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First trip to Italy: Venice, Florence and Rome

First trip to Italy: Venice, Florence and Rome

Jul 10th, 2006, 07:10 PM
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Join Date: Feb 2006
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First trip to Italy: Venice, Florence and Rome

My wife and I are arriving in Venice Sunday morning Sep. 24, staying 4 nights at the Locanda Orseolo, then 4 nights in Florence at the Hotel Davanzati, then 4 nights in Rome at the Hotel Barocco. We would appreciate advice on things not to miss (especially that require tickets in advance), restaurants (good, but not gourmet), overview tours and how to arrange travel by train between cities.
neilsusan is offline  
Jul 11th, 2006, 04:04 AM
Join Date: Feb 2005
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First, we have stayed at both Locanda Orseolo (a few weeks ago and the Hotel Barocco (a couple of years ago) and loved them both! You will have a great time.

As far as things not to miss, there are zillions and more people will be able to help if you give a little bit more about your interests, budget and style.

In Rome, in addition to the more obvious sites like the Colosseum, Forum, St. Peter's/Vatican, Trevi Fountain, Piazza Navona and Campo dei Fiori, we loved Galleria Borghese with its awesome Bernini sculptures. I particularly named that as it requires tickets in advance.

In Florence, the Uffizi and the David at the Accademia should both be reserved in advance.

In Venice, we booked a Secret Itineraries Tour at the Doge's Palace which was a behind the scenes tour. It also included regular admission so we stayed after the tour to view the main areas. My other recommendation in Venice is to not only stay around the St. Mark's area, but to explore the other neighborhoods - they are much less crowded and magical feeling. We enjoyed San Marco the most early in the morning and in the evening when the cruise ships and day trippers were gone. You can check out my trip report - recent- with some other Venice recommendations. Dinner at Acqua Pazza and Antico Dolo were memorable.

As for trains, I like to use BETS (Budget European Travel Service). They are very helpful. http://www.budgeteuropetravel.com/index.html
800-441-9413 or 800-441-2387

Or, use the Italian rail site, trenitalia.

Hope that gets you started. Have fun!
fun4all4 is offline  
Jul 11th, 2006, 04:05 AM
Join Date: Jan 2003
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Hi N,

For train schedules prices and tickets see www.trenitalia.com.

You want Venice San Lucia to Florence.

If you want to go on the Secret Itineraries tour of Doge’s palace Phone number is 011 39 041 520 9070. English-speaking operator.

You will not be charged for your tickets if you don't go on the tour.

For Florence Uffizi and Academia Museum Reservations
The easiest and cheapest way is to call Florence 1016868 (dial around number), 011 (U.S. international access code) 39 (Italy's country code) then 055-294-883 8:30-18:30 M-F and 8:30-12:00 Sat. Florence time. You will get an English speaking operator and in 2-3 minutes YOU CAN RESERVE FOR BOTH. This is through the reservation service at the Uffizi and costs beyond the normal entry fee only about 3 euro for the service. This is MUCH cheaper than the commercial booking services.

You will not be charged for the reservations unless you use them.

Have a nice visit.

ira is offline  
Jul 11th, 2006, 04:09 AM
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I've always just bought train tickets on the day - get to the station when you're ready (so no panic), use self-service ticket machine which has an English option, buy tickets for next fast or reasonably fast train.

When we were in Venice last year the only things I booked in advance were 1) entry to St Mark's basilica (well worthwhile, there were always really long queues), 2) the Accademia (would have walked straight in anyway, but we did go at 9am on a Sunday) & 3) the Doges' Palace Secret Itinerary Tour (worth doing but I think you can book in person the day before too). The DPSIT ticket included general entry to the Doges' Palace but again, at the time we arrived we'd have walked straight in anyway.

I've never booked anything in advance in Florence or Rome; though it's some years since I was in Florence & it sounds as though the queues are much worse now. At places in Rome where people report long queues like the Vatican Museums & the Colosseum I've never had to queue but maybe I just went at good times (around midday probably).

