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debbie Nov 6th, 1997 07:11 PM

just back from fantastic 2 weeks in Italy
just returned from a wonderful trip to Italy. Two weeks + in Varenna, Venice, Rome, Florence and Milan. Everywhere was great and not enough time. My mom (73) and I travelled by train and took subways in Rome and Milan. Don't miss the Duomo in Milan - the rooftop view is superb. We climbed the 300+ steps to the top of St Peters and took a one day excursion out of Milan to Cremona - home of Stradivarius and an excellent museum of the great violin makers (in the city hall, also former Palazzo). Venice still has my heart but Rome takes second. Except for a bizarre incident on the Rome subway one Friday evening when about 1,000 young men tried to push their way onto the train as we were attempting to get out we only encountered friendliness and courtesy. The two months studying italian tapes in my car before the trip was really worthwhile! One last note - bathrooms were prevalent and acceptable. Getting used to the low (not designed for sitting) toilets in the ladies restrooms took a couple of days. Practice 60 second squats and you should be fine. Restaurants were expensive for the most part and so we alternated between self service places, pizza places and nicer restaurants. I can't wait to go back.

Tom Nov 6th, 1997 08:32 PM

So glad you enjoyed your trip. Thanks for sharing the highlights!

Tina Miliano Nov 11th, 1997 10:15 AM

Italy is by far the best place to visit! I went in the spring of 1996 on a tour, and I'm going again next April. I highly recommend visiting southern Italy, like Sorrento and Capri. The water surrounding the island is the bluest I have ever seen.

One day we went to use the use the restroom and the toilet was just a hole in the ground!!

julia Nov 13th, 1997 09:38 AM

thanks for sharing the highlights of your trip...i'm going to europe for 2 weeks in and munich are definites, but we're debating on whether or not rome is worth traveling all that distance. would we be satisfied with venice and florence??

Mike Miller Nov 14th, 1997 03:35 AM

Has anyone had any experience driving in Italy? I have done so in the UK numerous times but have heard horror stories about driving Italian roads. Is is better for 2 to rent a car or rely on public transport for a 20 day trip?

Jay Nov 14th, 1997 03:44 AM

Thanks. Given only 4-5 days in Norther Italy, how would you divide up your time? In particular, how much time should be spent in Venice? Thanks.
PS: Outstanding MOM!

jim Nov 14th, 1997 12:35 PM

Jay - If I had only 4-5 days, I'd shoot the works in Venice, starting with that magical boat ride from the airport to the city, preferably on a cool, grey day with hazy sunlight. Travel light and avoid the expensive porters. Get a neat small hotel, not a student cheapie. Wonder around, get lost and stop for a wonderful lunch. Drink a lot of wine. Take the coffee break each morning. Shop. Hit the wine bars, snack, try the best places for dinner, and ride the boats as late at night as possible. In fact use the boats at every possible opportunity. they are your buses and subways. And don't look back or second guess yourself - because you will have seen the absolute best of Northern Italy. Regards to Joan.

Joy Johnson Nov 14th, 1997 12:58 PM

In response to the question about driving in Italy-

We just got back from 10 days in Southern France and Italy. Driving in France (outside of Paris) is fine. I have done it many times without incidence. Italy is another subject entirely. JUST SAY NO - take the train. There is no system on the Autostada for paying tolls - sometimes they only take cash, sometimes only plastic. Florence was terrifying - thousands of mopeds- driven by people without helmets ranging from 15 to 90 years old -cutting in front of cars, trucks everything. It took us an hour and a half to get to a hotel maybe 2 km away. It was our only major disagreement of the trip and it was a doozy. Finally a 70 year old man got in the back seat of our car and directed us out of the maze.
Apparently they sell tranquilizers over the counter in
Italy . If you plan to drive, buy some.
Other than that, Italy is absolutely great. We really enjoyed it.

jim Nov 14th, 1997 01:13 PM

Julia - Happened to read your question as I was leaving. Two weeks in January: Paris - yes, absolutement. Munich - well, okay, but only if you insist. And of course, you must see the Big 3 - Rome (stay in the old part), Venice (see the previous message)and Florence. And, no, two will not substitute for the third. Bite the bullet - see all three and be happy and glad at your good fortune. And furthermore, Italy is such a fun place to travel.

