thing was that we were feeling great despite our long flight, we were all suprised that we felt so good, but as soon as we sat down and ate, the adrenalin wore off very quickly and we all hit the wall. But before we retired for the evening, we had one more very important matter to attend to on our first night, and that was find a gelati! DS couldn't wait, I thought he was going to fall asleep right there at the table. We gave him the key to the apartment while we got our first gelati which I'm sure will be the first of many! Oh the flavours, the variety... The three of us finally chose what we wanted and walked back to the apartment. Lucky we had the spare key, DH was out cold on the couch! Exhausted, we all followed his lead....

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    nice beginning, kcnewby! love the apartment.

    How have you arranged the bedrooms between you [if you don't mind my asking?] - as I read it, the master has the twins and the great en-suite bathroom, the loft has a double and no en-suite.

    there are some great restaurants [and nice window shopping] along the via coronari, which is not far from you, and in the area between the via del panico and the via dei banchi nuovi, plus some very interesting and useful shops too.

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    Thanks for reading so far.
    Eluckhardt - have tried that gelati and yes, it was good.
    Annhig - the bedrooms work fine for us. The kids have the loft. One single bed for DD and double bed for DS. No en - suite for them , but they have some privacy if they need it and better still, so do we in our separate bedroom with the en- suite.
    More on the apartment for those interested... I will describe it for you. On entering from the street, you are welcomed by two large wooden doors, ones that you see all over the area. Wow they are beautiful. For us, when we first saw it, the excitement builds...You walk down a long corridor and have a choice of the lift (very small and rickety), great for luggage, or as we have done each time, take the two flights of stairs to the apartment. Open the door and in the entrance, there is a master bedroom on the left, ample wardrobe space, double bed (two singles pushed together) with an en-suite. Washing machine in the cupboard, shower, sink and more cupboard space.. Here there are small winding stairs that go to a loft that is storage space. Back out the entrance we walk a few feet to the kitchen. Again small but here we have all that we need. Gas appliances, dishwasher, fridge(small, enough for those of you who cook to fit basic supplies) freezer and there are all the utensils you need and basics like sugar, salt oil etc. I strongly suspect everyone just leaves theses things as they move on.
    Attached to the kitchen are some stairs that wind up, and that's where you get the second bedroom, As I said, one single, one double.
    Now DS is 190.5cms and sleeps on an angle in the bed quite comfortably, DS is 175 cms and fine in the single so all good there... That was a concern of mine when we were booking all of our places.
    From the kitchen the room opens up to the lounge/dining. Tv ( but all in Italian), DVD, 4 seat dining table and a side table with all the plates, cutlery and glasses etc you need.
    The couches are not the most comfortable but after a long day out, I lhave leart to really appreciate them ;)
    Every room has air conditioning, which you will need. It gets hot at night. All rooms have windows that open onto the cobblestone streets. I will say again that if you are a light sleeper and don't want noise, you may not appreciate the singing, laughing and music you hear below. Personally, it's making me go to sleep with a smile on my face...
    The apartment is older, charectaristic, clean, has modern touches, charming, perfect atmosphere. We love it, I would highly recommend to anyone.
    I know when I was looking for an apartment, this sort of description helped me as I was overwhelmed with the choices, so if it helps anyone else, that great.
    And did I mention, it's a perfect area? Let me say again... PERFECT!

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    What I didnt say in my opening post, the places we will be visiting on this journey and itnery are:
    Rome 5 nights
    Sicily (Taormina) 3 nights- a specific 3 day trip to see my husbands mother island where she was born. It is a side trip which we will explore better next time but we were here so why not!
    Vico Equense - 5 nights to visit all the Amalfi coast and surrounds
    Greve (Tuscany) - 4 nights
    Cinque Terre - three nights
    Venice 3 nights ( this is where the kids fly home)
    Bellagio - 2 nights
    Lyon 1 night
    Paris 3 nights
    We will have a car upon return from Sicily, we have done the Peugeot car leasing program. We will drop in Lyon and catch fast train to Paris. With fees included, this was a cheaper option than renting a car.
    I will post more on what we have been up to soon....

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    Oh my aching feet!
    We have seen so much in the last few days but there is so much more to see.
    The first day we picked up a pastry at Il Fornaio bakery around the corner from us, sat and had a coffee in the Campo Fiori market area. We wanted to get our bearings so we did the Christiana hop on hop off bus which goes to all the main sites and does a circuit of the city. You are able to get on and off as many times as you like. We purchased the 48 hour ticket. Would I recommend this? Not sure, I think it's a good thing to do itf you're not confident catching other transport, if you are unable to walk, and walk and walk... The audio guide didn't work well, and the information wasn't that great. We didn't need the 48 hour pass but oh we'll, it is what it is :) We have found walking the best way.
    We visited Capitoline Hill, the Spanish Steps, Borghese Gallery. We walked through the many small streets and looked in the boutiques which DD loved. We found a small supermarket near our apartment and bought cheeses, olives, salami etc and had this for dinner in the apartment, we were so tired, all of us fell into bed and slept very well. Oh I can't forget, we did have two gelatis today, one near the Piazza Vinezia which wasn't that great, can't remember the name, the other was at Blue Ice, near Campo De Fiori, this was good! We all had different flavours so we could try one and others. The taste sensations were incredible...
    Day 2 we decided to try a cafe recommended to us by a local as DH wanted a really great coffee. It is called Cafe Camerino. Let me tell you, I would highly recommend this. It is It's on Largo Arenula, in front of Largo Argentina. And the price? Wow. For the four of us, we each had a pastry and coffee and it came to 7 euros! I asked the woman on the register if she made a mistake and she laughed at me! Definitely 7 euro. We stood at the counter as all the locals were doing and we felt very at home.
    We did a tour of the Colusseum with 'Walks of Italy'. It was the dungeons and third tier tour. It went for 70 minutes and was really good. The guide was very informative and the gladiator stories kept DS (and DH) entertained. I bought the tickets on line and we walked past all the crowds and straight in, it was great. The tour included access to The Forum and Palatine Hill. We again walked all through the city, we visited the Cupachin Crypts which is quite a morbid amazing thing to see. The bones of four thousand monks artistically displayed is quite strange. We went to the Trevi fountain and watched some gypsy children trying to ask for money, I tried to keep track of them as I wanted to see some pick pocketing in action, no such luck, too busy. All the stories I had seen and heard regarding pick pockets in Rome proved to be a non event for us. Didn't see it, maybe they are that good, but not an issue for us. I have found the locals absolutely lovely and happy! No wonder, living in this amazing city.
    The kids went out for the night on their own. I think so much time together, they needed to have time to themselves, but not before having our portraits cartoon caricatured by an artists in the Piazza Navona. We had the four of us done together. It's great. While sitting there I noticed all these men with hand bags come running past, pushing through the crowds we realized they are the police as they are illegal. Let me say, I have seen some good fake handbags in my time but these are rally bad! I can't believe people look at them. As soon as the police move away, the sellers are back.
    I must also tell this story... While walking through the Piazza one early morning, DD really wanted to buy a painting from one of the artists who I must say had a beautiful painting, he had his signature on it and proved it by showing his identification. The painting was 120 euros but especially for her as she was pretty he dropped the price to 70 euro. This is without us asking. She had her money and was ready to part with it, I told her to think about it as he would be there every day! She agreed and we went off for the day. Later that afternoon we were there again and she noticed another seller with exactly the same painting that she saw earlier but with a different signature! Great lesson, another tick for mum :)
    Day three we went to the Vatican. I hadn't bought tickets on line, I thought we could get them there. As we approached, there were so many people offering tickets and tours, they were everywhere. We had one very attractive woman come up to us with a tour offer to visit the Basillica. This tour would go for two hours and for the four of us would cost 170 euros. She was lovely and very convincing. I said I just wanted to look around first and come back if still interested, we decided to go in and take our chances. Funny thing is that when we went in, they had tours that were the same thing and cost us in total 65 euros. Thank god we thought about it. The guide told me they are illegal out the front. Live and learn. Our tour was so good. I'm so glad we did it, there are so many things you see that you really have no idea what your looking at. The stories and information we got were fascinating. I highly recommend you do a tour like this. If you take anything from this, dont buy them out the front! No matter how honest or nice the person looks.
    One thing I did see that shocked me was a trio of men were standing by the holy water basin and splashed it all over their heads and each other as they were 'hot'! What is wrong with people!
    Over the last few days we have also seen many small churches, and wondered into halls and museums. There is just so much to see.
    Tonight we go to La Fiammetta trattoria, I will let you know how that goes. I have read so many reviews, I hope my expectations aren't too high. Better get ready otherwise I will never stop writing...

