Helpful Information: Italy

Sep 1st, 2003, 05:07 AM
  #1  
ira
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Helpful Information: Italy

Hi all,

I'm sure we have all noted that many FAQ's keep coming up. I thought it might be helpful to provide the following. Please feel free to add your own or correct mine.

Should I buy a railpass?
See www.railpass.com

Should I buy train tickets in the US or in Italy?
Italy. Cheaper. Unless you need a particular train immediately on arrival. Try www.euraide.com

How do I get from FCO into Rome?
Take the shuttle train to Rome TE. Runs every 1/2 hr. Takes 1/2 hr 9E

How do I get from Rome TE to my hotel?
Map of Rome subway system is at
http://www.metropla.net/eu/rom/roma.htm

How do I get from Rome to The Amalfi Coast?
Train from Rome to Naples and Circumvesuviana to Sorrento. SITA Bus to your town.
Schedules at www.trenitalia.com, http://www.vesuviana.it/orario_ol/orari.asp
http://www.sita-on-line.it/

OR

Train from Rome to Salerno and take the bus to Amalfi or the Traghetto to Amalfi.

Where do I find train schedules?
www.trenitalia.com

Where do I find bus schedules?
SITA Bus at http://www.sita-on-line.it/
Lazzi Bus at htt://www.lazzi.it

Is there a map of the Rome Metro system?
http://www.metropla.net/eu/rom/roma.htm

Is there a map of the Florence bus system?
http://www.ataf.net/Default_EN.asp

How do I use the Venice Vaporetto system?
http://www.actv.it/eng/home.php

What should I wear in (enter city)?
Cover your shoulders and knees in houses of worship. Otherwise, wear whatever you would wear to visit NY, SF, DC.
ira is offline  
Sep 1st, 2003, 05:28 AM
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Excellent idea, ira

I'll add:
How can I purchase Italian train tickets in the USA--I'm arriving and immediately need to take a train, concerned about getting a seat, etc:
call 1 800 CIT TOURS

What are some tour guide agencies in Rome?
www.througheternity.co
www.scalareale.org
www.enjoyrome.com
elaine is offline  
Sep 1st, 2003, 05:29 AM
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sorry, that was througheternity.com
elaine is offline  
Sep 1st, 2003, 10:05 AM
  #4  
ira
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ttt
ira is offline  
Sep 1st, 2003, 10:31 AM
  #5  
 
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Great idea Ira. We had done a similar scenario about 3 years ago, but the new comers will be able to use this. Here are some more that may help:

Q. What are the best web sites for Italy
A. www.initaly.com www.slowtrav.com
www.itwg.com www.knowital.com
www.venere.it[hotels] www.twenj.net

That is a good start !

bobthenavigator is offline  
Sep 1st, 2003, 10:36 AM
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Q. Tell me what to do in Venice?
A. Here is a single page fact sheet:
NAVIGATING IN VENICE
BEFORE YOU ARRIVE: Good web sites are www.veniceforvisitors.com & www.veniceinfo.com

ARRIVAL IN VENICE: What a treat when you first view Venice from either entry point. For airport arrivals, you have 2 choices. The ALILAGUNA bus/boat service will cost about 12E pp and take 1:10 to the vaporetto stop at San Marco. From there, you can connect to the stop for your hotel. The private speed boat service is expensive?about 80E?but it can hold up to 6 people with luggage if you can share the cost. It is much nicer and takes about :40 to your destination of choice. For train arrivals, you step out of the station onto the Grand Canal and also have 2 options. The vaporetto is a crowded city bus, but only costs about 4E. However, if you plan to stay for 3 days or more, go ahead and buy the 3 day pass for about 20E pp. It will save you if you plan to use them for primary transport. The private sleek speed boats are like taxis, but will cost you about 50E, depending on your destination.

TOUR GUIDES IN VENICE: We suggest www.walksinsidevenice.it for personalized and theme walking tours. However, www.venicewalksandtours.com has many varied tours both in Venice and day trips to surrounding areas and are well priced.

DO NOT MISS: Venice can be experienced in 3,5,or 7 day scenarios. If you only have 3 days, here is what I would see first. You can see all of Venice by walking & using vaporettos
? San Marco square?the Basilica & Campanile [ascend the Campanile for great vistas]
? The Doge?s Palace & Correr Museum [ combo ticket includes both]
? The Bridge of Sighs [ the Palace tour will allow you to see from the inside]
? Rialto Bridge and market [ a good early morning walk]
? The Frari Church & Scuola San Rocco [some of the best art in Venice]
? The Ca? Rezzonico Museum [ see how 18th century Venice lived]
? Galleria del Accademia & Accademia Bridge [ fabulous Renaissance art]
? The Palaces on the Grand Canal [ it takes 3 roundtrips to see it well]
? Isle of San Giorgio Maggiore [ take #82 to see Palladio church?ascend Campanile]
? Explore lagoon by vaporetto to see Burano & Murano [ takes a half day?plan well]

WHERE TO EAT: Food in Venice gets mixed reviews?I hope you like seafood. Here are a few places that we found to be good and not too expensive.

