Italy Trip Report

Jan 28th, 2005, 07:43 AM
Original Poster
Join Date: Mar 2004
Posts: 178
Italy Trip Report

I am reposting my trip report from last May due to several inquiries and for those who are planning for a trip this spring/summer who may have missed it.

Italy Itinerary
*(see packet) refers to Rick Steves’ “Mona Winks” guide. Otherwise, I use Eye Witness.
Itinerary was altered after trip to conform to what actually happened. Although, it went darn near the way we planned it.

Saturday May 22 -Depart DFW AA 1086 8:57am
-Arrive JFK 1:16pm (4 hour layover)
-Depart JFK AA 166 5:50pm

Sunday May 23 -Arrive Rome 8:20am Hotel Navona
-LimoserviceRome outside customs hall Dei Sediari, 8 Piazza Navona
-Taxi to Vatican Square 00186, Roma
-Pope blesses crowd at 12 noon phone: 0039-06-68-64-203
-Tour St. Peters Basilica with tower (see packet)
-Cab or walk (30min) back to
Pantheon daily 8:30a-7p (see packet)
-Walk to Trevi Fountain and Spanish steps, Via Condotti (20 min)
-Dinner at Il Falchetto
-Bedtime at 9pm

Monday May 24 -9:30am reservation 27148 scavi tour (St. Peters Crypt)
-tour Sistine Chapel/Vatican Museum
-walk to Colloseo to begin Walking tour of Ancient Rome (self guided)
-(see packets for Vatican/Colloseo)
-Bar overlooking Roman forum (hotel forum)
-Dinner in the Piazza Navona @ Don Chisciotte

Tuesday May 25 -8am breakfast - Cab to Hertz #C44448417B0 Le Meridiane
-Depart Rome to Siena via . Siena,Tuscany
-Lunch in Castiglione del lago Phone: 1 800 700 9549
-Arrive Le Meridiane 3p-4p
-Dinner in Siena @ Osteria Del Rigelli

Wednesday May 26 -Kick it around Siena (market day)
-Afternoon drive to Monterriggioni and San Gimignano
-Enjoy the Villa
-Dinner in Siena @ Osteria Da Cice

Thursday May 27 -breakfast
-7:00am depart Siena for Pisa and Cinque Terra (approx. 125mi)
-Cinque Terra – private guide tour 10:15am
-Drive to Pisa (Leaning Tower)

Friday May 28 -9am depart Siena to Firenza via Chianti (45 mi) Hotel Porta Rossa
-lunch in Panzano Chianti @ Oltre Il Giardino Via Porta Rossa ,19
-4p arrive Firenze 50123 Firenze
-Enjoy Florence afternoon (palazzo vecchio ) Phone: 39055-287551
- Dinner @ Osteria Belle Donne

Saturday May 29 -8:30a Accedemia reservation 481274 (see packet) Main Door
- Renaissance Walk
-1:30pm Uffizi Gallery reservation 481275 (see packet) Door #3
- Dinner @Ristorante “Buca Mario”

Sunday May 30 -8am breakfast Antica Locanda al Gambero
-Depart Florence to Venice (160 miles) Calle dei Fabbri, 4687 San Marco
-Enjoy Venice by Canal Taxi with walk 30124 Venezia
- Dinner @ Da Carletto phone: 3904152-24384

Monday May 31 -8:30am breakfast
-9:30am Doges Palace (secret tour reservation CAS 193302) (see packet)
- 11:45am St. Marks Cathedral (see packet) reservation
- lunch @Pizzeria Antico Panifi

Tuesday June 1 -8:30am depart hotel for airport
-Depart Venice 11:30am BA 2583
-Arrive London 12:50pm
-depart London AA 79 3:25 arrive DFW 6:25pm

First, I would first like to thank the fodorites out there who helped me with my itinerary. In particular, bobthenavigator, ira, lesli, Giovanna, rex, and Jennie for there help on specific information whether you knew it or not.. Let me also say that this itinerary is a bit aggressive. Its not for everybody. But, that’s how my wife and I travel. In this case, we were joined by another couple. I listed the prices of Hotels etc. for those interested. I tried to be as detailed as possible and to hit topics that might be useful for others. I hope you enjoy reading my post and feel free to email me if you have any questions.

