Europe Forums

Post New Topic

Recent Activity

  • Announcement:
  • TEST (do not reply)
    by ibobi Fodor's Editor | Posted on Nov 20, 17 at 01:24 PM
View all Europe activity »
  1. 1 Language course in Trieste, Northern Italy
  2. 2 Paris, Normandy & Amsterdam with College Graduate
  3. 3 May Germany, Switzerland, and Iceland
  4. 4 10 days trip to Europe in June of 2018
  5. 5 Italy with kids - off the beaten bath
  6. 6 Driving
  7. 7 Viking Cruise Tours (Barcelona and French Riviera)-- Please Help
  8. 8 "chunnel" to change it's offical name.
  9. 9 GTG Paris December 2017
  10. 10 Paris or Rome dinner recommendations
  11. 11 Malaga Christmas lights
  12. 12 Ronda by bus in early January?
  13. 13 London flat feedback wanted - yes, I'm going slightly crazy!
  14. 14 Highway Death Rates in Europe Now Fewer than in U.S...
  15. 15 Champs market ‘this year? How will it look?
  16. 16 Italy 9 Days in December/Itinerary Help
  17. 17 20th wedding anniversary, Le Grand Tour
  18. 18 Poland--where else to go
  19. 19 Trip Report Sampling Some of Sicily and Bits of Italy Beyond
  20. 20 Trip Report 5 days in Andalusia
  21. 21 Trip Report Three nights in the Italian Riviera: hiking in Camogli with day trips
  22. 22 South of France
  23. 23 Trip Report The Little Cyclades, Santorini, Vienna
  24. 24 Scooter/quad/bike rental on Greek Islands
  25. 25 First time in Spain - family of 2 adults & one child(10 yr old)
View next 25 » Back to the top

Trip Report 13 Days, 7 Cities, 3 Kids...Our Dream to Trip to Italy (Day 1)

Jump to last reply

This is the first installment of my trip report for my recent trip to Italy with my DH and three kids (DD/age 11, DS1/age 12 and DS2/age 9). We were there November 21-December 4th...Had a FABULOUS time...partly due to all the fabulous advice I received on this forum - Thank You to all who responded to my queries. Still wishing i was there...Can't wait to start planning a 2nd trip!!

Day 1: Planes, Trains and Automobiles...

Well actually this post SHOULD be called automobiles, planes, buses, trains and vaporettos for that is exactly the order of the transportation we utilized getting to Venice from California over the last 24 hours. It all began (for the kids, at least) when I woke them at 4:30 a.m. so they could get dressed and ready to be picked up at 5:00 by my dad, who was driving us to LAX (thus the automobile!). We got to LAX by about 5:45 and had breakfast. I had prearranged to meet my cousin who works at LAX and by chance was working our gate that morning. It was great to see him and he was able to work us on to our extremely full flight right after Betty White!! (He also called ahead to JFK and the flight attendants there were extremely attentive, even sending us off the flight with a full bottle of wine in Milan!) The kids tackled their independent study and got a good portion of that out of the way on this leg of the trip. Even though our flight was delayed out of LAX we made it to JFK in NYC with plenty of time to grab a bite during our 90 minute layover before getting boarding our flight to Milan.

The JFK - Milan leg was a little tougher. By then we were all tired but only DH was able to sleep decently in an upright position. The kids were able to sneak in a few hours but I did not sleep a wink. Once we arrived in Milan, we took a bus from the airport to the Milano Centrale Train Station. That was a good one hour drive due to traffic. Arriving at the train station we grabbed a panini (our first Italian meal!) and then boarded a train from Milano Centrale to Venice S. Lucia....a 2 hour 10 minute high speed train ride. We all dozed off and on here and I was begininng to worry that we would sleep right through our stop. After we arrived in Venice, we had to wait around for about 1 and 1/2 hours before our "greeter" could meet us and give us the keys. We hung around the station and checked out the sights and tried to make some sense of the Vaporetto (water bus) system. Soon we were on our way for a very short water bus ride to our Vaporetto stop where we met Nurhanna our greeter. We walked about 3/4 miles over cobblestones and over 3 bridges (with steps), lugging our luggage up and down them all. (I was truly glad I had followed the advice to pack light!!)

Finally at 4:15 p.m., 24 hours after we had gone on the road with grandpa, we had finally arrived to our apartment in Dorsoduro. Nurhanna gave us the run down, DD tackled a little more homework and the boys ran around the apartment checking everything out. One minor irritation was the fact that neither the apartment's wifi, DH's vodafone chip in his iPad2 or my blackberry global phone were working. DH and I tried to figure out the WIFI situation to no avail and decided to table our technical issues until the following day. We hit the road again about 6:15 p.m., taking the Vaporetto down to the Festival de Salute. The kids were starving for a real meal so we detoured into San Trovaso for a delicious meal and some wine before heading over to the church. After dinner we went to the church to light some candles in memory of some lost loved ones. The church was beautiful and we spent some time admiring all the chapels. By the time we left, DH and I realized the wine we drank needed an outlet and yet, there were no public bathrooms (paid or otherwise available). This was creating a bit of a crisis as neither of us thought we could hold it for a 30-40 minute vaporetto ride nor did we want to risk the humiliation of getting a ticket for relieving ourselves in public! In desperation, we jumped on the next Vaporetto only to jump off at the next stop. Our only choice was to go into another bar and buy two glasses of wine in order to utlize their bathrooms. As luck would have it, the bar was located right next to a gelatria. We had promised the kids gelato every day of our trip if they were good and they had certainly earned it today. While we sipped our wine outside the kids licked their gelato (chocolate and coffee). Then we jumped on the next vaporetto and headed for home. By the end of the night we realized we had been going for 31 hours. The kids were such troopers we truly were so proud of them. A few minor scowls but definitely nothing to write home about. Off to a great start!

  • Report Abuse


    Thanks for taking the time to do a trip report! Your report will be easier for all to read and will get more responses if you do it all in one thread. Don't do a separate posting for each day.

    Can't wait to read the rest,

  • Report Abuse

    My DW thinks there needs to be an ongoing thread here entitled "Bathrooms in Venice." She also maintains that a fortune could be made opening a chain of bathrooms in Venice, charging less than the cost of a glass of wine.

  • Report Abuse

    My DW thinks there needs to be an ongoing thread here entitled "Bathrooms in Venice." She also maintains that a fortune could be made opening a chain of bathrooms in Venice, charging less than the cost of a glass of wine.>>

    last time we were in Venice, you could get a vaporetto pass that included entrance to the [few] public loos in the city. [our apartment was round the back of the campo san bartolomeo where one of the very few public loos is situated, so we didn't need it] .

    otherwise, you need to develop the habit of using the "facilities" every time you visit a museum or cafe. that's what we did and it worked out fine.

  • Report Abuse

    knoxvillecouple and annhig...Love the bathrooms in Venice thread idea! Truly it was something I had to be constantly mindful of. I did develop the habit of using the facilities every time we were in a restaurant or museum...Unfortunately it wasn't always easy to get the kids to do the same...DS2 had the habit of needing to go 5 minutes after we had just left such a place! We did get a Vaporetto pass, but one without the bathroom access. Not sure how much that would have helped anyway since we saw so few public loos as we walked about.

    jrecm, we used Loved the location. Only issues were with the wifi and also there was a lingering odor...I presume it is the smell I have heard is an issue in the summer time in Venice.

  • Report Abuse

    Day 2 – Mask Making in Venice and Other Pleasures…

    Though I had been awake more than 30 hours, I woke up this morning at 5:30 a.m. ready to go. DH reminded me we were on VACATION and that it was a lazy morning and we were allowed to get up at a leisurely pace...:-) It was great to have shutters on the outside of all the windows because it left the rooms dark as long as you wanted. This was especially good for the kids so they could catch up on some much needed zzz's. By seven, I was itching to move and moved downstairs to pursue the issue with my global phone. After a brief phone call to Verizon in the U.S., we were able to identify the problem and it was fixed pronto! Now we only had the apartment WiFi and Vodaphone issues to deal with...

    We woke up the kids by 8:30 so that we could enjoy the (shorter) daylight hours of Venice. The kids were a little bleary eyed and weren't quite sure they were ready to begin our adventures, so DH and I left them in the apartment while we took a quick walk to a nearby bakery, Majer, to collect some breads and cappuccinos. When we got back home we enjoyed the delicious bakery items. Particular favorites were the cheesy foccaccia bread and the chocolate brioche.

    Fortified, we set out to explore our siestiere, Dorsoduro. We walked over bridges and through narrow alleyways with no particular destination in mind. A kindly older Italian gentleman walked with us a bit to get us oriented in the right direction. We walked past the University Foscarini and the Maritime Station and then along the Fondamente Zattere where we stopped for a late morning gelato (we're on vacation after all!) all the way down to the Punta della Dogana and back up the Grand Canal.

    The only mar on an otherwise beautiful (and sunny) day was the arguing amongst the kids about whose turn it was to hijack my SLR camera. Since our arrival, they have all developed a keen interest in picture taking and a few think they are the next Ansel Adams... We had many things to snap pictures of, not the least of which was my fascination with doorknockers and handles (“Did you get a look at those knockers?”), and pictures and statues of Griffin's (the symbol of Venice!).

    I still could hardly believe it…We were in Venice! The weather was lovely, the sights gorgeous. Adding to the perfect ambiance was our lucky timing as we passed the beautiful Chiesa Santa Maria della Salute just in time to hear the bells toll noon. What an amazing sound... We decided to have lunch at Taverna San Trovaso, the restaurant we had intended to go to last evening. We had some pizza (mozzarella, prosciutto and gorgonzola - YUM) and a place to rest our weary feet for a bit.

