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Naples-Rome-Florence-Pisa summer 2017

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I am thinking of Visiting Italy in the summer of 2017. I will have 10 days to 2 weeks max. [I only get two week of paid time off per year + I week unpaid “sick leave”, 6 days are used up in December when we are closed, 1 day is used up the day after Thanksgiving, leaving only 10 days left, or two weeks if I ask and they say it is ok].

My options are to travel alone or find an organized tour of Italy. I probably want to travel alone. My mother thinks I am totally nuts or worse. She thinks big cities are dangerous. She grew up in the ghetto in Detroit, Michigan.

My supposed interests and/or things I expect to see are art museums, archaeology related sights and museums, remains of Roman and Renaissance civilization, possibly castles and/or palaces and/or historic structures and/or bridges.

I am a 33 year old single man.

Ask me about my budget.

The following is a supposed list of sites and museums that look appealing, which I picked out of the Eyewitness guide to Italy, 1999 edition that I borrowed from the library. Feel free to write whether some of these places are insignificant sites I will want to skip or whether there are other sights I shouldn’t miss that I didn’t list. I will make up a supposed itinerary after I figure out what I want to see and what I want to skip.

-Pompei and/or Herculaneum sites
-Naples: Museo Archeologico Nazionale, Museo di Capodimonte.
-Possibly if I have time:
-Castle Nuovo
-One or more of these small art museums (Museo Filangiere, museo principe di Argona, pignatelli Cortes, Villa Floridania)
-Do I want an English-language guided walking tour, if they give such tours?
-Possibly if I have time: Palazzo Reale, in Caserta, Near Naples, a palace built in 1752
Rome: Capitoline Museums, Museo Nazionale Romano, Remains of Roman civilization (Where? Piazza della boca della verita? Colosseum, Roman Forum, Palatine, Baths of Caracalla, and/or Pantheon?)
-Jewish Ghetto (I am not at all religious but I probably will want to at least briefly see the Great Synagogue of Rome/ Jewish museum)
-Possibly if I have time: one or more small art museums (Palazzo Venezia, Palazzo Barberini, Museo Borghese/Villa Borghese, or Villa Giulia)

Florence: Museo Archeologico, Uffizi (the art museum nobody wants to miss if they visit Florence), Galleria dell’accademia,
-Possibly: Museo di Storia della Scienza,
-possibly the small art museums museo dell’opera del Duomo and/or Bargello; Ponte Vecchio bridge.

Pisa: The leaning Tower of Pisa (everybody who visits Italy wants to see this).

Other possible option: See less in each city and try to visit Milan and/or Venice too.

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    It is easy to travel to these places on your own; no need to take a tour unless that is your preference.

    I think your plan can work well if you can take 2 weeks (though even with that amount of time, you'll be busy!); if you only have 10 days, then I think you would do well to consider visiting only 2 of Rome, Florence, and Naples. I personally would not try to add Milan or Venice to this plan -- as you note, you would have to skip some wonderful places to fit them in.

    I haven't been to all of the places on your list, but I've been to most of them, and think your list of places captures some of the most important sites in these cities and should make for a great trip. Just a couple of comments: Do not miss the Villa Borghese In Rome, and definitely book ahead for that. Also book ahead for the Uffizi and Accademia in Florence. I'd also strongly recommend the Bargello (but I wouldn't skip the Museu dell'opera del Duomo, either). In Naples, I would recommend adding the Duomo and a walk through Spaccanapoli to your list.

    And I'd strongly recommend that you get yourself a copy of either the Rough Guide or Lonely Planet -- each offers a wealth of information. In comparison to the cost of your trip, the cost of a guidebook is nominal, and you will have the chance to learn all sorts of things that you wouldn't even think to ask.


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    The way you've written your post I cannot tell exactly what you are most interested in seeing so it's difficult to make recommendations.

    That said...

    There are a number of great museums in Naples, but your two, especially the archaeology museum, are the standouts for a quick visit. In Naples (in Rome and Florence too), do not miss some of the churches, especially San Severo with the Cristo Velato and Chiesa di San Gregorio Armeno and Santa Chiara. Add Pio Monte della Misericordia if you like Caravaggio. And the Duomo, as kja mentions above.