Day 1 - Arrived Rome on time to find we brought rain showers with us. As it turns out, the only day on the trip it really rained on us. Went through customs unusually fast (we carried on) and was met by driver with LimoServiceRome (52E) exactly where he was supposed to be. We had a nice comfy minivan for the four of us to the hotel and I highly recommend this service for ease, convenience and comfort. We arrived at Hotel Navona (130E/nite) near Piazza Navona at about 9:15am. Very nice hotel if a little hard to find at night. But with the hotel map you should be fine. English speaking staff, bfst. included, very clean and spacious as European hotels go. I recommend rooms 13a and 13b. They are closed off separate for a little more security and each with private bathroom. After changing in lobby bathroom, we were off to see the Pope. It started raining on the walk so we hailed a cab to find out like most cities, when it rains, the fare goes up. Rome taxis we found very inexpensive (5E-10E) but in this case we paid for it. After walking around St. Peters square, getting our first cappuccino in Italy, and waiting out the rain, the Pope finally showed at noon on the buzzer. I am not catholic, but I found this quite fascinating. He spoke for 25 minutes and I felt honored to be witness to him in such an awe inspiring setting. We were lucky with the crowd as it was very light that day. I suppose about 2k people were there which gave us a great vantage point. After that, we toured the Basilica, climbed the tower (45 min wait) and made a leisurely walk to the Pantheon crossing the bridge Saint Angelo. Spent some time around the Pantheon just taking it in and eating some gelato. Walked to the Steps and Trevi fountain. Both of which we were not that impressed and had trouble understanding what the fascination is. We threw our coins in and went back to the Pantheon to drink some wine by the fountain out front. Had dinner at Il Falchetto where we ended up downing 5 liters and two bottles of wine between four. This became a common theme throughout the trip. This little place was off the beaten path and we enjoyed it quite well. Also, I never sleep or nap upon arrival in Europe. Most seasoned travelers would tell you to tough it out until the time you would usually go to bed. It makes the transition easier.
chris1234 is offline  
Jan 28th, 2005, 07:45 AM
Original Poster
Join Date: Mar 2004
Posts: 178
Day 2 – started the day with the Scavi Tour. (st. peters crypt) This turned out to be the highlight of the trip. I highly recommend this tour underneath the Vatican. The original mausoleums and crypts are still there and visible and we had a wonderful guide. Seeing the Apostle Peter’s bones was very cool but as well, this place was untouched for 1700 years until 1930 when excavation began. For tour information, contact [email protected]. Following that, we went to the Vatican Museums and the Sistine Chapel. We moved rather quickly through the Museum to get to the chapel. Spent about an hour inside the chapel gazing, as its very impressive. Followed the advice of many and took the “secret” exit. Although, about everyone in there did the same thing. There was no guard there when I went out and it appeared as if they have just resorted to letting everyone out that way if you don’t want to go back through the museum. For those who don’t know this exit is at the back right of the chapel as you are leaving. Usually reserved exit for tours. Took a cab to the Senate square near the forum and ate some pizza lunch on the grass near the fountains. Started our tour of the Forum on the far side of the Coliseum so we worked backwards using our guide book. We probably should have booked a guide for this but we didn’t and enjoyed it all the same. Took our time and walked through the Forum to the Coliseum. Lucky for us, it was not crowded this day. We walked right up, bought our tickets and audio guide and went right in. I enjoyed this more than my wife did but we got some great pics and learned some things from the audio guide I did not know. I would recommend the audio guide but it left a lot to be desired and a guide would have filled in the blanks. The new runway allowing visitors to reach the actual floor was closed and I was pissed about that. Why screw the whole thing up and keep it closed. If they are going to have there, keep it open or remove it. After leaving the Coliseum, we walked back down Via Dei Fori Imperiali to the Hotel Forum. At the top of the hotel you will find a terrace bar overlooking the forum. This was quite nice and we spent an hour or so relaxing and sipping wine reflecting on the day. That night, we had dinner in Piazza Navona at Don Chisciotti. Had another great dinner.