    After lunch we wandered towards our first official appointment, a 2:00 p.m. class in mask making at Ca' Macana Mask Shop. The shop was filled with spectacular Venetian masks of every size and variety (they did the masks for the movie, Eyes Wide Shut...). Many were quite elaborate pieces of art. The shopkeeper directed us to their studio workshop down the road and we arrived just in time to begin our class. Strangely, even after exchanging many emails (in English) about the appointment with the owner, our class (just us and the teacher) was conducted 100% in Italian. The teacher did not know English, but then, art transcends language does it not? That's what I told myself as I quickly decided to forgo my own mask making so that I could do my best to translate her instructions and help the kids make theirs. The teacher was very nice and talkative. She demonstrated well enough with her hands and my Spanish is good enough that I could figure out most of her instructions. DD later told me how impressed she was the I could understand her Italian ;-) I was surprised to find all the kids really got into the process. Even DS1, who I presumed would be least interested, became a mini Michelangelo working on his masterpiece. They all took great care to do their very best work and their efforts paid off. The masks looked amazing. The experience exceeded my expectations in every way and DH and I both agreed it was well worth the price.

    It was 3:00 p.m. by the time we finished the masks and we decided to go home to enjoy a siesta before dinner. Five minutes after we arrived at the apartment, a "technician" arrived to see if he could figure out why our wi-fi Internet connection was not working. "Technician" was the landlord's word and it was most definitely an overstatement. The guy was less knowledgeable than most of DS’s friends, and, surprise!, he could not figure out what the problem was. We were told another "Technician" would be required to solve the problem. This was most definitely a major nuisance, as having free wifi was one of the features I specifically looked for in choosing our lodging. It would have been nice for the kids to be able to connect their iTouches for a little down time and DH and I both would have liked to use our iPads (he to check in with work, me to look things up on Fodor’s etc…). Then again, we didn’t come to Italy to sit around on our electronics!

    After the Italian's version of the Geek Squad left, DH and I walked to a local market to get some essentials such as TP (Really? 1 roll for a family of 5 for three days!?). The kids stayed back, staging photos and messing around. On our walk back we saw some kids about DS2’s age playing soccer in the Campo S. Margherita. We decided to stop and watch for a few minutes to see if there was any difference in the skills of Italian and American children. I'm sorry to report that, indeed, the Italian children were at least a year or two ahead in terms of skills. I guess playing soccer on a cobblestone plaza will teach you good ball control skills right quick. It was fun to watch them play so seriously.

    I was starting to fade so I rallied the troops to head out for an early dinner. We left walking about 6:30 p.m. with DH guiding us to a little hole in the wall that had caught his attention earlier in the day. Although I am hopelessly directionally challenged, DH has an affinity for the winding roads and dead ends of Venice. He has an uncanny ability to navigate the labyrinth and his skill was indispensable to our enjoyment. We found the restaurant he had in mind, Trattoria in Campio, without any difficulty and were the only diners when we sat down to table at 7:00 p.m. We ordered a variety, some Spaghetti Carbonara (again!), Roasted Chicken and Potatoes, Spaghetti Bolognese and Scallopine Marsala. This time we ordered 2 liters of water and a 1/2 liter of the house red - a much better ratio! While we were there, a Venetian local in his 70's popped in to order his usual, a small glass of Sambuca. He chatted with the waiter for a bit and then went on his way. We decided to follow suit and Ken ordered a glass of Sambuca as well. It was so delicious, the perfect ending to an authentic meal on a cold winter's day.

    Of course no dinner is complete in Italy without off we went in search of a gelataria. I don't remember the name of the place and the gelato was equally as forgettable, although DD said my Bacio (chocolate hazelnut) flavor was quite yummy. We arrived back at the apartment at 9:30 p.m....we sent the kids off to bed as we plan to visit Rialto Market in the morning and then San Marco's Square (Doge's Palace) tomorrow. It will be our last full day in Venice and I want to make the most of it!

  • Report Abuse

    great first day, lisa.

    actually making something is a terrific way to introduce your kids to the culture of Venice - and well done with the translation. i met a few spaniards in Italy whose technique for being understood was to shout at the waiter [or whoever] in spanish - very funny, especially as it is the way that english people traditionally communicate with foreigners. i suspect that spanish is more successful in italy though, than english is.

    looking forward to more!

  • Report Abuse

    A Little Romance in Italy (Day 3)…

    I realized late last night that an early morning visit to the Rialto Market would be impossible as we had reservations for the Secret Itineraries Tour at the Doge's Palace (Duke's Palace, or Palazzo Ducale) at 9:55 a.m. Waking up relatively late at 7:30 a.m., I had to quickly shower to get ready and then wake the kids so we could be out the door by 8:30. We hit the road ready to spend most of the day away in the San Marco district. First we hit our local breakfast spot, Majer, for some pastries and espresso. It was crowded and it is standing room only so it wasn't a huge surprise that as I moved to take our stuff to the bar, I spilled my tiny cup of espresso...a total rookie move. The server was nice enough though, she only shook her head a little and then proceeded to clean up the mess and replace my cup free of charge.

    From there we continued our walk, upstream, against the tide of students heading to class with their architecture projects and portfolios to the University. We stopped at the Piazza Le Roma Vaporetto stop to catch the #2 down the canal to San Marco. It was packed and we barely made it to the square by 9:45 a.m. Thankfully we already had our reservations so we "skipped the line" and proceeded straight to the queue for the English version of the Secret IT tour. Notwithstanding the fact that a group within our tour refused to parent their 3 restless children (who touched everything, ran amuck and were loud…), the tour itself was very interesting. We learned about the multi uses of the palace and about the political and cultural philosophies of the Venetians. It was interesting to note that Venice was an independent "state" up until the late 1700's when it was conquered by Napoleon. Prior to that it operated under very elaborate and systematic rules of law (so glad we don’t have a Mouth for Secret Accusations!). Most interesting to the kids were the prisons and armory (DH still shudders at the thought of the chastity belt!). The tiny cells were dank, cold and dark, not a place for claustrophobic to be sure. Casanova was imprisoned there and famously escaped through the floor of his cell, down through the ceiling and out the "Golden Staircase" out the front door. Ultimately he was pardoned when he returned to Venice 11 years later.

    After the guided tour ended, we continued to wind our way through the rest of the palace rooms (over the Bridge of Sighs, which was finally uncovered from recent restorations) before heading out to the main square in search of a place for lunch. We found a little panini shop where we had sandwiches and rested our weary feet. We spent some time shopping for souvenirs and Christmas gifts and then headed back to the square to visit the Basilica San Marco. We gave some thought to climbing the stairs up the Campanile but when we discovered we could only take the lift for 8 euros each we decided to take the vaporetto across the lagoon to San Gregorie Maggorie Island to visit it's Campanile instead. The later afforded us a view of the whole lagoon and we were lucky to enjoy such clear and sunny weather. It was amazing to see how small Venice is…when walking it’s maze of streets you have no sense of it’s size.

    Once we were back on the main island, we stopped to buy some original watercolor paintings and take a picture with some Venetians dressed up with masks and 17th century dress (trite yes, but I could not resist! One of the ladies was so taken with DS2 she gave him a kiss on the cheek...boy was he embarrassed!). Then we hopped back on the vaporetto up to Rialto where we hoped to find the Vodaphone store to correct the problem with DH’s iPad wi fi. Thankfully the Vodaphone was right across from the vaporetto stop and we found it immediately. The fix wasn't quite as fast, but we truly appreciated the clerk’s willingness to go above and beyond to see that our problem was fixed. While DH dealt with the wi-fi issue the kids and I took pictures on the Rialto bridge and then bought some gelato while we waited for DH to be done. The kids were determined to go on a gondola ride and we could not disappoint them. The sun was just setting and the romance of it all, combined with the delightful sounds of their whining, convinced us to plunk down the cash and go for it. We were not disappointed. Mario, our gondolier was a third generation gondolier and had been working in the business for 47 years. His family had been in Venice since the 1600's. He took us on a tour up the Grand Canal, under the Rialto bridge and then through some small side canals while he shared with us some of the history of Venice. As much as I hate to use a cliché, it was truly magical and romantic, and a beautiful way to end our last full day in Venice.

    After our gondola tour, we headed back to the apartment to rest briefly before dinner. We were determined to use our wifi to check in with the notes and google maps I had made of recommended restaurants I had gathered from a multitude of sources. Unfortunately we could not locate the restaurant we had decided upon and ended up settling on an average restaurant in the Campo S. Margherite. The food was not terrible, just ok. Still an enjoyable evening even though everyone was tired and achy from so much walking and standing on marble floors and cobblestone roads. Tomorrow we pack and head for Firenze! Though we were here only briefly, we have grown to love Venice. We will miss the unique charm and familiarity we have quickly acquired about this mysterious labyrinth of a city but look forward to new adventures in Firenze.

  • Report Abuse

    Lisa, I am so enjoying your trip report and I truly am enjoying the fact that you traveled with your children. We did also, Venice was our daughter's favorite place which I think is true for a lot of young ones. I wish I could have "one more" trip with our daughter when she was a youngster but of course that is not possible as she is a grown woman so I am so glad we always took her on our trips with us and I know you will be glad also. I so look forward to your next installment!

  • Report Abuse

    Day 4 – We are Thankful…(Thanksgiving in Florence!)

    Happy Thanksgiving! So much to be thankful for...Today we travelled from Venice to Florence. We spent the morning hunting down the breakfast foccacia we had yesterday (to no avail) and then we packed up our stuff and were out the door by 10:30. It was high tide, not so high that we were flooded, but high enough that the trash boat got stuck underneath one of the bridges near our apartment. Can't imagine what it would be like to live in this city where life is dictated by the ebbs and flows of the tides and moons.

    We took the 12:30 train from Venezia Santa Lucia to Firenze Santa Maria Novella. It was the high speed train which is an incredibly comfortable and convenient means of travel in Italy. The kids did their homework while DH and I did some pleasure reading. I was surprised that so much of the journey was in tunnels...Not sure if we were through hills and mountains or if they built tunnels to protect people from the high speeds of the trains. Once we were able to secure a taxi for 5 (no easy feat!) we were greeted with Mr. Toad's Wild Ride to our apartment. We whizzed by bicyclists and mopeds at 50 miles an hour though the street was 1/2 the width of an American one-way street. Moments before DS1 had asked if we could rent mopeds while in Florence and I had just told him no, it was too crazy to try to drive there with kids...the look on his face indicated he now fully understood what I meant.

