Italy Trip Report Single Mom wTeen

Jun 7th, 2004, 06:40 AM
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Thanks for writing such an honest trip report. It's fun to read.
Mary_Fran is offline  
Jun 7th, 2004, 06:41 AM
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Thursday 5-20-04 Assisi

I've planned a change of pace for today ? A Vastours bus trip to Assisi. It's about 3 hours away and I thought it might be a good treat to have a bus pick us up at the doorstep and have a tour.

The bus is supposed to come at 6:45. 6:50 --no bus. Oh no. Did I give them the wrong address?? A little mini bus stops across the street and waves to us. This is a bus that collets everyone from around the area for various tours. This bus takes us to the agency where we pay 243 for 3 of us, then another bus that takes us to a bigger bus. It's 8 before we head out of Rome. Okay this is interesting. Half the bus peaks Spanish. This tour is in Spanish and English.

First stop is at Orvietto to see the Cathedral. We get off the bus and get into a funicular to take us to the town on the top of the hill.

Next a public bus to the Cathedral. There are enough of us to fill a large tour bus, plus other people are coming and a little mini bus shows up. I had promised my children the nice thing about this day is that we wouldn't spend any time standing on a crowded public bus. Okay I lied. But not on purpose!

We don?t make it onto that bus. The guide promises us another one. A large group of school kids show up and their leader takes them to the font of the line "Dees ees OUR bus!" the guide assures us and sure enough she physically holds back the kids so we can all get on.

The bus drops us off at a pretty piazza round the large Cathedral covered with scaffolding. I find the striped brick pattern interesting --it reminds me of a prison uniform.

There's a beautiful art inside that I read about in a book I bought after I saw it. I especially liked the painting of the Resurrection of the Dead. Wish I'd had the book first so I knew what to look for. No, I wish I had Liz from Scala Reale with me!

We get to Assisi and it?s time for lunch at the Hotel Savoy which is included except for drinks. Lunch is lasagna (not bad) and some unidentifiable meat that I think is lamb but Sarah won't eat it if it's lamb so I tell her I don't know what it is, salad, French fries and gelato for dessert. It's okay, not great, but lunch takes an hour and a half.

We get a local guide whose first language is obviously Spanish. First we go to the basilica of St. Francis.

I think the Spanish are getting a better tour. She goes on and on and on in Spanish. In English "And dees eez a peecture of St. Francis talking to dee birds" Oh great, I needed a guide for that.

There are lovely mosaics in both the upper and lower church. There's scaffolding in the upper church, still working on restoration from the 97 earthquake. Then we walk through town to St Clare's church. Isaac's had enough churches and waits at the hotel. This is a terrible guide. We would have been better off getting book and doing this on our own.

The bus takes us down to the St Mary church with the little church inside that St Francis restore. The kidsthink it is ironic there are signs forbidding dogs in a church dedicated to St Francis. We pass a beautiful field of red poppies down the hill.

Final stop--a ceramics factory. Other tours listed this stop and I picked Vastours because they did not mention this and thought I could avoid it. Not possible.

I did get to taste Orvietto wine which was very good but I didn't want to have to lug wine around. I tried some dark chocolate that was good but not any better than we can get at home. Most of the stuff here is crap. They have a lottery and two lucky winners on the bus get to take home free crap.

It was after 8 before we got home. I'm glad I saw Assisi though the kids are not sure it was worth it. Next time I'd do it on my own.

I don't want to cook. It's 8:30, normal time to go for dinner.

We decide to try the place our rental lady suggested, also recommended in Great Eats, Da Marco E Fabio Formichello. We think we can't find it and decide to go into an interesting looking trattoria we pass by. Turns out from the cards on the counter -this is it. It just as a different name out front. The book suggests reservations but we are seated without a problem.

A nice looking young man comes to our table and says "My mother just made lasagna- you like" Well we had lasagna for lunch already but I sure don't want to insult this nice young man?s mother.

OMG ? this was the best lasagna I've ever had in my life. It?' made with some kind of wonderful creamy cheese. We clean our plates, wanting more.