Ps. I had heard horror stories of tourist being bombarded with beggars and gypsies in Rome specifically. I can attest that not one person approached us the whole trip. We clearly stuck out like sore thumbs with backpack on and book in hand. And I was expecting a helluva lot more cats in Rome. It did not appear to be a rampant problem to me.

Day 3 – Took a cab to Hertz in north Rome. Did not take long to get there from the hotel but what an asswhip to get the car. I am a member of Gold Club Europe and they had nothing ready for me at arrival. An hour later, we are on the road. After a few wrong turns we were on the autostrade and on our way. By the way, the car was 408E for 7 days including insurance, taxes, additional driver and gas purchase which was 45E. I thought a great deal. Split by two couples and that’s cheap to travel. Anyway, on our way to siena, we took the long, scenic route and stopped in Castiglione del Lago overlooking Lake Trasimeno. We ate lunch here at L’Aquario near the main square. Before leaving, we bought some local cheese and wine and enjoyed some coffee in the square. With only another 40 miles to Siena, we took our time and enjoyed the views of Tuscany. We almost went to Cortona but decided to go on to Siena as it was already after 2pm. We arrived at our Villa, Le Meridiane, which we absolutely loved. We got the Michaelangelo apt. About a five minute drive to town by bus, this villa offered an apartment style room with two huge rooms, private baths, large kitchen and private sun deck. All that for a total of $480.00 for 3 nights. I highly recommend this place and Siena as a base for touring southern Tuscany. That night, we ate on the square in city centre at Osteria dei Rigelli. Good food and wine but overpriced. That’s what happens when you eat in the square. But we enjoy the people watching and atmosphere.

Day 4 – slept in on this day. Got up and drove to San Gimignano. We really enjoyed this town. SG is a beautiful town set up on a hill and is easily seen on foot. We climbed the tower had lunch in the square and ate more gelato. We spent about 3 or 4 hours there and then moved on to Monterriggioni. M is an old fortress and at its height was at the center of the wars between Siena and Florence. We spent about an hour here as its very small. Back to Siena where we still had time to climb the tower before it closed. What a great view as the sun was heading down. Had a fabulous dinner at Da Cice. That night we sat on the deck at our villa and drank wine.

