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Trip Report Perfect First Trip: Rome, Orvieto, Tuscany, Venice

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First, thank you to all who have shared your experiences on this forum. Years of reports, comments, and links helped this newbie tremendously. I had never been out of the continental US, so this was quite an adventure. So in case I can be helpful to someone else, I'll share some of my experiences.

I spent 17 days, excluding flight days, and had a marvelous time. I traveled alone, did few tours, and used public transportation. I'm not much of a foodie, so i won't be much help on restaurant recommendations. I traveled with a carry on and a tote bag. I probably obsessed as much on what to take as I did on where to go. I'm apparently not the only one though since there were an astounding number of Internet postings on what to take, how to dress, how to pack etc.

I'm no fashionista and I finally decided to stop worrying about it. Why would anybody care what I wore? I decided to take clothes I am comfortable in, the ones I wear most at home. So my clothes planning was more a Q&A session: what do I wear when out running errands all day on a really hot day? What do I wear when it's cool in the morning, gets hot, then gets cool again without changing clothes? What would I wear when traveling half a day, hauling luggage off and on? Etc. it worked well for me.

In my late 50's, clutching my first passport, I landed in Rome about 7:30 am. It was a bumpy flight, and I slept little on the flight from Atlanta, but I was in ITALY!!! I followed the signs and crowds, was disappointed not to get some cool stamp in the passport, and found the driver waiting. I debated about taking the train but ultimately decided to take the hotel up on arranging transportation. And I was glad. By that time, I wanted out of the airport to see the city. Thankfully I had gotten euros before I left because the lines at the airport were long. I had had enough new experiences at the moment.

Emanuele at Hotel La Residenza greeted me warmly and had my room ready. I was not expecting much space but the room was great and I had a balcony! It had window boxes all around, so even though the view was the building next door, it was a wonderful place to sit and relax. The bathroom was big and had big, fluffy towels and robes. It was a terrific value for 100 euros per night. I loved the hotel. There were several beautiful, comfortable sitting rooms downstairs, classical music or Italian opera was usually playing. The included breakfast was extensive, and it was a short walk to the Barberini metro stop, the Spanish Steps were also close by.

My plan for my first day was simply to walk around, gawk, and get to know the city a bit. And gawk I did. Wow. Antiquity everywhere, beautiful public spaces everywhere. I loved walking into places and hearing buon giorno -- it's the little things that make a trip for me. I decided to do a HOHO bus to get a better feel for where everything is in relation to each other. I have a terrible sense of direction, so maps are my friends. Advice to simply get lost in a city is the easiest I've ever seen to follow. The HOHO was a bit of a shock. They used a taped narration from a BBC type, very academic type information. I'm accustomed to the US trolleys that usually have some cheesy but entertaining chatter with humorous stories woven into the history. No humor here but good info. But I wanted to hear fun stuff too.

I stuck the ride out long enough to see the Colosseum. It was stunning particularly since I was still in I-can't-believe-I'm-here mode. After more happy wandering, I finally stopped long enough for a tomato mozzarella sandwich. It was wonderful. I also discovered Diet Coke is not sold there and Coke Light tastes awful, at least to me. I joined the throngs in sitting outside and just relaxing. Eventually I stopped in an enoteca, bought a bottle of wine, had a glass and called it a night at about 9. I had an early date with the Sistine chapel in the morning.

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