    Our apartment greeter was not quite ready for us so we walked 50 meters down the street to the local bar for a prosecco, cabernet and soda for the kids. Fifteen minutes later, as we pulled our luggage behind us back to the apartment, we were greeted by Alessandro who kindly showed us our apartment and how to work everything. I'm not gonna lie, this apartment ROCKS! I could LIVE here! A perfect example of why I prefer to rent apartments when we travel instead of a hotel. It gives you the experience of living like a local as opposed to simply a tourist. The apartment was not only spacious and luxurious, all the amenities worked, and the view from the terrace was GORGEOUS. While the kids connected to the wifi (yeah, it worked !!) and the satellite TV for a bit, DH and I walked down the street to the local bakery to pick up a few things to snack on for appetizers.

    After we enjoyed our happy hour and facetimed a few people for Thanksgiving, we travelled a few blocks (past the racing ambulances which were on their way to the very nearby hospital...) to try one of the restaurants that had been recommended to me on the discussion boards I haunted during the planning portion of the trip, Ristorante Osteria Zio Gigi. We were pleasantly surprised to find this was our best meal of the trip so far. Delicious food, gigantic portions, reasonable prices, and a singing chef to boot! We decided we could easily eat here every night if necessary. In honor of Thanksgiving, we spent the evening taking turns sharing the people and things we were thankful for.

    At the end of the meal the chef generously plopped down a bottle of Italian Liqueur and two shot glasses for DH and I, no charge. A traditional bitter from Calabria, it is served ice cold and was a delicious way to end our evening. It was most certainly a very special Thanksgiving meal and one we will never forget. As we waddled home with our full bellies we commented how staying near the hospital could be bad (the sirens!) but then again, it could be good (food coma!!) So much to see and do while in Florence...can't wait to see what tomorrow brings...

  • Report Abuse

    Day 5...Ancient Stairmasters and Ugly Babies...

    Today our plan was to venture out to the historical center of Florence. DH and I walked our neighborhood to grab what has now become our typical breakfast, 1 or 2 espressos for the adults, a sweet pastry for the kids and some various focaccia breads. I was desperate to get some fruit into the kids so we stopped for a fruit and yogurt smoothie to split amongst them as well.

    After breakfast, we walked about 8 minutes to the Duomo. We were all amazed at its massive size. We learned during our tour that it is the 3rd largest Cathedral in the world. The other two in the top five are Milan's Duomo and the Vatican, both of which we will see later in our trip. We spent some time viewing the perimeter, the Campanile and the Baptistry, all the while dodging gypsies shaking their plastic cups of euros. Eventually we went into the Duomo and took a look around. It was simple but beautiful. We lit some candles and then decided to go ahead and take the tour with access to the top of the Duomo.

    Our tour was given by a foreign exchange student from Florida. She was very knowledgeable and shared some very interesting information about the frescos and the cupola. She guided us up to the terrace level (150 steps) where we got a closer look at the interior of the dome as well as an incredible view of Florence. After she completed her tour we were then able to climb the additional 300 steps to the top of the dome. It was an extremely narrow and winding staircase and I found myself talking myself out of a panic attack once or twice. There was a lot of heavy breathing going on and I wasn't sure someone ahead of us wasn't going to keel over right there on the stairs. I was glad we persevered, though, as the view from the top was breathtaking…a very memorable experience. We spent some time identifying the landmarks we had learned about and were even able to locate our apartment's terrace in my zoom lens.

    After some pictures from the top we made the trek back down the stairs. Easier yes, but by then all our legs were feeling a little wobbly. It was time guessed it...LUNCH! It does feel like a never ending parade of food here in Italy. We grabbed a quick bite as we had to move on to our next stop, the Uffizi Museum, where we had 2:30 p.m. reservations. The kids were impressed with the statues out front but within 40 minutes of wandering the vast rooms in the Uffizi they were getting a little restless. I was disappointed that a few of the rooms I had wanted to see were closed for renovations. In order to keep things interesting for the kids I used a suggestion I had read here, that they try to locate "the ugliest baby" depicted in the paintings. Perhaps I was not conveying a "high brow" approach to art, but at this point I was desperate to at least keep them interested long enough that DH and I could view some of the masterpieces in peace. Truly there were some doozies in there. It is amazing to see Jesus depicted in so many different views. From an angelic cherub to starving and sickly, there were many to be considered in the top five.

    After we finished at the Uffizi, we considered heading over to the Ponte Vecchio but decided the kids had had enough. We didn't want to ruin the experience with cranky kids so we opted to head back home, climbing the 78 steps (yes, the kids counted!) to our apartment for a respite before dinner time. DH and I enjoyed a little snack and some wine up on the terrace where we caught a gorgeous fiery sunset.

    We headed back to Zio Gigi for another excellent meal. The Chef/Owner, Zio Gigi, was in rare form tonight. The restaurant was filled with reserved tables, and by the time we were eating dessert the place was filled to capacity. Zio spent his time charming and singing. He even visited our table for a minute to feed DS2 the last two bites of his Spaghetti Ragu...he said that DS2 reminded him of his own bambino.

    Tomorrow we will spend the day exploring Lucca and Pisa. We have been so incredibly lucky with the weather. Temps today in the high 50's. Lucca's forecast in the low 60's...Can't wait to snap a cheesy picture of the kids holding up the Tower of Pisa...

  • Report Abuse

    Thank you! We had such a wonderful time...already wish I was planning our next trip back to Italy! Think next time we will hit the coastal and southern, LOVE, LOVED Italy!

  • Report Abuse

    In order to keep things interesting for the kids I used a suggestion I had read here, that they try to locate "the ugliest baby" depicted in the paintings. Perhaps I was not conveying a "high brow" approach to art>>

    I never claimed to be high-brow, lisa!

    but i'm glad that the "find the ugliest baby" competition came in handy.

  • Report Abuse

    Annhig...Ha ha! That was a great suggestion and really helped keep their interest. Obviously they will never have a chance to develop a "high brow" interest in art if they don't first look at it!!! Honestly, it helped keep things interesting for me too! ;-)

  • Report Abuse

    to be honest it was my kids who spotted how ugly some of the babies were - i just made it into a game as a joke, which we kept up as we went round various galleries.

    I find myself playing it even now, and still text them if I find a particularly gross example.

    the disembodied babies' heads with wings attached used to freak them out too!

  • Report Abuse

    Day 6…Day Trippin

    We had an early morning today as we planned to make a day trip to Lucca and Pisa today. We wanted to catch a 9:13 a.m. train to Lucca. We walked from our apartment on Via Della Pergola to the Firenze Santa Maria Novella train station...a hearty 25 minute walk...stopping briefly to pick up some sweets and down some espressos along they way.

    Once there we quickly bought our tickets and then tried to make heads or tails of which platform our train would be leaving from. We had no time to spare as a train we thought might be ours was waiting and we had to make a split decision as to whether to climb on or miss it and wait 30 minutes for the next train. We decided to risk it and we climbed aboard...without validating our tickets! Yikes! This was a regional train and our tickets were not time specific, therefore, it is required to validate the ticket by punching it into the validation machine before getting on the train. Failure to do so can result in a hefty fine if you are caught (40 euros per ticket!). I knew from my "research" that we had made a rather large mistake but that if I found a conductor before he found us I could probably avoid the fine. I found one in short order and got further clarification on whether we were on the right train. It turns out it was the right train but that we needed to make a transfer at another station on the line. Had we not messed up on the validating of the tickets we never would have known about the transfer and God only knows where we would have ended up!

    After our transfer and with the train situation under control, we settled in for the remainder of our journey to Lucca. Total travel time from Florence, about 1 hr. 20 minutes. Once in Lucca we wandered across the street to the outside walls of historic Lucca. Lucca is a medieval city, one of the few who still has the walls that were erected for its security still surrounding the perimeter of the city center. We had to walk a bit trying to locate a TI so we could inquire about riding bikes along the medieval walls. Being that it was Saturday, there were families walking through the streets, shopping, eating, riding bikes and just enjoying a day strolling this charming city as a family.

    Lucca reminded me a bit of Venice without water. It was very charming; the streets were narrow and filled with shops and people. It was a nice change from the hustle and bustle of busy Firenze. Since it is the off season, only one of the three TI stations was open, but once we found it we were happy to see that we did not need to inquire about bikes, bikes were available for rent at their location. This was a lucky coincidence as much of the information I had read said that bike rentals were available only March thru October.

    We picked some bikes for each of us and headed up to bike along the top of the walls. It was a charming ride, 4.5 km around the entire perimeter. Trees lined the pathway, with the brilliant colors of fall leaves still on their branches and locals sitting at picnic benches enjoying a lunch and the beautiful weather. We stopped to take some pictures along the way and, after returning our bikes, made our way to a recommended restaurant, Ristorante San Giorgio. Both DS’s and I ordered a delicious risotto with Chianti and Sausage while DD ordered Tortani Ragu and DH had Zuppe Pasta Fagiole. It was all delicious...probably our 2nd best meal of the trip.

    After a nice break for lunch we had to hoof it back to the station. It was already 2:00 and we wanted to make a 2:25 train to Pisa. Although Pisa is only a 20 minute train ride from Lucca, the sun sets close to 4:30 in late November so we wanted to make sure we got there in time to see the Tower in the light of day. Once we departed the train in Pisa we were surprised to see there were NO signs indicating which way we should go. In addition, the ticket office was closed so there were no live people to ask. We hoped we might see the Tower in the skyline, but no such luck. We wandered around a bit, DH fired up his iPad and I approached an older gentleman walking his dog to see if we could figure out which direction to go. The Italian came through for us...we started on our way and DH used the iPad to refine the directions.

    Within 10 minutes we were standing in front of the historic center and the Leaning Tower of Pisa was in our sights. It was truly amazing to see just how much it leans! We spent some time taking the usual pictures...holding up the tower, pushing it over. All the typical touristy pictures. Except for its Duomo and the Tower of Pisa, I found Pisa to be lacking in charm. I was so glad we had gone to Lucca first and spent our time wandering and eating there before making a quick stop to Pisa. This was a case where the tips I had read on the discussion boards proved invaluable.

