Italy Trip Report

Aug 1st, 2005, 07:54 PM
  #21  
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Join Date: Jul 2004
Posts: 96
Thanks for the responses. Sorry I've been slacking off-computer problems! Just installed the new one, so Tuesday I'll try to get back on track and write about Tuscany.
Tra6 is offline  
Aug 2nd, 2005, 03:20 PM
  #22  
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Part IV of Italy Trip Report

SAN GIMIGNANO - Day 10
July 9, 2005

Woke up early, 7 a.m. to catch our train out of Monterosso. We were sad to leave the Cinque Terre, but excited for Tuscano! We found the right train, for a change, and had a nice ride in our “own compartment” to Pisa where we needed to pick up our rental car at Europcar. We had reserved it at autoeurope.com months in advance. Once we arrived in Pisa, we began walking to get the car, and found a shop where I could replace my white clothes and nude colored undergarments which had turned grey in the Monterosso laundry. The shop was called Tezenis on Corso Italia, and had tank tops for 4 EU and undergarments for less! I was so excited, and my husband was too since I had been kind of upset about the ruined clothing from Monterosso. (see “Monterosso Day 8" for the ugly laundry incident details!) We continued walking, thinking we had plenty of time to get the car and maybe stop to see the leaning tower. Well, we walked too far and ended up having to ask for directions in a Tobacchi. All I had with me for a map was the little one in my Rough Guide book. It wasn’t detailed enough, so the nice man at the Tobacchi gave me a map for free and circled where we needed to go. He was very helpful and patient! We managed to find the rental car office on Via San Michele Degli, near the river. By that time were pretty hungry and sweaty, so we decided to just head out of Pisa and get to San Gimignano. Driving was of course an adventure, as expected. My husband was driving and being passed by people driving so fast it was as if we were sitting still. We had a fun time just getting to the highway since they way we wanted to go seemed closed. We managed to find the Fi Pi Li which we figured out must have meant “Firenze, Pisa, Livorno”. Our little black Fiat Punto was a lot of fun - standard transmission and plenty of room for our two backpacks and carry-on. It was nice to have some travel freedom for a change. The scenery was beautiful! We stopped at an Autogrill, recommended by a fodorite, which was very good. We got a couple of paninis and water and saw a wedding party there!? We hit some traffic on the way in the Santa Croce area due to a fatal accident on the other side of the highway. It doesn’t seem like there are too many auto accidents in Italy, but when they occur, they are bad! The other side of the road was closed and people were out of their cars wondering what had happened. We were directed off the highway and then back on the next entrance. The kilometers took some getting used to. We basically stayed a little above the speed limit and figured we were safe that way. We didn’t see too many cops, and when we did, they too were passing us at crazy speeds! Our hotel, Hotel Pescille (Room 68, 115 EU/night) was just past the city of San Gimignano. We checked into our lovely room with a spectacular view of the expansive landscape and hilltop/towers of San Gimignano. After unpacking, we got back in the Punto and headed into town. We parked at the Public Parking P2 which had a maximum fee of 15 Euro, which we ended up spending by the end of the night. There were so many wine shops and shops filled with many other local products. We didn’t buy anything yet, because we wanted to wait until we did some tasting to see what we liked. We had some gelato while we strolled around and then had an amazing dinner at a restaurant that was recommended in our Rough Guide. “Osteria del Carcere” on Via del Castello. Wonderful local flavors, quaint atmosphere with about 5 tables downstairs and the same up on the balcony. We had bruschetta, which we watched them make from our balcony seats, tomato soup that was outstanding, pork loin with herbs, turkey with orange and pistachio, salad with almond and goat cheese, bottle of delicious red wine and water and bread for 53 EU. I would highly recommend this restaurant! After dinner, we went to a wine tasting at the wine museum, up behind the duomo, which was fun. For 5 EU each, we got little souvenir glasses and holders to wear them around our necks and tasted about a dozen local wines. We met a couple from Brisbane, a man from Colorado and a couple from Canada. We had a good time, and I wrote down some names of wines I would look for when shopping later in the trip. Our favorites were S. Gimignano Rosso - Sarreto 1999 Cappella S. Andrea and Fugnano Chianti Colli Senesi 2003. We got back to the hotel late, 11:30 p.m., just in time since they lock the doors at 12:00!

SAN GIMIGNANO - Day 11
(Day trip to Siena)
July 10, 2005

Breakfast at the hotel was similar to the others - pastries, cereal, fruit, yogurt, coffe, tea, etc. I am trying to get used to eating my cereal with cream. They don’t seem to use lowfat milk, or maybe they use yogurt, I’m not sure? We drove to Siena for the day. It rained pretty hard all day so we had to purchase an umbrella for 5 EU in the city. We wandered around, saw St. Catherine’s church and house, had margherita pizza and water at a birreria in the campo for lunch, and headed back to the hotel. It is a very neat city, and worth the trip. I think the weather prevented us from staying for the entire day, we left about 3:00. On the way back, the rain got heavier and we were caught in a terrible storm and the roads were flooding. Our little Fiat Punto made it through! We stopped to taste and purchase some wine from a vino diretto in Poggibonsi. Two red San Gimignano wines and some oil, also from the area. Back at the hotel, we napped for a couple hours while it continued to rain, then we headed into town to shop and have some dinner. We bought some souvenirs and had pizza and pasta at a bar called Boboli (20 EU) on Via San Giovanni which was good, as usual. We really haven’t had bad food anywhere! We saved some room for gelato (what else is new) at “Gelateria Piazza” which was supposedly well-known. It was fantastic, but again, we have really enjoyed it everywhere! We smartened up tonight and parked at a “free” parking lot that our new Australian friends had told us about. Behind P3 and P4 if you go down the hill, there is a dirt road and little dirt area where people park for nothing. We saved ourselves money by doing that tonight! Tomorrow exploring more of Tuscany and wine tasting!

