Just back from Italy - some tips

Apr 23rd, 2002, 08:54 AM
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Just back from Italy - some tips

We just came back from 12 days in Italy. Here are a few tips and observations:
For Rome:
- Rome was much cleaner and safer feeling than I would have imagined. True there are some pretty 'aged' looking buildings, but that's part of Rome's charm.
- Bring the best maps you can; it's very easy to get hopelessly lost, even just walking from your hotel. The streets often don't have names on them.
- There are bus stops and buses everywhere, but trying to find out what bus goes where is very difficult.
- We loved the house red wine served at most of the trattorias in Rome.
- If you rent a car at EuroCar by the Spanish Steps, make sure you get good directions on how to drive out of the city. The directions they drew out for us were totally wrong!
- The Testachhio area seemed to be an upper middle class neighborhood with lots of interesting shops and places to eat, and no tourists.
- For a quiet respite away from all the noise, stroll up Aventine Hill to the Knights of Malta 'keyhole view' building. Beautiful neighborhood.

Italy in general
-Italians were friendly and helpful for the most part, but not too many speak English (why should they?)
- Don't worry about what to wear - anything goes. I saw sneakers, jeans, parkas, etc on locals and tourists.
- If you are a breakfast lover (like me), be aware that thet typical Italian breakfast is a small cup of coffee and a roll. No bacon and eggs anywhere!
- Try to see Umbria, and northern and southern Tuscany, they all have a different look.
- The Chianti region is beautiful beyond belief. However, finding an inexpensive trattoria can be a challenge, as this area caters to the English and American wine buff trade.
- We went to many hill towns and enjoyed all of them. Our personel favorites were Montipulciano and Cortona.
- The Cinque Terra area was probably our favorite because of the breathtaking scenery, and the hiking. Levanto is a very nice 'mini' Riviera beach town just a 4 minute train ride from Cinque Terra. It was interesting to see the German and Brit 'serious hikers' with all their gear, walking along side the local Italian families in their Sunday church clothes out for a stroll on the trails.
- The Italian countyside is packed with small farmhose b&b's, especially Tuscany.
Apr 23rd, 2002, 09:05 AM
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Question: how much ground were you able to cover in 12 days? Where did you go? I will probably have the same amount of time and I'm wondering how to utilize it best for my first trip to Italy. Thanks.
Apr 23rd, 2002, 09:21 AM
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We stayed in Rome for 3 nights at the San Pantaleo, then 2 nights at a farm b&b in Umbria, then a night in Montipulciano, a night in Sienna, two nights at a farm b&b in Tuscany, and two nights in Levanto. We flew into Rome and out of Genoa (a nice, low key airport) It worked out quite well, we did about 1100 km of driving and saw some incredible scenery.
Apr 23rd, 2002, 09:27 AM
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Dear Zootsi,

Love your name. We are going to the Italian Riviera (Sestri Levante) and would love any tips you may have on the CT - hiking, restaurants, beaches, etc.

Glad you loved it.


Apr 23rd, 2002, 11:26 AM
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Since we spent all of our time either hiking CT or in Levanto, we didn't get a chance to explore Sestri Levante or the other beach towns. As for the hiking, starting from Riomaggiori the trail is very easy, more of a sidewalk stroll to Manarola (the scenery is great however). As you proceed westward, the trails get progressively more difficult. The trail from Cornigula to Vernazza, and Vernazza to Monterossa (sp?) are both a good workout, with lots of steps going up and down. allow at least 5 1/2 hours for the whole trek, more if you linger for wine and gelato! The real serious hike is from Levanto to Monterossa which is a good 3 hours of untouristed up and down hiking. Realize that the CT trails are now a national park, and there is an admission fee (a few dollars). As for places to eat, we found two trattorias in Levanto that were perhaps the best places we ate in all of Italy - all locals, no hype, great food. I can't remember their names, unfortunately. One was on a corner, a block from the railroad overpass. It was a little too cool to swim, but Levanto and Monterossa both had fairly nice, sandy beaches. We saw some local kids diving off the rocks in one of the other towns.
Apr 23rd, 2002, 11:44 AM
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Nice report Zootsi--good practical stuff
Apr 23rd, 2002, 11:48 AM
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Another Rome tip if you plan to go on the orange city buses. You board from the back of the buses and exit at the middle or front. Also beware of pickpockets as many buses can be packed. Thank you for the report zootsi sounds like a great trip. Glad you had a safe one as well.
Apr 23rd, 2002, 11:53 AM
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I am going on a cruise end of september out of Genoa. I will stay two nights in Genoa. Do you recommend any hotels.
Apr 23rd, 2002, 12:06 PM
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Good report by Zootsi, but I'd like to add what I think is a clarification -- a quibble, really -- regarding breakfasts.

Most of the better Italian hotels in the larger cities serve what amounts to almost a full-blown American-style breakfast: coffee, juice, cereal, fruit and sometimes eggs. I'm guessing Zootsi was talking about smaller hotels or those in the countryside. If you want to know for sure, ask when you book your hotel.
Apr 23rd, 2002, 01:33 PM
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Zootsi: I am staying at the San Pantaleo in Sept. What can you tell me about it. I take it the breakfast is the typical coffee and roll. What are the owners like? Friendly, helpful? Good location? Noisy at night? Thanks.
Apr 24th, 2002, 05:01 AM
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We were pleased with the San Pantaleo, which is on the 3rd floor of an apartment building. The room was spacious and clean. However we had the one room that overlooked a busy street. Since it was cool, we could close the windows to block out the street noise, but if it were hot, you may have a problem. There were other rooms that overlooked a courtyard, some with balconies. The location was fabulous - 1/2 block from both Piazza Navona and Campo De Fiore. The young man who worked there was friendly, but not very good with English, and was not able to be very helpful giving advice or directions. The breakfast was pretty minimal - a cello wrapped bun, two tiny cups of coffee, and two tiny cups of Tang. Just fyi, both the San Pantaleo and the Primavera were in the same building, but on different floors. For under $100 a night it's a great deal for the location.
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