Maybe This Will Help!

Feb 25th, 2007, 07:37 PM
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Maybe This Will Help!

I just arrived from my first trip to Rome and Florence. Prior to leaving, I had scoured the internet and compiled pages of notes that I'd copied and pasted from TripAdvisor, Fodors, Frommers, MSNBC and any other sites I could find. My notes are choppy (and mostly not mine) but they are based on others' reviews and experiences that I found to be relevant - friends, family and online posters. The notes are divided into four sections under each city for hotels, transportation, dining and tours. Sadly I didn't get to do all of them due to weather conditions and time restraints, but I thought that they might be helpful for other first-timers.

We didn't get on the Accidental Tourist tour due to rain, but I had very much planned to go. You can see which hotels I stayed at but I had listed many others that had been recommended in my same price range just in case we had a problem upon arrival and had to go elsewhere. Always good to have a Plan B!

If you haven't read my trip reports, they are up and finished (finally) My reviews are in the reports, the ones you'll find below are not from me.

I can't thank everyone who has responded to my many questions on these boards. You all collectively have made me feel more secure on my first trip to Europe, took the guesswork out of many things and gave me ideas which I never would have found in any guidebooks. Grazie!!

Transportation – Rome

Rome Cabs: Stefano Costantini, [email protected]; http://www.romecabs.com/
Driver will meet you at the gate after customs(not in the baggage claim hall) holding a sign with your name. +39 339-3525028.

Take the green hop-on, hop-off archeobus to the catacombs of St. Sebastian outside of Rome....not on the usual hit list but these are 7 miles of catacombs...the word catacomb was actually created as the name for this ONE, and they are where the apostles Peter & Paul’s bodies were hidden from the Romans. The tour of these was awe inspiring and we got lucky in going and could have easily missed it. Also, grab dinner at a sidewalk restaurant in the piazza near the Pantheon....INCREDIBLE at night!

Hotels – Rome

Eurostars International Palace $ 150 (about a mile far from the main sights)
Check in February 3 – Out February 6
Night 1 - $150.04
Night 2 - $114.51
Night 3 - $114.51
Total - $430.78
Check in: 2:00 p.m.; check out is 12:00 p.m.
To cancel prior to 1/31 is a $28 penalty.
Hotels.com # - 1-800-346-8357; 1-800-597-2914; 0080010661066 overseas

Eurostars Tip: Don’t pay $11 euro per person for their breakfast (not included)- there are tons of shops right outside, and even a McDonalds for great food, cappuccino for less than $5 euro.

Tips: Get the bus from the airport to underground train then to central Rome - sounds complicated but it’s not - much cheaper. Go elsewhere for breakfast – it’s ordinary and overpriced. Ask Hotels.com to reach out to them and request a quiet room. Taxi can run 40 Euros from the airport.
[email protected]
390648939960
06-48939960

Other Hotels:
Hotel Lirico: www.hotelirico.com
Hotel Champagne Garden: http://www.hotelchampagne.it/index.html
Hotel Embassy: http://www.hotel-embassy.com/
Hotel Alexandra: http://www.hotelalexandraroma.com/en/default.htm
Hotel Trevi: http://www.gruppotrevi.it/Htrevi/mainmenu.html

Mike: Hotel San Carlo, Spanish Steps
http://www.albergodelsenato.it/ Breakfast is included.
www.smeraldoroma.com.
www.hotelrinascimento.com.
http://i-escape.com/home.php
http://www.charmerelax.com/
http://en.escapio.com/hotels-boutiqu...s/1,0,380.html
http://www.hotique.com/destination/Italy.html
http://www.boutiqueitalyhotel.com/

Tours – Rome

http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/16158401/ - MSNBC’s Rome In A Day Report
http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/16172508/ - Frommer’s Top Rome Experiences

The Borghese gallery - you MUST visit. Our favorite museum in Italy. And get the English tour guide. Ours was excellent, and added so much to the experience. But they limit the number admitted, so you really want to book in advance.

The 110 bus takes you on a tour of the city to get our bearings straight. It is highly recommended on Fodors and Trip advisor.

Ask about after-hours tour of the Vatican..will be less crowded.

http://www.anno-domini.us/index.htm
www.astheromansdo.com
www.romaround.it
[email protected]. – Rick Steves associated

Chiara’s Suggestions:
• Colosseo (don't a guide there)
• Fori Imperiali
• Altare della Patria
• Pantheon
• Fontana di Trevi
• Piazza Navona – go at night (Jim’s recommendation)
• Piazza di Spagna and Via Condotti
• Piazza del Popolo.
The second day I would go to San Pietro in the first morning. Then if you love art I would suggest a visit to the Musei Vaticani, there's a lot to see. Otherwise just go back to downtown (it takes 10 minutes - subway) for great shopping in Via del Corso and Via Nazionale.