Day 5 - We got up very early and started what became a very great day with a few wrong turns thrown in. We had scheduled a semi-private guide in the Cinque Terre whose tour departed at 10:15am in Monterosso. We were on the road at 7am and drove north to Florence and then west toward Lucca before heading north again to La Spezia. We were sailing right up to the point we hit the toll booth outside of La Spezia. Against my better judgement and my directions printed from two different web sites, we chose to follow the BIG BROWN sign that read “Cinque Terre.” There are two reasons we made this split second decision. 1. Surely the big brown sign would get us to CT the quickest way and 2. in Europe signs are often followed easier than the actual road number. BIG mistake. When we made this decision we still had over an hour before our tour started and we were sure we would not only be on time but have plenty of time to spare. I built in an extra 45 minutes of “screw up” time just in case. What ended up happening was the road took us right through the middle of La Spezia which is not exactly a small town. We came out of La Spezia to hit the road heading toward the mountains. At this point we knew we messed up but was sure we could still make it on time and it was too late to turn around. Too make a long drive short for you, this road took us to Riomaggiori which is the last or first town in CT depending on which direction you come from. Needless to say, we were on the opposite side of the CT from Monterosso and we had a 20 mile drive on the most narrow and winding road I have ever been on. Under other circumstances, this would be a spectacular drive and one I would recommend. But we did not have time for this. For those who know Monterosso, you will laugh at what happened next. Upon arrival at 10:20am I jump out of the car and ran from the parking lot through the tunnel, past the boat dock and in to old town to look for the café we were supposed to meet the guide at. After asking several people, I located it only to find the group had left 5 minutes before. I had his cell number though. While the café manager called him I ran back to the tunnel to get my wife and friends who were already in a dash to catch up with me. By the time we got back to the café, she said he was on the boat about to leave for Vernazza with the other 4 people on the tour. As we ran back to the boat dock we watched as the boat was cruising away not 100ft. from the dock. We missed it by minutes. Had I stayed in the café when she first called him we would have caught them just in the nick of time. So, I walked back to the café and had her call him again and I spoke with him directly this time. It was 10:35am and he told me to head back to the train station and catch the local train to Vernazza at 10:49am. In a full sprint we run back to the train station only to find the trains are not running until after 12noon. By this time we had run our asses off, we were drenched with sweat and we were pissed off we missed him twice. So, we walked back to the boat dock and waited for the 11:30am boat. At this point we figured if they were not at the dock when we got there we would just wing it and have fun touring the CT on our own. I’ll be damned, they were waiting there for us when we got off the boat. I could not believe it. The guide told me since we paid a deposit and driving from Siena and tried like mad to find him, the least they could do was wait to see if we made that boat. He did not know if we were going to be on it or not. Needless to say the other 4 people were not thrilled about waiting but what good sports. There was no bitterness and we became friends fast. They all said they would have wanted us to wait on them too. That was very nice. The following is a recap of our day as described in an email from the guide to me regarding the standard trek we did. He says it better than I could.

“This is the standard trek: We meet at a cappuccino bar between 9:45- 10am
in Monterosso. We have some great local coffee, get adjusted to the day,
acquainted with each other, and watch the locals from the bar in their daily
routines. We cruise through the center of old town to the port to capture
the view that lends best to explaing some in and outs of the Cinque Terre.
We then catch a boat to Vernazza.

Upon arrival, we grab a seat on some rocks in the harbor and I give a brief
history on the area. After a stroll around Vernazza we take my favorite
trail of the Cinque Terre to Corniglia. It is a mildly strenuous hike. The
first 30 minutes are somewhat steep for someone who does not exercise
frequently, but we take our time just the same. After that, it is smooth
sailing and very rewarding. Winding through olive trees, vines, and an array
of plants and shrubs over-looking the Mediterranean Sea, we head to
Corniglia. It takes roughly 1 hr and 40 minutes. Throughout this trail, I
will share interesting stories and some history...but not too much to bore
you or myself( I hope!) If I ever sound like Ben Stein "the tour guide" I
would quit. If you want that, it is in Florence and Rome.

When we arrive in Corniglia we grab some lunch, generally a slice of popular
locally made pizza, and head to a scenic place to eat. After we finish
lunch, we head back into Corniglia and visit my friend Tomasina, an elderly
woman who makes wine in her cellar(7th generation) In her typical 15th
century cellar, we try some of her wine straight from the keg. We also may
stop at Mario's Enoteca. He is a bonified wine lover whose salt 'n pepper
hair is only accentiuated by his big smile and rosey cheeks. Leaving Corniglia we descend down the steps that leads us to the path to
Manarola. The path to Manarola follows the open sea the entire 20 minute
walk. We take a detour before we enter Manarola and walk through a large
working vineyard that offers a sweeping view looking back to the Cinque
Terre and around the corner lies a panoramic view slightly above the steep
terraced homes of Manarola that sit just proudly above the sea.

Manarola provides us with an opportunity to take a break of about 30
minutes to stroll around, get some gelato, or as in my case starting around
June, taking a swim(or if you are a little crazy like me- Cliff Jumping!) We
then take the train or, for a little extra money, a boat back to Monterosso.”

For information on booking Sean Risatti, you can reach him at [email protected]. I highly recommend this guide for all the reasons you get a guide. And for people on a time budget, it is so much easier. The cost per person was 50E and worth every penny.

