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Back from Italy (Florence, Siena, Sinalunga, Orvieto, Rome, Capri, Positano, Venice, Bellagio, Milan) - Happy to share info

Back from Italy (Florence, Siena, Sinalunga, Orvieto, Rome, Capri, Positano, Venice, Bellagio, Milan) - Happy to share info

Jun 14th, 2002, 12:45 PM
  #21  
Dayle
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Susan,

so glad you had such wonderful time! Congratulations! Looking forward to hearing more details.

Emily - car rental offices are not right at Orvieto train station. Ours (Avis) was a couple short blocks away. Not a big deal, very helpful & easy to find. Just make sure their hours coincide with your plans. At the time of our trip, the Avis office was not open on Sundays.

Buon viaggio!
 
Jun 14th, 2002, 06:43 PM
  #22  
joanne
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I was wondering how far Amorosa is from Siena (in town). It looks wonderful.
 
Jun 14th, 2002, 07:25 PM
  #23  
Betsy
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Emily, definitely book your car rental in the US. AutoEurope (www.autoeurope.com), a broker, is very popular on this board and we have used them, with satisfaction, three times. We dropped off a car in Orvieto last fall. No problem at all. We booked through AutoEurope, and our rental was with Avis. Their office is just around the corner from the train station. We dropped off the car and hopped on the funiculare and rode to the top of the hill to the old part of the city, spent the night, and took the train to Rome the next day.
 
Jun 14th, 2002, 08:16 PM
  #24  
Susan
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Before I post the rest (or parts) of my trip report, I'll try to answer a few questions.

Dear Emily:
We rented our car from Hertz. It was around $25 per day, part of a rail package our travel agent booked for us. I would certainly book ahead of time. The Hertz office was a short cab ride away from the train station. (It is too far to walk, and there isn't a sidewalk for pedestrians along the small highway to the rental office.) By the way, all of the cars might be manual drive. (Hertz informed us that the Orvieto office did not have any automatics.) It was very easy to rent the car. I'm not sure whether this was necessary or not, but my husband went to the local AAA and got an International Driver's License translation. We simply presented our car voucher, passport, and license, signed the contract, and received the key. We declined the additional insurance (because we were covered by our credit cards), although it might be wise to accept the additional insurance for peace of mind. When we returned the car, we made sure to fill the tank. It was no different from renting a car in America. Very, very easy. Also, my husband did a good job of learning the various road signs BEFORE we left for Italy. That made our driving experience less stressful.
Also, as Dayle mentioned earlier, rental offices including Hertz are closed on Sunday.
Best regards,
Susan
 
