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Trip Report Our week in Italy - lucky with weather, missed impulse

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I'm still traveling and working on the road, so I'll just post some notes as I have down time.

Couple aged 60 - my second trip and husband's first trip to the destinations. Had 8+ days in Italy before I had to work and he return home. Flew open-jaw FCO-VCE via AMS coach. Prebooked FCO car pickup, hotels/apartments, fast trains, admission to Vatican museum, Colosseum underground tour.

We stayed in a hotel in Rome by Opera (access to Metro and train convenient) and apartment in Venice near train station (no bridges). Last night before husband's early flight we took bus to the Best Western by the airport where I stayed until a friend picked me up to spend a couple of nights in an apartment in Treviso before we flew to Germany for work. Appreciated a/c in all locations, though weather was generally not unbearably hot with some overcast and occasional rain (except in Pompeii). Soundproof windows also appreciated in Rome. Mosquitoes not appreciated in Venice, so a/c despite nice temps. We love staying in apartments to be able to bring food in, wash clothes, and spread out a bit. We did have to be quick to say not to heat pizza by slice when taking back to apartment.

Vatican museum on Sat afternoon was packed as expected. Definitely detracts from the experience. We did sneak off into some less popular spots, but eventually you have to join the crowd if you want to see the Chapel, maps, etc. Reservations worked fine--people in line said they had 1 hour wait. Sat morning climbed up to viewpoint above Flaminio the backway through the park and enjoyed some shade and gradual climb rather than the stairs (long climb for some folks carrying strollers). I liked seeing the children's rides and other normal city stuff and not just museums. Professional cameras rolling on some nice looking guy, but I didn't recognize him and he didn't recognize me.

We were moving at slower pace than normal. A week before the trip I injured my back, so could not carry any luggage and had difficulty with walking down steep steps or standing on hard surfaces for long periods of time. But with my husband as porter and a small rolling carryon purchased in Venice, we did not change our itinerary except for slowing down and finding lots of places for me to sit.

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    Sad sign of the times was the Italian soldiers at every Rome Metro station. We did get to see the various units' hats and badges (and automatic weapons).

    Sunday we took the Metro to visit the aqueduct park packed with joggers and cyclers, equestrians, and even some punk rockers holding a gathering. Lots of wildflowers in the grasses. Much longer sections of the structures remain than I expected. It looked online as if we could walk a street north to the Appian Nuova to catch a bus to Appian Antica rather than backtrack to the Metro, so we followed footpaths and treelines until we found the path that led to the railroad underpass and the road. Took some photos of golfers by the aqueduct for my husband's golfer coworkers.

    Found Appian Nuova, bus stop with the number, waved for the bus--who passed us by. The terminus for the line was just a block further, so we walked there, where the next bus was parked. A local lady arrived and was not pleased when the driver said 15 minuti wait. She wanted to commiserate, but I needed to sit down, so my husband held my hand as I lowered myself to sit on the curb. When driver boarded the bus, our companion eagerly waved for us to join them as my husband pulled up from my perch. As we sailed down AN, the lady thrust a bead bracelet on my wrist as a present and returned to her front seat to smile at me. Our broken English/Italian conversation had evidently resulted in a friendship.

    We eventually made it to Appia Antica and the original paving stones. We also stopped in the little visitors center for a map, restrooms, and exhibits. The enthusiastic director explained to a family about the short distances to the sights along the way, so we kept walking instead of catching the bus where intended. Mistake. By the time we reached the crossroads for the bus we were tired, hot, and hungry; my back was hurting. Rather than walk off the way several hundred yards for a sign promised cafe, we downed water and went to the bus stop. The wait was long. Other tourists joined us, hoping we would get them to the Metro. We did. Stopped at a Metro station where I thought I remembered some plazas or churches from the guidebook, hoping to get food/drink in a different neighborhood from our hotel. Not much was open on Sunday afternoon, so we had a basic sandwich in a bar. Followed by gelato.

    Glad we bought the Metro card rather than buying individual tickets. Made it easy to jump on any bus or Metro in the areas we visited. Probably not the cheapest alternative, but convenient.

    Colleague from New Zealand and I were talking about how we forget that the shops and restaurants in many places in Europe do not open the extended hours and days we are used to, so can get stuck with no place to pick up groceries after a day of sightseeing or no place to eat when off the local schedule.

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    Yes, I love transport passes. Don't have to think about traveling just one or two stops, and if you get on the wrong bus, no matter.

    And yes, weekends are a consideration in Europe. Not just for shops and restaurants, public transport as well. I try not to change locations on a Sunday in England, for instance, nor to plan day trips without a careful look at the train/bus schedules.

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    Walked past Circus to enter Palatine Hill in a.m. Had it almost entirely to ourselves to wander, read signs, visit museum, enjoy views, and then down to Forum. Trade-off if start in Forum would have smaller crowd there and not as hot, but give up solitude in Palatine and have to climb up. I love this area, so we spent a lot time between the two, then headed toward a recommended restaurant that wasn't open yet, so stopped in next pizzaria for lunch.

    Really enjoyed all the open air shaded cafes (except when smokers around). Only occasionally too hot, but many restaurants had no or ineffectual air conditioning, so not better.

    That afternoon reminded me of the first time I visited Rome--noisy traffic, crowds, heat. We finally managed to find some back routes as we visited Pantheon and Trevi, then returned to wait for our Colosseum underground tour. Good tip about view of Colosseum from above the Metro station. Further up a side street was a basic cafe to sit and eat gelato while waiting for out time. Extremely hot in line to enter, but they opened new lines to try to get everyone into the shade. We enjoyed the Underground tour (last time I just went on my own) and learned a lot. The top level was a challenge for my back, but I made it up and down at my speed.

