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Short Version of My Trip Report:Venice, Bolzano, Florence,Tuscany and Rome

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Oct 14th, 2006, 06:51 AM
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Short Version of My Trip Report:Venice, Bolzano, Florence,Tuscany and Rome

I posted a trip report a while back and even my friends told me it was way too long- 12 pages. Here is a shortened version. If you would like more detail on a particular area search for sdtravels.

My DH and I have just returned from Italy. The trip was to celebrate our 10th anniversary and my upcoming 50th birthday. I have been planning for a year, using all the resources found here on Fodors and I want to thank all the Fodorites for their advice. I especially want to thank the people who emailed me directly with frank answers to some of my questions. I don’t usually keep a journal, but you Fodorites were so helpful that I did keep a journal this time with the intention of writing a trip report. Here it goes:

Venice: Aug 24/25- We decided to take the Alliguna (spelling) gold line to San Marco. It was well worth it. We could go up on deck as often as we wanted to take photos or have a better view. The trip is a lot shorter than the regular boat because it doesn’t make any stops. When we got off at San Marco, we had only a five minute walk to the hotel which we found with no problem at all.

We stayed at the Hotel Corte Grimani. What a great hotel. It was spotless. We had a one bedroom apartment with a living/dining/kitchen combination and bath. On the web site it is labeled Classic with view. The photos are very accurate. There was fresh fruit in the lobby replenished during the day and this was our breakfast on most days.

We found we can’t eat on Italy time. For the rest of the trip, we ate mostly in pizzerias and bars. The house wine was fine for lunch and quick bar meals.

We went to San Marco Plaza. There was a lightning storm fast approaching and it was a spectacular scene. We took photos of the storm behind the Basilica and only went back to the hotel when it got too close. We had our first gelato on the way.

Aug 26- We went to Rialto market first thing. We were there by 8am. There were very few people out. The shops on the Rialto Bridge had not opened yet and we were able to take photos at our leisure and enjoy the peaceful view of shopkeepers receiving their wares by boat. Everything looks so good in the morning sun.

We had a 9:45 reservation to see the Basilica which I got on the web, so we walked back to San Marco. We were early so we took the elevator to the top of the campanile (6e). More photos.

We went back down to meet our reservation time and passed ahead of tremendously long lines. We went to the loggia and museum. The view up there was very nice. We walked around inside the Basilica. Every square inch is decorated with mosaic. I hated that we couldn’t take photos.

We went over to the rialto shopping area in the afternoon. It was packed with people. We literally could not walk together going over the bridge. On the other side of the bridge there are some nice shopping areas that are a bit less crowded. We took the vaparetto from Rialto to Salute in Dosodoro and walked back to the hotel. On the way, we took a gondola ride, partially on the Grand Canal and partially in the side lagoons. I liked the mix. We bought champagne glasses and a glass Santa on a gondola.

We bought a bottle of wine for the room. As DH was reaching for his glass off the bed stand, he missed and it hit the floor. The splatter pattern was spectacular. It was on the walls, the floor, the rug, the beautiful gold upholstered chairs, the lamp shade, our clothes. What a mess. I went down stairs and asked for help. The desk person came up immediately with some cleaning fluid. Thankfully, the furniture was fine but the walls needed to be painted and the lamp shade was destroyed.

We went to San Marco for battle of the bands.

Aug 27- A lot of Venice seems the same; alleys with lots of restaurants and shops with similar wares. Once we saw San Marco and Rialto, we were ready for a change. We walked to Fondamenta Nuove and took the vaparetto to Burano. It was very colorful and more open than Venice. We bought some gifts for people at home; some glass pendants, another mask, a lace sachet for me. The prices were better.

We took the vaparetto back to Fondamenta Nuove and walked back to the hotel. We bought a bottle of lemoncello on the way. I have to admit it is an acquired taste, but one that I acquired that night by the end of the bottle. We rested and read. This is the most walking we have done on any trip we have ever taken.

