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All alone in Florence and Rome Trip Report

All alone in Florence and Rome Trip Report

Apr 6th, 2007, 01:41 PM
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Join Date: Dec 2006
Posts: 45
All alone in Florence and Rome Trip Report

Trip Report

Thanks to all the Fodorites that provided me with wonderful information as I was planning my trip and furthermore those who encouraged me to go ahead and go alone. It was a wonderful adventure.

I proofed and spell checked but forgive me if I overlooked something.

Day one

I arrived in Florence about 9am and went to my hotel, Relais Cavalcanti. This place was recommended by several people on this site and let me just say what a wonderful recommendation it was.

I couldnít ask for a better location, it was close enough to everything where I could walk anywhere, yet secluded enough so that I could avoid the crazy crowds that started to filter into Florence toward the end of the week.

I spent my first day walking around in circles trying to get my bearings. It was raining and quite cold for me (Iím a Southern Californian) but it was still a fun adventure. After walking for what seemed like and eternity, I found a bite to eat and called it an early night. The long flight and all of the walking wore me out.

Day Two

For my second day I signed up for a walking tour of Florence through a place called The Original and Best Walking Tours of Florence. My tour guide was this lady named Freya originally from Australia. We walked to different areas in Florence starting with Oranmichele and ending with the inside The Cattedrale di Santa Maria del Fiore.

After the walking tour Freya recommended a restaurant dear the Duomo named Zio Gi Gi. (location Via F. Portinari 7 r) right off of Via DellíOriuolo. At this restaurant you can get 3 courses for only 7 euro. What a great deal. The food was good as well. At the restaurant I ran into 4 retirees from Florida that happened to be on the walking tour with me. They asked me to join them for lunch and treated me. Which was lovely. John, who seemed to be the leader of the crew said it was his pleasure to buy a school teacher lunch. If only I could have found more people like John, I would have had a more economical trip 

After lunch I did my usual walk around Florence. I think I spent a good 30 mins to an hour each day walking up and the down the Ponte Vecchio admiring all of the jewelry in the windows.

I walked over to San Lorenzoís market and got suckered into a leather shop. The sales guy was working really hard to get my business, but I didnít love anything I saw. I love how they have the price tag at over 500 euro but tell you they can make you a deal at more than half off.

Once leaving the market I visited Basilica di San Lorenzo. Then I went back to the hotel, took a nap and went to dinner at Ristorante Casa Del Vinsanto located on Via Porta Rossa, 15r -17 r. My vision of Italian food was limited to pizza and pastas. At this restaurant I think I discovered my favorite Italian meal. Roasted chicken and potatoes. The potatoes were simply divine. I also enjoy ordering wine and not getting a glass but a bottle.

Day Three

By day three I was officially beat. Never have I walked so much. My legs, my back, my shoulder blades all sore a cramp. Still I woke up in the morning ready to do a day of museums. My first stop, the Uffizi. I had a reservation for 10:15am but got in at 9:30. For the life in me I donít understand why people donít just pay the extra 3 euro and make a reservation. The line to this place is just unbelievable.

Let me preface this by first saying, I am not a museum and painting person. So the Uffizi, as impressive as many of the popular works of art were, became a bit of bore for me. Frankly I was a bit tired of seeing various versions of Madonna and Child. Enough already. But I prevailed, and made it to all of the rooms.

Now here is where my big mistake was. I decided to do the Uffizi and the Accademia on the same day. Complete sensory overload. Not to mention, Madonna and Child overload.

Again I made a reservation as I walked pasted the long line, wondered what prevented others from making a reservation.

The highlight of the Accademia is of course David. David is simply beautiful but the lighting and the positioning of the statue definitely contribute to the awe affect it has on you as you enter the room. I swear I heard angels and trumpets when I laid eyes on him. What I found most amusing about David is how he succinctly destroys the myth of the size of a manís hands and feet being directly related to the size of other body parts.