Roma pass (public transport for 3 days, the first 2 musea no charge and the next with a discount) which gets you in without waiting in line at the colloseum and other places (not the vatican). At the vatican lines were 2 km long in the morning (groups!) but by 1 PM no more lines.
Again, try and get as many tickets ahead of time as possible. The sites are always packed with tourists. Also, beware of the Vatican's schedules. Look them up before you make the trip to Vatican City. The Sistine Chapel isn't always open and you'll want to make sure it is when you go. Also, be sure to take the trip to the top of St. Peter's Basilica. It's very exhausting, but worth it for the view.

Some general tips:
- Buy tickets to Colosseum at Palatine Hill, there won’t be lines.
-Avoid sitting down at tables in cafes. They'll charge you 2x or more what they charge if you just stand at the bar. So if you're just getting cappuccino don't sit down. -Be sure to have a secure travel wallet that is attached to you in some way. There are LOTS of pick pockets (mostly in Rome, especially near the Vatican), and they're very, very good at what they do.
-Get a phone card and use it with your hotel room phone. You can get them at most tobacconists. (Look for the sign that says Tabbaci on it.)

Restaurants - Rome

Hotel Bars: de la Minerve near the Pantheon, Hotel Forum Rome, Wine Academy on the Via del Bottino (Spanish Steps) – they also do brunch.
Best Value: Twenty dollars gets you one of the finest fixed-price menus in Rome at the Ristorante del Pallaro, Largo del Pallaro 15 (tel. 06-68801488). Each dish is prepared by the chef-owner, Paola Fazi, who sternly urges her diners to "Mangia! Mangia!" The moment you're seated at the table, the dishes start to arrive -- first a selection of antipasto; then the homemade, succulent pastas of the day; followed by such meat courses as tender roast veal. Everything's included, even a carafe of the house wine.
http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/16172473/ - MSNBC Recommendations
There is one place in particular in the Jewish Ghetto called Ristorante Giggetto al Portico d'Ottavia. It was excellent. There is an awesome wine bar on Cavour street called Cavour 313. Great selection, good prices, very good food, and a great atmosphere. It's very close to the hotel and to the Coliseum.

Tullio's – highly recommended on Fodor’s.

Michele's is a family owned restaurant near the train station but far enough to be in a regular neighborhood. it was full of locals and our waiter spoke English.

Several things about dining in Italy were reinforced on this trip. The first was, not surprisingly, ALWAYS MAKE A RESERVATION..

Transportation – Florence
Ensure you punch your train cards at the yellow ticket stamping machines at the train station before embarking on your journey. - Cab drivers will more than likely try and take you for a ride. - Take a good pair of walking shoes and a decent guide to the city. -Visit nearby Lucca and Pisa for a nice day outside the city. - Pre-purchase bus tickets at tobacconists.


Arriving FL at Santa Maria Novella. 15 minute walk or 10 Euro cab ride. Taxis on right side when exiting the station to the left side.

Siena is best reached by SITA bus (75 minutes). The SITA station is in Via Santa Caterina da Siena, near Santa Maria novella train station. You can look into past posts for recommendations on sights and restaurants.

Hotels - Florence

Mike: Hotel Bellettini (San Lorenzo) – good Fodor’s choice www.hotelbellettini.com. Make sure we get a bathroom!

Beacci Tornabuoni
Plaza Lucchesi Hotel - $138/night on Expedia..3rd night free?
Vivahotel Laurus Al Duomo - $140/night on Expedia
Calzaiuoli Hotel – expedia $127
Carolus Hotel – expedia $127 – good but a bit far from the sites
Hotel Casci, Via Cavour 13
San Gallo Palace
Soggiorno Antica Torre – B&B
Hotel Villa Belvedere--www.villa-belvedere.com.

Calzaiuoli Hotel We were in walking distance to all the major museums and sights in Florence. The street is a bit noisy at night, but we were pleased with the location. The rooms were recently redecorated, so everything is clean and new looking. The breakfast buffet is nicer than most we encountered in Italy. Our biggest disappointment was that they did not honor any of our requests on room size and location that we made when booking our reservation. We specifically asked not to be on the first floor near the breakfast room or on the street side, and we were right next door to the breakfast room facing the main street! We reserved two twin beds and got one queen. Although not rude, the hotel staff was indifferent to the requests that we had made during the reservation process, and never made any attempt to relocate us as promised at check in. We would stay there again, but not without checking out other hotels in the area first.