He comes back and tells us he's bringing us two pizzas. Okay, whatever you say. One comes with tomato sauce and cheese and one with mushroom, olives prosciutto and a hard boiled egg. I eat most of that one. Finally he comes by and offers dolce. Isaac has lemon sorbet and Sarah and I have cream cameral, wonderful custard with caramel sauce.

My kids are finally getting into the long leisurely Italian dinner. A wonderful thing is happening. They talk. They talk to me, to each other. They talk about school, friends, they joke. The entire bill including wine and pop is 50 E.

Joelleinitaly04 is offline  
Jun 7th, 2004, 06:53 AM
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Friday, May 21 Leftovers

The kids are sleeping in and Mom is going to visit some churches on her own today. I started out at 7:15 am, taking the metro to Vittorio Emanuel. From there it is an easy walk to Santa Maria Maggiore. It's open but it seems only beggars and people going to mass are there at this hour.

There?s a mass going on in one of the side chapels and I feel like a heathen walking around gawking. I would have liked to have gone up closer to see the mosaic in the apse but I was too self conscience about disturbing worshippers. I did listen to the history of the church on a telephone in the back.

Next, the church for the made-up Saint, Santa Pudenziana. This was originally a Roman home, where perhaps there was a house church. It was known as the Pudens house but as the years went by, people forgot that and they made up a saint for the church.

I almost missed this church because it's down a quiet side street and below street level. It's a smaller intimate church. I was able to look around by myself.

Next some backtracking to find Santa Prassede, Pudenziana?s made-up sister. You can easily miss this church as the outside looks like a bank or something. Oh but the inside--a spectacular mosaic, blue background like Cosmos & Damion, very similar in fact. This time Peter and Paul are welcoming Pudenziania and Prassede into heaven. Frankly these mosaics impress me more than the Sistine Chapel.

By now it was 9 am and I'm off to San Giovanni in Laterano. I could walk but it seems easier to take the metro which goes right there in two stops.

From the metro stop you have to pass through the ancient Roman gate, Porta Asinaria to come up what is the back of San Giovanni. It's confusing because the back is more ornate than the front and I was afraid the church was closed. The square was lined with flags and balloons and a set up with mikes, some sort of event taking place later, I gather.

On the way to the front of San Giovana, I crossed the street to the right to peek into Scala Santa and Sancta Sanctoria, where there are many pilgrims on their knees climbing what is believed to be the stairs Christ ascended to Pilate during his trail (it is said this tradition can not be traced any earlier than the 7th century, but then again, it's a symbol.) There are regular stairs for the less faithful on the other side, but I didn?t see anyone using them so I didn't go upstairs.

On to St. Giovanni. This is the first time I've seen a "Beware of pickpockets" sign and it is in front of a church. Now that is just sad. It?s a beautiful church, this time with gold mosaics. I couldn't figure out to get the computer light to work to see the mosaic better.

I would have liked to gone on to visit Quattro Coronati, but I was pretty tired by then so I came back to the apartment. It was a nice morning tour for me.

When I got home I slept for a couple of hours then Sarah wanted to shop. Isaac wanted to lounge so we took the metro to Spagna and sauntered along the via condotti, window shopping.

Then we were ready for something a little more low-brow like the souvenir stores around the Trevi Fountain.

This time I had a coin so I threw one in for good measure. We stop for gelato, crème caramel for Sarah, crème caramel and nocciola for me. We stayed and watched all the people pose for pictures around the fountain.

While I was changing film, Sarah spied a comedic scene as a toddler grabbed the water bottle of a distracted tourist, poured his water out into the fountain and walked away before the tourist knew he was there. Sarah laughed out loud as she watched the tourist attempt to take a drink and the confused look on his face as he pondered why his bottle was empty.

Back to the apartment for some rest. The kids are determined to see the Mouth of Truth. This is not in a particularly accessible area or an area where there is much else to see.

According to the KD Eyewitness book the bus 23 goes right there. That's a lie. There's no stop on 23 for Piazza della Bocca della Verita, which is what we want. An American woman overhears us talking and tells us to get off at the Marmorata stop. We wait more than a half hour. We should have taken the metro to Circus Maximus, would have been easier.