SAN GIMIGNANO - Day 12
July 11, 2005

After breakfast at the hotel, we headed up 222 into Castellina in Chianti. What an incredible drive!! So many outstanding picture stops and expansive views! Castellina was a cute little town with a bunch of wine shops and gift shops. We went into one with a big sign outside - “Consorzio del Marchio Storico” and a black rooster (gallo nero) - the symbol of the chianti classico. The woman inside was very nice and helpful explaining all the chianti wines and letting us look at the barrels in the basemet. We tasted a few and bought two. One was a 2001 and one was a Reserve from 1999. We also bought some other little souvenirs there because the prices were so good. Next we headed up 222 into Greve in Chianti. We had a very good lunch at “Gallo Nero” and bought some balsamic vinegar in a little shop. We walked around a bit and then left. We were going to head down to the Mantalcino and Montepulciano area at that point, but it was about 2:00 and we were tired and not crazy about driving all the way down there. We decided to head for Volterra instead, which was only about 45 minutes past our hotel in San Gimignano. It was a long, windy uphill road leading to this medieval town with the most spectacular view of Tuscany! We wandered around and had some gelato (yup, it’s officially a habit), bought some alabaster souvenirs and headed back to the hotel. We decided we would have to ship some gifts home since it would be too heavy to carry and we weren’t sure how much wine we’d be allowed to bring into the U.S. when we got back. How much is it anyway? We were thinking about stopping in Montalcino the next day on our way to Positano so we would definitely have a lot of wine to bring back. After freshening up at the hotel, we headed back into S. Gimignano for dinner at a little restaurant on Via San Giovanni. Bruschetta, gnocchi, lasagna, wine, and water for 28 EU. When we got back, we realized there was a little bar at our hotel and we wanted to see if they had had wine produced on their property. Unfortunately, they charged us 5 Eu for one glass, wouldn’t let us just have a taste, and it wasn’t good. Time to pack for Positano - can’t wait to see the Amalfi Coast!!
Tra6 is offline  
Aug 2nd, 2005, 05:56 PM
  #23  
 
Join Date: Sep 2004
Posts: 45,322
Oh Tra6, I am so enjoying your report. What a wonderful read! And thank you for the information about the movie theaters in Florence.

About the laundry situation. I have had clothes dry cleaned in Italy a lot and quite frankly don't like it. There is always a chemical smell and even dresses are folded up instead of put on hangers so by the time I get them back they have creases in them plus the chemical smell.

I am fortunate that friends in Italy always offfer to wash my clothes for me, and I have to admit that since I started to take advantage of their kind offer it is a true luxery. I wash my lingerie by hand and that always works out perfect.

More please - I am so enjoying your trip report. Best regards.
LoveItaly is offline  
Aug 2nd, 2005, 07:34 PM
  #24  
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Thanks LoveItaly. I really appreciate the feedback. I've never done a trip report before, but really enjoy keeping a journal while traveling, and then reading it once we're home. It brings back so many great memories. I also like being able to give my itinerary and journal to friends and family who are interested in taking similar trips. It really helps in the planning process. I have recommended this website to so many people over the past 2 years!
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Aug 3rd, 2005, 08:29 AM
  #25  
 
Join Date: May 2005
Posts: 500
Love your report - it brings back memories of traveling with my DH: backpacks, stressing over trains, driving through France in our own "petite Punto"...
Please continue!
mebe is offline  
Aug 6th, 2005, 07:56 AM
  #26  
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Thanks. We loved the little car. We thought about getting a bigger one, but are so glad we didn't. It was all we needed!
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Aug 10th, 2005, 04:50 PM
  #27  
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Part V of Trip Report