    I would want two full, very busy days in Naples at a minimum, plus a day for the Pompeii excursion.

    For Rome I'd want four full days for what you are looking to see. You are not planning to go to the Vatican museums? I've been several times, including this summer with my sister's family; they had never been to Rome before. We went on a Friday night and it was a good time to go (though still crowded, of course). As in Naples, there are many churches in Rome that house artistic and archaeological treasures.

    2 full days Florence.

    I've been to Pisa and liked it but given your limited time, I'd skip it this trip and just visit Naples, Rome, Florence.

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    Don't worry about your safety; violent crime is very rare in Rome. Just keep your wits about you, and your valuables well hidden, because petty theft and pickpocketing are risks. I live in Italy, and have never been the victim of any sort of crime, even though I don't take particular cautions apart from my eagle eye.

    Your ideas for Naples are good. I wouldn't add any more churches or museums, given your limited time. In fact, I would keep Castel Nuovo and the other smaller museums on a "maybe" list, to see if you have time and aren't tired of running around. You would need a minumum of three nights for this part of your trip. You could visit Pompeii one day and Herculaneum either the same day or the next. Fit the Archaeological Museum into the last day.

    At Pompeii, I haven't had great luck with the guides available on the spot. The last time I was there, with an art appreciation group from our town, the official guide was awful, and was taking too long on trivial stories. Some of his "historical facts" were outright wrong. I abandoned him (at Herculaneum) but to be honest, I would have liked more information than was available on the signs. A very good guide book, plus the signs would have probably been enough. There are also audio guides available at the site. I didn't want to waste time, since we were with a group, going back to get one.

    Likewise, all of your choices in Rome are good, and seem to fit your interests well. There are some small Roman temples near the Piazza della Verità, and the Great Synagogue is in the same area. Given your interests, I would suggest the National Museum of Etruscan Civilization in Villa Giulia rather than the Borghese Gallery.

    The National Roman Museum has four locations. You really shouldn't miss the one at Palazzo Massimo alle Terme, and the Museum of the Baths of Diocletian. Both locations are very near Termini station. At the Baths of Diocletian, there is a large intact hall (missing all its decoration, though) from the ancient bath structure, to your left after you enter the gate. The main part of the museum has a very interesting permanent exhibit about the early development of Latin writing, including the instruments used and what the ancient people wrote about.

    While walking between these two locations of the National Roman Museum, you'll pass the Basilica of Santa Maria degli Angeli e dei Martiri. This is in another part of the ancient bath structure, and the conversion to a church was designed by Michelangelo. It has an oculus, like the one in the Pantheon, but covered with a glass lantern. It also has a meridian line, on which the sun falls at the exact hour of noon, with the dates of the year marked along the line. This was used for timekeeping until some time in the 19th century. When the sun fell on the date, the bells were rung and the Romans set their timepieces.

    With your ticket to the Baths of Caracalla, you can get free entrance to two sites on the ancient Via Appia. If you go there, it's best to go on a Sunday, when the road is closed to most traffic. Part of the road is still paved with ancient blocks.

    Here are some other places associated with ancient Rome:

    Trajan's Market, across from the Roman Forum. There is a museum inside, and you can also access an ancient road, the Via Biberatica, with the original paving blocks and shop fronts.

    The Domus Romane, whose entrance is near Trajan's Market, is the excavation of an ancient Roman house, with an excellent sound and light show that brings it to life. You have to reserve a tour, which is available also in English.

    The main thing you should see in Rome, given your interests, is Ostia Antica, the ancient port city. The site is larger than Pompeii, and for ancient history buffs may even be more interesting, because it was a busy commercial city rather than a provincial backwater, and its active period covered a much longer stretch of ancient history than Pompeii or Herculaneum. It was a very cosmopolitan city, and you can see pagan temples from all over the empire, as well as a Christian church and a synagogue. You can go to the upper floor of an ancient apartment building, and you can stand at the bar of an ancient tavern. There is even an ancient public toilet with intact seats. I've been there four times, and still haven't seen everything there, but if you have a private guide, you can tell her what most interests you.