The bus is so crowded, I don't know how we all got on it. I can't see out the window, I have no idea where to get off. We end up getting off to soon. I have no idea where we are. The 82 comes along, we take it to the Marmorata stop.

It is a bit of a hike but we find the Bocca della Verita ( Mouth of Truth) at the Santa Maria in Cosmedin It's 6:30 and the portico is closed. All that and it's closed. But at least you can see it through the bars so we get a picture. The kids at least have seen it.

There is a bus stop right in front of it, but it?s not the 23. We take the 95 to the Barbarini Metro. Because the other bus was too crowded to validate our tickets, we've made this 2 1/2 hour trip on one ticket, though a ticket is only good for 75 minutes.

I'm sooo tired but we have to eat. Around the corner to Caravelli's again. Sarah wants what I had the last time, the cannelloni. Isaac has ravioli and I have risotto ragu. It is really good stick your stomach, no nonsense food. Just what I was looking for after a long, sometimes frustrating day of sightseeing.

We decide our last night in Roma calls for dolce. Tiramisu for me, lemone torte for Sarah, cheesecake for Isaac. I had tiramisu once at an Italian restaurant in the states and didn't really care for it. This was different. This was wonderful. Sarah declares her lemone torte the best dessert she's had in her life. Isaac is also please. The total bill including wine, water and coke is 42.50 E. Good deal.

So tomorrow we leave Rome. I like Rome. Rome is a charming city. I love how you can be walking along a normal busy street, turn a corner and suddenly be surprised by a beautiful fountain, lovely piazza, or stunning church. But I'm also ready to leave Rome. It's an intense city. The kids are ready to go home. I feared this would be a long trip but I felt, rightly, we needed a full week in Rome. And how could we come and not see Florence and Venice.

Tomorrow ? Firenze
Joelleinitaly04 is offline  
Jun 7th, 2004, 07:41 AM
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Joelle, I am loving your report (sorry, I sound like a McDonald's ad!)

Oh how I wish I could have urged you to take the audioguide tour of the Vatican Museums. It's actually a CD and it's fabulous, so much easier to operate than those @$%! handsets. And the commentary is wonderful.

Unfortunately with your teens you found it hard to get an early start, but the VC is really one place where this is imperative. It's always busy, but at least the crowds are manageable first thing in the morning.

I understand your concern about cats but my brother absolutely must keep theirs inside. In Vancouver, BC where he lives, many is the time he's been out jogging and caught sight of a coyote running off with a cat in its jaws. City and country aren't so well delineated anymore in some parts.
Sue_xx_yy is offline  
Jun 7th, 2004, 08:46 AM
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Your report is awesome! I feel like I was there with you! Please keep it coming...
jamikins is online now  
Jun 7th, 2004, 11:08 AM
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What a great report - very down to earth approach - what a good mom you are. I am eagerly awaiting the next installments.
Barb is offline  
Jun 7th, 2004, 11:49 AM
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Excellent report. You are a great writer who allows the reader to transport themself to Italy as your travel companion.

You are very fortunate to have these memories of traveling with your kids. I am envious.

Look forward my "trip" to Florence and Venice. Can't wait.
grosenb is offline  
Jun 7th, 2004, 12:35 PM
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What a great report. I can't wait til I leave on July 3 for Italy. Also looking forward to your next installment.
charsuzan is offline  
Jun 7th, 2004, 04:15 PM
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Sue - yes we should have done the audioguides, it turned out we ended up back at the beginning anyways. And the reason we were so late was because we were supposed to have met up with a private guide, but it didn't work out.

And I make no judgements about whether or not people keep their cats inside or outside, different circumstances call for different rules. I just know I've been criticized because I let my cats go out in the country and found it interesting that in some cultures people wouldn't dream of anything else.

But I digress and I have more installments to post...

Joelleinitaly04 is offline  
Jun 7th, 2004, 04:27 PM
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Saturday, May 22, 2004 Rome to Florence

Moving day and I have the bright idea to do laundry before we go. Maria is coming at 11 and I think I can do the laundry, pack and clean the apartment before that. At the lavanderia there is another nice man who takes my money and turns on the washing machine. One hour, he promises. I should be done by 9 am. No problem. My wash is done at 8:45. It takes a key to start the dryer, which I've paid for. But the man who has my key is gone. A woman I believe is his wife who speaks little English tells me to wait one minute. 15 minutes later I'm thinking I need to leave. She tells me to come back at 10. I can't come back at 10, I have to leave.