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    Thanks Lisa, as I put all this info down, I have wondered if anyone cares :)
    Everyone else's reports seem so. Much more fluid... Have you been to Rome before?

    We've just come back from Fiammettas and the food was good. Had pasta to start with, we all had a different dish and they were all yummy! Carbonara, matriciana, eggplant and porchini. Excellent start. Then we got to the mains (we were all full already!) we had Saltimbocca, scaloppine x 2 and chicken with spinach and mozoralla. These too were really good. the thing that spoilt the night were the 5 different flowers sellers trying to sell roses as you were eating.
    We have one night left here in Rome. Then on to Sicily.
    Tomorrow we plan to window shop in the lovely boutiques and take it easy. But we are going for a gelati now! ;)

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    kcnewby,

    Yes, we're all out here reading and enjoying. I love your TR...it's very cinematic and evocative. And personal! That's what I love to read.

    Yes, we've been to Rome many times, and I love hearing others' experiences. It brings it all back to me, and also allows me to re-interpret ideas for our next trip.

    Please do not take lack of specific responses as a sign that you are not being read and appreciated!

    LisaG

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    These too were really good. the thing that spoilt the night were the 5 different flowers sellers trying to sell roses as you were eating. >>

    i know what you mean. showing no interest usually works, or a sharp "non".

    they do have their uses though - when it rains, they suddenly transmogrify themselves into umbrella salesmen!

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    Hi kcnewby
    May i know did you finally find a hotel in or around CingTerre which has free parking?
    We plan to go next summer driving from Milan to CT then to Tuscany but parking in CT seems to be difficult in July ?
    Thanks

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    Loan.
    we turned our car in in Genoa. while in CT,(Parking is a nightmare) , as the train service between towns is frequent and quick. At the end of your stay. you can take the train and p/u another car.

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    Hi again,
    LisaG, I can imagine how it would bring back memories, I'm sure this place is hard to forget when you've gone...
    Willowjane - hope this helps you with your planning
    Annhig - you were one person that helped me plan this trip, so let me now say thanks to you! The great thing is when we flew in it was raining but as soon as we settled into our apartment the sky turned blue and it remained everyday. It's been the best weather. Today as we prepare to leave, it's apparently going to rain! Great timing.
    loan - yes we are staying in Levanto at Hotel Al Terra Di Mare, http://www.booking.com/hotel/it/al-terra-di-mare.en.html. That's who I booked through. Actually most places I have booked through this site. I have found them really easy. Also, http://www.tripadvisor.com.au/Hotel_Review-g580223-d585818-Reviews-Hotel_Al_Terra_di_Mare-Levanto_Italian_Riviera_Liguria.html some more feedback. This was the most difficult area for me to find a hotel. I did book and cancel a couple of places before I booked this one so I hope it works out... There was something about it that I really liked. Oh well, it is what it is, I will let you know when we get there....

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    last day in wonderful Rome!
    Last post I said we went to the Vatican , oops it was just St Peters Basislica, today we went to the Vatican museum and Sistine Chapel. It's such a big day we decid to do it in two mornings. We got there at 10.30am and threre was a line that took approx 35mins to wait in, not bad, i had imagined worse. Yes, again there were sellers of tours walking the line, offering there tours. I lied and told them I had a tour booked, they just wouldn't leave us alone and rather than be rude I chose to lie :p
    And again it was a lot cheaper for the tour in there but we chose not to do one, our entrance fee for the four of us we 48 ero, and we got an audio tour for me and DH for 7 euro each. The kids wouldnt have liked this, to tell you the truth DS and DD had had enough at this point, they really only wanted to see the Sistine Chapel. There is only so much art they can see and appreciate. It was hot and very crowded inside, and they were getting grumpy.
    The audio guides were great for us, they tell you what you need to know. Asylu need it. You can skip what you want and do it in your own time. The crowded hot humid environment is exhausting. It a huge place and by the end we were all fading fast! Bring water!!
    I have to say, I preferred the Bassilica, I really was glad I took the tour there, one hour is good. I am glad we didn't take the tour at the Vatican, but it's a personal choice.
    We had a pizza for lunch outside our apartment, rested our aching feet and I took DD shopping in the charming Via Dei Coranari . It's a narrow cobblestone, charming street with a mix of expensive boutiques, jewellery stores, cheap shopping, antique stores, shoe shops etc etc. she got some really nice things. We went back to apartment for a quick nap and had a lovely dinner in another street close by, sorry cant recall the restaurant, but there was music and laughter as we celebrated our five nights in Rome! What a wonderful city! We will definitely be back, we each appreciated it in our own ways and are sad to go, but arrivederci to Rome and Ciao to Taormina.....

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    Loving your report. It's been a few years since I've been to Roma and your adventures are bringing back a lot of fantastic memories. The way you write helps me envision all the wonders of Rome that I enjoyed during my visit. I am really wanting to have a tour of St. Peter's Basilica next time I'm there - so many moving sculptures and monuments. Thanks for sharing.

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    Kcnewby....know what you mean about the tour guide pests out fron of the Vatican! Super pushy and it seems like there are as many of them as there are tourists. We also encountered some at the Coliseum, as well. One of the annoying things....I got reallly irritated with all their pushy questions and scare tactics.

    We had a Scavi tour scheduled and saw St Peters on our own...they were telling people the wait time was 2 hours. The security wait at St Peters was less than 10 minutes. Fortunately for our Vatican Museum tour, we met Walks of Italy near the museum entrance and it was pouring rain, so no hawkers that day.

    The apartment looks nice.

    Keep writing....many read the reports but never post anything. So don't worry, people are reading your report. Many will read in the future and use to help them plan, also.