Personally I'd knock 1 night off Florence and add it to Venice or Rome - I'd had enough of Florence after 3 nights, but have been to Rome about 5 times probably totalling around 3 weeks; and spent a week in Venice last year & planning to do the same next year.
caroline_edinburgh is offline  
Jul 11th, 2006, 04:59 AM
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If you look at the schedules on www.trenitalia.com or www.bahn.de, you'll see that trains between Venezia, Firenze and Roma are frequent. It's so much easier to buy a ticket at the station before you travel: get tickets a couple of days in advance if you're concerned about getting a specific train.
GeoffHamer is offline  
Jul 11th, 2006, 05:42 AM
Join Date: Jan 2003
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I would absolutely get advance reservations / tickets for the Uffizi and the Academmia (Michelangelo's David) in Florence. You have good advice on train travel... just buy tickets at the train station on the day you want to leave. If you feel you need to be more organized, go to the train station the day before, check the schedules and buy the tickets then.
Jean_Valjean is offline  
Jul 11th, 2006, 05:50 AM
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Everyone has given you great advice, and I would just add an enthusiastic second to the Borghese in Rome. Definitely get reservations, and consider doing the guided tour (5 euro extra). We loved it!

Have a fun trip!
dina4 is offline  
Jul 11th, 2006, 05:50 AM
Join Date: Mar 2003
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My wife and I went to Rome last year and we had a great time there. I have posted a trip report with pictures and links on my homepage http://gardkarlsen.com/rome_italy.htm Maybe you can find some useful info there. We also went to Venice a couple of years back and I have posted a similar trip report on this page http://gardkarlsen.com/italy_venice.htm . Have a look and get in touch if you have any questions or comments.

Stavanger, Norway
gard is offline  
Jul 11th, 2006, 06:09 AM
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I guess I am more compulsive than the others who have posted, but I bought our tickets on the Eurostar in advance. I just printed out our email confirmation and took it on the train with me; the conductor punched my number into his hand held computer and the printed a receipt/ticket on his hand held printer.

Note that, at least as of a few weeks ago, you could get 29 euro fares in advance - kind of like US fare wars - only a limited number available for those who book early. I think it's a good idea to book in advance.
missypie is offline  
Jul 11th, 2006, 07:40 AM
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Your itinerary sounds wonderful. I recently spent three nights in each of those cities, and it was barely enough for a first visit. You will be enchanted by them. I wrote detailed trip reports of each city, including specifics on restaurants we liked there. Because my daughter had been studying in Florence the previous semester, she had a bead on the good places to eat and shop in that city, also good restaurants in Rome. You can click on my screen name above and find the three reports individually posted. If not, ask again here, and I'll cut and paste them into this thread.
For train travel in early May, we just bought tickets as we needed them, to be flexible with departure times. Make sure you get the correct ticket, though. We got fined once on EuroStar when the conductor noticed we had the wrong ticket, which a person at the ticket booth dispensed (not our fault from a machine).
Definitely get reservations for the Uffizi and Accademia. Go to the Vatican website and reserve a Museums tour through them directly, for the best rate and the only way to get a reserved entrance time. Also search this forum, for a post I made with specifics on how to do this. See the Vatican Museums first, then enter St. Peter's Basilica from the back door of the Sistene Chapel, which saves you going outside and getting in the St. Peter's line. Best tip I had from Rick Steves' book!
Jul 11th, 2006, 08:00 AM
Join Date: Apr 2006
Posts: 311
Great suggestions for a trip that looks a lot like the one I am planning for November. Thanks for the questions, Neilsusan. And thanks for the suggestions, Fodorites!
bookmarked for future reference!

olive_oil is offline  
Jul 11th, 2006, 08:06 AM
Join Date: May 2003
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Hi neilsusan ~

We stayed at Locanda Orseolo during our most recent visit, here is our report if you care to take a look:

You will love everyone at Locanda orseolo, they are scuh genuine people, and the location was wonderful.

We took the train from Florence to Venice and prebooked it through trenitalia.com here before leaving.

Enjoy your adventure, Italy is amazing!
Tiff is offline  
Jul 12th, 2006, 07:59 PM
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Thank you all.
neilsusan is offline  
Jul 16th, 2006, 09:09 AM
Join Date: Nov 2005
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I took my first trip to Italy in March. I loved the Scavi Tour at the Vatican. It made our visit even more special. Have you heard about it and/or requested a tour? If you haven't already requested reservations, you would need to do so asap since spaces are limited and it can take quite awhile to hear back from the Vatican office. If you are interested, do a search here to find out more.

I would have to agree with Caroline, to take one night from Florence. I would add it to Rome. I was told by several posters to add a night to Rome for my first trip to Italy and decided not to. I wish I had. However, I am someone who liked Florence, but didn't love it. I loved Rome and Venice. Rome is much bigger than Florence and there is so much to see there. For that reason, I would add a night there.

