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Abruzzo, Amalfi, Puglia and Rome October/November 2011

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Here starts my trip report for our fabulous Italy trip October 12-November 13. We had 4 one week legs: Abruzzo, Amalfi, Puglia, and Rome with day trips interspersed. We rented apartments or homes on each leg with two one night stays elsewhere. I spent a year planning this trip and want to thank the invaluable help I received on this forum from Eskrunchy, Flame123, Tedgale, a-brit-in-ischia, 4abrams and Franco among others.

The weather was perfect with 2 days of rain that allowed us to read, rest and catch up with laundry, email, etc. but mostly it was sunny or partly cloudy with temperatures in the low 70s. Perfect for a Pacific Northwest couple.

We flew Air France direct to Paris with a transfer to Alitalia from Paris to Rome. We prefer the Air France route direct to Paris from Seattle with less time in the air. I am very disappointed to find out they will no longer be flying direct from Seattle after March. After agonizing over when to buy tickets, I purchased in early June, $1200 per ticket in Coach, window and aisle. I don’t think prices started to drop until well into our trip so I don’t feel I got a bad deal. The flight was uneventful except for missing our connecting flight to Rome as the AF flight was late arriving in Paris and we had only one hour to connect. We knew we were taking a chance with such a short connection and had been warned by those in the know but took the chance. Could not really get too upset and besides we were on vacation! We were a little worried about arriving in Rome in time to pick up our rental car and make the drive to Abruzzo before nightfall. As it turned out, we did have an adventure driving around and around the dark roads of Abruzzo looking for our small town of Bugnara. It gave us the opportunity to interact with the locals who were all very gracious to the lost Americans.

I must say Air France was courteous and kind. They gave us vouchers for a meal and a phone card to call Hertz, etc. We ended up on the next flight 2 hours later.

Our return flight Rome, Paris and Seattle was uneventful except for delayed luggage x 2 days but arrived no worse for the wear and nothing missing. They delivered it to the door and for us that meant they had to take a ferry ride from Seattle.

We did not check bags to Europe. I carried on an Eagle Creek convertible wheeled backpack 22 inch with a large messenger bag type personal item and wore my bulkiest clothes and hiking boots with cozy clothes underneath. My husband took a Rick Steves 22 inch backpack and a large messenger bag as personal item. We packed a 22 inch duffel to bring back any purchased items. I stuffed a PacSafe into my messenger bag and used it throughout the trip. Each trip we take we cut our belongings in half and still overpack. We thought we might be spanning two seasons with some cooler weather toward the end of the trip but as previously said weather was consistently warm. On our last leg in Rome, residents were marveling at the continued beautiful weather.

Our priority is comfortable clothes, preferably black. The dressiest I get is long sleeved t shirt, scarf, and black jeans. I wore my Merrell boots almost daily with a pair of Merrell clogs as a backup. I was again enthralled with the ability of Rome’s fashionable to walk in stilletto heels on the cobblestoned streets. I read when I got home that the powers that be are considering filling in the spaces between cobblestones to cut down on ankle sprains etc. Most likely for tourists, not locals!

We took a pocket sized Nikon camera which took good pictures in daylight but terrible in low light or evening. We took our IPods and loaded them with several of Rick Steve’s podcasts for Rome and Paestum, as well as music for the car trips. I took a Kindle loaded with books for pleasure and Lonely Planet Italy, Rick Steves Rome, Amalfi Coast Walks. This was great as half the weight in our baggage is usually due to books! If you use an ereader, bring a light for it as the bedside lighting in most of our rentals was too dim for easy reading. We also took an IPad with Wifi and 3G and although we are usually not reliant on electronics, I have to say the IPad was great and probably wouldn’t travel without one again. Wifi was available in all the places we stayed and 3G throughout most of Italy. I had an unlocked phone I had purchased for our last trip to France, nothing fancy but did the job. I bought a SIM card for the phone and IPad at FCO when we disembarked. The Sim for the IPad was about 13 euros for 3GB and bought both cards from TIM. The young guy at TIM inserted the new SIM in the IPad and phone. Be sure to put your IPad sim in a safe place you won’t overlook, they are SMALL. I also bought a pair of Sony noise cancelling earphones for the trip and they will be travelling with me from now on.

We rented our vehicle, a Fiat Panda, from Hertz at FCO. I booked the rental from AutoEurope after shopping around. 3 weeks for $811 which included insurance. We ended up accepting their insurance and did not purchase additional. This whole car insurance is hard to sort out. Luckily we had no problems. The process at FCO was pretty easy. We did end up paying an additional fee of 126 euros for additional driver. The car was great. Not much pep but plenty enough for us. We wouldn’t dream of keeping up with Italian drivers! Plenty big enough for two and the boot held all our luggage. As an aside, we returned it at the Brindisi Airport in Puglia which was super easy, took 5 minutes and everything is easily marked. The car return is right before you approach the main terminal and the bus to the train station in Brindisi leaves every 15 minutes and takes about 10 minutes or so. Can’t remember how much the bus was but not much. We also took a GPS and used it about 25% of time. I had purchased Michelin maps for Abruzzo, Puglia, Campagnia and we used these extensively. The GPS was totally useless in the mountains of Abruzzo and Amalfi. Each curve was a “Turn Right in 200 meters” down 400 feet to the sea below!

Lest you think we are electronic geeks, we are both in our 60s and not on the cutting edge of the newest and best but all these gadgets made our trip more organized and enjoyable. Plus it was great to send updates every night with photos to family as the experiences were fresh.

Well, that concludes the logistical part of our trip and the good stuff will follow. I know that when I was planning our trip I had loads questions about the above nuts and bolts and hope that at least one reader will glean an answer to a question.

Although Puglia was our 3rd leg, I will start tomorrow with that part of the trip as I still lurk on the Italy Forum and see that a few are planning trips there.

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