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Perfect First Trip: Rome, Orvieto, Tuscany, Venice

Perfect First Trip: Rome, Orvieto, Tuscany, Venice

Sep 28th, 2013, 03:33 PM
  #1  
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Join Date: Sep 2013
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Perfect First Trip: Rome, Orvieto, Tuscany, Venice

First, thank you to all who have shared your experiences on this forum. Years of reports, comments, and links helped this newbie tremendously. I had never been out of the continental US, so this was quite an adventure. So in case I can be helpful to someone else, I'll share some of my experiences.

I spent 17 days, excluding flight days, and had a marvelous time. I traveled alone, did few tours, and used public transportation. I'm not much of a foodie, so i won't be much help on restaurant recommendations. I traveled with a carry on and a tote bag. I probably obsessed as much on what to take as I did on where to go. I'm apparently not the only one though since there were an astounding number of Internet postings on what to take, how to dress, how to pack etc.

I'm no fashionista and I finally decided to stop worrying about it. Why would anybody care what I wore? I decided to take clothes I am comfortable in, the ones I wear most at home. So my clothes planning was more a Q&A session: what do I wear when out running errands all day on a really hot day? What do I wear when it's cool in the morning, gets hot, then gets cool again without changing clothes? What would I wear when traveling half a day, hauling luggage off and on? Etc. it worked well for me.

Rome
In my late 50's, clutching my first passport, I landed in Rome about 7:30 am. It was a bumpy flight, and I slept little on the flight from Atlanta, but I was in ITALY!!! I followed the signs and crowds, was disappointed not to get some cool stamp in the passport, and found the driver waiting. I debated about taking the train but ultimately decided to take the hotel up on arranging transportation. And I was glad. By that time, I wanted out of the airport to see the city. Thankfully I had gotten euros before I left because the lines at the airport were long. I had had enough new experiences at the moment.

Emanuele at Hotel La Residenza greeted me warmly and had my room ready. I was not expecting much space but the room was great and I had a balcony! It had window boxes all around, so even though the view was the building next door, it was a wonderful place to sit and relax. The bathroom was big and had big, fluffy towels and robes. It was a terrific value for 100 euros per night. I loved the hotel. There were several beautiful, comfortable sitting rooms downstairs, classical music or Italian opera was usually playing. The included breakfast was extensive, and it was a short walk to the Barberini metro stop, the Spanish Steps were also close by.

My plan for my first day was simply to walk around, gawk, and get to know the city a bit. And gawk I did. Wow. Antiquity everywhere, beautiful public spaces everywhere. I loved walking into places and hearing buon giorno -- it's the little things that make a trip for me. I decided to do a HOHO bus to get a better feel for where everything is in relation to each other. I have a terrible sense of direction, so maps are my friends. Advice to simply get lost in a city is the easiest I've ever seen to follow. The HOHO was a bit of a shock. They used a taped narration from a BBC type, very academic type information. I'm accustomed to the US trolleys that usually have some cheesy but entertaining chatter with humorous stories woven into the history. No humor here but good info. But I wanted to hear fun stuff too.

I stuck the ride out long enough to see the Colosseum. It was stunning particularly since I was still in I-can't-believe-I'm-here mode. After more happy wandering, I finally stopped long enough for a tomato mozzarella sandwich. It was wonderful. I also discovered Diet Coke is not sold there and Coke Light tastes awful, at least to me. I joined the throngs in sitting outside and just relaxing. Eventually I stopped in an enoteca, bought a bottle of wine, had a glass and called it a night at about 9. I had an early date with the Sistine chapel in the morning.
whoknowz is offline  
Sep 28th, 2013, 03:40 PM
  #2  
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
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Good for you !
Nice start to your TR--tell us more.
bobthenavigator is offline  
Sep 28th, 2013, 04:21 PM
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Sounds like your trip got off to a good start despite the disappointing HOHO tour. looking forward to more of your trip report!
drchris is offline  
Sep 28th, 2013, 05:42 PM
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Looking forward to reading more!
Samsaf is offline  
Sep 28th, 2013, 06:08 PM
  #5  
 
Join Date: Jan 2005
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Right now, I am sooo missing Italy!
Can't wait to read more and thanks for sharing.
kellee is offline  
Sep 29th, 2013, 07:55 AM
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Congratulations on a good start! Your first trip and solo too. Good for you. I usually travel solo too and prefer it. Can't wait to read the rest. It sounds like we have another bella Italia fan!
Dayle is offline  
Sep 29th, 2013, 08:07 AM
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yes, great start. you were certainly throwing yourself in at the deep end, starting your trip in Rome.

looking forward to more.
annhig is offline  
Sep 29th, 2013, 08:46 AM
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I can relate to the "I-can't-believe-I-am-here" mode. It is a wonderful feeling.

Looking forward to reading more. Thank you!
wekewoody is offline  
Sep 29th, 2013, 11:21 AM
  #9  
 
Join Date: May 2005
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I so enjoyed your first day report and was sorry to realize that I'd happened upon it before you'd posted further than that. I am considering a solo trip to Rome in the near future and am trying to get up my nerve.
traveler2005 is offline  
Sep 29th, 2013, 12:36 PM
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Thanks for the encouragement! annhig, I did have some moments those first couple of days that felt like I was in the deep end, and I would recommend that other newbie travelers listen to the advice not to start in Rome.

Rome cont'd
I started my second day with a 7:30 small group Sistine chapel tour. I didn't particularly care about the tour but I did want to get into the Sistine chapel with a limited number of people. It was closer to 8 before they let us in but the guide used the time well to tell us about the museum and artists. We went directly to the chapel but the trek took us through some of my other must-sees such as the room of maps. Somewhere on here I saw the advice to take a small pair of binoculars and that was a great tip. I could really see the ceiling details. This was a wonderful way to see the Sistine chapel. My group had 10 and there were 2 other small groups in there with us. It was about 30 minutes before others started coming in. It was wonderful to be able to just drink it in in peace.