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    Stunning Taormina!
    What a beautiful picturesque town! I never want to work again, I think I will just stay here....
    It was a challenge to get here but we are here so all is good!
    We had a 10.15 am flight booked for Catania from Rome and got to the airport rather sad to leave Rome, but excited for the next experience. We were 1.5 hrs early as we wanted to make sure we wouldn't have any issues. Went to check in and the person told us our flight was changed to 7.15 that morning and we should have received an email to tell us about this... Um, no email! I should have called the day before, but I didn't which, from now on I will. The next flight wasn't till 4pm so we had 7.5 hrs to wait.. not happy at all! There was nothing we could do. This was with Blue Panorama airlines. The manager who came to talk to us told us there was no way we didn't get an email, he told us we had made the mistake! After letting him know exactly what we thought we sat and sat and sat.... What a waste of a day... It is what it is!
    Finally we left for Catania airport. We arrived and were going to catch a shuttle bus but the next one wasn't scheduled for another 45 mins. By now it was 5.30ishpm so we took a private car to Taormina. It cost 90 euro, the taxi was 100 euro, that was a set rate. At the end of this very draining day we were happy just to get there.
    We drove in to Taormina and I must say I was slightly worried as Catania or at least the road we drove on was not the prettiest. We saw Mt Etna from the car, very imposing. When we got into Taormina, we were all saying "wow" every corner we turned.
    The familiar cobblestone streets, the atmosphere was lovely. We checked in to our hotel, but not before the driver got lost, and backed in to a parked car! Oh well, he shrugged and drove off!
    This is our hotel /www.pensionesvizzera.com
    Again, I booked this through Bookings.com, we got two rooms, on for us and one for the kids. Our room has a sea view, and a tiny balcony, what a view! It is such a pretty hotel. The staff are lovely. Another tick for me.
    The kids' room had two single beds, it has a seas view but no balcony, but their room is more spacious, our bathroom is so tiny. Doesn't matter, this is great.
    The owner gave us the name of a lovely restaurant called Tiramisu. Great food, beautiful atmosphere and great wine! Lovely first night in Tarmina. Another great thing is that y can get English TV, DH very happy!
    We woke up to the most spectacular view! There's an old Italoan woman across the street who ha a BB sign on her window, who waves to me all the time, she's so cute!
    Breakfast is included and we sat on the terrace in the breakfast area, with a lovely breakfast looking out at the ocean. Aahhhhh this is the life!
    We took the cable car down to the Beach, walked approx 200 meters down the road to Isola Bella, a beautiful cove/beach. No sand, just stones and pebbles. Beware to wear sandals, thongs (flip flops), The water was cristal clear and extremely inviting. We decided to hire a cabana chair at the beach club at 7 euros each. There was no way I was going to sit on the stones! Within 5 mins, we had people walking past selling, hats, watches, towels, scarves which did spoil it but slightly. We had some women coming past offering massages which we kept declining but one decided to touch my legs and feet which were still sore from Rome and her touch was great so what the heck! I had a massage on the beach! Legs and feet for 10 euro and it was soooo good! DD also had one but on her back and she also loved it. DS had decided to go off on his own further down the beach, when DD went to check on him a couple of hours later she discovered him talking to some girls, and also well placed near some topless girls! He wasn't moving anywhere! Boys!
    DD put her feet in the water no more than 2 mins and she was stung on her foot by a jelly fish. They were close to the shore so we went to the ladder which you walked out to, and she told me to go first! Of course, I couldn't see any and a man had just come out of the water, he assured us there were none in the area, so in I went, guess what happened... I got stung three times. They're we're all around me. Ouch! They hurt, I had big welts on my thigh, leg and ankle, it felt like an electric shock. Straight out for us! It was a shame as the water was so lovely I could have swam for hours. Apparently they are not there all the time.
    After a few hours at the beach, we wine t back to the hotel, had a siesta and are deciding what we want to do now... Hmmm, I think i might find a nice table in the courtyard with a book and a glass of wine.

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    Tough day...travel frustrations really suck. I hate losing even a second of time on my trips. uggh

    I live in fear of being stung by a jelly fish....i have had them all around me and been lucky, but will never forget an Italian boy in the British VI that fell off a windsurfer and right on to one.

    You may need a few glasses of wine and you deserve it.

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    kcnewby - so sorry about the jellyfish. hope the pain abates soon!

    thanks for your input about Taormina. We are planning a possible trip to eastern Sicily next spring and I'm not sure whether i want to stay there or not!

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    Hi ANNHIG, you should stay here. Depending on what you want from your trip and where else you would go, it is a very relaxed place. I think three nights is ample time here personally. I met a couple who had been here 6 nights and they loved it. If you like the beach environment, strip shopping and restaurants, this place is for you. I would definitely recommend everyone experience this lovely town.
    I would also recommend this hotel. We have the standard double room with sea view. As I said before its wonderful. Negatives are the bathroom is tiny! The shower is so small, the room is small/cosy that's it though, the positives far out weigh this....

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    If you like the beach environment, strip shopping and restaurants, this place is for you. >>

    one out of three ain't bad! we'd be visiting in April so the beach wouldn't be top of the priority list, and I can take or leave shopping [what is strip shopping, BTW?] so you'll have guessed that it's the food that we're keen on!

    please keep it coming, I'm very much enjoying reading about your experiences.

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    Ok, by 'strip shopping' I mean the whole street is shopping, a whole 'strip' of shops. Theres no 'stripping' :):) There seems to be one main street all dedicated to boutiques shopping. It's a lovely walk, window shopping but most stores are very expensive, designer clothing. But there are less expensive ones mixed in between.
    Half way down the street there is a 'Piazza' environment that has the most magnificent view, it's jaw dropping.
    If you come here, do note down the restaurant 'Tiramisu' it was really good food!

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    Ok, by 'strip shopping' I mean the whole street is shopping, a whole 'strip' of shops. Theres no 'stripping' >>

    Shame!

    anyway, kcnewby, I'd guessed that was what you meant, though the other image is an interesting one!

    I'll make a note of your recommendation for Tiramisu.

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    Hi again, to follow on from the rest of out Taormina stay....
    The jelly fish sting lasted all day! Left welts on my leg, but I survived :)
    We spent the afternoon walking the main street Corso Umberto, this stretch of shops is absolutely lovely! There is a mix of luxury boutiques, affordable shopping, restaurants, delicatessens, souvenir shops etc. it's a lovely walk. About half way down, it opens to a Piazza with the most magnificent view. Absolutely breathtaking. We sat at A cafe and just took in the environment. Very lovely... There are street performers throughout. There were two men singing Italian songs, those that Dean Martin was well know for, people were singing and dancing, another happy feeling! We came across one of those dressed like a booze statue, who didn't move. Very convincing ( we have all seen these ones), what was funny, that on the way back we saw him sitting on a bench seat, fully costumed having a cigarette.
    Dinner was at Trattoria de Nino, a great place and quite reasonable in price.
    The next day was cooler but nice. We didn't do much of anything, just sat around on our small balcony and read books, had a siesta and wandered the streets we had yet to see.
    We decided to do dinner in the Piazza area as we wanted out last nit to be memorable. We had a lovely meal ( sorry, can't remember the restaurant but take your pick here...) during the meal some dancers set up with their music and stated dancing, street dancing with some great moves. It was fun.
    Up at 5 am to get to our flight in Catania the next morning.