POSITANO – Day 13
July 12, 2005

Where do I begin to describe this day? We got up early, and after breakfast at Hotel Pescille, we headed into town (San Gimignano) to the post office so we could ship some wine and food home. The woman helping us spoke very little English, and we struggled to find out how to package and mail our things and how much it would cost. The box was going to be 3,80 EU and they had no packing materials we could use to wrap the bottles so they would be safe (i.e. bubble wrap, etc.). We found out our box was about 11 kilograms, which would cost about 60 EU to mail. We thought that would be crazy since we only spent about 80 EU on the contents to begin with. After wasting about 45 minutes at the post office, we decided to pay for the box and take it with us and figure it out later. We weren’t sure how much wine we would be allowed to bring into the U.S. and we had 7 bottles, and we were traveling with backpacks so we didn’t want to carry it all. We headed for the Amalfi Coast. We considered stopping in the Montalcino area, but decided not to since at that point we were already having trouble figuring out how to get our wine home and we had spent the previous day in Chianti already. Maybe on our next trip! The highway was a bit crazy. We would be going about 120 km/hr and people were passing us like we were parked! We had a little tollbooth incident. We accidentally got into the wrong lane – a sort of fast lane needing a special card, so my husband backed out (luckily nobody behind us) and got into the cash lane. We stopped for lunch at another Autogrill and filled the car with gas, which was 52 EU! And we thought gas in the U.S. was pricey! We thought about stopping to see Pompeii on the way since it was only about 3:00 and the car wasn’t due back until 7:00. We decided we’d better get to Sorrento and figure out where were going to ship our wine from. Driving into Sorrento was crazy! My poor husband – motor scooters, cars, buses, people everywhere! He handled it well. I had trouble navigating since I only had a small map in our Rough Guide book and none of the streets seemed to be clearly labeled. We finally thought we might be in the right area so we parked and stumbled upon the Europcar office! It was closed until 4:00 so we headed for the info center to get a bus/ferry schedule and find out where to pack and ship our wine. We realized we should have either bough less wine, or just had the wine shops ship it directly. A man at the info center told us where to find a “Mailboxes, etc.” which made us very happy. We figured it would be perfect since they had all the packing materials we needed and could ship it. We found it and the woman told us it would be 295 EU to send it. Was she crazy!?!? We decided to just pay her for some packing materials and find the post office. We were basically back to square one, except now we had bubble wrap. Dave found the post office and managed to communicate with the woman there enough to ship the box for about 50 EU. Hindsight is 20/20, right? We were glad to be rid of it! A funny aside, it is now August 7th and it’s been 27 days and still no wine has arrived on our doorstep – we figure it’s probably floating out on the Atlantic somewhere! We may have learned a hard lesson in souvenir shopping! Oh well. At this point, we were tired, sweaty, irritated, and couldn’t wait to just get to Positano! We returned the Fiat Punto and headed for the bus. It was now 5:30. We waited at the bus stop and talked with a couple girls from Sydney who were headed the same direction as us. The funny thing was that they were told the bus was at 6:00, we were told 6:15, and the hotel had told us 6:25. It came at 6:20 and after some pushing and shoving with people who simply walked up and climbed on in front of us (hadn’t waited in line for 50 minutes) we got on. Bella Italia! The view was spectacular and the ride was a little scary as we weaved around the cliffside streets, dodging motor scooters and cars. The hotel had e-mailed us info about the bus which told us to get off at a stop called “La Sponda”, the 2nd stop. Well, several stops went by and we were still in Sorrento cramming people on. My husband started feeling queasy at this point and I was more than ready to be off! We got to the first Positano stop and there was no sign or indication of what stop it was so we stayed on. The next stop came and went quickly with no sign, and nobody getting off, but a bunch got on. As we pulled away from that stop and traveled on, we realized we were headed out of Positano and into Praino, the next town. We asked the driver if we had been to “La Sponda” yet, and he pointed back and said, “one kilometer”. Exactly what were afraid of. He stopped the bus and we got off and walked all the way back to Positano – all the way trying not to get killed by a bus or car, or fall down the cliffside road. A group of people got off with us and said “thank God we asked, we didn’t know we missed the stop either”. Turns out they were from a town about 30 minutes from our hometown. Kind of funny at a very un-funny moment! We finally got to Hotel Villa Rosa and were very tired and soaking wet. Our room was beautiful (Room 34, 150 EU/night, villarosapositano.it). Lots of tile, clean white décor, high ceiling, and terrace overlooking the ocean! We started to feel better after getting cleaned up and changed and we headed out for dinner. It was now 9:00 and we had been traveling from San Gimignano since 9:00 a.m! We wandered downtown toward the beach and ate at “O Caparale” which was good and not too expensive. 27 EU for pasta, wine, bread, water, and salad. Positano seemed very fancy compared to other places we had visited so far. People were dressed up and shops were beautiful and high priced. It was time for bed, and we looked forward to breakfast on our terrace the next day.

POSITANO – Day 14
July 13, 2005

Breakfast on our beautiful patio at 9:00 a.m. – what a great way to begin our first full day in Positano! These were my favorite croissants of the trip! We went to the beach and sway in the ocean until about 12:00, went to lunch at Puppetto Bar and had excellent pizza margherita and a panini. We decided to rent a boat for an hour which was 35 EU for a 10-foot rubber zodiac. We would have gone longer, but we ran into a storm which was very scary. My husband navigated us out of it very well. Before the storm came we saw some of the gorgeous coastline and went as far as Praino. We got back to harbor as fast as possible once the storm came in though. We were rain and wind battered and ready for some vino! We bought some wine and smoked mozzarella and bread and headed for our terrace at Villa Rosa. We went to an internet café to book our train tickets for Rome for the 16th, and then took a car to Café Positano. The car was free since the hotel owned the restaurant, which was great! The food was very good (72 EU for two appetizers, wine, two fish dishes, bread and water – loved the octopus salad!) and the view was amazing! We sat next to a nice couple from Long Island and chatted during dinner.

