Italy trip report of 3 women

Feb 13th, 2004, 09:48 PM
  #1  
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Italy trip report of 3 women

Overall: liked Bologna, Florence, and Rome in the order listed; discovered Pompeii and Sorrento as hidden gems

Flight to Italy: So Hellish it was comical.

It started out fine--got there early and didn't let the Homeland Security procedures phase me. Virgin Atlantic was great--good service and food; left on time and got to London on time.

The trouble started when the plane had to circle for 1 hour over London while we had to wait for a gate to be assigned. Once we got a gate, we sat on the runway for 1 hour. By this time, I was fuming because if we had been on time, we had exactly 3 hour to go through customs, reclaim our bags, find the National Express bus, and get to Gatwick from Heathrow.

I was congratulating myself for finding out before I left that British Airways, the carrier that will take us from London to Bologna, had one more flight that day to Bologna, I thought I'll just use whatever charm and powers of persuasion I possessed to get me and my mother onto that next flight because it's clear that I've missed the flight we're supposed to be on.

So I navigated my mother and myself through customs, which was a BREEZE--we had nothing to declare and we were merely passing through, and collected our bags. I looked round and found a British Airways booth near the baggage claims area, but it was UNSTAFFED. Talking to the Virgin Atlantic people next door, they recommended that I head over to the Arrivals Hall upstairs. So Mom and I went upstairs, but couldn't find a British Airways booth at the Arrivials Hall because it was a seething mass of humanity. Making our way to the Information Desk, I was told to go to Terminal 1.

Mom and I dragged all our gear through the tunnel system connecting Terminal 3 to Terminal 1, and but could not find the British Airways desk. We did manage to find another Information Desk, and they told us to take the elevators upstairs. Going upstairs, we found another mass of seething mass of humanity, but managed to find the British Airways desk. This time, closed, but there was a helpful handwritten note saying go to "K".

So we proceeded to wade through the seething mass of humanity toward "K" but noticed that the people milling about were actually forming queques. When I asked where the British Airways ticket counter was, I was told that this was the line to the ticket counter.

When we asked some British Airways representatives that came round, we were told we had to stay in this line to try to make alternate arrangements. The line moved--but just....When we were within sight of the ticket counter--2.25 hours later....some people in the line noticed that other people were forming a second line and that they were also being helped by the people at the ticket counter. They made a huge ROW, and the British Airways people designed a single window for that second line.

After 2.5 hours, we finally got to the window, and initially, the British Airways woman commented that there will likely be a charge for the change. I pointed out that we had flight insurance AND that we would not have missed our flight if we had not wasted 2 hours in the air and on the runway. After that, she got us on the next flight and there was no additional mention of a charge.

After taking care of the missed flight, we then headed over to the National Express desk. Unfortunately, I had prepaid for tickets on the shuttle to Gatwick at 11 a.m., thinking we would clear customs, etc. in 1 hour. When I bought the ticket, they had the disclaimer indicating that while customers are free to hop onto an earlier bus if they had room, if customers missed their bus, the customer is "up the creek" or words to that effect.
So, I was steeling myself to be VERY assertive and, if necessary, very blunt, the National Express people just got my Mom and myself onto the next bus.

We got to Gatwick with lots of time to spare. When we got there, we waited and waited for a gate to be assigned to our flight. Finally, an houater later, our flight was assigned a gate, and we boarded, we noticed that everyone on the flight was Italian.

When we found our seat, we found that one of us had been assigned a broken seat, and the steward told us to just move over and take the window seat. I had just gotten comfortable, when an Italian man started complaining loudly and a fellow passenger translated and told me I was in his seat. My Mom told him and the translator that the steward told us to move over. Well, after much shuffling about to find seats, everyone finally found seats and we were on our way to Bologna.

We got to Bologna at 11:30 p.m. and by the time we reclaimed our bags, it was past midnight. When we went out some passengers had snagged the two taxis waiting by the taxi stand. We waited a 15 minutes, but no taxis. So my Mom sent me round to try to phone for a taxi, using my guidebook and Italian phrasebook.

