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Pt. 1 Italy trip report, some good, some bad

Pt. 1 Italy trip report, some good, some bad

Old May 13th, 2002, 09:14 PM
  #1  
Pam
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Pt. 1 Italy trip report, some good, some bad

My husband and I just returned from a 10 day trip to Italy. It was my second and his first sojourn. My spouse is Italian-American, so I’ve had lots of exposure to traditional Italian cuisine. We travel the world and live as expatriates in Egypt, so we are neither novices nor naive tourists. I did a lot of careful research and relied on this site and Rick Steve’s chat forum to pick hotels and restaurants.<BR>I had previously stayed in the Hotel Santa Maria in the Trastevere section of Rome. It is a delightful, small, quiet, well-run establishment. It is convenient walking to everything, their breakfasts are lovely, staff helpful and prices moderate---in the $150-220 range. As is common in most of Europe, the rooms are very small, so I upgraded to their suite. It was a two level affair, with a fold-out couch on the bottom level and a bedroom and bathroom up. My husband is 6' and could not stand up in all but the very center of the upper floor. Because of the low ceiling in the bathroom, there wasn't a proper shower either. I really do highly recommend the Santa Maria (www.htlsantamaria.com), but unless you have children I would not recommend upgrading to the suite. There is a great neighborhood bistro just around the corner, very busy, but reasonably priced. (I think it was named Ristorante Trastevere. I loved the pasta with mixed seafood--probably the tastiest meal I had. <BR><BR>We enjoyed wandering around to the usual tourist sites fountains and piazzas. We found the Forum quite disappointing as we have visited much better Roman stadiums in other parts of the world. The gelatos at the various Blue Ice shops in Rome were divine. <BR><BR>My husband and I like to eat a sizable breakfast, skip lunch so that we can spend more time sightseeing and then have an early dinner. Early dinners usually allow us to avoid the smokers as I am asthmatic. Unless you want to live on pizza and sandwiches, you have to wait until 7:30 or 8:00 for the better restaurants to re-open. Once open they would fill up very fast, with people and smoke. Overall, the meals were disappointing and/or overpriced. We found that you had to ask carefully about "cobertos" or cover charges. I really felt as though I was in a third world country when it came to protecting myself from being ripped off.<BR><BR>We took a 10 minute taxi ride from Trastavere to the Termini to pick up our rental car. It was 9 Euros on a Sunday morning—high, but acceptable, then the driver tried to tell us that we owed him another four Euros for our four pieces of luggage. I firmly said no and walked away. <BR><BR>We drove to Florence by way of Sovana, which I had read had a good, reasonably priced restaurant and many Etruscan caves. The restaurant, “La Taverna Etrusca” was the biggest rip-off of our trip. They charged 3 Euros per person for coberto and then charged us 6 Euros for a basket with four slices of ordinary Italian bread. We ended up spending 49 Euros for lunch for 2 appetizers (one good, one awful), one entr&eacute;e (mediocre), one beer and a ½ litre of the house wine. I was so angry that when I left the restaurant, I tried to console myself with a gelato from across the street. Another mistake—2.20 Euros for two marble sized scoops of average ice cream. We did find a lovely gallery right next to the gelato store named, “L’Etrusco” which sold gorgeous hand-thrown and painted Etruscan pottery reproductions for what I felt were fair prices. <BR>
 
Old May 13th, 2002, 09:57 PM
  #2  
Italiana
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Pam,<BR>First it is "coperto," not "coberto." Second 1 euro per piece of luggage is the going rate. And Sunday rates are higher than weekdays. Looks like you ripped off the cab driver by storming off. How classy.
 
