An Italy trip in the R&D phase

Old Mar 26th, 2009, 11:54 AM
  #41  
 
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Rome! Definitely Rome!

Wait--maybe Venice... Ok, yes, Venice.

No, Rome!

Flip a coin!

Byrd
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Old Mar 26th, 2009, 12:05 PM
  #42  
 
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Agree: Rome.
Are you thinking you'll have to cut the length of the trip? I was going to post about a 2-wk itinerary, but will wait til you clarify.

I'm glad you decided against a segment that requires a car. I just think there's enough to absorb and deal with on a first trip without adding road rules, map reading, etc to the list. Promise yourselves you'll go again and drive around Tuscany. You'll love it.

Just some random thoughts:
1) Look into a credit union for an ATM card. I opened our CU acct strictly for foreign trips...there are no ATM fees and they use a reasonable exchange rate.
2) In Rome, please do plan to use guided tours. The history is so vast and there are so many layers (literally) to the city. A good tour guide makes it all come alive.
3) You will get by fine with English + the smattering of polite Italian phrases.
4) Apartments are great. But for a first trip it's nice having the "concierge" services at the hotel. Restaurants, directions, making phone calls for you....think about that.
5) That said, Rome hotels are expensive. I would definitely stay in the historical center for a first trip. Just be prepared for a little sticker shock. (a few pizza dinners can help bring down the overall cost of the trip!)
6) We don't usually like the hop-on-hop-off buses. But Rome's public transportation leaves a lot to be desired. The buses came in handy, especially when it rained.

Lastly, don't try to do too much in one day. Leave time for simply wandering the tiny wandering streets of Rome. Bella!
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Old Mar 26th, 2009, 12:46 PM
  #43  
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JeanneB, no I am not thinking we will have to cut our trip short but I have done some looking there is just so much to take in and I don’t want to feel like we have to hurry, as I said I want to relax and embrace Italy not zoom through it.

As such I think Italy will require multiple trips. My thought was to pick one city and really enjoy it, see the villages and towns around it and soak it all in. I am just really tired of rushing on vacations.
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Old Mar 26th, 2009, 01:34 PM
  #44  
 
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Wow. There are many posters on these forums who spend months/years researching their trips and still never come to that wise conclusion.

Still, with two weeks, I think you could do two stops. For a relaxed, romantic, intriguing itinerary I would:

Fly into Venice, 4 nights.

On the 5th day catch an early train to Rome. After about 3 hours, it will stop in Florence. You could get off there, eat lunch and perhaps see Michelangelo's David. (You'll have to find a place to store luggage, though).

You can still be in Rome before nightfall---less than two hours from FLorence. Stay in Rome the rest of the time. For such a long stay, rent an apartment in the historic center. If you can, use the lodging savings to hire a private guide in Rome. We hired a guide for our first three mornings...3 hours each day. She was helpful with many of the things a hotel concierge could do. Using a guide helps get your bearings faster, too. Work with him/her on the agenda based on what interests you.

I think Rome and Venice would make for a delightful anniversary trip.
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Old Mar 26th, 2009, 01:42 PM
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By the way, I didn't mean you shouldn't do any day trips from Rome. Orvieto is an easy train ride, only about an hour from Rome. Assisi isn't too far...I think bus is the best way to get there and back in a day. Anyway, there will be plenty to keep you happy in Rome if you prefer.
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Old Mar 26th, 2009, 02:08 PM
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Sunflowerguy,

If I could live half of each year in Italy, I would be in heaven and still would never run out of places to go and things to see. Italy has so much of EVERYTHING!

I've discovered I am one of those who enjoys the trip more if it is rather balanced between cities and countryside. Musuems, sightseeing, beautiful scenery and tiny villages, and maybe some physical outdoor activity thrown in too like skiing, hiking, cycling, horseback riding, sailing!

If I could only choose 1 of the big 3, Rome! My first trip, I loved Venice, didn't care too much for Florence, but Roma blew me away! Every turn you took, wow, there was another incredible sight, so many thousands of years of history, art, architecture, and on and on. So exciting, so beautiful at night, such great people, etc., etc., etc.

Learn to drive a stick! Driving in the Italian countryside is easy and a real pleasure. I don't think I would try it in the major cities.

The big 3 will be a great first trip. The trains are easy, but pack LIGHT. There are lots of stairs in those stations and the stations are HUGE.

Explore, walk, eat, drink. Definitely learn as much Italian as you can. Buon viaggio!
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Old Mar 26th, 2009, 04:07 PM
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As much as I love Rome I would not consider suggesting to you to stay there for two weeks straight. I suggest you fly into Florence or Venice, stay a few days and then train down to Rome. Actually I would say stop in Siena for one night or even Orvieto on the way to Rome. Then end up in Rome and fly out of there.