But she doesn't understand. Come back tomorrow she tells me "Now is impossible" I ask for a bag so I can take my laundry home wet. Then I ask if I can't pay more and get another key for another dryer. Suddenly she gets an idea. She takes some money, puts it in the machine, pushes some numbers and starts the dryer. I get back to the apt with clean and dry clothes about 9:45.

By 11 everything is done and Maria comes by to check us out. I cleaned dirt in that apt that was there before we arrived. She makes sure the TV works. All is well and she hands over my 200 E deposit and calls us a cab.

We get to the train station. Why didn't I buy a ticket before? Because I keep planning on the 12:30 train and we would have never made it. I went back to the machine. I was paying attention, I thought, but I end up buying an IC train, not Euro star. I knew something was not right. Too cheap. Back in line I go. I was able to upgrade it to 1:30 second class Eurostar to Florence. There's not much difference between First and Second class.

Firenze is the first stop, exactly 1 1/2 hours later. There is a long line for taxis but they keep coming so we are soon on our way. Cabfare to our hotel is 6.25

Via Pellicceria 2, Florence ? 155 E a night, triple

This is an interesting hotel. It doesn't look like a hotel, no sign, just a small breastplate to ring. We are let into a dark, musty smelling stairwell. I've been warned about this and promise the kids it will be better on our floor. We drag the suitcases up one flight to the elevator and get to our room on the 3rd floor, which is bright and cheery. Our triple room with three twin beds lined up in a row is pretty spacious. The walls are yellow, the beds are yellow, and the bedspreads are yellow. There's also a sitting room and breakfast room we can use. We get 5 keys -1 for outside, 1 for elevator, 1 to let us in the apartment where the rooms are, 1 for the room and 1 for the electricity. And we have trouble keeping track of keys.

Our window looks directly over the Mercato Nuevo. Right away the kids want to go shopping. Isaac bought a chess set, a copy of an exclaber sword (great how are we going to pack those - he buys all the big stuff). Sarah has her eye on a white leather jacket for 140 E but I tell her to wait and look around more.

We just start walking and come upon the Duomo. Wow! What a building. From the outside at least, I think it is more imprssive than St. Peter. We walk toward the Uffizzi and cross the Ponte Vecchio. I stopped at a shop and bought a pair of leather gloves for myself and for Sarah's skating coach. Of course we stopped for gelato. It's very crowded.

We rest before dinner. We want to try Tattoria Nella, which is nearby and recommended both by the hotel owner and Rick Steves, but it's too crowded.

We keep passing full trattorias. People seem to eat earlier here, perhaps because of all the tourists. You wouldn't see places this crowded at 7:30 in Rome! We end up at the Piazza della Signoria and decide to do the tourist thing and eat outside at Ristorante Oragna. This turns out to be a good, choice, although a bit pricey.

I know they say you shouldn't eat at a restaurant with a menu in 4 languages, but we were happy. We started out with bruschetta, prosciutto and crustini. The pate was the only thing we didn't care for. Sarah and I shared a plate of tortellini with tomato sauce which was very good. Then because we were hungry for something besides pasta and pizza, Sarah and I each ordered a pork chop.

Isaac had a steak that was humongous but he had to send it back because he will not eat anything is remotely pink. The pork chops were grilled, fat, juicy and wonderful. We live in Iowa where we are used to good pork, and this was right up to our standards. Isaac thought his steak, returned to him black, was very good.

The service was excellent. Bill for all including 1/2 liter house wine (not great but I drank it) large bottle of water and a coke--83 E. It was fun to have all the courses but I think I?d better cut back for awhile.

We crossed the piazza for gelato. Sarah is fixated on cream caramel and I try the Grand Mariner (very good) Isaac wanted a big waffle cone which she dressed up. 16 E for gelato! Gelato was much cheaper in Sorrento and Rome.

