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Trip Report Wonton Soup, The Roman Way -- Trip Report for Capri, Amalfi, and Rome

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Four of us ladies (me, Marian, Maritza, and Maritza's mom) had a lovely two week trip to Italy in mid-April. First, my thanks to all of you who offered advice, especially to ekscrunchy and SusanP for your wonderful trip reports. As the organizer for the trip I wanted to make certain I planned an appropriate itinerary and selected excellent hotels. All went very well. Research paid off.

The itinerary:
Arrived Rome Easter Monday, one night at the Best Western Hotel Canada.
Three nights at La Minerva on Capri
Four nights at Hotel Floridiana in Amalfi
Three nights at the Residenza Cellini in Rome
One night (alone) at the Hotel Opera Roma

I didn't keep a journal, so will reply on photos to take me through the activities. I'll start with our hotels:

Hotel Canada: www.hotelcanadaroma.com or you can go to the Best Western home site. We booked and paid a month in advance for superior category rooms at 168 euros per twin room. The location is near Termini. Very nice hotel. Spacious rooms, comfortable beds, nice linens, excellent breakfast (including buffalo mozzarella), terry cloth slippers and robes. The location is a bit out of the way for many of things to do in Rome, but is an excellent value if you are okay with using buses and metro to get around.

La Minerva: www.laminervacapri.com. This was the most beautiful hotel of the five on our itinerary. We reserved superior category rooms and were given rooms with huge patios and lounge furniture (third floor). We LOVED this hotel. The location is close to the center, but in a quiet spot along a road with other hotels. Breakfast was very good. I'm not an egg eater, but the other ladies enjoyed have scrambled eggs cooked on request. Also, the orange juice is fresh squeezed. They provided terry cloth slippers and robes. I now have two sets of slippers I brought home with me. We paid 200 euros a night for each room.

Hotel Floridiana (Amalfi): www.hotelfloridiana.it. I mention the town because there is also a Floridiana on Capri. This one is in Amalfi. This was a great find. They received an award for one of the best value hotels in the world on Tripadvisor for 2009. Well deserved. The rooms look like they were recently redecorated. Lots of silk. Marian and I had a superior room for 120 euros, and Maritza and her mom stayed in a suite for 130 euros. The suite is a duplex with a private whirlpool tub on the upper level. The bathrooms in both rooms were the surprises with blue tinted light -- I think you have to see it to appreciate it. They provide tissues in the bathrooms -- something I rarely see in Europe outside an American style hotel. Agnese and Eva were both wonderful; excellent service. Breakfast was good in a beautiful room. They have free internet service on their computer set up in the breakfast room. I was expecting to be woken up by the church bells, but the windows are sound proofed well enough that I didn't hear them. Note that there are some steep steps to climb to get to the hotel, but if you're on the Amalfi Coast, you should be prepared for steps regardless.

Residenza Cellini, Roma: www.residenzacellini.it. I found this hotel on Tripadvisor where it is rated highly. It also won an award from Tripadvisor for its service. We are not in agreement with them on the service issue. This hotel is also located near Termini, but closer to the Trevi Fountain. We reserved junior suites at 210 euros (cash payment). They are really regular rooms, but over-sized. That was what I expected, so that was fine. In fact, the rooms were larger than I expected. Very quiet. We had one room on the third floor, and one room on the fifth floor. The outdoor terrace is quite lovely and we sat out there one evening. It was nice to have a gathering place. My only complaints about the rooms are the coarse linens and the (whirlpool) bathtub is very slippery. Not big complaints, but noteworthy. Breakfast was good. The breakfast room is small as some on Tripadvisor mentioned, but we seemed to be the only ones in there each morning.

Regarding the service issues, I emailed them several weeks in advance asking them to call the Galleria Borghese for me with a question. They responded back quickly to tell me they would call and get right back with me. I never heard from them again. After waiting several days, I worked out my answer on my own. Marian had an early morning flight and asked the woman at the front desk one evening to look on the internet for train information for the Leonardo Express for the next morning. It was over an hour with no answer--the woman said she was still trying to locate the information Marian requested. I came back to the room to learn this and it took me less than 60 seconds to get the information on the (free) internet access they provide in the breakfast room. How hard is it to look up a train schedule in Rome for Rome? I would think they should know how to do this. BTW, the computer is removed from the breakfast room during the breakfast service.

Due to changes in who was traveling with us and who was going home when, I wound up not having a roommate for the last two nights. I bit the bullet and paid for my own room one night at Residenza Cellini -- they gave me a discount of 15 euros, down to 195 euros. For the last night I moved to Hotel Opera Roma.