    In Rome, you'll really need four or five nights to see all of this. I strongly recommend that you get an excellent private guide for the Roman Forum and Palatine Hill, and for Ostia Antica, even if you have to eat at McDonalds and sleep in a youth hostel. (The Colosseum has its own inexpensive tours, which are very good, or a guide book and the signs on site also should be enough.) I can highly recommend Daniella Hunt of as a private guide. If she's busy, which she often is, Context Travel has excellent private and small group tours. I'm sure there are other private or small group tours, but I don't know them personally, so I can't recommend them.

    Don't feel pressured to visit the Vatican Museums just because "everybody says you should". However, if you do go, don't miss the Egyptian Collection and the Etruscan Collection, which are not on the heavily beaten tourist trail. There is also an excellent collection of ancient sculpture there, if you haven't seen enough at Palazzo Massimo and the Capitoline Museums.

    Likewise, don't feel as though you "have to see" the Uffizi Gallery in Florence. It's a huge museum, whose main focus is on Italian Renaissance painting, with a heavy emphasis on religious subjects. You really need hours and hours to do it justice; my daughter and I spent seven hours there on two consecutive days, and still skipped some things we had wanted to see. You're young and will surely be back in Rome and Florence in the future. I would really recommend the Bargello and the Museum of the Opera del Duomo (in a new modern setting) over the Uffizi Gallery and the Accademia.

    I think you might also like the museum of natural sciences, La Specola. It has a fascinating collection of wax anatomical models, in exquisite detail, which were used to instruct medical students back when the church forbid the use of cadavers.

    For a good look at Renaissance art in its natural setting, I would suggest the San Marco museum, the Church of Santa Maria del Carmine, and the Basilica of Santa Maria Novella, all of which have iconic Renaissance masterpieces.

    You should spend at least three nights in Florence, and you might be able to fit in a morning or afternoon trip to Pisa. However, you might also want to leave that for a future trip.

    Another thing to keep in mind is that the crowds in famous Italian cities are mind-boggling in the summer, and this includes places like the Vatican Museums, the Colosseum, the Uffizi Gallery, the Accademia, and the Leaning Tower of Pisa. Given your big interest in ancient Rome, I wouldn't suggest skipping the Colosseum (although the Roman Forum and Palatine Hill are much more significant). However, try to go very early or as late in the day as possible, when the day trippers, cruise tours, and bus tours will not make these places seem like the Tokyo metro at rush hour.

    So, I would suggest at least three nights in Naples and Florence, and at least four in Rome. That's ten nights, which would fill 11 days, if you count your travel time. Try to spend some of your time just wandering around, sitting by a fountain, or resting on a park bench. If you can get two weeks, so much the better, and I would stick the extra nights in Rome, where there is so much ancient civilization to see.

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    My advice: do not add Milan and/or Venice unless you have 2 full weeks.

    Contrary to Leely2, I think it's possible to visit Pisa, if you can run most of the time and really concentrate on what you're watching. Given your age it would not be impossible. I have been doing that. Of course you'll have to trade off some leisure walk and all coffee breaks, but if you really want to see the leaning tower, then why not? It is just a short ride from Florence.

    In Naples, you can see the Art Metro Stations along Line 1 (or 6), it's really unlike any other city. Gorgeous and fun. Would not take you more than 2 hours and a few bucks for a daily metro ticket (not expensive at all).

    You don't need an organized tour for this trip, all these cities are easy to visit. But if you find english walking tours in each cities, it may provide good values. After all, these cities are full of ancient narratives and histories that need telling. I'm sure you can google up free walking tours with tips, if you want them cheap.

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    I have $4,800 saved so far as of now, not that I want to blow it all on one trip. But I am normally very cheap. But I am not consistently cheap on everything. I will spend money on something if I can justify the cost.

    Wouldn't it be silly to have my own private walking tour guide with just me and the guide? And I wouldn't not pay somebody "enough" for a guided tour. And if I find a tour advertised on a website, and if it something you pay for in advance, how do you know that the tour will occur instead of being a scam or fraud?

    Most people like to eat restaurant food. I am sort of a health not, I think restaurant food isn't too healthy and I have a family health history. I bought my own food in London, suppose I bought my own food in Italy too?