We got back in the car at 6:30pm and went the right way out of the CT to find it took us only 20 minutes to get back to the original point at which we went the wrong way. I could not believe it. We then headed south to Pisa to get a shot of the tower. Wow, Pisa is a real dump. And to have such a tourist destination within the city, we found the signage piss poor to find the tower. It took us damn near 30 minutes to find it once we got off the highway. We spent only enough time there to park the car and spend 20 minutes taking pictures before it got dark. Grabbed a slice of pizza and hit the road. Second big driving mistake coming up. After heading south on Hwy 1 out of Pisa and taking the autostrade toward Florence we decided to take the 429 at Empoli and cut down back to siena instead of through Florence. On two different maps I showed only two towns on this road and from the map it appeared to be a major road. Ooooppps. We went through about 50 little towns and it took us over 2 hours to get back to siena from pisa. This trip the other way would have only taken an hour and a half. None of these towns were listed on any map we had. I was using Hammonds Road Atlas of Italy and the Hertz country map. Anyway, we got back to Siena around 10:45 and drank more wine on the deck recapping a very long, great day. Advise to go through Florence from Southern Tuscany to anywhere in the West.
chris1234 is offline  
Jan 28th, 2005, 07:46 AM
Original Poster
Join Date: Mar 2004
Posts: 178
Day 6 - Got up and went North out of Siena on S222 through the Chianti region. What a fabulous drive. The scenery was some of the most picturesque we had seen. The drive is 45 miles from Siena to Florence and its all vineyards. We took our time and got out to take pictures when we saw a great shot. We had to stop at a vineyard and drink some wine. We stopped at Villa Elvira which is this beautiful hotel/winery tucked away about 2 miles off the main road. We had a couple glasses of the locally produced Chianti in the sitting room of the hotel, which overlooks the vineyard.. We had the whole place to ourselves. It was quite nice. Back on the road to Castellina where we stopped for a few pictures and to walk through the little town. We then stopped in Panzano at Villa Le Barone ( for some more wine and then for lunch at Oltre Il Giardino. This place was fabulous with a great location at the edge of town overlooking the entire valley. The service sucked but the food and atmosphere more than made up for it.

On to Florence where we arrived at about 4pm. The S222 took us right in to Florence and we made one wrong turn and ended up driving all through city centre. It was quite stressful but we took our time as Florence is not a place well suited for cars. Our parking garage was behind the hotel but we had to go 10 minutes around the block to get there. The maps make it look a lot easier than it is to drive in Florence so be prepared. We stayed at the Hotel Porta Rossa. We shared a 4 person room which was one huge room. This hotel claims to be the oldest hotel in Florence and the second oldest still operating in Italy. I don’t know about that but it was clean and roomy. However, we felt like we were in France. The staff was very unfriendly and the place was a little stuffy for us. But I thought the price was good (490E two nights/4 people) and again it was clean so you cant complain too much.

Off to sight see and we went straight for the Ponte Vecchio. My impressions of this bridge were not good. I realize historically it has been a trading area for centuries but all the gold and silver dealers seemed to ruin the beauty. I was not expecting to be bothered to buy a handful of garage sale bracelets as I stood there taking it in. We wandered back to the Piazza Signoria and had some beer at one of the local joints with a patio in the square. Be prepared for 6E beers in this square as I am sure they raise the rate for tourists. Once again this falls in the category of we like the atmosphere so we will pay a little more for it. But not usually that much. That night we ate at Belle Donne which was the first of our two best meals of the trip. This place came highly recommended from a local and it hit the nail on the head. Its very small. Only about 10 tables but the place was packed and a line had formed outside shortly after we got there at about 7pm.