    The sun was starting to set and we were ready to head back to Firenze. Once we got back to the train station we realized that the self service ticket kiosks not only did not take credit cards, they also did not make change for more than 20 euro bills. I was prepared for the no credit card issue but we only had two 50 euro bills with us so now we were stuck. The closest place to make change was at least an 8 minute walk away and the train we hoped to take was 4 minutes from departure. Although we did not make the first train, DH was able to find a random Italian to make change for his bills. We hopped on the next train 20 minutes later just before night fell.

    The only thing that kept DH and I from falling into a deep sleep on the train was the guy sitting across from us...he had an iPod and earphones and from time to time would sing along loudly with his music (Adele's Someone Like You was a favorite of his...). It was pretty funny and we could hardly keep from smirking. Just as funny were the looks on the kid's was as if they were saying, "Is he for real?"

    Back in Firenze we walked back from the train station and picked up some take out food along the way (Risotto balls with Ragu, Foccaccia Pizza, breakfast for tomorrow). The kids ate the take out food while DH and I snuck out for an hour and a half to a nearby restaurant to "recharge" our batteries. The kids were ready for some downtime and we were ready for some alone time so it worked out great. Tomorrow we stay in Florence. Boboli Gardens, the David at the Accademia, the Ponte Vecchio and the San Lorenzo market are all on the agenda. Seems like a lot but we will be able to hit them all at a relaxing pace...Hoping to find some leather goods at the San Lorenzo market!!

  • Report Abuse


    Awesome trip report - I am enjoying it so much! Thanks for coming back and doing this - I remember when you were planning your trip.

    May I ask how much the mask-making class was? It sounds great.

    Can't wait to hear more!

  • Report Abuse

    Day 7...In Search of David...

    With no specific plans or appointments for the morning, today we slept in a bit...everyone was feeling a little ragged from all the walking we have been doing and with late dinners we have been going to bed quite late. We all needed to catch up on our zzz's! We had already purchased sweets for the kid's breakfast last evening so DH and I left the kids to get ready as we went in search of espresso and a Bancomat to get more cash. Ahh, but it was Sunday and nearly everything was closed. We had a hard time finding an operational ATM, let alone a place open for espressos.

    After a rather long search we finally found something open near the Duomo. We also realized there appeared to be the Firenze Marathon going on today. The marathon was mapped out all over the main sights of the city, including the Duomo area and over the Ponte Vecchio. As our plans were to head to the Ponte Vecchio and then over to Boboli Gardens we knew this might present a bit of an inconvenience, but our options on a Sunday were fairly limited and we desperately wanted to see some greenery after all the cobblestone and marble.

    We picked up the kids and left the apartment about 10:00 a.m. and began walking towards the Ponte Vecchio. On our way there we came upon some Italians dressed up in Renaissance garb, playing drums and twirling flags. It was fun to watch them twirl the flags and throw them in the air (it didn't hurt that they were wearing tights!). We watched them perform a few minutes and then we made our way past the Uffizi and to the crush of people that were lining both sides of the Ponte Vecchio cheering on the runners and bicyclists. It was fun to see them come through the crowds, especially the hand cranked bikes. I cannot imagine how hard it must be on your joints to run along cobblestone roads!

    We took some pictures overlooking the Arno River and noted the "Love Locks" all over the bridge. Love Locks are a recent phenomenon (circa 2000) and you will find them in many major cities around the world (we saw them in Venice too). Apparently lovers lock them on prominent bridges etc to symbolize their never ending love. We also stopped for espresso and Cioccolata Calda (Italian Hot Chocolate) which DD and DS2 both proclaimed the best hot chocolate they had ever tasted. Truly it is like a melted chocolate bar, thick, rich and incredibly DELICIOUS!!

    Once we crossed the Ponte Vecchio we walked up a very steep hill and made our way to the back entrance of Boboli Gardens. The entrance fee was steep, but no steeper than the hill we had just climbed and at that point we felt compelled to enter for we did not want our efforts to be for naught. The gardens were a beautiful respite from the hustle and bustle of the city. Part of the Pitti Palace, the Boboli Gardens were the main seat of the Medici family during the 16th century. The gardens are beautiful and afford gorgeous views of both Florence and the Tuscan hillsides.

    We spent a few hours strolling the grounds and then stopped for lunch at Trattoria Boboli, a very small trattoria nearby, where we had DD's "Best Meal of the Trip:...roast chicken! :-) After having filled our bellies and rested our feet, we started our journey back up to the other side of the city, to the Gallerie Accademia, to see Michaelangelo's original David. It's hard to put into words the effect of seeing this masterpiece in person. Even my 11 year old DD was impressed by the realistic composure of the veins and the muscles in David's hands and arms.

    After strolling briefly through the Gallerie...we were losing the boys...we made our way to the Mercato San Lorenzo. This open air market is open 365 days a year and sells mainly leather goods, scarves and tourist shirts. Haggling is a must and no easy feat if you don't speak Italian. After much looking, the boys each got an Italia Adidas style jacket and I bought a few scarves for Christmas presents.

    Tonight we will head to Acqua Al 2 for dinner and then to bed. Tomorrow we head back near the Ponte Vecchio for our meeting point with the company (Accidental Tourist) that will take us on a full day excursion (with one other couple), first to a family owned winery in Chianti for wine and olive oil tasting and then to a farmhouse where we will learn the art of pasta making and make our own lunch. Thanks fellow Fodorites for the suggestions! The kids had so much fun with the interactive experience of mask making we thought this would be a perfect activity for the Tuscany area. Can't believe our trip is half over! So much fun has been had and yet so much more to see...

  • Report Abuse

    Day 8...La Dolce Vita

    Bellisima! Words simply cannot describe our day today. Our tour to Chianti was absolutely incredible, no doubt the highlight of our trip. We began this morning by meeting on the other side of the Arno River at the Piazza Demidorf where we were picked up, along with another couple, by Steve, our tour guide. Steve hails from the the states (North Carolina) but he has been living in Italy for the last 37 years. He drove us out of Firenze and up some very windy roads to a 15th century villa and vineyard, surrounded by hundreds of acres of olive groves, vineyards and cypress forests. The vineyard, Fattoria di Grignano was historically owned by the Gondi family. The current owners visit only once a year, having created their fortune in Milan in the fashion industry. Nonetheless, they continue to operate the vineyard as a hobby, the producing about 100,000 bottles of Chianti a year as well as Extra Virgin Olive Oil.

    Steve led us through the grounds where we saw exactly how olives are turned into EVOO (Extra Virgin Olive Oil) and grapes are made into Chianti. After touring the operations, he brought us to a very rudimentary tasting room. At this point we were also joined by 3 twenty somethings who were visiting from England. In the tasting room, Steve gave us tastes of the olive oil on fresh Florentine style bread (unsalted) and five varieties of wine (Chardonnay, Chianti Annata, Chianti Reserva, Chianti Gran Reserva and a dessert wine, Vinsanto del Chianti Rufina). The wines were smooth and delicious and the kids gobbled up the bread with olive oil like it was dessert. The piece de resistance was when Steve, who studied opera and medieval music in Florence, sang a medieval Italian song for us. Wow! What a moving and special moment.

    After we finished our tasting we said goodbye to our friends from England and continued on for the second 1/2 of our day tour...pasta making. Steve drove us to an 1000 year old farm house where we met Christiana, our gracious hostess, the cook and owner of the home along with her husband. Steve brought us down to the home's "basement" where he taught us how to make pasta from scratch. We all had such a great time mixing, kneading and pressing our pasta dough into fettucini noodles and ravioli that we filled with spinach, ricotta, parmesan and nutmeg.

    After we had "made" our lunch, we went upstairs where we sat down to table in Christiana's kitchen. There she served us wine and a primo (first course) of bruschetta with sausage and cheese, a torta with artichokes and a pizza bread with tomato and mozzarella. All were delicious and we were already quite full when she plopped our homemade ravioli into the boiling water. Five minutes later she served the ravioli with a brown butter sage sauce. Delicioso! The fettucini she tossed with some garlic, fresh tomato, olive oil and red pepper. Also delicious! Lastly, Christiana served us dolci, her homemade Tiramasu that was simply out of this world.

    What an incredible experience to enjoy all the joys of the Tuscan countryside. Great views, great company, delicious food and wine...what more could we ask for? Well, that question was answered when we got up to leave...the sunset looking out over their balcony was the most stunning we have seen in Italy and truly they have all been amazing. We left with all our senses sated and confident that we had made the most of our trip to the Tuscan region. It could not have been possible without the cooperation and good behavior of the kids which was remarkable. They were just as interested as DH and I and we were very proud of the way the conducted themselves.

    We're on the downhill slide now....tomorrow we are off to Roma! A new city and new experiences await!

  • Report Abuse

    Very good report and it seems your three youngsters were being cooperative. You are daring to travel overseas with them. What did they especially enjoy so far? Maybe it was something insignificant? I don't see any discontent!

  • Report Abuse

    Ozarksbill at that point the highlights of the trip for my kids were the mask making, the pasta making, the gondola ride and "the churches." They LOVED Venice, which I suppose is no surprise because it is so much like Disneyland (think Pirate of the Caribbean!). I found Venice completely charming as well and was surprised by how much I fell in love with it. I think the time of year had a lot to do with was moody and beautiful, lacking in crowds or bad odors. Also, I am a photo enthusiast and Venice was definitely a photographer's dream!

    They also thought it was a great adventure finding door knockers for our "Wow! Would you take a look at those knockers!" photo collection we were compiling. Perhaps not in the best taste but it was always good for a laugh to see my 9 year old DS point to an elaborate knocker and say, "Mom! Look! Take a picture of these knockers!" with his dimpled little smirk. Once we got in Rome, my husband and I found a small little osteria right near our apartment where we enjoyed two lunches just the two of us. My DH insisted I take a picture of one of the fresco paintings on the wall. It was a cartoonish painting of a very well endowed italian woman (think Popeye's Olive Oyl combined with Gina Lollobrigida). He insisted it would be hilarious to slip the photo into my photo album amongst the "great knockers" ;-)

    Another thing they also mention enjoying during our trip was what they call "our schedule." They liked the rhythm of getting up in the morning, grabbing breakfast, walking (sightseeing), sitting down for lunch, walking, siesta in the late afternoon, walking, dinner and walking again (and don't forget to throw at least one stop for gelato in there somewhere). They definitely got a taste for La Dolce Vita! No school, sightseeing, shopping and enjoying great food and your parents undivided attention...what's not to love!?

    amarax2, sorry for the delay in getting you the price for the mask making at Ca'Macana...I had to search through some emails on an old laptop to get to it...The cost of the 1 hr. class (The ABC's of Mask Making) was 35 euros per person (because we were 3). One person is 45 euro. They also had a Mini Course which was two hours and resulted in two masks but it was significantly more expensive.