POSITANO – Day 15
July 14, 2005

WE had planned on going to Capri today, had a reservation for the 10:00 a.m. boat, but received a call that it was going to be at 11:00 a.m. instead due to a problem. We decided that since we were all ready to go we would head out to see Amalfi and Ravello instead and change the reservation to the next day for Capri. We took some fodorite advice and got the 10:00 a.m. boat to Amalfi and the 11:00 a.m. bus up to Ravello. It was spectacular – more beautiful than words or pictures can describe! We wandered around and came upon “Villa Cimbrone”. Our Rough Guide book said it was the best view of the town, so we paid 5 EU each to go in. We were SO glad we did – it was amazing! Beautiful gardens and breathtaking views of the area. We had a gelato at the little garden café which was our favorite gelato so far. Chocolate and coconut that little bits of fresh ingredients inside–yum! We then headed out to look around some more and bought beautiful hand-painted wine corks for friends back home and saw some incredible dishes that were out of our price range. We hopped on the bus and headed back down to Amalfi. We had to buy a new memory card for the camera since we had filled ours with about 370 pictures already! We knew we could just save them to a disc and then delete the camera, but I am new to digital photography and that made me nervous! We grabbed some pizza in the Piazza Vescovado and sat on the stairs of the duomo to eat where we saw a wedding party taking pictures. We headed for the beach and decided to rent two chairs and an umbrella for 8 EU for the rest of the day, which was well worth it for the comfort and shade since it was extremely hot out. Lots of good people watching and a nice little swimming area right next to where we needed to get our boat back to Positano later. We took the 6:00 p.m. boat back and ran into the couple we’d met at Café Positano the night before. We all decided to go to dinner together that night at Da Vincenzo in Positano, which was great! Right near the Poseidon hotel and across the street from Café Positano, where we ate the night before. Lots of fun and very good food. They brought us several dishes we hadn’t requested since the woman we were with was an Italian teacher in Long Island and spoke the language beautifully! They treated us very well since we were with her – what a treat! We were there from 8:30 until 12:00 eating a drinking. You have to love how the waiters don’t rush you out of your table. Once you’re there, it’s yours for the night if you want it! What a wonderful evening – good food and wine, and fun company! Not sure how much the bill was, they wouldn’t let us look and they paid, which was extremely generous!

POSITANO – Day 16
July 15, 2005

Our last day in Positano – how sad! Another wonderful breakfast on our terrace. We took the 10:00 ferry to Capri (which left at 11:00 due to continuing boat problems). The weather was extremely hot and uncomfortable. When we arrived, we were tempted to just go to the beach and get in the ocean, but instead to head to Anacapri. The buses were on strike, so we figured we’d walk since the taxi would be pricey and we were nearing the end of our budget – how bad could it be? Well…it was bad. We didn’t realize how long it would take us, and the fact that it would be scary uphill winding roads the whole way. The worst part was how many buses we saw go by – I guess they didn’t all go on strike, just some. Live and learn. I think it took about an hour and a half since we were walking slowly in the heat. By the time we got to the top, we were tired, sweaty, and probably a bit dehydrated, although we had been drinking water the whole way up. So, it was fitting we taste some limoncello!? All it took was one sip to realize we needed something more nourishing or we were going to be drunk and sick, so we grabbed some lunch at the base of the chairlift before ascending to Mt. Solaro. What an amazing spot – a trip to the island wouldn’t be the same without it! After a picture taking frenzy at the top, we headed back down and got a bus (much better than walking!!) back to Capri and the beach. The rocks were painful under our feet, like most beaches in Italy that we visited, but it was a nice way to end the day there. We left at 7:00 and after freshening up we headed to Chez Black for dinner, right on the beach. We had passes by it several times and in the guidebook I read that it was an old, well-established and popular seafood restaurant. Unfortunately, the part about it being popular (a.k.a. crazy busy) was true and the food and service were only average. We had some confusion with the waiter about ordering wine and water, and my swordfish was only okay. My husband’s sausage dish was very tasty. It cost 70 EU, and in my opinion wasn’t worth it. It seemed more like a place to simply “see and be seen”. After, we headed to the patio at Le Serineuse for cappuccino since we hadn’t seen it yet. The cappuccino was the cheapest thing on the menu – 6 EU each! We had heard so much about it that we just wanted to “experience it”. A beautiful view of the moonlight Positano coast, interesting music playing and good people watching. Ironically, it was the same view as our room at Villa Rosa, only more expensive. We were glad we went. A wonderful 4 nights in Positano that we will never forget. Sad to leave but excited to see Roma!
Tra6 is offline  
Aug 10th, 2005, 05:20 PM
  #28  
 
Join Date: Apr 2004
Posts: 3,450
I don't know how I missed this before! I'm so glad you enjoyed Hotel Villa Steno. We are multi-repeat patrons and we just love Carla and Matteo.

Fabulous report - organized and interesting. Thanks for posting!!
TexasAggie is offline  
Aug 10th, 2005, 05:40 PM
  #29  
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Join Date: Jul 2004
Posts: 96
Texas - we have already recommended it to so many people. They have looked at our spectacular pictures of the view from our terrace and wanted to know where it was! Although Positano was beautiful and everything we heard it would be, there was just something so charming and comfortable about the Villa Steno that made it our favorite spot of the 3-week trip!
Tra6 is offline  
Aug 22nd, 2005, 12:37 PM
  #30  
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Part VI of Trip Report – Final Stop!