I would also suggest Assisi as an overnighter. Rome is a big bustling city with a lot of history of course but it can be overwhelming and not relaxing. Are you and Mrs. Flower city people? Would you stay for a similar length of time in New York City or would you train out to smaller places?
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Old Mar 26th, 2009, 04:38 PM
  #48  
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Sea, we are not big city people to be sure, I ordered a guide from the Italian board of tourism, so I am hopeful that we will be able to get a better idea. I am new to this fly into one city fly out of another how does that work? Do you just buy one way tickets?
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Old Mar 26th, 2009, 04:43 PM
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You buy open jaw tickets, put in the city you are flying into and the one you are flying out of, depending on which site you are using. Or do you have a travel agent? Check out a few sites and practice, just don't put in your card number or go too far with the session.

It is much easier to fly in and out this way, I would start north and smaller and end up in Rome. The guide from the tourism board is good, I used to use their paperwork. have fun planning, that is part of the whole trip!
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Old Mar 26th, 2009, 05:09 PM
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The kind of ticket you want may be called "multi-city" on many airline sites.
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Old Mar 26th, 2009, 05:37 PM
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SFG- See, the thing is, while it might be easier to fly into Venice and out of Rome, I might suggest the opposite. Mainly because once you've had 6 or 7 days in Rome, your brain will be so full that moving to a slow place like Venice will then allow you to de-buzz prior to coming home.

I could not pick just one of those cities. Sorry. Rome and Venice are night and day. Truly. And yet both are spectactular in their own ways. To me, Venice is much more relaxing, and that probably has to do with the lack of city street traffic. No motorbikes, no buses, no cars. Just walking and boats (vaparettos). Venice is SO quiet, compared to Rome.

I don't think you should stick to just one. You will want a change of pace after a few days in either city.

I'm sticking with my original recommendation, though, a day or two in Florence is a nice respite between Venice and Rome. Of course it has great Renaissance art, but it also has so much history. Galileo, the DeMedici's, Michelangelo, DaVinci- all called Florence home.

Well, I still say head over to Borders and look through the DK Eyewitness Travel guides for Florence, Rome and Venice. It is a very good place to start... do, re, mi.

I also wanted to say that I spent an hour or two every day for 7 months, planning our trip. Because the planning was almost as exciting as the trip coming to fruition.

Have fun!
Paula
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Old Mar 26th, 2009, 05:44 PM
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Hi SFG!

So much wonderful information here - I second the pack light! On our first trip to Europe I did not heed that advice very much and traveling with dh, two girls and myself, the stairs, the trains, the bags... it was comical!

I think with two weeks I would do two places in Italy - renting apartments in each area for the week.

I know many here are not crazy about Florence but I fell in LOVE with it..far more then the beloved Rome (which was amazing as well but just not the love affair. I do not really believe in past lives per-say but I can honestly say when I walked the streets of Florence I felt as though I had been there, lived there and could live there again! The history...the smallness but still a city... I am not a big city girl and perhaps that is why Rome over whelmed me? I did love Paris...so who knows? I just know that I had planned to go back to Florence and spend two weeks there and travel to towns outside of Florence while there...

If you do go with apartment rentals I highly recommend ItalyPerfect (or is it PerfectItaly??) Lisa lives in California and was a dream to work with and she gets very high reviews on slowtravel as well.

I also used Sleep in Itay and they were also good - a little harder to communicate with due to the time difference (they are in Itay) but also great reviews. Tim from RealRome is wondeful as well. I also have used RentVillas and they were good too - a little more pricey. I do not mind paying slightly more to be able to use my credit card.

You asked about cc - no issues with them - just be aware that I found American Express less readily accepted as opposed to Visa and Mastercard. We actually took out a Mastercard prior to leaving as we only had Amex and our debit card which the debit thing I have read can be an issue. There is also an issue with your PIN - be sure it is 4 digits - ours was 5 and we had to modify it.

I would do two places..maybe Rome and the Almalfi coast your first trip? I think the weather is still good in sept but have people here verfy it.

Use Netflix and rent Rick Steve's Italy ones... it will give you a great idea and has great visuals! Something fun for you and Mrs.Sun to do... I do not really use Rick's hotel recommendations or his style of travel but enjoy his videos.

Keep it coming!
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Old Mar 26th, 2009, 05:46 PM
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Oh one more... I know your faith as we have talked about it... be sure to go to the Catacombs if you go to Rome... everyone in my family really enjoyed it. They are sort of a pain to get to but well worth it.

Also - I am not Catholic but was very moved by St. Peters for a variety of reasons... will be interested in hearing your feedback if you go.
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Old Mar 26th, 2009, 06:54 PM
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Frommers.com has pretty detailed list of attractions for each major city as well as suggested itineraries.

I'm sure some guide books for Italy has something similar.

You can probably do Google image search or Youtube search for sites like St. Peters, the Duomo or the Grand Canal. Cameras are ubiquitous so people share their pics and videos, the latter may give you a better sense of some of these places.

It really depends on what aspect of the culture interests you. There's more archeology in Rome if I'm not mistaken. I'm not big on antiquities so the Duomo is more architecturally interesting to me than say the Forum. Most of the other cathedrals in Europe are Gothic in style so it looks different.

Rome has St. Peters and other churches, the Colosseum, the Forum, the Pantheon, etc. Florence is near the Tuscan countryside of rolling hills with vineyards. Venice is of course unique and who knows, maybe in a few decades, it will be mostly underwater.