Hotel Opera Roma: www.hoteloperaroma.com
I took a single room, about 6 feet by 8 feet with a private bathroom, 128 euros (cash payment). I knew this at the time of reservation, so no surprises. They did the best they could with that space, and even offered to loan me a computer with internet access for the evening in my room. I found the service at this hotel to be excellent. This is a small hotel, also near Termini. I didn't see any other rooms, but the corridors looked nice and freshly painted. This was the only hotel that provided a magnetic room key that I was able to keep with me. The bed was comfortable and the linen okay. My only complaint would be the lack of a sound-proofed window. It is possible that the standard rooms are better in that regard. They arranged car service for me to get back to the airport for 40 euros. A man nicely dressed in a suit arrived in a black mercedes, rather plush inside. This was a nice way to end the trip. He dropped me off at Terminal 5, handling my luggage from the hotel to the terminal. I had planned to take the Leonardo Express, but this was a much better way to go.

Well, I'm running out of time and will continue later. Sorry to be so wordy.

You can access my photos at http://gallery.me.com/twdcards#gallery. At least I think you can. This is a fairly new service for Apple's Mobileme subscribers. It has good points and bad points. I suggest you view using the slideshow, noted at the bottom of the screen. Then click on the pause button and scroll one at a time. Otherwise, the only time option is two seconds per photo, which is not long enough. There are other ways to view, but the slideshow gives the best picture. If the link doesn't work, you can access the albums one at a time at:

http://gallery.me.com/twdcards/100042 for Capri
http://gallery.me.com/twdcards/100058 for Amalfi
http://gallery.me.com/twdcards/100060 for Ravello
http://gallery.me.com/twdcards/100070 for Positano
http://gallery.me.com/twdcards/100143 for Rome
http://gallery.me.com/twdcards/100072 for house addresses (quirky, but cute)

Lots of photos of villas and churches. Enjoy, and I will report later on how we spent our time.

Diane

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    You're back! Welcome home. Great start to the report! Your photos are dreamy. Fabulous! Looks like you had great weather, too!

    Already I have a question: I booked a B&B in Anacapri for two nights, but I am tempted by the Minerva. Should I reconsider?

    I am eagerly awaiting all of the details!

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    Hi ekscrunchy. Weather was good and bad. At least we had very little rain; the only real rain was while we were at Pompeii. I debated about staying in Capri or Anacapri. I think Capri worked better for us. It depends on what you want to do. Keep in mind that it is difficult to get a bus sometimes from Anacapri. Someone on this board recommended catching the bus at the turn-around point instead of the main bus stop, but I didn't know where that was. The chairlift was closed -- my biggest disappointment of the trip. Villa San Michele and the church were highlights -- both in Anacapri. Because we didn't spend much in Anacapri, it's hard for me to comment. There is much exploring to do in Capri, so I would stay at La Minerva again should I go back. Hope that helps.

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    Hi. Excellent detailed review. Thank you for taking the time.
    We are going to spend 2 dyas in Capri and 3 dyas in Positano.
    Any suggestions on what/where we should see, do and eat?
    thanks

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    I wasn't sure folks were interested, but I will continue, especially since I didn't take notes and this will be for my records as well.

    We flew out of LAX, I connected in DC on United, Marian through Atlanta on Delta, and Maritza and Mommie through Chicago on American. I had a business class ticket with points. Maritza and Mommie picked up tickets for $600 each -- great deal! We departed within 90 minutes of each other and landed early morning within 90 minutes of each with no delays. BTW, we do carry-on. We all had the same model of 20" Heys suitcase. I would have posted a photo of the four of us posed with our cases, but the ladies don't like having their photos published. Upon arriving in Rome we caught a taxi (metered, of course) to our hotel for about 60 euros. We were approached by others asking if we needed transportation, but we knew enough to take a metered cab.

    This was a lazy day to get over jetlag. Fortunately, our rooms were ready and we settled in to the Best Western Hotel Canada. Lovely hotel. We stopped for lunch near the hotel (food not worth mentioning) and then took the metro to the top of the Spanish Steps. I knew enough to start at the top. From there we walked to the Trevi Fountain, and from there to the Pantheon, but it was closed. Fading, the ladies took a taxi back to the hotel and I wandered to the Piazza Navona. The Piazza became one of my favorite spots in Rome. It was so full of life with restaurants, fountains, and street performers. I'm so glad I continued on to this spot.

    The next day we had breakfast (gotta love that buffalo mozzarella), repacked and headed out to Termini where we caught a train to Naples. There are machines at Termini to purchase tickets, but we choose to wait a short time in line to purchase from a live person. In Naples we took a taxi to the port just in time to catch a hydrofoil to Capri. Another taxi at Capri harbor (everything is affordable when split among four people) up to Capri town. There are no cars allowed in the town, and taxis can take you only so far. We knew there were luggage porters in the piazza who would take our luggage to our hotel for 4 euros each, but we didn't see them, so we dragged our luggage all the way to La Minerva (at least it was downhill). Chalk one up for carry-on luggage. Alternatively, you can pay 10 euros to a luggage porter at the harbor and take the funicular up for (I think) 1.40 euros.