ROME – Day 17
July 16, 2005

Another exciting transition form one location to the next. We had our last breakfast on the Hotel Villa Rosa terrace this morning at 8:45, packed, and headed out to use the Internet to check some e-mails before getting our boat tickets to Salerno. The boat was at 12:00 noon and supposed to take 70 minutes. It was so hot out and we were miserable carrying our backpacks in the heat to the boat. We met a nice couple from Australia and chatted on the ferry. When the boat reached its first stop in Amalfi we thought we were still in good shape for our 1:42 train to Rome out of Salerno. Unfortunately it stayed there for about 10 or 15 minutes. This almost caused us big problems. If the boat only took the scheduled 70 minutes we would have arrived in Salerno around 1:10 and had plenty of time to eat something and get to the train station for our 1:42 train. Well, the boat pulled in at 1:30, about 20 minutes later than we’d planned (and hoped) and we ran to find the train station. As we hurried past people on the dock and street, we asked ‘Dove il stazione?’ We found it fairly quickly and my husband, Dave, spotted a sign telling us our bin number so we ran up to it as fast as we could and arrived at 1:41, as the train was pulling in. Whew!! Had we missed it, we would have had to sit around for an hour to wait for the next one. Unfortunately, we hadn’t eaten since breakfast so we were starving (not to mention sweaty once again from the running in very high heat). Dave got some ham sandwiches and cookies from the food car. Cookies – good, sandwiches – nasty (lots of mayo!) We had a fairy uneventful 1.5 hour ride except for the very strange man sitting next to us who had a bag full of newspaper and magazine clippings and moved around the whole ride from seat to seat, leaving his bag unattended. This made us, and others on the train a little nervous, but he turned out to be harmless, at least to us! I don’t think I would have even noticed his behavior if this hadn’t been only 10 days since the London bombings. A sign of the times I suppose, paranoia! When we arrived at Roma Termini, we wandered around a couple blocks until we figured out how to get to the hotel. It was a fairly short, extremely hot walk to Hotel Mondial on Via Torino (www.bestwestern.com 145 EU/night). It was by far the largest hotel we’d stayed in so far. Pretty plain and not at all charming compared to all the others. More like a U.S. high-rise building. We checked into room 306 and got showered and changed out of our sweaty travel clothes. We spent some time lying around watching CNN World and looking over the guidebook and maps in the room since it was so hot out and the air conditioning in the room felt so good. We decided to walk north toward the Spanish Steps area and then to dinner. The Spanish Steps were not nearly as beautiful as I remembered from my trip here in April 10 years ago. There were SO many tourists sitting all over, rude rose salespeople practically attacking female tourists, and no flowers in bloom like in the springtime. The picture Dave took of me on the steps kind of looks like a “Where’s Waldo” game with all the other people in it. We left that area and headed for dinner at Gusto on Via del Frezza off of Via del Corso, a Fodors recommendation. We didn’t understand most of the menu since it was completely Italian, but the waiter was very helpful. They had a huge list of cheeses and meats so we asked him for a small sampling of his choice. We also had an amazing caprese salad – the best mozzarella I have ever tasted! Dave got bacala and I got spinach and ricotta ravioli and we shared a ½ litre of red wine. It was very good and no too expensive, 63 EU. It’s interesting that people aren’t expected to tip in Italy like in the U.S., but you pay for bread and water and a service charge or ‘coperti’ which basically ends up the same price as if you’d tipped. We often left a couple Euros on the table anyway at places we particularly enjoyed. After dinner we walked to the Trevi Fountain which was beautiful, but completely swamped with tourists and the annoying rose salesmen again. It’s true what people say about Italy losing some of its charm when you are there in the height of the tourist season. That’s not to say that we didn’t absolutely love our time there and we would go back in a heartbeat, it just might be a bit more enjoyable in the “off’season”. We didn’t really have a choice since I am a teacher and really needed to take advantage of the summer vacation schedule. We walked back to the hotel, stopping to sit at the fountain in the Piazza dei Repubblica for a while, near the hotel. While sitting there, we saw a bus hit a car, which is unusual. I think the car got in the way while attempting to go around the rotary. Supposed to be 37 degrees Celsius tomorrow again, yuk!

ROME – Day 18
July 17, 2005

Our first full day in Rome began with breakfast in the hotel bar around 9:30. It was pretty good – a buffet with croissants, cereals, yogurt, eggs, meats, cheeses and drinks. It was another hot day, so we took our time getting ready. We bought a bus pass at the newsstand around the corner from the hotel on Via Nazionale then got on a bus headed for the Monument Victor Emanuele. The top of the steps had a great view of the Roman Forum and the rest of the city. After that, we walked over to the Campo de’ Fiore which had a bunch of tents with things for sale – mostly jewelry, clothes, and bags. We then headed over the Ponte G. Mazzini and down the river to have lunch at a pizza place on Via del Scalia in the Trastevere area. We had wanted to eat at ‘Il Forno’ in the Campo de’ Fiore or ‘Dar Poeta’ on Vicolo del Bologna but both were closed, maybe they only serve dinner? It was a Sunday so I don’t think they were closed for the day. Anyway, the place we chose was ‘La Scala’ and we had pizza margherita (which for me never gets old!) and pizza bianche buffalo (tomato, moz, and basil – similar to margherita), and water. It was 15 EU and very good. That area was very interesting and had lots of little cafes. We then headed down toward to the Ponte Garibaldi and back up to Piazza Navona. It was a very busy spot with lots of tourists. We looked around, stopped for a picture at a beautiful fountain in the center, and then visited the Pantheon. Next we headed back to a couple shops we had passed by the night before on Via del Corso. The entire city was basically on sale (saldi) so I bought a couple skirts, 5 tops, and 2 pair of underwear (remember most of mine turned dark gray in the Monterosso laundry incident!) for about 60 EU, which was a great deal. We got on a bus and headed for Via Nazionale and back to the hotel. We showered and changed and got on a bus for Circus Maximus so we could find the location where we were to meet our Contextrome tour guide the next morning. We went to dinner at a restaurant on our map called ‘Mario’s’ behind the Trajan Market. I had rigatoni carborar and Dave had risotto with artichoke. I also had ‘meat’ but wasn’t sure when I ordered it exactly what it was. When it came and Dave tasted it he told me it was veal, which I’ve never eaten before. It was delicious and I soon got over my guilt. We also had a salad with baby shrimp and wine, water, and bread. It was 47 EU. Not a bad price for all the food! We decided to walk back to the hotel for some exercise, which helped us to justify the gelato stop along the way!