It really depends on where your interests lie, like which movement of art, which architectural style, what kind of history (European vs. Roman or even other remnants like the Etruscans).

On PINs, for ATM, it's usually the first 4 digits. I have a 5-digit PIN for my credit union ATM and if you just put in the first 4, it works but you can check with your institution.

You can use credit cards to take cash from ATMs but then it's considered a cash advance and you start accruing interest right away.
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Old Mar 26th, 2009, 07:09 PM
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Here's another vote for 2 of the 3 cities (or, personally, I'd say one city and some countryside, but you've already said you're saving the countryside for another trip). You can have a relaxing trip and still visit 2 cities.

If I had to pick only one? Rome. There is so much history and culture in that one place that it's hard to imagine. The antiquities, Christian history, and all sorts of other stuff. Second would be Venice, because it's unique - a city built on the water, just imagine. Florence would be third. It's a beautiful Renaissance city, with the best art from that period in the world, but it's not as special as the other two.

One thing about Rome. I think it's a city that some people love, and others not so much. It can be noisy and bustling - it is a big city, after all - and that bothers some people. But stay in a hotel in the historic center, where the vehicular traffic is restricted, and it will be quieter. (We have friends who visited Rome and stayed on a busy street; I'm convinced that's one reason they didn't enjoy it so much.) DH and I also like Rome because, despite the many, many tourists, it felt more like a "regular" city to us, full of people just out living their regular, non-tourist lives.

And in any city, though there's enough to do and see to keep you busy for weeks or months, just make sure you take lots of time every day to stop at a cafe or two, and sit and people-watch. We usually took time to cafe-sit in each of Piazza Navona and the Piazza by the Pantheon every day.

About not drinking alcohol, it won't be a problem. But do be adventurous, and try various non-alcoholic drinks that you don't see at home (not necessarily with a meal). Tonic, usually Schweppes (the British company) is much bigger there; I like that more than Colas to quench my thirst on a warm day. Another not-sweet soda drink is Sanbitter. It's bright red (made by the same people who make Campari, which is alcoholic), and also, like tonic, has a bitter/sour taste. There's also Orangina (like orange soda, I think) and Limonata (sour lime soda). And of course, all the coffee drinks.

Enjoy your planning!
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Old Mar 26th, 2009, 08:21 PM
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Ah SFG, we are actually alike in at least one way: I don't drink, either. But I've spent a lot of time in Italy, and the only person that ever gave me a hard time about not having wine was an Italian acquaintance. Never a hassle from any waitstaff, anywhere.

Here is a point I want to make: in a way, I also feel like I know you. I don't think you are a big city guy and Rome is a big and bustling city. I believe that 4 days there would be enough for you.

I also believe you when you say you are on a budget. I seriously think you don't even want to consider a car. I also think that you will be surprised by the price of decent digs in Rome; it is very expensive. If you like, I can name a couple of clean and friendly B&Bs in Rome, Venice and Florence.

I think you should plan on visiting all three cities. It is very easy to daytrip by bus from Florence, and catch a glimpse of countryside. A big day is to catch a bus from Florence to Siena (note the spelling) and then a bus from Siena to San Gimignano. There are also organized trips that do this by bus. Make a res, get on the bus, and off you go.

You can stay cheaply as one person suggested above, but I think the trick to cheap and nice AND central accomodations is to plan early.

Set your budget and then come back and ask for recs. I know you will get some good ones.
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Old Mar 26th, 2009, 10:33 PM
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great advice Tuscan!
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Old Mar 27th, 2009, 09:11 AM
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Tuscan, I am thinking that our budget will be around eight thousand. From what I have seen so far as far as flights, lodging etc. that should be enough to get us there, a place to stay, and our meals. One thing that I thought about with the renting a place is that some of them had washers and dryers, so we could pack light and Mrs. Sun could always do a little shopping that way. Also I though we could visit the market and made buy some things for meals.

Is that reasonable? Do we need more in the budget or can we get away with less? I am all for saving money and to be frank as long as it is clean and safe where we stay does not matter to me (I am here to see Italy not their TV stations) but one thing I refuse to do is share I room with others. I know that cuts a lot of money saving options but I am not willing to compromise on that.

What are your thoughts on Naples?
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Old Mar 27th, 2009, 09:39 AM
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If you want to rent apartments, (which can be had for fewer than 7 nights, especially in cities), check out the web site www.slowtrav.com. Lots of reviews of apartments and rental agencies there. It's slightly more expensive to go through an agency (as opposed to renting direct from an owner) but safer, especially for your first trip.

SlowTravel has lots more valuable information, in particular, a detailed report on how to use Italian trains.

One caveat: Italian apartments may not have a washing machine and are unlikely to have a clothes dryer. You hang the clothes up instead. So be sure to specify that washer.

Your budget of $8000 should be enough. You need to allow for admission fees and train fares, maybe a tour or 2.

I applaud your slow travel plan. I think you'll enjoy it so much more.
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Old Mar 27th, 2009, 09:47 AM
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DF: Do you have an idea of the airfare? I think your $8,000 should be adequate. It won't buy top notch hotels, but should provide for reasonable lodgings in good locations.
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