Have a wonderful trip. The Locanda Orseolo and the Hotel Davanzati are both fantastic places to stay. Fabrizio, at the Hotel Davanzati, is a gem.
CVerga is offline  
Jul 16th, 2006, 09:24 AM
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I too would reduce time in Florence and add to Venice. We just loved Venice and could have stayed there longer. I came upon a wonderful historical shop dating back to the 1700's that supplied the royalty including Versailles in Paris with glorious pillows, tassels etc. where I bought some gorgeous pillows for my sofa. www. bevilacquatessuti.com
It's worth a trip just for the history of it. They even have a historical room set up. We also bought beautiful scarves at Venetia Stvdivm . We stayed at the HOtel Flora and absolutely loved it.
ReddVelvet is offline  
Jul 18th, 2006, 08:44 AM
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It's purely personal taste, of course, which city might attract you more. Each of the 'big three' cities has its own personality. I loved Florence and Rome, for example, but got a bit bored in Venice with three nights there. But that's just me, and most others say they prefer Venice over Florence. It just goes to show how individuals react differently. Since my daughter had studied in Florence, she had so much to show me there, that it made Florence so much more fun. I think 4 nights in each will be a good starting point for a first visit to Italy. You can always take a day-trip if you're bored with one of the cities you're in.
Jul 18th, 2006, 08:54 AM
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P.S. Since you asked about restaurants, here are my notes from each city, with things we did, shops and restaurants we liked:

Florence: The afternoon we arrived, my daughter took me to a rooftop café, which overlooks the Duomo. It is on the top of a nice little ‘department’ store. I think it’s called Ristorante Ottorino, via delle Oche, 12-16r. We enjoyed wine and salads, on the sunny afternoon, with a close-up view of the Duomo. A very nice introduction to Florence for me.

...My daughter recommended one of her favorite restaurants, the Trattoria Garga on Via del Moro 48/R, phone 055 2398898. We had an amazing meal there, probably my best in Italy. My dish was veal with avocado, which sounds odd (most really good dishes do, I think), and was mouth-watering. Our waiter was a riot-- singing and joking all over the restaurant. It was a friendly, lively, bustling atmosphere with excellent food. We paid 81EUR for two, with a half-liter of house wine.

...We returned to town and finished our shopping mission: to find a wallet and a belt for my son. My daughter’s recommendation was a little store on Via del Corso 69/r, called Leonardo da Vinci. A very nice woman runs it, and my daughter thought her prices were the best for quality pieces.

...Our second day, we took a train and then a bus to San Gimignano, for a day-trip. We had beautiful blue-sky weather, about 75 degrees. It was a perfect day to wander the little town. We had wine and salads at a wine bar, overlooking the hills. It was called Enoteca di Vinorum, Pza Cisterna 30.

...We returned to our hotel, to get ready for dinner, again at one of my daughter’s favorite restaurants, Acqua Al 2 (pronounced 'aqua al duo'), Via della Vigna Vecchia, 40/R, phone 055 284170. They are known for their perfect steak with balsamic. I had it and was impressed. (They are now opening a restaurant in San Diego, believe it or not.) This restaurant is known throughout Florence, and is very popular, so it gets loud and crowded, but very worth it, even though the service was a tad spotty. We split a half-liter of house red wine, and we paid 50.70EUR for two dining.

...After the Accademia, we found a place to sit on the patio and enjoy a nice lunch, at Trattoria Za-Za, at Piazza del Mercato Centrale, 26R. It's popular with business people, and we enjoyed nice omelettes there. Lunch for two, with a glass of wine for each, was 25.50EUR.

Venice: The next day was Mother’s Day, so we headed out to find Bar Caffe La Piscina for a special brunch. Having read so much about the Pension La Calcina, Dorsoduro 780, I had sent an availability inquiry via e-mail to them while looking for accommodations in Venice. Even though they were full, La Calcina sent back a nice e-mail with their regrets, and an offer to visit their lovely restaurant, La Piscina, including a 12 percent discount on our meal, to thank us for our interest (a very nice touch).

Researching La Piscina on the internet, I thought it looked very attractive. It sits on the Zattere, with a beautiful view of the Giudecca canal and the pretty buildings across it. La Piscina’s outdoor tables are shaded by pretty blue umbrellas, and are set on a wooden deck over the water.

