A whole bunch of general questions

May 19th, 2004, 05:13 PM
  #1  
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A whole bunch of general questions

Hi All
Going to Italy in Mid July (Rome, Florence, Venice. We haven't been before and I am getting conflicting reports on several general questions I have asked of others. Please advise on any or all of the following:
1. Credit Cards vs Travelers Cks. Had a bad experience once (Puerto Rico) where they held my payment of a rental car for several months to get a better exchange rate, and the Amex bill for the car cost about 3 times what I originally agreed to pay. Is that possible with the Euro? In other words can we use CC safely or better use T-Cks?
2. Is there air conditioning in first-class on "regular trains" (Not ES).
3. Italy temperature in mid July. Somewhere saw a website that stated that the temp "might get as high as 90 degrees". I hope that's true. It Texas (home) if its under 105, we consider it sweater weather.
4. Is there some sort of shuttle from FCO to the hotel in Rome? Do large hotels run their own or is it an independent company -- and how much does it cost?
5. Rumors have it that Venice smells bad. Does it?
6. Does Florence (like say Paris) have a museum/gallery pass that one can get to avoid lines at galleries and how does one go about getting one?
7. How bad is the problem of pickpockets in Florence - or Italy for that matter?
8. Are shorts, shirts OK for gallery hopping and impromptu lunches during the day - if I promise to dress a little nicer at nite?

There are probably other questions that will occur to me, but for now I really would appreciate your ideas on any or all of the above. Thank you in advance!!
Shrink is offline  
May 19th, 2004, 05:30 PM
  #2  
 
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Hi Shrink,

I have yet to go to Rome, but can possibly help on your questions about Florence and Venice since we were there last July.

We used our Visa debit card/ATM card, as well as credit cards, and had no problems. I would not advise you to take traveler's checks. Stick with the debit and/or credit cards. Traveler's checks are more or less obsolete these days.

Can't comment on regular trains, as we only took Eurostar.

We are also orginally from Texas (although we live in the tropics now) and we did not find the heat oppresive in Italy in July. If you are used to Texas you will have no problem there.

Can't help you on the shuttle from FCO into Rome...sorry.

We honestly never noticed any bad smell in Venice in the middle of summer. We were concerened of this, as well, since we were renewing our wedding vows on a gondola while there. So, don't worry.

I don't know about a museum pass in Florence, but we DID make advanced reservations by phone for the Accademia and Uffizi before we went, and found them helpful. See the "Helpful Information Italy" thread for more details. You can do a text search for it.

We had no problems with pick-pockets in Florence or Venice, but we were cautious and kept our valuables safe. We never felt threatened in either city, either.

I saw many, many people in shorts during the day in both cities.

I have a detailed trip report, including many of your concerns, which were mine as well. If you care to read it, do a text search for "Statia's Florence and Venice Trip Report."

Good luck on a wonderful trip! You will fall in love with Italia!
Statia is offline  
May 19th, 2004, 05:34 PM
  #3  
 
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I found the link to the trip report, in case that's easier for you. You can just skim the report for the specific concerns you have. I tried to highlight items so they are easier to locate and refer to.

http://fodors.com/forums/threadselec...t=0&dirtyBit=1

I hope the link works.
Statia is offline  
May 19th, 2004, 05:41 PM
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I goofed. I sure wish there were an edit function on this site. Maybe this one will work better.

http://fodors.com/forums/threadselec...t=0&dirtyBit=1
Statia is offline  
May 19th, 2004, 05:45 PM
  #5  
 
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1. Credit Cards vs Travelers Cks. Had a bad experience once (Puerto Rico) where they held my payment of a rental car for several months to get a better exchange rate, and the Amex bill for the car cost about 3 times what I originally agreed to pay. Is that possible with the Euro? In other words can we use CC safely or better use T-Cks?

Credit cards all the way. I used them all over Italy, France and London...never had a problem.

2. Is there air conditioning in first-class on "regular trains" (Not ES).

Depends on the train but any of the rail europe train will have A/C. I don't know about the regular public transportation because I did not take any.

3. Italy temperature in mid July. Somewhere saw a website that stated that the temp "might get as high as 90 degrees". I hope that's true. It Texas (home) if its under 105, we consider it sweater weather.

I was there in August 2003 and it was around 115 in Florence. That is unusually hot for Florence. I heard it is usually in the 90s.

4. Is there some sort of shuttle from FCO to the hotel in Rome? Do large hotels run their own or is it an independent company -- and how much does it cost?

I hear there are a ton of them. I copied some text from a previous post that someone else wrote...hope this helps.

The train stops running to Stazione Termini (center of Rome) at 10:00. Taxis are 45 euros or so. My suggestion is to book a shuttle or car from www.airportconnection.it - they have cheaper rates than taxis. I have a Mercedes E-class picking me up for 39 euros for two of us and luggage

5. Rumors have it that Venice smells bad. Does it?

I heard this too...but never been there.

