First Trip to Italy -Recommendations

Mar 17th, 2007, 03:17 PM
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Join Date: Mar 2007
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First Trip to Italy -Recommendations

My family will be making our first trip to Italy in July 2007. We've never been to Europe. I'm 47, my husband is 53 and we have a 13 year old son. We're going to Rome for 5 days, Cinque Terre for 4 days, Lake Como for 4 days and Milan for 2.
There is so much to do in Rome. I want to have a tentative plan in place before we go. Any restaurant or must see recommendations appreciated. What's the best way to tour the Colosseum/Forum areas and the Vatican. We will be staying at the Albergo del Senato near the Pantheon.
GranthamMommy is offline  
Mar 17th, 2007, 03:23 PM
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Use the "search this forum" function here. For instance, type in "Rome restaurants".
TuckH is offline  
Mar 17th, 2007, 03:27 PM
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Hi Granthammommy,

My first question is, why Milan? Are you flying out from Malpensa?

I would recommend taking a day from Lake Como and spending 3 in Venice instead! I think you all would like Venice much more than Milan. Milan is a great city to visit for many reasons, but usually not on a first trip. Too many other places much more special.

As for Roma, many people here have used one of the tour companies for the Coloseum/Forum and the Vatican. I used Context Rome for their Antique Rome and Arte Vatican tours and was very happy with both. However, these are 4 hour tours. Would your son be interested and last that long? You could use another company that does a shorter tour, or ask for a custom tour.

Buon viaggio!
Dayle is offline  
Mar 17th, 2007, 03:35 PM
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Avoid the huge line to buy tickets for the Colosseum by purchasing them at the Palatine Gardens (in the Forum). Avoid the huge line to buy tickets for the Vatican Museum by getting on a scheduled tour of the museum. You'll pay more for the guided tour, but you'll save a couple hours of vacation that would have been spent under the hot summer sun waiting outside Vatican City. Plus, the tour is worthwhile. Here's the true story of how I learned this:

Then, when you finish the tour (at the Sistine Chapel), you can go straight into St. Peter's, bypassing yet another queue.
travelhorizons is offline  
Mar 17th, 2007, 03:38 PM
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Thank you TuckH. This is my first time using this sight.

Dayle, The Lake Como part of the trip is to do family tree research. We are getting a driver to take us to several small towns to do research. And if I bump into George Clooney I will not be too unhappy. Yes, we are flying home from Milan.

Four hours might be a little long. He is very interested in all the ruins. Just loved Tulum in Mexico two years ago. Custom would be good as long as it wasn't too pricey.

If it wasn't for the family tree research, I would have headed to Venice. Hopefully there will be a next time with a return visit to Rome, Naples (more family tree research) and Venice.
GranthamMommy is offline  
Mar 17th, 2007, 03:42 PM
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I wouldn't tell you to change your itinerary to add Venice unless you think this is your once-in-a-lifetime visit to Italy. I rather like your "first trip" itinerary, especially for July and especially because you're not trying to cover too much ground. FYI, you will lose at least a half day each time you transit to the next stop.

I'll just mention a few things that I consider "must sees" that require reservations in advance:

Galleria Borghese, Rome
Scavi excavation under St. Peter's, Rome (I think your son meets the age requirement.)
The Last Supper, Milan

You can ask your hotels to make these reservations for you. It's possible you'll have to make the Scavi reservation yourself. If so, go to [email protected]. A reply may take several weeks.

Enjoy your trip!
Jean is online now  
Mar 17th, 2007, 03:51 PM
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I think your trip and the days allocated to each location sounds wonderful! Do you have your hotels selected for each leg of the journey?

As to your question on Rome, there are two ways to look at the must dos. You can either do them yourself or hire a guide. We've done it both ways and I think it really has to do with money, your interest level, and the time you have.

When we did it ourselves, we used the walking tours in the Rick Steves Rome guidebooks for both the Colosseo and Forum and then for the Vatican. I found then to quite good, especially if you are looking for a general overview type tour. His book tells you exactly where to get your tickets, and he takes you step by step through a nice tour. For us for the first few times in Rome, his tours were more than fine, we thought they were great!

Last summer, we used Context Rome ( for two tours - the Roma Antica which covers the Colosseo, Forum, and Palantine Hill. We also used them for an Underground Rome tour. They were fantastic, but pricey (which is part of the reason why I did self-guided tours before). I do, however, think the price was well-justified. Their discussions are like mini-college lectures, so they may or may not be what you are looking for.

If you do a search here, there are several other guided tour companies and individual guides that are recommended although I don't know the names of any off the top of my head.

Have a great trip!
SRS is offline  
Mar 17th, 2007, 04:25 PM
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Sally, we do have all our hotel reservations
Rome: Albergo del Senato
Cinque Terre: Hotel Villa Steno in Monterosso
Como: Hotel Metropole Suisse
Milan: Hotel Brunelleschi

I hope to plan something special each day ( 3-4 hours), then be able to relax, enjoy my surroundings and have a long dinner. Add in a Rick Steves walk.