Day Four

On day four I had a craving for American breakfast. Good ole bacon and eggs and I found a restaurant in the Savoy Hotel that served this meal for a pretty hefty price. But I enjoyed nonetheless. After filling up on bacon and eggs I thought this was as good a time as any to climb the Duomo. The climb wasnít as bad as I had anticipated. It seemed to go by rather quickly. However if you are claustrophobic or afraid of heights, this is not the place for you. The view at the top is amazing not to mention the pride you feel having made the climb.

After climbing the Duomo I figured I deserved a gelato reward.

Later that afternoon, I took a Chianti wine tour with CAF Tour and Travel. We basically went to a castle in Chianti (Castello di Trebbio), toured the castle and cellar, tasted a few wines and some olive oil and then were escorted to the store to make any purchases. I wasnít crazy about their wine but did like the olive oil and purchased 3 bottles.

On the tour I met 4 ladies traveling together from New Orleans, Mississippi and Florida. They invited me to dinner along with another lady from Australia traveling alone. We went to dinner at Buco Mario. The best lasagna Iíve ever had. Everyone enjoyed their food but our waiter wasnít the nicest fellow. They also had a 3 euro service charge which is just one of those Italian things that rub me wrong.

The 4 southern ladies were staying at the Grand Hotel Majestic near the Santa Maria Novella station. A word to the wise, avoid this hotel. The rooms were tiny and the lobby smelled of sewage. This place made me completely nauseous.

Day Five

At this point I began to realize that for me, six days was along time to be in Florence alone. I am a get out and see person and by this time, for me, there wasnít much more to get out and see. Had I been with my boyfriend, as was my original plan, it probably wouldnít have been this way. Whatever the case, in the future I think I will limit Florence to 3 or 4 days and spend other days seeing more of Tuscany.

On this day I took the SITA bus to The Mall to check out some of the designer outlets. I was completely disappointed. There were about 20 stores in this little strip, all completely overpriced, (but what was I to expect). I was trapped at The Mall for about 2 Ĺ hours. It took me under an hour to see all of the stores and so I was forced to sit in the cold waiting for the SITA bus to return.

On the bus ride back I met another girl traveling alone who was from Brooklyn. We decided to have dinner that evening. We went to Trattoria Za-Za in the Piazza Mercato Centrale area. This was my best meal of the trip. I ordered the meat sampler plate w/ lamb, chicken, steak and a rib. Simply scrumptious. I recommended this restaurant to everyone I met.

Day Six

This was my last day in Florence and I spent the morning walking the Ponte Vecchio. I decided that I was going to buy a piece of jewelry so that I could say, ďthis is my ______ from Italy.Ē I originally set my budget to 500 euro but went well over that. I bought this gorgeous ring, two bands, white and rose gold with diamonds. I love it and itís a great memento of my trip. I also tried Vivoli Gelato because itís called the best in Florence. Let me say, I wasnít that impressed. It wasnít any better than anything else I had in Florence.

Day Seven

I woke up and caught the train to Rome. I will do the Rome portion of my trip at later time.

verbaslt is offline  
Apr 6th, 2007, 01:56 PM
Join Date: Nov 2005
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Thank you for writing your trip report. How funny that Trattoria Za-Za was one of our best meals of our trip last year as well! My husband still talks about the pasta with truffle sauce. And Freya was our guide too! I'd love to hear about Rome next. Congratulations on making the best out of your situation, you certainly deserve the ring as a momento.
kraav is offline  
Apr 6th, 2007, 01:57 PM
Join Date: Jul 2004
Posts: 305
"They also had a 3 euro service charge which is just one of those Italian things that rub me wrong."

Why? And tipping 15-20% in the States doesn't rub you wrong? (Sorry, I am assuming you are American. If I am wrong, sorry.)
amy_zena is offline  
Apr 6th, 2007, 02:05 PM
Join Date: Jan 2003
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Enjoyed your report verbaslt. Thanks for being so honest about things you did and did not like. Many people would be tempted to whitewash everything because they wouldn't want to admit that they did something 'touristy' and it wasn't worth it. I applaud you.

