First trip to Italy

Old Aug 12th, 2000, 06:14 AM
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First trip to Italy

Hello. My wife and i are taking our first trip to Italy in Sept. Rome, Chainti, then venice. We are so excited, yet nervous also. Help! What can we expect? Is the food so much different than American-Italian food. Is it all red sauce. No red sauce. I've read here to go a head and get lost in Rome and Venice. To wander side streets and check out out of the way resturants. True? How serious is the crime in Italy? Pick pockets? We are a couple in our early 60s. Is there any thing we should not miss. Any thing to avoid? Please. I left my e-mail address. Any and all advise would be so helpful. Looking forward to lots of informative replys. Thank you in advance for your valued time.
Old Aug 12th, 2000, 06:49 AM
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just returned from rome and florence a couple of weeks ago. i don't want to sound negative because i'm glad i went and had a good time. i was pickpocketed and i saw it happen to other people there. since i've been back alot of people i have told my story to had the same experience in rome. from this experience i would just say that all that advice you hear about how to avoid pickpockets you should pay close attention to. things i wish i had done differently---not going into the subway at 5PM. i was warned, but forgot. it was very crowded. also, the security people were running gypsies out of the station when we arrived--should have been a warning to us. #2 thing i should have done differently---not had so many things in my wallet to begin with---my passport, my palm pilot, two credit cards, my travelers checks. the one good thing i had done was make copies of my passport. that was helpful in getting a new one. i would just say, as soon as you get to your hotel take everything out of your wallet that you don't absolutely need. i certainly didn't need my palm pilot while walking around rome. i also didn't need two credit cards or the travelers checks that i only had for an emergency anyway. should have put these things in the hotel safe as soon as i got there.

having said all of this, i would also say that i would definately go again. i just would handle myself a little differently.
Old Aug 12th, 2000, 06:52 AM
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I think you will be surprised at how easy it is to get around and how many people speak english to help you out. The food is very similiar and the menus are often times in english. Just get your few Italian phrases down- grazie,parla Inglese?,per favore, and you will be fine. Watch the pickpockets in Rome, otherwise have a great time.
Old Aug 12th, 2000, 12:08 PM
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Ditto on the pickpocket warnings. They are everywhere. Look for young girls nursing babies in public and asking you for a handout. They are pickpockets.

One piece of advice: Be sure you have at least two different credit cards. You only carry one card and your spouse carries the other different card only. That way if they get your card and you have to cancel it you still have a good card to use on the rest of the trip.
Also, if you do lose your card report to the card company first and then the police. The thieves will immediately use your card and the quicker you get it canceled the better. The police probably cannot help anyway.

The advice about leaving as much as possible in the room or hotel safe is also good. It is much safer there.

All of this said, Italy is great. English is pretty common. The food is outstanding and you will always find something good to eat.

Rome is a city that I believe you need to take an official grey line or American Express tour to see all the sites with not having to worry about finding them yourselves. We have had very good luck with tours in Rome and then return to places we want to spend more time at if time allows.

Venice is a walking city. Very crowded during the day as the day trippers are in town, but very nice in the evening. One great way to see the city is to buy a ticket on a vaparetto (their floating busses), stay on long enough to work yourselves to a seat up front and just make all the stops and enjoy the sites without getting off the vaparetto. Easy and inexpensive. They also sell a 3 day pass that is the way to go if you are there that long. Allows unlimited use and avoids having to buy a ticket each time you ride the vaparetto.

Visit the lobby of the Danielli Hotel. Magnificent. Go to Murano to see the glass shops. Touristy, but interesting.
There is a shop called Max's, right up the street from Harry's Bar, that sells hand made items. We found the items and the people to be very nice. Have a drink at one of the open bars in St Mark's Square. Expensive, but you cannot do it anywhere else. On a trip in 96 we were next to Candance Bergen and her daughter.

Have fun......but watch out for the pickpockets!
Old Aug 12th, 2000, 08:19 PM
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I must have visited a different Rome than Sally and Bob did. I'm sorry to hear of their experiences and we were concerned too prior to our visit because of all the stories we had read and heard about, and I don't dispute or doubt any of them. Our experience in Rome in July was superb. We felt perfectly safe and only saw one Gypsy the entire four days (a woman soliciting cars on the street for money). There were police everywhere throughout the central city. Perhaps another reason we did not see suspect pickpockets is that we did not use public transportation at all, we either walked or used cabs (which were clean, efficient, honest and reasonably priced). Also, I used a money pouch which I wore underneath my shirt, others recommend a money belt, your choice depending on what's more comfortable, but at any rate get one and USE IT in all the big Italian cities. Also leave all your valuables at home. Why tempt the thieves?