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    We arrived at Rome airport and collected our Peugoet lease car. A brand new Peugeot, it's ours to take where we want when we want. We will have this till we drop in Lyon. Very easy system and very helpful staff.
    We drove to our next destination, Vico Equense, just out of Sorrento. The drive was non eventful, straight down the Autostrade, with GPS it was easy. The only thing that was slightly unnerving was that they drive on the opposite side of the road than we do in Australia. Did take some getting used to but it wasn't an issue after a while. wow, the Italians are crazy drivers, so fast but so organised! DH was in his element, to be able to drive at 130 kms per hour was right down his alley. The funny thing was there were people passing us going at least 160-170! Not sure what this is in MPH... But let's agree it was fast!
    We arrived in Vico Equense in 2.5 hrs at our apartment
    http://www.cuboapartments.it/ or http://www.tripadvisor.com/Hotel_Review-g194947-d1960354-Reviews-Cubo_Apartments-Vico_Equense_Province_of_Naples_Campania.html
    It's so lovely, very happy with this! The view is wonderful, we have a spectacular ocen view with mt Vesuvius as a backdrop! Wow!
    The apartment is a two bedroom, has a balcony that goes almost sound the whole apartment, the kitchen ding area is very large and the bathroom is great! It has a washing machine that is a welcome addition as we need that! We decided to find lunch and the owner suggested we try the best Pizza in the world, Pizza al a merte

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    Oops, touched Submit instead of Preview.....!
    We decided to find lunch and it was suggested we try the best Pizza in the world, 'Pizza a metro' and yes it was fabulous! A meter long pizza that said it would feed five, but I think a few more could have joined our table... Too much but so good. We will definitely be back for that.
    Time to unpack our stuff and going to call Gianni boat tours to arrange a half day tour around the Amalfi coast and day on Capri... Oh this is the life!!!

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    The last couple of days have been amazing!
    Day one was a trip to Capri. We caught the train to Sorrento which was approx 4 stops, very easy from where we are, the station is just 200 metres down the road. We then caught a ferry to Capri which took approx 40 mins. I was surprised how calm the water was...
    We arrived in Capri which again was beautiful, how can anywhere around this area not be spectacular???
    Capri is lovely, many different shops and many things to see. We didn't have a lot of time to sightsee as we had booked a half day tour with Gianni Boat Tours http://www.capri.com/en/c/gianni-s-boat-2 or http://www.tripadvisor.com.au/Attraction_Review-g187783-d1557450-Reviews-Gianni_s_Boat-Capri_Island_of_Capri_Campania.html
    Gianni lived up to his reviews. We had such a great day. We toured the whole island by sea, he told us he would do what we wanted. Did we want to see the Blue Grotto? We chose not to as it was busy, but instead he took us to the white grotto and the green grotto. We swan off the boat through caves and found some lovely sea glass at one of the small beaches. The water was fabulous. the weather was perfect. Gianni gave us information on houses and spots on the island. He had beverages for us, which included Limoncello made by his mother.. Yum!
    We swam and relaxed on the boat. It was memorable and I would holy recommend it. Of course he had shorter tours and a whole day if you want but we wanted some time on Capri first.
    Back to our relaxing apartment for a quick shower and down to the restaurant 'Signum' which is part of the Cubo apartments. Great food. Slightly expensive but lovely. They have their own gardens and grow all their ingredients themselves. For a change to what we have been eating, we decided to have Sushi. The restaurant has either that or a Mediterranean option. They have a sushi bar which to my surprise was some of the best sushi I have ever had! Even more surprising was that the owners wife was the sushi chef! After dinner we were offered some of her homemade Limoncello (I have to learn how to make this) which was so delicious, I had to have some to take home. Unfortunately they don't sell it so I will have to enjoy it while I'm here....
    The next day we decided to drive the Amalfi coast. We set our navigation on The town of Amalfi and off we went. Wow, what a drive! The most spectacular, devine, amazing coast line you will ever see.
    Can I say here and now, the Italinas are mad! The speed, confidence and fearless way they drive is amazing. It's a tight squeeze along that road and its not for the faint hearted. We encountered many tourist buses which seem to squeeze into spaces that any normal person would think impossible! There was one scenario we had with a bus, where it was either him or us who moved, we decided it should be us! Again the anxiety levels rose, when he got closer, we saw that he was steering with one had as he was on the phone. Just another normal day!!
    At the start it was stressful, we did get used to it, but if you're not a confident capable driver, I would suggest you don't attempt this drive. DH thinks he is Formula one driver, so he was having a great time.
    We visited, Amalfi, Ravello and Positano. Each so lovely for different reasons.
    Back to Vico Equense, we stopped at the supermarket so i could cook dinner.
    Made a lovely 'pasta' dish - for something different :) I had to ask the owners fora strainer for the pasta. When they heard I was cooking they offered me fresh veges from the garden which I already had, but they have said I can collect more tomorrow. How nice are these people! More to come soon.......

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    More on Positano:
    Did you know Positano has 350 steps from the top to bottom? Well they have and I felt every one of them...you know when you do something silly on holidays and later you think "how dumb am I." We'll this was one of these places....
    When we drove into Positano, it's a very windy road and there are car parks urging you to come in. The attendant even stood in front of our car with an urgency about him, So we thought we had better park as we weren't sure if cars could drive down all the way. Our lovely parking attendant said it was a short walk and we could follow the road or take the stairs. Ok easy! Off we went. We chose the stairs. Down we went, all I could think of was how the hell am I going to get back up! 350 steps later we got there. It was a hot day and even down stairs made us tired. We had some lunch by the water and enjoyed the ambience. after some wandering of the front shops we thought we should make a move and continue our travels so I asked someone where the walking road went, after a lot of hand signals, we discovered you could drive the whole way down and park close by! Aggghhhhh "how dumb am I" so DH gallantly said he would get the car and go up the stairs on his own and meet us down where the road ended. Ok sounds easy... DS decided to go after him, now we were separated... DD and I couldn't for the life of us figure how to find the road so we thought we would go up the stairs otherwise we would lose each other . So up we went, the first 100 hurt, the second 50 ached and the next 50 took my breath away. Now I'm not the fittest, but I'm in general good health, I'm not too overweight, but I am in my 40's so if this was tough for me, there are many more that would not cope. I look up and DS was running back down ( oh to be young) he said DH was driving down and as we had another 150 stairs to go we better go back... What!? Anyway down we went again and by this time I was red and very irritated. We finally found the road, I had noticed most poeople were headed in one direction, then cleverly i recalled that i didnt see anyone on the stairs, so they must be walking on the road! Ah ha I was right. The path took us through these lovely boutiques, souvenir shops etc which I would have loved to amble through but now we were worried we wouldn't be able to find DH. We got to the end of the shops and viola! There was a car park! Damn car park attendant with your urgency! We sat and waited and waited, not knowing to walk or to stay put for DH. finally he came driving by all cool and relaxed in his air conditioned seat! He had done the circuit twice in the car looking for us. Yay, we got in the car and had to laugh about our experience, at least it burnt some of the calories we had consumed that week!
    In short, if your driving to Positano, drive the whole way down! Try the car park that is most convenient, if its full, you can go back around and park where all the suckers park and try the stairs :)

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    Not sure if anyone's out there, I will continue on anyway.....

