One Week to GO!!!

Dec 14th, 2009, 05:43 AM
  #1  
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One Week to GO!!!

One week left until my wife and I leave for our first trip to Europe on our Honeymoon! We are so excited we can barely focus on anything else this week!

We're starting our trip in Rome - staying at the Empire Palace. After there we move on to the Bernini Palace in Florence, followed by 2 nights at Sofitel Paris le Faubourg in Paris before going home. We're packing just carry-ons and backpacks (with a small folding duffel bag that will be used to store any gifts we purchase along the way) for the trip there and checking bags on the return, planning on doing laundry at some point in Florence.

Any last minute tips/advice/suggestions on travelling in those 3 cities this time of year? Any favorite or recently found cafes around those hotels we should check out?
I've already reserved tickets at the Vatican, and in Florence we've hired a driver to take us to a winery and show us the countryside- Guido with Discover Tuscany (if anyone knows him?).

Grazie and Merci!!!
StuartShapiro is offline  
Dec 14th, 2009, 05:54 AM
  #2  
 
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Congratulations! Take the easily packable silk long johns as cold weather insurance.

How many nights in Rome? I hesitate to make specific recommendations but others may know of special eateries near your hotels. My husband (DH) and I end up eating at the restaurants in sight when we get hungry and are usually happy.

May this be the first of many trips for you!
TDudette is offline  
Dec 14th, 2009, 06:14 AM
  #3  
 
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Here are sonme tips that may help:

TWENTY TERRIFIC TRAVEL TIPS !!

After enjoying 25 trips to Europe, most of them in the past 25 years, here are some tips that we have found helpful. We hope that you agree:

MONEY:
1. Use your CREDIT CARDS for most major expenses[ hotels, car rentals, Ristorantes ] It will provide the best exchange rate and give you a good record after you get home.
2. There is no reason to get local currency until you arrive in Europe. Use the airport ATM for cash. ATMs are everywhere in Europe and work just like your hometown machine—even in English.
3. Bring 2 credit cards and both should have 4 digit PINS. Be sure to tell your CC companies that you are traveling in Europe—check your limits.
4. Forget TRAVELERS CHECKS—they were obsolete years ago.
5. Keep several 1E & 2E coins easily accessible---very convenient.

PACKING:
6. Pack lite and pack smart ! It is too much luggage that signals a typical novice traveler. Your primary rolling bag should not exceed 24”—check it ! Take a smaller carry-on bag that should contain everything you will need to survive if your primary bag does not arrive for 48 HOURS.
7. Pack a canvas tote bag to hold the extra goodies you will buy in Europe. Also consider bringing a wash cloth, liquid soap, raincoat and a hat for bad hair days. Be sure your knife with corkscrew is in your checked luggage.
8. Do not dress to advertise that you are a tourist, although it will likely be evident. Plan your outfits using basic colors and do not be afraid to wear the same outfit 3 days in a row. Try to dress in layers—shirt, sweater, jacket.
9. If you need to save packing space, wear your bulkiest items on the plane [ sport coat, dress shoes, raincoat, sweater etc.]

SAFETY:
I feel safer in Rome or Munich than I do in Miami or Chicago. However, Americans do get targeted by pick pockets and purse snatchers, especially in crowded areas of major cities. Here are some tips that may help:
10. Keep purses/cameras around your neck—do not lay then down.
11. Wear a money belt for those items you cannot afford to have lost. This includes passports, credit cards, travel documents.
12. Stay alert and vigilant— thieves will use DISTRACTION as their tactic.
13. Always lock your rental car and keep nothing in view you want to keep.


WILD CARD TIP:
The best tip I can give to any novice traveler to Europe is to always smile, be respectful, and never forget you are a guest in their country !

TRAVEL TIPS CONTINUED:

CARS AND TRAINS:

Rental cars in Italy can be expensive due to the high mandatory insurance. However, often a car is the best way to see many parts of BELLA ITALIA.
Rail travel is often less costly but can be quite inconvenient in rural areas.

