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Rome, Florence, Venice and the Veneto: tedgale Trip Report

Rome, Florence, Venice and the Veneto: tedgale Trip Report

Apr 1st, 2009, 01:32 PM
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Rome, Florence, Venice and the Veneto: tedgale Trip Report

I am going to start this before the jet lag kicks in but will likely just scratch the surface. Lots of time to add detail later.

Rome - 7 nights in apartment "Miguel" on Lungotevere Marzio, in the centro storico
Florence - 3 nights in apartment "Domus" in Residenza Il Carmine, v. Ardiglione, in the Oltrarno
Venice - 3 nights in apartment "Fegalliano" near Piazzale Roma (Yes, near Piazzale Roma -- and it was GREAT)
Veneto - 3 nights at Le Risare, a B&B near Cittadella in Padova province
Bergamo - 1 night with friends, of whom much more later
Florence area - 1 night at Casa Valiversi, a B&B in Sesto Fiorentino, near the Vespucci (Peretola) Airport, Florence

We has stayed in the first 3 of these places and really built our trip around their availability. They were every bit as good as I recalled, perhaps even better. The 2 B&Bs were new discoveries -- and fine discoveries indeed.

My Top Hits and Discoveries of this trip (not in any order but just as they come to me):

1. Our 1 week Rome transit passes, 16E. Once you get the hang of it, the Rome transit system, esp the buses, is a breeze -- clean, fast, reliable and a real insight into the life of the city.

2. The "private", reservation-only tours of the Palazzo Farnese -- given only in French or Italian, however. Twice a day, to or three weekdays per week . Reserve through the French Embassy.

3. The Osteria del Pegno in vicolo Montevecchio, near Piazza Navona. I have eaten there on other occasions but it just seems to get better and better. A neighbourhood favourite, not a "big night out" -- but the food is first rate.

4. The museum of Trajan's Market -- a slice through 2000 years of history and a very cool (and largely empty) addition to the Rome museum world

5. The via Appia Antica. Easily reached by bus, you can still feel a 100 miles from the city and 2000 years back in time.

6. The "Secret passages" tour at the Palazzo Vecchio in Florence. After we had toured the Palazzo, we read a notice that this tour was being given. Tkts were 2E! I could not care less about secret staircases but this tour gave us full access to Lorenzo's "Studiolo", which other visitors can only peer into from afar.

7. Brunelleschi's Santo Spirito in the Oltrarno, Florence -- the most perfect Renaissance church we saw (though San Lorenzo comes close) and filled with great art. Why is it empty when other city churches are overrun?

8. Any road around the Forte di Belvedere, Florence. I climbed up there (10-15 minutes hike from Ponte Vecchio) on a Sunday morning and was plunged into a world of birdsong, olive orchards and misty views of old villas.

9. Florence's Ognissanti cloister and its Cenacolo: I had forgotten how great the frescoes are. Again, nearly empty of visitors.

10. The Ferragamo museum, Florence. Haven't you always wanted to see the platform shoes Lana Turner wore with that 2 pc white sunsuit and turban in The Postman Always Rings Twice? Or the shoe-lasts of Joan Crawford, Bette Davis...and Nicole Kidman (about 2 inches longer than anyone else's).

11. The Doge's Palace, still the finest sight in Venice.

12. The walk along the sunny fondamenta from San Basilio to the Dogana in Venice -- especially now that the Dogana area is being developed (we visited a funky video-art gallery + the Museum of the Bucintoro rowing club)

13. The Frari church, Venice. Somehow brick interiors move me more than highly decorated ones: This grand, plain space rivals Albi Cathedral in its austere grandeur (and it has much better art, too)

14. Cute little Feltre, a grey-stone hill town (small city) in the Veneto. We were almost alone in the upper town, when we visited it one lunch time. The Sala degli Stimmi in the municipal buildings has coats of arms of all the Venetian rectors sent to preside over this client city.

15. Villa Emo, Palladio's small perfect jewelbox near Vendelago, Veneto. It's embellished with mid-1500s frescoes of great warmth and charm and set within a perfect small garden.