Joelleinitaly04 is offline  
Jun 7th, 2004, 04:36 PM
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Sunday am 5/23/04 Museum Day

We got pasty from Café Gilli at the Piazza della Repubblica. It was wonderful. We just walked around, not sure what to do first. We ended up at the Palazzo Vecchio. Rick Steves calls describes the art here as "mediocre magnificence", but we enjoyed it. There are lots of paintings depicting Roman mythology, which Isaac is into so it had his attention.

After that we walked over to the Uffizi, there was a small line, but I was afraid my kids would only tolerate one line and if it was only going to be one line, I wanted them to see David.

When I began planning this trip 2 years ago, I knew the smart thing was to make appointments to see David and the Uffizi. But I didn?t. We took a trip a few years ago to Washington DC and had our congressman set up a bunch of appointments for us and I found it difficult to be where we were supposed to be at these times. I just like being more flexible. I wasn't sure if the kids were going to want to even go to the Uffizi. So I took my chances. A safe risk in May. Probably not a good risk in the summer.

We walked to the Academia and got there about 10:30 am. The line looked long but we waited only waiting 20 minutes before we got in. It's my lucky day.

This time the kids were impressed by David. They even enjoyed the rest of the art in the building. We kind of picked a theme which was how babies are portrayed. My kids noticed these artists must not have spent much time looking at babies because they are all out of proportion. We played pick the ugliest baby. Okay so we are not art connoisseurs.

On the way back we passed a store with really cheap luggage. Isaac?s suitcase handle broke on the way to Florence, so this was very fortuitous for us. We bought a larger suitcase for 12 E. What a deal. We had lunch at one of those cafeteria type places. It was very crowded and the food wasn't that good and not any less expensive than a restaurant.

On to Sarah?s favorite activity -shopping at the San Lorenzo open air market. She found a white leather jacket for 100E. Good thing I told her to look around. I wanted to buy my gentleman friend a nice leather wallet. I was looking at wallets but they looked kind of cheap to me. "Yes, you want a wallet? I am Valentino; I am King of the Wallets... I know what you want. I have good wallet for you, I am Valentino, King of the Wallets." Valentino found me a nice sheepskin wallet plus put on a good show.

After that we are ready for a rest back at the hotel. At about 4 I asked the kids if they wanted to try the Uffizi. Isaac?s had enough but Sarah is game. We luck out again and stand in line only a half an hour. I confess to my disappointment, we never found the room with the Botticelli collection. But we did see a lot of babies! I never realized there was such a common theme of showing the baby Jesus playing with baby John the Baptist. He's so cute with his little animal skin romper. We also got to see Michelangelo's Holy Family. It made up a little for the Sistine Chapel being such a disaster.

We rested before dinner. We went back to the piazza della Signoria and this time chose Il Cavallino, which was recommended by Rick Steves. (When I got home I saw it is also mentioned in Fromners).

For antipasti Isaac has his usual prosciutto. I decided to try the ribolitta, a hearty vegetable and bread soup that is so thick, it?s almost like a casserole. The waiter suggested I pour olive oil on top. The house wine was wonderful and when I told the waiter he said "I know" Sarah and I order roast beef and potatoes. Isaac gets a steak.

Of course the steak is pink when it comes. And so is the roast beef. I thought it was wonderful, when I make roast, I always have to overcook it or nobody but me will eat it. Sarah says it makes her sick to see meat that red. It's embarrassing, but at these prices, the kids need to eat, so I apologetically tell my waiter about my silly children who can't eat red meat.

He's okay with sending the steak back but is horrified at the idea of overcooking the roast beef. "But this IS roast beef!" He insists. "?I know," I say sympathetically. "Can ya cook it a little more please?" Back it goes. The poor cook probably feels he's being asked to commit a culinary crime.

When it comes back, Sarah eats it all, but Isaac leaves parts of the steak uneaten because it's slightly pink. I suggest to Isaac maybe he shouldn't order steak anymore. The thing is, he likes it when he can get it burned enough. Total bill was 66 E.

More gelato on the way home. I guess you just can't get 2 E gelato anywhere nearby in Florence. The smallest cone in 3.50 E.

