first time in Italy

Sep 6th, 2005, 04:09 AM
  #1  
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first time in Italy

With only a week to go before my husband and I leave for a 3 week whirlwind trip to Italy, I'm beginning to get nervous! So many questions!
First, other than in the Tuscan countryside, we will be traveling by train. Is it okay to wait until we get there to make first class reservations? We have 6 days when we are in Rome or in Tuscany with a car, before we'll be taking the train anywhere. Is it best to go to a local travel agent in Rome to make these reservations?

We plan to do a tour of the Vatican, another tour of the Colosseum and ancient Rome. Any suggestions for good tour companies? We are also thinking of some type of overview tour on our first day. Any suggestions or should we just roam on our own in Rome?

My husband is very concerned about dress. Some people have told us that gym shoes, as well as shorts are looked down on in the cities (Rome, Florence, Venice). He knows that shorts are not allowed in the churches, but other than that, are they a problem? What about in Tuscany or towns like Positano?

In Florence, would you recommend hiring a guide to see the Uffuzi and the Accademia?

We are planning on taking an overnight train from Santa Margherita Ligure to Naples, then switching to the Circumvesuviana to Sorrento. (Our free airline miles necessitate flying into and out of Rome, so we need to do a loop at some point.) Has anyone done the overnight trains?

After a visit to Pompeii and a night in Sorrento, we are thinking of hiring a car and driver to take us from Sorrento to Positano, possibly detouring to Amalfi for part of the day before arriving to stay in Positano. Any thoughts on that idea? Or has anyone taken a boat from Sorrento to those areas?

The more I think about it, I know that we are really cramming in an awful lot, but that will just give us ideas on what to go back for next time! Thanks for any help or ideas.
new_retiree is offline  
Sep 6th, 2005, 04:19 AM
  #2  
ira
 
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Hi N,

3 weeks in Italy doesn't have to be a whirlwind. It would help if we knew your whole itinerary.

If you know when you will be taking trains, you can buy your tickets online at www.trenitalia.com for the same price as in Italy.

You can wear shorts on the AC and the CT.

>would you recommend hiring a guide to see the Uffuzi and the Accademia?<

No.

>we are thinking of hiring a car and driver to take us from Sorrento to Positano, possibly detouring to Amalfi for part of the day before arriving to stay in Positano.<

I would take the SITA bus to Positano.
Next day take the SITA bus to Amalfi and ferry back or vice versa.

There are two bus stops in Positano, one on the top and one at the bottom. Check with your hotel as to which to take.


ira is offline  
Sep 6th, 2005, 05:10 AM
  #3  
 
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it will be my first time to italy too!
i am going with my brother who is a shorts freak.
he is going to wear shorts and take along (in a backpack) a light weight pullover pair of pants for our impromptu church visits. obviously he will wear pants the days we actually plan on seeing the vatican and museums and stuff...but for days of walking around outside he will have these as a backup. you should be able to find some really light weight pullover pants at a sports store...even Old Navy sells them.
However...have you checked the weather there? it is in the mid 70šs... not bad pants weather.
=)
kimberlina01 is offline  
Sep 6th, 2005, 05:47 AM
  #4  
 
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Hi.

You need not be too concerned about your itinerary or specific plans; do what you feel like doing at the moment. It'll ease the pressure if you know you don't have to be at a specific place at a specific time. Italy is easy.

Sorry to be a curmudgeon, but shorts are (is?) the perfect garment...when one is mowing the lawn. They may be comfortable but they make an adult male look like a five-year-old boy...and they generate commensurate respect. Dark cotton slacks look good and they are appropriate everywhere.

