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Italy trip report April 2005 on a budget

Old Jun 12th, 2005, 04:48 AM
  #1  
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Italy trip report April 2005 on a budget

This is my trip report of Italy. Thanks for all the advice and help. My husband and I travelled for about 50 days from NZ ending in London. We had a daily budget of E155 all inclusive and managed to stay well under that. Did virtually no shopping and only ate “out” every few days.

Day 10 Flew to Naples from London on BMI. The flight was good although we had a few delays on the Healthrow runway. We practised our tourist Italian on the poor Neapolitan woman sitting next to us who didn’t speak English.

When we landed in Naples we had to get on a bus to drive 20m around the plane to enter the terminal. Seemed quite funny to us. At home we would have just walked the 20m and saved the time and money. The next funny thing was passport control. Seemed it took 1 officer to look at the passports and 3 others to stand around him making comments. Made us laugh and we figured we must be in Italy!! We took the bus directly outside the terminal (E6 each) all the way to Sorrento. Got some great views of Vesuvius. The narrow streets in a bus were a new experience!

Sorrento (day 10 – day 14)
We arrived in the late afternoon and had booked at Villa Oriana through venere.com online a few days before. We found it very difficult to find as the venere.com map was wrong and were getting grumpy with our packs on. So we ended up taking a taxi. It is actually in the next village Sant’Agnello although still walking distance to Sorrento.

Villa Oriana is great and I highly recommend staying here (E60 per night for a double). Maria our host was delightful and would stop to tell us all the stories of the region and makes all the breakfast food fresh. The villa is in the middle of a citrus fruit orchard so the smells are great. It is at the top of a hill so had a great view over the Bay and we got some great photos from the rooftop. http://www.villaoriana.it/en/index.htm If you want to stay contact them directly because venere.com charges them and they will offer the same rate direct and it is a family run business.

Next day was explore Sorrento day. We walked down the narrow market streets and looked at the views out over the bay. We wandered to Sant’Agnello but it was far more run down that Sorrento. At this point we found out that all shops in the area close on Thursday afternoon – so make sure you already have groceries!! We had also found that the European electric adapter doesn’t work in Italy and that we kept looking the wrong way to cross the street and nearly getting bowled over. However, 6 weeks of Italian classes were serving us well.

The next day was the funeral of Giovanni Paolo II (the Pope) so we watched some of it in Italian on the TV. At this stage we decided to nix Rome from the itinerary as we had no accommodation booked and didn’t want to deal with the crowds. Also the Vatican was one of the places I really wanted to see – so we will be back to do it justice over a long weekend while we are still in London.

Pompeii – we took the train from Sant’Agnello to Pompeii (E7.40 for both). We bought the little red guide book at the gate (not recommended) for E7 and the entrance fee E10 each. I think that I would want a guide if I did it again. The books were not up to snuff cos you have to keep looking down to read it! The audio guides also looked a bit too hard to manage.

Travel Tip: always have water and food on you. Saves money for when you are really hungry and are in a tourist trap with no other option than paying the tourist prices. Also means you can spend the whole day at Pompeii without keeling over. Tip: Where a sun hat to Pompeii. It wasn’t that hot in Italy and I was laughing at the weak and wibbly European sun but I did get a bit burnt cos we were there for 4-5 hours. Pompeii tip: Wear good shoes as we must have seen at least 4 older people take falls on the stones.

And it was great! The technology Pompeii had and pride in their city was amazing and I was wondering what everyone got up to in the Dark ages to lose so much knowledge and technology. I suddenly had the urge to pick up a shovel and dig a bit on the hill to find my own ancient surprises. (but I didn’t OK)

Red Lion for dinner. I managed to order in Italian. Great food.

Day 13 was Positano. The bus ride there was freaky especially cos we were on the wrong side of the road!! My husband had an amusing time trying to explain kilometres to an American woman. Positano was very beautiful. We looked in the Cathedral and walked along the beach. Had expensive gelato and got the bus back. It was a great place to visit but I am glad we stayed in Sorrento as it was more central and ours wasn’t really a relaxing holiday. Positano looks like a great place for a holiday.

We left Villa Oriana and Maria kisses us goodbye. They dropped us at the Sant’Agnello train station and we took the train to Naples. My husband forgot to return the keys to the room so we posted them back from Napoli. We then took the Eurostar to Perugia. In all the train fares were E70 for both of us. Going through Rome station was fine. No beggars or gypsies. Perhaps it was because it was a Sunday.

I realise that I am waffling a bit but I am trying to include the information that was useful to me.
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Old Jun 12th, 2005, 05:13 AM
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Perugia (day 14 – 16)
Our first impressions of Perugia were great. It is an amazing hill town with lots of passages and stone buildings. The internet cafes here were really good value. The hotel was average so I won’t mention it. Umbria itself is great – hill towns everywhere. Dinner at Albergo Umbria Pizzaria. My husband watched Real Madrid vs Barcelona. It seems that all the locals came up into town on Sunday night – presumably for a church service? Then they all wander around late at night.

However the next few days were not as good because it because very very cold (snow just above the town) and it rained constantly. At this stage we were worried we had not packed enough warm clothes. Instead we went to the Galleria della Umbria – a museum with many religious paintings over time. The Cathedral was also very beautiful. In hindsight Perugia is probably only a one night stop. The town does have some fun escalators in passages to get from the hilltop down to the township. Views from the top are great.

Assisi (day 16-17)
We just loved Assisi. One night was perfect. We stayed at Hotel La Rocca E46 and worth much more than that. The food at the hotel was splendid. There were a number of religious groups staying at the hotel too so they sang grace at each meal. Seemed fitting for the place anyway.