    A note about Termini in Rome. It is one of the nicest train stations I've seen in a long time. Lots of shops on two levels, along with places to eat. There are at least two pharmacies, and we visited all of them. I stopped in on day one for a tube of Voltarene--the magic anti-inflamatory cream. Great stuff. It did well for me in Paris, and it did well for me on this trip.

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    I must mention that Maritza's mom substituted for someone who had to back out of the trip about three weeks prior. Mommie turned 79 two days before we left for Rome, and I was amazed that she was able to do everything we did. "Mommie, would you like to sit down and rest?" Her reply was always, "No, let's keep going." Add to that that she is a darling woman. God bless her.

    I mentioned a lot about La Minerva earlier. I'll only add that we loved this hotel. What a find! I can't think of a single complaint. We settled in and wandered around Capri. I knew about the high-end shopping, but you're more likely to spot me in Costco than Versace. My purchases on the island consisted of a kitchen magnet and a tacky hat that sported "Capri" across the top. I lost my job six weeks before the trip, but I don't think I would have parted with my money if I had remained employed. The ladies did a little jewelry shopping. We have different priorities. Mine is photography.

    We lunched at Villa Verde, Vico Sella Orta, 6. This restaurant is down a side road. I remember a good Insalada Caprese. Wandered the town some more, and settled into dinner at Buca di Bacco, Via Longano, 35. I remember enjoying my dinner, but I can't remember what we had. I must say that I enjoyed the food on this trip, but it did not live up to the meals we had in Tuscany and Umbria three years ago.

    The next day we took the bus to Anacapri with our first stop (after browsing the many shops along the way) was the Villa San Michele. I did not read "The Story of San Michele," but I will be stopping at the library for a copy soon. Beautiful gardens and view. It was a bit hazy; in fact, it was hazy/cloudy a good amount of the trip. All that white sky was bad for my landscape shots, but great for many others. Then we headed to the chairlift. This was one of the main things I wanted to do on the island, so you can just imagine my disappointment to learn that it closed for repairs several days before we arrived and it didn't look like it would operational for some time.

    I can be consoled with food, so we headed to La Rondinella, Via G. Orlandi. I don't have the exact address, but it was quite a bit down the main road until you come to an area that appears more for locals than for tourists. This restaurant was recommended by someone on this board. It was okay, but I can't recommend a special trip for it.

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    After a long, leisurely lunch, we stopped into the Church of San Michele. Note that the church is not near the Villa San Michele. I knew about the floor of majolica tiles. It was really beautiful. Photographers, note that they ask you not to use your flash. The shots on my website were taken from the second floor where I was able to balance the camera on a ledge and use a remote shutter release, or I would never have gotten the detail I did. The remote shutter release came in handy many times as the majority of churches we entered do not allow flashes.

    The bus back to Capri. We were there off-season, yet the buses were crowded and people were not always polite; mostly tourists, BTW. The tip was to catch the bus where the bus turns around and not in the main square. We didn't do that, but I highly recommend you find out where that is and use the advice...or take a taxi back.

    The driving here, as on the Amalfi Coast, can be compared with dancing. The drivers know their steps well and they dance with precession and great skill. I saw one episode of "chicken" on the road from Ravello to Amalfi where the bus driver won. I caught it on video.

    Our evening ended with dinner at da Giorgio, Via Roma, 34. This is near where the buses stop. While I'm thinking of it, I found a laundry service up a long flight of stairs across the street from da Giorgio. Anyway, we enjoyed our dinner here so much we made a reservation for the following night. I splurged on an entree of beef cooked in a wine sauce that was outstanding. The following evening I followed the advice I had heard a couple of times not to use the menu, but to give the water some idea of what I want and let them bring me something possibly off the menu. I ordered a pasta with calamari. I like pasta and I like calamari, but I wasn't crazy for the dish. The other ladies enjoyed their dinners both evenings. I don't remember what we paid, but it was middle-of-the-road in cost.

    We had very good gelato on Capri. One place is named Embassy, where we had gelato twice. The other, of course I don't remember the name, is off the main square near the lemonade stand. I had marvelous gelato of zuppa inglese.

    It is now after midnight and I must call it a night. I will add more tomorrow. I hope I'm being helpful and that you are enjoying the photos.

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    luvtotravel, great photos!!! And thanx for the informative report. We'll be doing the same thing as you, going from Rome to Capri, except we'll be doing that as soon as we land at FCO. Long day, I know....