My husband and I stayed at the Relais Cavalcanti in October of 2006 and absolutely adored it. You're right, it is so close to everything, why stay anywhere else? We also enjoyed eating the roasted chicken and potatoes - we discovered it in, of all places, the IperCoop in Montevarchi in Chianti. It's so delicate, but so tasty. Did you find that the Italian lasagne is so much better than what we get at home? I don't know if it's the kind of cheeses or the bechamel sauce - my mouth is watering just thinking about it!

We spent three days in Florence in total and I think we could have happily spent one more day before we moved on. We broke up our visit, on either side of a two weeks in Chianti and Umbria, which worked well for us.

I think you did an interesting variety of things - walking, taking different kinds of tours, shopping, eating good meals, meeting others, exploring 'must sees'. That shows a curious mind and an openness to adventure.

Looking forward to your Rome report.
rickmav is offline  
Apr 6th, 2007, 02:08 PM
Join Date: Feb 2003
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Hi V,

I'm so glad you had a good time going solo! Yes, I would agree 6 days is kind of long for Florence, even if you are a super shopper. Have to laugh at your Madonna & Child overload. I thought the same thing! But, you do have to understand the history and religious influence of the time....

Just think, on your next trip you will be brave enough to drive in the countryside!

Waiting for Roma!
Dayle is offline  
Apr 6th, 2007, 07:55 PM
Join Date: Dec 2006
Posts: 245
Great trip report thus far, and I really appreciate your honesty. We did the Uffizzi and Gallerie Accademie back to back as well, on a cold and rainy day. I'm as appreciate of art as the next person but after a while it began to be a bit of an obligation to see it all. Glad someone else felt that way.

Your food sounds (on the whole) better than mine..looking forward to Rome!
AntInNewYork is offline  
Apr 6th, 2007, 08:44 PM
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Great report so far. I look forward to the rest.

We have two things in common. I too took the Chianti tour. You can tell that Alberto really likes giving the tours. Is Mario (elderly gentleman that helps pour the wine during the tasting) still there? When I went, the castle and the surrounding hills were shrouded in fog.

Second, I did both the Uffizi and Academia in the same day and can relate. By the end of the day I was "arted out".

TRSW is offline  
Apr 6th, 2007, 09:32 PM
Join Date: Sep 2004
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I am another one that can only take so much art and museums and churches in one day verbaslt and I sure understand your being overloaded regarding paintings of the Madonna and Child.
Thanks for an "honest" trip report regarding Florence..I look forward to read how you felt about Rome.
LoveItaly is offline  
Apr 6th, 2007, 09:36 PM
Join Date: Feb 2003
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Great report so far, looking forward to the Rome portion! I am headed to Florence and Rome alone in May! (Daughter will be meeting me to go to Venice.)
vivi is offline  
Apr 8th, 2007, 10:16 AM
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my bad, it wasnt a service charge it was a cover charge of 3 euro. Tipping and service charges (which is tip included) are fine by me. Cover charge which means, admission to the restuarant is just wrong in my opinion, especially since there was an expected tip at the end of the meal.

verbaslt is offline  
Apr 8th, 2007, 10:18 AM
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TRSW - Tom
yes, Mario is still at the Castle. Its so clear that the family loves and values him so much. One of the ladies took a picture w/ Mario kissing her on the cheek to show her husband the Italian stud she was getting in Italy.
verbaslt is offline  
Apr 8th, 2007, 11:24 AM
Join Date: Sep 2003
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This line made me laugh out loud.

"What I found most amusing about David is how he succinctly destroys the myth of the size of a manís hands and feet being directly related to the size of other body parts. "

I agree with on David. You do think you should hear trumpets blast.
CarolA is offline  
Apr 8th, 2007, 12:54 PM
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6 days is a little long, boyfriend or not

thanks for the trip report!
suze is online now  
Apr 8th, 2007, 01:04 PM
Join Date: Jul 2004
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"especially since there was an expected tip at the end of the meal."

Tip is definitely NOT expected at all in Italy. Except at some very touristy restaurants in the cities of Florence, Rome, and Venice, and then, only the Americans are expected to tip. Next time don't tip. And if the waiter expects a tip, ask him why he expects it of you but not Italians. You should only be paying a cover charge (coperto). In Venice once, my husband and I were a bit peeved when they charged both a cover and a service charge.
amy_zena is offline  
Apr 8th, 2007, 05:41 PM
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Okay Fodorites here is Rome.