Just one major hitch. We did not have small denominations of euros AND we did not have a phone card. Wh
lilleyl2 is offline  
Feb 14th, 2004, 03:24 AM
  #2  
rex
 
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Your two posts can not and will not stay "together" in any way here.

Best to add "continuations" as "replies to yourself".

Your first continuation is posted here.

===========================

Italy trip report of 3 women continued



Author: lilleyl2
Date: 02/14/2004, 02:47 am
Message: Sorry folks, but I was using someone else's laptop and must have inadvertantly clicked on send.

Well, we were stuck without the ability to call a cab. When I went back out to my Mom to tell her the bad news, a cab was pulling up, and we hopped in after negotiating a price of 18 euros.

The driver spoke very little English and my Italian was limited to the bits I remember from my phrasebook. My Mom was getting really nervous, and so was I. Thankfully, the cab driver was honest, and drove us driectly to our hotel, just off the Piazza Maggiore. Although the meter was 16 euros, we didn't have change for our 20 euro so we decided to tip him about 2 euros.

We managed to check in to our hotel and when we got to our room, we couldn't figure out how to turn on the light. When I went back down to the desk, the concierge looked at me strangely when I told him we couldn't figure oIs iut how to turn on the light. Then he told me that there is a box by the door and in order to turn on the light, we had to insert our key there. When I did that, the light flicked on. ( Is this practise common to countries other than Italy? I did not encounter this in London.)

The room we were given at the Albergo Al Cappello Rosso was small and red was the predominant color. Even the carpet had red, beige and white patterns. The bathroom was small, but we had a full shower, a towel warmer and a bidet. The closet was nice and roomy, with a small safe.

After this initially cursory examination, we fell into our beds and were dead to the world.

More later...

=============================

Hope this helps others follow your trip report - - it should also help in your interacting (if you desire that) with others who have comments or questions about your report, by keeping it all together.

Best wishes,

Rex
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Feb 14th, 2004, 04:51 AM
  #3  
ira
 
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Hi lilley,

Great story.

Thanx for putting them together Rex.
ira is offline  
Feb 14th, 2004, 05:32 AM
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Happy Valentine's Day, I am going to Europe in a little over 3 months..backpacking and going to Santa Margherita Ligure then to Venice and so on...If that happens to me, I am going to freak right on out!!!!
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Feb 14th, 2004, 08:06 PM
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Thanks Rex for putting it together--never posted anything this long.

Bologna and Albergo Al Cappello Rosso:

The hotel was 2 blocks from Piazza Maggiore in cute little side street. The breakfast was good and hearty--fresh baked cream puffs one day and carrot cake the next; good salami and prosciutto; blood orange juice and fresh made-to-order expresso, capuccino or whatever suits your fancy; granola and dried fruit. The hotel was right across the street from the Hotel Roma and very close to the Orologico. My one comment about the room was the heating system is a bit noisy so if your'e a light sleeper you won't fare too well. The rooms tend to be dark because the building across the street prevents whatever bit of winter sun there is from penetrating into the room.

Bologna was cold--about 30 F, although it warms up in the afternoon. The buildings in the center are marvellous, with the lovely colonnades and the cute little side streets. Some of the side streets contain cute little groceries with the most lovely (and expensive!) produce.

The best cheap food we had were in Bologna--we ate at the Bass Otto, a tavola calda recommended by the Lonely Planet. The restaurants in the center close relatively early--by 7 p.m. the pickings for restaurants were pretty slim around the Piazza Maggiore. From our experience at the airport the previous night, I was forced to conclude that Bologna goes to bed pretty early, unlike Florence and Rome.

Unlike Florenc and Rome, I did need whatever bit of Italian I learned in Bologna because half the people I encountered spoke some English while the other half did not.

Bologna like many of the Italian cities my Mom and I visited was pretty congested at the center, and the thing that bothered me the most were the fumes from the cars and the smokers.

At Bologna, I also realize how SCARY Italian drivers are. The cabbie who drove us to the train terminal narrowly avoided running down a pedestrian by SLAMMING on his brake about 3 ft. from the pedestrian AND racing a bus to the intersection by crossing into the opposing traffic.