Jun 14th, 2002, 09:46 PM
  #25  
Susan
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RE: VENICE
Dear Laura,
Our stay in Venice was very brief, but enjoyable. We took a night train from Naples to Venice. That was an experience! We presented our tickets at the track and were shown to our reserved sleeping car. The attendant took away our passports and railpasses, assuring us that all items would be returned in the morning. We slept fairly well, although the car was rather stuffy and noisy. 15 minutes before pulling into the station, the attendant brought us coffee and our travel documents. From the station, we took the slow boat to St. Mark's Basilica. Venice early in the morning is so quiet and peaceful! We stayed at the Hotel Columbina, in a deluxe room with a small set of stairs leading up to a private terrace with a view of the Bridge of Sighs and the canal. Our room was 385 Euros per night. We were given the option of having breakfast on our little terrace. I would describe this hotel as a very small but richly decorated boutique hotel, right near St. Mark's. Rather difficult to find, but that is part of its charm. The first morning, we took a complimentary shuttle from our hotel to Murano. After watching the artists create colorful tiny gondolas, we were escorted through rooms and rooms of glass. It reminded me of being inside a kaleidescope. Friends had warned us, "You'll be pressured to buy something." But the salespersons were very gracious.
We heeded the advice of our concierge and visited St. Mark's in the afternoon (less crowded). Incredible mosaics! We also dressed appropriately, as the dress code is strictly enforced. Do buy tickets to visit all of the parts of the basilica.
We enjoyed the Accademia, but unfortunately missed the Peggy Guggenheim museum of modern art (closed on Tuesdays). We also visited the Palazzo Ducale (guided tour or audioguide is a must to truly appreciate it).
Our favorite moderately priced restaurant was a tiny hole-in-the-wall "no seafood" restaurant called Vini di Arturo. There were only 7 or 8 tables, so I would make a reservation to be safe. My husband had a steak with some sort of brandy, pepper, cream sauce (huge apology to all the food lovers for my terrible description) that was delicious. It warmed our hearts to notice that after each course was served, the chef asked the waiter whether we enjoyed it. I highly recommend this restaurant. It offers a nice break from all of the seafood restaurants in Venice. (My husband and I do enjoy seafood, but we love the seafood at home in Hawaii. Nothing can compare to fresh fish like onaga or opakaka!)
We also enjoyed dining near the Rialto at Al Graspo di Uva. The service was very warm yet elegant. Delicious pasta and seafood.
Overall, restaurants in Venice seemed rather expensive compared to other cities such as Florence, Rome, and Milan. We decided to eat at "moderately" priced restaurants (moderate according to Frommer's guide book), but found that our meals were usually around 100 Euros per person. In Tuscany, 100 Euros is quite a feast! But not so in Venice.
We so enjoyed listening to the orchestras playing in St. Mark's in the evening. So romantic.
We decided to skip the gondola ride after almost falling out of a traghetto. A gondola is highly unstable compared to an outrigger canoe! My husband wanted to stand in the traghetto like a true Venetian, but the locals insisted that he sit down.
Venice is indeed a wonderful place to visit for a honeymoon. Just be prepared to spend more there than in other cities.
I'll wrote more soon.
Aloha,
Susan
 
Jun 15th, 2002, 05:29 AM
  #26  
Chuck
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Great report Susan. I'm leaving for Italy on Sat. for 3 weeks. By the way, I'm from Hawaii too but living in Seattle, Wa. Hope you had a wonderful honeymoon. Sounds like you and your hubby went well prepared. Aloha!!!
 
Jun 15th, 2002, 12:07 PM
  #27  
emily
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Thanks Susan! This info was very helpful. I did a little investigation through Autoeurope adn it looks like they do not have rentals from Orvieto, but I believe they do for Chiusi, so we may have to go with taking a train to Chiusi unless we go directly through Hertz. At any rate, the info was very ehlpful. Sounds like a fabulous trip you had!!!
 
Jun 15th, 2002, 10:06 PM
  #28  
arney
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Susan--The contrast in tone between your before- and after-trip posts is striking. Amazing how much confidence just one Italy trip can give you, isn't it? I was one of several pre-trip posters who encouraged you to rent a car in Tuscany, but the credit for telling you to pick it up in Siena goes to Bob the Navigator.

Have enjoyed your report so far. Looking forward to future installments.
arney
 
Jun 15th, 2002, 10:18 PM
  #29  
arney
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Emily--Betsy, above, said she dropped off an AutoEurope rental car at the Avis office in Orvieto last fall. Call AutoEurope and ask them. 800-223-5555. I doubt they list all the possible pickup and drop-off locations on their Web site.
arney
 
Jun 16th, 2002, 10:18 PM
  #30  
Susan
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Dear Arney & Bob:
We can't thank you enough for your advice and for encouraging us to drive in Tuscany & Umbria!
Although we still wouldn't drive in Rome and hope never to have to drive in Naples (the cab ride from the train station to the dock made me think of "Mr. Toad's Wild Ride"), we do feel so much more confident. You were right, Arney!
Again, many thanks,
Susan
PS I'll write more about our trip very soon. (I've been horribly swamped with work).
 
Jun 17th, 2002, 02:35 PM
  #31  
Mike
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Hi Susan,

My wife and I will be doing Milan, Verona and the Lakes in July: Garda, Como and Maggiore. Staying in Bellagio. Tell me the must do's on Lake Como?
 