? Pizzeria Foscarini [ at foot of Accademia bridge?great location for lunch]
? Vino Vino [ filled with locals for lunch?near Kette Hotel and La Fenice Opera House]
? Osteria de Carla [ a small family place with good food near San Marco & Frezzeria]
? Taverna San Trovaso [ on Rio of same name near Accademia Bridge?reasonable]
? Ristorante da Raffaele [ great al fresco dining on canal near Santa Maria del Giglio.

WHERE TO HANG: That is tough?all of Venice is a good place to hang and people watch.
However, here are several of the neighborhood campos that we liked:
? Campo Santo Stefano, Campo Santa Margherita, Campo Santa Maria Formosa
? And, by all means, the most fabulous Campo of all?Piazza San Marco . It is an after dinner tradition to sit and listen to the dueling bands at the various cafes lining both sides of San Marco. The music is great, but bring your wallet if you plan to sit. We usually have gelato and coffee?plan to spend 30E+ with tip?but it is worth it. Many of the people merely stand and enjoy the scene. Either way, it is time well spent.





bobthenavigator is offline  
Sep 1st, 2003, 12:25 PM
  #7  
 
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Very good idea Ira, it sure would help to have FAQ's for people coming to Italy. I was thinking of writing a sort of mini-guide to high tides (or floods as they call them) in Venice myself!

Federico
Venice
venexiano is offline  
Sep 1st, 2003, 12:39 PM
  #8  
 
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IRA
Thanks again for your terrific ideas!!

BOB
Thanks...I've written it all down in my notes!!

FEDERICO
Great idea...how are the HIGH TIDES in November??
Bailey is offline  
Sep 1st, 2003, 01:42 PM
  #9  
jmv
 
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ira and others, thanks so much for this info. my daughter is going from Rome to Amalfi and coming over this evening to work on train and boat connections. Couldn't have been a more timely posting. All my work is done.
jmv is offline  
Sep 1st, 2003, 02:57 PM
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OK guys, here's my little guide to the high tides in Venice, or floods, or more properly ACQUA ALTA

VENICE - A GUIDE

ACQUA ALTA!

Ok, first of all a little introduction. 'Flood' is perhaps not the best word to use, since the, well, 'flooding' in Venice is caused by the floodTIDE. Although it often reminds me of a swamp, Venice actually sits in a lagoon that communicates with the sea through 3 openings (the 3 bocche di porto of the Lido, of Malamocco and of Chioggia). Not many people seem to realize that - I even overheard some Italians (!!!) on a vaporetto the other day, who noticed how low the water was in the canals, and one of them asserted that it was due to the drought. Congratulations buddy, you got it all wrong!
Anyway, now that we got that sorted, everything else should be easier to understand...

***Q1: Darn! I am going to Venice and I heard floods are about. Will that ruin my whole holiday? Should I cancel my trip and go another time?

A1: There is no need to cancel your trip! The floods only last a couple of hours (3, 4 hours tops, if the Southerly scirocco wind is particularly strong, but that doesn't happen all too often), until the tide starts going down again. Now, the tide comes into the lagoon and goes out every 6 hours, not just when the water is so high that your knickers get wet. It's just that sometimes it is higher than usual. This is due to a combination of many factors - the attraction of the moon (well they say it's that anyway), the scirocco wind, streams in the Adriatic Sea, and low atmospheric pressure.
Several people I've met seem to think it is a disaster that happens every year and lasts days and days, much like when a river overflows. This is NOT the case! It happens from time to time, we Venetians are used to it and we deal with it accordingly.

***Q2: OK, so they are tides. When do they usually get higher?

A2: There might be some minor ones in September, and late spring, but the peak is usually from mid/end-October to mid-February/March, so let's say from mid-Fall to end of Winter.

***Q3: OK, suppose I did go to Venice after all. Will I know in advance if the tides will be high?

A3: If you have a computer handy, and your Italian is good enough, check out the site of the Centro Previsioni Maree (Tides Forecast Center) of Venice: http://www.comune.venezia.it/maree/
Also, when a tide is particularly high (>+110cm and <+140CM) sirens spread throughout the lagoon will sound off about 3hrs in advance as a warning. They will sound off again if the tide is forecast to exceed 160cm above 0, which has only happened once or twice in recent decades.