Old May 13th, 2002, 10:28 PM
  #3  
Combining the three parts for Pam
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In Florence we stayed at the Hotel Silla. I had asked for a quiet, non-smoking room on my reservation request and received neither. We faced the main road paralleling the river and the traffic noise was loud. There were also bars under and around the hotel, and the revelry lasted into the wee hours. The breakfast was dreadful, and if you weren’t one of the first people in line you didn’t get any fruit. They also charge 16 Euro a day for parking, which they conveniently forgot to mention. I complained about the noise and the breakfast, and the management did drop the charges for the parking. For this, we paid about 150 Euros a night. It is conveniently located to walk into Florence and a room on the backside of the hotel would have probably been ok.<BR><BR>The sites in Florence were already quite crowded. We missed seeing Pitti Place because even though the official policy is that they are closed on the 2nd and 4th Mondays, we were there on the 5th Monday of the month and they were closed then too. We went to Boboli Gardens on Tuesday morning before we left for Siena and had further disappointments when many of the best areas were roped of for renovation.<BR><BR>Siena took us to the absolutely worst hotel I have stayed in in years. Again it is convenient to the core of the city, but otherwise we found it dreadful. It was the Hotel Santa Caterina by the Porta Romana. Rick Steve’s guide said to make sure that you got a room in the back of the hotel, as the front could be noisy. Well, we did get a room in the back, but guess what? It sits on a corner, with hills in both directions leading to a stop light! The traffic noise was horrible, and to add injury to insult, there were no less than four barking dogs behind the hotel. The room was just weird. You walked into this little tiny area with a bathroom off to one side and then had to climb a spiral staircase to a bedroom/loft area. It was hotter than Hades up there, but the air-conditioning hadn’t been turned on yet, so the noise and the mosquitos coming in through an open, unscreened window kept us company for two long nights. They did do a good job on breakfast in a very pleasant room, and the staff was fine. <BR><BR>Off to Sorrento. We noticed that as we drove south of Rome, the highways and countryside got dirtier and more run down. We actually reserved a room at the Hotel Delfino further out the peninsula in Massa Lubrense. It took FOREVER to drive out and through Sorrento. It is an area that has been loved to death. The thousands of mopeds and motorcyclists cut off the cars at every opportunity and make it impossible for the autos to get anywhere. The Delfino is in a beautiful, quiet spot. We were given a lovely room with a gorgeous view. The next day, we braved the traffic back out to Pompeii as the weather forecast indicated that it might be the last nice day for a while. Pompeii is awesome, although three of the nicest painted villas were closed for restoration. Why don’t they just work on one at a time?? <BR>
 
Old May 13th, 2002, 10:30 PM
  #4  
Combining the three parts for Pam
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Off to Sorrento. We noticed that as we drove south of Rome, the highways and countryside got dirtier and more run down. We actually reserved a room at the Hotel Delfino further out the peninsula in Massa Lubrense. It took FOREVER to drive out and through Sorrento. It is an area that has been loved to death. The thousands of mopeds and motorcyclists cut off the cars at every opportunity and make it impossible for the autos to get anywhere. The Delfino is in a beautiful, quiet spot. We were given a lovely room with a gorgeous view. The next day, we braved the traffic back out to Pompeii as the weather forecast indicated that it might be the last nice day for a while. Pompeii is awesome, although three of the nicest painted villas were closed for restoration. Why don’t they just work on one at a time?? <BR><BR>It took us almost two hours of grueling traffic to drive back to the Delfino, only to find that the maids had removed what we had left in the mini-bar, and left it out all day to warm up and spoil. The items included half a bottle of wine that I had bought the night before from the hotel!, along with a beer for my husband, a small piece of mozzarella and some salami. My husband stormed off to complain to the manager, that never in 25 years of travel had anyone removed anything of ours from an in room refrigerator. The manager informed us that it was installed for them to make money and not for our convenience. We made the point that if they felt that way, the policy should be posted and we would have honored it. He did however buy us a bottle of wine. We would gladly buy what was in the mini-bars if the hotels of the world did not put such usurious prices on the items. A 7 ounce beer was 4 Euros, and a tiny bottle of wine 8 or 9. Why, why, why can’t they understand that if they weren’t so greedy they would sell more? This was the first time in my life that I didn’t leave a tip for the maids. We checked out one day early and paid the penalty to change our plane tickets. <BR><BR>I really hope that readers don’t think that all I do is complain. In March we took a 10 day trip to South Africa, and I can’t say enough good things about everything we saw, did, stayed in or consumed. I know that most people who travel to Italy adore it. It simply was not to our liking or standards at all. <BR>
 
Old May 13th, 2002, 10:31 PM
  #5  
Posting a follow-on addendum from Pam
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Fair enough. We liked the feel of Rome, the Trevi Fountain is magnificent, the museums, especially the intelligent discussions of the art at the National Gallery just off of the Piazza Navonna. At Campo del Fiori it was great fun to wander about the vendors with their exceptional produce and snack on fresh strawberries and raspberries. <BR><BR>In Florence, we loved Piazza della Signoria with its marvelous public art and the Neptune Fountain. Santa Croce is amazingly moving with the tombs of so many of the worlds greatest thinkers, musicians and artists. David at the Uffizi was awe-inspiring.<BR><BR>Piazza del Campo is magical as the sun sets and it is framed by the deepest blue evening sky. The Siennese countryside is gorgeous.<BR><BR>Pompeii is wonderful, especially if you have done research before you get there. Don't miss the Villa of Mysteries. Herculaneum is also well <BR>worth a two or three hour visit. <BR><BR>I've already noted that the Hotel Delfino's setting is stunning. About Sorrento, I've nothing good to say. I just hated it. <BR><BR>I want people to be aware that they too might be disappointed. In the last three years, I have traveled to France, Costa Rica, Sweden, Denmark, Norway, Jordan, Turkey, Holland, Thailand, South Africa, Mexico, Tanzania, Kenya and all over Egypt. Our experiences in all of those countries were way more positive than negative. I've never felt so disappointed nor the need to "complain" before this trip. <BR>
 
