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Back from Our First Italy Trip and Loved it.

Back from Our First Italy Trip and Loved it.

Oct 4th, 2005, 07:20 PM
  #1  
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Join Date: Feb 2003
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Back from Our First Italy Trip and Loved it.

We are back and had a wonderful time. We flew into Milan and spent two days in Como. We stayed at the Hotel Villa Flori with a little balcony over the lake and thought it was beautiful. While in Como we took the ferry to Bellagio which was a lovely way to spend the day.

We then took the train to Venice for three nights there. That was a little scary. Como is a small station so the train stopped very quickly. This was our first train trip and we were a little like the two stooges as we scrambled to get on in approximately the right car. No damage done. We made it.

In Venice we were absolutely overwhelmed by the number of people in San Marco square when we arrived around 5:00. We soon found the best way to deal with Venice was to get up early in the morning which we did on our second full day there. We rode the vaporetto and went to the market and thoroughly enjoyed it. We wandered on the other side of the Rialto and actually managed to get a little off the normal tourist track. My husband had his best meal in Italy at a small restaurant with mostly Italian patrons. We stayed at the Royal San Marco which had a great location and really everything we needed in a hotel. The room was small but we had a newly renovated bathroom with even a tub and our room was at the back on a canal. We loved Venice inspite of the crowds. We had an evening gondola ride in the oldest gondala in Venice and our driver was an older third generation gondolier. He was a lovely man and shared his insight about the changes, including the fact that Italy's inclusion in the European Union forced them to allow women to become gondoliers. He wasn't sure how he felt about that. It was a perfect ride on a lovely evening.

Next was the train to Florence which was less of an adventure. We met entertaining companions from the U.S. on the train and shared their carryon lunch and wine. The trip went very fast. In Florence we stayed at the Machiavelli hotel which was right near the station. It is a converted convent. Our room was at the back of the hotel and quiet and a very nice size. The bathroom was nice and modern but unfortunately no tub this time. We visited as many museums and art galleries and churches as we could squeeze in and of course walked along the river. We spent an afternoon in Pisa and visited the tower and the Church and Baptistry. It was a beautiful day. Unfortunately the sunflowers were past their prime. I had to buy a postcard of the fields in bloom.

After three nights in Florence we picked up our car rental, just a few blocks from the hotel and headed for Siena. We found the roads very good and had no problem finding our hotel. The Palazzo Ravizza was absolutely spectacular. As we were staying in 3 star hotels throughout, we blew the wad and rented a suite with a huge bathroom with double jacuzzi. We had three rooms with cathedral ceilings and really felt that we were staying in a castle. It was incredible. We headed out every morning to tour the country side. Day one we did a circle tour and saw the Creta area and ended up in Montalcino for part of the day. We also visited Bagnone Vignoni which was great. 3.10 Euros for a glass of wine and a beer and free peanuts. The little towns are a great surprise and not so busy and a lot cheaper. It was fun.

The second day we visited San Gimignano
and Volterra, after a bit of a late start...a little down time or maybe too late a night drinking wine in the beautiful garden at the hotel.

The last day we headed for Perugia on the recommendation of a friend. It was a bit of an adventure as the traffic was very busy and we got lost one more time. It was not necessarily something I would recommend but we ended up having a nice day. We had lunch and I tried the Pasta with black truffles and it was amazing. The best part of the day was stopping off at Castiglione del Largo on the way back. We just loved it there. The lake ws beautiful and the hill town was so nice. We bought wine and Peccorino cheese and other things we didn't need. The people were so friendly.

The restaurant at the Palazzo Ravizza was wonderful and we ate there the last night before leaving for our big drive to Rome.

We were a little wound up because a number of people had suggested that we shouldn't drive but we did. We had our Mapquest and off we went. We missed our offramp and got a little lost. We received directions from a few construction workers on lunch...guess how much English they spoke? With my little Italian and a lot of sign language they pointed us in the right direction.
When we got back on track we had to stop one more time for directions and got them from a really grouchy old guy in a service station who did not want to help any English speaking tourists. In frustration I persisted while he stamped his feet and yelled at me in Italian of course. I kept my questions simple and he answered easily. When I gave him a big Italian thankyou, I got a huge smile from him. As I mentioned keeping my questions simple helped and my "Learn Italian" tapes playing in my car every day for 3 months paid off.

We arrived at the hotel finally and then almost immediately got a 35 Euro parking ticket while dropping our luggage. Oh well...small price to pay for making it there in one piece. We turned the car in a couple of blocks from our hotel and were ready for Rome.