    It was time to leave our wonderful apartment in Vico Equense, this town was the perfect base for us. Not too touristy, not overcrowded and so close to all you need. I would highly recommend this town and definitely stay at Cubo apartments. This would be hard to beat as far as accommodation goes but we'll see as we go along....
    Our next stop GREVE in Chianti.......
    The drive to Greve was uneventful, Autostrada all the way and again driving like a formula one driver! The drive took 5.5 hrs so we decided to stop off for lunch in ORVIETO. Wow how lovely is this town, we walked and window shopped, we saw the magnificent Duomo in the square and decided to have lunch in one of the restaurants which was in the square.
    I will say now this was finally the one place I can say the food was terrible! It was awful. How can this happen? We should have stayed in the narrow alleyways as most people did... Oh we'll, one out of many ain't bad!
    We will definitely have to come back to this area and see more of this town
    Oh, what I did forget to mention, we couldn't work out how to get into this town. We drove into the walls and were loving the tiny streets when a policeman on his vesper came up alongside of us and started speaking in Italian to us. "Non Capito Italiano" I kept saying but he kept going... What I finally got was that this was a local area only, not for us...oops, now I know the sign, we would make sure this doesn't happen again. He escorted us out of town and we parked in the large car park that was clearly marked that we went straight past! Oops again..... Wonder how much that fine will be....
    We arrived in Greve at approx 4pm . After following the very clear directions given to us by the owner of this property we were at our next adventure!
    http://www.ownerdirect.com/vacation-rental-community/greve/the-old-pasta-factory
    http://www.tripadvisor.com/Hotel_Review-g580240-d482629-Reviews-Antico_Pastificio_Ulisse_Mariotti-Greve_in_Chianti_Tuscany.html
    when you step outside the town square is just around the corner. Full of shops, delicatessens, meat stores. We settled in to the apartment and went to explore.....
    The square in Geve is charming. There are quite a few restaurants and we did eat at one of them but were very disappointed as this was the second awful meal of the trip, and all in one day! How can Italians get pasta and pizza so wrong! Can't remember the name of the place but our experience has been, the smaller restaurant in quiet streets have been the best. Or the ones you accidentally find when your lost, not the ones on the main streets or Piazzas.
    One particular store in the square is dedicated to ham. The proscuitto, salami and meat.There's a big stuffed boar at the door to welcome you in! There's ham hanging from the ceiling, one the walls and there's endless options of salamis and lots of cheeses. It is wonderful, not if your a vegetarian though. Within this shop they also have a wine store where you purchase a card and put an amount on it, you can then go to any wine which you would like to try. You put your card in the slot, put it under the bottle, select the size glass you would like (mouthful, half glass or full) then it dispenses into the glass and takes the amount off your card. I had read this through Fodors before but I had forgotten about it. What a great way to wine taste. They also had tasters of salamis and cheeses for free which was great.
    We chose our selection of wines, cheese and salami. I purchased some tomatoes and bread and that was our dinner set!
    The next day we visited Siena. The drive was approx 50 mins which was lovely.
    Siena was lovely, again many shops, the shopping is wonderful. We visited the Duomo and walked endlessly through the streets. Both DD and DS went off on their own which was a nice time for me and DH to spend time just us.
    On the way back we stopped off at San Gimignano. We loved this medieval town. It had so much character. I would have liked to spend a night here. We went into the crime museum to see all the torturous implements that were used throughout the medieval days. Simply shocking to see what was done! Yet it was really interesting in a macabre way.
    The next day we went to Florence. A one hour drive.
    Florence or Firenze, was wonderful as expected. It's so big! There is so much to see. It has something for everyone. The Duomo, the museums and the art are everywhere. On the other hand the shopping is fabulous. DD was in her element! Poor DH and DS who were well and truly over the museum, art and Duomos had to follow while us women had some serious retail therapy! One place that was such a let down, actually, I'm not sure what I expected but it was Ponte Vecchio bridge. It's all jewellery. And awful jewellery to say the least. personally I think this is so overrated.
    For lunch we didn't want to sit and eat a big lunch and we came across a line of people waiting at a small window. Mmmm, if the locals are lining up for food, then there's a sign right there.... This place was called I fratellini in Firenze http://www.tripadvisor.com.au/Restaurant_Review-g187895-d696584-Reviews-I_Fratellini-Florence_Tuscany.html
    Yum! And just right. There's two guys, one taking the orders and pouring your wine, the other madly and with amazing speed putting your sandwich together. We all had the ham (prosciutto) goats cheese and lettuce roll which was there most popular and it didn't disappoint. We sat on the ledges just like everyone else in the street and enjoyed! What a great find. And again by accident. I made note of the name and when I got back to the apartment I looked it up and found them on Trip Advisor as above.
    We spent the day here, when we returned to Greve we were famished and decided to try a Pizza/pasta restaurant up the road from us approx 300 metres away. Our fingers were crossed it was going to be nice.....
    The restaurant is call La Cantina and it was some of the best food we have had in the entire trip! Again looked it up when we got back and look what I found... when will I ever learn to use this more often, although its nice to find as we go and not be to planned! http://www.tripadvisor.com.au/Restaurant_Review-g580240-d1237622-Reviews-La_Cantina-Greve_in_Chianti_Tuscany.html
    The food is cooked by the owners mother and it was delicious pasta and Pizza. We really loved the Cantina special pasta with meat sauce, spinach and mushrooms. We had a beautiful Sangivonese wine and we ended up there two nights in a row! Yummy, would definitely recommend this one to everyone.
    The next day we decided to go back to Florence as we hadn't seen it all and there was so much more to do. DD and I wanted to look at the leather markets.
    The leather market was a huge disappointment. There was fake bags, imitation leather, bad quality leather. It wasn't what I had expected at all. What surprised me about Florence in general was the amount of African men trying to pawn their imitation wares. Bags mostly. There were those in Rome and in most other places we had been but this was big business in Florence.
    Even the leather shops were strange as they didn't have that powerful leather smell you get when you walk in to a place like this. I would strongly recommend that if you are after a good leather bag, or especially a leather jacket to have a look in the shops throughout Florence as we found these to be best.
    We returned to Greve in time for dinner again at our new favourite restaurant La Cantina.
    Next stop The Cinque Terre.....

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    Yes, we are out here, happily reading your lovely report! I'll be in Florence in two weeks - will have to look up the sandwich window! I'll also be driving through Greve in Chianti on my way down to Pienza... Would La Cantina be a good stop for lunch? Would I need reservations or could I just pop in? Thanks for such a great report?

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    Yay! i have people :)
    Hi rosecity, the sandwich place is a must! It's nice to have a break from the restaurants and the same things but to keep in the feel of the place... I am pretty sure you can have lunch at La Cantina, this time of year you won't need reservations. Definitely worth a try to see if they are open for lunch... It was nice wholesome good food, you will enjoy it.
    Irock, we really loved Taormina, where are you staying? We will definitely plan another trip around Sicily! Have you been to the other cities before, or is this a first time? Our kids are flying home in two sleeps (yes we are counting!) and we will be in Paris soon.... First time for us!
    Irishface, I am about to post the CT report so stay tuned.....