    Did you exchange money via ATM at FCO and were there any issues? Any tips to catching a cab from the Naples train station to the port and how much should we expect to pay? Which port did you use? How did you figure out which of the various hydrofoil/ferry services to use and their departure times? Were the people selling the train tickets to Naples and the hydrofoil tickets to Capri well versed in English? Did you have a Plan B for Naples in case the weather wasn't permitting trips to Capri?

    Thanks for your help.

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    dcd, each of us had a small amount of euros, so we did not exchange at the airport ATM; typically that is what we do. There are some exchange booths at the airport, but hold out for the ATM machine. There were many ATMs at each of our destinations. Finding an ATM was never a problem. Just make sure the emblems on the back of your card match one of the emblems on the ATM. I called my credit union and learned I could withdraw up to $300, but some machines will limit you to a smaller amount. If it doesn't work for the amount you select, try again at a smaller amount. I got a good rate of exchange for my dollars with my credit union not charging transaction fees. My bank charged 1% with no other transaction fee, also at a good rate of exchange. I think this was a better option over credit cards as the credit card companies charged the same rate of exchange, but charged about 3% for the privilege.

    Catching a taxi from the Naples train station was a no brainer. As we went outside there was a taxi stand. Be sure the meter is turned on and ask about how much you can expect to pay before you enter the taxi. The cost should be in the area of 12 euros. Not sure if there is an extra charge for luggage, but always ask. I don't remember which port we used. The taxi driver seemed to know where to take us. It was all so easy there was nothing specific to remember. There is more than one company going between Naples and Capri. We just happened to catch one that was departing soon after we arrived. The ride to Capri was about 40 minutes and cost about 15 euros per person. We made sure it was a hydrofoil rather than a ferry as the hydrofoil travels much faster than a ferry for an insignificant amount more.

    I speak only English. Many signs are written in Italian and English. Also, many people speak English quite well. Maritza speaks Spanish and would sometimes converse that way. Italian and Spanish are similar. When we got to the counter at the port in Naples to purchase our tickets there was a man outside the counter offering advice. I think he was looking for a tip.

    Did we have a Plan B in case weather wasn't permitting trips to Capri? No. We had hotel reservations that were, at that point, confirmed and guaranteed. I was told the boats between Naples and Capri always run. I was concerned about transportation because the road between Positano and Amalfi was closed for a while and I was concerned about how we would get from Capri to Amalfi. The boat from Capri to Amalfi could be canceled "due to bad weather." Then, we would need to get to Sorrento or Naples by boat and then other public transportation to Amalfi. With the road closed, we would have needed to get to Salerno, and that would have been a long day. As it turned out, there were two ferries and one hydrofoil running that evening between Capri and Amalfi. We took the hydrofoil and it took only about 30 minutes at (I think) 17 euros per person. The road opened again about two weeks before our trip, so all my worry about how to get from Capri to Amalfi was gone. I'll add that I also wondered how this would all work, and it was rather simple.

    bon_voyage, about the shower at La Minerva. We had a bathtub, not a standing shower. It was a little slippery, but everyone managed to shower each day without incident. La Minerva is a wonderful choice and IMO an excellent value. We were there off-season and paid 200 euros. I don't know what they will charge in the height of the season, so we received a good value.

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    For anyone interested, I added an new album to my photos showing our 20" carry-on suitcases. http://gallery.me.com/twdcards#gallery

    For our photographers, there were two items I purchased on ebay that I liked having on the trip. The first is a screen protector for my camera. I don't like walking about with my camera in a bag and I didn't want the screen to get scratched. You can do a search on ebay for screen protector under cameras. I bought one for my Canon G10 from tek_to_you for $4, shipping inclusive. Great product; can't even tell it's there, and it did protect the screen from all the bumps by hanging on my shoulder. It is supposed to be removable and washable, but I haven't needed to do that yet.

    The second item is a cheat sheet for my camera. I don't have a simple point-and-shoot, and the instruction booklet is bulky; I didn't want to carry it with me each day. The cheat sheet is a one-page, laminated, double-sided printed sheet with shortcuts to how to operate my camera. I carried this with me all day. Another good investment. I think I paid, with shipping, about $10 for it.

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    About motion sickness. We were prepared for both travel on water and travel on the curvy roads of the Amalfi Coast by having ginger tea in the morning or by having ginger candy prior to boarding a boat. We also sometimes wore acupressure wrist bands (sold at sporting goods stores). We all did well and no one had motion sickness at any time; in fact, taking boats became a highlight.