We were very happy we’d made the somewhat long and hungry walk to Dorsoduro, because eating at La Piscina was a real treat. The service was impeccable, the atmosphere amazing, and we had a beautiful blue-sky day to enjoy the view. Our meal included wine, bottled water, a primi, a “snack”, and a secondi, for 46.50EUR, minus 5.50 EUR for our discount. It was an especially memorable Mother’s Day, for sure.

...We especially liked all the Murano glass offered for sale in shops throughout Venice, and we took time to look in many of them. One glass shop where we found an especially nice, simple necklace and earring set at a very good price, was Vetri Artistici di Murano, 3 G di Giordani, Castello 4589 (www.venetian-art.com).

Our first night, we ate at Trattoria Alla Rivetta, recommended by the hotel for its fish menu. It’s at Ponte S. Provolo 4625. It was nice, with a lot of locals and others lining up to eat there. Our meal was 58.24EUR, for two fish entrees, and a half-liter of house wine.

The second night, we ate at Osteria Alla Botte, San Marco 5482. It was a very friendly and busy little place, with reasonable prices. Our meal was 46 EUR, also for two fish dishes and a half-liter of house wine.

Rome: ...Next, we stopped for dinner at Rosa Rosae Ristorante, via di Pietra 88. It was a very nice atmosphere, but a bit touristy. Food was just so-so, but service was friendly. Prices were on the higher side for the quality, at about 52EUR for two, with a half-liter of house wine. My veal was ok, but a bit tough.

...Later, for dinner, we headed back toward a restaurant where my daughter had eaten earlier that semester. It’s very casual and good, called the Maccheroni Ristorante at Piazza delle Coppelle, 44, phone 06 68307895. It’s very popular with locals and gets very busy. The service is friendly and the atmosphere is lively and interesting. About 47 EUR for two, with one-half liter of house wine.

...Trying to eat ‘lunch’ in Italy in mid-day is a big problem, as probably everybody already knows. Once they close after lunch around 3:00, restaurants don’t open again until at least 7:00, and it wasn’t easy to find a market for picnic snacks. Finding a place to sit and enjoy a salad in the afternoon is a big challenge. We didn’t have much choice, so when we found a place that looked nice and was serving food at that time of day, we didn’t care much about the price or the menu. Of course, it was outrageously expensive and rather mediocre. (Can you say “tourist trap”?) But, it was worth every penny to get some food and take a break. And it was a really charming place, with very nice outdoor seating.

...We had reservations to meet my daughter’s friend for dinner at 9:00. He had studied in Rome that semester and recommended his favorite restaurant in the neighborhood where he’d lived, called Il Matriciano, on Via dei Gracchi, 49- 61. (Reservations advised—phone 063213040, or 063212327) It’s perfect for a more special dinner, but certainly not over-the-top. For three people dining, we paid just 103 EUR, which included a liter of house wine. We shared two appetizers, and two of us had veal dishes, one had just spaghetti. We each enjoyed coffee and dessert. It is a very, very friendly and pleasant place. We completely enjoyed it."

Sorry it's so long-- but maybe has info. you can use. Have fun in Italy!
Jul 18th, 2006, 01:26 PM
Original Poster
Join Date: Feb 2006
Posts: 3
To MaureenB - I have printed your notes for reference and will be sure to bring them with me. Greatly appreciated. Good ideas also for a day trip from Florence.
neilsusan is offline  
Jul 18th, 2006, 01:33 PM
Join Date: Jul 2006
Posts: 244
bookmarking for myself...we have a similar trip planned for our honeymoon and these are great resources to use...would you suggest booking before leaving for these sights or doing it the day before you go?

also thanks for the train info...i am so nervous about not pre-booking but I guess thats what is best A friend told me it is just like being in Grand Central...is this accurate?
beph03 is offline  
Jul 18th, 2006, 01:48 PM
Join Date: May 2006
Posts: 52
Florence .. book well before you go to see the 2 main galleries.

We did both http://www.hotels-rome-italy-hotels....ell-accademia/ and the Uffizi in one day. The booking can be a bit disconserting as no email confermation as such was sent but with our name and numbers we passed by the huge ques with ease.

Got an AM on a wed for one and a PM on wed for the other .. nearly filled the day completely

Uffizi booking = 055 294 883
I believe we used the same number for the the accademia
Yorkyman is offline  

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