Before we go back to the hotel we stop at the pig (who is right under our hotel window) and rub his nose and feed him coins.

Joelleinitaly04 is offline  
Jun 7th, 2004, 04:44 PM
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Monday, May 24, 2004 ? Pisa day Trip

We left about 9 am, stopping at Gilli's for pastys to go. Here?s a lesson -3.50 E total for pastys to go. To sit down the same pastys are 4.50 each.

We walked to the train station, without luggage it's not a bad walk. I bought tickets to Pisa, but nowhere could we find out which binariao (track) we need. The train was listed on the big black boards but not the binario. Finally I found it listed on one of the large schedules on a board on the track. Good thing I found out because everyone was getting on it and it was a very crowded train. It was an intercity train so there were no seat reservations. Lots of tourists going to Pisa.

It's exactly one hour to Pisa. We followed Rick Staves advice to pick up the #3 bus across the street at the hotel. The difficult thing about taking a bus is that you are never sure where your stop is. I happened to see a big gate and a crowd of people and figured that had to be it.

Sarah wanted to climb the tower, which meant of course that I had to as well. Isaac said "no thanks" We waited in line about 15 minutes and got an appointment for a 2:30 climb. It was 12:30 so we had 2 hours to kill. We decided to have lunch at a nearby café. Isaac had prosciutto pizza and was very disappointed when his "prosciutto" turned out to be regular deli ham. Sarah and I shared a salami pizza that was pretty good.

Then we walked around, I got Isaac to come into the baptistery with me. It is very impressive. Sarah wore shorts so she couldn't go in the Cathedral. I had long shorts and had no problem. The mosaics and pulpit at the Cathedral are just stunning.

We checked out the tourist stalls. Mostly junk but Sarah and I found journal books with matching pens. I had been looking at journals in Florence, but these were as nice as I'd seen and less expensive. The matching pens were a nice touch.

To climb the tower you meet at the tourist office and a guide walks you to the tower. There's a warning about how strenuous an activity this is and that its' more than 300 steps. I begin to have self doubts. Sarah starts running up the steps and leaves me far behind. Well at least nobody passed me and I heard everyone else breathing about as hard as me so we are all in about the same shape. I did stop twice to rest. About 2/3 up there?s a balcony, but nope, you are not finished. The worse, however, is over. If you take a good rest there the final steps aren't so bad. It's quite a view from the top. Look around, catch your breath, take some pictures and go back downstairs again. Although downstairs is not as strenuous I though it was worse, they are step, leaning, slippery and no rail. But they are narrow enough that you can put your hands on both walls.

While waiting for us Isaac enjoyed watching all the people taking the exact same photo-holding up the tower.

Before we left for Italy I read lots of advice that the Pisa is a waste of time. I think it was one of our favorite days. Lots of tourists yes. But the kids loved it. And the Cathedral and baptistery are worth seeing. There are lots of other museums but my kids are museumed out.

While at the train station I decided to buy our tickets for tomorrow?s journey to Venice. Isaac went outside to wait and was surrounded by a group of youngsters. He had on a travelers' vest with lots of pockets and felt them going after his pockets. He had no money but he did have his game boy and a camera in pockets. He managed to fend them off. He'd been suffering allergies on the trip and thinks the fact that nearly all of his pockets had used tissues in them might have helped. He didn't seem particularly upset by the incident. They started by telling him he'd dropped something and he was onto them right away, keeping a hand on the pockets with the camera and gameboy.

When we got home we rested and then went to dinner early, about 7:45, hoping to get a table at Trattorea Nella.

This time we were lucky. For antipasti we all had this wonderful garlic toast with olive oil. It was really good. I had their special pasta, ravioli with a pesto made from rugula. It was good, but very strong and I couldn't eat it all. Isaac had lasagna and Sarah spaghetti with spicy peppers. Sarah and I had the same dolce, cream with chocolate, some kind of thick cream covered with hot chocolate syrup. Very Good.

As soon as we finished they brought the bill without asking. That never happened anywhere else in Italy. There were people waiting outside for tables and I did get the feeling they were trying to clear people out. That's an unusual feeling in Italy! Total bill including house wine (very good), water and coke- 55E.