14. Avoid driving in major cities—it is often a real hassle.
15. When driving on the extensive AUTOSTRDA system, be sure to stay in the right lane except when passing. You will need to pay toll as you exit the system—look for the VIA lane to pay by credit card.
16. You will need a driver, a navigator, and a good map. The road signage is good on the major roads, but do not rely on road numbers on secondary roads—that will frustrate you. Do learn to trust the directional signage.
17. Study your daily maps in advance so you can ANTICIPATE decisions.

TRAVEL TID-BITS:

18. Take the time to learn a 50 word vocabulary to include basic courtesies.
19. Learn to use the 24 hour clock and the European way to list a date—both may save you a major blunder [ June 15 is really 15 June or 15/06]. It does make good sense---do we not call it the 15th of June?
20. Here are some TRAVEL TOOLS that you will want to have with you:

• Swiss Army knife with a decent corkscrew.
• Extra batteries for your camera—and/or a dual voltage charger.
• Copies of credit cards and travel documents—including passports.
• Extra reading glasses—I put 3 pairs in different locations.
• Adapter plugs—typically two prongs for round holes
• A flashlight or reading light---rooms are often too dark.


BUON VIAGGIO & BOUNA FORTUNA !!
bobthenavigator is offline  
Dec 14th, 2009, 06:26 AM
  #4  
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Wow thank you so much for the swift replies already!! We will have 3 nights in Rome, 4 in Florence and 2 in Paris. Wow Bob those are some detailed and AMAZING tips!! I am definitely going to print this out at the end of this week to make sure we've got your checklist covered!

Just curious - since we aren't checking bags and we know we can't bring a swiss army knife with us, where would you suggest we find a wine bottle opener in Rome when we arrive?
Any other tools/things we should get when we arrive that will be useful (specifically things we cannot bring onto the plane?)
StuartShapiro is offline  
Dec 14th, 2009, 06:28 AM
  #5  
sjj
 
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I'm going to make some sight-seeing recommendations. Some of the best art in Rome is free, and you can see it in churches all over central Rome. There's a marvelous statue of Moses by Michaelangelo in San Pietro in Vincoli, a wonderful ceiling by Andrea Pazzo in Sant' Ignazio, paintings by Caravaggio in St. Maria del Popolo, San Luigi dei Francesi, and Sant'Agostino, The Ecstasy of Saint Therese by Bernini in Santa Maria della Vittoria, and lots more that I've forgotten. I'd also try to see the Ara Pacis, an altar from the time of Augustus, and the Capitoline Museum. Congratulations on your wedding, and have a wonderful trip.
sjj is offline  
Dec 14th, 2009, 06:39 AM
  #6  
 
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We usually buy our wine openers in grocery stores, or small markets.
HappyTrvlr is online now  
Dec 14th, 2009, 07:32 AM
  #7  
 
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Stuart:

Wishing you and your bride a life full of happiness and travel! and good luck..(Mazel tov).

You'll want to visit (and perhaps go for the informative tour) the sinagoga in Rome's ghetto (on the Tiber-side Lungo Centi..next to the Teatro di Marcello). Don't be put off by the armed police at front and back entrances...that's just the way it is around the world today. You'll find the same in Florence at the beautiful Moorish-domed sinagoga...just a ten-fifteen minute walk east of the Duomo (only here the police are in a large glass booth, and the buildings, including a museum on the upper floors) are enclosed by a security fence. We recently enjoyed an "ecunemical" Sunday, by observing mass at the Duomo and then going off to the sinagoga for our first visit since 1993 (there was no fence then..but a 24-hour police van was stationed there).

The Moses statue mentioned by sjj above, is the renowned "horned" Moses...the church is a bit difficult to find since it is actually located off Via Cavour (not too far north of the coloseum)...there's a flight of stairs from Cavour to the church (very close to the metro station) and I don't recall any signs.

To add to our resident Navigator's ultra-comprehensible list (pay heed to it), go to any Borders or Barnes and Noble in the SF area and purchase three plastic-coated, folded maps of the "Street Wise" series for Rome, Florence and Paris...they can slip into a jacket pocket of handbag...and are very unobtrusive when opening while meandering.

