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My trip report- from ancient Rome to Art filled Florence to magical Venice to fires in California

My trip report- from ancient Rome to Art filled Florence to magical Venice to fires in California

Old Oct 30th, 2007, 03:39 PM
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My trip report- from ancient Rome to Art filled Florence to magical Venice to fires in California

Life is unpredictable. We had 12 great days for the most part in Rome,Florence and Venice. As soon as we landed in Lax and drove home to Irvine in Orange County we smelled the smoke. It actually smelled like our car was on fire. Today is day 10 of the fires near us and day 9 of us inhaling the smoke and fume. At times,we are light headed , breath heavyily or other symptoms,but life goes on.

Now the trip highlights:
Day one- Arrival
We were in Rome from 10/10 to 10/15 and for the most part it was warm.
We were picked up by our driver from Rome shuttle and were on our way to our hotel. After checking in we took the metro to Barberini and started walking. I was hoping to have lunch at Pierluigi,but we couldn't find it and by the time we found it, they were closed for lunch.
we walked by the Pantheon,Piazza Navona and Campo de Fiori and had a good gelato at Blue Ice. The panino at the place across the street from Blue Ice was pretty good. We took a cab back to the hotel and passed out for two hours and we were awake after that.

Day two
Borghese gallery- we had a 11:00 reservation and left our hotel at 10:00 and felt we had enough time to make it,but we had no idea how far a walk it is from the metro to the gallery and the signs were not clear enough for us. By the time we got to the gallery it was 11:00 and thankfully we were able to get our tickets and see the gallery. So, don't worry if you are late to pick up your tickets. I felt it was nice to see the Bernini sculptures. My favorite was Pluto and proserpina. The paintings were nice, but we have seen better. We walked around and had a great lunch at Babette near the Spanish steps. I highly reccomend this place. we were the only English speaking people and had a lovely pasta with saffron and pistachios pesto and a delicious fillet with the most amazing potatoes au gratin. I could eat at Babette every day. After lunch we just walked to Piazza del Popolo and walked to Giolitti for gelato. I loved this place. They have great cookies also. My favorites were the Zabigone and riso among others. The Zabigone numbed my tongue. When we were looking at our pictures back home, the only time I cried was at the picture of Giolitti !! We also went to Baffetta for dinner and I felt the pizza was nothing special. The middle part was soggy and I make a better pizza myself. Their ingredidentís were cheap(procsuitto) and I don't understand the long lines.
Day three
Vatican day
We started the day with a trip to Veleptti. After getting out of the metro, we made a right and ended near the gypsy shopping area and we returned very fast to the right area and found Veleptti. It was much smaller than I imagined. I asked one of the guys to make us two sandwiches and then looked around at the cheese and next thing you know the most skilled salesperson sampled us diffrent cheeses and sold us three diffrent kind of cheese,balsamic syrup and kept pushing us to buy more. That guy was too much in a good way. We had a Vatican tour later, so we dropped our purchases and headed to the meeting place. We ate one of our delicious sandwiches and figured we eat the second one later while we wait in the line. Little did we know what was waiting for us. We arranged a tour with Icon tours and as soon as we stood in the line, it started raining very hard and of course we left the umbrella at the hotel since it looked like a nice day. The girl next to me shared her umbrella with me and my poor husband was soaked in the rain from head to toe. We ended up buying a cheap umbrella for eight Euro bargained down from ten. The long, long line lasted forever. Our tour guide told us that in the past two years the number of people visiting Vatican has increase 30%. The tour was informative, but we didn't get to see much of the museum and I don't think I want to stand in the long lines again to see more of it, unless they come up with a new system. We really enjoyed the Sistine chapel and St.Peter's Basilica. By the time we came out of the Basilica the rain was a history!! The Swiss guards were wearing their raincoats, but later we found one without the raincoat and took his picture. It was a long, tiring day. We will never forget that rain.
Day four
Ancient Rome day
Today was my only chance to see Campo de Fiori market and I wanted to try the famous pizza bianco at Il forno di Campo di Fiori. The market was nice, but I was surprised at the past their prime eggplants. You will never see this kind of eggplants in our farmers market. We enjoyed the pizza bianco and headed towards Piereluigi for lunch. We were the first people to be seated and we ordered the shrimp melon salad, the porcini pasta and some kind of grilled beef. The salad was good, the pasta was not as Al dente as we like and the beef was fatty ,tough piece of meat. We didn't touch the bread basket, but of course we got charged for it. At one point a mini bus dropped off some tourist and this was the only touristy place we ate in the whole trip. The food was good, but not great and the service was Ok. This was the first place we got hit with the cover charge After lunch we walked towards our meeting place for our ancient Rome tour. It was a very warm day and our tour guide was an American with knowledge, but annoying speech style. Every other word out of her mouth was OK,OK,... I will never pick a tour in the afternoon again, because it was too hot, and by 3:00 you are already tired of all the walking. By the time we go to the Colosseo our tour guide informed us the place was closed I was like what do you mean it is closed? It just happened that they were holding a demonstration in the area and after traveling all this way, we were unable to go inside the Colosseo!!! What a luck. First the crazy rain in the Vatican museum line and now this. Maybe we should have bought a lotto!! The metro was shut down also. We walked by hundreds of demonstrators and our tour guide walked us to the next metro stop and luckily it was open. Another crazy day in Rome. After resting for a few minutes we went to the Travi fountain and looked for San Crispino gelato. We expected something like Giolitti, but it was a tiny place. You could walk by it hundred times and not notice it. Their gelato was not as good as Giolitti's and it was more expensive.
Day five
Our last day in Rome. I had a choice of window shopping or walk by the river and see Castle S. Angelo and of course I chose the latter. We walked all the way form Piazza de Popolo to CSA. Walking by the river was lovely and reminded me of our walks by the seine. We had lovely lunch at Fiammetta and after our experience at Pierluigi, this was a nice change. We loved this place. It was ,reasonable, delicious and close to the bridge and Piazza Navona. We had pasta with pistachio pesto and pasta alla amarticiana. They were both delicious. We also had a great eggplant parmesan. I would love to have a place like this in my area. The pizza looked great so we made reservations to return in a few hours for pizza. We went back to Piazza Navona and Pantheon and had our last gelato at Giolitti. The place was so crowded. I think there must have been 60 or more people standing in front of the case. You couldn't even see the selection. Well, big shock I went for Riso and Zabigone and other flavors I can't remember. Later, we went back to Fiammetta for dinner. The pizza was great. We had a porcini special and salami. The porcini was so good. What a nice way to end our trip to Rome.

