Just back from 26 days in Italy

Oct 6th, 2000, 12:21 PM
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Just back from 26 days in Italy

My wife and I returned a few days ago from our first trip to Italy. Visited Bellagio, Verona, Venice, Florence, Siena, Tuscany & Umbria regions, Sorrento, Capri, Gimgliano (Calabria), and Rome. All the planning I did, mostly on this forum, was well worth the time and was actually half the fun. The weather was perfect the entire trip, not one drop of rain.
Over the next few weeks I will put together reports on each area we visited, but for now here are a few reflections, probably most you have heard from others but are worth repeating.
1- We loved Italia & will reeturn.
2- In general the people were very friendly and helpful.
3- Pack Light- We did. We each had one Eagle Creek carry on bag with zip-off day pack. We still had too much.
4- Bring a nylon duffle bag for all the stuff you buy.
5- Buy a pair of good walking shoes. I did. a pair of Rockport Pro Walkers. Did not even need to break them in. I wore them the entire trip.
6- Bring a journal and write in it every day.
7- Book your hotels & restaurants based on reccomendations from this forum. We did and were very happy. Only one hotel did not work out and that was the one that was not directly reccomended on this forum. It's Hotel Torre Guelfa in Florence. DO NOT STAY THERE. I will explain why when I report on Florence.
8- If you have frequent flyer miles use them to upgrade your flight. We did, on Delta and were very pleased. The seats and service were great.
9- Travel by train in Italy. The trains were great and on time. Trains were crowded so get seat reservations, and I think 1st class is worth the extra money.
10- Eat gelati as often as possible. It is unbelievable.
11- Drink the wine as often as possible. Most house wines are excellent & cheap.
12- Drink the beer too. Some are very good. My favorite was Morretti Baffo d'Oro.
13- Don't plan on too many shopping bargains. Even with the excellent exchange rate we found most things to be expensive, especially leather, clothing and shoes. There were some good deals around though.
14- Italy is crowded in September.

If anyone has questions I will do my best to respond as quickly as possible, but I will try to provide detailed reports on all the areas we visited over the next few weeks.

Oct 6th, 2000, 12:43 PM
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Thanks for this preliminary report. Looking forward to hearing more details. Wholeheartedly agree with everything you said, expecially #3 regarding packing light!
Oct 6th, 2000, 12:54 PM
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YOU BUMS. How do you get 28 days of vacation. I'm very envious. Sounds like you had a great time. Its been many years since I was in Italy and am looking forward to going back soon.
Looking forward to your trip report.
Oct 6th, 2000, 01:03 PM
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Ditto what Al said! Looking forward to details, details. The first hint was enticing. Welcome home!
Oct 11th, 2000, 08:31 PM
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WOW! This sounds like the trip I am planning for July 2001. We will be in Italy for three weeks +. I am taking my kids ages 16 and 12. We are planning on clebrating my son's 16th in Venice. I will look forward to hotel recommendations. Did you rent a car in Tuscany? I was planning on doing that just in that area. How long did you spend in each location. Did you book all the hotels early? How long did you stay on Capri?
Oct 12th, 2000, 08:25 AM
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I too am looking forward to your info. How will it be posted on this site, ie, how will I recognize your next postings? Anyway, I am most interested in where to stay in Rome in March. I am thinking of visiting Rome with my 21-year old son and my sister in March, 2001. I think we will only have time to see Rome as this trip will take place during his spring break. Really want hotel recommendations (especially around the Piazza Navonne (sp?) area. Thanks a lot!!
Oct 12th, 2000, 08:26 AM
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Regarding your statement about making train reservations, do you mean once we get to Italy or should we try and get them here in the States before we go. My husband and I are leaving Saturday for two weeks, Venice, Florence, Sorrento and Positano. Can't wait, we're very excited and little nervous
but I'm sure everything will be great!

Thanks for any hints you can give.

Oct 12th, 2000, 01:38 PM
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Lots of us planners for next year anticipate your reports with baited breath! We're going for our 25th anniversary mid-May and are probably going to spend two weeks, mostly around Florence and Venice (with plenty of time in the smaller cities and towns in the surrounding areas). We're trying to add an extra 3-4 days to see a bit of Rome, as that's likely to be our arrival and departure spot.
Oct 12th, 2000, 04:33 PM
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We have a trip planned in June 2001 and made hotel arrangements to stay at the Hotel Torre Guelfa. Most people thought it was nice. Can you tell me why you do not recommend it?
Oct 12th, 2000, 06:34 PM
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Hi Vern:
Glad you had a great time. We are planning on part of our European trip next July to be spent in Italian Lakes so will look forward to everything you can tell us about Bellagio. We were going to finish in Verona and Venice (Venice we have done already) so will get some updated stuff on these places too.
Will check in with this post to see your updates.
(a journal is a great idea, we like to write down everything we ate, drank, hotels and general comments on places it helps to revive and keep alive memories)
Oct 13th, 2000, 07:20 AM
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Replies to questions:

To Carolyn & others: I will post my reports as- Vern's Trip to Italy: Part 1 etc. I would highly recommend Hotel Due Torri in Rome, only a two minute walk from Piazza Navona and within walking distance of all of Rome's main attractions. Try to get a room on the 5th floor with a terrace.

