Rome & Montalcino - a mini trip report

Old Oct 8th, 2013, 06:59 AM
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Rome & Montalcino - a mini trip report

Hi all, just back from a lightning-quick (or so it felt) visit to Rome and Montalcino. Was in Rome with my 76-year-old parents and then in Montalcino with friends. Have spent a good deal of time in both places, but here are some observations from this trip:

1. Holy cow, was Rome crowded. It has been a few years since I visited, but I was really struck by the volume of tourists even at the end of September. Especially at the Vatican and Vatican Museum, which were absolutely mobbed. It was so unpleasant that I told my family that I'm never going back, so if they want to see the Sistine Chapel, they'll need to find someone else to take them.

2. We had outstanding meals at L'Asino D'Oro, Armando al Pantheon, and Matricianella - thanks to everyone here for the recommendations (especially for Armando - it was truly delightful). Dinner at Palatium was not very good at all; the pastas were a real disappointment. I wasn't able to make it to Cesare al Casaletto - next time!!

3. My parents did take the Marozzi bus to Sorrento and had a very easy time of it. Thank you to everyone who suggested that.

4. I had a great marathon training run along the Via Appia Antica. I ran there from Tiburtina through some pretty sketchy areas, but once I was on the road it was excellent. I had to run on some stones, but was mostly able to stick to the dirt paths on the sides. Lots of other runners and bikers were doing the same, and on the way home I realized how easy it was to get there from the historical center. And it was pretty cool to end my run at the Colosseum!

5. Rented a car from Hertz at Termini - it was extremely easy and easy to get onto the A1 from there. Returned the car to Fiumicino - that was less easy since my terminal wasn't very close to the return location.

6. Montalcino and the surrounding valleys were even more beautiful than I remembered and it was fun to be there during la vendemmia. The weather was a little dicey, but I loved the drama of the rain and clouds.

7. In Montalcino, ate at Grappolo Blu twice - the first dinner was perfection; the second was less brilliant. But I would go back again for that pappardelle with porcini and truffle oil . . . . Loved Il Pozzo in Sant'Angelo in Colle. Basso Mundo near Sant'Antimo was great for lunch. And I really enjoyed having an evening aperitivo at Caffe Fiaschetteria, watching the world walk by.

I guess that's it. I'm already plotting my return to Montalcino for next summer!
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Old Oct 8th, 2013, 08:04 AM
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Nice trip---thanks.
We had the best veal/porcini ever at Il Pozzo.
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Old Oct 8th, 2013, 08:23 AM
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>>>Especially at the Vatican and Vatican Museum, which were absolutely mobbed.
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Old Oct 8th, 2013, 08:26 AM
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Nice post, good to hear you had a lovely vacation, Italian food is amazing and one reason to travel there. I am addicted to it.
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Old Oct 8th, 2013, 09:56 AM
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Oh yes, stayed at Vecchia Oliviera in Montalcino, which I really liked. I would stay there again. Every other hotel/B&B was booked solid, so while it wasn't as crowded as Rome, Montalcino was bustling (especially with the biking tour set).

We were at the Vatican on a Thursday morning. We raced to the Sistine Chapel and so had about 15-20 minutes of relative peace. But by the time we left, the rest of the galleries were a zoo (you really could barely move through the tapestry gallery and the Stanza della Signatura was hopeless). Maybe the afternoon would have been better, although our guide (from the ever-excellent Context tours) said every day was a bad day. We joked that visiting the museum reduced one's time in purgatory by at least several years. Anyway, I don't need to go back so that frees me up for other things.

Oh, and I forgot about:

8. LOVED the Galleria Doria Pamphili in Rome. Had never been and it is a real gem. The free audio tour is wonderful.
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Old Oct 8th, 2013, 04:10 PM
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Hi,
just returned from a month in Italy. I agree with your rome observations. it was so crowded it was difficult to see the beauty and enjoy what it offers. Not only were there so many tourist, but there were a lot of people trying to sell you stuff you do not want. I do not know what is the best time to visit. we also stayed in Montalcino. I really loved this town. we were so happy to be there and enjoy all the food, wine and views.
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Old Oct 8th, 2013, 06:39 PM
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Trying to visit St. Peters or the Vatican Museum without a strategy would lead to sour experiences. They are both immensely popular sites. Many guide books mention this, some more convincingly way than others. I visited St. Peters two weeks ago with friends. They thought I was out of mind insisting that we be at St. Peters earlier than 8:30am when we were on "vacation." We got in with perhaps 5 minutes metal detector station wait, no flag waving tour groups while visiting the Basilica, and no elevator wait to get to the Cupola. Before they were about to complain to me about having to wake up so early for "nothing" I pointed out the metal detector station wait line now stretching across the Piazza and up to the Italian border. If you don't like crowd, don't keep the same schedule as other tourists who want to start late because they are on a "vacation." Many monuments are deserted before 9am. That includes a usual mad house like the Trevi Fountain.
Big bus tour groups seem to avoid hill towns as overnight stops. They certainly inundate these towns during the day. The mornings up to about 10am and late afternoon on are usually quiet.
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Old Oct 9th, 2013, 06:24 AM
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Greg, we did go early and, as I mentioned, managed to eke out some relatively quiet time in the Sistine Chapel before the hordes arrived. But it got very crowded very fast. Part of the difficulty was that there were scads of tour groups of 40-50 people who moved in giant herds.

I was actually wondering if lunch time or the end of the day might not have been a better time to visit.
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Old Oct 9th, 2013, 08:10 AM
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I have been to the Sistine Chapel in the morning and in the late afternoon. I thought it was a zoo nevertheless. However, I still prefer the morning. I don't think the frescoes look brilliant in the afternoon light. There are premium guided tours of Sistine Chapel allowing visits before it is open to the general public. These come with breathtaking price tags.
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Old Oct 14th, 2013, 03:40 AM
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We did notice Trevi Fountain observers were very few the morning we left at about 8 am. The afternoon was terribly crowded. Hordes of tourists ourselves included. Would never do that time of day again. It looked like it would be a pleasure to visit early in the morning.
Booked Vatican Friday night tickets and was shocked by the numbers outside. However it wasn't too terrible once we got in. You could easily move through most galleries once you got ahead of the tour groups. Security didnt take long nor did baggage check. We were carting windbreakers and umbrellas in a bag due to some on and off showers.
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