16. Lago di Garda, on the edges of Veneto, Trentino and Lombardy. One very sunny warm day, we travelled up the eastern side of the lake. In the off-season and on a good day, it is heaven: misty views, brilliantly clear water and magnificent cliffs, still topped by snow.

17. Leaving Lago di Garda, the mountainous road from Rovereto to Schio. Snow-capped mountains, onion-domed churches, total silence except for the birds, views for miles.

18. Bergamo's Citta Alta -- the upper town capped with grand public and religious buildings, in the pink and white marble favoured by its one-time Venetian masters.

19. The last 40 km of our drive from Milan to Florence, when the A1 climbs into the grand, empty hills around Mugello and Barberino.

20. Finally: the music we chanced upon. Two tenors practising plainsong for a concert in Rome; a youthful organist with a newly restored organ, preparing for an inaugural concert in the Carmini church in Venice; a choir concert of Tallis, Purcell and other British composers, given in a Venice church by students from Charterhouse School in England.

Well that is all for this instalment. More to come. Off now to the gym to work off some of the pasta surplus -- 3 weeks with no gym time was lethal to me!
tedgale is offline  
Apr 1st, 2009, 02:07 PM
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Sounds like a wonderful trip.
Did you rent the Rome apartment through Capital?
I am considering renting one of their apartments.
What was your experience?
hellokittie is offline  
Apr 1st, 2009, 03:32 PM
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Hi tegale - What a great start! Looking forward to the details!
yk is offline  
Apr 1st, 2009, 04:51 PM
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1. Rome capital apartments were indeed the rental agent.

2. Last year the apartment was handled by Rental in Rome and we paid a LOT more for it.

3. There were no surprises with this rental as we knew the apartment and knew the owners live in the building -- usually a source of reassurance to me.

4. The rental contract was straightforward. The only thing I did not like was the agency's suggestion that we fix a time for arrival but then "call their rep upon our arrival at Fiumicino."

Yeah, well we know what that means in Italy: Until you make the call from the airport, you have no rendezvous.

BTW, I am going into all this because I intend to write a little meditation on Italians + cellphones, later on this thread.

5. My response was to explain in an email that I had no cell phone but that I would arrive at the apartment at 2 pm.

Having no reply from them, I called their rep Consolata from Canada and asked her to meet us at the apartment at 2 pm. I said I would buy a phone card and call her if there was any problem or change of plan.

We arrived early at the apartment. Consolata did not show up at 2 pm and I went in search of that rarest of Roman commodities, a public payphone. I got her at 2:15 or so -- just as she was arriving at the apartment.

I am not sure she would have been more prompt undr any scenario.

That was the only glitch in our rental.

6. Everything about the apartment itself was fine and I would rent it again any day.
tedgale is offline  
Apr 1st, 2009, 04:54 PM
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BTW if you are wondering why I would obsess about a delay of 15 minutes or so: Well, the ONLY time we could get for the Palazzo Farnese tour was 3 pm on the day of our arrival.

So the minutes ticked by I started fretting about not being able to get to the Piazza in time. Plus it is kinda gross standing out on the pavement with all your luggage. You look and feel like a real dork.
tedgale is offline  
Apr 1st, 2009, 05:40 PM
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Yes, I know that feeling, standing out in front of your apartment building, you don't know if you're in the right place (doesn't apply in this case, but still...), you aren't sure if and when the apartment agent will show up. So far, it has always worked out OK, but there's just that moment of anxiety.

Sounds like a great trip. Makes me want to go back to Rome.
Nikki is offline  
Apr 1st, 2009, 05:43 PM
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Thanks for the detailed reply. My prior rentals were in France and I actually went to the agency's office which were only blocks away from the apartment.
hellokittie is offline  
Apr 1st, 2009, 05:46 PM
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"Plus it is kinda gross standing out on the pavement with all your luggage. You look and feel like a real dork."

Ah yes, we had that pleasure Rue des Archives. I felt dorkish indeed.