6. Does Florence (like say Paris) have a museum/gallery pass that one can get to avoid lines at galleries and how does one go about getting one?

Sorry...don't know.

7. How bad is the problem of pickpockets in Florence - or Italy for that matter?

We did not have any problems but like any other big city it is there..so be aware.

8. Are shorts, shirts OK for gallery hopping and impromptu lunches during the day - if I promise to dress a little nicer at nite?

Shorts and Sandals are fine. It will be hot so you will want to be in comfortable clothes.
passantd is offline  
May 19th, 2004, 06:19 PM
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I lived in Texas for many years (El Paso and Austin). Nobody in his right mind in those cities was going around sightseeing in the heat of the day--except idiot tourists from other states who babbled "but it's a dry heat" until they passed out.

Check out native El Pasoans in the heat of summer--they aren't out there in it unless their job requires it. Then once the sun goes down, everyone comes out and the party begins.

90 is hot if you are out galavanting around--so do indoor things (museums, etc.) or take a nap in your air conditioned hotel room or sit in a shady spot and sip cool drinks during the hottest part of the day. And it is not unusual for Florence to hit 100 in July.

Anyway, using common sense you can plan your day around the heat.
RufusTFirefly is offline  
May 19th, 2004, 06:32 PM
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Shrink,

Agree with others on using credit cards. We had a bad experience with Hertz in France and American Express reimbursed us (Hertz wouldn't!)

I've been to Venice in August and didn't think it smelled. Or if it did, I was too overtaken by the viusal beauty so it didn't bother me.

I highly recommend using money belts and for women not to carry purses. We always use money belts and have never had a problem.

My husband and I usually don't wear shorts in cities in Europe, but we don't go in the summer anymore because we like to avoid crowds, so it might be different when it gets that hot.

Have a great trip.

artlover is offline  
May 19th, 2004, 07:36 PM
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Shrink, if you have not seen the FAQ that Ira started for Italy, you should also check it out. It is chocked-full of plenty of helpful bits. http://www.fodors.com/forums/pgMessa...340&dirtyBit=1

Have a great trip!
- Sharon
SharonNRayMc is offline  
May 19th, 2004, 07:40 PM
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1. Credit Cards vs Travelers Cks.
=Credit and ATM cards all the way

2. Is there air conditioning in first-class on "regular trains" (Not ES).
=Yes, in theory. IC first class has it, but if it is an older train, well... Recently new IC trains have been added, so perhaps this problem has been solved.

3. Italy temperature in mid July...might get as high as 90 degrees". I hope that's true.
=It is.
4. Is there some sort of shuttle from FCO to the hotel in Rome?
=Train from FCO, then taxi to hotel OR licensed taxi on the spot OR private shuttle service arranged ahead

5. Rumors have it that Venice smells bad. Does it?
=Not really, aside from the usual seaside scents

6. Does Florence have a museum/gallery pass?
=No

7. How bad is the problem of pickpockets?
=No worse than other major cities worldwide

8. Are shorts, shirts OK for gallery hopping and impromptu lunches?
=I wouldn't wear them, but I wouldn't wear them at home to do such things either. Wear what you want.
ellenem is offline  
May 19th, 2004, 08:39 PM
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1) I take US cash to exchange, and an ATM card, backed up for large expenses or emergency by credit card and travelers checks (plan to cash TC at a bank).

2) Depends where you are & weather patterns. It has been unseasonably hot the last couple summers throughout Europe.

5) I've been to Venice twice in August. The only time I "smelled" anything bad was when I came across a repair job being done and one canal was drained. It does smell like the sea sometimes, but that's not bad.

8) If it really is a heatwave I wear a good shorts outfit by day. OK unless you plan to visit cathedrals, where you'll need to be more covered up (insisted upon at some major 'sites'). Lightweight, loose fitting clothing is still cool & a bit more versatile and respectful.
suze is offline  
May 20th, 2004, 11:00 AM
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1. Credit cards v traveler checks: We had no problems using our CC. We called before we left to let them know where we would be. We took along $500 in TC just in case but never used them.
4. We used Roma Shuttle www.romashuttle.com to get from FCO to our hotel. They took us in a Mercedes E-class for E37 total for 2 people with 2 bags. We didn't want to try to find our hotel lugging our bags around the town getting lost.
5. Didn't notice any stinky smells in Venice. One little side canal we came across smelt a little red-tide like but not unbearable. No stink otherwise.
6. We made reservations ahead of time for Uffizi and Accademia in Florence and I would recommend that to avoid lines.
7. Didn't see any pick pocketers but I guess that would defeat their purpose. I kept CC and cash in a wallet around my neck, bought in the travel section at Wal-Mart and my husband carried a bag across his body. Never had any problems.
adogaer is offline  
May 20th, 2004, 05:32 PM
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At many churches in italy - specifically including the Vatican - you will be turned away if you are wearing shorts - or for women uncovered arms or too-bare bosom. At some other churches you may not be turned away but will be subject to stares and unpleasant comments from local churchgoers .

