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Trip Report Our Two Weeks in Italy (Roma-Firenze-Siena-Positano)

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I've finally summoned up the courage to post a trip report (thank you sweet glass of Brunello wine!). I will post a few days at a time. Don't want to overwhelm you and if you hate it, I can shorten it!

30 July – 13th August 2011

At 6’5” and on the high side of 50, my husband is a much cheerier travel companion when we are lucky enough to find a Business Class ticket sale. So it was that we booked tickets to Rome for travel in August. I am anticipating that we will not mind enduring the sweltering temperatures of Italy in August since we have gotten such a great deal on the airfare. Little did we know that we would be eager to leave the endless 100+ degree days of Dallas!

So, in honor of our 35th anniversary, we began planning in earnest. We had been to Rome & Florence previously, on our honeymoon and then again in 2006. Our thought was to stay in Rome long enough to get over jetlag and to visit a couple of places we’d never had the opportunity to see. We also wanted to incorporate Tuscany. And realizing that we were setting a busy pace, we decided to end in Positano for the “vacation portion” of our trip.

Much research on Fodors and Tripadvisor made this trip completely wonderful. Also SlowTravel was very helpful. RonInRome is a wonder. THANK YOU ALL!! My technique is to read trip reports, comments and reviews and to copy and paste them into documents for each city/area. At the end of this process I have a nice mashup of excellent advice. In hindsight, I wish I had noted every individual contributor and next time I will be more attentive to that.

Our routing may seem a bit strange. It seemed to make sense when we worked it out, but we did kind of backtrack a bit. We absolutely wanted to end our trip in Positano so that was a key factor. And my DH’s love of trains meant we used the Freccia trains as much as possible.

So I will dive in. I tried to keep a travel diary, with varying degrees of success. I do seem to be good at writing down food & wine!

30 July
Easy, on time flight from DFW to Chicago on AA2344. Admiral’s Club at ORD is OK. Had to move seats due to mosquito convention in one of the areas. Not sure how they arrived there, but they were plentiful.

Sat and went through all of the steps learned through Fodorites to keep from incurring AT&T charges on our iPhones—I hope to be able to reverse this when we return. Our phones were only 2 weeks old, so we are newbies.

Flight from ORD to FCO is lovely. We have the center two seats so that we don’t have to step over each other to get to the loo. I love AA but I hate the orientation of those seats that force you to wake up your neighbor to get to the aisle. We ate well, drank well, & slept very well.

31st July
We arrive at FCO and wait and wait for the luggage (we were not impatient, thanks to many Fodorites who have warned that luggage delivery is at a leisurely pace). I think it took about 45 minutes before we began seeing bags.

I will digress for a moment. We hemmed and hawed about luggage for this trip. We knew we would be taking several trains and did not want to have heavy or numerous bags. Also, my DH had a new camera and new lenses that he wanted to take. Our solution was a wonderful REI backpack that held his laptop, camera, and both lenses, as well as on board items like books, contact lens stuff, etc. I had a nifty sling bag from GAP of all places that my daughter loaned me. I carried my iPad, contact lens & mini pack of cosmetics, books, all of our travel info, passports, and miscellaneous items. Our luggage consisted of Samsonites newest, lightest weight pieces. A 22” for me and a 24” for my husband (being tall means size 14 shoes, so he needs a bigger bag, if only for the one other pair of shoes he brought). These ended up being the absolute best for our travel. We loved them and they worked out beautifully.

Back to FCO…our hotel had arranged for a car to pick us up and Sergio was waiting right outside in the Arrivals hall. What a zoo of folks!! Sergio was a friendly, knowledgeable driver and quite supportive of my DH’s attempts to converse in Italian. He had been studying using Pimsleur for weeks and weeks. I was so proud of him!

We arrived to a very warm welcome at the Hotel Splendide Royal at Via di Porta Pinciana, 14. The reception and parlor areas are stunning. Golds, yellows, brilliant sunlight coming through a domed ceiling. Quite relaxing! We sat in the parlor for 10 or 15 minutes until our room was ready. Room 306 overlooks the Borghese Gardens, and particularly some cottages behind the wall. Oh, to live in those! The hotel had placed some Prosecco on ice with some nibbles and a lovely welcome letter from the manager. What a way to start our 35th anniversary trip!! We decided to postpone toasting, in favor of walking around the neighborhood.

We walked a fairly short distance to the Spanish Steps where DH put his new wide-angle lens to good use. A word of advice, try to stay out of wide angle lens photos…they make buildings look expansive, and sadly, bodies as well…not a good look!

We wandered around the area, deciding that we needed some lunch and something cold. It was warm in the sunlight but quite agreeable in the shade. Having left those blazing temperatures in Dallas, we felt completely prepared for hot weather in Italy. Amazingly, this was not the case. The temperatures ran from 70s to 80s and we couldn’t have been happier.

Back to lunch. Tired and thirsty, we walked by a sidewalk café with the requisite affable Italian host, who seems to know at least 5 languages that I counted, trying to get people to sit down and eat. Half carnival huckster, half Bert Parks, he grabbed our jet lagged attention and we sat down. We ordered a cold beer and he asked “Large?” and my DH said sure. Well 2 MEGA BEERS showed up (12 euros EACH). Live and learn. We had bruschetta and antipasto…very good actually. Total bill was 53 euros. (Ristorante Al Presidente, Via in Archione)

Back to our hotel for a nap and shower. Then we had our wonderful Prosecco with the windows open overlooking the Gardens. Seemed like a dream….a very good dream.

For dinner, I had chosen Tavernetta at Via degli Spagnoli 48 (thank you Fodorite reviewers). Sadly, it was closed, although I didn’t notice if it was because this was Sunday or they were closed for August holiday. We walked around Via delle Coppelle (just around the corner and this is a lovely area) looking at other restaurant options. The same Fodorite had indicated that these restaurants were not worth going out of the way for, so we were a little reticent. A gentleman standing in his doorway was kind enough to make a suggestion (again, humoring my DH’s Italian) to us and we went with it. Casa Coppelle Ristorante at Piazza delle Coppelle 49 was WONDERFUL! Food, ambiance, service and an obviously caring chef in the kitchen…also nice jazz playing SOFTLY. Just our kind of place.

We sat inside (outside was full) and it was lovely. Beamed ceilings, smiling servers…it was heaven. We both chose a gazpacho with caprino cheese…truly inspirational! We had Spaghetti Carbonara con Guanciale di Cinta Senese (9 euros), Ravioli Bicolori con Farcia di Funghi e Ricotta & Ripiendo di Vitella (12 euros) along with a very nice white wine, Pasue Saracco for 22 euros.. Our total bill that evening was 69 euros. We loved it so much we decided that this would be our spot for dinner on our last night of the trip (2 weeks later).