    I can't help taking multiple breaks a day to eat a little. I when I feel hungary, I will check my watch to see if enouhg time has passed since the last time I ate, randomly decide whether I will finish what I am doing and then find a place to eat or find a place to eat and then go back inside where I was or go outside and eat and then go on to the next place, and so on. I am going to pick what I am going to try to do each day, before the trip, but I suppose I will not make up an hour by hour schedule.

    I am going to be a single person traveling alone. How can I justify staying in lavish, expensive hotels? Even if I wanted to blow lots of money on hotels, wouldn't staying in an an average hotel be as silly as eating alone in a restaurant? Why shouldn't I find hostels? Or the places don't have to be hostels if there some sorts of places that are not too lavish and amenity-filled. But I don't want to stay in a bad neighborhood or a decripit place just to save money.

    I am not at all religious. Churches wouldn't be spiritually meaningful to me. Suppose I skip the Vatican and I skip the churches too, unless osme just happen to be part of a guided walking tour that goes to other places too?

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    I meant "bad family health history", although I logically know Inam perfectly healthy and I had an expensive test when I was 30 which showed absolutely no evidence that my arteries are clogged. Not to be too gross or morbid, but suppose you have a heart attack or stroke in another country?

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    I think you will have a good time, just do what you want, stay where you want, and prioritize things how you want.

    I'm not remotely religious (raised by two atheists), but I like to visit many of the churches in Italy for the artistic treasures. Doesn't mean everyone will, so don't worry about it. No reason you should. Personally I don't care much for guided tours, even short ones, though I will do them on occasion and agree that they can be great. I'm just not a tour person. As one friend put it, "You don't like to be led."

    Are you looking for recommendations for hotels/hostels? I can't tell.

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    I think Leely2 said it well: "just do what you want, stay where you want, and prioritize things how you want."

    And, like Leely2 -- and, I suspect, many other travelers! -- the reason that draws me to visit churches had nothing to do with religion, but rather with art and architecture. Some of the most stunning works of art and architecturally significant places in the world were built as, and often still function as, places of worship. Since you seem to have an interest in art and architecture, consider visiting them -- just be mindful of any services in progress.

    IMO, it is not gross or morbid to consider what would happen if you had a heart attack or stroke while traveling -- in contrast, I think it responsible to do so. In much of Europe, you would be eligible for free or low-cost health care at local (and excellent) facilities, but (a) check guidebooks to see what the coverage is in specific countries (good guidebooks will offer information about that) and (b) check any health insurance you have to see what your coverage is when traveling. Many of us choose, based on our individual circumstances, to buy additional coverage, which you can investigate on or If you decide to consider such insurance, do read the terms very carefully, and note that the relevant language has not been fully regularized. For example, "repatriation" can mean two very different things -- (1) bringing your bodily remains (i.e., your corpse or ashes) back to your country of origin or (2) bringing your living, if ailing, body to a place where you have chosen for your medical care. To me, that's not an insignificant difference. ;-)

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    Hm. Well, the idea of the walking tour being a scam or fraud- I suppose you prevent that by choosing well regarded tour companies, like Walks of Italy. But I don't really think that's a serious concern. And I've taken a lot of pre booked tours- never been stood up by the guide. It's a business to them, and if they do pre booking it's because their tours tend to fill up. I don't understand what you mean by being silly to take a tour by yourself- you learn more that way. The guide tailors it to your interests. There are all kinds. I really enjoy archaeology or engineering tours because I didn't study either enough in school to know what I'm looking at "onsite". And sometimes I take tours of unusual places because that's the only way you can gain access.

    No reason not to stay in hostels. Not sure where that came from. But I sleep better when in a room by myself and a hostel private room is not always a more economical option over a hotel room. So figure out what area you want to stay in and ask for recs. I knew I didn't really want to stay in the termini station area of Rome (where many hostels are) so if I hadn't found a hostel else where I would have forked out the money for a hotel. I don't think restaurant food is necessarily less healthy than non restaurant food, but that's totally personal preference. Do you eat free breakfast offered by hotels or hostels? I think I participated in your London thread months ago and I honestly can't remember if you cook or just get sandwich stuff and fruit at the store.