Day 7 - We had reservations to the Accademia and the Uffizi. For those going to either of these places I highly recommend getting reservations as it no doubt saved us a ton of time. The line at the Accademia was easily over an hour. There is a separate line for people with reservations and we got in it. For some reason this line was moving at an extremely slow pace as they were only letting people in as other came out it seemed. Our time had come and gone so we got out of the line and went to the front and showed the guy our reservation time and he let us right in. Not sure what the deal was but I would suggest trying that before you wait in line. The David was great and we really enjoyed the “unfinished” works leading up to the David. Sad though they do not let you take pictures any more. I got a couple without the flash on anyway. Later that afternoon we went to the Uffizi Gallery. I was not that impressed with this gallery. I appreciate and understand the greatness of these works but after having been to the best of Europe’s museums in Amsterdam, Paris, London and Rome, this was less than stellar. I am sure many would disagree but I just did not think it that great and we all wished we had spent our time doing something else. We did climb the tower next to the dome which I would suggest because the views of the city with the dome are spectacular. Also, there are a lot fewer people on the tower. We then went over to Santa Croce and spent an hour there which was much less crowded. Very few people comparatively on that day. After that, the wives had to do some shopping at the outdoor market. I swear we saw all of Florence on foot looking for this area but we finally found it. We bargained for some leather goods and I was amazed at how great the prices were on the leather and luggage. My wife got a very nice leather jacket for about 85E.

After that we found a local wine bar and sat down for a few drinks. Earlier in the day we walked past a restaurant called Ristorante Buca Mario 1886. We checked out the menu and knocked on the door to make a reservation in case we wanted to come back. Little did we know what a great find this was. It was hands down the best meal we had on the whole trip. Quite possibly the best mozzarella in the world. We came to find out this is a very popular place. We just got very lucky as we dummied on to this place.

I know this comment will amaze some of you but we were not that impressed with Florence. To us, it was not the place described so often on this website and in the guide books. We found it stuffy, dirty and the least favorite place we went on this trip. Compared to the rest of Europe and Italy, Florence owns the bottom of the list in my opinion. Aside from our best meals on the trip, we wished we would have stayed in Chianti or in Cinque Terra over Florence. Maybe one more day and we would have enjoyed it a little more.

Day 8 – In the car to Venice took us just about 3 hours. Getting out of the mountains near Florence slows you down some but then it is smooth sailing. We parked in the Tronchetto parking garage (18E/day) which was very easy to find and worked perfect for us. Of course, on the day we show up there were rowing races taking place in the Grand Canal so they had portions of it closed down for a brief time. We had two options according to the parking attendant. We could wait on the vaparetto which he said would take an hour and then another hour before it got us to the Rialto or we could take a water taxi which he said would take only twenty minutes. The price for the taxi was 10E each I think. We would have normally just taken the #82 or #1 vaparetto right to Rialto bridge or San Marco for a short walk to the hotel. But since we had limited time, we decided to take the fastest route. As it turns out, we get down to the water taxi where there were two other people already on the boat waiting. 40 minutes later and 8 more people and we were still sitting there. Needless to say I was getting very pissed off and feeling like I had been taken. The “20”minute ride took 45 because of so much traffic he had to go very slow. It was a rough day on the water with fairly high winds. And then he dropped us off at San Marco so we had to do some quick navigation as my directions were from the Rialto. After a rather long walk pulling our luggage through the square we finally made it to the hotel. I did see a lot of people rowing so we know there truly were races but to what extent they halted the vaparettos is suspect. For those going to Venice soon, just take the easy route and get on the #82 or #1 from the Tronchetto and you will be better off.

In Venice we stayed at the Locanda Al Gambero. (190E/night) This hotel is very centrally located between the Rialto and San Marco on a pretty busy street. We really enjoyed our rooms 203 and 204. 203 had a small balcony overlooking the canal with a picturesque bridge close by and 204 was the corner room and larger than the others. Each with private bath. The hotel staff speaks good English and was very polite. The rooms were very clean and the breakfast standard for Italy. That afternoon we walked the streets of Venice and stopped for pizza at the bottom of the Accademia bridge. Later that night we took a gondola ride. I did my homework on this before we went so I knew what to expect. But the sting to the wallet is bad even if you know ahead of time you are getting screwed. I bargained with no less than 6 different gondoliers and they were all within 5-10E of eachother. No real breaks anywhere. We paid 80E for a 30 minute ride that was really 25 minutes. It was not the romantic experience that I expected. The gondoliers talked and yelled back to eachother the whole time. We went late hoping to avoid all the tourists hanging over the bridges staring down at you but we still got the staring and our ride was not as long as I paid for. I even got yelled at for moving in the boat to take a picture. After our boat ride, we bought a couple of bottles of wine and sat in the square listening to the orchestras play which was quite nice. The restaraunts on the square have orchestras playing till about 12m and its free unless you sit at a table. Then you buy a 6E beer.