We returned to the hotel and went up to the Mirabelle restaurant for a nightcap. This is a Michelin-starred restaurant and just gorgeous and not pretentious at all. The maitre d reminded us both of Tim Gunn—a snappy dresser and similar looks & mannerisms. As it was late, there were fewer diners there and we were seated out on the terrace with a STUNNING VIEW of the Roma skyline, including St. Peter’s beautifully lit dome. As we looked out on the horizon, there were fireworks in the distance! We couldn’t believe it. What a show!! Our waiter said they were probably part of a wedding reception. We pretended they were just for us.

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    OK, here's more!!

    1 August
    Up at 8:30 after a good night’s rest and breakfast on the 6th floor. Our rate included breakfast which I love because it meant all the coffee I could drink. Breakfast is served one floor below the Mirabelle so the view was just as stunning as we experienced the night before.

    We took the very warm, very crowded Metro just to experience it with our ultimate goal being San Clemente. 4 euros each for a day pass (I think that’s what it was). We got off at the Colosseo stop. Still completely impressive and a beautiful day to admire the exterior. We’d toured the Forum and the Colosseo in 2006 so we pressed on to San Clemente.

    Chiesa Basilica di San Clemente al Laterano is a GEM!! Tickets to tour were 5 euros. Wear flats for sure. Dark, uneven footpaths make this a walk of caution but completely enthralling. The temperature varies between warm and stifling, but there is so much to see that you really don’t dwell on it. There is also an underground spring that flows like a fire hydrant.

    The first level under the existing, lovely 12th century basilica is early Christian and dates from the mid 4th to early 5th century and was in use until the mid 12th century. The frescoes here are amazing.

    The second level beneath the first dates from the first century! In the 2nd or 3rd centuries, it was used by an Eastern pagan cult of the god Mithras. Also on this level is what is believed to have been a public building housing the Roman mint.

    Next, we visited S. Pietro in Vincoli with its magnificent statue of Moses by Michelangelo. The chains used by the Romans in Jerusalem to hold St. Peter are displayed in the church as well.

    We felt that both San Clemente & St. Peter in Chains were really something special and we were glad we had set aside time in Rome to visit.

    We returned to the hotel for a break and a shower…and newly energized, we headed out to find Giolitti for gelato. Located near the Parliament building (complete with a few protestors) at via Uffici del Vicario, 40. It wasn’t hard to find because the closer you got, the more people you saw with fabulous looking cups and cones! There was a line out the door, of course. You pay before you get in the line (there were many who found this out only when they got to the counter). We had amaretto and hazelnut topped with cream! Heavenly heavenly heavenly!!!

    We needed to walk off those calories, so we stopped by the Pantheon…saw some very cute shops on an alley, but traveling with one’s DH instead of one’s BFF means not much shopping! We went on to Piazza Navone and had a nice glass of wine at Tre Scalini (we had dined here on our honeymoon in ’76). Did some people watching and just soaked up Italian-ness!

    Dinner was at Ristorante L’Angoletto at Piazza Rondanini, 51. Sadly, this was a disappointing meal. Food was average but the service was inexplicably rushed. We had fried anchovies, which were just okay. Tomato soup with mussels was just so-so. And the pasta with anchovies was also very average. I did not make a note of our wine. Our total bill was 89 euros. We couldn’t believe the difference in the food and the service when compared our meal the night before.

    But even a bad meal can be made better by a good nightcap, so back to the Mirabelle for an Oban and a Rusty Nail. Our friend, Tim Gunn, welcomed us back and we once again enjoyed the tremendous view!

    2 August
    We are up at 7:00AM…eager explorers I suppose. Great breakfast and then we set out for a day trip to Orvieto. We walked to the Termini—took about 25 minutes and a very pleasant stroll. Piazza della Repubblica was very pretty and very busy.

    We arrived at the Termini and waited (patiently—which goes against our nature) in a lengthy line to buy tickets. I knew our credit cards would not work in their machines, but in hindsight, we should’ve purchased our tickets on the previous day or on line, but we were never sure which day we were going to do this or if the weather would be conducive to a good visit. The wait took about 35 minutes. Tickets were 80 euros for 2 for first class. Our train to Orvieto was 20 minutes late departing, but it’s another GORGEOUS day, so who cares.

    Along the way, further train delays made us almost an hour late; our 10:36 train should have gotten us to Orvieto at 11:36 or so. We arrived at the train station and just steps away is the funicular up to the gorgeous walled city—so picturesque!!

    We passed lots of shops on the walk up to the Duomo…pottery, wine, that sort of thing. I thought I could stop and shop on the way back down.

    We reached the Duomo and all I can say is that I stopped dead in my tracks because this is the most beautiful façade I have ever seen and set against a truly clear blue sky, it was just STUNNING.

    It’s past lunchtime, so we decide to eat first, tour second. A friend had recommended a spot which was easily found, just a bit up a side street from the Duomo. Tipica Etrusca on Lorenzo Maitani, 10 had tables with locals enjoying a long, leisurely lunch. It also had a table with another Texas family and their tour guide. We had the Umbrechelli with Porcina and a half bottle of Orvieto Classico (white)…all VERY good! The pasta was tasty and made on site.

    We toured the Duomo and found it just gorgeous…at a certain point in Italy (and it didn’t take long), we ran out of adjectives. Every place is so special, so inspirational, so stunning…so forgive me for not being able to fully convey what we saw.

    We walked back to the funicular…and the shopping gods are against me still…the shops are all closed for Italian siesta. But we make it back to the train station for our return trip to Rome.

    Dinner this evening is at Ditirambo on Piazza della Cancelleria, 74. We had deep an appetizer of fried aubergine, flash fried baby squid (to die for!), and marinated prawns with lime sauce; my DH had roast pig in salt and I had sea bass with mussels, clams, and flowers in a light sauce. We had the Amarone Della Valpolicello Classico Venturini as our wine. This was a very fine meal, thoroughly enjoyable. Our tab was 112,5 euros.

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    >>I knew our credit cards would not work in their machines,<<

    If they are US cards (Visa or Mastercard), they will work in the newer type machines at Termini (the ones that are touch screen kiosks).

    I will be in Rome in a few weeks and hope to try the restaurant you liked. Found a website for it.

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    Thanks kybourbon for the tip on the newer machines at the Termini. That is truly good to know.

