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Just back from Florence, Rome, Orvieto..any questions?

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Apr 29th, 2000, 05:11 PM
  #1
Denise
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Just back from Florence, Rome, Orvieto..any questions?

Just returned last night from Italy. We had a wonderful time. First of all, things were not as crowded as everyone projected. We were in Florence last year for Easter and there were more crowds then. No lines at the Accademia and minimal ones for the Uffizi. We took Alitalia and I have to say that it had the worst food ever. They also ran out of toilet paper! However, the ride was fine and that is all that really counts. I did take Kava Kava as someone on this site posted, and I didn't have any jetlag. We didn't have Eurostar reservations, but that didn't pose any problems. We arrived at the Termini in Rome at 9AM and took the 10;30 train to Florence.We stayed at the Hotel Splendor and had a nice, large room with a beautiful view -room number 30(we brought our 13 year old son). You could hear the bells from San Marco church every afternoon. The bathroom was small, but adequate-no shower curtain. You could brush your teeth, take a shower and use the toilet at the same time! There was a drain on the floor and you had to remove the toilet paper, so it wouldn't get wet. The breakfast was great and the staff was so nice and helpful. My daughter met us there the day we were leaving and they offered her breakfast free of charge. The only other drawback was the mosquitos, which I didn't think would be a problem this time of year. My son got badly bitten up. Even my daughter's hotel (with screens) had mosquitos. The weather was incredible the entire 10 days-high 70's- 80 degrees and sunny. We hate great meals at Sostanza, Il'Toscana, and Za Za. We had our first bad meal ever in Italy at Bella Donne. This was a surprise since it was recommended by both "Eating in Italy" and "Bon Apetite". We arrived early for a 8PM reservation and they asked us to leave by 8:30. The appetizer was good, but the rest of the meal was salty at best.
On to Orvieto and the best part of the trip. We stayed at a fabulous hotel-the Palazzo Piccolomini. It wasn't nearby the Duomo, but just a short walk away. The hotel was recently renovated and had so many nooks and crannies to explore. The walls were made out of the tufa and the breakfast room was down in the underground caverns. The room was so lovely,nothing fancy, but charming. The bathrooms were great which made my husband very happy. They even supplied you with slippers, toothbrushes, etc. Cristina, who manages it was so helpful that we bought her a bouquet of flowers for Easter. We had a great meal just wandering thru the city at a out of the way trattoria called "Antica Cantina". My son's eyes popped out of his head upon tasting the gnocchi! It was a wonderful find on the way to St. Patricks well. We also had a memorable meal at the Etruscan. Not so much for the food, which was great, but for the waiters. They were so entertaining and really loved to please you. They hugged and kissed us when we left. We had a great time there. Orvieto is beautiful, with it's views, pottery stores, underground caverns that we hated to leave and would have liked to stay an extra day. We stayed 2 nights and even my 13 year old son didn't get bored. They also have great gelato right by the Duomo.
From Orvieto we went to Rome for 4 nights and stayed at the Hotel Smeraldo, which was recommended on this site. The hotel was a 2 star. It was comfortable and clean. My husband would have changed hotels if possible. He felt claustrophic in the enclosed shower. I thought the bathrooms were nicely remodeled, but was a bit annoyed when I found out 2 days later that half the hotel was remodeled and we didn't get one of the newer rooms (I booked so far in advance). The newer rooms were so much nicer-new marble floors, bathrooms, freshly painted with new linens and curtains. A big difference from our room, which was also very noisy. I would still recommend it,but would ask for a remodeled room. I have never been to Rome before, so I don't know if any other hotel in this category would have been better. The managers also weren't very friendly and barely broke a smile. I asked them to make a reservations for me, and he apparently wasn't too pleased because he made a face. I did feel a bit intimidated by his attitude. The location of the hotel was great, in the Campo di Fiori. They have a great vegetable and flower market every morning. We didn't have breakfast, so we would get some fresh bread and strawberries. There was a great bread store to the left of the hotel. We brought some sandwiches on the plane with us-a crusty, lightly olive oil brushed panini filled with fresh ricotta cheese and arugula. I can still taste it! Some of the best restaurants were those we just wandered into. We did eat those great fried artichokes and squash blossoms at Giggotto in the Jewish Ghetto. Their canneloni was wonderful also. My son found the best place for thin,slightly charred pizza at a place called "Cavecanem" in Travestere, which was about 15 minutes by foot away. The one thing that bothered me is that many restaurants charged 3,000 lire per person for bread. We didn't feel intimidated to order an appetizer and pasta without ordering a second course. Most of the Romans ordered just that also.
We walked everywhere in Rome. There were no lines at the Vatican Museum and a short wait to climb the Cupola. We even saw the Pope on Wednesday morning. I woke up my family at 6AM on Wednesday to get to the Vatican museum by 8 Am, as this site recommended. We waited with about 50 other peo0ple to get in at 8:45. On the way out, my husband noticed that there wasn't anyone on line waiting to get it. You could have just walked right in. Needless to say, they didn't let me live that one down. However, the reason for the no lines was that the Pope was giving an appearance and everyone was there. Both in Florence and Rome the motorbikes drove you crazy after while. You could feel the difference in the air when you left the cities.
Well we had a wonderful time and survived the trip with our 13 year old son, who really got so much out of the trip. He learned a lot about history, art and architecture, and he ate his way thru Italy . And best of all-he didn't complain once. We tried every gelato place this site recommended and definitely would rate San Crispino in Rome as having the best. We don't need 31 flavors. My son and I would vote for Giglotto's and Vivoli's as second best, followed by Old Bridge Gelato by the Vatican Museum and the place in Orvieto near the Duomo. I prefered the fresh fruit flavors-especially lemon and grapefruit.
Any questions just ask. Don't let the Jubilee year make you fearful about the crowds.