Jane Nov 22nd, 1997 02:08 PM

Julia - wanted to respond to your question on whether Venice and Florence would suffice for the Italian leg of your trip. The answer is YESYESYESYES!!! These two jewelbox cities are small enough to navigate and make your own in just a few days, and a 5 minute walk in any direction will bring you something magical and breathtaking. There's no question that Rome has many incredible sights to see, but it has all the problems of a big city - don't sacrifice time in Venice or Florence for the sake of Rome. Enjoy your fabulous trip!

r bakhaus Nov 29th, 1997 08:47 AM

The only time I'be been in Venice in Nov. it was still wonderful...understand floods can be a problem even that early. I think May is best...but that is idealistic. VENICE...YES! YES! YES!!!!!!!!

Phil Nov 30th, 1997 10:56 AM

Mike: I've driven in Italy and France, but I can't agree with Joy. I found no difference in either country.Driving was no more difficult than anywhere else (have you ever driven in New York or Los Angeles?). You just have to remember the cars are underpowered, so be careful pulling into heavy traffic. When going into the bigger cities, get a good street map, go directly to your hotel, park the car and forget you've got it until you are ready to leave. I wouldn't travel without a car, it has allowed me to go places and experience things that would have been, if not impossible, certainly very time consuming by public transportation.

Rose Hammes Nov 30th, 1997 07:20 PM

Mike: regarding driving -- I have seen my life pass before my eyes more than once in Rome's taxi cabs. No way will I ever attempt to drive! One particular experience: if I had leaned just a bit out the open window, I would have lost my ear on parked cars. And, when we hit the bridge over the Tiber near Castel San Angelo, I swear we were airborne!

Margaret Spatola Dec 14th, 1997 03:28 PM

We spent 3-1/2 weeks driving in Italy and Sicily. I thought I was going to die every time we were in the car. The further south you go the worse it is. The autostrada was easy compared to the small cities. The traffic in Florence was indeed terrifying. We did manage but it made the trip very stressful. All things considered though, if you want to see the country you need to drive. Do not drive in the large cities once you reach your destination. Italy by far is the worst place I have ever driven. I had always thought the LA freeway was scary. Nothing compared to Italy. My husband had a taxi ride in Rome that he is still having nightmares about. If you have limited time, try to spend it in one area. Don't try to see too much, you will see very little.

Carol Leventhal Dec 14th, 1997 06:15 PM

Well, this is all about peoples' opinions, and of course I have one. Driving in Italy is quite manageable, if you plan ahead and decide to live rather than to die. To drive in a major city is just asking for it; plan the trip so you take public transportation into & out of the cities, or, worst case scenario, go in during the lunch break - 12:30 to 3:30. No one at a toll booth has ever refused cash. Speeds are outrageous, but that isn't necessarily an Italian thing. Go to Germany for speed. Go to Greece for truly outstanding scares of a lifetime! I've been traveling to Italy the past twenty years, have taken all modes of transport, and vouch for the comfort and ease of a rental car. Buon viaggio!

jo cohan Dec 29th, 1997 11:48 PM

Leased a car for 6 weeks. 4 weeks in Italy and 2 weeks in France. Driving in or near the big cities, as it is in the United States, is frustrating, especially because of the limited parking. The rural roads in both France and Italy were very pleasant and a wonderful way to meet the people. I thought their equivalent of our freeways were easier to drive than in the states. The speed is fast, but there are fewer on and off ramps and No One drives in the left lane unless it to pass. The week we stayed on the Amalfi coast, we did park our car and took public transportation.

bill geisreiter Dec 30th, 1997 01:08 AM

Sounds great ! Thanks for the post.

Joe Lomax Dec 30th, 1997 12:03 PM

I might humbly suggest you look at my article "Have You Considered Driving in Italy" at:
You will find other good hints about Italy on the InItaly pages.
In Italy there are different 'rules' (or more accurately, expectations) when you drive. Unfortunately, poor s.o.b.'s like us hit the road without knowing what to expect. In general, if someone is sticking with the Rome/Venice/Florence route (which is wonderful), avoid a car, and take a train. An overnight coucette from Venice to Rome is comforable and saves a night at a hotel. If people want to get out into the countryside (also wonderful, but in a different way), I would suggest a car. The break-even point on price for a car is about 2 people in a subcompact for 4-5 days. More people and more days make it cheaper. P.S. I agree with avoiding Roman taxis; it is almost reason enough to rent a car, but I still use the bus, tram and subway in Rome.

Tracy Jan 17th, 1998 03:57 PM

Did anyone who has been to Venice happen to stay anyplace wonderful?? We are going in May and we tried to book at Accademia but it is full. Help!

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