    Back to the trip, on our last full day on Capri we took a boat ride around the island with a stop at the Blue Grotto. We took the funicular to the harbor where there is a little building in the middle of the boats selling tickets. We had the choice of a ride around the island with a stop at the Grotto or a ride to the Grotto only. We took the full ride. I understand they stop for swimming on some of these rides, but this was early in the season and stopping for a swim was not offered, and that was fine with us. We enjoyed the ride a lot. When they get to the Grotto there are rowboats waiting and passengers must transfer from the larger (not really large) boat to the rowboat. We were bobbing up and down a lot and I passed on the Blue Grotto (I injured myself getting out of a boat in Thailand years ago). Marian and Maritza were delighted with their visit to the Blue Grotto. Again because we were early in the season, there was almost no wait at all for them to transfer to a rowboat or enter the cave. I highly recommend taking the boat ride around the island. Have your hotel call down to get the time schedules so you don't literally miss the boat.

    We reluctantly left Capri the next day. The hotel held our luggage while we were out wandering. They called the luggage service and our bags were picked up at the time we requested and brought to the piazza. This was good as it is somewhat uphill from the hotel to the piazza. You have the choice of having your bags taken to the piazza (4 euro) or the harbor (10 euro), it's just less expensive to pick up your bag at the piazza and take the funicular down. We saved 18 euros among the four of us by picking up our bags at the piazza. Chalk another one up to traveling with carry-on. The funicular, that we took many six times, was never crowded. If it is crowded, they might frown on a lot of luggage going on and they request you pay for each large bag. We didn't consider any of our bags large and did not pay the extra. Speaking of crowds, it is true that the town is busy during the day and then is very quiet after the day trippers leave.

    This really was a day to just wander the back streets and enjoy the serenity. I stumbled upon the Hotel Luna that had beautiful wisteria along the entrance. Then to the Gardens of Augustus. The garden itself is small, but up a level gives you beautiful views. I then wandered along the street that leads to the Marriott Hotel, and another that goes quite a ways to just overlooking the Faraglioni Rocks. Three nights was about right for the island, although I would not have objected to one or two nights longer. I would have liked a little more time to explore Anacapri.

    I remembered what I had for dinner at Buca di Bacco. There is a photo on my website under Capri of a seafood pasta. That was my dish and it was very good.

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    Forgot to mention that we had lunch one day at Isidoro, recommended by La Minerva. It is near the Piazza. The menu photo on my website for Capri is from Isidoro. I had mushroom risotto at 12 euro that was good, but for me expensive for lunch. Prices on Capri were a bit high for food, but you must remember that you are in a luxury location and everything must be brought over by boat. There was a cover charge at every restaurant of 2 or 3 euros for the place setting, bread, and I really don't know what else. One restaurant charged us a higher cover charge for sitting outside rather than inside. Some restaurants included a percentage service charge that we assumed was the gratuity. I hope it was as we left only a little over that. We left tips if there was no service charge noted on the bill, although not as high as we tip here in the States. I hope someone else chimes in here on the proper etiquette. When our waiter at da Giorgio brought the bill he presented it singing Happy Birthday. He did it again the next night, but it didn't seem so charming the second time.

    I'll take this time to talk about bathrooms. I'm impressed with how lovely the bathrooms were at all our hotels. In fact, because they are so nice I was surprised at the public bathrooms. There would be a bowl, but no toilet seat. What's with that? Some facilities charged 50 cents, some charged nothing, and one place asked to leave whatever you wish. This was for the entire trip, not just Capri. While on Capri I stopped into a 5-star hotel and used their restroom. I tend to do this wherever I am. The more elegant the hotel, the nicer the restroom. Each toilet seemed to flush differently. It might be a push on a lever, many times with a choice of a little flush or a big flush, or it might be a button to push or something else. Here in the States we are a bit boring with our flush handles, I think. The sinks in Italy were equally interesting -- maybe a lever, maybe a button on the floor, etc. Some restaurants have one bathroom for both men and women. You know the expression, "When in Rome..."

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    scrb -- I don't understand your questions.

    I've been distracted, sorry. Will try to get through this trip report speedily.

    The hyrdofoil ride to Amalfi was quick. Upon arrival it was a bit of a challenge finding the alley leading to La Minerva; we walked too far and had to back-track. We met a man from the States while waiting for the hydrofoil in Capri, Jonathan, who helped us with our luggage to the hotel. He managed all four of our suitcases, one at a time. For those who know the steps leading to the hotel, you can understand the energy this young man has. The hotel will send someone to you at the harbor to transport your luggage, but we had no way of contacting them. Upon departing the hotel, Agnese called the luggage service who picked up our luggage and took it directly to our driver. All the hotels in town pay for this service so it is free for their guests. Of course, a tip is a good idea.