Day 9 – We were amazed at the level of activity and population shift from daytime to nighttime in Venice. This is all due to the cruise ships docked for 1 and 2 day stops. First thing in the morning we did the Secret Itinerary Tour of Doges Palace. This was a great tour separate from the rest of the palace. However, this ticket allows you to see the rest of the palace once done with the tour. The private tour lasts almost an hour and half and then we spent another hour crossing the bridge of sighs, seeing the rest of the palace and taking pictures on the grand staircase. Once leaving the palace we headed next door to the San Marco Basilica. This whole process was a mess. We had a reservation at 11:45am. There was a line for non-reservation visitors that had to be 2 hours long. It was barely moving. Anyway, we had a little trouble figuring out where we were supposed to go in. One of the guards near the side exit told us we had to drop off our bag down the street in a locker. I was not willing to do that with my camera equipment so I walked in the exit door, showed a guard our confirmation and he waved us right in. I got some bad looks from some other guards for carrying my bag in but I noticed there were others that had bags. The whole process was extremely disorganized and I was surprised because it is a major attraction. The church was so beautiful and we spent about 20 minutes looking around as they move you through there pretty quick.

The rest of the day was spent looking around near the Rialto Bridge and surrounding areas and climbing the Campanile. It was 6E to go up but it has an elevator. We bought some glass items for souvenirs and ate some gelato. I have to admit I was not prepared for the onslaught of glass shops, mask shops and tourists. I mean I expected tourists just not at this level. The streets are so small that in the high traffic areas, it is so congested and takes a little from the charm of Venice. The nighttime is much better and slower. That night we had dinner near the Rialto Bridge at Ristorante Grand Canal then bought a couple bottles to enjoy on a dock down the Grand Canal with a view of the bridge. Even later, we went back to the square and capped the trip with a couple more bottles.

Day 10 – To get to the airport with a car parked at the Tronchetto. Catch the #82 at Rialto takes you right to the Tronchetto after 3 stops I think. Retrieve your car. This will be easier if you actually remember where you parked it. Pay at the 1 level to have the ticket validated for exit. Follow the signs to the airport about 8-10 miles away. There are two directions though. One way takes you to the autostrade to the airport or there is a back way that is quicker on hwy 14. You will know where this occurs as there is a traffic light with signs both ways. Take hwy 14. From Tronchetto it was about 20 minutes. The car rental lot is about 100 yards walk from the terminal. Check in is on the second level. This was the longest part of the morning but after check in the security line was quick. Total time from hotel to airport and check-in: 2hrs. We had about 30 minutes to spare before the flight. You might ask why we did not drop the car off and just take the boat: to and from the airport with 4 people was going to cost more money and take more time than parking in the garage for 36E.

The following are the restaurants we ate at and truly enjoyed and would recommend. We did not have a bad meal at any of these places. All are priced moderate to high but then we splurged on eating.

Venice: *Pizzeria Antico Panifi. San Polo 945
-Arguably the best pizza in Venice- all locals but us
*Da Carletto – for good seafood and gnocchi (near SM square)
*Sempione on Ponte dei bareteri, 578
-way late for reservation so we left but menu looked good
-reserve for table overlooking canal

Florence *Ristorante Buca Mario
-the best meal of the trip. The Caprese and Risotto the best.
-can’t recommend this place enough: service, atmosphere great.
*Osteria Belle Donne
-all locals; ten tables; loud but fun; great food
-Second best meal of the trip
*La Spada on Via Della Spada, 62
-very good for meat dishes; lower priced
*Vivoli Gelataria – not nearly the best anymore. Don’t bother.