Calzaiuoli Hotel – Hotels.com
$127.83/night = $435.42 with taxes
Check in February 6, check out February 9
Calzaiuoli Hotel Florence
Via Calzaiuoli, 6 - 50123 Florence
Tel. +39 055 212456

Tours – Florence

Accidental Tourist:

1) REMEMBER TO CALL US AT 055 699376 BY 6:00PM (BY NOON
for the Sunset Stroll) ON THE DAY BEFORE YOUR TOUR,
TO CONFIRM YOUR ATTENDANCE, OR YOUR RESERVATION WILL
BE AUTOMATICALLY CANCELLED!

2) WITHOUT WRITTEN EVIDENCE, NO DISCOUNTS ARE APPLICABLE.
REGULAR RATES WILL BE APPLIED (see price summary below)
How to get to the pick up point:
Cross Ponte Vecchio so as to get on the side of the river opposite to the Duomo. Turn left and walk along the river (with the river on your left). Shortly you will walk by the following bridge (Ponte alle Grazie). Ten more steps and you are in Piazza Demidoff, a square with trees and a statue in the middle.
If you run late or get lost, please call us on 348 6590040.
PLEASE NOTE: because of the sensible variations in the exchange rates, We are unable to accept currencies other than Euro. Thank You for Your understanding! At any rate (really!) please remember the cost is due only at the end of the excursion and We will be happy to stop at an ATM if You need. CASH ONLY
Cancellation Policy:
You can cancel this reservation with a phone call (phone number 055 699376) or sending an E-mail message to [email protected] at least two days before the tour. In the message please refer to name and date of tour you will receive with your confirmation E-mail message.
Practical details about this tour:
Total cost per person for this tour: 75 €
(take 10 € off if you are already a member)
Meeting Point: Piazza Demidoff (directions to come with your confirmation)
Meeting time: 9:20am
Departure time: 9:30 am
Return time: 5:00 pm (approximate)


Check out Siena. The best way from Florence to Siena is by bus. See http://www.mega.it/ita/not/sita.htm. The bus station in Florence is next to the train station

Make reservations for all the museums online before you leave home. Cost is about 6 Euros per person, but well worth it. We were able to by pass other visitors who had been in line for hours. Also, book a tour of the wine country and get out of Florence for a day. You are in the heart of the Classico Chianti region, it is beautiful.

You'll need to go see the Uffizi and Accademia museums. Be sure to go online and get tickets ahead of time. Usually a day or two is fine (use one of the many computer cafes in Venice to get these tickets), but if you don't you'll end up waiting for hours in huge lines. I also highly recommend taking the Hop On / Hop Off bus tours. (It's a big red bus with the words "City Sightseeing" on the side.) They go all around the city and only cost 20 EUR.

Since Florence is in the heart of Tuscany, we did an incredible private wine tour. It costs 200 EUR (plus you'll want to give a hefty tip since it will be awesome , and it's worth every penny. You'll spend the entire day being driven from winery to winery, drinking wine, and eating great local foods. All the info you need can be found here: http://www.viaggidambra.com/ They will tailor the wine tour to your tastes.

Since we had a pre-booked reservation for Ufizzi (through our hotel), we were told to go to Door 3 (across the street from Main Doors 1 and 2, and all the lines). At Door 3, we paid for our tickets (no line) (all you need is the reservation number your hotel provided you with when you made the reservation) and were sent to Door 1 to await entrance. Groups of people were allowed in every few minutes, based on the time of their reservation. If it is close to your reservation time, don’t be afraid to walk up to the front of the line and check if your time has already been allowed in. If it has, they will let you in. If you don’t have pre-booked tickets, you must first wait at Door 2 on a very long line (1 – 2 hours long?) to buy your tickets, and then wait at Door 1 to get access to the museum.

Restaurants – Florence
While in Florence there are tons of great places to eat. (It was the best food of the trip.) The best steak you'll ever have will be a Coco Lezzone. (http://www.frommers.com/destinations...ce/D53850.html) You must call ahead for their Bistecca ala Florentina. Just typing this is making my mouth water. Another great restaurant is Trattoria Garga.

Watch out for all the tourist-trap places to eat in Florence, you can pay a lot of money for a lousy pizza. Just ask the cost first for everything. There is a cover charge in many restaurants. Try the pizza at Plaza Michel Angelo (per Sofia).