We stayed at the Hotel Oxford and the first night had a room that was not big enough for us both to stand up in let alone open our luggage. We got moved to a bigger room the next day and stayed for a total of 3 days. The second room had a half bathtub. Still good for soaking feet after walking 20 miles. This hotel is just off the Via Veneto which is a great location. We got pretty attached to the place. We walked a million miles in Rome and saw nearly every square and monument...most several times I think, judging by the pictures. We visited the Catacombs, the Coliseum, the Roman Forum, the Pantheon, The Vatican, St. Peters, St. Pauls and the Vatican museums and Sistine Chapel. We also vistied the Capuchin monks bones which I must say was a little strange. We did miss a few things. We didn't make the Scavi tour and unfortunately missed the Borghese Gallery. I guess we had to save something for next time. We took one night and traveled with a tour to Sorrento for the night and then on to Capri the next day. Sorrento and Capri were beautiful. On the night we were in Sorrento there was a huge full moon and I started to sing "When the moon hits your eye like a big Pizza Pie" to my husband. About five minutes later a singer came into the bar and sang the song properly in a beautiful voice. It was magical. In Capri we didn't get to see the Blue Grotto but had a nice boat trip around the Island. It was a beautiful day. We got back to Rome around 10:00 and checked back into our hotel for another two nights. We had left our luggage and were thrilled when we found that they had already moved them to our room...the best room yet. We had a real bathtub this time.
The thing that surprised me the most about Italy was how much we loved Rome. It is a great city. Can't imagine how anyone could be disappointed. It was White Night while we were there which is the night all the hotels and restaurants etc. stay open all night. They had stages set up in all the squares for concerts and we were looking forward to a big evening until it poured. It rained and rained and rained. When we finally got a cab the driver said it hadn't rained for a month and it was unbelievable that such a big night was rained out.
We made a special trip to the Trevi fountain the last night to throw in our coin and got lost and caught in the rain again. On the upside we ran into a few Piazza's we had missed and saw some more statues. We also took pictures of a beautiful sunset with a few raindrops in the picture. We finally made our way to the Trevi and made our wish to return to Rome again.

We were away for a total of 19 days and absolutely loved Italy. What would I do differently? I would wait at least another month and not travel in September. The weather was beautiful but there were so many people especially at the cruise ship ports of call. It was more than a little overwhelming. I would rather take a chance on the weather than brave the crowds. I would also start in Rome and end in Como. The entire trip in reverse would have been better I think because we were pretty burnt out when we finished Rome. There is so much to see.

Rude people? We met a few. The only terribly unfriendly situation we ran into was at a restaurant in Como. The food was great but we were treated terribly and almost all other North Americans in the restaurant were treated the same. There were mostly Italians and because I look a little Italian we were mistaken for Italians when we arrived and were greeted warmly with a little joke and a big smile. We had observed the chief waiter jokeing with the people before we arrived. As soon as we spoke he became truly unfriendly. No exaggeration. When the bill came it was slapped on the table. The waiter did not come to pour our wine and when my husband reached for the bottle the waiter grabbed it away and screamed at him. They also yelled at another young North American couple when they came in. It was early in our trip. I wished it had happened at the end as we would have been better prepared to handle it. On the other hand the friendliest cab driver we met was the very next morning in Como. It takes all kinds to make a world. We met far more nice people than we met not so nice. It was a lovely experience. Would we visit Italy again? In a minute.

There you go. A very poor trip report in relation to most others. A huge thankyou to all that helped with the planning. You were a tremendous help. If anyone has any questions that I can help with please don't hesitate to ask.
Sprig is offline  
Oct 4th, 2005, 07:47 PM
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Thank you Sprig, I thought this was a wonderful trip report. And, yes, there are all kinds of people everywhere, but it sounds as if overall, you had great experiences.
artlover is offline  
Oct 4th, 2005, 07:50 PM
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That was a GREAT trip report, Sprig. Love your enthusiasm!
Holly_uncasdewar is offline  
Oct 4th, 2005, 08:17 PM
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That truly was a great report. We are going on our honeymoon next April and I have one quick question. We have 5 nights in our itinerary that are undecided. Coming from Rome, and going to Siena to stay a Ravizza, should we do 2 nights there and 3 in Florence or 3 in Siena and 2 in Florence? I know it all depends on what we like, but we like it all, countryside, city etc. There are no bad choices here but more exploration in the Siena area or more of city life in Florence. Just interested in your opinion since you just posted.

Thanks.
wonderbar8 is offline  
Oct 4th, 2005, 09:21 PM
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Thanks for a very entertaining report. I see that you are already planning to go back. After all, the scavi tour and the Borghese Gallery will be waiting for you.