ROME – Day 19
July 18, 2005

After breakfast at the hotel, we bought tickets and got the #60 Bus for the colosseum for out Contextrome (formerly Scala Reale) tour, Roma Antica. The funny thing about purchasing the bus tickets was that we tried to buy them at a newsstand that had them yesterday, and the man said no. This is really the only city where we’ve experienced a couple people who haven’t been helpful to us because we’re American. In general, the people in Italy are wonderful and extremely warm and helpful to Americans. We were the only two people in the tour group with our guide, Carlos. He is from Brazil and living in Rome while working on his PhD on Roman History through Oxford University. He was very nice and had a lot of info. The tour was 60 EU each, and worth it for the personal attention and detailed information we received. The price didn’t include the entrance fee to Palatine Hill, which was 10 EU each. We tried to find shade a much as possible since it was about 95 degrees Fahrenheit. The tour was 4 hours and took us from Circus Maximus, up Palatine Hill, Roman Forum, and ended in the Colosseum. When it was over, we walked up Via Cavour and turned down a couple little streets and had pizza nd water at Vecchia Roma, which I think was on Via Leonina. It was very good and cost 14 EU. We were so hot and tired, we headed back to the hotel for showers and a nap. We slept from about 3:00 – 6:00, which we needed after our long walking tour in the heat. Before heading to dinner, we used the computer in the hotel lobby to write e-mails, which was free to guests. We also needed to check the train schedule to FCO airport. Dinner was at Angelina ai Fiori on Via dei Fori Imperiali, right near the Forum. It was very good, as usual. We had fettuccini with tomato and basil, and fettuccini Bolognese, and table wine and water. It was 25 EU, which was very nice! We stopped for gelato on Via Cavour on the way back to the hotel and ate it as we walked. Another long, great day in Roma!

ROME – Day 20
July 19, 2005

Our last full day in Italy! Another exhausting one, and the hottest so far! We had breakfast at the hotel, then got the #40 ATAC bus from Via Nazionale to St. Peter’s Square. We arrived around 10:30, and walked around the area looking for souvenirs for friends who had requested that we buy them “Popeners” (bottle openers with the pope’s picture on them). Not a typical purchase for us, but some people wanted them back home so we got 5 of them for 10 EU outside St. Peters. We headed to find where our meeting place would be for our 1:30 tour of the Vatican Museums, and then headed into St. Peter’s Basilica. We saw Pope John Paul II’s tomb and then looked around inside the Basilica. It was very crowded and hot. We then got in a long line to go up to the dome, but at 12:15 had to get out of line so we wouldn’t be late for our tour. Caspar was our guide from Contextrome. The line to get into the museums was MUCH shorter than what we’d seen earlier in the day. It doesn’t pay to get there early – the lines are ridiculous until about 12:30. We saw some wonderful famous pieces of artwork, best of which was Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel Ceiling and Last Judgment. After, we went back to the line to go up into the dome. We were delirious from heat and all the walking at this point, but didn’t want to leave Rome without seeing this spectacular view. We took the elevator because at 5:30 p.m. that’s the only option. At the top of the elevator, we climbed 320 stairs to the very top to see the city from above. An amazing view, but like everywhere else, very crowded. We took what seemed like the most crowded bus in the entire country back to the hotel. Everyone was squished against each other’s sweaty bodies! At least we didn’t have to walk! We asked at the front desk of our hotel for a dinner recommendation – we wanted pizza for our last Italian meal, what a surprise J They sent us to La Gallina Bianca at 9 Via Antonio right around the corner. It was great! Probably our second favorite pizza of the trip (and we had a lot to compare it to)! It was 29,50 EU which included water, half litre of wine, bread, bruschetta, service, and 2 pizzas. It was time to pack and get ready to leave Italy, how sad! After packing, we went back out at 10:00 for one last gelato. Although we were exhausted, we couldn’t leave Italy without one more taste of the delicious treat. We ate it while sitting at the fountain’s edge in the Piazza Repubblica, and made sure we tossed in a coin for a wish before going to bed.

ROME – Day 21 – Last Day
July 20, 2005

We made it to the airport with plenty of time. Woke up at 5:45 for our 10:35 a.m. flight – how ridiculous! We took a train from Roma Termini to FCO and for the first time weren’t running to catch it! We were still sweating though from carrying our souvenir-stuffed backpacks! The train was at 6:52 a.m., the first train of the day to FCO, which put us at the airport at 7:23 for a total of 19 EU. Went through security and had some expensive breakfast before sitting at Gate C22 for 1.5 hours until boarding. Sitting there gave me some time to finish my last journal entry – this one, and gave us some time to reflect on our amazing trip. I am so glad we went for as long as we did – it was just the right amount of time for our visit! We saw so many amazing things, drank so much wine, ate outstanding food, and truly enjoyed every moment (okay, almost every moment – let’s be honest here)! This trip was a once in a lifetime, and we hope to someday return with children. Arrivederla e Grazie Italia!

At this point, I would like to list some thoughts we wrote down while sitting at the FCO airport waiting to board for home:

TRIP FAVORITES:

Hotel – Villa Steno in Monterosso in the Cinque Terre. Terrace with beautiful view, great location, nice staff.