    Sorry you are stuck inside today ellenem. We are hoping that Irene will blow the weather pattern away from Texas! But unlikely. Here's some more:

    3 August
    We are up early, breakfasted, packed, and taxi to the Termini for our 2 hour trip to Firenze. I had purchased our train travel on line thanks to Ron In Rome’s wonderfully detailed instructions on how to do so. I must say that I did a ‘happy dance’ when that purchase went through! Two tickets in first class were 88 euros (a Mini fare). My DH was insistent and thrilled to be riding in the Freccia trains and we took them whenever possible.

    We arrived in Florence and took a taxi to our hotel, the Brunelleschi on Piazza S. Elisabetta, 3. This is a lovely little gem and we had stayed here in 2006, but they have since redone a good portion of the hotel. A warm welcome and we were shown to our room (a very circuitous route, but that was one of the things we had loved about this place) and what a room! We had Room 502 and let me say I don’t think there could be a better view anywhere in Florence. The bedroom is located in a sort of cupola, surrounded by windows on all sides, and a round bed! The bathroom and closet are down a flight of stairs. The manager had left us a welcoming bottle of Proscecco. I am learning to love Prosecco!! I would love to describe the 360 degree views from this room, but you can see for yourself because this is the room that comes up on the homepage of the hotel website!

    We put our passports and other valuables in the in-room safe. We always use the same code in our travels, but I couldn’t get it to work. My DH decided I was doing it wrong, so he took over and couldn’t get it to work with our code either. He eventually found something that worked though. This will come back to haunt us.

    We left the hotel to get some lunch. We were both surprised by the crowds. We had been in Florence in ’76 and in ’06, both times in June, and never experienced the number of people crowding the streets as we saw now. Lots of eastern Europeans and Russians, it seemed, so I guess this is a popular destination for their vacations.

    We stopped for lunch at La Posta, opposite the Poste-Telegrafi at via de’ Lamberti, 20. We had smoked swordfish carpaccio on rocket and a beer. Delicious and really hit the spot. Tab was 48,50 euros.

    We walked around, exploring a bit more, the Ponte Vecchio and surrounding area but the crowds were pressing, so we returned to the hotel to shower and check emails. The laptop is in the safe of course. My husband turns to me and says, “What’s the combination?” This is really the only time on the trip that I lost my cool and I will blame fatigue and disappointment with the crowds…all I could say was “How should I know???” (Actually that was not all I could say, and it is not all that I did say, but I will spare you the details.) Laughter and hilarity did not ensue.

    We called Reception and eventually the kindly Concierge came up with the magic wand for resetting the code. Turns out the center line of the keypad was not working and that had caused the initial problem. So we did get our valuables out, DH made a NOTE of the combination for future reference, and I apologized for losing it and I am sure he feels guilty about something but is too ashamed to say it—right!
    In 2006, we ate dinner at a truly wonderful restaurant in Florence, Leo San Croce. We were so looking forward to returning and we had recently recommended it to several friends. Sadly, it has closed. Don’t have any information on what happened but we were very sad to learn that it was gone.

    The Concierge suggested and we decided to try Boccanegra at via Ghibellini, 124. We had veal tartar with rosemary & fresh goat cheese quenelle, flan of parmesan & porcini with marjoram potato cream, and risotto with quails, porcini and sage. Our wine was Campogiovanni Brunello di Montalcino San Felice. Total was 140 euros. The food was good, not the best we had on the trip, but very good. The negative aspect of this place is the music. It is loud, too loud (and no, I am not a grumpy curmudgeon) and seems to be stuck in the 80s. It is so entirely out of place with the setting and it really completely destroys the ambiance. In fact, a young couple that came in shortly after we did left…they told the waiter that it was the music. Our stomachs always overrule our ears, so of course, we never considered leaving.

    4 August
    We are up early, DH checking in with work on the internet. Breakfast was average; best thing is that it was included in our rate so I can again have bottomless coffee. We are off to do a bit of laundry which really only takes us about an hour to do and we are back in a jiffy.

    Later this morning we are off to see the Museo di San Marco, the real reason for our ‘stopover’ in Florence. We took a leisurely walk and paid 4 euros each for admission. Unfortunately, San Marco closes at 1:50 so we felt just a teeny bit rushed. I should have remembered this because I think this is why we have always missed visiting it.

    Either way, this Dominican monastery is a true GEM! The frescos by Fra’Angelico are mesmerizing. We visited every single cell with the individual frescoes…so inspiring and so lovely. The manuscripts in the Library are incredible. You feel so privileged to be able to see these masterpieces.

    San Marco was not crowded at all. It was peaceful and serene, a reflection of the fine architecture and the beautiful artwork that seemed to be everywhere. This was truly a highlight for us.

    We returned to the Piazza del Duomo for a cold beer at the Stove. This is a cute little pub with very friendly staff. While food is not their forte, my DH had a hot dog and thought it was quite tasty.

    We continued our aimless walking (because I love to do this and the crowds in the touristy areas were oppressive) and just absorbed the architecture and our beautiful surroundings. We headed in the direction of the Westin Excelsior to visit the bar. We have friends who spend a month in Florence every year (she is an artist) and they asked us to visit their local haunts, and this lovely bar is one of them. We had a light cocktail and chatted with the staff, then continued our trek.

    The shopping gods were with us, and the shops were open, so we stepped into a few along the way. There was a beautiful leather jacket in one with the gentleman offering to reduce the price from 1200 euros to 780! Not even tempted, I assure you! That would cut into my future travel budget! Those Italian fellas are true showman style salesmen.

    I did find a beautiful leather handbag at another shop which I will treasure and which did not cut into my future travel budget. So I will now quit griping about not being able to shop. (Is this perhaps why my DH insisted I get it?)

    Dinner this evening is at Osteria di Giovanni at Via del Moro, 22, as recommended by our friends from Texas. Our wine was Podere Campriano Di Greve in Chianta Alta Valle Della Greva (sorry I am not familiar with Italian wines so I wrote down everything that looked important on the label). The chef sent out an amuse bouche of a fabulous pomodoro soup. We split an order of Gnocchi with Porcini and Truffle Oil…OMG!!! I had rabbit with swiss chard and yummyness. DH had osso bucco and potatoes and a thoughtful little spoon so he could scoop out the marrow…he declared it “unctuous!!” ala Andrew Zimmern. The service, the staff, the food, everything here was incomparable. Total bill was 94 euros. They even brought me a little bag of biscotti to go with my morning coffee and the owner gave me a kiss on the cheek! We loved this place!