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Old Oct 30th, 2007, 03:47 PM
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hi, mrsjoujou,

hope that things become easier for you soon. thank you for taking time to post your trip report, which I'm enjoying, remembering our trip 18 months ago.

I'm particularly looking forward to Venice, as we're booked to go at Easter.

keep up the good work,

regards, ann
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Old Oct 30th, 2007, 04:14 PM
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Welcome home, I am looking forward to the rest of your trip. Thanks for sharing.
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Old Oct 31st, 2007, 06:51 AM
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waiting for more!
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Old Nov 1st, 2007, 11:48 AM
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Thank you everyone for your encouraging words. I wrote a whole report about Florence yesterday, but it got vanished. I can blame Halloween for that.


Day One: Arrival.

We took the ES train from Rome and it took one hour and forty minutes. There was a long line at the taxi stand and it took us ten minutes to get to our hotel. Our hotel was Cosmopolitan Concept Hotel; stylish boutique hotel with a great breakfast and lovely bathroom. The breakfast alone was worth 20 Euro. After checking in we took the bus to SMN area and I was looking for Quattro Amici to have lunch at. We walked up and down the street trying to find the restaurant. Finally we spotted the restaurant but it looked dark from outside. As we were leaving I spotted a side door and we entered the restaurant. We were surprised to be served a glass of prosecco and sardine crudo. We had a great antipasto Toscano, scampi thermidor, and fish of the day fillet tableside. Everything was delicious, and this was the only place that they didnít charge us for cover. We then went to Santa Maria Novella and it was beautiful inside. As we were walking around, I spotted the magnificent Duomo. We had seen it many times on TV but seeing it live was an amazing experience. The only problem with that area is the Gypsy baggers. They are too much. We also walked by the outdoor market and I didnít really care for that. We later had a great gelato at the Grom.