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    CINQUE TERRE
    We drove to our base in Levanto for our next stay, on the way decided to stop past Pisa. We were surprised that the Leaning tower is in the middle of town. I would have thought it was outer?? Its funny the things however small, surprise me on this trip. Also a surprise is that it's only 60 meters tall! I always thought it was much bigger.
    We decided not to climb the 294 steps and admire from the outside. I saw so many people putting their hands in the air having the traditional photo to make it look like they were holding up the tower. We had to join in... Hey, there's just some photos you have to have....
    We continued our drive to Levanto which all up took approx 2.5 hours. Its funny how the view changes from the rolling hills of Tuscany, to the steep mountainous terrain of the coastal towns. the drive became so lovely. The tunnels became more and more and the scenery was again spectacular. We arrived to pouring, no, TORRENTIAL rain. The sky was so grey. It looked like this weather was here to stay! Our accommodation was Hotel Al Terre De Mare in Levanto http://www.tripadvisor.com.au/Hotel_Review-g580223-d585818-Reviews-Hotel_Al_Terra_di_Mare-Levanto_Italian_Riviera_Liguria.html or http://www.alterradimare.it/
    A the top of the hill, approx 3 min drive to town. They also have a shuttle bus that you can book whenever you need it day or night. It costs 5 euro per couple. The parking is free and very easy to get here.
    Driving certainly isn't for everyone in this area. The roads wind through the mountains very tightly. It's a beautiful drive if you like driving. We loved it. The roads are very narrow and steep.
    The hotel is lovely! We had a view of the ocean and it was very peaceful, birds were singing and eagles were soaring above us, such a nice change to everywhere else we had stayed. Late afternoons are nice to sit on the shared balcony and have a cocktail or whatever you like and watch the sunset...
    DD & DS had their own room and we had the one next to them. Breakfast was a lovely spread and the staff were wonderful. Highly recommend this hotel.
    On day one we visited the CT. We got the shuttle to the train station and went to the furthest town first 'Riomaggiore'.
    This small fishing village had so much charm, we climbed soooooo many stairs, I don't know how they do it! All I could think about was imagine forgetting your keys or something, you would have to run home to get them!!! Between that and Portofino, I don't know which ones were more painful!
    We caught the ferry back through the towns, Manarola, Corniglia, Vernazza and Monterosso al Mare. We didn't go to Corniglia as they didn't have a port but I was secretly glad as I had read there was approx 300 steps to get into the town! Not again.....
    We finished at Monterosso where we decided to stay and eat. After lunch the sun came out and suddenly it was a glorious day! Where did that come from? We wished we had our bathers on as we loved the beach. Oh well, we sat on the black sand and contemplated the world! It was so lovely. I wish we had stayed here. friends of ours suggested we stay and they stayed at Hotel Porto Roca which looked great! maybe next time we will stay there.
    The reason we didn't choose to stay there is because I had so much advise on not parking there, I had been told it was to difficult to drive there, it would have been fine for us. But thats all in the learning. Oh we'll, now we have to come back! Very happy to do so!
    The next day we decided to visit Portofino. The drive took us 1 hour which was a great drive! The autostrada almost all the way took us through multiple long tunnels and beautiful picturesque scenery. It was truly lovely. The arrival through Santa Margherita was beautiful and the winding coastal road to Portofino was again spectacular.
    It's a small village but clearly upmarket and expensive. DH and I sat and had a coffee each and DS had a coke. DD went off to take photos. When we left, DH went to pay the bill and it came to 17.50 Euro! What!? We decided not to stay for lunch :) and went to look around more of the Italian Riviera.
    We ended back at Monterosso as the weather had promised to be sunny! It was still overcast at this stage, but we had our positive thinking hats on.
    As soon as we finished lunch, the rain started! We were contemplating what to do when the sun came out. Perfect! We went back to the car to get our swimming gear, got changed, went to sit on the beach and get our last beach time in before heading off the next day to Venice. The sun disappeared again!
    Oh we'll, I was determined to go in the water! It was cold but so refreshing. My last swim in the ocean in Italy! It was such a good day.
    Forgot to mention a restaurant we ate in one of the nights in Levanto. It's called Trattoria Centro http://www.tripadvisor.com.au/Restaurant_Review-g580223-d1891949-Reviews-Trattoria_Centro-Levanto_Italian_Riviera_Liguria.html fabulous food! Lovely seafood and some of the best we have had this trip! That particular night DH had this thing about having pizza. thats all he wanted. most of the restaurants dedicate their menus to seafood which DH doesn't particularly like. I was sure the hotel had recommended this restaurant to us which had pizza, so we sat down and read the menu, 'uh oh' I slipped up, this was a seafood place. We were so hungry it didn't matter but DH was clearly grumpy!
    This turned out to be so delicious, we kept ordering! The seafood rice was delicious, the spaghetti with clams was so good. We all loved our dishes even DH ended up raving about it.... Really good, if you go to Levanto, go there for sure! I can still taste it.... Did you know Levanto and the area are well known for their Pesto? I didn't but now I know why! I wish I could make pesto so good...
    It was time to leave Levanto and the CT, Venezia, here we come.....

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    We have been to Sicily a few years ago. We were in Palermo for a few days and then rented a car for a day to visit Salaparuta, the little town where my husband's grandfather came from. We plan on 5 days this time so we want to see Taormina, Piazza Amerina, and the Temples near Agrigento, Trapani, Salaparuta and Palermo. Not sure how it's going to work yet or if we can get it all in. Hope you enjoy Paris. It is my favorite place on earth.

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    kcnewby, I am loving your trip report. We took our kids to Europe for a month 6 years ago. You are so right this time will never come again. They are all off now having graduated from college and following their own dreams. I wish I could rewind to those wonderful days. I am now planning a similar trip for my sister and her family for next summer. (I love travel planning and she does not:) You are giving me great tips for them. I am reading joyfully so keep on writing!! Thanks for sharing your family time with all of us.

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    Thanks Irock, almost in Paris....
    Kmh7, I can imagine how you feel, we waved the kids goodbye in Venice and I felt so sad even though we are looking forward to some 'us' time. It is our 20 year anniversary after all! :)



