Italy Vacation 2001

Old Jan 29th, 2020, 07:35 AM
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Italy Vacation 2001

I see lots of posts from first time travelers to Europe asking for advice and they want to try to cram in as much as possible. To seasoned travelers it looks like they are planning a crazy agenda. I will admit I was one of those people that thought this trip we took in 2001 was going to be our one and only trip to Europe (at the time I really believed we would never get back) so we picked Italy and set up an agenda to see as much as possible. This was back in my pre-internet days so guide books, phone calls and faxes were what I used to set up our reservations.

I never posted anything about this trip but I'm going copy in a short report I wrote for myself several years after the trip so I can easily refer to it whenever I'm on this forum. I'm sure that because it was our first European trip and things worked out pretty well, it was and still is the best vacation of our life. We were in awe of everything that we saw. As a matter of fact, we loved it so much we set up another trip to Italy the very next year. So much for our once in a lifetime trip.


Lodging web sites & info

Luxury Villa for Rent in Tuscany, Umbria, Lazio, Marche, Veneto, Piemonte and Amalfi Italy - Residential complex - Tuscan Enterprise
Panzano (Melograno apt in Il Palagio) May 5-11 (7 nights)
Venice (Hotel American) May 12-13 (2 nights)
Positano (Hotel Eden Roc) May 14-16 (3 nights)
Rome (Hotel Scalinata di Spagna) May 17-19 (3 nights)

Flights Date Airline & Flight depart arrive

Atlanta – Rome May 4-5 Delta #70 5:40 PM 9:10 AM

Venice – Naples May 14 Alitalia #1702 3:50 PM 5:00 PM

Rome – Atlanta May 20 Delta #71 10:50 AM 3:55 PM


Flew to FCO, rented a car and drove to a villa just outside the little town of Panzano - we really loved the villa, Panzano (after a couple of days we became regulars at the wine, bakery and grocery shops) and every single minute we were in this part of Tuscany. Stayed in the villa for a week and did day trips to Siena, Castellina twice (because we liked the town so much), Greve, Radda, Gaiole, San Gimignano, Lucca, Vignamaggio, Badia a Coltibuono, Castello Brolio. At the villa one afternoon, we just hung out on the terrace enjoying the view and some local wine while listening to some bells ring in the distance. Absolute perfection! Also one afternoon we took a private tour of Panzanello winery/vineyards near Panzano (set up by the concierge at our villa). My wife and I rode around the vineyards with Andea in his old pickup then had a tour and winetasting at the winery.

Spent one of the nights at a hotel in Florence (just took an overnight bag) on the day we went there because we had late dinner reservations and we did not want to try to drive back to Panzano. After parking the car at the train station in Florence (this was before ZTL zones) upon arriving early in the morning, we went to a nearby TI office and found a cheap hotel close to the station. On our day and a half in Florence we went to the Uffizi, Academia, Pitti Palace, Boboli Gardens, 4 or 5 churches, Ponte Vecchio and Plaza Michelangelo.

A friend of a friend had set up a reservation for us at a restaurant in Florence where he knew the owner. We had a really fun time with the owner (and his family) and an incredible meal - we never ordered a thing. He just kept bringing us course after course of delicious food and several bottles of prosecco, wine and grappa.


Dropped off car in Florence near the train station and took an early train to Venice. Fairly stressful trying to figure out how to buy tickets and we could find no one in the station that spoke English to ask questions but eventually figured it out and we were on our first train ride in Europe. Splurged on a water taxi and had a fun ride to nice hotel. My wife had dreamed of visiting Venice all her life and it lived up to her expectations – we had a great time. Toured St Marks, Doges Palace, saw Vivaldi Four Seasons concert in old church, gondola ride, Rialto Bridge, top of the bell tower (bells began to ring right next to our heads just as we got to the top - they were LOUD) and lots of wandering around. Vaporetto to Murano for part of an afternoon (had lunch and bought glass). Evening Battle of the bands at Piazza San Marco.

Amalfi Coast

Took water taxi to airport and flew to Naples. Rented car (got lost for a short time in Naples) – then a wild and crazy drive dodging the horn-honking buses on curves to Positano and our great hotel. A picture in our local newspaper of Positano taken from the balcony of one of the rooms at our hotel is what spurred our trip to Italy. One day we took a ferry to Amalfi, then a wild bus ride to/from Ravello where we visited Villa Rufolo and Villa Cimbrone. Lots of wandering around Positano. Also spent a lot of time enjoying the fantastic views from our hotel room terrace and pool area. Didn’t even take the car out of the hotel’s parking garage until we left. Stopped and toured Pompeii on way to Naples train station as we were leaving.


Dropped off car in Naples near the train station and took train to Rome and then taxi to an average hotel. On our first day we were pretty overwhelmed and got lost a few times. But eventually settled in to the chaos and saw Coliseum, Forum, Pantheon, St Peters, Trevi Fountain, Campo de Fiore, Piazza Navona, Spanish Steps, Castello San Angelo. Took a walking night tour with English speaking guide and saw tons of other churches.

Taxi to airport and home – somehow the ticket agent made a mistake when I asked about the frequent flyer miles upgrade we had requested and put us in Business Class for free plus gave us free access to the Premium Member Lounge. Another agent noticed the mistake a few minutes later but let us stay. The perfect end to a perfect trip.

Link to pictures:

Last edited by john183; Jan 29th, 2020 at 07:44 AM.
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Old Jan 29th, 2020, 01:53 PM
Join Date: Jan 2008
Posts: 1,318
John183, really enjoyed your journal of your wonderful experiences in Italy. We're heading there again this coming fall. We can identify with a couple of your thoughts. One, when we first began traveling, we wanted to see more places on a trip, thinking that we might return to the places we really liked. We did the same thing with our national parks. And, two, we took only notes for our own memories. Your trip sounds absolutely wonderful, and you kept a lot more helpful notes than we did. Your photos are great! Now we wish that we had taken more notes and shot more photos. Thanks for sharing all these experiences! More happy traveling!
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Old Jan 30th, 2020, 03:55 PM
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Thanks Tom. It was a whirlwind trip but we had the best time ever. We fell totally in love with Italy. I know you will have fun there this fall.
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Old Jan 30th, 2020, 05:33 PM
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Isn't it fun to remember your first trip. Mine was just the year before yours - to England and France, followed two years later to Italy and Germany. Trip # 34 is coming up in a few weeks. My first trip I was traveling with my friend and my daughter, had left my husband and two other kids at home and for the first 4 or 5 days I was pretty homesick. Then I literally fell in love with Europe and traveling has been my passion every since.

Your first trip I don't think was crazy, or even very whirlwind, at that. Much more reasonable than some itineraries we see people ask about.
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Old Jan 30th, 2020, 06:31 PM
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Wow - 34 trips! Our next one will only be #12. I know what you mean about our trip not being as crazy as what some people ask about but it was plenty wild for us. In hindsight I have no idea why we thought we could do it. We were in our late forties/early fifties and it seemed like there were a lot of moving parts to this trip for us. Drove around Tuscany (easy) in to the center of Florence twice (hard), in and out of Naples (lost once) and on the Amalfi Coast to and from Positano (totally crazy traffic) - all with no GPS - only maps. Took trains from Florence to Venice and from Naples to Rome. And we flew from Venice to Naples. Nowadays none of that would phase us at all but it was very daunting back then. We not only survived - we thrived and like you we have loved traveling ever since.

Last edited by john183; Jan 30th, 2020 at 06:33 PM.
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