***Q4: So I am in Venice AND there is a high tide. What do I do? Will I have to swim my way across St.Mark's square or what?

A4: Nope, nope, put those flippers away. As the level of the ground varies slightly in various parts of the city, where it is lowest (and therefore deepest under water), boardwalks are swiftly set up if necessary. S.Marco is in a very low zone of the city so it is among the first parts to go under.
Where boardwalks are not present, and the water is low enough, gum boots are all you need (among all the touristy stuff, some stalls also sell plastic boots. Most locals have their own boots at home, though sometimes even I don't put them on beforehand or carry them with me to school, either because I'm lazy or because I am convinced the water won't be too high that particular day!

A note when walking on the boardwalks: keep on the right-hand side, and for pity's sake, DON'T stop right in the middle of one - they are quite narrow and you will be more than frowned upon by locals That's something you should also keep in mind in narrow streets and such.

Some people just take off their shoes, roll up their pants and wallow happily in the water. I don't recommend that as the water of the lagoon is not exactly the cleanest. It's your call though!

P.S. The water comes up also through the gully-holes, so even if you see no canals in your immediate surroundings the street in front of you may still be flooded.

If you find this is too much to deal with, just wait a couple of hours until it's over. But it's quite fun actually!

***Q5: OK, now I know what it is all about. What about the locals? What do YOU do? Do your houses get flooded?

A5: Very few people, if any, live on the ground floor nowadays - most homes are on upper floors. For the most part, shops and warehouses have taken their place at ground level. So shopkeepers have the biggest problem! They solve it either with watertight bulkheads on the doors (which work quite well), or quite simply by putting wooden socles under pieces of furniture, so as to raise them and save all the precious merchandise (I wish the sellers of masks and all that kitsch stuff didn't bother with that, so at least part of their horrible stuff got washed away, but that's another story).

BONUS QUESTIONS!

***Q6: Is Venice really sinking?? Will it still be up when I go there? (....OK, OK, I KNOW no one of you would ever ask THAT! Just teasing ya a bit... )

A6: If it has been sinking recently, I did not notice it. Too many people think that Venice is doomed to drown soon, and now scientists say that the tectonic plate under the Adriatic, and under Venice, is slowly sinking. While that is probably true, we're not drowning just yet, and if it does happen, it will take centuries and centuries. I suppose global warming, the melting of the Poles, and all that gloom & doom they have been predicting lately, will be an important factor in that.

***Q7: Do all Venetians have a boat? Do they use it to go shopping, go to work, or go visit friends etc.?

A7: Nope, not everyone has a boat. A boat is quite an expense to mantain, and having your own place to moor it can be very expensive - and often it is not close to your home. Among youngsters my age, it is cool to have your own boat, to take out your friends, or girlfriend, maybe for a romantic drive in the lagoon. I personally do not feel the need for my own boat
Anyway, the point is that the Venetians who DO have a boat do not use it for everyday things, but more commonly for little Sunday excursions in the lagoon and such.


Well this is it for now. I hope you had fun reading this and will keep in mind these little tips and tricks

Federico
Venice
venexiano is offline  
Sep 1st, 2003, 03:11 PM
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Thanks for taking the time to post all that, Frederico!
Statia is offline  
Sep 1st, 2003, 06:35 PM
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Ira and all - Thank you so much for your thoughtful and neatly informative post! I wrote it all down! YAY! Thanks again!
WendyWhy is offline  
Sep 1st, 2003, 07:49 PM
  #13  
RLA
 
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Ira - Thank God for the expert wisdom of you, Bob, and all the other Fodor contributors. While I appreciate so many perspectives, there are some things that are generally agreed on by all. Thanks for helping clear the cobwebs out of our heads!

May I suggest, for EXCEPTIONAL photos of accommodations and surroundings in both quality and quantity, any of the worldby.com sites. For a sample, see http://italyby.com/palazzosasso/index.html. This particular sample is an enchanting 5*, but the photos of all the others are just as emcompassing. They are by far better than any site I have found for photos. Another poster had used the services of the site and gave it good reviews. initaly.com is a great site as well, but I found the photos to be very limiting albeit better than those on some other sites. I think you should be pleasantly surprised. I would love to know what you think (perhaps in a new thread in case it is debatable so as not to cloud the clean thread here). Enjoy!
RLA is offline  
Sep 1st, 2003, 09:11 PM
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Many thanks to all fo you!!!!

Federico.....thanks for the high-water report!!!
My boots are packed!!
Bailey is offline  
Sep 2nd, 2003, 05:20 AM
  #15  
ira
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What to do about money.