Stu Tower [email protected]
tower is offline  
Dec 14th, 2009, 07:38 AM
  #8  
 
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Stuart...make that Lungotevere Cenci, not Centi.
tower is offline  
Dec 14th, 2009, 10:27 AM
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Congrats Stuart! Having just come back from all three destinations last week here are a few recommendations (please forgive the gastro-centric focus, but it honestly, you are going to some pretty heavy food destinations!):

Rome: Pear Gelato from San Crispino along side a scoop of Valhrona chocolate with maybe another scoop of the fresh fig gelato just because the other two might be lonely. On Piazza Maddalena behind the Pantheon.

Villa Borghese – book your tickets online BEFORE you go and try to get an appointment early in the day. You can add on a tour once you are there (better than the audioguide). Very worthwhile.

Shake off your jetlag with a climb to the top of Saint Peters. You can take an elevator up most of the way, then its 300+ steps to the tippy top where you get an unparalleled view of Rome. The narrow winding staircase follows the curve of the dome of St Peters so you truly feel that you are sandwiched in between the interior and exterior layer of the structure. Even though I had to use my asthma wheezer a few times I would do it again in a heartbeat . A fast, pounding heartbeat.

Florence: Panini from 'ino on Via dei Georgofili, around the corner from the Uffizi entrance and just down the street from the Uffizi olive tree. Deeee-lish. Ask for suggestions and they will point you in the right direction. I would have gone back the next day but our train left too early. Note to self: must have better planning next time.

Profumo-Farmaceutica di Santa Maria Novella - the herbalist shop of Santa Maria Novella. Perfumers for Catherine de Medici, Hannibal Lecter and several Popes. The pot pourri is still made by Dominicans according to the original recipe and they have beautifully packaged face creams, room scents, essential oils. You don't have to buy anything to enjoy the setting and get a good sniff. It's located down the street from the church on via della Scala.

Il Latini - some people have been less than thrilled with their diner here, but I found it to be the most delicious steak I have ever had (we live in beef country). The atmosphere is convivial and you'll get to know your neighbors whether you want to or not. Fortunately it's a lively, interesting clientele and you may even end up with an invitation to Sicily for next Christmas (as we did). When your formidable waiter asks you a question just answer "si" and you'll end up with a memorable meal. Just be sure to arrive hungry, very hungry. The restaurant is located on via de Palchetti near the Palazzo Rucellai. Have your hotel make reservations for 7:30 when they open. If you book for later you may end up waiting outside having a complimentary slurp of vino and a bit of local sausage.

Paris: Another great climb is to the top of Sacre Coeur. It will help to work off those calories you’ve been banking from the cacio e pepe, pizza bianco and steak frites. Besides, getting a birds eye view of a city helps to put it in perspective and gives you a great photo op. Look honey, the Eiffel Tower is sitting on your shoulder!

Shop at Monoprix, the Woolworths (or Target) of France. Relive your trip every morning with a tube of French toothpaste or pick up little unexpected gifts. At least get a bit of mustard (Amora is a good brand and sometimes comes in a tube). How are you going to recreate those fabulous salads with out a bit of sinus clearing french mustard?

Bring home another edible souvenir of your trip. Stop at the Poilane bakery on rue du Cherch Midi (between d’Assas and rue de Sevres). Buy a whole round loaf (ask for uncut) and take it on the plane in the paper bag it comes in – no need for plastic wrapping it will only kill the loaf. When you return home you can toast up a slice with a bit of unsalted butter and perhaps some chestnut honey (picked up at Volpetti on via Marmorata in Testaccio, Roma) and sit back and smile. La vie est belle.
milesnmiles is offline  
Dec 14th, 2009, 10:35 AM
  #10  
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Milenmiles - the gastro-centric focus is news to my ears! My wife doesn't eat meat, but I ON THE OTHER HAND will eat ANYTHING! I am going to be printing out this thread before we leave so that I can have all of this advice handy!

Any other "FOOD" for thought for me? If anyone has favorite dishes that I need to try I would love to hear some suggestions on that topic.