We walked around both the Piazza dell Piazza della Repubblica and piazza della Signoria and had gelato before going back to the hotel. Back in the hotel a large brass and snare drum band began playing right under our window. It was very festive.

Tomorrow Venice
Joelleinitaly04 is offline  
Jun 7th, 2004, 04:48 PM
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Still enjoying your report, Joelle. I thought it was a kind of neat game you played in the Accademia with your kids. That's certainly one way to get them into looking at all the art! I'll have to keep that one in mind.
Statia is offline  
Jun 7th, 2004, 07:30 PM
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This is the best trip report I've ever read! Maybe because I have teenagers and I feel like I know Sarah
and Isaac now with your vivid descriptions. I can't wait to see what they thought of Venice. At the end of the trip report, I would love for you to ask them for their top 2 or 3 favorite things about the trip and see what their answers are.

I loved the story about them walking through the forum arguing- paying no attention to the sights. I had a similar experience in Williamsburg with mine. And then the nice dinner where they were talking to each other- doesn't that just give you such a sense of pride and like it was all worth it?

This trip will be something they treasure forever.
tledford is offline  
Jun 8th, 2004, 06:12 AM
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Enjoying your report, Joelle. Glad your kids were game forlots of new experiences. Isaac will have to learn the difference between prosciutto cotto and prosciutto crudo for your next trip.
ellenem is offline  
Jun 8th, 2004, 07:56 AM
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great report!! looking forward to Venice!! I took my daughter to NY when she was 13.I will always remember that.
kmoncrief is offline  
Jun 8th, 2004, 08:03 AM
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Wonderful trip report! We're hoping to take our kiddos when they are a little older too. Glad you had a great time!

jarmnm is offline  
Jun 8th, 2004, 08:48 AM
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This so sad that I'm coming to the end of trip report, it's like the end of my trip!

Tuesday 5-24, 2004 Travel Day to Venice

Sarah and I got up early to climb the dome at the cathedral at 8:30. We planned to stop at Gilli's on the way back but they were closed!

There was only a small line at the dome. I thought Pisa was bad- this one has 450 steps! Of course Sarah left me far behind. About 2/3 of the way you get to see the inside of the dome. Heaven is on the top. Right at the level you are walking around are scenes of hell. Compared to going up more stairs, hell's not looking too bad. But I carry on.

There was a point at which there was a sign pointing to the way back down and I do believe if Sarah wasn't waiting for me up ahead, I would have abandoned this death climb and gone back downstairs. What a shame that would have been because the top is not much further (although the last steps are VERY steep)

At last we are at the top--outside with a beautiful view. Time to rest, take some photos and then back down again.

There are separate steps to go down for most of the way but there are some areas where the up and down people have to make room for one another. Lucky for us we came early enough that going up we only bet a few going down. We met more up climbers on the way down.

My glimpse from the dome is the only look I got at the inside of the Cathedral. The lines were always too long. And it was not going to open until 10 and we had to go back and pack.

We were packed by 10:30 and Ann the hotel owner let us put our bags in the sitting room so we could go out again. Our train is not until 12:38 and we are only about 5 minutes from the train station.

The science museum was close by so we thought we'd check that out. Oh my goodness, I thought it was crowded before--the piazza della Signoria was just jam packed with tour groups. The line to the Uffizi was nearly out to the river. Advice to readers--don't count on our dumb luck--get reservations!

Isaac was the one that enjoyed the museum the most--we did get to see the infamous preserved finger of Galileo. Why I don?t know.

Now the one room that did interest me, full of cast models of babies in the womb being born, different positions, things that can go wrong, the kids thought was gross. Okay a preserved finger is cool but babies being born are gross. Whatever.

By 11:30 we were on our way. It was very busy at the train station and I was glad I had bought my tickets the day before. Again the binario for our train was not listed on the large boards so I looked it up on the schedule on the track. Binario #9. It was noon--time for our usual Train Station Lunch --Mac Donald's!

About 12:15 they announce the track # has changed to 11 so we lug our suitcases over there. This time we are in luck and our car is up front. Usually we have to run to the back of the train, even when we are first class.