Took the train from Perugia to Assisi (backtracking unfortunately – guidebook let us down there) and then a bus to the township. I don’t think that anybody could visit a place like Assisi and not feel a bit pious even if you are not religious. It is a place of pilgrimage so that tourist trap feeling is not there. No one touts and you can explore at ease. There are about four different church with the Basilica as the highlight. There is the tomb of St Francis which is maintained beautifully with fresh flowers and also in the nearby church the tomb of St Claire (Chiasa di Santa Chiara). Many visitors seemed overcome and it was hard not to sit in the quiet and ponder life in general. (meaning of life 42 isn’t it??).

Assisi is also a very cheap place to visit – all the religious sites are free (but go on give a donation). Accommodation is cheap. Also walk up to the fort on the hill. We didn’t go in the views are some of the best we saw anywhere. Again there was still snow on the hill so it was a wee bit cold.

The next day we took the bus back to the train station to head to Florence. Please note that bus tickets are only available from the market by the bus stop (which was closed when we wanted to leave so buy them in advance!) Assisi is one of the highlights of the entire 50 day trip.
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Old Jun 12th, 2005, 05:29 AM
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Join Date: Feb 2003
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Thanks for the info on Assisi. We're going there soon. It was very helpful.
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Old Jun 12th, 2005, 05:29 AM
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ira
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
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Hi W,

Interesting report.

I checked the website for Villa Oriana. It says min rate for a double of 80E.

Did you get some sort of special?

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Old Jun 12th, 2005, 05:36 AM
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Florence Day 17-21
If Assisi made me all pious arriving in Florence changed it to all about ME ME ME ME! We stayed near the train station which was a great location for us pack carriers and were just around the corner from a laundrette which was needed by this stage. It was only E17 for us both to get from Assisi to Florence. All the trains were much easier than I had thought they would be.

Had the worst hotel in the entire trip in Florence and overall we disliked Florence. So in order to avoid offending anybody I will just point out the things we did like and some of the lessons learned.

We did a tour with Walking Tours of Florence (http://www.italy.artviva.com/) which was great. It was taken by an American art student. I highly recommend taking a tour of the big cities near the start of your stay there.

Went to the Academia – hardly any line at all at 3pm. Saw David – great. Found the rest of it a bit boring (turns out we are not that into art and museums and virtually avoided them for the rest of our trip). But there was a great music instruments exhibit hidden around the corner. Enjoyed that – pity no one plays the 7 Strad instruments sitting there!!! Musta been worth a packet.

Saw Uffizi. Saw three hour line. Decided we were not that interested in art.

Had a picnic up at Piazza Michaelangelo. Recommend doing this – good views and cheaper gelato!

Pitti Palace was interesting for a few hours - it was broken into lots of exhibits and charged a different fee for each. E29 entry for both of us. Possibly wasn’t worth the fee in hindsight once we visited much more spectacular palaces in other countries.

Tip: Ask Quanta costa? Prior to buying any gelato. Always. If they try and charge you more than E4 per cone you are being ripped off. Almost everybody we met had been done.

After some disillusionment with Florence we were not sure what to expect from Venice.
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Old Jun 12th, 2005, 05:37 AM
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Hi Ira,

I think E60 was Villa Oriana's shoulder season rate for April.
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Old Jun 12th, 2005, 06:01 AM
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Venice (day 21 – 23)

We took the train to Venice (E53.20 for two). Because it was so expensive accommodation we decided to arrive early on the first day and leave late on the third. We stayed a block from St Marks’s E90 per night – Hotel Astoria booked on www.hostelworld.com. Great compact hotel. Nice room. This was definitely the best idea. We did not eat out at all because Venice is expensive.

We LOVED Venice. The first glimpse from the train station must be one of the most amazing train station stops in the world. The weather was glorious. We tramped with our packs through the city (the vaporetto seemed expensive for one trip up the canal). We did buy a map first though (E2.50)!! Venice had a more eastern influence and we loved everything. That evening we just wandered around as the sun set. Magic.

We had been given advice to get up and do the things early prior to all the day trippers arriving then wander the suburbs during the day and come back to the centre in the evening. We booked the Secret Itineraries tour (E19.50 for two incl a student) - (as suggested here) and did enjoy the tour. Very interesting. Husband enjoyed the torture chambers and all the history.

Internet was very expensive here so go without - E7 an hour.

The next day we toured St Marks (again free). Amazing very different from other churches we had seen. But very very busy with people. I felt a bit sorry for those at prayer. We also went up the bell tower which was great (E12) took lots of photos and you could see the cruise ships moored.

The last day in Venice we got a 24hour vaporetto pass and just hopped on lots of boats all day travelling all over the lagoon. It was lots of fun and cheap entertainment. Also allowed us to take the vaporetto to the station for our overnight train to Vienna. We went to Murano and watched glass blowing. But I think the boat rides were the highlight.

But jeepers we loved Venice.

Italy was great – we learned a lot about how we like to travel and what we like to do. We enjoyed managing the language barrier mostly and found train travel great. We would not want to drive in Italy (although in some of the others we visited we will hire a car next time). All the regions really do have there own characteristics. We will return especially to see Rome, however if we did it again we would concentrate more on the natural beauty and less on the cultural wonders. Just what we liked that’s all.

Thanks for reading. I’ll post my Austria, Germany and France trip reports at some stage. Still enjoying London at the moment and started planning Greece and Canada. Bank account - $0.
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