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    My husband went back and forth about whether we would go to Pompeii. It is someplace he had always heard about, but understood the distance/time factor plus the option of Ostia Antica. In the end, he wanted to go just for a day trip.

    Some of you were frustrated with my detailed questions about where to find the Metropolitana train instead of the CV train in Naples. As it turns out, our fast train from Rome was delayed so we missed the Metropolitana connection (downstairs enroute to CV platforms; follow signs for Piazza Garibaldi station). Instead, we took another Trenitalia train to Pompeii city. Comfortable, air conditioned. When we finished at the Villa of the Mysteries, my husband wanted to walk back to the same exit to catch a train, but I didn't want to walk that far, so we used the main exit and caught the hot CV and stood all the way to Naples. Train was a great option for one direction.

    Amphitheater great way to enter the site without crowds and with shade. Eventually we went from numbered site to numbered site on our map with a break under the trees by the amphitheater, under the trees by the theaters, and on a wall near the Villa of the Mysteries. Refilled water bottles at every fountain. As hot as expected. I used both sun hat and umbrella when not too crowded.

    While sitting near the Villa, a lady in a sunhat and small bag around her waist stopped to ask us where the exit was; she had gotten separated from her husband but had a meet up point at main exit at 4:30pm. She had lots of time, so we directed her back the only road instead of the Villa exit, but after she left we eventually realized she wasn't carrying any water. So, we followed her and caught up, giving her a bottle. She thought she saw her husband just ahead wearing his blue jacket (yes, some people were wearing jackets!), so we continued, but stopped at the next fountain. She came alone, so we made sure she was drinking water and she told us that they got separated when she went to the loo. We told her how to reach the cafeteria in one or two turns or the exit straight ahead and she shooed us off. When I entered the cafe building, a man in a blue jacket was running up the stairs toward the toilets. "Have you lost your wife?" I asked. "Yes, she has Alzheimers and she wandered away. I've got their security looking for her, but they don't know how to find her." He headed out the front; I went out the back; my husband stayed at a door as point person. Her husband found her a couple of blocks away headed back into the site. We left them in the cafe with drinks and her delighted that we met her husband. The husband seemed embarrassed, but we were relieved and glad to have met her. Sometimes you have to follow your hunch that something just isn't right.

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    You and your husband were Good Samaritan, Kay2. You may have averted a tragedy.
    Aren't you glad that you did visit Pompeii? When we left after four+hours, we both wanted to return there.

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    We probably spent 4-5 hours in Pompeii with our breaks in the shade, picnic, etc. Glad we went and not too much for a day trip from Rome.

    I am learning that magical moments at a destination only occur once; the combination of elements can never be recreated. These days I am less likely to return to a place where I experienced such a moment and chose new experiences instead. My niece and I had such a moment when we visited Venice 10 years ago. We were at St Marks at dusk; the temperature cooled, the sky colored, the crowds were gone, an orchestra was playing a waltz--magic! I remember us consciously absorbing the experience to capture it in our memories and not wanting it to end. My husband wanted to see Venice for the first time, so I tried to recreate the experience with a vaparetto ride at dusk to St Marks--rain clouds, water rising from the drains creating lakes on the square, orchestra playing popular music, and selfie sticks.

    I missed my husband's impulse to buy a necklace for me on Burano, which would have created a new lasting memory. We took the boat to Murano for the ride and a walk around what I remembered to be a pretty town. Selfie sticks had invaded along with some higher priced restaurants amid the hot sun, but the colorful houses remain. My husband spotted a necklace in a window and remarked that it "looked like me". I was window shopping, so we ducked in to find the artist who wanted to explain her work with Murano glass and gold leaf engraving. Prices were low; we met the artist--just the sort of jewelry I like, but I don't buy much stuff anymore. I started trying on the pieces in the sweltering heat; other people joined us, increasing the heat and in a few minutes I was too miserable to want to try any more and choose something. After we returned to Venice, my husband told me that he intended to buy the necklace in the window as a gift for me. Now I really felt bad. We had an extra day at the end of our trip with no plans, so we returned to Burano, but the shop was closed and she only sells from her shop. I didn't realize the magic moment when it was occurring this time.

    If you are interested, she only makes a few simple jewelry items and some elaborate decorative objects. The jewelry we liked (square of glass with half covered in etched white gold) is not pictured on her website.

    We stayed in a one-bedroom apartment at Alberghiera Venezia in Venice that I highly recommend--good price for Venice, quiet, clean, full kitchen, clothes washer. Just be sure you know how many real beds versus sofa beds are in the unit so that you get what you expect.

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    After my husband departed on his early morning flight from VCE, a friend from Treviso picked me up to spend a couple of days seeing her town. It was a welcome break from the larger cities.

    My friend is an architect, so she gave me the historical architecture walking tour of the town. Interesting use of canals. Some lovely old buildings. Old city walls with gates. A pathway along the river. Posters for an upcoming Elvis event.

    They advertise themselves as a cheaper sleeping location with easy train access to Venice, but I agree with all the people who suggest that to enjoy Venice it is best to be there in early morning and evening, but leave during the heat/crowds of the day. Staying somewhere like Treviso and taking the train in would probably put your arrival with the crowds unless you are very disciplined. I rented an apartment there for a good price, but the quality was below the one in Venice. My friend says the hotels in the old town are old and can be noisy from neighboring bars. However, if you are using the cheap airline flights into Treviso airport, the proximity may be worth the commute.

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