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Hints & Things U Wish U knew Before U Arrived


Jun 7th, 2008, 09:09 PM
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Hints & Things U Wish U knew Before U Arrived

We will be in Paris, Venice, Florence and Rome in June. In my gathering of Info the last year (and no, I wasn't savy enough to keep the info.) I recall people telling stories of hidden bathrooms, shortcuts around bldgs., go thru certain doors, etc. I'm talking about Museums, trains, anything really tourist-in-strange place related. If everyone (or anyone) will give their hints for a specific place (the Vatican for ex.) I'll organize them by country/city and post for everyone else. I intend to print and take whole list and just consult as I go along if this works out. Thanks!
morgiesmom is offline  
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Jun 7th, 2008, 09:29 PM
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The following are tips gleaned from various sources including personal experience.

LUGGAGE STORAGE: There is a laundromat that provides luggage storage for 2euro on the northside of Termini. It's on Via Milazzo #20 just after the cross-street Via dei Mille. There is a yellow laundromat sign hanging over it easy to see from down the block and it's called 'Bolle Blu', in the window is a sign saying '2euro Deposit Baggages Open 0800-2200'. This place also has luggage storage and another poster said that they had used it; "Navigator Internet Cafe on Via Marghera between Via Marsala and Via Magenta".

SECRET PASSAGE If you are at the Piazza di Spagna (Spanish Steps), but don't feel like walking up (hill) to the Borghese Gardens, take the 'secret passage' to the via Veneto. Go into the Metro stop for Piazza di Spagna, and you'll see a passageway with signs for the via Veneto. Ride the escalators until you exit at the via Veneto. Take a left at the old gate, and you'll see the entrance to the Borghese Gardens at viale S. Paolo del Brasile

BASILICA SAN CLEMENTE is free, and it only costs three euros to go into the excavations of the twelfth-century church, the fourth-century church, and the first-century house with its pagan temple to Mithras

AIRPORT TO TERMINI: Instead of taking the Leonardo Express from Fiumicino to Termini, take the FR1 to whichever station is most convenient for you. The FR1 departs every 15 minutes (instead of every 30 minutes for the Express), costs only €5 (instead of €9.50 for the Express)

BOAT TRIP The boat trip down the Tiber, from the bridge by Castel San Angelo to Isloa Tiberniam is only 1E - a great way to get from St. Peter's to Trastevere or the forum

AUDIO GUIDES: One way to save on the expense of guided tours is to register online at Sound Guides (http://www.sound-guides.com/) and download the various free self-guided tours to your Ipod or MP3 player

VATICAN: I visited early afternoon. It was crowded but I didn't have to queue for entry. This might only leave 2 or 3 hours for viewing but still quite sufficient.

LOUVRE: Visit on days that have late closing, i.e 9.45pm on Wednesdays and Fridays, and go in mid afternoon. For tickets see the Tourist Office or at train stations (for return train ticket and admission to the permanent collections NOT temporary exhibits). A highly-recommended entrance is the underground entrance from the metro stop “Palais Royal-Musee du Louvre”. Either splurge and use a ticket to enter the metro or, if you are already coming off a metro train, exit at the far end of the platform where the sign says “Direct access to the Louvre” and you will walk through a security check, then the Carrousel shops, and into the central ticket and information area.
worldinabag is offline  
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Jun 7th, 2008, 10:14 PM
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Here's something I'd tell a first-timer. (This is not a thought that originated with me ... but I pass it on.)

Read as much as you can about the place, watch videos, watch movies set there, beginning long before your trip - before you even think about it, preferably.

Have as broad and deep a sense of the place and people as you can get in the time you have before the trip.

Then, when you are there, stop. Close your eyes if you need to. Think. Think about what it is you would wish later to remember, what it is you may miss because you're so busy looking, but not seeing. It probably won't be something to buy, or a short list of cafes. All that you can do in passing, and you will, and it will be fine. But this something will be ... your thing.

Don't come back home without it.

tomassocroccante is offline  
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Jun 7th, 2008, 10:44 PM
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Fantastic tips,just what Fodorites are great at.