Before I go into Rome, there was one thing I forgot to mention about Florence. When I arrived in Florence it was overcast and raining. This made Florence very spooky to me. Like something out of a Jack and Ripper movie. I found myself walking down some of the more narrow and vacant streets and making a U-turn because I was so spooked. It wasnít until after my walking tour that I noticed that the really cool looking restaurants were down some of these spooky streets. Needless to say, by the third day when I was out looking for a restaurant, Iíd b-lined to the spookiest street I could find.

Ok, on to Rome

Day seven

I got off the train and walked to my hotel from Termini. I stayed at Hotel Giuliana. It was about a 5 minute walk from the train station. I checked in to my ever so tiny room, freshened up and started on my way. I understand that the accommodations in Italy are much smaller than what I have come to enjoy in America, but I was completely tickled by how small my bed was. I could straddle the bed it was so narrow. I think I didnít notice the size too much in Florence because it was against the wall. Also, the shower was much smaller in Rome than it was in Florence. The shower was about the size of a phone booth. Taking a shower in this place was truly an experience. I couldnít stop laughing.

Ok so I leave my hotel and just start walking. My first stop the Spanish Steps. Rome was so crowded. I guess because of Holy Week. I saw more people than stairs. I hung out on the steps, took some pictures and continued on my self-guided walking tour.

Without really paying attention to my map I just walked and discovered, the Piazzo Navona, the Pantheon and some church that was behind the Pantheon. Then I began my search for the Trevi Fountain. It was everything I heard it to be. I just wished it had about 1000 less people and solicitors around.

I went back to my hotel room and rested. It was my plan to have dinner somewhere by the Trevi Fountain so I could see it at night. So when it got dark I walked back to the Trevi Fountain area looking for a restaurant.

Walking down the empty spooky street, I see a car pull up and a man and woman get out the car with the driver saying, ďits right down thereĒ The gentleman says, ďok thank youĒ to the driver. His voice sounds a bit familiar. As I get closer to the gentleman I realize who it is. Itís Ron ďOpieĒ Howard. We exchanged pleasant smiles and I kept walking. This was so cool. I live in Los Angeles so you would think I am use to seeing celebrities. I am, but not good ones. Of all places to run into Opie, I do it Rome. I guess he must have been there working on his new Dan Brown movie Demons and Angels.

I ate dinner and headed back to my hotel and called it a night.

Day eight

I took a tour to Naples and Pompeii with Carrani Tours. This was a long day. The group picked me up from the hotel at 7am and I got back around 9pm. Long day.

The tour took us to Naples, gave us a quick walking tour of downtown Naples, then took us to Pompeii. They fed us lunch at hotel right next to Pompeii and then took us on a guided tour of Pompeii. Naples was not what I expected it to be. I envisioned it to be more like Florence, yet it was more like Rome.

Over lunch I sat with a couple from Brazil and a mother and daughter from Chile. It was such a neat experience to sit at the table with 3 different languages (English, Spanish and Portuguese) It made me feel kind of lame too because I know a few Spanish words and only speak English and each of the groups were talking their home language to each other and English to me.

Another thing I found interesting about this group was that the Brazilian couple was questioning me, not about American politics, but California politics. Discussing the political make up of the state as well Governor Arnold. I was impressed. I couldnít begin to hold a political discussion about Brazil, let alone Sao Paulo, where they were from.

Pompeii was very cool. I really loved this place. Itís just mind blowing to see the preservation of this place over so many years. Our tour guide was very knowledgeable as well

What I didnít like about this tour company was the way they took us to these bus stops, in the name of a bathroom break, when in reality it was an opportunity to dump tourist in a place to get them to spend money. They did this twice not to mention taking us to a place to see how cameo is made which was really a place to buy.

I ate dinner that night at Est Est Est which is near the Termini area at Via Genova, 32. They are listed in my Fodorís book as a good budget Pizzeria. I enjoyed the fried mozzarella balls. This was the first place I ate where I actually had to wait for the table. The service was great but I felt a bit shafted being a single as I was seated right next to the kitchen with a saloon swinging door. I got a kick out of the door swinging back and almost hitting me every time someone entered the kitchen.