Old May 13th, 2002, 10:34 PM
  #6  
xxx
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Pam, I have combined your three-part trip report, and one intial reply from you all into this single posting.<BR><BR>This is what you should have done in the first place.<BR><BR>Your three parts will scatter like the wond. There is no glue here to keep parts together. Post multi-part trip reports as replies to the original posting.<BR>
 
Old May 13th, 2002, 10:36 PM
  #7  
Pam
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Whomever combined the report, thank you. I tried posting it as one several times, and it would not go. Scattered like the wind is an apt description.
 
Old May 13th, 2002, 10:44 PM
  #8  
xxx
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You had the right idea with parts. You just failed to grasp that you should post the subsequent parts as replies to yourself.<BR><BR>Fault fodors. There is nothing in the FAQ about doing this.<BR>
 
Old May 13th, 2002, 10:49 PM
  #9  
iam
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Oh my god.
 
Old May 13th, 2002, 10:55 PM
  #10  
ReallyGlad
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What a miserly, miserable life you must lead.
 
Old May 13th, 2002, 10:56 PM
  #11  
Oh, as in... "the big Oh", and yes, I am
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What can I do for you, iam, my son?<BR><BR>
 
Old May 14th, 2002, 12:55 AM
  #12  
disappointed
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Pam: You do sound extremely negative, and you will probably be slammed. You could have avoided a lot of your grief if you'd read at least one travel guide; they all explain about pane e coperto,luggage surcharges and parking fees. You must be a delight to travel with; is your companion as negative as you? What do you think you have contributed to this forum with your bad attitude and whining? Please don't grace us with your further efforts.
 
Old May 14th, 2002, 01:26 AM
  #13  
italy traveller
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Thanks for your comments. I think that this board should be used for good and bad experiences. I am going to Italy in a few weeks and I have the TimeOut guide, Fodors up close, and Lonely planet guides. I have looked at hotel reccomendations, and restaurants, but I did not notice anything about taxi surcharges, etc. Your experiences will be as helpful for me, as have been the wonderful reports I usually read. I am an expatriate wife, and I travel and have lived all over Europe. I am constantly ruffled by the rudeness I encounter when you are forking over princely amounts of money. I don't expect to be treated like royalty, but in a tactfull respectable manner. I expect honest treatment, and people to abide by their commitements. When they do, It makes for a great trip. When they do not, it is acceptable to complain, and expect the situation to be remdied. <BR>Sorry to join in on the complaining, but I have traveled 10 different countries in the past year (and many cities within them), and I get irritated when treated rudely.<BR>Just a note. When I travel with my husband on business, in business class hotels paying extremely large amounts of money, the service level increases dramatically. I prefer smaller, more personal hotels, but its shameful the way some tourist hotels and "boutique" hotels treat customers.
 
Old May 14th, 2002, 05:13 AM
  #14  
Lori
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Although we had a much more enjoyable trip than Pam, I do concur with her frustration with restaurants, cover charges, service charges, incorrect bills and rude waiters in Italy. I left a few restaurants feeling ripped off, most especially, Acciughetti (sp?) in Venice where the waiter badgered us that the cover and 12% service charge did not include tip for the waiter. I understood that the tip was included in this situation although we had been adding some tip or rounding up our bill, most happily at Il Caminetto in Florence where we had our most pleasant dining experience with nice wait staff and a clear, correct bill. Anyway, we left several restaurants in Italy feeling frustrated and taken advantage of, even where waiters were more friendly. In one restaurant, he simply showed us a total on a calculator. I knew it was too high, but again that had been a pleasant experience up to that point so we didn't make a fuss and added a tip.
 
Old May 14th, 2002, 05:38 AM
  #15  
Wow!
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Someone put me out of my misery. Hope this is a joke.
 
