Bender`s Italy/Monaco Trip Report

Oct 27th, 2005, 03:07 AM
  #1  
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Bender`s Italy/Monaco Trip Report

Having had many a question answered on this board and having read multitudes of usefull messages, here are the highlights of our recent trip to Rome, Florence, Monaco and Venice.

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Things that impressed us:

• Rome pizza, even though I was reminded on the first night that pepperoni means green peppers, not the meat pepperoni we are used to in Canada;
• Rome Architecture – every building has statues and looks like a work of art;
• Rome traffic and driving. It’s a zoo! I loved watching it and was glad I decided on taking trains instead of driving;
• Rome Vatican – St-Peter’s basilica and the Vatican museum;
• Rome B&B – B&B ALL’OROLOGIO, walking distance to piazza Navona;
• Piazza Navona and the fountains;
• Blue Ice gelato. It looked like a chain, so we didn’t expect much. We were shocked at how good the chocolate and chestnut gelato was;
• Florence piazza de la Segnoria;
• Florence Uffizi museum;
• Florence, south of the Arno river. Quiet, next to no tourists;
• Monaco prices. We expected not to be able to buy a bottle of water. We were surprised that the cost of living is basically the same as here;
• Monaco hotel Mirabeau, located directly on the street where the Formula One cars race. That was cool;
• Monaco beach and warm Mediterranean sea water. Even in middle of October. Very nice;
• Monaco Casino. Loved dressing up like James Bond and playing a little roulette;
• Venice Doge’s palace. Did the secret itineraries tour. Very nice. Makes me wish I did more tours in Rome to get a better feel for the history;
• Venice B&B – Ca Gattordi. Very nice luxury room. Beautiful breakfast area. Good location halfway between the Rialto bridge and the train station;
• Vinci – birthplace of Leonardo. Little town in Tuscany. Museum in an old castle. Almost no tourist when we went;
• Efficiency and ease of use of the train. Having done a little reading on this board ahead of time, we knew exactly what to do and it was a piece of cake;
• Friendliness of people in Monaco. Not the “stuck up” crowd we were expecting. Very pleasant surprise;
• Venice – Church of San Barnaba. Indiana Jones fans will know what I’m talking about. It was cool to see it;
• Inside Out map books – Very useful in Rome as everything isn’t as close and a lot of walking is necessary. Not so useful in Florence, as everything is really close and easy to find. See further comment on Venice.

Things that didn’t really make much of an impression:

• Rome – the Spanish steps. Over crowded, otherwise not much to see. Of the over 300 pictures we took in Rome, I think we have 2 of the Spanish steps;
• Rome – The Trevi fountain. While the fountain itself is a work of art and very impressive, getting anywhere close to it requires making your way through hundreds of tourists;
• Florence, the city itself. We were very disappointed by Florence. Maybe my expectations were too high, but I thought that Florence would be a very laid back place, compared to Rome. It is overrun with tourists and peddlers. And we weren’t even in high season. I can’t even imagine this place during high season. I do have to point out that our B&B in Florence, Relais Cavalcanti, was one of the noisiest places ever and that probably influenced our view of the city, as it is much harder to make your way through the multitude of tourists and tour groups on 3 hrs of sleep a night;
• Florence, special mention to the group of Cougars from the U.K. who stayed at our B&B the nights of October 13 and 14. They managed to wake us up in the middle of the night twice, and on one occasion managed to stay up and cause all kinds of noise in the common B&B kitchen;
• The “tourist attitude” in general. Everywhere we went, we noticed that there are a lot of tourists who will almost trample you on their way to see some sight or attraction. People, it’s ruins or paintings or statues. They have been there for hundreds or thousand of years. They’re not going anywhere. WAIT YOUR TURN AND BE PATIENT! On many occasions, while waiting in line to see something (especially those museum rooms where you can’t actually get in but have to look at from the door), we had to remind people to get at the back of the line. Very strange how people forget their manners in making sure they see what they want to see. I almost got into an argument with a fellow tourist who was actually pushing me so his friend could take a picture of him playing in the Trevi fountain water and my wife got poked in the ribs by a nun trying to make her way to a souvenir stand (yes, you read right, a poking nun!);
• Trying to use an Inside Out map book in Venice. Futile. Just follow the signs to the major attractions and figure it out from there!


Things that actually blew us away:

• Rome, the city. What a wonderful city! Lots of history, beautiful architecture, the Vatican, the multitude of piazzas (all bursting with life!). Loved it. Didn’t want to leave;
• Rome – seeing the Pope four feet away from us. On the Wednesday morning audience, we were lucky enough to be right next to where the Pope drove in his pope mobile to get to the stage on St-Peter’s steps. Very cool;
• Rome – the Bernini fountain at piazza Navona. It’s big, it’s beautiful, it wasn’t crowded like the Trevi fountain. We loved it;
• Rome- Sistine Chapel. This has been covered to death. Everyone is right;
• Rome – the ruins (well, blew me away, not so much my wife). Impressive to see and read on what used to be there and what purpose the buildings served;
• Rome – The Vatican museum. After seeing the art in this place, everything else pales in comparison;
• Vinci – the peaceful surroundings, after being in Florence for a few days and being a little fed up with tourist groups;
• Venice itself. That is truly unique and needs to be seen at least once;
• Florence Uffizi museum. While neither of us are true art buffs, once has to be impressed by seeing original work of arts like the ones at the Uffizi. The birth of Venus is spectacular.


Debunking and answering things read on this board:

• You can wear jeans in Rome, Vinci, Florence and Venice, without fear of getting arrested by the fashion police. You won’t even look like a tourist doing so. Rick Steve’s books tucked under your arm or on your chest are, however, a dead giveaway;
• Wearing jeans in Monaco, however, does make one feel a little cheap. Sweat pants are definitely out though (that’s pretty much everywhere, really!), even though we did see some tourists wearing them. If you are going to wear jeans in Monaco, accessorize with a sports jacket;
• You can drink cappuccino after 11:00 in Italy without fear of getting shot. In fact, most restaurants offer it;
• Everyone in the tourist area speaks English. I am however regretting not taking an Italian class before the trip, as I would’ve really liked to be able to converse in Italian. When in Monaco, where everyone speaks French, it was so much easier as both my wife and I are fluent;
• We didn’t get pick pocketed anywhere in Italy, Monaco or Toronto for that matter. I did wear a money belt for our cash and passports and my wife had a Tilley purse that has multiple compartments and zippers. Very secure. At no time did I feel like I had to watch out or was in any fear whatsoever. We were however aware of our surroundings, but that should be the case everywhere you go, really;



Bender_077 is offline  
Oct 27th, 2005, 03:10 AM
  #2  
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(Last part of the report was cut)

Overall impressions:

Loved Italy, loved Monaco. Took over 1500 pictures that we will enjoy looking at for the coming years. Will likely spend our next vacation on the French riviera.

Bender
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Oct 27th, 2005, 04:48 AM
  #3  
ira
 
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Thanks for sharing, B

ira is online now  
Oct 29th, 2005, 04:00 AM
  #4  
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topping
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Oct 29th, 2005, 05:14 AM
  #5  
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
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Sounds like a great trip. I agree with many of your impressions. Not sure I get the appeal of the Spanish steps either. And it sounds like prices in Monaco are similar to prices in France, which seem pretty similar to US prices. Italy seems more expensive.
Nikki is offline  
Oct 29th, 2005, 05:28 AM
  #6  
Ian
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 1,140
Nice concise report. You are right about pushy tourists. I had a pushing match with a bunch of Spanish ladies at the Alcazar in Sevilla. I pushed back.

Ian
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