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    And now for the Siena/Tuscany portion:

    5th August
    Woke up to watch the sunrise over the cityscape. It was inspirational. Had a quick breakfast and returned to the room to pack and get out the door by—oh wait!!!! That dog poop smell yesterday at the laundrymat was me!!!! The left heel of my shoe is full of sh*t in every single waffle bottom nook and poop-filled cranny. Well, all I can say is that I put the bidet to some new purpose—I felt very MacGyver!

    So with that little bit of delay, we are finally out the door and our taxi to the train station is here to pick us up. The hotel is at the end of a small alley way. In fact, it’s quite a feat for taxis to get back there, including having to fold in their mirrors. As we leave, someone has parked and locked their bike to a pipe on the corner. Our taxi driver uses some Italian that we are pretty sure was not covered in any of the Pimsleur lessons.

    Eventually some bystanders help by holding the bike out of the way while our driver makes the turn. We are on our way!

    We are taking a Regionale train (so no online ticket purchase). DH used cash at a ticket machine and a helpful passerby assisted him, even though the directions were in english and my DH had not asked for help. His helper insisted on 2 euros for being so kind. Live and learn.

    We had a nice train ride on the Regionale train…very clean and easy with our luggage over our heads. I had brought a cable lock for our luggage on the trains but we never had a need to use them as there was overhead storage that easily accommodated our bags on every train.

    The 10:10am train got us to Siena about 11:38. Upon exiting the train, we basically followed the crowd and ended up in a shopping mall. We at first thought this was just part of the train station, but it’s not. We still aren’t sure what we did wrong, but a whole bunch of us did it! They did have very clean restrooms however, so there’s the silver lining.

    We took a taxi to the Pensione Ravizza at Piano del Mantellinni, 34 and we arrived just after noon. Our room would be ready by 3PM and the lovely person at the front desk suggested several places where we might have lunch. We chose Osteria Boccon del Prete on via S. Pietro., not far at all from our hotel. We had the plat du jour of crostinii (mozzarella, tomatoes, green olives, aubergine, olive oil) and thick pasta—pici—with cream sauce. This was the beginning of a new love affair with pici!!! We split a very large Italian beer and felt very good about our delicious 25 euro lunch.

    We traipsed down to the Campo to see all the other tourists and to walk off our lunch. We walked to the Cathedral and visited it and the Museo. Our tickets were 10 euros each. My understanding is that the Siena cathedral took much inspiration from the church in Oriveto and you could certainly see that in the design of its façade. It was gorgeous. I am not even going to attempt to chronicle everything we saw here. I have never, ever seen floors inlaid with the most amazing artistry! The ceilings, the walls…extraordinary. The Cathedral housed or was supposed to house a relic—the right arm of John the Baptist. I saw no sign of it and resolved to google it later.

    This Cathedral should’ve been the largest in the world, but construction on the expansion was halted due to the Black Death. If I recall correctly, the concept was to build a church that could hold all of the inhabitants of Siena. After the Black Death, not only were there no workers, but the population of Siena was so diminished, that the huge cathedral was no longer required. A visit to Siena is justified if only to see this amazing church and its museum. But there is also so much more to Siena.

    We were back at our hotel by 4:00 and our room was ready. What a view!!! I had selected this hotel based on Tripadvisor reviews, the hotel’s interesting history and also because of the stunning view from their garden. We had that view from the balcony in our room! I resolved that I might never even leave the room, but DH overruled me.

    We went down to the garden to have a cocktail and soak up the landscape laid out like a fabulous painting before us. A small storm cloud moved over and started a gentle downpour. We moved under an awning and enjoyed the sound of the raindrops (we have quite the drought in Texas and it’s been a long, hot stormless summer). This brief shower was the only rain we experienced in our 2 weeks in Italy.

    Tonight’s dinner is at Antica Osteria da Divo at Via Franciosa 29. Our hotel had suggested this to us and after looking at reviews of their suggestions online, we were keen to try this. It’s a beautiful place, easily accessible (we walked). We split our appetizer of scallops on a fried onion ‘ring’ with basil and grapefruit and we split our pasta course of wild boar ragout with hand rolled senese pasta. DH had the rolled pork stuffed with Tuscan bacon and pecorino cheese with white truffle sauce. I had the rack of lamb which was to die for (and if I keep eating like this, I will). We finished with a pecorino cheese board for dessert. I failed to write down the wine, but my recollection is that it was wonderful. Our bill for this exceptionally delicious dinner, in a romantic, softly lit and beautifully decorated setting, was 149,60 euros. A truly great meal!!

    Tomorrow: our tour of Tuscany!!!

    6th August

    After much deliberation and a desire to keep our 35 years of wedded bliss intact, we decided to use a driver to tour the countryside. This gave us the added advantage of being able to have wine in whatever quantities we chose. Thanks to many posters on this forum, we were fortunate to have Luca of Hills and Roads as our guide. We booked him for one and one half days. We emailed back and forth prior to our trip, as my DH and I researched to see what areas we might want to visit. In the end, Luca’s suggestions were the best choice for us. He is completely flexible on where to go, what to see, and is knowledgeable about so many areas—culture, religion, history, olives, wine, food, and even politics! He is really a Renaissance guy and we felt we really got to know the personality of a true Tuscan. We would use him again and again and we will always recommend him to friends.

    Luca picked us up at the hotel promptly at 9:30. We drove through the beautiful Crete Senesi hills while he explained that the landscape was formerly the sea bed for the Tyrrhenian Sea and the hills were called bianchi (I think I have that right). They are a sort of soft white. It’s most assuredly a majestic landscape.

    We then stopped in Asciano, a medieval village with a population of about 3500 and also Luca’s hometown. Luca explained that the grains for pasta are grown in this area, so I guess that makes it the pasta-belt (my poor joke, not his). The old section of Asicano is in the low area and the newer areas are higher. This is completely opposite of most towns, but in Asciano’s case, the town’s security was based on its proximity to Siena and also that it was not located on a commercial trading route, so there was no need to locate higher up.

    We drove through the val d’Orcia, Chisure, Calanchi, and La Torre (actually, I hope I am being accurate here…my scribbling in my journal is not completely reliable here). Either way, gorgeous scenery!!

    We went to the Abbazia di Monte Oliveto Maggiore founded by S. Bernardo Tolomei. Luca gave us historical perspective on the abbey and its founder. Tolomei was from a very wealthy family and at one point had a life-changing experience that led him to live as a hermit in a cave. (I kept wondering what we would think of someone who chose this alternative lifestyle today.) His hermit way of life attracted others and as more came, they began building a monastery. The bricks for the project were made on site by these hermits. Later they affiliated themselves with the Benedictine order and Oliveto is their established sub-order. Any errors in this narrative are ALL my own as I may have misunderstood or missed some aspects of the story. It is hard to listen when you are in sensory overload with your surroundings. This place is serene, lovely, enchanting. The pharmacy there, with natural cures for just about everything, is quite interesting, too. The beautifully detailed inlaid wooden chorus in the church is unbelievable.