I know there's a door in the Sistine chapel that tour groups use to short cut through to the basilica. I just tagged along with a tour group and no-one queried me.

Isn't there also an alternate entry for the Accademia in Florence where the queues are shorter or non-existent? But have the exact money- they don't do change as I recall.
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Jun 7th, 2008, 11:23 PM
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tomassocroccante, I think that is the best advice I've ever read on this board.

(The second best was ira's advice to always bring along a new and comfy pair of socks!)

Thank you.
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Jun 8th, 2008, 12:36 AM
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I also agree with tomasso about taking moments to really soak it all in. Allow your senses to experience the place. There are times now at home, when a rain shower on a hot afternoon "smells" like Italy, or skimming my fingertips along a wet handrail reminds me of the bridge in Salzburg. Those things have stayed with me longer than the souvenirs I bought!
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Jun 8th, 2008, 08:27 AM
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You don't need to buy a metro ticket to enter the Louvre easily. Buy a ticket in advance or use the museum pass. Enter the Carousel Mall at the Carousel entrance which is at the end of Tuileries right before crossing the street and going under the Arch.

There are clean public bathrooms right underneath the Sacre Cour on Montmarte. Have a some Euro coins. The bathrooms at the Place de la Councorde end of the Tuileries are very nice as well. Careful in the bathrooms at the Champ de Mars park (Eiffel Tower)

Avoid the Chatelet and Montparnasse Metro stops if you can. They are where many Metro lines cross. On the map it looks super convenient, but once there the stations are labirynths and it is time consuming to figure out transfers. Go instead a couple of stops up or down to transfer lines, it will be much quicker.

This isn't a big secret but if you're going to the Orsay head straight to the 3rd floor at opening to see the impressionists with the least amount of people.

When it is really hot and I'm out touring around for the day I stop in to air conditioned hotel lobbies and read for awhile. I've never had anyone mind or even talk with me.

Also...if you are unable to procure reserved tickets for certain museums like the Orangerie or Acadamia, try the concierege at a luxury hotel, they will always have tickets available and they won't cost any more than normal. Just approach as though you're staying at the hotel.
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Jun 8th, 2008, 08:29 AM
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Related suggestion:

Take the opportunity to have a conversation, especially with local people, but also with "fellow travelers."

A friendly exchange (stressing friendly, not necessarily one that starts with "how do I get to the Colosseum?") with a hotel clerk, cafe owner, or someone at the next table or across the aisle on a bus can open new worlds. I suggest the same if you're visiting New York, by the way! The exchanges will not only yield tips and secrets and insights, but sometimes will lead to friendship ...

2nd related suggestion:

I learned pretty early (from my mom) to take notes. Keep a small notebook handy, jot down the names of restaurants, car companies, addresses - and info about those people you talked to above. Flesh out those notes at the end of the day in a journal. Then you, too, will be an authoritative source for savvy Fodorite tips!
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Jun 8th, 2008, 08:39 AM
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When you see something you want a picture of or something you wish to purchase do it right then and there. Don't think you will be back this way again, you may never find it again so don't hesitate, just do it.

Learn at least a little bit of the language, it is always appreciated. Also, learn as much about the local customs as you can. This relates to tomasso's advice to read as much as you can in advance.
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Jun 8th, 2008, 08:44 AM
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Here's my secret tip for the Vatican:

If you go on Sunday for the Papal audience...instead of getting a ticket to be in the fenced-in area with 3 billion people, show up at about 11:15, and find a spot next to the outermost railing.

When the Pope drives around in the Popemobile, he will come right in front of you, and once he is gone, the crowd disperses in seconds, and you're free to enjoy the rest of the day without being schmushed in with those 3 billion people.
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Jun 8th, 2008, 08:47 AM
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And here's something that maybe everyone else but me already knew.

At both of our apartments (in Paris and in Rome), to unlock the deadbolt, you have to turn the key to the left two-and-a-half turns.