Also, my wife LOVES to shop - but she's not a high end girl. She gets a "high" off finding a deal - any specific stores that she can get some good accessories and maybe even a leather "bomber" jacket? She seems to have mentioned that jacket quite a few times these past few weeks.
StuartShapiro is offline  
Dec 14th, 2009, 10:41 AM
  #11  
 
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Call your credit card companies and let them know the dates you will be gone and to what countries. They will note this in your file. Sometimes, if they see foreign charges, card companies put a hold on your card.
Lynnaustin is offline  
Dec 14th, 2009, 10:50 AM
  #12  
 
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"Il Latini...Have your hotel make reservations for 7:30 when they open. If you book for later you may end up waiting outside having a complimentary slurp of vino and a bit of local sausage."

I would actually make reservations for later (9:00) because you get more of a local crowd. Yes, you might have to wait a bit, but be sure and make yourself noticeable and they'll get you in. We had one of our most memorable meals here, sitting with a room full of Italians singing Dean Martin songs (yes wine...lots of it...was involved).

Have fun. If you run into a couple of crazy Americans in Rome next week, that will be us!



maitaitom is offline  
Dec 14th, 2009, 11:21 AM
  #13  
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Definitely going to call my bank and CC companies to REMIND them...I spoke them already but I've heard so many stories of cards being put on hold and accounts frozen because the bank forgets.

We're going to "wing" it in terms of time for restaurants - at least for the first few days. I know our stomachs will be guiding us in that area until we can get used to the time of day there. We don't plan on going to sleep until later at night on our first night so we can acclimate better.

Maitaitmom - if you see two EXTREMELY happy and smiling people running around Rome, Florence or Paris in the next 2 weeks say hi!! That will be US We'll keep an eye out for you
StuartShapiro is offline  
Dec 14th, 2009, 11:32 AM
  #14  
 
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Stuart, you are going to have a great time. Don't know if this has been mentioned, but since you have a few days in Rome purchase the Roma Pass that will get you into the first two museums/sites for free and offers discounts at the others on the list (also free metro and bus for three days). Google "Roma Pass" to see which places it covers. If you are going to the Colosseo, use it there as a freebie, but more importantly to skip the line. Beware of Roman Gladiators who want to take your picture (for a fee).

maitaitom is offline  
Dec 14th, 2009, 11:45 AM
  #15  
 
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Stuart,

PLEASE PLEASE write about your trip when you get back. I will be smiling for the next few weeks thinking of you two discovering these incredible cities for the first time.

I agree that a later reservation at Il Latini (or any restaurant) for that matter is a better idea. I just find it challenging waiting that late.

If you are visiting the sinagoga in Rome, there is a restaurant nearby called Dal Pompiere that serves a luscious lemon tagliolini. Located on Via S. Maria dei Calderari off of Piazza Cinque Scole - the restaurant is located upstairs.

As for a bomber jacket, prices may not be lower than in the states, but Florence is a leather center. Just be careful that the quality isn't lower than the price.

Buon viaggio Stuart et Signora Shapiro
milesnmiles is offline  
Dec 14th, 2009, 12:01 PM
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wishing you more joy than your heart can hold...
jetsetj is offline  
Dec 14th, 2009, 12:10 PM
  #17  
 
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The clerk in the wine store opened the bottle for us! Then we bought one from him another time!
TDudette is offline  
Dec 14th, 2009, 12:15 PM
  #18  
 
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bob's the bomb!

I have always counseled travelers to learn to say 'good day', 'please', 'thank you' and 'good bye' in the appropriate language if they don't have time to learn anything else.

Always greet people with whom you come in contact.
TDudette is offline  
Dec 14th, 2009, 12:32 PM
  #19  
 
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Another useful phrase to know:

mescolati, non agitati

shaken, not stirred

(comes in handy for all sorts of things!)
milesnmiles is offline  
Dec 14th, 2009, 02:07 PM
  #20  
 
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If you are visiting the sinagoga in Rome, there is a restaurant nearby called Dal Pompiere that serves a luscious lemon tagliolini

Stuart, I heartily second this choice of Pompiere..as MilesandMiles says it's second floor (of an old fire house)...also try the Jewish-style artichokes (carciofo...kahr-cho-fo) and zucchini flowers...the baked cod in tomato sauce is deee-licious...good spot for lunch...just a few blocks from the sinagoga. Reasonable prices.(Thanks for the heads up, Miles!)

stu
tower is offline  

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