    On to Pienza where we were keen to try pecorino cheese! But lunch first! We ate at Trattoria da Fiorella and had ravioli with spinach, a white bean & spinach soup, and bruschetta with pecorino and porcini. The pasta was divine (and made by our waiter’s mother). We had a nice wine, Rosso di Monte Pulsiano Corte alla Flora 2009. Our tab was 56,80 euros. It was truly a terrific lunch and a quaint little family run place. This was the first time (but not the last) that I saw a restaurant close the door & turn people away because “they were full.” No waiting, no gee, we’ll seat you later. They were full, so that was that.

    Pienza is a lovely little town and as we walked along the shops I spotted two lovely scarves displayed outside. I peeked in the window and saw a gentleman working at a loom and a woman working on knotting fringe at a table. Intrigued, I went inside. Their son was at work on another loom in the back. They were very friendly and happy to explain the process (in Italian). Luca was wonderful to translate for us I ended up purchasing two scarves for our daughters because they truly were works of art. So if you find yourself in Pienza, seek out the Aracne Bottega Artigiana at via Dogali, 25.

    Next, we visited the Cathedra di Santa Maria Assunta, designed by Rossellino on orders from Pope Pius II. The Pope insisted his architects follow his design, despite warnings about the soft soil on the cliff. Now sadly, the nave portion has major cracks, and actually dips down a full metre from the rest of the structure. Also notable for us were the thousands of bullet/shrapnel holes in the exterior from World War II. It was tough to think about so much violence in such an environment.

    We then went to visit a small winery, FornaCella in Montalcino. A very engaging lady met us and we toured her beautiful gardens, her lovely vines, and the very impressive wine making facility. Her husband’s parents had been sharecroppers and purchased the property in the 1980s. What a shrewd investment! We had some fresh tomatoes, homemade bread, and cheese and enjoyed their Rosso di Montalcino and their Brunello di Montalcino. Lovely wines and absolutely no pressure to purchase. We bought a Brunello to enjoy later (with Luca telling us that it really was not expected that we purchase). Really this felt more like visiting friends than anything else…it was a very relaxed setting and completely enjoyable.

    Back in our very comfortable mini van (the air conditioner is AWESOME!) to visit Montalcino. The views are incredible! Whatever your mental picture is of the Tuscan landscape, I assure you, this one is a thousand times better! Just a sidenote, there was a very hardy, flowering plant growing out of a wall in the town. Luca said it was capers! Evidently they love heat, but need water. I resolved to give them a go when I returned home.

    We arrived back at our hotel in Siena at 7:00PM, tired but happy. We had a 9:00 dinner reservation at S. Giuseppe but I was simply too tired to face getting dressed up to go. DH agreed so we had the Front Desk cancel our reservation (forgetting that it was Saturday night). We thought we would walk down the street to eat at the informal Boccon (our lunch spot from the day before)…it was closed now for holiday. We walked further down to another little spot, Cice and were kindly turned away. “We are full!” This was the second time we experienced this and I wonder if it is a Tuscan phenomenon.

    By this time we are even more tired and gee, starving and I am worried that we won’t find anyplace to eat. We wandered around and finally spotted Ristorante Compana. They could seat us! It was a bit warm but we sat outside, as that was what was available. We had a lovely meal (thank goodness) of cold pecorino cheese mousse with balsamic vinegar and baked pears (YUMMY!) and Risotto Lemon with Smoked Amberjack. Our wine was a Tuscan white, Panizzi 2009 Vernaccia di San Gimignano which we felt was just okay, a bit weak and no body. But the meal was good and the service very nice. Tab was 66 euros.

    7th August

    Luca picked us up at 10AM for our tour of the Chianti region and we headed to Monteriggione, a fortress designed to protect Siena from Firenze. The border with Firenze was a ‘no man’s land’ with a lake that over time, became a swamp. The fortress contained an estimated 600 men. An abbey was situated on an island in the lake. As the lake became a swamp, this added to the defensive strength of the fortress. Luca explained that the towers along the wall were originally 3 times taller than they currently are with banners and catapults that must have been extraordinarily beautiful and intimidating. The towers were reduced in size when cannonball technology came into use. The fortress was attacked 3 times but never conquered. Finally, in 1555, Siena was conquered due to an inside job: the treachery of the traitorous leader.

    The ‘square’ at Monteriggione was really designed as a practice area for fencing. Although the fortress was never intended to be a town, it became a village when the need to be a bulwark was finished.

    We wanted to see the Abbey that had at one time been on an island, so Luca took us to the Abbadia Isola. The church door was locked, so Luca rang the bell of what we assumed was the caretaker’s residence. An elderly lady in haircurlers and housedress opened up the church so that we could see the interior. While we could take photos, she was quite concerned that we not take video (I am not sure why and this was not the only church where this was the case.) Luca told us that the nave collapsed during WW2 and had been rebuilt.

    Across the street from the Abbey, there is a lively looking bar and we commented on it as a fellow walked out of the bar and crossed the street in our direction. We were already in our car, ready to leave. Luca commented that this guy was the owner of the bar and one of the wildest guys he knew. At that moment, the guy pulled the waistband of his pants down enough to reveal his whitey-tighties. I don’t think he even knew we were there. We all agreed that he was quite a character!

    On to San Gimignano which once held 72 towers—symbols of the noble families. As each family raced to outdo the other in size and design, the local government had to place a limit on the maximum height as they became a danger to the population—falling down. The town is in pristine condition; so easy to imagine what day to day life may have been like—it’s hard to believe that it is so old!

    We stepped into a little wine bar, Vernacchi, situated along the wall of the town. We had smoked tuna carpaccio with apples and carrots and wild boar ham and wild boar sausage. I can’t believe I forgot to write down the wine because that was why we went in! Tour fatigue, I suppose.

    This was the end of our wonderful time with Luca. We would do it again and again. This was such a perfect introduction to the areas and while we could have focused on just one or two towns, we preferred to paint a broad brush for our first visit. We definitely would like to return and spend a few nights in a few of these towns. They are amazing.

    The biggest takeaway for me was learning how truly different the areas of Italy are. I have been aware of regional styles in cooking, but truly there are major cultural and personality differences. Even their languages were different and still carry very regional linguistics. It’s a wonder that Italy was able to keep these very disparate districts combined under one central government.