It sounds stupid, but it took me a good 20 minutes of trying to figure out why I could not unlock the door. And there were three locks on that door, so just imagine...
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Jun 8th, 2008, 09:05 AM
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morgiesmom, thanks for the post.

I know there is a "secret" door from the Sistine Chapel that gets you to St Peters (the shortcut). I am going to Rome on Thursday, and I will find the door and come back and post. I recall that info was posted here before, but I can't find the thread.
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Jun 8th, 2008, 09:07 AM
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worldinabag, thank you for your post.

I will be using all your tips this upcoming weekend.
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Jun 8th, 2008, 09:14 AM
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Chevre, love your hotel lobby tip.

On very hot days it's a winning strategy also to just slow down a little, stop often for water or another cold drink, walk on the shady side ... and honor the local patterns: in Italy and elsewhere, slow your game in midday.

A good idea in heat or in any heavily touristed areas: start early, be out and about before the city (or countryside) becomes terribly hot. You can see the Trevi fountain sans the thousand visitors that throng it every later hour, or appreciate a marketplace as it comes to life (and while the goods are freshest.) Take the midday break (hard to find shade anywhere then.) Then go back out again as things begin to cool off. The added bonus: the light for photos is much better in the earlier and later hours.
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Jun 8th, 2008, 09:38 AM
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When you walk into the Sistine Chapel and are facing the far end, I believe that door is in the far right corner. We were there on a Wednesday, and the Pope was holding an audience that day, so the door to St. Peter's was not available. Just FYI in case you are going on a Wednesday.

Enjoy your trip. Rome is wonderful!
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Jun 8th, 2008, 10:23 AM
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This may be a good first timer hotel tip: There is usually a slot inside your door for you to put your door key into. This will allow you to turn your lights on.

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Jun 8th, 2008, 10:25 AM
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That should probably read: "a slot on the wall by your door". That makes more sense.
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Jun 8th, 2008, 11:01 AM
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My own personal preference (because I'm not really a photographer): Don't feel you have to take pictures of everything -- there are beautiful books you can buy which have gorgeous pictures of everything. You don't want to just be seeing Europe through the lens of a camera.

Here's the best tip anyone ever gave me: Every day I buy a postcard of something I've seen that day and at the end of the day I write my 'journal' on it. The space is limited so I don't feel I have to rave on and I have an automatic memory of the special place I went that day.
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Jun 8th, 2008, 08:20 PM
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gtg - that's a charming and expeditious way to keep a journal.

Many years ago a friend of mine was on a 10 week trip through SE Asia. He and I had a many years long
ppost card" friendship after meeting briefly when he was visiting NYC from LA. Anyway, during that long Asia trip I would receive 1-3 postcards from him every day, documenting the trip and his feelings about what he was experiencing. He was traveling alone - by choice - and this was a sort of lifeline for him: one-way, not-so- instant messaging in the pre-internet era. He did the same thing a year later while in Europe. I saw him shortly after and presented him with the 10" stack of cards.

He was dealing with some serious health issues then, and a couple of years later passed away. his mother wrote me after finding the cards, just to say that though I was a stranger to her, she could see Fred and I had had a great friendship.

Sorry to take your thread so far off course, morgiesmom! To make up for it:
My favorite places for postcards in Paris are little "tobacco-news-stationery" shops. You find them here and there, especially in more residential neighborhoods. The cards don't seem standard, if you know what I mean: on Ile St Louis I remember buying a stack of beautiful scenes of Paris under a blanket of snow - as it was Thanksgiving weekend, these became my Xmas cards that year. I've never seen their equal among postcards at any Paris "attraction".

So, in Paris (and many other major tourism centers), step off the tourist track and into a good neighborhood shop. Good things are in store.
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Jun 8th, 2008, 08:35 PM
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Great advice on this post. I second bfrac's advice to buy that treasure when you see it. I've wasted too much precious time backtracking to find that one item (that I should have bought the first time) too many times!

I also agree that you should try to read as much as possible and try to learn a little of the language. It just makes the whole experience more authentic.
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