It is after all a church - not a tennis game - why not simply dress appropriately?
nytraveler is offline  
May 20th, 2004, 05:37 PM
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Sorry - one more thing to mention. Texas may be hotter than Italy on average - but everything is air conditioned. In europe many things are not air conditioned routinely - including hotels, stores, restaurants, taxis, buses etc. - so there is no relief from the heat unless you are sure to reserve an air conditioned hotel.
nytraveler is offline  
May 20th, 2004, 05:38 PM
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I think Statia covered most everything. It is true travel checks will soon be no more. I have heard the smell in Venice is greatly exaggerated unless my aunt has a big nose.
cigalechanta is online now  
May 20th, 2004, 05:53 PM
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For an upcoming trip to Paris we got American Express Travel Fund cards in Euros. Looks like a credit card, but not the awkward nature of travelers checks. We even got them for our teenage daughters, just in case they (or we) lose them. They will be replaced w/i 24 hours. Also good for withdrawal at ATMs. Go to AmericanExpress.com for details. They can be cashed out when you get home if there is money left on them (wouldn't that be a surprise!)
smiroglotta is offline  
May 21st, 2004, 08:37 AM
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1. Credit Cards vs Travelers Cks. Use your ATM/debit/credit card- use it at the ATM machines over there for the best exchange rate. Also, some cards have no additional exchange rate fees like the "exchange offices" do. Credit cards are accepted almost everywhere. Just carry about $100 Euros with you in the event you need cash.
2. Is there air conditioning in first-class on "regular trains" We always had A/C, this was not a problem.
3. Italy temperature in mid July. I have not been there is July but I would assume 90's depending if you are inland or not.
4. Is there some sort of shuttle from FCO to the hotel in Rome? Do not know.
5. Rumors have it that Venice smells bad. Does it? I have been to Venice several times- no smells and it is a magical city.
6. Does Florence (like say Paris) have a museum/gallery pass that one can get to avoid lines at galleries and how does one go about getting one? Do not know.
7. How bad is the problem of pickpockets in Florence - or Italy for that matter? I have not had a problem- suggest carrying a purse that fits close toyour body, preferably in fornt of you. Had problems in Spain, never in Florence, Venice, or small Italian towns.
8. Are shorts, shirts OK for gallery hopping and impromptu lunches during the day - if I promise to dress a little nicer at nite? Yes, except for some churches.

LikeToTravel is offline  
May 21st, 2004, 06:56 PM
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Just returned from Italy. As others posted, ATM and CC's are the way to go. We did exchange $100 for Euro in LAX but should have waited until we got to London as the exchange rate was better and we had plenty of time to connect.

We only encountered one problem on the Metro in Rome with pick pockets. Just remember to keep your $$ and CC's in a safe place such as a money belt. Remember that when you are traveling with all of your luggage, you are a potential target. Lock your luggage as soon as possible, also.

Also, you may want to consider a different car service. We used Airport Connection and were not happy at all. We had to wait about 30 minutes to leave, with the driver just saying that we had to wait for his other driver to take us. Eventually, we followed this guy out to an old, stinky car and left for the hotel (myself, my husband, the other driver and the guy that met us at the airport). It appeared that we were waiting for the car to return to the airport, not for another car/driver. Both of the men talked so loudly that we felt we were caught in the middle of a shouting match. I think a Taxi would have been a better experience. Use a different service. It's worth a few extra Euros.

susant100 is offline  
May 22nd, 2004, 03:36 AM
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NYtraveler makes a good point about the heat. While it may get very hot/humid in the US, you have many opportunities to really cool down (sometimes to the point where it's too cold. One of our trips to Italy coincided with a heat wave which pushed temps well into the 90s with lots of humidity. We rarely found restaurants and stores that were really cool even if they had air conditioning. They seemed to run the air just enough to "take the edge off" When you're out all day in that kind of heat without respite, it does wear you out.

One question about your experience in PR - why was there an exchange rate issue since dollars are used on the island? Did you try to dispute the amount of the charge with Amex? Amex is usually credited with being one of the better credit card companies in terms of getting its cardholders a fair resolution in legitimate disputes and that certainly sounds like one they could have done something about.
Maddy is offline  
May 22nd, 2004, 04:02 AM
  #19  
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Statia -- I think the link to your report is

http://www.fodors.com/forums/threads...2&tid=34437042
 
May 22nd, 2004, 04:40 AM
  #20  
 
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1. Credit Cards vs Travelers Cks. Had a bad experience once (Puerto Rico) where they held my payment of a rental car for several months to get a better exchange rate

Exchange rate? Puerto Rico has been part of the USA since 1898. The legal tender is the US dollar. Puerto Ricans are US citizens by birth. Are sure this happened in Puerto Rico?
Amapola_ is offline  

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