Florence/Rome: Help!

Jul 2nd, 2002, 11:25 PM
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Florence/Rome: Help!

Hi, my husband and I will be in Florence and Rome soon – unfortunately, we haven’t had much time to read up and prepare ourselves. So counting on Fodorites help with suggestions for things to do!

We’ll be in Florence for 2.5 days (2 days, and then leaving for Rome on the evening of the third). Any suggestions for an itinerary that isn’t too heavy on museums? We’d like to see some of the highlights, but would be nice to spend some time in cafes as well.

For Rome, we have 3.5 days – after browsing through earlier messages on this group, we’ve booked two in-depth tours with Scala Reale (Antique Rome and the Vatican/St. Peters tour). That will take care of two half-days. Suggestions for what to do with the rest of our time? We’d love to go for some walks, visit a few good restuarants/cafes, and also catch some nightlife. (staying at the Hotel Alexandra on the Via Veneto).

And a separate question: how reliable are the trains in Italy? We intend to catch an evening train to Rome from Florence -- am expecting about 2.5 hours for the trip. How long before the departure time should we reach the station? We're carrying a Europass -- and our travel agent here in Hong Kong told us that we don't even have to get it validated at the ticket office each time before boarding the train. Apparently, after getting it validated once, we can just fill the rest in ourselves -- she said it works on trust. That would save us time -- but I'm wondering if she's right.

thank you.
Jul 3rd, 2002, 03:16 AM
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Have spent a lot of time it italy... here goes. The trains are very reliable. You should book a seat in advance and you can do this at the train station. If you don't book a seat you should go an hour before and if you miss one train you can take the next. I booked a first class seat the first time I went to Italy and learned that it really isn't necessary.

Relative to florence where are you staying? Florence is small and lovely and you can walk around very easily. You should see the Uffizi and the David which is at the Accadamia. Other than that, walk in the area near the uffizi which is Piazza del signoria and then walk over the ponte vecchio. There is a terrific flea market at San Lorenzo to do some great shopping. A tour is not necessary in florence.

In Rome, there are a couple of really terrific areas near the pantheon with cafes and shops. Also, the area near the spanish steps is quite lovely with great shopping. This is close to the via veneto and you can walk in about 10 minutes.

If you have any other questions don't hesitate to write.
Jul 3rd, 2002, 03:46 AM
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I've spent a lot of time in Florence and Rome. In Florence don't miss the Bargello and The Church of Santa Croce. The Bargello has the most incredible collection of Renaissance sculpture. Michelangelo, Donatello, etc. Michelangelo's crypt is in Santa Croce as is an ancient leather school. You could even take a bus up to Fiesole, visit ancient Tuscan ruins and have lunch overlooking Tuscany. The Bargello, Santa Croce and the ruins are really easy "museums" I highly suggest in Rome and Florence to wander outside the historic center for cafés and the reality of the cities. Especially in Florence don't eat between the Duomo and the Ponte Vecchio. The food is more expensive and not as good as outside. Rick Steves book has a night walking tour of Rome that's great. As you're walking and wandering, you'll see cafés. Stop and get the feel of them. The trains are pretty reliable, but I would check about the railpass. You might have to stamp it in the machine at the track. I always use regular tickets and I stamp them there. I see people with railpasses doing the same. I know they don't work on trust.
Jul 3rd, 2002, 06:13 AM
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Okay .. my experience with italian trains is different.

We had trains being constantly late and a few times, even not turning up (eg: eurostar decided it didn't want to stop in Padua while we were waiting on the platform!).

So allow extra time for connections.

If you haven't booked a seat, be prepared to stand the whole way or to sit somewhere/anywhere.

Your agent is right about the europass. You just need to validate it before you use it the first time and then fill it up yourself (in pen). Try not to make a mistake as some conductors can be picky.
Jul 3rd, 2002, 10:18 PM
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Thanks for all the great responses, folks. A quick follow-up question: Is it possible to book a train seat ahead of time even if you are using the railpass -- and if so, does one pay extra?

thanks again,
Jul 5th, 2002, 11:50 AM
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Yes, I did it over the telephone yesterday for our train trips starting next week. However, we had to pay an additional charge since we bought the Italy 8 days in a month pass, plus they charge $16 a person to reserve the seats. Call Eurarail or the like and book your seats b4 you go!!
Jul 5th, 2002, 08:39 PM
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Before we traveled to Europe last month, I pondered whether to reserve seats before leaving the US including a few questions to this site.

We had a big group, 7 total, and traveled through Germany, Austria, Switzerland, and Italy. When we arrived in Munich we went to the Euraide office and booked all our seat reservations at once. This saved us a huge amount of money. The price to reserve from the US was $10 per reservation. It was much, much less waiting to reserve in Europe.

So...unless you need to take a long distance train within a day or so of your arrival in Europe, I would not reserve the seats from the US. Dee
Jul 6th, 2002, 12:07 PM
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If you are taking the Eurostar train you must have reservations before boarding. The trip on the ES Florence - Rome is 1 1/2 hrs.

Jul 6th, 2002, 12:39 PM
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Scala Reale has (had?) a link to a tour guide in Florence (don't remember the name). They were as good in Florence as Scala Reale was in Rome.
Jul 6th, 2002, 05:36 PM
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For Rome, do you have a spare two hours to do some homework. if so, go to this web site for all you will need:
www.twenj.net Good Luck !

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