  • Report Abuse

    Great reports Lisa. We went last year same week as you and did a similar trip (13 nights). We were completely enthralled by the beauty and magnificence of Italy. We are planning our next trip already. Your kids will thank you forever for opening their eyes to the wonders of travel and other cultures.

  • Report Abuse

    They liked the rhythm of getting up in the morning, grabbing breakfast, walking (sightseeing), sitting down for lunch, walking, siesta in the late afternoon, walking, dinner and walking again (and don't forget to throw at least one stop for gelato in there somewhere). >>

    lisa - that's exactly what our kids liked, especially when we rented an apartment for a week or so. the same cafe for breakfast, the same waiter saying ciao to them, the same little lady podding peas in the shop next door, the same bar watching the children playing round the fountain, the same gelateria on the way back to the apartment after dinner.

    I'm sure that your children will appreciate what you've shown them - and remember all the fun you had too!

  • Report Abuse

    Lisa, how fortunate your youngsters have enjoyed this trip...hopefully without fussing at each other or moping about not being with friends back home. You involved them in masks, photos, etc. Many memories I'm sure. Years ago when camping all over the U.S. our 3 did pretty well. As for Venice we were there on Regatta Day with crowds but special.

  • Report Abuse

    Amazing trip report. Thank you for sharing. We are currently planning our own 15 day adventure with the kids, split between France and Italy. Would you mind sharing the information for the apartments you rented in Italy?

  • Report Abuse

    I'm so glad I found your trip report. We've just started the planning for a 2013 family trip to Italy with our two daughters. So many of the activities you've described sound as if they'd be a perfect fit for us.

    Looking forward to the next installment.

  • Report Abuse

    Knockers made me think of this little story:

    Hub and I were squeezed into a small bus one day in Rome. He later said, "One of my fantasies was to be groped by an Italian woman--I was hoping for Sophia Loren--never thought it would be an older lady on a bus!"

    Yours is a wonderful TR--knockers and all!

  • Report Abuse

    Thanks everyone for your kind replies about my report.

    Autier17, we used Windows on Italy for our apartment in Florence. It was called Signorelli and it was by far our favorite rental. In Venice it was through Rental in Rome (apartment name Dorso Duro Terrace and Garden). Rome was Sleep in Italy (Apartment Boccaccio Big). We had no problems with any of them as far as meeting to receive the keys and instructions and all the greeters were very helpful and pleasant. I also loved the location of all the apartments so that was a major bonus.

  • Report Abuse

    Hi Everyone...Before I get to my Rome report I thought some of you might find amusing the post I had in my blog at this juncture entitled Andy Rooney on Italy. For those of you who aren't familiar with America's 60 Minutes Program, Andy Rooney was the curmudgeonly old guy who ended each show with his observations (complaints) on some small slice of life. Now, before anyone replies about me being an Ugly American, please understand that it was all written tongue in cheek and I truly, TRULY, LLLOOOVVVVEEEEE, Italy, minor inconveniences and all!

    Andy Rooney on Italy

    Don't hate me because I'm having the time of my life! Its true, I love just about EVERYTHING about Italy. However, there are a few minor annoyances, or shall we say, inconveniences, that i have noticed over the last few days. I thought it might be a good idea to recount them here as I do hope to be welcomed back my fellow countrymen and women! I love and miss the USA as much as I am enjoying our visit to Italy.

    First off, might I write a few words about water here in Italy? There are two different matters relating to water...I will relate first the one most seared (an oxymoron) into my memory from this morning's experience. To start with, the water pressure here is abominable. One cannot have any other faucets on, no matter how low, if you are to get enough water pressure to rinse a mild lather off your skin. Conditioner out of your hair? Uh uh...not gonna happen. Might as well just get used to the greasy hair look because the lack of water pressure combined with the lack of a truly hot shower makes a thorough rinsing the impossible dream. I came to dread a morning shower as the rooms were cold and the water lukewarm...thank God for heated towel racks!...the european bathing habits (or lack thereof) were suddenly making more sense to me. Another issue entirely is the size of the showers...remember the little airlift/chute the Jetsons would go into to get to their house? Imagine that size as a imagine DH trying to wash in one of get the picture, right? Not a place for clausterphobics!

    Then there is the water issue in restaurants. How is it that a country where aqueducts were invented, where free flowing water from fountains are available in nearly every Piazza (fill up your water bottle, for free!), does NOT serve complimentary tap water during a meal? Each and every time we sat for a meal we would have to order at least one liter of still water. Because we were walking everywhere, we sometimes tired of carrying water bottles along, therefore by the time we sat down to eat, we would all be rather parched. DS2 in particular made a habit of guzzling water the moment we had to pay for it. Being the giver I am, I made a habit of drinking wine instead. It is cheaper than water and I have been a real hawk about saving money on this trip ;-)

    Now what about the taxis? Italy is a catholic county, is it not? ? And yet, it has the lowest birth rate in Europe and its population is declining every year. Perhaps I missed a new dispensation regarding birth control? As Italian families get smaller, apparently so do the taxis! Only about 1 in every 50 taxis can accommodate cinqua people, and then only if two passengers sit in front! Not sure what we would have done if our 17 year old DS was here ! Thankfully we have limited our taxi use to to and from the train station...

    How about laundry? I was so proud to have limited our luggage to one roller per person, knowing that the apartments all had washing machines. I knew we would need to hang dry our clothes, I was told electricity is expensive so dryers are rare. I even brought a travel clothesline just in case. You see, with DS2, skipping laundry is simply not an option! In Venice we used the washer and then hung the clothes on a drying rack on the terrace and on the heated towel racks in the bathrooms. We were lucky that the weather was dry and sunny, the clothes dried quickly and fairly unwrinkled even if they were a little stiff. In Florence I was thrilled to see that the washer also had what appeared to be a dryer was an all in one machine, if you will. Well after a 1:45 wash I selected the cotton function for drying. I came to realize that the "dryer" is not so much a dryer but rather a centrifuge (I presume now it was to wring out the clothes for line drying...). It took 3:00 hrs of spinning our clothes at speeds up to 1000 rpm's with heat to wring out every last drop of moisture. Hardly seems like an energy saver...and the wrinkles! My God, the wrinkles! Even if you took the clothes out and folded them while they were still steaming (perhaps smoking would be a better word!), they were so wrinkled it looked although I had used them to make origami accordions! So much for my enthusiasm for the all in one gadget...

    Italian's true. The Italians seem to have fashion sense born in their genes. They look chic without appearing to have tried...scarves, boots, hats...they know how to wear it all without looking frumpy or uncomfortable. The one notable exception was the plethora of shiny quilted coats we saw EVERYWHERE! On men, women and children were these terrible, colorful, puffy jackets. DD and I could not understand the reason for this trend. One evening, I opened up my In Style magazine to a Neiman Marcus christmas ad...I was horrified to see these jackets (in this case, merely a VEST) were selling in the U.S. for more than $450!! I wonder how long it will be before we see our own California surfer community wearing these...

    The graffiti. So sad to see much of Italy's ancient buildings and sights were marred by spray painted tags and proclamations of desperate love. Whether in the stairwell of the Duomo, the Rialto Bridge, the Ponte Vecchio, or the train stations, these important sights as well as the plain and ordinary, all had far too much in common with East L.A. Thankfully we arrived in Venice just a couple weeks after they had removed the hideous scaffolding/graffiti/advertisements covering the Bridge of Sighs. It was too soon for the taggers to have left their mark and when we saw the Bridge it was pristine and beautiful.

    Museum entrance fees...ok, I'm pretty sure that museum fees alone could bail out Italy from their debt. A fee to reserve your entry, an entry fee, a fee to use the elevator, a fee to use the stairs. I can see why they are mobbed on the few times a year that they have free entry. I suppose this is a great example of supply and demand...they have the supply of fantastic and famous sights and the tourists will pay to see them.

    Beds...I have discovered the reason Italians look so youthful well into their old age. It's the beds! They are so hard the only comfortable way to sleep on them is on your back. The bonus, I don't wake up with sheet marks across my cheek...

    Pay to Go Bathrooms...not sure if this is bad or good. The good is that these public bathrooms are always clean...50 times cleaner than a public beach bathroom in our hometown. The downside? Sometimes they are hard to find...the price varies between .80 -2.00 euros per person, and sometimes you only get a hole in the ground!! And lastly....train station janitors. Holy cow, what a racket. These guys ride around on mini motorized street sweepers cleaning up...well...nothing! The stations are quite clean and it seemed to us as we waited for our train and watched, these guys simply ride around in circles, looking busy but doing absolutely nothing. I think I know a few teens who would love this job!

    All the differences are what make this an adventure...loving the good and the "bad" but looking forward to home sweet home (and a hot spacious shower and a soft comfy bed) too!!

  • Report Abuse

    Thanks for the Rooney rant! I am reminded of remarks by our tour guide in Italy tired of petty complaints...this is not the U.S. so just accept that streets are narrower and bathrooms less fancy and bedrooms smaller. Enjoy Italy for what it is with all its history and art and beauty.
    Bill in Boston

  • Report Abuse

    Absolutely Bill. To be honest, I only wrote that for my blog because so many of our friends were soooo jealous of our trip; I didnt want them to feel too bad! ;-)

    I reposted it here since I figured many could relate to noticing all the differences. I agree though, it's all the differences that give Italy its charm...not to mention, not many destinations can compare when it comes to western art and history!

    Think about our next trip everyday....

  • Report Abuse

    Day 9...Roma!