    It’s early afternoon so we decide to walk down to the Piazza. As we exit our hotel, we hear what sound like marching drums. There is a little parade of more than a hundred young people with red, white and blue scarves tied around there shoulders. There are uniformed young men with huge red, white and blue banners featuring a seashell on them. There is much twirling of banners, throwing them in the air. It is quite exciting!! We are so happy we decided to go for a walk! The palio (a wacky, wild horserace dedicated to the Assumption of Mary (at least the one scheduled for the following week, on the 16th of August is). We thought the parade and banners must be for the district where our hotel was located, but we were told that this was a “friendly district” and that it was part of the palio celebration for these “allied districts” to demonstrate their support of each other by parading in the other district. We could hear other parades off in the distance as we walked around Siena. The banners are beautiful, colorful and you can buy them everywhere.

    We made it down to the huge, shell-shaped piazza. Tons of tourists and very lively. We sat outside at a café, Costa, and had a beer. We watched an adorable little girl, probably 3 or 4, feeding the pigeons. She was very concerned that each bird get its fair share. She kept returning with more bread. And when the birds left some crumbs, she knelt down and ate them!! I just gasped and the mom in me blurted out “Nooooooo!” at the same time the lady at the table next to me blurted out “Nein!!!!” We looked at each other and laughed. Mommyisms are universal.

    It’s Sunday evening and we figure that dinner options will be limited and they are. The hotel suggested Papei, so we had them make a reservation. Located beyond and behind (more or less) the Piazza, we knew there would be a nice uphill climb after dinner. We split chicken liver pate on toast and also split our pasta course, pici with rabbit sauce; then veal with mushrooms and wild boar stewed with olives and tomatoes. We had a Rosso di Montalcino Terre Nere Campligli Vallone 2005. The food was adequate, the service engaging, and the tab was 69 euros.

    We hate to leave our special slice of Tuscany. We have gotten way too accustomed to the beautiful views in the garden while we have breakfast and the amazing vistas as the sun sets and we have our evening cocktail. Why can’t we live like this all the time??? The Ravizza is a very special spot.

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    Mille grazie, Paris1953! LOVING your report, and laughing at your humor. E.g., having just returned from NE Texas--55 consecutive days of 100 degrees and no rain, I totally "get" your enjoyment of the rain during your trip (I saw about ten drops of rain one day and was ecstatic)

    LOL re your use of the bidet for cleaning your shoe!!! That's why I've never used those things for their official intended purpose!! Who knows to what use they were put by the previous guests? (-:

    Thanks for recco for Luca. Having driven through Tuscany June, i vowed to BE driven instead next time, whatever the cost!!

    Ok, back to YOU. Keep the wonderful stories and details coming.

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    Thank you, CaliNurse. We are still in the thick of the heat here. Who thought we'd have cabin fever in summer??

    So here's the rest of our trip:

    8th August
    I am soooo ready for the “vacation portion” of our trip!! Our taxi arrived promptly at 7:30AM to take us to the Siena train station. We actually caught an earlier train than we had expected as the station was not even remotely busy.

    We arrived in Firenze with plenty of time to spare to catch our FracciaRossa train. Our seatmate was a very sweet 17 year old (18 in a few weeks, she said) from Milan. She had been in New York City the week before on a study program. She hopes to travel with her friends next year, starting on our East Coast and moving to the West Coast. What a great trip that will be! Nice to see young Europeans wanting to see some of the US! She left our train in Rome, after cautioning us to be extra careful with our possessions in the Naples train station.

    Our sweet seatmate was replaced by a family of 6, including a very spoiled, obnoxious 4 year old boy. Good lord, had they created a monster. Felt sorry for the 4 year old and what his life would be like. I was also grateful they did not sit in our little 4-some of seats. But rest assured, the entire car, including the conductor, was beset by this little beast. Even the icy stare of the conductor could not stop his wild activity. We could not exit the train in Naples fast enough and we prayed that they were not continuing on to Positano.

    Some prayers are answered because we never saw them again.

    Our hotel, the Marincanto, had arranged for a driver to meet us on the platform. She was very nice, happy to point out Vesuvius and other points of interest during the 75 minute drive to Positano. To say that this drive is gorgeous is the biggest understatement I could make. It is breathtaking and truly an engineering feat. I was glad my DH sat on the 'cliff-side' of the car because I think it would have been more of a white-knuckle experience if I had been sitting there.

    We arrived at the Marincanto where the parking lot is on the roof, at street level. You take an elevator (or the stairs) down to the lobby. The staff is welcoming and just plain happy. I say this because everyone at this hotel seems to genuinely love their work and love their guests. Or, they are the best actors in the world.

    Our room is awesome! Room 209 has a large balcony with table and chairs and a view of the entire town, sea, boats, buildings, yachts, islands, all spread before us! We have a Jacuzzi tub that overlooks the sea! Happy Anniversary!!!

    We went down to check out the salt water infinity pool. We had seen this on the Marincanto webpage and thought we’d spend all of our time here. The water was brisk, especially compared to the bathtub temperatures of Texas pools in the summer. We had gin & tonics on the deck and then up on our balcony. The bartender brought us some lovely appetizers! This became our routine…although we would go down to the outdoor eating area for cocktails before dinner on the rest of our evenings. The bartender, Raphaella, was just the sweetest lady, who remembered what we liked after the first visit.

    Our driver from Naples had suggested a restaurant just a few steps from our hotel for dinner. We were tired after our long day of travel and decided to try it. So dinner was at Bruno’s, overlooking the sea and the lovely vistas of Positano. We split our appetizer of Caprese, and split our pasta with rabbit sauce; and for our main we had sea bass with limone wine sauce and sea bass with sundried tomatoes and potatoes. They like to do fish with tomatoes and potatoes in Positano. We saw it everywhere. The food was good, but not great. Not sure I would recommend it unless you were too tired to go elsewhere.

    We returned to our hotel balcony and thought it would be a good idea to have a glass of our Brunello wine we had purchased. Tasted good…but hangovers tomorrow!!

    9th August
    Let the vacation begin!! Getting up was a bit tough and I regretted that glass of Brunello immediately. But breakfast beckoned and we went down to the lovely buffet (included in our rate) and the welcoming sweet lady who almost single handedly takes care of breakfast patrons. Every morning, she greeted us so warmly and remembered that I was a coffee hound! We loved her!

    Sitting cliff-side among the lemon trees and I am pretty sure a lime tree, overlooking the Tyrrhenian Sea and having a great cup of coffee and melt in the mouth breads is as close to heaven as I have been. Interesting activity with helicopters scooping up water and flying inland, then returning for more. This occurred several mornings in a row. The staff told us there was a fire (“not near here” they emphasized) and we think that the morning sea was calmer so they could scoop up water more easily at that time. We never saw them after 11:00AM.