Chianti *Oltre Il Giardino Panzano in Chianti.
-dining terrace overlooking vast vineyard/olive valley

Siena *Osteria da Cice Via San Pietro , 32 Siena
-dine in old wine cellar; fabulous food; cheap wine
-highly recommend
*Osteria del Rigelli Il Campo, 60 Siena
-on the square; higher priced due to location
-good wine list; good pizza; great atmosphere
*Guidoriccio on Via G. Dupre, 2 Siena

Rome *Don Chisciotte on Piazza Navona;
*Hotel Forum for terrace overlooking Forum. Drinks/Dinner
*Il Falchetto – tucked away on side street near Pantheon
-cheap wine, great veggies, good service

Castiglione del Lago *Ristorante L’Acquario


Hotel Navona
Dei Sediari, 8 Piazza Navona
00186, Roma
phone: 0039-06-68-64-203

Le Meridiane
Phone: 1 800 700 9549

Hotel Porta Rossa
Via Porta Rossa ,19
50123 Firenze
Phone: 39055-287551

Antica Locanda al Gambero
Calle dei Fabbri, 4687 San Marco
30124 Venezia
phone: 3904152-24384
chris1234 is offline  
Jan 28th, 2005, 08:10 AM
Join Date: Jun 2003
Posts: 12,176
Sounds like a great trip.
WillTravel is offline  
Jan 28th, 2005, 08:18 AM
Join Date: Jan 2004
Posts: 66
Hello, Chris1234! (I am in the DFW area also--nice to correspond with a neighbor!) Thanks for posting this--it is very informative and timely, as we are beginning to plan our 20th anniv trip for Sept '06 with three/four other couples. Your post will be most helpful. Your itinerary is very close to what we want to do. We will be going on to Paris for a week after Italy.

Thanks again for posting--can't wait to get a cup of tea and really soak it up. (Nothing like settling down to a good trip report!)
Burley is offline  
Jan 28th, 2005, 09:14 AM
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 2,019
Chris, I personally got a lot of great information from your trip report, which I will use next year.

I like your no-nonsense approach to writing.
i_am_kane is offline  
Jan 31st, 2005, 01:08 PM
Original Poster
Join Date: Mar 2004
Posts: 178
I am pleased that you enjoyed my post. Have a great trip.
chris1234 is offline  
May 10th, 2006, 11:47 AM
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Posts: 178
I am reposting my Italy Trip Report from two years ago for those who might have a trip planned this summer. Like katiemac
chris1234 is offline  
May 10th, 2006, 12:37 PM
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 897
Found your report very informative. I appreciate that you didn't feel you had to like someplace just because you went there. Will probably have more questions, but right now I'm curious about where you sat in Venice when you drank your bottles of wine - you travel like we do - and listened to the orchestras? Having not been to Venice yet, I was under the impression that there was nowhere to sit but the expensive tables.
rickmav is offline  
May 10th, 2006, 12:44 PM
Original Poster
Join Date: Mar 2004
Posts: 178

we sat two places. in the middle of San Marco Square on the cobblestone and on a pier just down from Rialto Bridge.

In the square, we preffered buying a bottle and being in the center of all the music to paying higher priced table charge and drinks. when we were there, the musicians at the different restaraunts would take turns playing so one would not overpower the other. plus, you get to take in the entire square from the center if you dont mind parking it on the ground.
chris1234 is offline  
May 10th, 2006, 12:59 PM
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 16,511
Great report Chris. I too like your net style of writing, but you failed to tell us how many types of jam were on the breakfast buffet.
bobthenavigator is online now  
May 10th, 2006, 01:57 PM
Join Date: Apr 2006
Posts: 34
JanNZ is offline  
May 10th, 2006, 05:33 PM
Join Date: Jan 2004
Posts: 2,078
Thank you Chris. Great information for our upcoming trip to Italy in September.
Micheline is offline  

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