    Today we left Florence for Rome. Our host in Florence kindly arranged for a taxi to pick us up outside our apartment at 9:30 this morning. Although we had walked the distance to the train station many times, we did not want to hassle with the luggage on cobblestones while dodging crazy Italian drivers :-)

    When we arrived at the Firenze SMN station we were surprised to see our train to Roma Termini was 15 then 20, then 25, then back to 20, minutes late. It was the first time during all our train travel that we have experienced any delays. For us it was not a problem, but I could see how if you were leaving from a different city's airport, this could be a real problem. I was glad I had thought to bring us into Milan on Friday for our Sunday departure...this way we will not have to concern ourselves with worries about major delays.

    The brief delay allowed us to eat our breakfast treats, Arancini Ragu for me (risotto ball filled with ragu)...Yum!...and Bomboloni alla Crema and Chocolata for the kids (Custard and Chocolate filled donuts).

    The train ride was uneventful but foggy. It is a brief ride, only 1 hr. 20 minutes from Florence to Rome on the Eurostar trains. The Roma Termini train station is HUGE and very overwhelming. As soon as we got off the train, we knew we weren't in Kansas anymore. Not feeling at all oriented, we took an expensive taxi ride (the one time I think we got taken...) to our apartment at Via della Boccaccio near the Trevi Fountain.

    The apartment is above a Bar (wine, espresso, sandwiches, etc.) and across the street from a good market that has fresh meats, eggs, milk, cheeses etc. Like a gourmet deli with a mini market attached. This was handy as we arrived just about 1:00 and hungry for lunch.

    DH and I deposited the kids in the apartment for a quick internet fix while we purchased a few things for lunch (salami, bread, Fontina and Pecorino Romano, Chianti) and breakfast for tomorrow (panettone, eggs, milk and butter). We poured over our maps as we ate our lunch and then set out to see a few major sights.

    First up was the Trevi Fountain. We were all awed by the sheer size of this fountain. It was crowded and I cannot imagine what this scene would have looked like had it been summer. We all made our wishes (more about that later...) and drank some water from the spigots. Then we walked up to the Spanish Steps. We gazed for a moment, not too impressed, and then headed on up the Via del Babuino to the Piazza del Popolo.

    Now this was a Piazza! Flanked by two symmetrical churches, a large obelisk in the middle and fountains, it was a beautiful sight to behold. Some musicians played acoustic guitar, a la Gipsy Kings, to add to the ambience. After sitting for a while and enjoying the people watching, we made our way up the hill towards the Pincio Gardens where we were just in time to see the sun begin it's colorful descent. Great views and picture taking opportunities here...

    It was during this time that we saw flocks of pigeons flying in the rose colored sky . They flew so tightly packed that as they changed directions it was like God himself was drawing Etch a Sketch images in the sky, shaking the box, then rearranging the sketch. Such fluidity, it was really an interesting sight to behold. As we stood there watching the pigeon "pictures", we saw a heart emerge. DD and I knew right away that her BFF who had passed away in July was sending us a message. DD told me later that one of her wishes at Trevi Fountain was to see BFF or be able to communicate with her...we understood that she had used sky writing to say hello.

    On our way back to the apartment we passed by the House of Monsters, a cool house that used it's windows and door to make a ominous looking face. There was some scaffolding obscuring a good picture but still, very unique.

    As for dinner, we decided to stay nearby, and we walked around the corner to Colline Emilane, a very small restaurant where the husband is the chef and the wife makes the fresh pasta. We had a delicious Roman meal, followed by gelato and dessert.

    Tomorrow we will make our first breakfast at home...panettone french toast and scrambled eggs...before we meet Alessandra, our personal guide to the Ancient Ruins at 9:30 a.m. With a guide at hand, DH can take the morning off from navigating and enjoy the sights!

  • Report Abuse

    Day 10...Ancient Ruins of Rome....

    Well our Rome apartment rental is most certainly the noisiest. Not for one minute are you going to forget you are sleeping in the center of a major city, including all night long. I took a quick (and hot! Yahoo!) shower in the Jetson's air chute and then got ready for a day of touring. Today was the first time since we have been in Italy that I have turned on a stove. I sliced up the panettone we bought yesterday and beat some eggs with milk for french toast and scrambled up the rest of the eggs. Happily, we had our first hot breakfast since we left the U.S.

    At 9:30 we went downstairs to meet our tour guide, Alessandra, for our day of touring the Ancient Ruins. Alessandra was WONDERFUL, she shared tidbits of information all along our walk to the Roman Forum. On the way and in the Forum area we we saw Altare della Patria (The Wedding Cake...15 men had drinks inside the large horse statue!! Just the mustache alone of the man...Victor Emmanuel six feet long! ), Trajen's Column, Julius Caesar's burial place, Palatine Hills, Capitoline Hill, Arch of Titus, Arch of Augustus and so much more. In the forum area we sat on some rocks near the "Main Street" of the Forum, and Alessandra gave us a crash course on the Ancient Roman lifestyle. It was amazing to realize that similar ruins are likely beneath the entire city of Rome.

    From the Forum we walked to the Basilica di San Clemente, or the "lasagna" church as Alessandra called it. San Clemente has layers of archaeological excavations underneath. The current 12th century church sits on top of a fourth century church built on top of a first century Christian meeting place that's above a first century BC Mithraic cult chamber. We walked down to the bottom/oldest level far beneath the current church surface where it was dank and dark. There we saw and touched spring water that still flows from an unidentified aqueduct somewhere in Rome. Only one hundred years ago, water from this aqueduct completely covered this oldest level (they had to redirect it during the excavations...) Fascinating!

    After San Clemente we walked over to the Colosseum where we learned about the "games" that took place there. All in all, we spent nearly four hours touring with Alessandra and learned so much. Had we just walked to these areas ourselves it would have seemed like little more than a pile of rubble, but her knowledge made the area so much more interesting. By this time the kids were ready for a break and hungry. We walked home from the Colosseum and popped into the deli across the alley from our apartment to pick up some rustic sandwiches for the kids. They were more than happy to hang out in the apartment with their sandwiches and iTouch's so that Ken and I could steal away for a more proper lunch. We walked around the corner to a restaurant Hostaria Romana, where we saw lots of local business people eating. There we enjoyed a delicious meal of Fettucini Gorgonzola and Roman Chicken. It was a nice reprieve for us all...;-)

    After lunch, Ken and I rejoined the kids and, by late afternoon, we were on our way to the Pantheon and Piazza Navona. We saw Raphael's tomb in the Pantheon and visited the street vendors that were all geared up for Christmas in the Piazza. I bought a souvenir Christmas Ornament there (I buy one on every vacation...). This time it was a Red Vespa Scooter. We also visited the fountains and the Chiesa Sant'Angnese in Agone where we lit candles. The restaurant we had planned to have dinner at we found closed on Wednesdays so we decided to be very touristy and walked back to the Pantheon where we had seen many tourist trap restaurants with outdoor seating in the opposing Piazza della Rotonda. We were seduced by the great weather, beautiful night lighting, and live acoustic guitar music...It was no doubt one of our most expensive meals (and not because the food was so much better!) but I was completely mesmerized by the ambience so it was worth it!

    Now we are home relaxing for a bit before we hit the sack. Tomorrow we will meet Alessandra for our last tour here, the Vatican. Can't wait to see the Sistine Chapel...

  • Report Abuse

    Day 11...Mummies and Pops

    Otherwise known as...All of Rome on Foot! We started the day by jumping on the metro and heading over to Vatican City. We walked to the Vatican Museums where we met our guide, Alessandra, for our second day of tours. Alessandra took us first to see the "Pope Mobiles." That was pretty cool and the kids liked it. From there she showed us some of the main rooms (read, as much as she thought the kids could tolerate..), e.g. the silk tapestries, the "animal" statuary rooms, etc. We also saw a mummified body, a cool tapestry of Jesus whose eyes and body seems to follow you down the hall, the Hall of Maps, incredible trompe de olei ceiling paintings and many other cool things. After we had seen much of the Vatican Museums, Alessandra took us to the Vatican cafe where she gave us a preview discussion on what we would see in the Sistine Chapel. The room where all the action happens, it was awesome to see what I had seen so many times over the years in books and television in person. We spent some time appreciating the ceiling and behind the alter and then we proceeded into the Basilica. It is truly amazing how HUGE it is. St. Patricks in NY is only something like 1/3 the size! Inside the church we saw Michealangelos' Pieta and, much to the kids fascination, an embalmed Pope. We also saw the balcony and the Pope's apartment (from St. Peter's square). One of the most striking things to me was how empty everything was. Certainly there were people there but nothing like the hordes of humanity I have seen in pictures from the high season. It was a treat to be there with both space and good weather! I did nearly have a laughing fit when DD asked me a question about the "Pop"...I couldn't quite understand what she was talking about and then I realized she was saying Pope with the accent the Alessandra uses when she speaks English. It really cracked me up...

    By the time we entered St. Peter's Square, it had been a little over three hours and the kids were pretty much DONE. We thanked Alessandra for a great tour and took the Metro back to our apartment where we, again, deposited the kids with some sandwiches in the apartment while we went across the street to our favorite little hostaria for some more Roman Chicken. The proprietors seemed very flattered that we returned. Later, in the afternoon we gathered the kids and took a walk to cross the bridge over the Tiber River from Rome to Isola Tiberina (a tiny island in the Tiber River) and then on to dinner in Travestere. It was a nice...L O N G....and scenic walk and the bridge afforded pretty views. We even had a nice dinner al DECEMBER!! We realized when we got home that we had walked nearly 11k!

    When we finally arrived back home at the apartment it was nearly 10 p.m. and STILL the laundry I had put in earlier in the day was SOAKING wet. I was starting to panic that I was going to be packing wet clothes. The icon/pictures on the washing machine are definitely not intuitive. I was almost out of options, but I gave it one last shot...when I got up about 2:00 a.m. to see if it was working correctly, I was relieved to find the clothes nearly dry! Tomorrow...our last stop...Milan

  • Report Abuse

    Hi Lisa, I'm sooo glad to find your wonderful trip report!!! We are planning the exact same trip with our 2 sons (ages 9 and11). We'll be there in March but for only 12 days including travel days. I'm amazed how much you done! I love how you always went back to the apartment for down time before heading out again, I have to remember that.
    Do you mind telling me how expensive it was to have a personal guide in Rome? do you recommend a car around Tuscany ? Were the apartments better deal than hotels? We'll only stay couple nights here and there. Do you recomend apartments? thank you for sharing your adventure! How do you remember names of all foods and wines??? amazing!