To Gail: Yes, we rented a car in Tuscany, thru AutoEurope, and it was definitely the way to go. I booked all my hotels 10 to 12 months in advance so do it now. We only did a day trip to Capri, next time we will spend a couple of nights. Capri is wonderful.

To Sandy: You can easily make your train reservations once in Italy. Either do it at the train station for the next leg of your trip or go to a travel agency (there are several in each city) or go to an American Express office.

To Beth: Regarding Hotel Torre Guelfa in Florence. I Made reservations 1 year in advance for room #15, which has a private terrace and supposed great views. My reservation was confirmed twice by fax, as recently as two weeks before our trip. Upon arrival we were told that the room was not available, they had given it to someone else. My guess is that someone offered them some money. I was very upset and argued with the owner for some time to no avail. We were given a different room which was very big but very boring in it's decoration. The room was very noisy, backing up to an alley where they made deliveries every morning at 5:30. The shower was a joke, could never maintain water temperatrure or water pressure. There was an aluminum ladder in the hallway outside our room, fire extinguisher laying on the floor, well you get the picture. The one owner was very rude, telling me that "at least I didn't put you out in the street". We would have switched hotels but the city was totally booked up. I would recommend you do a search on this forum for Florence Hotels and make new reservations. Next time in Florence we will stay at Hotel Loggiato dei Serviti. We looked at the hotel and at one of their rooms. It is beautiful.

To Lynn: The first areas I will report on will be Bellagio, Verona and Venice. Please stay tuned.
Oct 13th, 2000, 06:17 PM
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Hi Vern, I agree with you! Glad you had such a good time
We are leaving shortly an would like to
know more about your experience in Calabria,....we are driving to Sicily from Florence.
Which hotel there? any other tip.?
Thanks a lot. Graziella.
Oct 18th, 2000, 11:54 AM
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Sorry Torre Guelfa didn't work out, but we just spent 8 nights there from 9/11 to 9/19 and had a great experience. Not sure where your Florence post is, so don't know what went wrong for you. My only negative was the morning "grump", but we just ignored him and had perfect service from all others.
Oct 18th, 2000, 01:42 PM
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Sound like a lot of fun. Please see my posting on guided tour - it will be my first time to Italy and want to make the most of it.

I know its virtually impossible, but would you know how I can get an audience with the Pope, other than giving the vatican millions of dollars and waiting with the rest of the world on his audience days?
Oct 19th, 2000, 01:41 PM
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Sounds so wonderful. Do you have a hotel to recommend in Siena? in Venice?
Thanks, Judy.
Oct 19th, 2000, 02:29 PM
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Your first hint-item, Vern, is all that matters (specally the 2nd part! Like kk, I'm also looking forward (and put some more details to it ... isn't it about time you post your 2nd installment? Welcome back!
Oct 19th, 2000, 08:12 PM
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To Judy-
In Venice I would recommend La Calcina, Zattere 80 phone- 041-5206466. It is located in Dordoduro right on the Giudecca Canal. It is in a quiet area about a 15 minute walk from San Marco. They have a few rooms with large windows overlooking the canal and they have a large floating dock in front of the hotel which is great for breakfast or afternoon sun & drinks.
In Siena we stayed at Cannon d'Oro which is located right in the center of thr hitorical city. The location is perfect and only a minute walk from the Piazza Il Campo. The rooms are basic but our room was large with a window view of the countryside and the rate was very reasonable, only 128,000 lire per night if you mention Ric Steves guide book. The only down side is if you have a car. The nearest parking is a 10 to 15 minute walk. Hope this info. helps.
Oct 19th, 2000, 10:08 PM
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Thanks, Vern. La Calcina has just offered us the last room they have available, but it's probably not the one with the big windows. And we will have a car in Siena, so we'll probably try the Athena. Paulo and you and the other Fodorites are all so generous. I just read your Bellagio tome -- wonderful!
Oct 21st, 2000, 01:31 PM
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Trust Vern on the Torre Guelfa in Florence. We took our parents and a family firend in March and were guaranteed #15 as well as two double rooms and a single. Upon arrival, 15 was not available and the other double rooms were actually 2 single and 1 triple rooms. Too bad for us was the response...that was all that was available. One room was facing the street and even the double pane + wooden shutters could not block the noise. We stuck it out but would not recommend or reserve there again. From our other visits, try the Monna Lisa, Hotel Lungarno and Hotel Grand ( yes it is pricey but worth the splurge).

Looking forward to the rest of the story...going back in December.
Oct 21st, 2000, 03:10 PM
Donna T
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Hi Vern, thanks for all your messages...
but i can't wait for your full report.
we are departing on Nov/21 for a short (7days)stay in italy. Will fly into firenze stay 2 nights (already have resv) we want to rent a car and drive to 1st. s.gimignano, siena, lake trasimento? need help on this, are you familiar? and tour the coast from ancona
up to rimini and then back to firenze.
do you think this is too much! any feedback would be greatly appreciated.
what's your thoughts on hotel ratings?
we usually stay at 4-5 * but have seen some 3* that looks fine.
on our itinerary we could go from firenze west to viareggio, livorno, s. gimignano, siena and then back to firenze. did you visit either area, if so what do you think? info from anyone would be great.


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