Day Two: Uffizi Gallery

We had reservation at 9:00AM but by the time we figured out what door (number 2) to go to it was 9:15. We were rushed in by the attendant and after purchasing our ticket we started on the second floor from the last room. We worked our way back to the first floor and enjoyed the beautiful renaissance art. We then walked around Piazza Signoria and enjoyed all the beautiful sculptures. I really loved this Piazza. We had lunch at Osteria dellí Olio near Duomo. I should have known because of the location, they rob you blind. I had a great grilled beef with porcini and arugula and my husband had pasta with Canadian lobster sauce. They were both priced the same but all he got was one ounce of meat and the rest was lobster shell. The best part was the bill! They charged us 8 Euro for the service and 4 or 6 Euro for cover. We felt so ripped-off, but we figured if we object they would tell us take a hike! After lunch we went to Santa Croce, walked around the area and located Gelateria dei Neri. They had great gelatos. I requested the chocolate chili with orange peel as one of my selections but the girl behind the counter asked me whether I was sure I wanted that flavor. She gave me a sample to try and it was delicious. I guess Italians are not used to chili in their gelatos. We walked back to Piazza Repubblica and got lost walking around.

Day Three: Plazzo Pitti

Today we had reservation for Accademia at 4:00 and we started our day at the wonderful Rivoire. I had a great hot chocolate and my husband had a decent cappuccino. We walked towards Ponte Vecchio and looked at all the artist and their work. We took lots of pictures and walked down the jewelry row. Most of the jewelry was not my style. We bought our tickets for Galleria Platina and walked the steep steps to the gallery. We really enjoyed this gallery very much, even more than Uffizzi!! The ticket includes Galleria Arte Moderna also. At this time we were not sure if we want to keep our reservation for Accademia. We walked to Piazza S. Spirto and had lunch at Ristorante Ricchi. Their lunch menu was very simple and inexpensive. We had a pumpkin risotto with amaretti , a simple lasagna and two nice salads. We enjoyed watching the birds landing on empty tables, like they were arriving for their reservation. We decided to forget about Accademia today and go back to Plazzo Pitti to visit Boboli Gardens. We bought our second set of tickets and first visited the Museo degli Argenti and after we were completely exhausted from all the art and walking, visited the Boboli Gardens. The gardens were very nice and worth the price of the ticket. We enjoyed all the fountains and sculptures and took many pictures. We walked back to Ponte Vecchio and by chance I entered one of the side shops and we bought two beautiful mosaics, one of Duomo and the other one Ponte Vecchio. Every time we look at them we feel like we are back in Florence. We decided to try the pizza at Pizzaioula . They are famous for the Naples style pizza and we figured we give it a try. We walked down Via de corso and there was some interesting shops there, walked by a group of musicians play lovely music and finally got to Pizzioula ten minute early. I asked the lady inside the restaurant if we should put our name down and she said donít worry. As we waited for the place to open up the crowd increased outside and as the door opened up everyone rushed in. The guy in the front asked everyone if they had reservation and if they didnít he gave them the look!! After asking us if we had reservation and we said no, he was mad and sat us in front of the bathroom. So much for Italian hospitality. We ordered two pizza and they were very big and too much dough for us. We only finish half of each and were surprised at some people eating the whole thing. I guess Neapolitan pizza is not for us.

