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Ivy May 30th, 2004 05:27 AM

Italy has so many faces and each is amazing!! - Ivy's Italy trip report
Just back from our ten day trip to florence and venice. Want to provide a helpful trip report so I am going to break down the report into some categories so you can skip what doesn't interest you.

First: for those of you who know me from the forum, this is the trip that my DH and I were going to do in March but had to delay until May due to work stuff. As many of you told me at the time, the weather in May in Italy is indeed amazing. We had sun and 70-75 the whole time. Also, for those of you who recall my post about travelling when you have real life stresses going on you will be happy to hear that right before we departed we got good news on the health issue, so that was one less thing to worry about. All in all the trip was amazing!!


FLIGHTS: We flew Lufthansa Dulles to frankfurt to florence. Lufthansa has very hard seats in my opinion and the plane did not have individual seat back screens like say Austrian Air or KLM. but it didn't matter because after the meal DH and I put in our ear plugs, donned our eye masks, drugged up on Sonata and slept for 4 hours. So the flight was fine. After reading so much awful stuff about changing planes in frankfurt I was really nervous about it since we had only 85 minutes but it went off without a hitch. I found the frankfurt airport quite easy to navigate and we found our connecting gate no problem. it is a long walk down a long tunnel and the motorized walk way was broken so it was a schlep but we are healthy 30 somethings so it was OK for us. Arrived in Florecne on time at about 9:30 am. This airport is SMALL. It had one ATM that was not working so thankfully we had some leftover euros on us so we could buy bus tickets to town. We took the bus to the main train station in florence. Our hotel was within walking distance so it was all quite easy.


Ivy May 30th, 2004 05:53 AM

Sorry hit the wrong button and lost 3 paragraphs some how!

hotel: we stayed at hotel Mario's close to the train station. It was in a good location for us because we planned to use the train to get to venice and for sday trips. We liked this hotel, it was karen brown recommendation (we use her guides all the time). The room was lovely and large, wood ceilings and wrought-iron bed. Cost was 160 euro a night and included breakfast. Street noise was a bit of a problem but the room had wood shutters on the windows so that helped. Would recommend this hotel.

SIGHTS: I strongly recommend making reservations for both the accademia and uffizi. We saved ourselves a ton or time. We walked right into the accademia and right past the line of unreserved people. I expected david to be in scaffolding and surrounded by plexiglass but he wasn't! the scaffolding is down and the plexiglass was nowhere in sight. What a stunning view, He was amazing, just amazing! Truly jaw dropping, he was just beautiful. We had planned to go to the uffizi on the 21st but there was a civil servants strike so our hotel rescheduled us to the 22nd (a sturday). When we got there, the line for those who had no reservatinos was so long I could not belive it! we got there at 8:15 and the line was already over an hour long. We bypassed it and got on the reserved line and were in in 10 minutes. make the reservations, it is SOO worth it! There is so much to see in florence, it is really quite overwhelming. We had been to italy before (rome) but never florence and we wanted to see everything, and boy did we. We walked everywhere and by the end of everyday we were zonked with sore feat. But it was worth it. Other sigts we saw include the Duomo and bapistry. Did not climb the duomo or the campinille (not my thing). The Museo del opera, the museum which houses the trasures from the duomo and the real bapistry doors (the ones on the building are copies) is amazing and I highly recommend it. Such beautiful art, including donnatello's mary magdalen. this was not crowded and worth every penny. Also did a lot of the fodors guides walking tours and stopped in all of the churches recommended by the fodors guides. When we travel we use Karen Brown for hotels and Eyewitness and Fodors guides while we are there. the walking tours in the fodors guides are really good. Other major sights include the pallazo piti - which was stunning. No palace I have ever visited, including versaille, can compare to this one because of the vast quantity of art the medici collected. We did the royal apartments and the palantine museum combo ticket and it was amazing, I highly recommend it. Also, bought a painting in a gallery accross from the palace - afforable local art by the cutest old gentlemen. Also, did the boboli gardens, lovely. Other things I really enjoyed were the palazzo vechio, the piazza del signoria (the sculpture here is amazing) and walking tours of sante croce and the oltra-arno district.

More to come. . . .

ira May 30th, 2004 05:57 AM

Glad things worked out well for you, Ivy.