Thanks again.
Simone1 is offline  
Oct 4th, 2005, 09:52 PM
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Hello Sprig, your trip report of Italy was wonderful IMO. I would ask which restaurant in Como treated you so badly. I think it would be good to give the name here so that others could avoid it because in all of my trips to Italy I have never came across that except for one shop in Rome..wish I could remember the name of the shop..the female owner was a *itch. LOL..there is always someone with a terrible attitude isn't there. Thanks for sharing your time in Italy with us, I sure enjoyed your report.
LoveItaly is offline  
Oct 4th, 2005, 10:02 PM
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Thanks for the Nice report. We are going to Rome in last week of Nov 2005. I hope Weather is OK in last week of Nov. We are keeping our fingures crossed. We are planing to Book Hotel next to termin Station. I hope this is secure place to stay.
Vapen is offline  
Oct 5th, 2005, 06:55 AM
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Sounds like you had a great trip, Sprig. Thanks for the report.
Statia is offline  
Oct 5th, 2005, 09:42 AM
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Sounds wonderful Sprig! We did much the same trip in 2002, but with Lake Garda not Como - in 9 days I'm headed back and will be including Como (staying in Bellagio) this time!

My only comment is on Hotel Oxford - we stayed there for three days in 2002 and while our stay was ok, I have 'un recommended' this hotel due to its location! I felt it was too far from the 'main' sights, and we don't mind walking 10 or so miles a day.

I suppose you were there for a longer time and had better bearings on the city. I'll have to look at a map - perhaps we just did not use an efficient route to get to the sights.

Again, just a comment, take it with a grain of salt - and thanks for posting!
travelphile is offline  
Oct 5th, 2005, 07:45 PM
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Hey Wonderbar8. If I had to pick I would take the extra day in Siena to wander the countryside. It does depend upon what you like. Florence was nice and we enjoyed our time there but it is pretty much museums, art galleries and churches. Rome has so many different things to see and we enjoyed that mix more. When we were in Siena we neaded out every day to the countryside. The extra day there would be my choice.

Love Italy the hotel where we were treated badly was BarDelle Terme in Como. It is attached to the Albergo Terminus Hotel. We went to the hotel lobby afterwards and they called us a cab.

We found the people in nearly all of the hotels to be quite formal and not very friendly. Even though we couldn't describe them as friendly that does not mean that they were not helpful. We absolutely loved the Hotel Villa Flori in Como and the restaurant was wonderful. We found the staff unbelievably helpful but not particularly friendly. Most cab drivers there were also not that friendly except for the sweetie we met the last day. The fellow at the ferry station was a little rude and the people at the train station were not helpful. We asked directions from some English travelers after we couldn't get much from the ticket agents.

The treatment at this restaurant was exceptional. It went beyond the standoffish manner that we had become used to in Como. I really would recommend against going there even though the food was very good.

We were in Como a couple of days and stopped many places for a drink or a rest and didn't have a problem with most people we met. We really enjoyed it overall. I would go back in a minute and would stay again at the Hotel Villa Flori...if I was sure I could get a lakeview room. So very beautiful.

Sprig is offline  
Oct 6th, 2005, 09:13 AM
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Hi Sprig,

Your trip sounds just great! We were in Rome the same time. Did you go out in the rain for the White Night? Was it fun?

I was so beat after doing the Arch Museum in Naples, then training up to Rome, that I slept throught the whole thing.
Dayle is offline  
Oct 8th, 2005, 10:50 PM
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Dayle - We were out early on White Night just waiting for things to get started. Then came the rain. We were at a sidewalk cafe and kept waiting to see if it would pass and finally gave up and started to walk in the rain...and as you know it really rained. We finally caught a cab which was a feat in that kind of weather. Went back to the hotel and had dinner there. Too bad as a lot of people were looking forward to the big night.
Sprig is offline  
Oct 9th, 2005, 06:45 AM
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Hi Sprig, What tour company did your travel with to Sorrento and Capri?
ginder is offline  
Oct 9th, 2005, 04:28 PM
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Hey me too I was in Rome for White Night. I was walking all over town trying to find an empty room. I wanted to go find out where the action was but by the time I got settled, it was too late so I just went clubbing instead. Boy was it packed. The line to get in was literally the longest I'd ever seen but it was good fun. ha good times.
rotaka is offline  
Oct 9th, 2005, 09:32 PM
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We went to Sorrento & Capri with Greenline Tours. We used them for most of the tours we took in Rome. We did the Vatican Museum/Sistine Chapel with them and also a walking tour of Rome and the Vatican, just St. Peters. We like to take tours to the ancient sites as we seem to get more out of them. The tour to Sorrento & Capri was really nice. Wish we had booked one more day in Capri to wind down a little before we came home. Of course we wouldn't have wound down. Instead I am sure we would have taken the bus to Positano. We are those go, go, go type of travelers. It think we need to learn to slow down a little. Its hard though particularly near the end of a trip.
Sprig is offline  

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