    Jonathan joined us for dinner that night at Il Teatro, Via E. Marini, 19. I highly recommend this restaurant. It was recommended by someone on this board and I'm glad we made the effort to find it. This was one of our favorite restaurants of the trip and we ate there twice. Not only is the quality of the food high, but it is very reasonably priced. Try the pizza -- the best pizza we had on the trip. Try the grilled sausage. Our second meal here was lunch. We were just looking for something light. Well, it turned into a banquet as we kept ordering things. I couldn't believe the bill -- it was around 38 euros for the four of us and that includes the cover charges. This restaurant is family-owned and it is interesting to watch the dynamics.

    The other restaurant I recommend is Il Tari. It's on the main street, so you shouldn't have difficulty finding it. Pick up their business card at the hotel front desk and note the 10% discount on the back. www.amalfiweb.it/ristoranteiltari.

    Bargain of the week: I stopped one afternoon on the main street to a place selling pizza by the slice for 1 euro.

    One evening we didn't want to sit down to a full dinner so we went to l'abside wine and snack bar, recommended by the hotel. This was fine -- nothing fancy, but was just what we were looking for. You can even get a hamburger here.

    We thoroughly enjoyed staying in Amalfi. It is a place where people live. Yes, there are many tourist shops, but they are intermingled with real life. The weather wasn't so great while we were there and I could tell it was hurting business. Shopping here is good and much less expensive than Capri. In Capri I bought a small bottle of Limoncello for 7 euros. The same size bottle in Amalfi was 2 euros. I bought an alarm clock in Amalfi for 9 euros.

    We took the free Sunday morning tour of the city. The guide took us into the Cathedral (2 euros) for a thorough tour of the museum and crypt. I had read on this board that the Cathedral was not worth the 2 euros, but I'm thinking this person did not know about the museum or crypt. He took us through the alleys telling us about how they would foil the pirates.

    On our first full day we headed to Ravello. Now I understand why so many people on the board recommend a visit here. I loved Ravello. I stopped into the church and the Villa Rufolo, and then the Villa Cimbrone. I wish I'd had more time for Ravello and better weather. The Villa Cimbrone was quite large and I didn't have time to cover it all. It was a bit of a walk, and the walk back was a lot of uphill. Still, it is definitely worth the effort. I could see myself staying in Ravello and exploring more.

    One day we took the boat to Positano, stayed a few hours and headed back to Amalfi. The views are dramatic, and there is a lot of shopping to do if you are into shopping. If I was a shopper, I probably could have dented my credit card here. We did not have lunch here, so I have no restaurant recommendations. I think I would have enjoyed Positano more if I had stayed here, not so much as a day trip.

    Through a recommendation on this board, I think it was you, ekscrunchy, I hired Dionisio to drive us from Amalfi to Rome. I feel comfortable recommending him as a driver. With four of us he picked us up in what he termed a "space wagon." The van was large enough for seven people, so we had plenty of room to stretch out. The plan was to drive us to Pompeii, wait as we visited for three hours, and then drive us to our hotel in Rome. The cost was 400 euros, and I think that was a very fair price considering he had to drive all the way back from Rome. Due to the poor weather, we dropped our time in Pompeii to two hours. It was cloudy when we got there and it started to drizzle about 30 minutes into the visit, then it began to rain. I need to find his contact information to post here.

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    Contact information for our driver: dionisiotoffoletto@alice.it

    It wasn't planned, but we were fortunate to be in Italy during Culture Week. All state museums are free during Culture Week. When we arrived at Pompeii we still needed to go to the ticket booth for a ticket--at least there was no line for the ticket and no line to entire the property. The weather may have had something to do with that. There were plenty of people at Pompeii while we were there, but by no means was it crowded. When we arrived at Pompeii we were approached by someone offering a private tour for 100 euros. He mentioned that to walk through Pompeii without a guide is just looking at a pile of rocks. He had a point, but we chose instead to rent the audio guides at five euros each for two people; for a single audio guide it is six euros. This was the only major rain we encountered on the trip other than one night after dinner and it didn't start to rain until we reached our hotel. Then the thunder started and the skies opened up.

    We also got into the Colosseum for free. They also have the concept that you must line up to get a ticket -- I don't get that. What difference does it make? It's free, so why don't they just open the gates and let people in rather than make them wait in line for a free ticket? We arrived at the Colosseum after our tour of the Vatican Museums and were approached by someone asking if we would like to join the English speaking tour departing in a few minutes and avoid the ticket line. I think the cost of the tour was 12 euros and included a tour of the Forum. Due to time constraints we skipped the Forum tour. The tour was worthwhile. Keeping in mind what the guide said at Pompeii about just looking at a pile of rocks, I think the tour of the Colosseum was a good idea.