Ivy May 30th, 2004 06:05 AM

FOOD: in florence we ate well, we went to restaurants recommended by fodors and the eyewitness guides. We like simple restaurants with local fare and like to avoid really posh cuisine or really touristy places. We were very happy with our selections:

Il Ritrovo: What a meal and what an experience. this is run by the owner and chef and he only lets in the number of guests he feels like feeding that night. we were there with four other tables and he locked the door and said, "that's enough, I feel like 5 tables tonight"! he then took very good care of every table and cooked us amazing food, it was like being his guest. We had wondeful sausages and when I asked what thery were he brought a whole bunch out from the kitchen to show me! we loved this place and our meal was really reasonable, about 70 euro for 2 with wine.

La Fonticine; this got a star in fodors and it was OK but nothing really great. the meal was fine but it felt a little touristy. And it was pricey. But again, the food was good.

Antellessi: this was a really good meal. We had the peppery stew and it was delicious! Very nice place.

Il Latini: also very good, hard to get a bad meal in florence!

more to come. . ..

Ivy May 30th, 2004 06:06 AM

Thanks ira!


Ivy May 30th, 2004 06:17 AM

SORRY!! wrong button again.

DAY TRIPS: went to Lucca and Pisa. Did lucca first due to opening and closing times. we liked lucca a lot. the walls around the city are unique and the town itself has a lot to offer. It is lovely and the roman ampitheater area is lovely and we had lunch and ate gellati. There is a palazzo we toured to get a glimpse of how the other half lived and we saw the duomo and the city sights. I liked it. Pisa, we made the mistake of getting out at pisa centrale and had long walk to the tower, but well worth it! The tower and bapistry and all are just stunning! When we were done there, we took the bus back to pisa centrale to save ourselves the walk. The trains in italy are really good and very simple to navigate. The ticket machines at each station are avaialable in english and are very easy to use. Also did an early evening trip to fiesole based on recommendations from this forum and we are so glad we did. I loved the bus ride up to fiesole and the roman ruins and the view! We had drinks at bar blue and just soaked in the beauty. Highly reommend all these day trips.

On to venice next . . .

Statia May 30th, 2004 07:31 AM

Enjoying your report, Ivy, and I'm so glad you had a great trip! Looking forward to your Venice installment.

Ivy May 31st, 2004 06:52 AM

Thanks Statia!

On to Venice, we took the Eurostar train from florence to venice. We went first class and found the cars to be quite comfortable, but not what I would call luxurious. But the dining car was very nice and we had a nice brunch on the trip. The trip was fast and fun. When we arrived in venice I was so excited I was giddy. I have been wanted to go to venice my whole life so when I first caught a glimpse of the grand canal, it was quite a heady experience. We bought 3 day vapporetti passes (no one EVER checked to see if we havd passes so I suppose we could have cheated but we didn't feel right) and boarded the number one. What a great ride, what a great way to get your feet wet in venice! The slow ride down the grand canal! Our hotel was at the Ca Rezzonico stop, which was about a 20 minute ride. And what a ride!

HOTEL: we stayed at Locanda San Barnaba and REALLY liked this hotel. The location cannot be beat, on a quiet street in the Dorsoduro neighborhood only 1/2 block from the vapareto stop and really lovely. The staff was so helpful and the breakfast was great. I would strongly recommend this hotel. We paid 170 euro a night for a nice double room with a large bathroom.

SIGHTS: I cannot tell you how great it was to have reservations to everything! Venice was crowded and lines were long but we never waited on one line. Thanks to this sight we had reserved entry into st mark's basillica on line. the site says you are signing up for a 10 minute tour in italian, but we didn't get that, they just let us in without waiting on any line at the time designated on our reservation. We literally walked past a line of hundreds of people (must have been at least 2 hours) and up to the front door and handed our reservation paper that I had printed out from the website to the guard and he opened the rope and let us in! the people on line were dumb struck. It was like being a famous person and getting privileges! I really recommend this. we had also reserved the doge's palace secret itineraries tour in english and got to the palace at about 9:30 and it wasn't crowded yet so our pictures of the court yard are great! I recommend the secret itineraries tour, very fun and very informative! more sites to come, have to run for now!

Joelleinitaly04 May 31st, 2004 07:31 AM

Getting an appointment to St. Mark's was a good idea. We were there last week but only for 2 days and I was not wasting anytime waiting in line. I had good luck other places waiting till later in the afternoon but St. Mark's closed at 5:30 - hopefully they will be open later in the summer.

So my one mild regret is not going inside St. Mark's but I guess that's just a reason to come back.


Statia May 31st, 2004 07:51 AM

We had the exact same problem, Joelle. So, we will be making reservations on our next trip. Thanks for the tip, Ivy.