Have a great trip.
Pilchard is offline  
Sep 6th, 2005, 06:50 AM
  #5  
 
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Shorts are fine for daytime. For dinner my husband prefers the more "finished" look of slacks and a polo or dress shirt. In September, it cools down quite a bit at night.
I don't buy 1st class train tickets anymore, as long as I have a seat reservation (and air conditioning in the summer!) I've met some interesting people in 2nd class: families, locals and other budget-minded travelers.
Guide for Accademia? - no.
Guide for Uffizi? - I never have, but read a little ahead and make sure you have reservations. There are many online outlets for that.
If you're thinking of going to Amalfi, go a little further and go to Ravello too. It is heart-stopping gorgeous: see the Villa Cimbrone. Fabulous pottery there; different from other Amalfi Coast designs.
Have a wonderful trip!
Italiasubito is offline  
Sep 6th, 2005, 07:08 AM
  #6  
rex
 
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A man can decide whether to wear shorts in Europe using the same criteria he would use in the US - - it depends on your style of dress, the time of day and the location/circumstances.

Consider any of these, mid-September

A birthday lunch for your sister-in-law in Santa Barbara? in downtown Detroit?

Window shopping in Kennebunkport? in Bal Harbour? on Seattle's Pike Street?

Visiting the Statue of Liberty? the Chicago Art Institute? Williamsburg?

Different decisions for different men, in different weather.

What would Ari Gold do?



Best wishes,

Rex
rex is offline  
Sep 6th, 2005, 07:28 AM
  #7  
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A really easy way to get train tickets nowadays is via the electronic machines in the station. I know they have these in Termini. You can ask for a reserved seat on the machines as well as a ticket without a seat reservation. The machines take credit cards and because many tourists are nervous of them, the line is often nonexistent. You can get instructions in English. MUCH easier than finding a travel agent or even standing in line at the ticket booth at the station.
I second kimberlina01 on the beauties of second class. I never take first class trains. There's no difference except that the locals are in second class and the tourists are in first. Maybe a little less legroom in second, but I'm short so I couldn't tell you that for sure.
I suspect that the Accademia and the Uffizi have audioguides; I don't like them so I didn't notice. I wouldn't hire a guide. A good guidebook (e.g. Blue Guide Florence or Blue Guide Rome) will help. Personally I eschew tours and prefer to do my own roaming. It's easier to see things by yourself when somebody isn't telling you what to see.
Shorts say "tourist." Sorry, but they do. Italians don't wear shorts.
 
Sep 6th, 2005, 07:35 AM
  #8  
 
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I live in Sicily and can attest to the fact that Italians don't wear shorts. Even in August. Unless you are at a beach. In this day and age the less you stand out, the better.
tessa67 is offline  
Sep 6th, 2005, 07:54 AM
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Tessa, I live in Italy also and my husband (who is Italian) wears shorts all the time in the summer.
amy_zena is offline  
Sep 6th, 2005, 08:46 AM
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Some of these anti-shorts statements are rather ludicrous. ("...they make an adult male look like a five-year-old boy..." is about as ludicrous a statement as I've ever read on the forum.) As long as you know the "rules" (not allowed in churches, for example), you'll be fine in your shorts.
HowardR is offline  
Sep 6th, 2005, 09:06 AM
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Train tickets and seat reservations are two separate things. A ticket does not guarantee you a seat. We used to stop at a travel agent in the course of our sightseeing. No line, no surcharge.

However, if you're traveling on a busy weekend, you might want to buy tickets and reservations ahead of time.

And, if you're running a tight schedule, check for strikes scheduled during your visit. Does anybody have an up-to-date link for a web site listing strikes in Italy? My bookmarks no longer work.
Mimar is offline  
Sep 6th, 2005, 09:18 AM
  #12  
 
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Good site for scheduled Italian strikes:

www.seekitaly.com

Buon viaggio!
Dayle is offline  
Sep 6th, 2005, 09:20 AM
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You seem to have left a lot of planning and decisions to the last week before your trip! A couple of tour companies in Rome that are highly recommended here are www.contextrome.com and www.icontours.com. Especially for Context Rome, they may already be booked at this point, but you could try them. If you do a search here, you could also find a couple of other companies.

It's a very good idea to have reservations for the Accademia and Uffizi in Florence to avoid waiting in very long lines. Again, the Uffizi is probably already booked, but you could try. You can make reservations for both by calling 011-39-055-294-883. Do this right away!