The massive amount of beautiful things in the museum is just sensory overload. I wanted to see Raphael's rooms and they were worth the journey back thru the museum to get to them. I was struck by references to Pope Benedict in signs around the museum that had not been changed. Guides stumbled over referring to the two. New money has not yet been minted to show Pope Francis.

St. Peter's was a surprise. I think of it as a church but it felt like a museum. The 2 Popes lying out in glass cases were a definite surprise. Clearly I did not do my homework on this spot! Stopped to visit the post office, get postcards and stamps. There were about 12 of us trying to write out the cards except most of us forgot to bring a pen. Luckily a couple of generous souls waited while others used theirs.

My first gelato came next with a Pope Francis cookie. It was good but I never did become a massive fan, but I'm not a big ice cream fan either. Lunch became a high priority, and I wandered into the street thru the Aurelian wall. Pizza smelled good, so I took the special at the first place I spotted. I was stunned when they brought a coke zero on ice. Wow, I didn't think they did that.

It was an interesting street. A man was building wooden cornices across the way and had to lay across the sawhorses to hang on to everything when a dog fight broke out between a poodle and Doberman. The doberman's owner finally got him under control and out of there. Further down the way there was a restaurant that instead of posting the menu had a sign out that they did not serve spaghetti and meatballs or macaroni and cheese. If I hadn't just eaten, I would have gone in. I liked their style. This was one of many places that the juxtaposition of the ancient and modern was obvious. As I looked at the wall built about 200 AD, I saw satellite dishes on buildings. All around Rome was the modern living with the ancient just fine. It all fit together.

There was a huge rainstorm that afternoon that made the umbrella salesmen happy. I ducked into a cafe to check my map and make sure I was headed the right way, decided to have a glass of wine and wait a bit. The wonderful manager told me I didn't have to buy anything to wait but I assured him I really wanted a glass of wine. He brought me a glass of orosecco on the house. It was near my hotel, so I came back for a really good dinner of stuffed zucchini blossoms and a pasta dish with prawns. It felt like I met Rome, and she was a friend.

My next day was in Ancient Rome with the Colosseum, Forum, and Palatine Hill. And the joy of changing subway lines at Termini. I knew which line I needed, but forgot to check the final stop of that line so I could follow the right signs. Oops. But there were maps posted around so I figured it out. I exited across from the Colosseum to kitsch galore. More than I'd seen anywhere else. It's amazing how majestic the Colosseum is even with chunks gone. I was glad to have my ticket as the lines were long, long. Wandering around Ancient Rome was just mind-boggling. Here, more than most other spots, it was impossible not to think about who else had walked this way, stood here etc. Definitely an area that fired the imagination.

Each day it was hard to resist packing more sites in, but I kept reminding myself that this was a vacation. I did not want to need a vacation from my vacation when I came home plus I needed to be ready to get back to work. So I forced myself to slow down and enjoy being in Rome not just checking off sites. So I deliberately left plenty of wandering around, unplanned time. Definitely the way to go. I had already written off taking the time to go to Pompeii but thought I'd go to Ostia Antica. I ended up not going there either. Being surrounded by ruins sort of lessened the need I guess. But I did have my coin-tossing time in the Trevi Fountain for insurance on coming back.

My final day was checking out the Spanish Steps area, the Villa Borghese, and a few churches. Also got my train ticket for the next day to Orvieto while I was in Termini and checked out the train area so I'd know where I was going. "Final day" is a misnomer here because I was coming back to Rome at the end to fly out. Also against most advice. While I was planning I was sometimes sorry, but in the end I was glad. Since I started out in the largest city to get comfortable with traveling in a foreign country, it was wonderful when I headed back and was perfectly at ease. It felt like I was just on my way home. That was a stunning thought at the time when I realized it.

But that's getting ahead of the story. Sorry, I let this one get a bit long. On to Orvieto.
whoknowz is offline  
Sep 29th, 2013, 12:59 PM
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thanks for sharing your time in Rome with us, whoknowz. How wise to take it slowly - it can be such an overwhelming place.
annhig is offline  
Sep 29th, 2013, 01:08 PM
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Really enjoying your report! Sounds like you planned well and really enjoyed your time in Rome. Looking forward to Orvieto...
msteacher is offline  
Sep 29th, 2013, 01:58 PM
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I like your writing style. Your observations reminded me of my first trip to Rome. Such a magical place. Amazing to be wandering down a tiny street and suddenly there is an ancient Roman column.
cobbie2 is offline  
Sep 29th, 2013, 03:48 PM
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Am enjoying your report. You did well for first time in Europe especially with Rome being a busy and hectic city. Your report may encourage other to travel solo. Anxious to read more.
lowcountrycarol is offline  
Sep 29th, 2013, 05:28 PM
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ttt
cferrb is offline  
Sep 29th, 2013, 07:56 PM
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I also recently took my first trip to Europe, solo, at 28. Love hearing about other experiences - yours sounds similar to mine. I will be posting my tr soon - looking forward to hearing more of yours!
CatchK is offline  
Sep 30th, 2013, 03:58 AM
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Great report - looking forward to Orvieto.
tarquin is offline  
Oct 1st, 2013, 12:33 PM
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'It felt like I met Rome, and she was a friend.'
What a wonderful expression - thank you!
Caenis is offline  
Oct 1st, 2013, 03:17 PM
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Thanks so much for sharing your trip..loving the report.
laurela is offline  
Oct 6th, 2013, 11:14 AM
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Also enjoying the report...hope there's more.
SashieZo is offline  

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