I WOULD go back to Bologna--it's got good food, it's affordable, and I would like to explore more of the beautiful buildings and museums. Bologna would be a good base for exploring Emilia-Romagna.

On the next installment, I'll post the Florence portion of the trip. Bye for now.

Lil
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Feb 14th, 2004, 08:57 PM
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Lil, about the key and the lights, this is a very common system in Asia and I've seen it a bit in Europe, too. It is really an energy-saving (hence cost-saving) measure for the hotel, because when you leave and take your room key, the power goes off. This prevents you from leaving the room for the whole day with lights, tv, air con, etc, all running when you are not there.

There are several inconveniences associated with this system, but by and large, I'm in favor of it. You can usually rig up something to take the place of the key if it's really necessary.
Marilyn is offline  
Feb 15th, 2004, 06:14 AM
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ira
 
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Hi lilley,

Thanx for your report.

Let's have more.
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Feb 15th, 2004, 08:48 AM
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Florence installment:

Of the cities I stayed in, Florence ranked number 2. I'll go into it later on in this post.

We stayed at the Orto de Medici in a triple. This was the cheapest hotel we stayed in because they had a discount. The room was roomy--about the size of a 1-BR flat in midtown Manhattan. It had a large armoire, dresser, desk, tiny TV and a small refrigerator, as well as 3 twin beds (2 were pushed together to make a queen size bed). The room overlooked the terrace, and through the window you can hear the sound of a fountain. Very quiet and peaceful...The bathroom was small and tight--there was barely room for a hip bath, a toilet and a sink. The bathroom was tiled with a cute tile that had pale pink flowers on a pale bluish background. We also had a small balcony that overlooked the rooftops of adjoining buildings.

The hotel would have been perfect if it weren't for a few things, which may or may not be important for some people. The hotel was in San Marco, and it was pretty quiet. But it was 15 minutes walk to the Duomo, San Lorenzo and the train station, and 5 minutes to the Academy and 10 minutes to Piazza SS Annunciata. Another plus was there was a laundromat and minimart 10 minutes away. There were also some restaurants a few doors down and a tavola calda, ATMs and a bank of phones several blocks away on Via Cavour. The breakfast was pretty good and plentiful, although they kind of skimped on the salami and mortadella, and the bread was not the freshest.

The negatives include better maintained furniture for the hotel rooms and thin walls. The high chlorine content of Florence was something that bothered us--totally dried out our skin and started bleaching our hair. We also found it difficult to shower either sitting or crouching down in the hip bath. We were also not too keen that the maid did not change our sheets once and merely tidied up in the bathroom and retrieved and replaced the towels. This didn't bother me too much, but my Mom and sister weren't too keen on it.

Good places to eat in Florence: Semidivino on Via San Gallo. Try the wild boar and the linguine with clams. The crustini with chicken liver was pretty divine. The food was good but expensive--it costed about 40 euros for 1 antipasto, 1 primo and 2 secondi with a liter of water and a half liter of house wine. The food, like all the food we tasted in Florence, were way too salty.

A good place for pizza was on Via Buffalino, near the bak of the Duomo, near a houseware shop D. Baldini. The houseware shop had some nice and cheap expresso cups and saucers--between 1 and 2 euro a piece.

What I liked about Florence: the Duomo area, the Loggia di Signorini and the Palazzo Vecchio. The Uffizi was nice but the rooms were too dimlylit to see some of the really nice paintings. The Botticelli and Raphaels were particularly fine.

What I did not like about Florence: the smog, the dirt--graffiti and pet poo all over the sidewalks. The sign posting of the museums can also be better improved. Once we ended up climibng up to the Duomo dome when we were trying to find the museum for the Duomo. This would have been okay, except that it was Sunday morning and our mother who is afraid of heights and had a bum knee were with us.

If Florence had been cleaner and if the Uffizi had not been so dark, I would have said it was my favorite city.

Other than one particular instance when we encountered creative accounting at a restaurant in Florence, I would say that my experience with Florence was on the whole pretty positive. It's easy to navigate and it's architecturally interesting. I would probably go back to Florence, but would probably spend more time in the countryside.