    Following the Colosseum we took a taxi to the Ghetto where we were meeting our tour guide for a walking tour of the Ghetto and Trastevere. We did not check to see if the driver was using a meter and we did not ask for an approximate price. I believe this is the only time we got ripped off by a taxi driver as he charged us 18 euros when it should have been more like 10 euros. It was a short distance and there was little traffic. He settled for 17 euros. Our guide was Sergio Bartolini with Rome Insight. Very nice man, and he was flexible to what we were interested in seeing and gave us insight to the origins of the Ghetto and the area of Trastevere. We ended the tour near the Pantheon where we stopped into dinner at a restaurant he recommended, Ristorante der Pallaro, Largo del Pallaro, 15. Sergio can be reached at info@romeinsight.com. www.romeinsight.com. The cost of the private four-hour walking tour (that we reduced the three hours due to exhaustion) was 165 for the four of us. If in Rome again, I will be sure to reserve with Sergio again.

    The Ristorante de Pallaro was on my list of suggested restaurants. There is no menu -- you eat what they are serving that evening. The food was simple, the wine was okay. It was a four-course dinner for 25 euros. The experience was interesting; the food plentiful, but just okay. We were the first to arrive; in fact, I think Sergio talked with them to seat us before the opening time. The place filled up within an hour of our start. When I went to the restroom (one toilet for all) I saw a newspaper article (in English) posted to the wall with a restaurant review of the place by Rick Steves.

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    luvtotravel...I was a little skeptical about spending 5 nights on Capri in Sept (Staying at Albergo Mamela). After viewing your pictures, I'm not longer doubting my decision, I'm actually quite glad about it!!

    Great photos! Thanks for sharing!

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    dcd, I hope you're able to take something from this report for your own use.

    Masterphil, five nights on Capri might be too long for some people. It wouldn't be for me. It all depends on what interests you. Some folks need to run around all the time to see museums and monuments -- those folks might get bored on Capri after a couple of nights. I believe Albergo Mamela is on the same road as La Minerva.

    I realize this report has been a bit choppy and not as entertaining as many that are posted. I also hope you have been able to get beyond my sometimes lack of proper spelling and grammar. I usually do not write as I think, and that is what I'm doing this time around--without notes. I'm one of those people who can't walk and chew gum at the same time so I'm not always phrasing well.

    Back to the report:

    Before we went to the Colosseum we took a two-hour tour of the Vatican Museums. I booked these tickets online through the Vatican website several weeks prior to the trip at 30 euros per person. That fee included the ticket, reservation fee, guide and audio headset. The guide spoke into a microphone and each of us had a device with an earpiece (you get to keep the earpiece at the end). I liked that as I tend to lag behind and I could still hear what she was saying. The Museums are vast and two hours went by quickly. Had I taken Art Appreciation in school this would have been too fast, but her commentary was adequate for me. Throughout the tour I (thankfully) did not see people using their camera flashes until we got to the Sistine Chapel. We were told that no cameras were allowed in this last section. Lo and behold, we walk into this very crowded room people are flashing their cameras like crazy; they were also using video cameras. I saw a guard standing there, aware of what people were doing, but did nothing to stop them.

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    Marian went home on Thursday and we were down to three people. Maritza and I had stopped in Orvieto three years ago and had a wonderful lunch. We were determined to go back, not just to have lunch, but to have a little more time to explore the hill town. Also, it would be something different for Mommie to see in Italy. The train ride is about an hour north of Rome. Upon exiting the train station we found ourselves across from the funicular. We were starting to like these funiculars. Once up in town we took a bus to the Cathedral; the bus is covered under the funicular ticket. From there we back-tracked to the restaurant. We remembered parking underground and walking up some stairs, then an elevator, then an escalator, and finally a people mover, just to get to the street. The restaurant was right across from the exit. We were so pleased with ourselves when we found the restaurant only to learn it had changed hands and changed menus. It was still a good lunch and Maritza was thrilled with her ravioli with cheese and honey. al Pozzo Etrusco Ristorante, Piazza de' Ranieri, 2.

    We have now been enjoying Italian cuisine for two weeks, but were ready for something else. Returning from Termini Station we passed a Chinese restaurant and decided to give it a try. I was happy with my wonton soup and curried chicken and the ladies were happy with their dishes, too. When traveling I like to try different cuisines. On my last trip to Paris and Amsterdam we had a different cuisine each night -- Greek, Spanish, Dutch, Japanese, French, Middle Eastern, etc. I find it interesting that in Italy it is primarily Italian food. Don't get me wrong -- the Italian cuisine is excellent, but don't the people who live there want some variety in their diets? Is there fast food other than paninis and pizza? If so, I didn't see much other than a McDonald's near the train station, and I don't eat at McDonald's. I hope I don't get stoned for voicing my opinion.