    VENICE:
    Our drive from Levanto took approx 4.5 hours but we decided to stop at the Ferrari factory in Maranella on the way. DH really wanted to see this.
    Actually it was good to break up the drive.
    By the way, the drive is excellent, Autostrada all the way and the roads are excellent, scenery beautiful.
    As we entered the car park of the Ferrari museum, we were approached by a lovely couple all in Ferrari gear who gave DH an offer he couldn't refuse to drive a Ferrari! Well they had him at hello!
    It cost 100 euro for 15 minutes with him driving, DD and DS in the back and an instructor in the passenger seat. Hey where in the world can you do this?? They went around the streets and onto an open road where from what I heard later was 'quite fast'! They all had a ball. It was funny to see my 190cm son in the back of a Ferrari with knees around his ears. He later said no matter how uncomfortable, he wasn't going to miss out.
    We went into the Ferrari museum which for me was ok but the boys liked it. I have to admit there were a couple of cars I could see myself in....
    We continued our drive to the Mestre train station where we parked the car for 10 euro per day, took all our luggage, got a train to Santa Lucia station, the last stop (only one stop) and caught a water taxi into Venice at our stop Rialto Mercato to meet the owner of our apartment, Rosa.
    We decided not to catch the water bus with 100 other people and have our own experience, so great to arrive this way. The water bus would have been 28 euro for us all but the Taxi cost us 50. It was more, but we wanted to do it this way.
    Our apartment: what can I say... Absolutely wonderful! From my initial interactions through email from Rosa when I first booked to our meeting with her, we were hooked! She is so lovely. She met us at the water taxi stop and walked us to the apartment. She had maps, recommendations for restaurants, shopping, activities all mapped out and coded for us for us to easily follow. We had a complimentary bottle of Prosecco in the fridge and we felt so at home straight away.
    http://www.saraiapartments.com/bookonline.htm or http://www.booking.com/hotel/it/sarai-apartments.en.html which is how I found them.
    I had asked a couple of Venetian experts on Fodors about this apartment and the location and they had said it was good so that was that, so glad we did. We stayed in the Venisia apartment for four + 2 right near the Rialto Bridge. Great location. Surrounded by restaurants and shops. Very lively environment.
    The apartment itself is modern, warm, spacious, lovely and clean. We love it! All new appliances, washing machine/dryer, great kitchen etc. Rosa has everything you need. So happy we stayed here, definitely will be back! It is a great apartment...
    Coming into Venice, we felt so vibrant again. After the peaceful vibe of Tuscany and the CT, it was good to feel the vibe of a busy city again. So much to see, the architecture, the water... So lively.
    The small cobblestone streets will definitely have you lost, meandering through tiny streets and wondering where the heck you are. How exciting! With maps in hand you can't go too wrong, I think...
    We spent the first day 'lost' and found the Piazza San Marco which is stunning! The Bassilica is fascinating, all decorated in gold mosaics, we just sat in there just admired for at least an hour.
    So many people in this area, this is by the far the most crowded place we have experienced. Have to wander what it would be like in peak season?? And in the heat!
    We had dinner at one of the local Trattorias which was good. From past mistakes, we decided to forego the main restaurants that were on the canal and search the alleys and streets for somewhere to eat.
    While at dinner three musicians came to play and serenade our table, one person sitting next to us got up and joined in on the violin which was great! He was so good. Amazing in fact, everyone joined in clapping and singing, it was a great fist night.
    DD decided to try the squid ink pasta that Venice is known for but she decided the black teeth were not for her. Not her taste, but glad she tried it.
    Day two was a shopping day! DH got sick of it and by midday, he left DD and I and went to watch a movie in the apartment... DS was off on his own which he loves to do.
    We spent hours shopping, we were lost but that's the best way. It's amazing what you find. We discovered a great Gelati place that I had remembered reading about and had one of the best gelatis on the trip. 'Boutique del Gelato', had a meringue flavoured gelato, hadn't had that before...
    The leather bags and accessories were so much better in Venice than in Florence in my opinion. So many stores so lots of competition, it pays to pay in cash, much easier to negotiate :)
    When we arrived back at our apartment just after 5pm, we collapsed. I opened that lovely bottle of Prsecco Rosa had given us and enjoyed a glass ( or two) while recovering.
    Also just a note... Not sure what countries this relates to, but all through Italy, if you purchase more than $150 in one transaction, you can get them to give you the forms to claim the tax back... This is done at the airport before you leave. Worth checking into, as apparently there are millions of dollars of unclaimed tax by unknowing travellers to which they are entitled to. I will let you know how we go when we go through the airport....
    Dinner was at a great Pizzeria called 'Rossopomodoro', you have to go! They don't take bookings and you may have to wait for a table but well worth the wait for a great Pizza and pasta too... We actually found this by accident but one of the definite rules when you travel, is that if there are people in lines waiting anywhere, you have to be a part of it! Found these links http://www.tripadvisor.com/Restaurant_Review-g187870-d2535925-Reviews-Rossopomodoro-Venice_Veneto.html. Or the UK version http://www.tripadvisor.co.uk/Restaurant_Review-g187870-d2494788-Reviews-Rossopomodoro-Venice_Veneto.html I have to say this was a surprise to me when we saw them. The food was really good and the service good too. We went back the next night too. The negative reviews I read are far from what we experienced and the lines of people waiting to get in we're regularly there. It's funny, someone else's experience will always be different to your own.
    Day three was a day trip to Murano and Burano for DHand me. DD & DS had time to themselves for the day. We caught the water bus to Murano which we were crammed on. They know how to get as many people as possible on these things!
    Can I please say here and now... Who doesn't know about deodorant! We were next to a man who smelt so bad it was offensive! I understand when you're hot and sweaty you can have smelly days and we have all had these embarrassing times but dear god! Please shower!! Sorry, I still have bad memories of that experience...
    The water us took approx an hour. We didn't like it at all mainly for the above reasons as it was just too uncomfortable. Every stop some got off but more got on making it more uncomfortable. Not sure what the water taxi would cost but might have been better to do this
    Murano was interesting to see the glass blowers in action, the galleries are nice but this place is not somewhere where I would go back to. Burano was pretty with all the colourful houses. We had lunch here and I have to say it was the worst! Maybe even gets the title of the worst meal of the trip! It's a big call we still have a week to go but I think that title is safe....
    Have to say, Venice was fantastic. We were well and truly at maximum capacity of our baggage. They were bulging with all that we have bought so far on our journey.
    DS & DD are now about to fly home and DH & myself are off to Bellagio and then on to Paris on our own. I think we will have to push them on the plane, they don't want to go.

    We are now in Bellagio. What a place! What a view! Seriously spectacular.
    The drive from Venice took approx 4 hours, fairly boring until you get into the lakes area and the scenery dramatically changes.
    The long tunnels that open up with these magical views...
    We are staying here http://www.borgoleterrazze.com/borgo.php or http://www.tripadvisor.com.au/Hotel_Review-g187834-d1464937-Reviews-Borgo_Le_Terrazze-Bellagio_Lake_Como_Lombardy.html
    Truly lovely. Very happy with this accommodation.
    We drove around the lake to Como which is a hair raising experience to say the least. The narrow road which should be one way is two way and its amazing how trucks and cars somehow glide past each other with what seems to be the greatest of ease. It's fun though....
    Como is lovely, strolled through the streets, had lunch and marvelled at the scenery.
    At the moment I am sitting on our balcony drinking a glass of lovely red wine marvelling at this view. One could never get sick of this.
    Here for two more days then off to Lyon and Paris.....

    Now on that info about Tax free shopping I had mentioned earlier,, you need to show the goods with the receipts and paperwork that the shop people fill out. There was a tax free outlet in San Marco Piazza where we could have claimed it straight away but their representative was not there. The man at the window told us we needed all the goods unused which was way too hard for us! We had packed it all and had we known, we would have done this earlier. So we will be one of those many who have unclaimed tax refunds... Learning a for next time... Keep all paperwork with the goods and do this straight away!

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    Venice is absolutely beautiful. We really enjoyed our time there in 2009. We got an extra night as Air France overbooked our flight and would give us business if we left a day early. Uh Hello!!! We absolutely left early. Business on Air France was very, very nice. Worth that extra day in Venice. HAHA!! Love Prosecco. Discovered it and Pesto on that trip. We live in Southeast Texas so not a lot of variety here. Paris is a wonderful city to celebrate 20 years. Don't know what you have planned but the Rodin Museum and the l'Orangerie to see Monet's Waterlily painting are two of our favorites. And it is also a lovely city to just take a walk.

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    Irock, that's funny! Business class is so good on long haul trips. We got upgraded on a trip from Australia to L.A and it was the best! Better still it cost no extra! They asked if we minded... Um OK if you insist!!
    Will look into those tips for Paris, at the moment loving Bellagio! We are the walking kind of people, I love walking and discovering. I have found the less planning is best for us. We were all so different in the things we wanted to do. But that's us, some like structure.
    DH is feeling guilty because we didn't get to all the major museums and sights, people have said to us they can't believe we didn't do certain things as we were there. You know what, we have done exactly what we wanted, when we wanted and had the holiday that suits us. There are many more years to come back and cover what we haven't seen... He'll get over it :)

    Taconictraveler, if there's anything you need clarification on please ask and I will do my best... Thank for reading...


    Have to add more on Bellagio. What a beautiful place in the world. We have just spent the day exploring the area. Firstly we decided to not have the 10euro breakfast at the hotel and decided to go into town, sit at a water front cafe and take in the morning view. The coffee and creme croissant is my favourite thing now! What am I going to do when I get home??? We sat for ages, then deciding to take the ferry over to the other various towns of Lake Como which was lovely. I wish we had done a private boat tour. Oh we'll next time.
    Had lunch at one of the water front Bellagio restaurants and marvelled the view again. We walked the town and by this time it was late afternoon, back for a spritz and a siesta and dinner at 8pm. What a day! I am in love with this place, one of the best places on this entire trip.....

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    That is exactly how we feel. We will catch whatever we missed on the next trip. We have been to Paris 5 times since 2006. The 6th trip is in March. This will be our 2nd to Italy and Sicily. Can you tell we just love Paris!! We are gonna have to branch out and try a dufferent country next year. We are thinking Scotland.