I'm not going to the Amalfi Coast, so don't have the info, but do a search here and you can find out about a couple of drivers available there.
Have a great trip!
SusanP is offline  
Sep 6th, 2005, 09:33 AM
  #14  
 
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Here are some tips from my last visit to Italy in August:
http://www.fodors.com/forums/threads...me=marty&fid=2

I travel to Europe at least twice a year. There are so many people at the places you will visit as a tourist. No one will notice your clothes; no one stands out in the crowd. Wear what suits you.
marty is offline  
Sep 6th, 2005, 09:35 AM
  #15  
 
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To HowardR:

Golly, Howard. Either you don't read many of the whoppers that appear in this forum or you misunderstood my response to new retiree.

She said he was "very concerned" about dress and that she thought that shorts may be "looked down on" in the cities. To me this implies that the mister isn't necessarily asking about proper dress "rules" specifically for churches, but rather whether there is a general disdain for such casual garments.

I will leave it for the Italians to respond definitively but for my money, if Mr. Retiree is concerned about what other people think of his wardrobe, he'll leave the shorts at home with his other work and beach clothes.

Regards.
Pilchard is offline  
Sep 6th, 2005, 11:22 AM
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I'm not much for organized tours...I prefer to wander on my own and Italy is a pretty easy country to navigate.
Personally, I would suggest going on your own in Rome. If you know the history you don't really get much more from a tour than you do on your own when it comes to things like the Colosseum and the Forum. I've done both formal tour and on my own, I like the freedom to wander on my own.

I've been twice, and I agree with those who say shorts do say tourist. I have friends who live in Italy as well, and the consensus is that adults don't wear shorts...younger generations and tourists do. In some parts of Rome, especially the upscale shopping districts, shorts are looked down on in my experience. That said, if it's what you are comfortable in and you don't really care, go for it. Otherwise, take lots of khakis. Watch out for bare shoulders in churches as well. Keep a sweater or wrap handy if you are wearing sleeveless tops.

When you are in Sorrento, stop by the Isle of Capri if you have time. Beautiful island, if not a bit touristy at times. The Blue Grotto is a fun and very pretty experience.

If you are looping back to Rome, and have time to stop, check out the Montecasino monastery...largely destroyed during WWII, it's been beautifully restored and there are some great things to see there.

Don't know your itinerary for Tuscany, but spend some time in Lucca and along the Riviera (about 20 minutes from Lucca). Lucca's a gorgeous town with lots of great shopping and sites.
travel_junkie is offline  
Sep 6th, 2005, 12:03 PM
  #17  
 
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American Express has some good tours in Rome. The office is located at the Spanish Steps (Piazza di Spagna 38).

Telephone : 06-67.64.24.13
FAX: 06-67.64.24.99

We took the Vatican City tour and the "Rome of the Caesars" tour and were very pleased with both.

Byrd is offline  
Sep 6th, 2005, 12:04 PM
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Pilchard, read my comments again. I was responding to your ridiculous remark that shorts make an adult look like a five-year-old boy.
As for wearing shorts and looking like a tourist....so what? What's wrong with looking like what you are....a tourist?
I've never encountered seeing any adult male being the object ofsevere disdain or scorn because he was wearing shorts.
HowardR is offline  
Sep 6th, 2005, 12:56 PM
  #19  
 
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im with you howard.... those comments by Pilchard (no offense) kind of bugged me too. Thing is.. here in the US we wear shorts all the time (esp. here in FLA) and it is what is comfortable to us. If i am paying alot of $$ to go abroad I want to be comfortable and not feel like a stuffed shirt. That being said, i can also comply/understand with the church rules and regulations.
Besides, i have to say... looking funny doesn't stop the tourist on my Miami beaches from wearing black socks with sandles.
kimberlina01 is offline  
Sep 6th, 2005, 01:31 PM
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Well, I think the shorts issue comes down to your particular travel philosophy. Some people would rather be comfortable and wear what they normally wear. Others would rather blend in and not "look like a tourist." Sounds like a matter of personal choice. I personally choose not to look "American" and prefer to be inconspicuous; for me it's a matter of safety b/c I often travel solo and I find I get less unwelcome (male)attention if I'm not overtly "American" looking (or acting). I think in the end you have to do what you think is best for you.
 

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