Day nine

On my own and back walking. This day I went to the Colosseum. Another incredible place. I opted to not take a tour but it would have been nice to see what I was looking at. The line wasnít too bad. I probably waited about 15 or 20 mins. There was a tour group there soliciting people for 21 euro, this included the 11 euro admission fee. They also gave a tour of Palatino. This would have been really helpful for me because I walked around the Forum area, thinking it was Palatino, looking for the Forum. Iím such a goof. I would have done the tour but I only had 15 euro in my pocket.

I completely missed Palatino which was a bummer but I was with out euros and totally hungry so I had to go exchange money and get food.

That was pretty much the highlight of that day. I spent the rest of the day looking for the perfect fake designer purse. Unfortunately, the guys who had the nice purses were the ones who would set up their stands on cardboard boxes and disappear after about 15 minutes. I saw one purse I liked but then the guy disappeared and I never found him again.

Day ten

Up at 7am to join Carrani Tours to the Vatican. This is the same tour group I used for Naples and Pompeii and I wouldnít recommend them to anyone. The cost of the tour was 51 euro. The whole point of paying so much was to simply get into the Vatican. The line for that place was wrapped around the building. What I didnít like was that we didnít really get to see much of the Vatican. We were rushed through a few rooms, then given about 20 mins on our own in the Sistine chapel (which simply blows my mind). The tour guide had us bypass the Vatican gift shops in order to go to some other place near St Peterís. This place didnít have much and was completely overpriced. Like 200 euro for the Popeís peace cross. Then we were piled back in the bus and taken back to our hotel. I would have liked to see more of the Vatican but would have had to find my own transportation home. And frankly wasnít in the mood to navigate the train and buses.

All in all, I really didnít like Rome. It reminds me a lot of New York. Very crowded and busy. I had many near death experiences trying to walk across the street. I also constantly felt queasy between the mix of cigarettes and car exhaust. I am use to California smog. This was a different beast. The food wasnít anything to rave about either. It wasnít bad, but I didnít find anything that compared to Florence. I did have one restaurant that I would advise to avoid. Thatís Amore near the Termini right across from the Hotel Guiliana. The service was good but the house wine seemed watered down and I just wasnít impressed with the food overall.

I donít think Iíll return to Rome again until I have school-age children and I can show them the amazing history. Pompeii and the Colosseum were the most incredible sites for me. The artwork in the Vatican was pretty amazing (and no Madonna and Child overload) as well. I am without words for the Sistine Chapel. I walked away from that placed thinking about how people really had to do something amazing to be recognized as great where as now we seem to give that title of genius away so freely. This generation has truly cheapened the term. But I digress from my soap box.

Day eleven
Woke up at 5 am to catch a plane back home to LA. 24 hours later I am at my desk online researching my next Italian vacation.

verbaslt is offline  
Apr 8th, 2007, 07:04 PM
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Great read, verbaslt! tlhanks for all the insighful thoughts and information.
klondike is offline  
Apr 8th, 2007, 08:07 PM
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Verbasit, I too stayed at the Hotel Giuliana in September 2005 and we both must have stayed in the same tiny room. I recall the shower being even smaller than a phone booth. I had to lather up outside the shower and used it only to rinse off the soap. I kept thinking that a nun must have done pennance in that room in a past life. I wonder if the exterior construction has been completed. Although the room I had faced the street, the scaffolding blocked everything except a sliver of light. I felt that I was in heaven when I moved to the Hotel Alimandi near the Vatical two days later.
MKE is offline  
Apr 8th, 2007, 09:11 PM
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It probably was the same room. It was either room #11 or #14 and it faced the street. The construction was complete. I had to change to a double room after two days and although it was an extra, it was nice to have a larger bed. The shower was still small, but not as small as the single.
verbaslt is offline  
Apr 9th, 2007, 11:47 AM
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 91,116
Maybe you'd also post your great trip report over on the Solo Travel forum here (see drop down menu). It would make a great addition!
suze is online now  

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