    So after a lovely breakfast and some Tylenol, we decided to visit the beach at the base of our hotel. There are 429 stairs from our room down to the beach. The first time down it created some intense butterflies for me, but I got used to it. It is not unsafe, in fact, it’s gorgeous, but one needs to focus on the stairs and not on the view!

    The beach has a huge section with orange umbrellas and chairs with walk-in access to the huge swimming area and a section amongst the rocky cliffs with blue chairs and umbrellas. The orange section is populated with lots of families and children. We chose the blue section. Marincanto guests get a 20% discount (as this is a privately run beach) so we paid 20 euros for 2 lounge chairs & umbrella. There is a great lunch spot in the blue area and we found that for 2 euros they would bring you a bottle of sparkling water in an ice bucket with two cups and lemon slices. Such a deal!!

    We relaxed and read our books and decided to take the plunge. There are several points of entry into the sea (remember this is not a sandy beach situation, but rocky—they are more like river rocks though, smooth, not sharp) and my personal favorite was a ladder that was situated between two large rocks. The water is shallow at the bottom but quickly becomes very deep. You can see the bottom of course because the water is so clear. For these Texans, this was like a Polar ice plunge! I have no idea what the water temperature was, but it really got your heart rate up!! The best option was to just plunge in and once you did that, it was truly wonderful. I could stay there forever!!

    Lunch at the beach was delicious. I had the caprese sandwich and DH had the parma & mozzarella sandwich. We had a half bottle of a nice, cold white wine…but I didn’t have my journal to make a note.

    So this became our routine. 5 ½ hours or 6 hours a day of the beach. We truly needed this ‘down time’ and we were thankful that we had planned this at the end of our trip.

    For dinner this evening, we chose Ristorante Scirocco which is 4900 meters up the cliff. They have a shuttle that picks you up and brings you back to your hotel. The driver was quite nice and it’s quite and experience riding up to the restaurant. There is a lovely view and the staff is very, very friendly. We split the smoked salmon escarole & pear salad with honey & lemon dressing and also the angel hair with black truffles. I had the zuppa with mussels and clams and my DH had the sea bass. Our wine was a combination of two local grapes, Fiagre Compania, and it was very good. We were the first diners, so we felt a bit “AARPish” but it did afford us an opportunity to see a memorable sunset. I did notice that as the restaurant filled up, the attentive service took a bit of a hit.

    10th August
    We repeat our beach experience. Another lovely day in paradise!

    We repeat our cocktails on the terrace with Raphaella. She continues to be lovely and to love her job.

    Dinner this evening turns into one of our best meals of the entire trip! We had reservations at Max (Via dei Mulini 22) at 8:30. An easy walk from the hotel, Max is part house, part antique shop, part art gallery, part courtyard…it is unique. We sat in the courtyard and had an appetizer of zucchini flowers with cheese; ravioli with lobster, and then the catch of the day which was a local seabass-like fish with lemon wine sauce. FABULOUS!!! Our wine was a Greco di Tufo Macchialupa DOP 2010 and then we had a very nice Praepositvs Pinot Nero Reserva 2007. We ended up taking the Pinot back with us to the hotel. We loved our meal so much that we made reservations for the next night! Tab for this very lovely meal was 206 euros. That second bottle of wine kicked us up a notch.

    Back to our balcony to sit and admire the view. There is an upcoming festival in Positano and we had, in fact, seen all kinds of light decorations (akin to Christmas decorations really) around the town. Well, tonight we are treated to fireworks that are being shot from a boat or platform out on the sea. It was breathtaking!!

    11th August
    Fabulous breakfast: check
    Fabulous beach: check
    Lunch on the beach: check
    More fabulous beach: check
    Drinks with Raphaella: check

    We left our hotel early to explore more of the town before dinner. The little streets and alleyways around Max are full of market-like shopping, art galleries, and a lovely church (if you see photos of Positano, this church has a prominent, beautiful gold and green dome). Lots of fun to walk around and not too crowded, so we enjoyed a leisurely look around.

    Our dinner started with complimentary Prosecco and we ordered the same white wine as the prior evening. We had swordfish stuffed with smoked cheese; a dish with 4 kinds of pasta, and then lamb sautéed with lemons and olives and zucchini tempura; and a savory dish of mussels and clams. We wisely skipped the 2nd bottle of wine this evening! Our meal was once again, completely delicious and exceptional.

    12th August
    Up early for our last breakfast experience. Another gorgeous day makes it that much more difficult to contemplate leaving.

    Our car to Naples picked us up at 11:30 and was a bit different experience from our driver into Positano. Traffic was gearing up for the holiday weekend and I could see from my position in the back seat that his gas tank was on reserve. We are always early for things and we don’t like to stress, so we were already worrying about missing our train in Naples. It didn’t help our anxiety levels when our driver stopped for gas. This took some inexplicable negotiating with the gas station owner before he would fill up the tank. Our thought was the driver should have one this before he picked us up.

    The drive from there was very slow….somehow we still ended up at the station in Naples by 1:00 so our anxiousness was for naught.

    We have a great train ride into Rome. No unruly children or enabling parents in sight! (And we are not curmudgeons, I feel the need to remind you.) Taxi from the Termini back to our lovely Hotel Splendide Royal. They have a beautiful room for us, Room 504 and a box of the best chocolates waiting for us in the room!

    It’s about 4:00 and this is our last night in Italy. My DH has agreed that we will do a little bit of shopping now. I no longer feel compelled to bring gifts to our grown children and their significant others, but if I see something truly unique that I think they will enjoy, I usually pick it up. So I am eager to experience shopping in Rome.

    We walk and walk as I have been told by a friend that there are some very unique shops along Via dei Coronari. It’s quite a trek (a ‘forced march’ as DH calls it) but we find aforementioned street. Well, every single shop is CLOSED! By now it is 5:30. I have no idea where else to go or even why these shops are closed. The shopping gods have spoken, so I give up my quest. Even my DH feels sorry for me.

    Dinner this evening is at our favorite, Casa Coppelle. We can’t wait! It is the perfect location for the end of our perfect trip. We had the gazpacho with caprino cheese again (you would, too, if you could only taste it), we split our last opportunity to have pici with wild boar white sauce; DH had the carbonara and I had the Osso Bucco. We had the same white wine that we enjoyed on our first night in Rome. This restaurant absolutely will not disappoint you! The service was again lovely (our waitress remembered us!!) and the ambiance is just perfect.