Welcome back, tedgale; I'm looking forward to another of your pointed but whimsical trip reports.

AnselmAdorne is online now  
Apr 1st, 2009, 05:52 PM
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I can't wait to hear more! Isn't it the little, charming surprises that you remember most? Personally, I've always wanted to visit the Ferragamo Museum! One of the things I would go back to Florence for.

Do continue!
Dayle is offline  
Apr 1st, 2009, 06:19 PM
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what a great report! Thanks for all the highlights. It makes it so easy to absorb.
lincasanova is offline  
Apr 2nd, 2009, 04:12 AM
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Wonderful beginning, please continue. Your way of describing Italy's treasures makes me want to go to there right now.
Keren is offline  
Apr 2nd, 2009, 04:19 AM
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So now we need details...lots of details!
marigross is offline  
Apr 2nd, 2009, 04:50 AM
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Which day of the week did you take the Palais Farnese tour, and in which language? I see on the embassy's website <> but it doesn't say which day/time is which language.
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Apr 2nd, 2009, 04:51 AM
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After a while, we got tired of eating in restaurants, however pleasant the food and atmosphere. Indeed, we ate in our apartments each night in Venice - given the city's reputation for over-priced and mediocre food and our lack of pep in the evening.

But at the outset, we dined out almost every night. Never anywhere too fancy: we were looking for reliable, authentic, non-touristy spots that gave good value.

Here are a short account of those Rome meals:

1. La Rampa, Rampa Mignanelli: I have always recommended this place and have eaten there often but this time it was a bit flat.

The big selling point is their antipasto misto buffet: 10 E for a single plate but WHAT a plate. Mine was heaped high with seafood, quail, bocconcini, grilled and marinated vegetables, sformata (flan).

Seconds (Straccetti di manzo w. rucola; polenta paesana w. sausages and spare ribs) were rather plain and, frankly, dull. Service, as usual, was adequate but impersonal. C+.

2. Osteria del Pegno, vic. di Montevecchio: Traditional dishes with a twist. Generally full, so it is best to reserve. The owner is a kinetic, larger-than-life character who sometimes stands in the street urging people into his restaurant. That suggests a tourist trap -- which this definitely is not. Half locals; half well-behaved tourists with LOW voices, thank God.

Evening #1: Risotto with beet cream and pecorino + abbacchio al forno w. roasted potatoes; Tagliatelle with carciofi and speck + v. rare tagliata di manzo w. shoestring potatoes. A-. (could be A but I don't like shoestring potatoes)

Evening #2: Spaghetti all carbonara + abbacchio al forno again; piatto misto di salumi w. roast eggplant and zucchini + maiolino di latte (suckling pig) w. roast potatoes. A.

3. Buca di Ripetta, via di Ripetta: Disappointing evening in a restaurant whose food was very good but whose staff seemed to be out of control and lacking all direction. We heard shouting -- or maybe laughing -- from the kitchen. They were out of the wine we ordered. They were out of the ossubuco I ordered. And dear R was knocked sideways by a blow to the head from a waiter's elbow. As compensation, he brought a glass of limoncello at the end of the meal.

One glass, as only one of us had been struck.

Dumb, dumb, dumb! C-.

FWIW, we ate: Carpaccio di bresaola w. rucola and pecorino Romano + Coda di vitello (ox tail); seafood antipasto "5 stelle" -- sections of octopus, squid in tomato cream sauce, shrimp satays w. mayonnaise, salmon timbale + Pappardelle w. cozze (mussels) and pecorino.

4. Al Portico, via del Portico d'Ottavia: Crowded, no frills student and family restaurant where we ate twice. (Once was a simple lunch of bresaola salads and huge, delicious pizzas)

By day, I found the Ghetto area a dirty, charmless warren thronging with foreign and Italian students -- only one cut above the general sordor of the streets flanking nearby Campo de' Fiori. By night, the magic of its Roman roots (the Teatro Marcello, the Portico d'Ottavia) re-emerges and it becomes one of my favourite spots in Rome.