Breakfast – Villa Rosa in Positano. Delivered at the time of ourchoice on our terrace overlooking the beautiful town and water. Yummy croissants!

Lunch – Pizzaiuolo in Florence near Santa Croce. Reasonable and outstanding ‘Napoli-style’ margherita and caprese pizza.

Dinner – Il Ritrovo in Florence on Via del Pucci. Red wine from Montalcino. Ravioli Bolognese, risotto with melon and mint, filet with shallot sauce, filet with green pepper and balsamic sauce, and chocolate soufflé.

Appetizer – Caprese salad at ‘Gusto’ on Via del Frezza in Rome. Wonderful fresh tomatoes and amazing mozzarella!

Soup – Tomato soup at ‘Osteria del Carcere’ on Via del Castello in San Gimignano

Pizza - Pizzaiuolo

Pasta Dish (2-way tie) – Gnocchi with gorgonzola at Cantinone Storico near Accademia Bridge in Venice and Ravioli Bolognese at Il Ritrovo in Florence.

Planned Activity – Tour of Vatican Museums with Caspar from Contextrome

Artwork – Although we loved all the Michelangelo work we saw, we really liked Vasari and Zuccari’s ‘Last Judgment’ inside the dome of the Florence duomo despite it’s mixed reactions throughout history.

Church – Santa Croce in Florence

View – Couldn’t pick just one, so there’s one from each location:
Venice – Top of San Marco overlooking the square
Florence – Top of the Duomo
Monterosso – Hike to Vernazza
San Gimignano – Wine drive through Chianti region
Positano – besides our terrace, the view from Villa Cimbrone in Ravello
Rome – Top of Monument Victor Emanule

Funniest Moment – The 5 ladies and one man we ‘met’, who spoke no English, on the train from Venice to Florence

People we spent time with – the couple from Long Island who took us out to dinner at Da Vincenzo in Positano

Gelato – Garden Café inside Villa Cimbrone – chocolate and coconut with fresh bits inside! I think the view and heat made it taste better than the rest!

Passeggiatta – Venice

LEAST FAVORITES:

Bus Ride - #40 from San Pietro to Via Nazionale in Rome. Crowded and sweaty!

Train Ride – Salerno to Rome with the scary guy next to me, and stressed and sweaty from running to it! There seems to be a perspiration theme on this trip!

Moment – Realizing all my white and beige clothes had turned gray in the Monterosso laundry.

Travel Mishap – Getting to the Venice train station and realizing our email printout said Mestre station!

Meal – Ham sandwiches on the train from Salerno to Rome

Artwork – The man with an erection painted over Michelangelo’s Last Judgment at the Accademia in Florence.

Walk – Inside the Boboli Gardens at Palazzo Pitti in Florence – It was stifling hot and all we wanted was a snack and drink at the ‘kaffehaus’ only to find it closed!


HELPFUL THINGS WE LEARNED PRIOR TO, AND ON THE TRIP:

Trains – Know your train’s final destination, rather than looking for your destination on the departure board at the station.

Parking – Find spots outside towns (Siena, S. Gimignano, etc.) rather than using pay lots. You will need to walk a little, but it’s worth it.

Bathrooms – Use them in restaurants/bars wherever you can, even if you don’t have to go, since you won’t pay and they will usually be nicer than public ones. Besides, there’s nothing worse than wandering around looking for one in a foreign city when it’s an emergency!

Hours of Operation – Most shops close from about 11:00 or 12:00 until 3:00, 4:00, or sometimes even 5:00. Take a nap!

Restaurants – Many do not open until 7:30 - Italians eat late. Either get there when they open if you don’t have a reservation, or have your hotel make one for you in more popular locations.

Ladies Clothing – Plan to have shoulders and kneed covered in churches. Pack long skirts or capris, and carry a small scarf or pashmina. For me, one pair of shorts was sufficient. The skirts were much more comfortable in the heat.

Packing – Travel alarm (we had one in our watch), small compass, pocketknife, wine bottle opener (can usually borrow from hotel), sunscreen are handy.

Laundry – Don’t wash clothes on hottest setting – remember the temperature is Celsius not Fahrenheit!

Wine – Only buy what you can bring home with you unless you want to spend a lot on shipping.

Money – Put money in checking account at home and use ATMs. Easy and good rates, but be aware of how much you can withdraw per day. Credit cards are accepted in most places. We used ours a lot since we earn miles that will hopefully get us another trip! Some hotels give discounts if you pay in cash. We were shocked to find the best exchange rate in Monterosso!

Transportation – Don’t rely on departure or arrival times and don’t be afraid to ask conductors if you’re on the correct train/bus. Most of the time, they are very helpful.

Language – Helpful to know numbers, basic greetings (hello, goodbye, how are you, etc), directions and questions (right, left, where, when, etc.), and foods/menu. Most Italians speak very good English, but it is polite to attempt to speak their language and not assume they’ll speak yours.

Guidebooks and Maps – Only bring the sections of a guidebook you’ll need. I ripped out the regions we’d be visiting and rebound them together to create my own abridged guidebook. I used “The Rough Guide to Italy” 6th Edition published in May 2003 which I bought at Borders. I liked MapEasy maps (www.mapeasy.com) since they not only had street names and major places of interest, but they had restaurant recommendations and small pieces of info about historical landmarks. AAA has many at a reduced price. You can get good maps of each city once you get there, but I bought mine ahead and circled where our hotels were, where recommended restaurants were, and basically acquainted myself with each location before arrival in Italy.