Jun 17th, 2002, 04:30 PM
  #32  
Elsa
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Sinalunga - for those of you interested in the Locanda 'dell Amorosa I suggest you read all the glowing comments in the Fodors hotel section of this forum. The place is so relaxing and away from it all, which is nice after riding around all day and walking up and down hills (streets). There is a pool. The dining room is an old converted stable, and the food is (at least it was a yr. ago) fabulous. It was so nice to have such a wonderful restaurant right there on the grounds, instead of having to drive off again when ready to have dinner.
 
Jun 17th, 2002, 11:53 PM
  #33  
Susan
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RE: BELLAGIO
Dear Mike,
I wish I had more information to share with you regarding the Lakes, but we stayed only in Bellagio at the Hotel Belvedere for 2 nights. We loved it, and wished that we could have stayed much longer. Bellagio is lovely. Very peaceful and relaxing.
We had planned on visiting several villas and other towns, but were perfectly content to explore Bellagio and the Villa Carlotta.
We spent several hours simply relaxing on our terrace which had a breathtaking view of the lake. The sunlight dancing on the water is mesmerizing. We didn't feel any urge to go and see as much as possible.
We took a train from Venice to Lake Como, then took a bus to Bellagio. We were used to taking taxis everywhere, but I noticed that a bus was leaving in 5 minutes to Bellagio, so we purchased tickets from the bar at the train station. The tickets were just a few Euros. If you do take a bus, sit on the left side. You will have a nice view of the lake the whole way.
When we arrived, it was cold and rainy. Grey mist obscured much of the lake. We couldn't see across. My husband said, "Looks like Puget Sound!" But the following morning, when I opened the curtains to our lanai, my jaw dropped. The weather was gorgeous.
The Hotel Belvedere sits up the hill from the ferry landing, and boasts lovely views of the "other" side of the lake. Our room was spacious with very high ceilings. The hotel also had a very nice breakfast buffet. The plumbing, however, is quirky. (The hot water would turn off and on in the morning. My husband mentioned it to the management and they sent someone immediately -- before I had a chance to finish in the bathroom).
The first night we ate dinner on the terrace of the Bellagio Hotel du Lac. Our meal was reasonable and so delicious that I decided to buy the restaurant's recipe book.
Uh-oh, I have to continue this post later.
 
Jun 18th, 2002, 04:35 AM
  #34  
Jimbo
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Hey

Just a quick note to say very thorough thread, fascinating information, and the weather in Florence/Pisa yesterday (when I left) was somewhere between 94 and 105 degrees...!
 
Jun 19th, 2002, 10:09 PM
  #35  
Susan
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Wow! It's difficult to post a good trip report. I'll just share a bit more information here.
RE: ORVIETO
We stayed at Locanda Rosati, a charming newly renovated country house several miles away from Orvieto. Just follow all signs directing you to Bolsena until you feel as though you have gone too far. Then go some more! You will see a sign for Locanda Rosati on the right hand side. Giampiero Rosati is an elegant, wonderful host. And Paolo, the chef, prepares delicious meals, all of the ingredients produced and/or raised on their property. Dinner with the other guests and the Rosati family is a joyful affair.
I discovered this inn on Karen Brown's website and recommend it whole-heartedly.
From Locanda Rosati, it is an easy 5 minute drive to the medieval town of Orvieto. The cathedral facade is spectacular, well worth a stop in Orvieto. We returned our rental car at the Hertz office, right next to the
train station, and took a train from Orvieto to Rome.

Re: ROME
My husband and I spent four days in Rome. By the third day, we were exhausted. There are so many amazing sights to see. Our favorite gallery by far was the Borghese. The Bernini statues are incredible!
We stayed at the Hotel Santa Maria in Trastavere. Our cab driver had to pull over four times to ask directions to the hotel. If you would like to stay in a colorful, funky neighborhood with casual restaurants open late in the evening, then Trastavere is a good choice. Hotel Santa Maria is a little oasis of peace in the busy city. The rooms are very tiny (hotel was a former cloister), but the bathrooms have luxurious full-sized tubs! Breakfast is served either indoors or in the open courtyard surrounded by orange trees. Service is warm and friendly. Very stylish, recently renovated hotel with young staff eager to please.
I'll continue this report soon.
Aloha,
Susan
 
Jun 20th, 2002, 05:40 AM
  #36  
Tanya
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Susan,
We are going to stay in Capri for a few days. Any useful tips/suggestions?
 