ATMs (bancomat) are available throughout the country. They give you the best exchange rate. European banks do not charge for the service. Your own bank probably levies a fee for use of your card at ATMs that it doesn't own. See your bank.

Your bank probably has a limit for cash withdrawls. You might be able to have this raised. See your bank.

Many people bring Traveler's Checks or cash as emergency backup.

In the rare event that you card gets stuck in a machine, it can be removed with a pair of tweezers.

It is a good idea to use ATMs located at banks so that in the rare event that the ATM eats your card you can retrieve it immediately.
ira is offline  
Sep 2nd, 2003, 06:28 AM
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What about personal safety and avoiding theft?

I will try to keep this response neutral. In some touristed areas, pickpocketing and purse snatching has been on the rise. Although statistically the vast majority of locals and tourists do not become crime victims, a few precautions are suggested.

Some people like hidden wallets or money belts. These can be purchased at many outlets, including travel supply stores like Magellan (see website or call toll-free number in the USA) Others of us just stay with totebags that close tightly and are held comfortably but securely.
Backpacks can be more vulnerable to theft if you can't see or feel what's going on back there. Some people keep routine supplies in a backpack and secure their wallets in other ways.



Regarding vital documents, your credit cards, passport, etc.--Make a set of photocopies of the important pages of your passport, your credit cards, etc.
Leave one set with a trusted person at home, pack one set to take with you. You can also email the account numbers to yourself, and access the info from almost anywhere in an internet cafe.
Remember that toll-free customer service numbers don't work for calls coming from outside the USA, so have alternate numbers to call in case you lose one of your credit or atm cards.

Banks and card companies have differing policies about replacing cards and where they will send them; inquire in advance.

Some people recommend leaving their passport in the hotel safe and walk around only with a photocopy (in case it is needed for ID or for signing up for VAT refunds.) Other people don't want to be parted from their passport under any circumstances and always carry it with them. Some people will carry only one or two credit or atm cards, perhaps carrying one themselves and having their companion if there is one carrrying the other.

If you are in busy tourist places, crowded museums, subway/metros, crowded buses, etc, you need to be aware of skillful pickpockets. Sometimes these "petty" criminals work in teams, sometimes they even use children. Someone may try to distract you with a sign or a request for a handout or even with spilling food on you. Walk away, or yell Go Away! very loudly. The worst you will be is embarrassed. At ATMs, offer no help, accept no help. If it's not working, walk to the next one.
In restaurants or cafes, don't hang your bag on the back of your chair; if you put it on the floor, keep it between your legs.

If you need to stop to reload your camera or consult your map or guidebook, take a seat somewhere, or step into a doorway. You are distracted, no sense in being taken advantage of.

This all sounds like a lot of warnings, but it is just common sense. To the extent that you can avoid being a victim, it's best to do what you can so you can enjoy your trip.
elaine is offline  
Sep 2nd, 2003, 06:54 AM
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Good security answers from Elaine. For more tips for Italy travel go to slowtrav.com and under ITALY and then PLANNING you will find " 22 Terrific Travel Tips". Too long to replicate here
bobthenavigator is offline  
Sep 2nd, 2003, 07:16 AM
  #18  
ira
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How do I make reservations for the Accademia and the Uffizi in Florence?

The easiest and cheapest way is to call Florence 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 1.60 euro for the service. This is MUCH cheaper than the commercial booking services.

How do I make reservations for the "Secret Itineraries Tour" of the Doge's Palace in Venice?

The number for reservations more than one day ahead is 011 39 041-520-9070.
ira is offline  
Sep 2nd, 2003, 07:42 AM
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to ira's good info on the museums, I will add:
Most hotels, even simple B&Bs, are willing to make advance dinner or museum reservations for you. If you are emailing or faxing them anyway, ask if they can take care of this for you.

What are the primary sightseeing venues that accept advance reservations:

Milan: DaVinci's "Last Supper"--required.

Venice: None required except Secret Itinerary of Doge's Palace (see above.)
To avoid the line at San Marco Basilica, you can (respectfully) attend an early morning mass and then stay to sightsee. There is an Italian website that offers reservations for time-restricted visits--www.alata.it

Rome: No advance ticketing for the Vatican Museums. Advance arrangements are necessary for the St Peter's Scavi (underground crypt) tour and for the Vatican Gardens.
Timed entrance is required for the Borghese Gallery, visit is limited to two hours. Your hotel can arrange, there are commercial websites, or you can go directly there and wait for an available entrance slot. The gardens are lovely to visit there if you have time to kill.

Timed tickets also required for Domus Aurea (Nero's Golden House.) Again, reserve in advance or take your chances on just showing up
elaine is offline  
Sep 2nd, 2003, 01:58 PM
  #20  
ira
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ira is offline  

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