    We are creatures of habit and we return to our Mirabelle for a night cap and a warm greeting from Tim Gunn. The views are spectacular. We are sad.

    13th August
    Our car service is punctual, even early so we are on our way to FCO by 8:45AM. It is a beautiful drive and I feel like we see parts of Rome that have somehow escaped us. Our driver is very friendly and knowledgeable, so we learn even more things that we will need to investigate on future travels. We noticed a movie production along the way, and our driver told us that Woody Allen is in Rome filming. Didn’t he just do a Paris movie too? Nice work if you can get it!

    It was a lightning quick trip to FCO; we arrive at Terminal 5 at about 9:10. Thanks to RonInRome, we know what to expect here. It is well organized and efficient. We move through security, Customs, and Passport Control, then onto a bus to Terminal G. We hadn’t expected it, but we have access to the Alitalia lounge! So that is a nice surprise and we settle in, reading newspapers and checking emails until our departure. Our flight is running about 90 minutes behind, but we have no worries about making our connection at JFK.

    Return flights are always sort of melancholy for me. I was eager to get home, but truly hated to see our long anticipated trip finally behind us. But we are home now and all is well. I have several goals: learn to make Pici and locate Caprino cheese!! Also time to start planning our next adventure!!!

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    Your narrative has helped me tremendously as my wife and I soon head to Positano and Florence preceded by 4 days in Paris. It's our first European adventure and I'm planning to visit several of the spots you mentioned. Max in Positano, Osteria Florence. You should write novels...maybe you do. If not I hope you recognize what a talented writer you are. I read a lot and you are incredible! Great sytle! I love your sense of humor! We leave in three days....I was excited before reading this now I'm geeked! Thanks!

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    paris, you mentioned a few times that hotels had drivers waiting for you. Is this something they offer as an included service in Positano for example?.....or if not what was the charge for this service? Sorry to indulge you but is it customary to tip the drivers in Amalfi or is it included in the quoted fare?

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    Dentist we must be on at the same time. I contacted the hotels to arrange for the drivers and the fees were added to our hotel bills. We did tip our drivers from 10 to 20 euros per driver, but we thought maybe we overtipped. Driver from Rome airport to our hotel was 72 euros. Driver from Naples to Positano was 110 euros.

    Happy to share any other info you need.

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    That's a bit more than I arranged via internet with an unknown to me yet very responsive limo company based in Sorrento. They charge 85 Euros but I'm not concerned with a few $ just want to pay the usual and customary. Our travel dates are exactly one month after yours. We depart Aug 31 and return Sept 13. We'll be in Paris, Sept 2-6 as we have a 24 hour layover in London. So what's on your must see or do list in Paris for a couple of first timers other than the most well known attractions? My wife (DW---I love it!!) and I are a couple of years older than you and your DH....58 and 61. We hail from suburban Detroit and spend our winters (mostly) in Naples, FL. We really want to get the true flavor of Paris as well as see the majors.....

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    Sorry....another question. Did you or have you visited Capri? If so is it worth visiting. DW believes we should visit during our 4 days in Positano. I'm not so sure. DW harbors this opinion (I think) because it "sounds" like a charming place.

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    Dentisto, regarding Capri....we were there so long ago, on our honeymoon in 1976. It was enchanting. But in my opinion, the experience and atmosphere at Positano was equally sublime. HOWEVER, if you go to Capri & have the chance to visit the Blue Grotto, that was quite amazing. There are ferries all day long that take you from Positano to Capri, so really you could decide to do that at the last minute I think.

    Regarding's hard for me to say. My favorite thing to do in Paris is to just walk...get lost in the streets and alleyways. Talk to the shopkeepers. If you have the basic niceties of bonjour and merci, they are very accommodating. One of my favorite planned things was a market tour, then lunch cooking class with Cooking With Class. ( But with so little time in Paris and this being your first time, you should do the touristy things for sure. Rest assured you will want to return!! For a nice afternoon, I would suggest taking your favorite books, a bottle of wine or water, pick up some cheese & bread, and go to the Champs de Mars and just watch people.

    Another suggestion...after dinner. go to the Trocadero and have dessert at a cafe and watch the lights blink on the Eiffel Tower. WORTH EVERY PENNY!! I've recommended restaurants in Paris before on this site and so have many other folks...I'm sure you've researched those. Also, since it's your first time I would definitely suggest a Seine cruise...daytime gives you a great perspective of the city and night time is just magical. There are no wrong ways to do Paris!

    I'm looking forward to hearing about your trip! And thanks for suggesting we are younger! Not much!

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    dentisto - I depart the day you do and have a layover in Detroit. Are you flying in to FCO? Taxis (official Rome taxi) are a set fee of 45€ from FCO to Rome for 4 people including luggage. Limo service (such as )from FCO can be booked for similar price. From Naples to the coast, they are also set fees. Click on visualizza le tariffe pdf. Page 2 is English.

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    kybouban, Thanks for the info. We fly Detroit to London and have 24 hour layover, then London to Paris the next day. We decided on Amalfi and Florence for the Italian part of our trip so we'll miss Rome. Have a great time.

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    hi paris,

    just found your trip report - and read it one go. I had to laugh at some of your comments - the "helpful" person who wanted €2 for assisting you to buy a train ticket for example! we met one of those too, but had the good fortune to "persuade" her to go away.

    i am sorry that you missed the via coronari - we stayed in a near-by apartment and walked its length several times, though the most we bought was an ice-cream I think! I personally fell in live with the most wonderful table in one of the antique shops, but I suspect it would have taken the entirety of my travel budget for ever! but there were other near-by streets with interesting and less expensive shops which we enjoyed too. i love the mix you find - just round the corner from us was a marble workshop next to a cafe, next to a shoe-shop, next to...

    perhaps you will get to go back for your 40th anniversary?

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    Thanks, Annhig. I could tell that I would have been smitten by those shops! Maybe the 36th anniversary trip?

    Thank you LBev. The only sad part of this trip is that it's all done.

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    Hi, Not sure if you are still checking this, but I am in need of help/advice getting high speed train tickets prior to my family's arrival to Italy in about a month. Can't believe I found your posts--we are doing the exact same itinerary! Without the high speed trains, I can see some problems with how I have everything scheduled. Any directions are appreciated!

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    We can't give you directions because we don't know your problem.

    You will get more responses if you start your own new topic tagged for Italy with a descriptive title ("Need train help for Rome, Florence, Whatever") and describing exactly your situation. "We need to travel between x, y, and z. We hoped to do a, b, and c, but now I've found trouble because . . ."

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