Santa Maria Novella was pretty easy--very much like Penn Station or Grand central Station. Did spot some suspicious characters hanging about us when we were waiting for our train to Rome.

One thing I should mention. Italy is primarily a cash only place. With the exception of the hotels, one tour operator in Rome, and some global stores like Bennetton, we had to pay cash for everything, including our ES train tickets.

Well, Rome in the next installment. Bye for now.

Lil



lilleyl2 is offline  
Feb 15th, 2004, 09:09 AM
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Lil, you can use a credit card for train tickets if you buy them at the station, but many travel agents require cash.

Good report! I like the details. Keep it coming!
Marilyn is offline  
Feb 15th, 2004, 09:31 AM
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I too like all the details.

I remember you asking about the LHR-LGW connection back in December, and various people suggested then that a 3 hour connection time was going to be tight. Given that Virgin Atlantic isn't a member of Oneworld, it isn't partnered with British Airways. Consequently I'm not even sure that this would be classified as a 'connecting' flight. I mention this only since others will be reading; when a non-partnered airline is late arriving, the next airline in the chain (BA in this case) is under no obligation to change your flight at no charge if you miss their flight for any reason. Even some trip insurance policies might not cover this situation. If you scraped through this time, my guess is it was because you were traveling in slow season. In peak season you could have had a real pickle trying to talk your way onto that later BA flight! It's for this reason that I always have us stay overnight in London/Gatwick in between unpartnered flight segments, since the logistics can be nightmarish, as you found out firsthand.

Looking forward to the rest of your report.
Sue_xx_yy is online now  
Feb 15th, 2004, 11:42 AM
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I am really enjoying your messages. I will be in Florence in March. I didn't plan on Bologna but may change my plans. Thanks
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Feb 15th, 2004, 04:30 PM
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Thanks for your funny report. I'm surprised there aren't more trip reports posted. I'm on the australian site planning a trip and there is much feedback there post travel. Perhaps in the greater volume of posting here in Europe, the trip reports get buried fairly quickly. On the Australia forum, there are often only a few dozen postings a day.
Thanks for you report

AndrewDavid
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Feb 15th, 2004, 04:48 PM
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Thanks lilley, I very rarely read the Italy reports but you have made me interested. Hope mom had a great time.
cigalechanta is offline  
Feb 15th, 2004, 06:38 PM
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Andrew, go to slowtrav.com for tons of trip reports
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Feb 15th, 2004, 08:12 PM
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Thanks Bob and Lil
AndrewDavid
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Feb 16th, 2004, 01:06 AM
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Sylvia
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I have been to Italy many times and have never seen a hip-bath anywhere.
Here is a picture of one
http://www.littlebylittle.co.uk/page...BathWhite.html

Did you really have to have a shower sitting in something like that? No wonder it was fifficult.
 
Feb 16th, 2004, 03:19 AM
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Andrew

In the box "Search this Forum" at the top of the page type 'trip report' as key words and then in the other box, indicate the country of interest (or you could just leave it at 'region wide'. You will find lots of trip reports. Have fun.
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Feb 16th, 2004, 03:41 AM
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rex
 
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Ihaven't seen or been in a hip bath in mny years, but it didn't much ressemble that picture particularly. It was more like a regular bathtub but shorter (say 3'6" or 4') and slightly deeper, with a seat, so that the water was for example about 6" deep (waist deep) at your hips but 15-20" deep at your ankles.

The point would be to take a bath in it - - and then (assuming that it would have a hand shower), just shower off when finished... standing in it only quite briefly... no?

Best wishes,

Rex
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Feb 16th, 2004, 05:41 AM
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ira
 
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Hi Lil

Lovely report, but I notice no mention of gelato. Didn't you have any?
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Feb 16th, 2004, 06:23 AM
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Sylvia
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Well Rex, that really is a new one on me. Actually, for the elderly and those shall we say with exuberant figures a bath like that would be much easier to get out of.
You do sometimes hear of poor souls having to be rescued by the chambermaid.
 

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