  • Report Abuse

    you mentioned the taxi was expensive from Rome station. What else would you have done? metro? It will be our first time there also.
    Can we still enjoy the views traveling by high speed trains?
    we are trying to decide between car rental or trains.
    thank you,

  • Report Abuse

    Johnnililian we found that apartments were the best/cheapest way to accommodate a family of 5. Most hotels would have required we reserve two the time you add up two rooms, the apartment rates were comparable. In addition, I'm a bit claustrophobic so I really DO NOT enjoy downtime in a hotel room where we are all forced to sit on the beds and stare at each other. The afternoon down time was essential for the moods/rejuvenation factor...especially with the kids. I also appreciated seeing the neighborhoods from an apartment dweller's perspective...felt it gave us a more authentic experience. So, although apartments may have been a bit of a luxury it was one that was well worth it to us.

    The private tour guide was 50 euros p/hour. I found that reasonable compared with the going rate for private tours. It was worth the cost while in Rome because I really wanted to have something geared towards keeping our kid's interested and flexible to gauge what was working and what wasn't as far they were concerned.

    As for cars, I do not think a car would have helped us with our itinerary on this trip. Had we wanted to do more day trips from Florence, possibly. The difficulty is finding parking in Florence. I also am not sure my marriage could have withstood the stress of navigating in Italian so I was perfectly happy to use the train system (clean, comfortable and reliable...we always traveled 2nd class) to get to where he where going. That said, the tour we had in Chianti was by van (although we were not driving...) and it was a gorgeous drive. If my DH and I were to return we would likely spend more time in Tuscany and likely rent a car to drive around the countryside and visit smaller villages. I do know others who have rented, particularly while in Florence and doing day trips and they all said it was not difficult with GPS systems installed in their rental cars. You can still get great views from the high speed trains although you are traveling so fast it isn't easy to get a good picture.

    As for taxi v. metro in Rome. It really depends on where you are staying. The metro system is fairly limited in Rome but can be useful depending on where you are staying. Once we got to our apartment we walked EVERYWHERE except to the Vatican, in which case we took the metro. I would simply suggest being ready to negotiate the fare from the train station to your apartment/hotel if it seems high. We were tired and did not really give it any thought until after we had arrived at the then it was too late to do anything about it.

    I would love to post some pics but having trouble uploading on Flickr. Will keep trying...

  • Report Abuse

    Day 11...Nearly Our Last Supper

    The downside to seeing so much in so little time is that you waste precious time traveling. Such was the issue today. Today we had a fairly slow morning getting up, fixing breakfast, even buying sandwiches for lunch from the deli across the street, and then heading to Roma Termini train station for our 11:00 a.m. train to Milan. We rolled our luggage a block or so down cobblestone streets to get to the Metro and then a couple of stops to the Termini stop. Once there we weaved up and down, all around for quite some time before we got to our train. Our train was actually parked in it's "Bin" or platform when we arrived so we got on early and had time to get ourselves and our luggage situated.

    The next three hours we passed uneventfully. The kids worked on homework, I worked on my pictures, DH worked on work emails. Along the way we passed some beautiful and rustic countryside. If we hadn't been traveling so fast it would have been perfect for some pictures... We arrived in Milan at 2:00 p.m.

    The Milano Centrale Station is stunning. It opened in it's current incarnation in 1931 and has some very interesting architecture such as Art Deco. Because it is one of the largest train stations in Europe it can be a little daunting to arrive there and find your way out. After wandering it's massive corridors and traveling down many escalators we finally found the metro station. From there it was an easy 2 stop ride to our hotel, The Carlyle Brera which is only steps away from the Metro stop.

    We checked in and got to our 3rd floor adjoining rooms. I have never seen adjoining rooms like this in the States. Basically we are at the end of a hall way and the last 6 feet of the hallway are now cut off by a door. We have the key to that door. Once you open the door you see our two rooms on either side. The kids have a triple (three singles) and DH and I have a "matrimonial" room...1 large bed ;-)

    We spent some time getting acclimated and then tonight we went to our 6:45 reservation to see Da Vinci's "Last Supper." This is not simply a "painting," rather, it covers an end wall of the dining hall at the monastery of Santa Maria delle Grazie. Due to the technique of it's painting, the masterpiece began to deteriorate shortly after it was finished. Within 60 years (it was completed in the early 1498) it was already declared "ruined." Then during World War II, the refectory was struck by a bomb. Although protectives and bagging prevented the painting from being struck by bomb splinters, it may have been damaged further by the vibration. This was the one sight that was booked solid throughout the year and I was barely able to make reservations for 5 in advance (in fact, I had to call Italy direct as the online reservation system is more limited). You simply CANNOT buy tickets the day of for this historical painting.

    After we saw this masterpiece we headed back onto the metro to our hotel area where we had been recommended a restaurant by one of DH's colleagues who is based in Milan. When we arrived at 7:30 the place was EMPTY. The waiter said that it would not be busy until close to 9:00...true to Italian standards by 8:30 the dining room was nearly filled. The Milanese style of food was new (to us) and we could barely make out the Italian only menu. With a little help from the waiter, we finally ordered. Sophie and Griffin played it safe with Spaghetti Bolognese (not on the menu, made special for the bambinis), Owen had insalata filetta (Mini Filets on Arugula Salad...Delicious! One of his favorites while we have been traveling), DH had Pasta Genovese and I had the specialty...Polpettine all Rigolo con polenta e funghi...basically vegetable and meat meatballs, polenta and mushrooms. It was delish! We capped off the evening with some dessert.

    Once back at our hotel, DS1 decided he MUST take advantage of the whirlpool tub in their room. He filled it up with bubble, and Pronto! there it was, a gigantic tub of bubbles. DS2 could not resist so he got in as well.

    Tomorrow we will do some touring around Milan, the Duomo and some other sights. In the evening (8:45 p.m.) we have our Inter Milan game at San Siro Stadium (and then the following morning, we fly out through JFK back to LAX.

  • Report Abuse

    Day 12....Mamma Mia...One Last Italian Adventure!

    As our last full day in Italy came to a close, we had one more adventure to look forward to, the Inter Milan v. Udine game at San Siro. Unfortunately by mid afternoon I was beginning to slip into a bit of a melancholy...not only because my dream trip was over, but also because I was beginning to gear up with anxiety for our long flights ahead (I H.A.T.E. to fly...). The smallness of our hotel rooms (compared to our previous apartments...) was only adding to my mood and I knew it was time to rally the troops for some fresh air and a walk before dinner and our travels to San Siro. Besides boosting my own spirits, we also had some final shopping for souvenirs and Inter gear to take care of.

    We got dressed in our many layers as we knew we would be traveling straight from the Duomo area to San Siro (forecast temp..6 degrees celsius, or about 39 degrees Fahrenheit). Once at the Duomo stop, we emerged from the metro tunnel to see the huge Christmas tree they had been installing that morning, nearly completely lit. There were Christmas lights draped across the streets and buildings, the atmosphere was festive, and people were everywhere taking a late afternoon/early evening stroll and shopping. This was the perfect antigen for my sinking mood and I began to feel my spirits brighten along with the lights and the energy of the crowd.
    We first came upon the Inter jerseys the boys were hoping for...they "needed" them, stat!, as they planned to wear them to the game that evening. Next we searched for something for DD. While paying for the boys jerseys she inadvertently knocked a snow globe off the shelf...well, the "You Breaka, You Buya" saying is universal...we told her that this would make a great souvenir because it had a "story"...DD let us, yeah, not so much. So with our newly christened "desert" globe in hand, we continued the search. Shortly we found just the etched glass cube of the Milano Duomo with a stand that rotates and lights the glass from underneath.

    It was now 5:30 p.m. Shopping for souveniers went quicker than expected and we had time to kill before the 8:45 p.m. game. We went in search of some "take away" panini...hoping to save a few euros. We weren't sure what we would find near the stadium and I had been told that the stadium had no concessions. Milan is an extremely expensive city and it is really a destination for fashionistas, not touristos, so this, we found, was a very tall order. First, however, the kids needed one last gelato...don't forget we are on vacation...DS2 got his usual ciocolate (He tried a few others but ciocolate was his favorite), DS1 had Tiramasu (his favorite) and DD had Stracitella (her favorite, Snickers, not always easy to find...) After wandering for quite some time we realized we were not going to find any take away sandwiches so we settled for a trattoria with outdoor covered seating (with heaters).

    We ate our sandwiches, skipping the wine for the first time since we arrived in Italy (wanted to be sharp for our adventure to San hindsight, this was a very good choice), and decided we would use the remainder of our spare time to check out the Malpensa Express train at the metro stop of the way out to San Siro. We planned to use the express train for our journey to the airport (which is a good 45 minute regular train or bus is 30 minutes with the Express and terminates directly in Terminal 1). The closest metro stop to the restaurant was the one after Duomo, therefore one stop closer to Lotto, our San Siro stop. When we got downstairs for the subway we saw HORDES of people waiting. Then, the first train arrived...already PACKED liked sardines...and yet a few more people managed to push and wedge themselves inside, the doors skimming their behinds as it closed. We waited for two trains with the exact same was impossible to squeeze a family of five into any one door and there was no way we were going to get separated. You see, the metro stop was the only piece of info we knew of how to get to the stadium. We had read and been told simply to "follow the crowds" and you will get there.

    We decided the crowds might be entering the trains at The Duomo stop so we backtracked a stop so we could try again there. Much easier to push a family of five into an empty train (even if there are hundreds also waiting on the platform) than to find room together in an already packed one. Our instinct paid off and we wormed our way on to the first train that came...however, behind us were those hundreds of others and now we were all on the inside of the can of sardines looking out. It was an absolute CRUSH of people...this typically would be where I have a claustrophobic panic attack but the situation was so extreme I think I bypassed panic and went straight into survival mode. Our kids were sandwiched between us in a contracting vortex of humanity. They could see only chests and bellies and the stale smell was overwhelming (have Italian's not heard that smoking causes cancer???) Eight stops like this...every stop we picked up one or two...NO ONE got off.