Denise
 
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Apr 29th, 2000, 05:25 PM
  #2
Cathy
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Denise,
Thanks for taking the time to tell us about your trip. Your comment on the unhelpfulness of the staff in thehotel in Rome reminds me of want one resident in the city said about service in his city - "They, staff in hotels etc, don't have to bother as everyone wants to come to Rome and will come again despite the service and quality"

I have no questions for you only one for my boss - can have week off to go to Rome and Italy PLEASE. Good reports bring bring excellent memories and a desire to travel again

Cathy
 
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Apr 29th, 2000, 06:31 PM
  #3
Vivian
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Denise;
Did you take any tours or did you see Rome by yourself. I do have a tour guide for our first do to show us the ruins, don't know if I need anything else. The Vatican still makes me nervous!
 
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Apr 30th, 2000, 02:42 AM
  #4
Denise
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Der Vivian,

Don't be nervous. I was and always am when I visit a new place. We are in our 40's and this is our 3rd trip to Europe in the past 3 years. We were thinking of taking an 'Enjoy Rome Tour, but then found our way around very easily. We probably missed out on some of the details, but for us, with our 13 year old, a 3 hour tour might have been too much history for him. The biggest problem with getting around is that when you travel one block, the street name can change. Just use your map. I am pretty good with directions and have my map handy. It takes a day to get oriented, but after that it is pretty easy. Where are you staying? By the way I brought along
baby wipes and bandaids, and was glad I did. You do so much walking that a comfortable shoe is a must. We also packed fairly light (backpacks and roll along overhead size). We did do one wash after 3 days into the trip. It was convenient and easy. Someone posted a car service that transports you to the airport. We used it and highly recommend it. The cost was Lire 60,000 for three of us-well worth it and they were so reliable. Check this site for it.
Denise
 
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Apr 30th, 2000, 05:09 AM
  #5
Tony
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Denise,
Thanks for the wonderful commentary on your trip, I found it very informative. We will be traveling to Italy for the first time in late May. We will be going between Rome, Florence, and Venice taking Eurostar Italy trains. We have first class tickets. Any additional detailed comments on the ride would be great. Did you feel your baggage was safe? Where is it stored? Do the trains have separate compartments or open seating?
Are meals served? Is it easy to find your train once in the station?

Thanks in advance for your comments.
tony
 
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Apr 30th, 2000, 06:58 AM
  #6
Denise
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Dear Tony,

It is easy to see the Eurostar train platform. It will be marked on any of the boards with the symbol "ES", and of course it is easy to recognize by it's streamline design. It is unlike any other train. When we arrived in Rome, the 9:30 train was full already (Easter week), but no problem, we reserved 3 seats on the 10:30 train. All seats are reserved once you purchase. We traveled second class, which was very comfortable. The seats were open with 4 seats facing eachother on both sides. Luggage can be stored above the seats or behind the seats, or a luggage rack in the front of each car. I never feel comfortable too far away from my luggage. Err on the side of caution. I am sure first class would even be more secure. At no time did we feel more apprehensive about being approached by gypsies, etc than I would be in NYC, where we live. Rome had a heavy police patrol, which may be for the Jubilee. If you arrive in Rome off the Termini, you will be beseiged with taxi drivers, hotel reps, etc. Don't take the first taxi, but check out prices. Let them bid for your business. The first guy told us Lire 50,000, and the second Lire 30,000 to the hotel. As I said, we took a service all the way to the airport upon leaving for L 60,000. The exchange rate is great(over 2,000 lire/$) . Had no problem with the bank cards, except in Rome. Even Orvieto took the cards. In Rome, we used travelers checques at a place that didn't charge a commission fee(look for no commission). Have a great time.

Denise
 
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Apr 30th, 2000, 08:38 AM
  #7
tony
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Denise,
Thank you very much for your comments.
regards tony
 
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Apr 30th, 2000, 12:15 PM
  #8
Vivian
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Denise;
Thank you for the information. We are also in our 40's and plan to do alot of walking. We are staying in Hotel Pensione (or something like that) and they offered to send a van for 8 (that is how large our party is) to pick us up. I think he quoted me at 100,000, but I will need to recheck it out. I feel like I'm pestring the hotel so often, but they always reply. We will be there May 30-June 1 and I can't wait!Thanks again for the info!
 
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