    Religion...I think what some people don't realize is that Church was (is) wealthy. It was a patron of the arts- admittedly in sort of a "my way or the highway" fashion. It had the money to commission, collect, preserve amazing art works. It had the power to censor or condemn as well. It ran schools, kept records of birth, marriage and death. It owned and built mansions, convents, monasteries. Anyway...the point of this is that yes, some people visit that art in the churches and elsewhere because it means something to them spiritually, but many more visit it for other reasons. Because thanks to the political and economic power of the church, those pieces were created and were preserved. So it's fascinating from a historical and technical skill point of view as well. It's the same reason you'd visit...I don't know...a state Capitol building even though you have no interest in politics. The architecture is astonishing and it's open to the public. Or think of it another way: museums are full of sacred items we can't fully understand. Shrines from Japan, the Egyptian mummies, Mosaics or murals from Ancient Greece, Pompeii. Those were religious things to their peoples. You can appreciate them without believing in their gods. If you page through guidebooks, you'll see that the churches are museums- sacred spaces, yes, but full of amazing art and oddities that you'd miss out on if you give them a miss.

    Sorry to blab on. I'm not saying you should feel like you must visit the Vatican or the churches. It's your vacation- see whatever you like! But don't dismiss anything on the basis that you aren't religious:)

    The health thing...well, I think at 30, with no known health issues, you should probably worry more about dying in a freak accident. Which you can't prevent, so no point in worrying anyway.

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    1. My mother thinks cities are dangerous and traveling alone is dangerous. So I think my first reason for starting this thread was to confirm that it is reasonable or safe enough to visit cities in Italy, alone. I don't feel like traveling is dangerous, but I have never been to Italy. Should I worry about getting robbed or attacked or worse?

    2. I am currently on a radically restrictive diet consisting of mostly fruits. So to answer marvelousmouse, this would mean I wouldn't eat free breakfasts and I don't cook. I swore off normal cooked foods and recipes. So if I can I want to buy my own food. I want to think about food as little as possible. I am traveling to see art museums and antiquities and mounments, not to eat so called delicious food.

    Do the museums have coat check counters or desks or rooms? If you bring a smalish backpack into a place, with food in it, can you leave it in a coat room, or do they make you either not go inside or throw your food away, or do they want or let people cary stuff into places? The only wierd place I went to was the Art museum in Chicago - I had to throw my food away, they refused to let me bring it into the museum and they also refused to check my bag in at the coat check counter unless I threw my food away first.

    3. This will be my third Solo trip but my first time trying to visit more than one city on the same - do people just buy train tickets in advance or at the last minute? While I did write that I care about cost, first I care about making sure I don't spend money on tickets, expecting to pick them up from a ticket machine or ticket counter, only to find out later that my reservation was not made after all or that they took my money but don't have any evidence of my reservation, and so on.

    4. I suppose I will want to mainly plan my trip on my own, with the assistance of travel reservation websites, and then sign up for tours of two or three individual cities so that I get a representative sample of Roman antiquities or Architecture or mounuments or whatever else and to find out what I am looking at was used for, and so on.

    5. Does anybody else read reviews on TripAdvisor to help sort of randomly pick places to stay?

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    1. You will be safer in these cities than in most cities in the U.S. Just take reasonable precautions -- keep your passport, extra credit cards, and extra cash in an under-the-clothing pouch. Don't leave your things unattended. Don't get drunk. Etc. Most good travel books will have a section on safety, and you can sometimes find some valuable tips there (e.g., about the latest scams), but seriously, I'm a woman, I've been to all of those cities and many, many others, and I've had no trouble.

    2. IME, most museums in these cities will have a baggage check area (either lockers or a manned counter or both) and in fact, most will insist that you check your bag. I've had a few places refuse to let me check electronics (they don't want to assume responsibility for valuables), but I don't remember being asked about food.

    4. Again, no reason to take a tour unless you want to do so. As for "representative samples," you can plan your own routes with good guidebooks. Your call.

    5. I look at reviews, but arrange most of my lodging through, and I look at their reviews, too.

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    You'll want to look at the train site- I haven't bought my Italian tickets, but German trains gave me several choices. I think self print or by mail or eticket on the smart phone. Nevertheless- you get an order number immediately and usually an email receipt right afterwards- you'll know if the order went through. Print stuff out like hotel, museum, train receipts- that way if you get there and they don't have a record, you can prove you did make the reservation. Peace of mind! It does appear to save you money to book ahead of time.