Ivy May 31st, 2004 08:11 AM

Sure thing, the reservation website is moody, it took me awhile to get on but keep trying, it is worth it. And it's free too!

OK, more on Venice sights: DH was very overwhelemed by the crowds at piazza san marco so we didn't linger there too long. We were anxious to see if we could find some "hidden venice" so we spread out to the carnegio region and the costello region. there is much to see in both places and pretty much no crowds. If you want a glimpse of real venetian life, I recommend these areas. Also went to the rialto fruit and fish market early one morning and were the only tourists there, everyone else was haggling over trout and we were noshing on cherries and snapping pictures of raw octopus. Very unique. I also highly recommend the Ca Rrezzonico, what a treat! this place is like 4 museums in one and very uncrowded. It's a palace with tons of art and decorative arts to look at. Strongly recommend it for anyone who is an art lover. In fact, we liked it better than the accademia, which we also did. Talked DH into visiting piazza san marco at sunset, which is lovely. The bands playing, the moonlight coming up. Magical. I prefer the square at night, less crowded and really beautiful.

MISC: A couple of miscellaneous trip notes. this was our first trip with the digital camera and we loved it. What a relief not to be saddled with our huge 35 mil and tons of rolls of film! Plus the digital camera is able to take pics in so many different setting without worrying about the speed of the film. Also reviewing our pics at the end of every day was so fun. Another note that may be more infor then you want about me but i thought I should mention just in case anyone else out there has this problem: when I travel I always get heartburn. it's awful, comes every day and hurts a lot. I guess it's because at home I am a fruit and veggie kind of person and when I travel I am a pasta, dessert and crossant kind of person. So this time I decided to try prilosec OTC for the two weeks of the trip. total success! I never had heartburn once, first trip ever! I will now do this on every trip!

Happy to entertain questions! Italy is amazing!!

Ivy May 31st, 2004 08:19 AM

Yikes, forgot to cover food in venice. And I must because the food in venice is really unique. It's very heavy on sea food, which we love, but some of it is vert different then what american pallets are used to. We were very experimental and willing to try everything, but I can see where some might not want to eat raw octopus so you have to be careful. My list of restaurants:

San Travoso: very crowded, very touristed, but good food and a good bargain.

La Furatla: very good, not very touristed a little pricet (115 for 2 with wine) great fried fish

Corte Sconto: the speciality here is cicheti (sort of like italian tapas) where they bring you the seafood pics of the day. you have to be willing to experiement here. We got a lot of raw stuff, octopus, squid, shrimp etc. . and a breen capracio. But all of it was delicious, it was a real experience. Please do not go here and order this if you can't handle the new-ness of it. While we were there a big party of americans totally humiliated themselves by freaking out about the raw food and sending all of the food back stating "this is not italian food, this is sushi" I almost died of embarrasmnent and appologized to the owner on behalf of all americans with a modicom of class.

Tiramisu is also omnipresent in Venice as it was invented here so DH had a great time trying it every night. All in all, good food but definetly not the seafood you're used to having in the state.

Ivy Jun 1st, 2004 05:49 AM

Also wanted to report on our trip back to the states. What a gruelling time we had. Everything went off as planned but it was a very long day of travel. We had the 6:55 flight out of venice. I would advise against doing this, it is just too early. Luckily our hotel was great at helping us. They arranged for a water taxi from a reliable service. Plus the hotel has it's own dock so our water taxi showed up at 4:15 on the nose and pulled right up to the hotel. So we were able to go from hotel to taxi without even stepping outside! Very convenient. Arrived at airport at 4:45. Now, the new venice airport is aways from the dock so we had to walk about 1 kilometer to get to the terminal. NO big deal as we are light packers. Airport is open but counters don't open until 5:00 so you can't really do anything until 5:00. But then when they open up lines form FAST. We were first in line and got checked in fine. It's a very nice and new airport. Then we had a couple hours layover in munich and then we flew home. All in all a very long day of travel. But worth it!!

kmoncrief Jun 1st, 2004 10:10 AM

hi I had just posted a can you reserve the Dodges Secret Itinerary??? thank you

kmoncrief Jun 1st, 2004 10:13 AM

sorry ..what is the website for St Marks as well please!!! sounds like a great idea!!!

Junetravelfall Jun 1st, 2004 10:21 AM

found 1 site for you.. keep digging and post if you find it..;city_id=23

kmoncrief Jun 1st, 2004 11:13 AM

found the St Marks one,confirmed all BUT it wouldnt let me print and I lost it :( so now Im not sure..I just emailed the hotel and will have them do both,they have been great so far..

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