Day Four: Shopping

Today was our last day and we started the day at Mercato Centrale. Our first stop was the Perini shop and we bought some porcini, sun dried tomatoes and strawberry balsamic spread for cheese. The girl at the shop informed us we had to pay cash on all the orders under fifty Euro.Great there goes my cash! Luckily I had enough cash for my purchases. We headed outside in search of an ATM and when you need one, they all disappear. After we got some money, we returned to the market and bought more fresh dried porcini from another shop. We walked around the market and looked at all the great meat products and wished we could bring some home and headed to the second floor. All the fruit and veggies looked great specially the beautiful porciniís. Their fragrance was amazing. Upon arrival, I went to our local Whole foods and of course they didnít have any porcini. We then walked down Via Nazionale in search of a shop that was supposed to have great biscotti. We first went to another shop and bought some candy and chocolate and the lady gave us two ice cream bars as a treat. We then spotted the biscotti shop and bought a selection of biscotti. The shopkeeper was a sweet old lady and offered us a sample. Their biscotti are the best we have had. It has whole dried fig or apricot or chocolate. We decided to drop of our purchase at the hotel. Today was a Bistecca day for us. Our hotel staff recommended a bunch of places and we ended up at Il Profeta. We got two Bistecca and some fried veggies. The waiter was from Bosnia and spoke great English . We talked about the bagger and Gypsy problem and had a nice lunch. We were surprised to get hit with a service charge again plus additional cover charge. You can go bankrupt in Florence between the restaurant fees and all the museum and church fees. They should come up with Florence card like Paris museum pass. After lunch we walked by the river and took lots of pictures and walked down Via Vigna Nuova. There were a lot of great shops on that street. We decided to go to Accademia and visit David. On the way we had some Ok gelato at Carabe . I guess it was a good thing we missed our reservation the day before, because we saved the reservation fee. If you go around four you donít need any reservation. David was amazing; too bad they didnít let people take any pictures. You could stand there and look at him forever. I bought a David mouse pad and he is looking at me as I am typing. There were a lot of interesting art besides David, especially the music instruments.After Accademia we walked back to Duomo and Piazza Signoria and said goodbye to all that beauty. When we got to the hotel I packed all my food purchase in my carry on and forgot about it until the security check at Marco Polo airport.

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Old Nov 1st, 2007, 02:36 PM
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Old Nov 5th, 2007, 01:31 PM
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to mrsjoujou
I also am from Irvine in Turtlerock. We leave on 11/8 for 20+ days in Italy. Enjoyed your post re Rome. Did you also go to Florence and Venice? Have you posted anything on those destinations? Would enjoy your tips. I just added an umbrella to our list.
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Old Nov 5th, 2007, 01:55 PM
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Thank you for allyour info. Will try to post when we come back. Or on our way...who knows. We also will be in Tuscany for 3 nights, Venice for 2 nights and Milan for l night, ending with 2 nights in Paris.
Thanks again.
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Old Nov 6th, 2007, 11:41 AM
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ULu, Thank you and enjoy your travel. Oh Paris, my favorite city in the world, I wish I was going with you. I dream about Paris everyday!!
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Old Nov 7th, 2007, 03:03 AM
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targging for later....
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Old Nov 7th, 2007, 03:48 AM
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Thank you, thank you for all your great info on Rome- I am heading there in a couple of weeks and have definitely made note of some of your restaurant-loves

I am currently living in Florence for work (until Jan) and yes, you really have to be careful about the restaurants and their cover charges...I have learned the areas to avoid at this point.

When in Florence, try to avoid the Piazza del Duomo, Piazza Signoria and those right of the Arno b/c you will get nailed with service, and cover and everything else- for no reason other than they can!

Although the don't always make the touristy books, try to wander into the little allies off the major piazza's and not only will you avoid extra charges, you will feel like you are far more emmersed in the Italian (phenomenal!) culture than the touristy, main-area places. Additionally BECAUSE the staff doesn't have to deal with clueless toursits all day they tend to be a thousand times sweeter.

For anyone heading to Florence there are some great places around the Cappelle Medici (close to SMN)-- my personal favorite- La Porcuspina. The waiters are all INCREDIBLE, the food is superb and the wine selection is great. I want to say they do charge a cover of 2-4 euros, but its very much worth it...and besides don't feel the need to tip on top of that unless they deserve it (which 9 times out of 10 here they do
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