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Trip Report Italy Trip Report

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When posting a reply, I realized I had never shared my trip report when my daughter and I toured.

Italy (June 28 – July 11, 2011)
• Continental Airlines – San Antonio to Houston to London to Venice (16 hours)
• Venice 3 days, renting Casa Allegra 2-Bedroom Canal Apt
• Took 4 trains to western shore of Northern Italy on July 2
• Cinque Terre 3 days, at Ca’d’andrean Inn in Manarola
• Took 4 trains to Siena, Italy on July 5 and rented car to tour Tuscany
• Siena 3 days, pampered at Frances Lodge in on the hills overlooking Siena
• Bus from Siena to Rome on July 8th and taxi to apartment
• Rome 3 days, renting Viale Angelico 2-Bedroom Apt near Vatican
• Returning to San Antonio from Rome on July 11 via Newark arriving 6:15 pm

Below are the details by day. Note: it would have been better to change the trip order to Venice-Siena-cinque Terre-Rome; however we didn't want to deal with the crowds during the famous horse race in Siena so went in the other order which involved alot more trains.

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    VENICE (3 days – June 29 to July 1)
    Day 1: whew, what a day. Happy to arrive at our Casa Allegra apartment, Fondamenta Moro 2445, in Venice after 3 flights (16 hours), bus, boat then carrying our bags over 5 bridges arriving Wed. June 29th at 2:30 pm. The apartment was lovely with canal views on 2 sides, 2 bedroom with kitchenette and TV room. We enjoyed a late lunch at the café with the red umbrellas that we could see from our apartment. We were falling asleep on our feet by 6 pm (jet lag, big time!); so went to bed for 12 hours (got Shannon up by 7 am the next day).

    Day 2 (Grand Canal & St. Marks Square):
    Started the day early with a Vaporetti #1 water bus down the Grand Canal listening to Rick Steves audio tour of the sights (a free iphone podcast):

    Got off the Vaporetti #1 at St. Marks’ Square. You can see the Doge Palace on the right; with glimpses of the Basilica behind and the Campanal Bell Tower (which we did not climb).

    St. Marks Basilica… looks so chaotic on the outside, but very old (1300s) and beautiful golden paintings on the inside. We followed Rick Steve’s tip to check your bag for free first around the corner; then get to go in the church without waiting in line.

    At the Doges Palace, we were only allowed to take photos of the courtyard. This is the clock at one end. The self-guided tour, reading information in each room was good. It covered where the Doge (ruler in Venice) lived on floor 1; the government rooms were extensive including one large meeting room for 2000 noblemen, legal courts and finally walked over the bridge of sighs to the prison.

    Day 3 (Islands):
    Walked about 20 minutes to the Ferry Landing and took a boat to Murano where we enjoyed all the glass shops. We splurged on some Murano glass necklace and earrings.

    Then on to the colorful island of Burano. We ate our packed lunch and strolled among the pastel houses. Returning to Venice, we enjoyed a late lunch on a quaint restaurant patio; then back to pack for the next day.

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    Cinque Terre – 3 days (July 2 - 4)
    Day 1: After 4 trains, we arrived at Manarola for 3 relaxing days on the remote western shoreline of Italy. With hindsight, we could have saved travel time by reversing the order of our itinerary to go to Siena on the way to Venice; but we wanted to avoid the crowds for Siena’s July 2nd horse race. It was a long hike up steep streets dragging our bags to our hotel; but the views were spectacular.

    Cinque Terre is a Nat’l park connecting 5 villages by walking trails (Riomaggiore, Manarola, Corniglia, Vernazza, Monterosso al Mare). Unfortunately the trail toward Corniglia was closed by a rock slide. Amazing how vineyards cling to the sides of the mountains

    Day 2: Hiking the trail
    The trails were very steep; so we took the train to Vernazza and then hiked the trail toward Corniglia about a mile up where we stopped for drinks and enjoyed the view.

    Returning to Vernazza, we ate pizza at harborside restaurant then Shannon decided to try the steep hike between Vernazza and Monterosso al Mare.

    Diane took the train to meet her on the other side. Monterosso al Mare has the only sandy beach. Even on Sunday, the Italians and tourists packed the beach. Shannon made it 2/3 of the way before turning back to Vernazza, calling me and we both caught the train to Manarola. After a shower, we enjoyed a dinner at the best seafood restaurant in Manarola, Trattoria Dal Billy, where the owners only serve fish caught that day – excellent; though expensive.

    Day 3: Boating
    We started the day with the ferry from Manarola to Monterosso al Mare to get photos of 4 of the towns from the water. We toured the town, enjoying shopping and a nice lunch before returning by train to our hotel.