    Maritza and Mommie went home on Friday and I had the day to myself. Mostly I walked around the city in the morning until my appointment at the Borghese Gallery at 1:00 pm. It's surprising just how small and walkable Rome is. I booked my reservation online about two weeks before the trip. As it was Culture Week, there was no entrance fee -- just a three euro reservation fee. For those wondering, I booked online the same way as if I was paying a fee. When the reservation was complete, they showed a fee of zero and the three euro reservation fee charged to my credit card. I arrived early and had time to check my bag and camera (no cameras allowed in the Gallery) and rent a headset. I'm glad I was early as a tour group showed up just after me and there was suddenly a long line to check bags. I kept my valuables with me in my money wallet (inside my pants) and my wrist wallet. They might allow small bags into the Gallery -- I'm not sure. If you decide you want a headset, be sure you keep five euros handy. To use the bathroom they have a sign that says you need to show your ticket or reservation receipt to use it, but I didn't see the sign until after I had used the facility, so I guess they are not strict about it.

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    Amazing, just amazing. The Bernini statues alone were worth the visit -- Persephone and Apollo/Dapne. I was glad I did some research on what would be on display as it made so much more sense to know the stories than just walking by. The audio walks you around the statues pointing out things you might miss. Upon entering the Galleria I went directly upstairs as the tour groups started on the ground floor. At times I was alone in the rooms.

    Following my time in the Galleria I wandered through the garden and worked my way back to Termini where I had an early dinner at the Auto Grill -- not the most gourmet of meals, but I wanted to get back to the hotel early for my last packing and the weather was turning ugly.

    I don't remember if I mentioned this earlier, but I want to share one other item I took on the trip, a wrist wallet. I have two and use them when I go to the gym so I don't need a locker or leave valuables in the car. I have one in fleece and one in a stretchy fabric. I wore these under long sleeve shirts or jacket, so may not be as worthwhile in summer.
    www.sprigsville.com/banjees/detail1.html

    I flew in United's business class on frequent flyer points. When I arrived at Dulles I headed to the Red Carpet Club in Concourse C and was turned away because the woman at the desk said I was now on a domestic flight. What? There was no persuading her, so I went to the other Red Carpet Club in Concourse C and had no difficulty whatsoever in gaining admittance. The meals in business class were truly terrible. I've had the luxury of flying United's international first class where the meals are good. I think the food they served in business class was the same food they served in coach only with linen and plates.

    That concludes my trip report. I would be happy to answer questions.

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    If you would like to read some of my other trip reports along with photos, you can find them at http://travelswithdiane.homestead.com/journals.html. Should I ever figure out how to get the RAW photos I took on this trip to Italy to open, I will add them to the website I noted at the top of this post. I love technology, but I can't always get the components to work together.

    Diane

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    Splendid report. Yes, I got lots out of it and just in the nick of time. We'll be leaving for that area very soon in celebration of our 10th wedding anniversary.

    And thanks for the links to your other reports and photos. You have a very nice eye. Your photos remind me of the kind of shots I like to take. I wish I'd gone digital long before 2007...... I'm not up for paying to have the old snapshots digitized, at least not yet. You've been to places that are on our list so it's very nice to have the photos (and reports) to inspire us.

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    Our five nights in Capri, come at end of our trip. Kind of a wind down before flight home. We are not "museum people," more hiking, boat rides around island types. Hotel with pool could mean a couple of days sitting poolside, sipping limoncello. Probably a day trip or two to Positano and Amalfi.

    Your photos just got the excitement level for the trip up again!

    Thanks!

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    luvtotravel,
    I just finished reading bardo1's trip report. I'm so glad you included the link to your trip report. We are going to Rome, Pienza, and Amalfi in May. Your report and photos made me want to get on a plane right now! We are also staying at the Hotel Floridiana ( recommended by a post on Fodor's). I'm glad I was able to "view" the hotel before staying there. Whats up with the blue lights? Could you see to apply makeup etc? Thanks for sharing the details of your trip, I also made note of your restaurant suggestions. Thanks again.
    Judy

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    Hi Judy. No problem with the blue lights. Sorry I spoiled the surprise. You can make them white lights as normal. Floridiana is a lovely place to stay. I suggest you splurge on the duplex room as the cost to do so is minimal.

    My photos from Pienza in 2006. I fell in love with Pienza, too. http://travelswithdiane.homestead.com/trip2006page17tuscany.html

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    luvtotravel,
    We have reservations for a junior suite at Hotel Floridiana. Once again I throughly enjoyed your photos of Pienza. You can tell you love photography. I feel like I took a "mini" trip to Italy
    through your trip report and pictures.
    Regards,
    Judy

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