Train ride from Florence to Venice is 3 hours. I warned the kids that when we get there it is probably going to be the most unpleasant time of our trip because you can't get a taxi right up to the door. We will be carrying our luggage around.

I have the exact instructions to our San Rocco apt. Take the #82 to S. Toma. 5 E per person and 3.50 for each piece of luggage. It was very crowded in the vaporetto. We get pushed way to the back and I could barely get us back to the front with our luggage, squeezing past other luggage to get off.

It's not really that far to the apartment but with our luggage weighed down with 2 weeks of souvenirs --it's pretty hard and I?m not good at following directions.

Eventually the rental agent came and got us. I think I would have found it eventually.

Now comes the fun part. Its FOUR flights of stairs and no lift. I knew that but somehow didn't think it would be all that bad. It was pretty bad. What was I thinking?

Anyway we made it. It?s a decent enough apartment. Not as nice as the one in Rome, but there's more room than a hotel. I fork over my 450, plus 200 E deposit in cash.

The rental lady isn't gone 20 minutes when Sarah locks herself in the bathroom and can't get out. Then she breaks the handle. I can't get her out. Isaac can't get her out.

And my #[email protected]! phone won?t work! I tried going downstairs and calling but the call still won?t go through. I go back upstairs, the kids have managed a way to pass the key from the window in the bathroom on the clothesline to the living room, but neither Isaac nor I can get the key to work.

I go back downstairs and to San Rocco square to look for a pay phone. They are all over Rome and Florence, but do you think I could find one? Finally I went into a Tabacci store and told the guy my ridicules story. Fortunately he spoke English very well and let me use his phone.

At first the lady was saying she couldn?t do anything about it. Huh? "Okay?" She asks "NO ITS NOT OKAY MY DAUGHER IS LOCKED IN THE BATHROOM"

The Tabacci guy suggests we call the fire department but I'm not sure of the address. When I got back my phone was working and the owner called and said someone would be there in an hour.

In the mean time Isaac entertains her by playing hangman; they slip the paper back and forth under the door. This is the best I've ever seen these two get along.

So the handyman comes, slips the key in the door and unlocks it, no problem. I swear upon all that is holy, both Isaac and I tried that key several time, several ways and it would not open. Do I feel stupid? Then he had to fix the lock because the handle was broken. He was very pleasant about it. He did stick the key in the drawer and say "I prefer you not use the key" Yea. Good idea.

So it's about 7 pm by the time all this is over and done with. So much for any sightseeing today. We have only 2 real days in Venice. I don't have a map and can?t quite figure out if there are any eating places listed in our books.

So we walk around and see a very nice looking trattoria just over a bridge. Isaac has prosciutto and I have shrimp with oil and lemon juice. It?s served on these leaves that come in all the salads that I find too bitter for my taste. Sarah and Isaac both have spaghetti--I warn them not to order "al nero" unless they want it blackened with cuttlefish ink.

I had spaghetti carbanara - with eggs, cheese sauce and bacon. It's all very good and with drinks the bill is only 45E. We are out of there before 9.

We stop for gelato and Isaac tries granite (kind of like an icee) and he never went back to gelato after that. 3 euro for all. We are back in the land of cheap gelato.

Joelleinitaly04 is offline  
Jun 8th, 2004, 08:53 AM
Original Poster
Join Date: May 2003
Posts: 283
"Isaac will have to learn the difference between prosciutto cotto and prosciutto crudo for your next trip."

What is the difference? I don't remember there being any difference when it was listed on the menu other than sometimes he would get prosiutto pharma, which he liked, but we were never even sure what that was.

Joelleinitaly04 is offline  
Jun 8th, 2004, 09:02 AM
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 7,113
Ok, Joelle, I thought it was hilarious when my husband and I got on the vaporetto platform and expected it to move after we exited the train station. We didn't realize at the time that we were on the "platform" and not the actual boat.

However, I have to admit that your story of Sarah being locked in the bathroom and all the ways you tried to get her out takes the cake on Venice humour.

Looking forward to reading about the rest of your time in magical Venezia.
Statia is offline  

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