    That evening, we hiked the easy paved trail from Manarola to Riomaggiore. The trail is called Via dell’amore where tradition had couples placing a lock on the walkway somewhere. We saw some there over 30 years. I have heard that this trail was damaged the year after we went and may not be open now.

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    Tuscany – 3 days (July 5 – 7)
    On July 5th, we took 4 trains to get to Siena for our 3rd leg of the trip – Tuscany. On the way we paused for 3 hours in Pisa.

    We were lucky that the restoration of the Leaning Tower of Pisa was completed… pristine white and green marble. It was funny to see all the people posing with arms out as if holding up the tower.

    Upon reaching Siena, we took a taxi to get to Avis to pick up a rental car and then drove to Frances Lodge, where the hosts pampered us with sightseeing advice and wonderful, homemade breakfasts in the garden. We stayed in their only 2-bedroom, 2-story suite.

    At 4 pm, we decided to take a 1 hour drive to San Gimignano for dinner and a sunset view of the lovely town with 14 towers. It was a little scary on the way back as we failed to consider how stressful it would be to drive and try to read signs after dark…. Whew, it was a relief to find our way back to the lodge that night.

    Day 2 - Siena:
    The pool overlooking Siena was beautiful; however too cold to swim. Each morning, Diane enjoyed sunrise by the pool, letting Shannon sleep in.

    After a wonderful breakfast, we caught a bus into Siena, then walked through the very hilly streets to Scuola Cucina Cooking School. This was definitely a highlight of our trip (5 hours and ate the 5 courses we made). Lilla was a superb cook who only spoke Italian, with her friend Jackie translating for the 5 of us in the class. She has won numerous awards and done TV cooking shows. The appetizer was fried sage leaves… truly wonderful; light batter like tempura. Also made sweet onion rings. We made the pasta dough then rolled by hand large spaghetti. The entrée was roast and potatoes. With all the wine while cooking, we were feeling no pain!

    In the afternoon, we walked to the famous Il Campo square and clock tower in Siena

    Using the Rick Steves book, we self-toured the inside of the Duomo Cathedral dating back to 1215 – the green, white striped marble and art was fabulous.

    That evening, our hosts referred us to a neighborhood restaurant with a Seafood 3-course special that night. We tried seafood items we’ve never had before with Oysters and 4 other types of appetizers, followed by a large fish course and dessert. Only $24 euros for a feast that we couldn’t finish. Really enjoyed experiencing the local cuisine.

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    Day 3: Tuscany Countryside
    Another wonderful breakfast and sunrise, then we were out the door to drive through the rolling hills. Our hosts wrote out a route to some of the best sites in Tuscany, Crete Senese Drive: Montalcino with 14th century fort, abbey in Monte Oliveto Maggiore, then to S. Antimo Abbazia where we arrive in time to hear the monks coming in from farming to sing at 12:45 each day, then on to Pienza and Montepulciano. Some day, we want to return for a week in Tuscany as truly was our favorite area of Italy.

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    Rome – 3 days (July 8 – 10)
    Day 1: dropped Shannon at the Siena Bus/train station with our bags; then returned the car, walking back. We took a bus to Rome, then a taxi to our apartment near the Vatican. We then took advantage of the Friday evening Vatican tour. No pictures were allowed in the Sistine Chapel which was smaller than we envisioned but still spectacular.

    Afterwards, we visited the St. Peter’s Basilica square and then decided to do the evening walk to see the fountains that were listed in the Rick Steve’s book. Stopping for dinner at Campo de’ Fiori at outside tables overlooking musicians and artists in the square. Next was Piazza Navona with the Four Rivers Fountain in the center, the Pantheon, and Trevi Fountain. We definitely over-did it; our feet were killing us by the time we reached the Spanish steps. Unfortunately, the metro stop was closed and the buses were standing room only to get to another metro stop and then back to our apartment for some much needed sleep.

    Day 2: Ancient Rome
    We had prepaid for a small group tour with Rome Walks that met at the Coliseum at 9:30 am for a wonderful 3-hour tour for 6 people covering Forum and Palatine Hill. Since the last time I had visited Rome in the early 80’s; a lot of new ruins had been discovered including Nero’s palace… amazing. During our visit, Rome was having record-breaking hot temperatures of over 100 degrees.. thus, we didn’t make it to the museum as planned but headed back to relax at the apartment with A/C.

    Day 3 & 4: worn out and hot… so relaxed with a book at the apartment for our last day in Italy. We did a trial-run of the metro to the train station that we’d need to take to the airport the next day. We had to get up at 4 am on July 11th, walking to the metro, then had to run to catch our airport train at the train station, and then to our flight by 9:50 am. We caught our connecting flight in Newark for San Antonio arriving around 6 pm.

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