GranthamMommy is offline  
Mar 17th, 2007, 04:48 PM
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I think your plan sounds perfect! Your hotels sound great too, although I have not stayed at any of them. I believe most if not all of those have received great reviews here.

We usually also try to pick out one main event each day and then leave the rest open. On our first trip, I had us hitting two-three museums each day. By the time we got home, we needed a vacation we were so tired.

In Rome, I personally think the biggies are the Vatican/St. Peters and Colosseo/Roman Forum. I also think Borghese Gallery is fantastic. And you don't want to miss the Pantheon (which you won't as you are staying right next to it), Piazza Navona, Campo de'Fiori, Spanish Steps, and Trevi Fountain. But you'll bump into all of these sites as you are travelling about.

I also agree that if you can get Scavi tickets, that would be fantastic!

I think that RS has a number of really nice walks for Rome, by the way, especially the one called Night Walk Across Rome or something like that.

SRS is offline  
Mar 18th, 2007, 06:23 AM
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Dear GranthamMommy,
We took our two teenage sons (16 and 18 at the time) to Italy two years ago and had a great time. The Scavi tour was a highlight for them. It was just our family exploring below St. Peter's with our priest guide, so we felt very privileged indeed.

We did the Forum on our own with the audio-guides that you can rent. I wish we had booked a guided tour. At the time, it seemed like just one more in a long line of expenses, but I think the guide would have been more dynamic and would have helped us make sense of the ruins. Also, we were there in late afternoon in late June so it was very hot. I would suggest getting there early in hopes of beating some of the heat. There are a number of different tour recommendations on this site, so you may be able to find one that fits the bill.

We enjoyed walking around the city and seeing the usual highlights (Trevl, Spanish Steps, Pantheon) with many stops for gelato. In fact, during our time in Rome, we used no public transportation--just walked.

The boys also enjoyed people watching at Piazza Navona in the evenings and Campo dei Fiori. We had breakfast one morning in Campo dei Fiori and were entertained by the activities at the outdoor market there. Best of all were the people who would drive up on scooters, stack boxes of fruit and vegetables behind them, and then drive off with their precarious loads.

My younger son had read "Angel and Demons" by Dan Brown (The Da Vinci Code author). I would not recommend it as a work of great fiction and probably not suited for a 13 year old, but it was fun to look for the sites mentioned in the book.

Your family will have a great time--Italy is a fantastic introduction to Europe.
mama_mia is offline  
Mar 18th, 2007, 06:44 AM
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Good Morning Mama_Mia

I had just entered a search for the best way to tour the colosseum and forum and I was surprised to see a response to my message. Thank you!

You have to be 15 to do the Scavi tour unfortunately. So if I do get a reservation, my husband and son will entertain themselves somehow.

People will now say I'm the weird lady on Fodors, but Pope John Paul II appeared to me on the night he died and said in a beautiful voice "to be good". So, I have to make this pilgrimage to him.

To counter balance that, my days in Cinque Terre will be filled with sun, beach and wine!

I think I will book a tour to the Colosseum and the Forum. I may start a new thread to gather that information.
GranthamMommy is offline  
Mar 18th, 2007, 06:56 AM
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Thought of two more things: We booked a tour of the Vatican Museums and Sistine Chapel through the Vatican Museums. I did it online in advance and so we were able to enter the museums through a separate entrance for guided tours. There was a long queue for those without tickets. (I don't know if this separate entrance is available to all group tours or not.)

Also, I wish we had made plans to see Ostia Antica while there. Friends of ours did make this trip with their son (who is similar in age to your son) and they raved about it. Seems to compare very favorably with Pompeii.

I guess we will have to return to make up for all of our misses/mistakes the first time!
mama_mia is offline  
Mar 18th, 2007, 07:25 AM
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Hi again GranthamMommy,

Ah, the family research trip - that makes all the difference! In that case, yes. You are in for a wonderful experience!

Have you tried to arrange a meeting with any local history experts in the area? Local folks can really help and are a wealth of information (priests, local newspaper people). They usually are very enthusiastic about their areas of expertise and you'll have a whole different point of view than most who visit with only tourism goals!

Have a wonderful time! Buon viaggio!
Dayle is offline  
Mar 18th, 2007, 07:38 AM
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I've been so involved with the 5 days in Rome I haven't thought much about the Como portion.

I sent several emails to the area but never a response.

Maybe I'll start a separate post. I know from Ellis Island Records the family is from Mello/Morbegno area. My great grandmother was born in Como. So I'm thinking a driver to get me from little town to little town for at least a day, maybe two. But how to find the expert that speaks English!

We may take a day trip to Switzerland if the family search doesn't get anywhere.

There is a hotel in Mello called the Hotel Baraglia that is our family name. I was told that our relatives have a hotel (could this be it?) but they did not respond to emails and when I tried to book it through a website they said they were filled. I guess I'll just have to show up for Sunday dinner with pictures of "the family" in hand.

Cheryl (Grantham Mommy)
GranthamMommy is offline  
Mar 18th, 2007, 07:44 AM
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