    Finally, about 20 minutes later we arrived at Lotto. When the doors opened, people poured out like water from a floodgate. DH and I looked at each other with a look that said..well, here we go, let's follow the crowds. MOOOOO! A few hundred steps and we arrived at a bus stop where free shuttle buses stopped to pick up the futbol fans and drive them 1.5 km to drop them closer to the stadium. Leaving the bus, we continued with our high tech plan of "follow the leader." As we walked, we passed tens of fan wear vendors (with better selections and prices than near the Duomo) and plenty of catering trucks selling...of course...take away panini and drinks of every sort.

    Ahhh, and then we reached the Mecca, I mean the stadium. Mamma Mia! It was HUGE. Very tall, modern and imposing...not just a little intimidating either. It is the largest stadium in Italy, one of the largest in Europe, and holds more than 80,000 spectators. We passed through security and, with a bit of trouble, found our section. We climbed about 30 short flights of stairs (reminding us of the Ancient Romans at the Colosseum) and Pronto! We had arrived at our seats. We were sitting about 1/2 way up and at the half line. The seats provided a great view but the seats themselves reminded me of the Rose Bowl...very tiny and uncomfortable (chilly too!!!). They also pitch you a bit forward. The stadium is so steep you actually feel as though you might fall when you are standing.

    All around us was a sea of Inter colors, blue, black and gold. Nearly everyone was wearing something that identified them as an Inter fan...I did not see any obvious indicators of Udine fans at all. After a short while, the players came out to warm up, then the national anthem and, finally, my favorite, the team's offical club anthem, "Piazza Inter Amala". What fun! Similar to Take Me Out to the Ball Game...all the fans knew it by heart and sang it at the top of their lungs. The fans, 99% Italian and 70% male were loud and animated. Lots of yelling at missed opportunities or mistakes. Fist shaking, whistling and thumbs down replaced American style "booing." Many "Mamma Mia's" accompanied by slaps to the forehead to indicate their one point, one fan threw out a very nasty insult...he accused Inter of playing like the Americanos!

    The coolest part was seeing the fans located on one of the end lines. It appeared to be made up of youth and adult soccer clubs. The fans there were die hards. They had dozens of flags that they waved throughout and they had organized chants they sang loudly during the match. They were so unified in their cheering, at one point DD asked DH if that was the stadium's "choir" ;-). However, it didn't sound a bit like yesterday morning service at the Duomo, rather it sounded more like the Marine Corp doing drills in Italian!

    We had thought the kids would probably tire of the game and we were prepared to leave half way through but they were engaged the whole time. They wanted to see the game to the finish. It was pretty exciting too...although it wasn't until the 71' that the first goal was scored (by Udine, unfortunately). Lots of controversial calls, PK's, a Red Card (!!) and the fan watching made the whole crazy adventure worthwhile and memorable. I was so glad we had capped off a fantastic trip with this unique experience.

    One last pit stop to the bathrooms (Yippee! Holes in the ground with no toilet paper!!!...that's one thing I won't miss!!), and we once again set out for home with our plan..."follow the crowd". This time wasn't quite as intuitive as the crowd was spilling out in every direction. Also, just in case you wondered why we didn't just cry "Uncle" and grab a taxi...there wasn't a single one in sight. Thousands hopped upon the Vespas that were parked all along the sidewalks and the rest walked...and walked...and WALKED. Apparently those handy free buses don't take you back to the Metro so we walked the distance, a bit by using landmarks and the rest by using the herd method. It was 11:00 p.m. before we got to the Lotto metro stop. I was not looking forward to another human mosh pit and was incredibly relieved when the subway pulled up empty...we were among the first to step on and we got seats. The ride back to the hotel was spacious (relative to the way out)...and we got the kids in bed, checked the internet for the cost and departure times for the airport express train, printed boarding passes and finalized our packing in time to get in bed ourselves by 12:45 p.m.

    The 5:50 a.m. alarm seemed awfully early this morning but we made it to the Malpensa Express without a hitch. We arrived at the airport in plenty of time to check our bags and grab breakfast. Our Italian vacation is over...Mamma Mia! I will miss all the fun we had but look forward to a soft bed and great shower!! Besides, I threw a coin in the Trevi I have to come back!

  • Report Abuse

    great report - i bet your kids never forget that football match! we took our DS to an England v Italy rugby match in Rome 2 years ago and he is still talking about the atmosphere, the crowds, the shouting and whistling...DD is soooo jealous.

    what a terrific way to end a great trip.

  • Report Abuse

    Thanks so much for posting your pictures, they are fabulous. Our family of four is going in June so I'm getting more excited after reading your report.

    We have a Canon EOS camera with a couple of different lens. My husband has a "sling" carry case(fits around one shoulder and can either be carried more on the front of your body or back).

    My question; did you feel safe carrying your camera through the large cities? Of course reading reports about the cleverness and quickness of thieves and pickpockets, we're a little nervous about carrying the camera around Rome especially. But we would hate to miss out on all the fabulous photo ops as well.

    Thanks again for sharing your report. Traveling as a family is such a fabulous experience!

  • Report Abuse

    I noticed you asked the Fodorites for suggestions on APPs for Italy...did you use or more than others? Did you find them helpful? Please share them. We have a 3G iPad, was yours 3G? I read your report where you said you had problems connecting the internet at the apartment, I was wondering if it was the wi-fi you were talking about?
    thank you!

  • Report Abuse

    I have enjoyed your trip report, especially since our family of four plans to be in Italy at the end of May. I hope we have as good a trip! I think the pasta making would be great fun for our children. Could you tell me the contact information for the place that you visited on your tour? Thank you!

  • Report Abuse

    Finally had a chance to get back to this lovely trip report! Really enjoyed reading about your family's experiences. I teared up at the pigeon "heart" in the sky.... In addition to hearing about the super time that you all had, it is instructive to hear about a successful "whirlwind" trip -- it shows that you can cover a lot of ground -- even with kids -- with proper planning and preparation. It sounds like you had a nice balance of structure and flexibility. And you wrote a really enjoyable trip report to boot!

  • Report Abuse

    Hi Lisa
    Im in the process of planning my trip for next month and would love the information on the name of name of the mask making and also the cooking and wine tasting. Thank you for sharing your experience.

  • Report Abuse

    Sorry for the delay in getting back to everyone...The thread was inactive for a while and I stopped checking...

    LauraLF...I did feel safe with my camera. I had it on a glide strap which fit over my body cross wise. I felt that it would have been very difficult to grab the camera without yanking my whole body along with the thief. That said, I did also always keep it close to my body and, more often than not, I had my hands on it as I was nearly always ready to snap a shot. I took over 2400 pictures in our 11 days! Also, I decided to forgo the camera bag by buying an 18-250mm had nearly the zoom and wide angle power of my two separate lens, combined into one! This was one of the best decisions I made for our trip as I was never caught fumbling around trying to change lens. I also did not have to worry about someone unzipping my bag from the back as the camera was always laying against the front of my body.

    Johnnlilian...I did a lot of research and purchased, downloaded many more but the apps I actually used were Tripit, xe currency, google translate and google maps the most. I loved tripit because it can be used off line and you can include maps and notes along with your itinerary. I also bought OG Venice guide which had some decent tips. I purchased soft back travel books, Fodors, Rick Steeves etc but I did not bring them nor download their content. I had already done my research prior to our departure, including taking restaurant suggestions etc from each book that appealed to me and pinpointing them on my google maps. My husband brought along a 3G iPad. We did purchase the vodaphone chip so that we could use it whilst traveling and it did work once we got the activation properly set up. You can find vodaphone shops/kiosks near most train stations etc. The one that helped us get our situation straight was located steps from the Rialto Bridge. The wi-fi at our apartment in Venice never did work and unforuntately, as that was the first leg of our trip, we had not yet figured out the issues with the 3G connection. We finally got it fixed by the kind man at the Rialto Bridge vodaphone shop on the day before we were to depart Venice.

    CLRtravel and Mirta_Machuca...we used the Accidental Tourist ( for our Chianti wine tour and pasta making. We all absolutely LOVED the experience. It was definitely a highlight of our trip and one I would highly recommend. Our tour guide's name was Steve...he was fantastic!

    wayfinder45....thanks so much for your kind words and feedback. A lot of people gave me grief for spending so much time "planning" our trip. For me, however, it was entirely worth every second (and penny) I spent. I enjoyed the planning almost as much as the traveling and I believe (and my family agrees) the planning paid off in dividends by allowing us to cover a lot of ground, avoid a lot of rookie mistakes and enjoy some of the best Italy has to offer. For us there was the perfect balance of structure and flexibility...That said, if I were to return with just my DH, I probably would go with a more spontaneous unstructured approach...more romantic! With the kids it was nice to have specific plans I could "prepare" them for and to look forward to...

  • Report Abuse

    Hi Lisa,

    I'll be in the same 3 cities with my 2 kids this summer so I've really enjoyed your trip report.

    Is this the Alessandra you used as a tour guide in Rome? (I found this on another thread.)

    "Rome: Alessandra Recalchi at email: [email protected]
    Also, Alessandra's husband, Mirko has a car service and can pick you up at the airport and take you to your hotel as well as pick you up at your hotel and take you to the train station. Whatever you need. He is cheaper than a taxi and very very reliable and a good driver.

    Here are some ideas of what they can do:
    Rome: Alessandra will meet you in front of your hotel and take you on a 3-hour private walking tour of Rome. Visit the Coliseum, Forum and Pantheon. 135 Euros total

    Alessandra will meet you in the lobby of your hotel and take you on the city bus to the Vatican. She will give you a private 3-hour tour of the Vatican museums, St. Peters and the Sistine Chapel. She will leave you at a great spot to have lunch. 135 Euros Total


76 Replies |Back to top

Sign in to comment.