    Randomly curious- you don't have to answer- but is the fruit diet a response to a particular condition? Because I haven't heard of one, and fruit is expensive in the winter- it doesn't really fit with your thriftiness.

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    Staying in hostels is a great way to travel alone. You're likely to meet other travelers, and may even decide to do a little sightseeing with someone who shares your interests. I often stayed in hostels when I was younger, and even preferred sleeping in the dorms. As someone else says, if you get a single room in a hostel, it may be more expensive than a budget hotel.

    If you're not interested in religious art, there's no reason to visit a lot of churches. I certainly wouldn't recommend the Vatican Museums for you. I mentioned a few churches in Florence that have particularly important works of art. In Rome, Michelangelo's statue of Moses, which I consider one of his best, is in a church (San Pietro in Vincoli). All of the churches in Rome are free to enter, although this isn't true in Florence and Venice.

    You can certainly buy fruit in Italy, in any grocery or supermarket, and also at street markets. You're not as likely to find out-of-season fruits, as you do in the US. Berries, such as raspberries or blueberries are not common, and tend to be expensive. Strawberries are pretty much finished by June, although you'll find them in smaller quantities, and expensive, later in the summer. Cherries are usually finished by July, and out of season, they can be very expensive. (Sometimes, depending on the crop, they're even very expensive in season.) Peaches and apricots are in season in mid summer, and plums and grapes come a little later. In the summer, oranges are available, but not of the best quality. Apples and pears are available year round, but the new crop comes in late in the summer and in autumn. Because of this seasonality, a diet based almost entirely on fruit could be a bit monotonous.

    Like Kja, I prefer the reviews on to those on Tripadvisor. They only allow people who have been verified guests of the structure to post reviews. They also allow you to specify your destination to a specific area or neighborhood of a city. Rather than just "Rome", you can enter "Rome Trevi Fountain" or "Rome centre city". You can choose the kinds of structures you're willing to stay in, such as hostels, hotels, and many other. Then you can sort the list by price or by guest rating. Be sure to read the guest reviews before committing. I would be dubious of any lodging with a rating below 7, but the reviews can help you figure out why people didn't like the place. You can usually get a cheaper price if you pay in advance, but these prices usually give you no possibility to cancel. I prefer to pay more and keep my flexibility to change or cancel a reservation.

    I very rarely take tours, because, as someone said, "I don't like to be led about." However, a private guide is quite a different thing. You can tell the guide exactly what you want to see and what you want to know about it. You can ask all the questions you want, and you can say, "Let's get out of the sun and go someplace shady." I saw that you seem to have a great interest in ancient Roman civilization, and I can tell you that it's hard to get a lot out of the Roman Forum and Ostia Antica without some sort of guide. There are signs, but they don't tell you a whole lot. It's also hard to find certain things you might want to see, even if you have a site map and a good guide book. If you feel funny taking a tour with a private guide, a good small-group tour would be the second best option.

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    Don't worry about safety, michaelpianko.
    I have been travelling solo to those cities in Italy that you mentioned, I am a female and I have absolute zero problems about safety. Nobody touch a hair on my head. Of course you should take caution with your mobile and money, that's all.

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    Thanks for your replies.

    I have no known health problems or algeries that should prevent me from eating typical food, and when I was a kid I ate everything I was given, but I think typical foods are junk and fruit is the healthiest sort of food there is. It should be cheaper than typical food in the long run, because with typical food, you have to factor in the cost of clogged arteries, heart disease, stroke, or other problems, not that I want to seem too crazy. I'm not sure whether I am kidding or serious. A great grandfather had a eart attack and dropped dead when he was 39 and my grandfather got amyotrophic lateral sclerosis and then got pnumonia and dropped dead, when he was 36.

    Bananas are the cheapest fruit I see in the local grocery stories near my home in Michigan, USA. I typically eat more of the cheaper fruit and less or little of the more expensive fruit. My questions or statments about food are answered, fruit is sold in Italy and I will eat but I will think about food as little as possible.

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    Vegetables are good, too. Have you done any research on healthy diets or consulted a physician? I think you'll learn that you need to include some things other than fruit to avoid some very serious health risks associated with failure to consume a sufficient range of proteins, vitamins, minerals, etc.

    Good luck!

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