We took about 400 pictures on this trip and made a beautiful album upon returning home and I put about 100 of them on the ofoto (Kodak) website to share them through e-
mail with friends and family. I would like to share them with all of you, but am not sure how. Can someone recommend a way to make a mini-website of them?

Lastly, thank you to everyone who helped me plan this trip. The people on this website provided me an unbelievable amount of information and I have come to trust and enjoy ‘getting to know’ all of you. I will continue to contribute to this wonderful site.
Tra6 is offline  
Aug 22nd, 2005, 01:00 PM
  #31  
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 18,917
Excellent report and coping skills for unexpected events. Brava!

I had the same gnocchi plate at Cantinone Storico! Yum.

And I laughed when I saw your bathroom rule. I also never pass up a clean, free, western-style toilet!
Jean is offline  
Aug 22nd, 2005, 01:02 PM
  #32  
 
Join Date: Dec 2003
Posts: 170
Tra6:
Thanks for the helpful trip report! It's always nice to see what are people's favorites, least favorites, and things they learned from the trip....
sammyc is offline  
Aug 22nd, 2005, 01:11 PM
  #33  
 
Join Date: Apr 2004
Posts: 3,450
I almost missed this last segment of your report, so glad I didn't! I visited Rome in August in 2002... never again. "Hot and crowded" don't even begin to do justice to that trip. I love Rome in May and early June. If you could manage to get away right after schoool lets out... Rome is a different city then than in late July and August!

Just curious, but are you certain in your assumption that the man would not sell you bus tickets merely because you were American? I only ask because I have never encountered anything remotely similar to that in my four trips to Italy. Not to say I haven't encountered rude people (every country has them), but I've never been singled out for rude treatment because of my country of origin.
TexasAggie is offline  
Aug 22nd, 2005, 01:19 PM
  #34  
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Join Date: Jul 2004
Posts: 96
Hi Texas,
I hated to make that assumption about the bus ticket thing, and hopefully I was wrong. He was the only person who wasn't helpful to us the entire 3 weeks so it was a very minor thing and certainly in no way gave me a negative opinion of Italian people. The thing that made me think he wouldn't help us because we were 'english-speaking' (I guess I shouldn't have said American) was that we had bought tickets there the day before from the woman working there who was quite pleasant. He was standing next to her at the time and listening to us fumble around with the Italian language as best we could and was telling us to go somewhere else and basically telling her not to give them to us. She sold them to us anyway. Very strange. Maybe we just had a miscommunication. I just wanted to note it in the report as a way of showing that it was the ONLY negative persone we encountered on the trip. It may have had nothing to do with his nationality or ours, maybe he's just a grumpy old man! Thanks for the response.
Tra6 is offline  
Aug 22nd, 2005, 01:21 PM
  #35  
 
Join Date: Apr 2004
Posts: 3,450
Yikes! Yes it sounds like he was just a grouch.
TexasAggie is offline  
Aug 22nd, 2005, 09:06 PM
  #36  
 
Join Date: Jul 2005
Posts: 224
Great trip report, thank you for sharing.
azure0327 is offline  
Aug 23rd, 2005, 02:35 PM
  #37  
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Join Date: Jul 2004
Posts: 96
I'm not sure if this will work, but I am trying to share my trip pictures. This link worked from my home computer when I copied it and put it in the browser window. If not, maybe someone can suggest another way for me to share pictures. Here goes...

http://amazon.kodakgallery.com/Slide...y=-xpgh9l&Ux=1
Tra6 is offline  
Aug 23rd, 2005, 04:08 PM
  #38  
 
Join Date: Feb 2004
Posts: 1,403
Traci - it worked! Great pictures - I especially loved the one in Venice at sunrise - but they were all beautiful.

Can't help notice how happy you both look - it is evident that is was a joyful and memorable trip. All of your careful planning and organization was worth it. Thanks again for sharing the pics.

chicagolori is offline  
Aug 23rd, 2005, 04:15 PM
  #39  
 
Join Date: Sep 2004
Posts: 45,322
Hello Tra6, I just saw the last part of your trip report. Again, it is a fantastic report!! I feel like I travelled around Italy with you two.

It sure sounds like you and your husband travel well together, keep a sense of humor and enjoy the same activities, food, wine etc. That is great.

I giggled over the shipping the wine home problem. I could really relate. I once spent two hours in the PO, and had an Italian friend with me and even they were confused and shocked, LOL.

I have learned not to get carried way with shopping because of the problem of getting items home.

I agree with all your thoughts and especially the one about using the restroom every time you stop at a cafe or restaurant! That is rule number one in my book!

Thanks for sharing your wonderful time. I will see if I can look at your photos later. I sure hope I can.

Best wishes to you and hope you charged enough on your credit card to get another trip back to Italy real soon, LOL. Take good care.
LoveItaly is offline  
Aug 23rd, 2005, 05:11 PM
  #40  
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Join Date: Jul 2004
Posts: 96
Thanks azure, chicagolori, and loveitaly! I had fun writing it! Reading my journal and writing the report was like being on the trip all over again. Well, not exactly Thank you for the comments on the pictures - I am SO glad they came through! It was funny how many people on the trip asked us if we were on our honeymoon! That was a nice compliment after 4 years being married! We were kind of worried that traveling that far for that long would test our marriage, and although at times it did (ruining laundry, missing trains, etc), we truly enjoyed the time together. Thanks again for reading it!
Tra6 is offline  

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