Mike: Antellisi for dinner

I too share your love of small, authentic restaurants where you enjoy traditional cuisine elbow to elbow with the locals. In Florence my favourite places to eat are:
Ristorante I Ghibellini, Piazza Pier Maggiore
Da Cafaggi, via Guelfa
Trattoria Guelfa, via Guelfa
Trattoria del Carmine, Piazza del Carmine
Da Benvenuto, via Mosca
Trattoria Sant'Agostino, via Sant'Agostino

Shopping:
go from the Mercato Centrale, down Via Sant' Antonino about halfway to the next piazza...on the left hand side you'll see a small shop with scarves and such hanging out of the doorway. These are the same shawls/wraps/scarves that they sell a block down at the mercato...for half the price and no bargaining. I got some gorgeous patterned wraps for Christmas presents for Euro 5-7 each. I saw the same ones and some of lesser quality being offered at Euro 12-20 each at the stands.
AntInNewYork is offline  
Feb 26th, 2007, 04:08 PM
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ira is offline  
Feb 26th, 2007, 06:35 PM
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srippy is offline  
Feb 26th, 2007, 07:36 PM
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Welcome back! Sounds like you had a great trip.

And thanks for sharing your notes.
mcnyc is offline  
Feb 27th, 2007, 04:11 AM
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Thanks - I've done some of this, but I'm not organized yet.
H
phieaglefan is offline  
Feb 27th, 2007, 06:14 AM
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Thanks for sharing all the work you put into planning your vacation. I think half the fun of going somewhere is planning it, so hopefully it was fun for you too. I am going to Rome in April and voraciously reading these boards daily for info like yours.

Thanks,
Cheryl
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Feb 27th, 2007, 07:35 AM
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sbh
 
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Thanks so much for the info. We have been seraching for a hotel in Rome for end of March but the rates are really steep. Any ideas about Hotel Embassy? We are thinking of booking there. Looked on TripAdvisor and it has mixed (mostly ok) reviews.
sbh is offline  
Feb 27th, 2007, 08:07 PM
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My pleasure guys. Glad this helped as it was pretty labor-intensive going through all the forums and notes.

I don't know about the Hotel Embassy, but what you can do is start a post on TripAdvisor/Fodors asking people to weigh in specifically on that hotel. Both my hotels got mixed reviews but it is what it is when you're traveling abroad-every place is going to have SOMETHING to pick apart. I think if you start your own thread asking people for their thoughts you may get more updated thoughts on the hotel. Also, TA has a couple of "local experts" for each city, sometimes they even live there! They'll likely answer your question.

AntInNewYork is offline  
Mar 1st, 2007, 05:06 AM
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Mar 12th, 2007, 02:21 PM
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Thanks! I do the exact same thing when I plan a trip. Everybody discovers special little things about an area that we can use to make our trip better.
mdod is offline  
Mar 12th, 2007, 07:56 PM
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You obviously put lots of work into this itinerary . Thanks for sharing! I'm going to Italy in May-June for two wks and am still trying to finalize where to go. I'm flying into Rome and will definitely spend 3-4 days there. I'm hoping to attend mass on Sunday at St. Peters Basilica , if I can beat the line-ups, and so many of your other suggestions are great.
From Rome, Florence may be next for 2-6 days.Should I do daytrips down to San Gimignano and Siena , or find a place to stay in this area? I'm considering renting a car from Rome and am interested in sightseeing,somewhat.
From Tuscany I'm want to decide whether to drive to Cinque Terre or the Amalfi Coast . Is there anyone who has been to both -- any preferences?
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Mar 13th, 2007, 10:12 AM
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Thank you so much! We're headed to Italy in less than three months. This will be so helpful.
Power2Bee, I've been to both Cinque Terre and the Amalfi Coast. I absolutely loved them both, even though it rained most of the time I was in the Amalfi area. But I think if you're going to be in the Tuscany region, I'd go to Cinque Terre just so more of your time is spent enjoying the location, rather then in the car.
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Mar 13th, 2007, 11:02 AM
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thanks for the advice!
LongIslandGirl is offline  
Mar 13th, 2007, 06:29 PM
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My pleasure guys..I wish I could have done more of what I'd outlined here but between time constraints and weather conditions, well let's just say there's going to have to be a "next time" - soon!

Take a look at my trip report.. it's kind of on the long side but there's a few helpful hints in there as well that break down Rome and Florence.

Power2Bee, from what I've heard the Amalfi Coast is not to be missed, so I'd go that direction if you can!
AntInNewYork is offline  
Mar 20th, 2007, 06:41 AM
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Thanks for all of the great info!
jemom is offline  
Mar 23rd, 2007, 12:56 PM
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Thank you! This is great info!
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Mar 23rd, 2007, 07:19 PM
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You're very welcome... please don't forget to post back when you return from your trips, whenever they may be. Keeping the diary of my trip report was so much fun then, and great to look back upon
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Mar 27th, 2007, 01:25 AM
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