For don't miss in Rome, I'd vote the Vatican. The Sistine Chapel and St. Peter's knocked us over. In Tuscany Siena was tops for us (we didn't go to Florence) and the Duomo there was spectacular.

As to the food, it is similar to what you would encounter in a good Italian restaurant in the states (except that everything in Italy is fresh off the farm - you can taste the difference), but it is presented differently. Pasta is served as a separate dish (primi) after the antipasti and before the main dish (secondi). The main dish was most suprising to us since what is served is usually just the prepared meat, no sides. Sides must be ordered separately. In Chianti and Rome most (but not all) restaurants had at least one and usually more staff who spoke at least some English, and many had English menus. That was very helpful for us since my wife cannot eat tomatoes or tomato sauce. That's easier said than done in Italy but we found enough dishes without it and everyone was helpful and willing to leave out or substitute the tomatoes. Having said that a good phrase book and dictionary (I would recommend Berlitz)is still necessary. If you have any dietary needs try to learn the words for it (i.e. tomato = pomodoro), it will save you some time and trouble.

Sorry no help on Venice - we didn't get there.

It is facsinating and beautiful country. Have fun!


Old Aug 13th, 2000, 08:39 AM
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Dan and I have both been to the same Rome. I adore Rome - yes, one does have to exercise some caution with regards to pickpockets (many of them are Gypsies, but not all). And I did see a young girl in action on the subway (beware of sweater covering arm), but nevertheless it's a great city. Love the buzz of the Vespas, the hustle of the city, the warmth of the people --- food is wonderful!
Yes, you will recognize many of the items, however I find that generally the quality is better. Fresher ingredients make a big difference.

As for your sightseeing in Rome, it's best to have a plan. Rome is a walking city, but a big place and so, you don't necessarily want to just "wander" without a destination in mind.
Believe that you can wander & "get lost" in Venice; wouldn't suggest that approach to Rome. I've used public transportation during my 2 visits to Rome. And yes, I clutched on to my bag and boarded bus no. 64 to the Vatican (route that Rick Steves refers to as pickpocket haven). Actually what's more problematic on subway & buses, with buses in particular is the ability to grab a seat.

A visit to the Vatican is a must (St. Peter's Basilica, Sistine Chapel, Vatican Museum). Entering St. Peter's is a jaw-dropping visual extravaganza - I think it's a stunningly beautiful place. I'm not Catholic, nor am I a Christian and yet I feel the presence of God's house every time I go there.
As you come thru the doors, turn to your right to see Michelangelo's Pieta. Unfortunately, it's behind glass (one of those loonies who launched an attack years ago) - It's an amazing sculpture and mind-boggling when you consider that Michelangelo was in his early twenties working on this piece.

Additionally, if you're up for the hike, you can make the three hundred something step climb up to to the cupola. This will get you up to the "statute level" on the exterior (the statutes of Christ, his apostles & the Popes that ring & look down upon the square). Also, at this level you can walk around the interior ring of the dome - it's great to get a closer view of the dome, and truly gives you a sense of the tremendous scale of St. Peter's when you look down (way, way down) at the floor below. Don't worry - a five ft tall fence keeps you from pitching over the side.

And of course, from this level it's just a few more flights up to the highest point and a fabulous panoramic view of Rome.

I went to the Sunday morning services held outside in St. Peter's Square. However, depending on when you're in Rome, you may want to consider a Papal audience. Think they're on Wednesdays? I'm sure that info may be accessible on the Vatican website. You do have to get tickets in advance (no cost, but there's a limited amt of tickets given out each week). Don't know if the Pope gives an audience every week, due to his failing health.

And of course, I haven't begun to talk about the wonderful antiquities throughout the city. Oh - just thinking about Rome gets me so excited!
Buon Viaggio!
Old Aug 13th, 2000, 11:19 AM
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I have sightseeing notes on Venice; if you are interested, email me.
enjoy your trip

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