Jun 20th, 2002, 08:21 PM
  #37  
Susan
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Dear Tanya,
Sorry for not responding earlier!Friends had warned us that Capri is expensive, overrun by day trippers, "touristy", and so on. But my husband and I were so glad that we decided to stay in Capri. After visiting Rome, Capri was a wonderful place to relax and enjoy the gorgeous scenery.
When you arrive in Capri, porters will meet your ferry at the dock and deliver your luggage to your hotel. If you do not see the porter for your hotel, just ask one of the other porters to point him out for you. Then take the funicular up to reach the town.
We stayed at La Minerva, a recently renovated off the beaten path, but with wonderful views and spacious rooms. The bathroom was huge with a large jacuzzi and view of the ocean. We had breakfast every morning out on our terrace. Overall, we felt that this hotel was a very good value. Young owner Luigi Esposito was so helpful.
As for sightseeing, we enjoyed taking a 2 hour private boat trip around the island, stopping at several grottos (White, Emerald, Coral, Blue).
We visited the Blue Grotto in the late afternoon. There was only one tiny rowboat in the area, so it was safe to swim inside. It's beautiful! And eerie at the same time. (During the morning and mid-day, the Blue Grotto is a zoo with visitors being hustled in and out. If you tried to swim during that time, you'd surely get struck by an oar).
Be sure to visit the Giardini di Augusto. Fantastic views and lovely flower gardens. Also, you can take a good hike to Villa Jovis.
We enjoyed visiting Anacapri as well. Visit the Villa di Damecuta. A good restaurant in Anacapri is La Rondinella. Delicious homemade ravioli and veal. Also, Da Paolina is a charming place for authentic Caprese cuisine. The restaurant is set in a lemon grove. Dining underneath the trees is an experience. Everything was excellent, although expensive.
A good restaurant for lunch is La Cantinella near the Giardini di Augusto. Dine out on the veranda and you will have lovely view of the Faraglioni rocks.
The only thing my husband disliked about Capri is the abundance of my favorite shops (eg, Prada, Ferragamo, Gucci, Furla, JP Tods).
One mistake to avoid when leaving Capri: If you ask your hotel to deliver your luggage to the docks for a certain ferry, make sure that tickets for that ferry are available! My husband and I took several day trips away from Capri and had no problem purchasing tickets because we were always going against the flow of day trippers. When we checked out of our hotel and tried to purchase tickets for a 4:50 PM ferry to Naples, we were told that the next available one was around 6:30 PM. Unfortunately, our luggage had been transferred to the dock and loaded onto the 4:50 ferry by our hotel. I had to ask permission to board and locate our bags amidst a huge mountain of luggage.
Otherwise, taking ferries from Capri to Sorrento and Positano was a breeze. I hope you have a wonderful and relaxing time in Capri.
Kindest regards,
Susan
 
Jun 21st, 2002, 05:19 AM
  #38  
Tanya
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Dear Susan,
Thank you so much for your kind reply. This is exactly what I need: an advise of an experienced traveller.
I am looking forward to the trip.

Tanya
 
Jun 21st, 2002, 05:30 AM
  #39  
Sonia
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Hi

I'm just back from 5 days in Florence and Pisa and can gladly tell you the weather was amazing. It was in the mid 30's for the whole trip, blue skies without a cloud in site... As for the Ufizzi, we didn't reserve a ticket, just got in the line by 9.30 and were in within an hour.

I'd say 3 days tops in Florence, and Pisa easily done in a day or less. I have 2 excellent restaurant recommendations for Florence if anyone's interested? Traditional Italian pizzaria and a very nice restaurant.


Ciao!
 
Jun 24th, 2002, 06:47 AM
  #40  
Emily
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Susan- I noticed there was not much said about your tiem in Milan. We will be there one full day and a half day before our afternoon departure. Planned to see the Duomo, but would love to know of any other recommendations. Also, where did you stay?

Sonia- would love to hear your florence restaurant recommendations. We'll be day tripping there probably for 2 full days from our San Gimignano base.

Thanks!
Emily
 

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