One evening we ate: Carciofi alla giudea + Ossobuco; Fettuccine ai funghi + Abacchio alla scottadito. A for authenticity.
tedgale is offline  
Apr 2nd, 2009, 05:00 AM
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Mlle Fifi: We took the tour in French on Thursday at 3 pm. That was the only spot available, during the week of our visit. We booked about 3 weeks in advance.
tedgale is offline  
Apr 2nd, 2009, 07:27 AM
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Tedgale: this is great stuff, full of all kinds of unwritten flavor, and great tips for Italy lovers.
I know it's hard to find the time, but please keep it coming, for us armchair travelers (just for now, I hope!) Thanks.
taconictraveler is offline  
Apr 2nd, 2009, 12:30 PM
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Ah, thank goodness I looked at this. I realize I have recommended Osteria della Pegna to someone when of course I meant Osteria del Pegno. Glad to hear it's still good and getting better. We did not make it to dine there our last trip (dance card was full) but now I regret it.

I love Santo Spirito and Frari too.

Looking forward to photos!
Leely2 is offline  
Apr 2nd, 2009, 12:31 PM
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And pardon me, how rude I am to forget: Thank you for taking the time to write a report.
Leely2 is offline  
Apr 2nd, 2009, 12:49 PM
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Tedgale, Love your report...it is, if I may say so, very 'you'. (we met at the TO GTG). I am SO very pleased that you have provided precise, foodie details...this is so useful.

Please fill us in on your choice of place to stay in Venice and what you did for food when you were there: did you cook ingredients from local shops?or is great Venetian take-out from somewhere other than the university area? how doable was this from that locale?
LJ is offline  
Apr 2nd, 2009, 05:03 PM
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LJ: I will write a fuller account of Venice when I get through Rome and Florence but will anticipate that with a few details about Venice and food:

We rented an apartment called Fegalliano: veniceapartments.org/html/fegalliano.html

The building backs onto Piazzale Roma, hence the apartment is in a most unconventional location. But it is hugely convenient and actually quite a charming spot. I loved to watch the workers streaming to the vaporetto stop in the morning and after work.

The windows of the apartment all look away from Piazzale Roma -- you would never guess there are cars nearby. Our view, in fact, was of the Grand Canal, the Papodopoli gardens and the new 4th bridge over the Canal.

About 100 or 150 feet away was an excellent Co-Op supermarket -- one of those places fitted into 2 or more buildings, so that once you enter, it spreads out more and more.

Not great for baked goods but otherwise very well supplied -- wine, cheeses, fruits and vegetables, seafood and fish, meats, including some prepared items.

Of the latter, we liked the prepared spiedini, ie kebabs of mixed pork, beef, sausage. Perhaps you can get seafood ones, too. I am also a sucker for bresaola and salumi, which eke out a salad and make it almost a full meal.

Supplying a food store is a challenge in most parts of Venice, so the Piazzale Roma location is a great boon for the Co-Op.

On a previous trip, we shopped at the Billa supermarket, by the San Basilio vaporetto stop, looking across to Giudecca and the Molino Stucky development.

I wondered how they supplied that large and bustling place and on this trip I found out. A barge -- essentially a floating flatbed -- brings 2 huge trucks to the edge of the fondamenta, near the Billa entrance, and then someone unloads the trucks. When they are unloaded, the barge turns and takes the trucks home.

These are BIG trucks. It appears this operation happens daily -- I saw it 2 days running. I have great photos of the supply operation!

Re takeout: We did not try that but our one indulgence -- and I am abashed to admit this, as I have sneered at it when mentioned by others -- was the occasional gelato.

The place for gelato artigianale (home-made gelato) is just on the edge of Campo S.ta Margherita. When I say on the edge, I mean you head out of the Campo in the direction of the Accademia. It is among the best priced and very good.

I repeat, I do not eat sweets at home and am generally censorious of non-nutritive foods ....but Venice and this place overwhelmed my resolve.
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