    But seriously, it is nice to just end up where you end up sometimes. We don't plan every second. Can't wait to read about your thoughts on Paris. Enjoy!! Oh and if you are looking for restaurants in Paris we really like Le Comptoir. We tried Reed on our visit last Christmas. It is in the 7th on Rue Amalie and it has very good food.

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    PARIS
    We left Bellagio and decided to take the route through Geneva. It's funny how in the space of a couple of hours you can be in three countries. In this case Italy - France - Switzerland - France.... The drive was wonderful. We wanted to take this route as it took us through the magnificent Mont Blanc! Wow what views we had. As we approached Mont Blanc it was raining and grey but the awesome scene was this snow covered mountain peeking out from the clouds. We have had all types of scenery on this trip. Sun to snow, all within a few weeks! The Mont Blanc tunnel is incredible, it is 11,611 metres or 11 kilometres metres or 7.2 miles long! Whichever amazes you more :)
    The surveillance and security/safety they have is high tech. I read of awful accidents in this tunnel and they have clearly learnt from them. I found the police presence on the French side quite amazing.
    What a fun, beautiful wonderful drive. So much to see...
    We drove around Geneva, planning to stop but the weather was not good and we decided to go directly to Lyon.
    If you recall, I had said in an earlier post, there are times where you think 'what a dummy am I!' Well this was another of those places.....
    The plan was to drive to Lyon, stay overnight, drop the car at Peugeot the next morning where they have a drop zone at the airport, then to get the fast train to Paris. This was just a stop over as Lyon isn't much (sorry to the Lyon residents but didn't like it) :( I chose a hotel right outside the hare de Lyon train station for convenience and I thought I had planned well WRONG!
    First of all the hotel was atrocious! Yuck! Worst ever! It was smelly and dirty and the tiniest room in the world. I am easy to please but this was not nice at all.... Second, the drop off zone was at the airport and I didn't think to drop the car off and get straight on a train to Paris so we could be there that night.... why didnt i work this out? i didnt even think that of course there would be a train station here which would have been so easy... Hindsight is a wonderful thing. The things you learn... So instead, we drove to the airport that night, dropped the car, took a train back to Lyon :( stayed overnight, caught a train from Gare de Lyon and arrived in Paris at midday. Oh we'll, it is what it is....
    Anyway, we finally got to Paris and it was cold and wet! But beautiful!
    Took a taxi to our splurge hotel - Hotel D'Aubusson.... http://www.hoteldaubusson.com/ or http://www.tripadvisor.com.au/Hotel_Review-g187147-d194308-Reviews-Hotel_d_Aubusson-Paris_Ile_de_France.html
    Beautiful! Expensive, but this was our last hoorah of our amazing journey, DH was having a milestone birthday and we were also celebrating our 20 Year anniversary so we deserved it!
    The hotel has a lovely ambience, it's luxurious but comfortable, the staff were fabulous. I had bubble baths every night, we slept so well in their very comfortable bed and loved the location! Restaurants and shops everywhere. I would recommend this hotel if you don't have an issue with the cost, they had entertainment every night in the bar/lounge which we enjoyed.
    On the first afternoon here we walked the area, it was hard as it was raining and cold. We decided to do the touristy thing and get in the hop on bus and hop off bus where we stayed on and did the comlete route, saw places we wanted to revisit and planned from there. Is one was better than the one in Rome and again as I said for Rome, it is really something I would suggest, good for beginners in a new city. We did see the size of the city and the beauty in the architecture. Included in the ticket, this gave us access to use the Batobus and tour by water but it was so crowded, it was uncomfortable. Again, I can only imagine what it would be like in Summer.
    I had booked the 58 restaurant at the Eiffel tower for dinner as it was DH 's special birthday. http://www.restaurants-toureiffel.com/UK/EIFFEL-TOWER-RESTAURANTS/58-TOUR-EIFFEL/Dinner-in-paris-eiffel-tower.html or That was lovely, we had a view of Paris and dinner was great. Nice experience. Yes touristy, but when in Paris there was a couple of things I really wanted to do. The food was delicious, very fresh and flavoursome.
    Second day was miserable weather. It was hard to see anything. We tried shopping but the torrential rain was relentless. We got soaked! We did have umbrellas but the rain wa falling sideways so our bottom halves got wet. It was 11 degrees Celsius (I believe that's 58 Fahrenheit) , our shoes were soaked, feet were cold, and the wind chill was getting into our bones. It was hard to appreciate standing in lines and waiting to see the sights.
    One thing that we did discover was crepes with banana and Nutella! Yum! We also tried them with cheese and mushrooms which was more savoury and healthier. These were so good to grab on the run and warmed the soul. The small vendors that sell these were always busy. We also had the French onion soups at a couple of restaurants throughout the days as we were cowering from the rain which was delicious. Can you really get these things wrong in Paris? I will say on record that every coffee we had was not good! the Italians have that cap in their hat and its there to stay...
    We saw Notre Damme, the Louvre, and tried hard to see all the main points of interest in Paris. When at the Louvre we were unable to get audio guides as they were all sold out. This was disappointing as there is so many art pieces to see and all the information is in French that you don't know what you're looking at. It would have been so much more if we had been able to get these. The line to get close to the Monsa Lisa was crazy, people pushing and shoving. By the time we got to see her up close it was kind of an anti climax, great to see it in real life though. For me personally, I loved the sculptures. So amazing that a block of marble can be chiseled away and something so beautiful can be created is. Ind boggling. we spent hours here. If we had the audio guides it would have been longer.
    Everybody had the same ideas as us to go into the museums and galleries to get out of the rain so the lines and waiting times were huge. Standing in the rain for over an hour was not on the cards for us. We did however do this for the Louvre.
    The last night we decided to see a show, it was Paris after all. The concierge suggested Crazy Horse instead of Moulin Rouge and Lido as these were both very crowded and cramped, Crazy Horse was more intimate and as he called it 'nude art'. Well, thats what we did. We got VIP access tickets which gave us great seats and a bottle of beautiful Bollinger Champagne. It may be nude art to the Parisians but I call it stripping! with class :) .. We did enjoy it, funny that this was one night where DH was very quiet! Mmmm wonder why, he was obviously appreciating the 'art'.... It's not something I would go and see at home, but there's some things you have to do when in certain places and I am glad we did. Would I do it again? No, but happy we did.
    Unfortunately In the three days we were there we did not get to see Paris at its best. However, we had always planned to go back for a longer stint which we will do.
    So for me, this time I didn't 'get' Paris.
    Since we have been back home, many have asked did we prefer Rome to Paris. This seems to strike much debate, if I had to say right now... definitely Rome for us which we loved but to be fair to beautiful Paris, we didn't get to really appreciate it due to the weather.
    So yes we are home now. The trip was absolutely wonderful, we want to go back tomorrow! For those living in Europe, you are so lucky to be able to travel with ease.
    I have now put Italian lessons on my bucket list which I will do in 2013.. That's the plan anyway.
    I guess I am a 'newby' no more!

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    Thanks newby. i love Paris but have managed to skip Crazy Horse! I know what you mean about the Louvre and the pushing and soving. Not my favorite museum.

    We are still answering the Rome vs Paris question, for others and for ourselves. We know Paris better and it has the edge, but we did love Rome and hope to go back. I just don't think I will ever be done with Paris. I don't know Rome as well, yet...so it's probably not a fair comparison. I think more research is needed.

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