Old May 14th, 2002, 05:49 AM
  #16  
Carol
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I leave for Italy Saturday and I have to admit I don't find any of this helpful. I did not know about the luggage charge, but would not have been surprised after all $1 per bag is standard with a lot of US cabs. However, it does occur to me that perhaps this person would have been happier staying in hotels not suggested by Rick Steves. While I do very well in them, others often find them too "budget" Budget hotels do tend to be in nosier locations and have smokier rooms etc. Also, the "American Breakfast" push shown here is just out of touch with European reality.<BR><BR>
 
Old May 14th, 2002, 05:58 AM
  #17  
dave
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i was surprised to read your comments about the restaurants and the prices<BR>in italy. i was in rome and on the east coast of italy less than 1 year ago and found the food to be fabulous and extremely reasonable. there were times that the waiters may not have seemed friendly; however, i thought that this was probably due to our inability and their inablility to communicate with us since we do not speak italian and english was not as prevalent as we had thought. i do not remember a bad meal and the average for a very nice dinner with a bottle of wine in rome was usd $40. just returned from aruba 3 weeks ago and a comparable dinner with 2 glasses of wine cost us $l50.00 and the food was<BR>terrible!
 
Old May 14th, 2002, 06:06 AM
  #18  
SonoStanca
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This just has to be a troll (please, please). I cannot imagine one person being so negative. <BR><BR>The reason I fear it is not a troll is taht I travel to Europe often and I unfortunately see these women all too often. Scowling, whining, fault finding. One scene that sticks in my mind occurred in front of a shop in Siena. A woman was whining to her husband about wanting some touristy knick-knack. Her beleagured husband replied, "I will buy you anything you want if you will just stop complaining.<BR><BR>I agree with the previous poster. If you don't want to stay in Rick Steve- style hotels, don't follow his books. How simple can that be?<BR><BR>And as to the comment about the Pitti Palace being closed, I believe it is closed every Monday, or at least the first and last Mondays, not the first and fourth Mondays. But I am sure they closed the doors just to thwart Pam. <BR><BR>I don't mind some, honest comments but this was one long screed. Imagine, parts of Pompeii being closed because of restoration projects. The nerve.
 
Old May 14th, 2002, 06:21 AM
  #19  
Sue
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Pam<BR><BR>I’m sorry you didn’t enjoy your trip, and I respect your opinion. However, please don’t write off Italy just yet; give her another try sometime.<BR><BR>Truly the cab driver was not trying to rip you off; the note about luggage charges and higher rates on Sunday is correct. Also remember that cab drivers must cope with much higher gas prices and overhead costs such as garage space for their vehicles.<BR><BR>I agree that driving in a congested place can be a bit nerve-wracking. Perhaps next time you might want to try public transportation, at least in the urban centers of Europe. To a car driver, the vespas are in the way; to the vespa driver, the cars are in the way! Consider, too, that given how congested traffic can be in Italy and other European countries, more people can be transported in less room on those little motorcycles, or in public transport, than in cars. <BR><BR>The minibar policy is not exclusive to Italy - we encountered a similar situation in Switzerland. However, in our case the hotel did post the policy in advance, and I agree, your hotel should have done so as well, it would have saved everyone a lot of grief. I agree that the prices are high but this is a common phenomenon in North America as well as elsewhere. I guess some people must consider the price worth the convenience, so all hotels everywhere charge what this market will bear.<BR><BR>An art historian friend may have the answer to your frustration about Pompeii. According to her, restoration has to proceed in a certain order, in layers, if you will. Such that first the expert in widget restoration has to be brought in and they do the widget restoration in each of the 3 buildings; then the expert in gizmo restoration is brought in to do gizmo restoration in each of the 3 buildings; and so forth. I do agree that sometimes it seems half of Italy is under scaffolding or closed, but restoration is a tedious process and terribly expensive…sometimes the money dries up before restoration is completed, and the restorers must go and beg for more before they can continue.<BR><BR>As a light sleeper, I can empathize with your concerns about noise. Sometimes it is worth it to stay away from the city centre and commute in, in order to get a room in a more tranquil area. Again, in fairness to Italy, this problem is common in other countries as well. You might also want to try a sleep (white noise) machine and ear plugs. <BR><BR>Better luck next time, yes? : - )<BR>
 
Old May 14th, 2002, 06:31 AM
  #20  
Cheryl
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<BR>Pam-<BR><BR>I'm sorry to hear that you were disappointed with your trip to Italy--------it happens!<BR>We went to China,last year, for 3 weeks<BR>and most of the trip was HORRIBLE !!!<BR><BR>But, I have learned that most people don't want to hear that we didn't enjoy our trip--- maybe they fear that our "bad luck" will rub off on them!<BR><BR>My husband and I are going to Italy in Oct. (his 3rd or 4th trip) and my first ---your posting did help me ---now I think I am REALLY prepared for the positive and the negative. Thanks
 

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