Bolzano Aug 28- We packed and left early for the #1 vaparetto to Piazelle Roma from the Rialto. We offered to pay for the hotel damage before we left but they wouldn’t hear of it. Once we got to the Piazelle Roma we found the Hertz office with no problem and drove to Bolzano. The drive on the Dolomite pass would have been good except for tour busses.

We stayed at Hotel Colle-Kohlern which is at the top of an 8km switchback road up a mountain overlooking Bolzano. The room had pine floors with traditional painted furniture and a balcony with a partial view. We headed straight for the hot tub. It was great because the weather was a bit chilly and the view from the hot tub looking out at the mountains and into the valley below was great.

At the restaurant the service was excellent and the meal even better. By far, this was the best eating we did on the whole trip. We had our first grappa, an acquired taste I never acquired and have no desire to.

We mentioned to Josef that our bed was too hard and he switched our room. The room didn’t have a balcony but it had windows with a direct view of the snow covered mountains. DH took my camera and couldn’t stop. It was worth the whole diversion to the Dolomites.

Aug 29- We drove to Petersberg to play golf. We rented clubs and these very strange golf carts. They were like scooter chairs for one with a basket on the front. Fun.

We wanted to see the castle that we could see from our room. So in trying to find it we wound up in a pedestrian district in Bolzano. Finally we went up to Schloss Runkelstein and walked around.

Florence Aug 30- We drove south on the A22 down to Lake Garda. We drove the entire east side of the lake. It was beautiful. We stopped for pizza on the lake with a beautiful view. There weren’t many people because it was breezy and cool. Just gorgeous.

After lunch we continued to Florence. We stayed at the Lepri apartment in the pedestrian district. The apartment was really cute and very clean. There is a post on Slowtravel about this apartment and it is very accurate if you are interested in it. http://www.slowtrav.com/italy/vr/review.asp?n=634

The great part of the apartment is the location, right in the middle of everything you want to see. We walked around the San Lorenzo market. We walked over to the Duomo and took photos including the famous Baptistery doors. Then we walked back and had dinner. We met a woman from the Netherlands who was traveling alone. We stayed up way to late talking with her.

Aug 31- We went to the Accademia for our 8:15 reservation. I got the reservations by phone. I used the instructions that Ira posted. I had no problem. We were one of the first ones in and headed straight for the David. There were only 3 other people in the room when we where looking at it at first. It was beautiful but I hated that we couldn’t take photos.

From there we walked to the Duomo and climbed to the top. There weren’t many people there at 9:30 which I think made the climb better. The view was great. The walk up was thrilling, especially the last flight. Then we walked to the Ponte Vecchio. We looked at gold but we weren’t really in the market for it.

We went out again in the afternoon and walked the markets some more. I bought a purse, DH bought a wallet, and we bought the obligatory pashima and ties.

Sept 1- Our Anniversary. We made it to the Uffizi for our 8:15 reservation. Thankfully we figured out that we had to get the tickets across the street before we got in line.

Then we went to Santa Croce. We saw the graves of Michelangelo and Machiavelli. We left there and went to the Baptistery which never seemed to be open. We got in this time.

We started laundry. When the laundry had finished I opened the front loading washer and water came gushing out onto the floor. We threw all the towels and all our remaining dirty clothes on it to sop it up. We got the floor dry but then had to wash the towels and the rest of the laundry. What a mess. Thankfully everything dried over night because those were the only towels.

Tuscany Sept 2- We went straight to the car rental place by 8:30am. We stopped in Greve in Chianti. We first went up to the medieval town close by. We walked around, had a wine tasting from the vineyard right there and bought a bottle. Then we went into Greve where there was a market in town. We didn’t stay because it was too crowded so we went back up the hill to a restaurant in the medieval town overlooking the vineyard. The view was excellent.

We headed out and stopped in Radda. We went to Gaiole in Chianti and then to San Sano where we found the hotel with no trouble.

We stayed at Castellare de’Noveshci in San Sano. The room had stone walls with little port holes (as well as two big windows). There were tile ceilings with wooden beams, tile floors and a stone bathroom. We sat on the patio drinking the wine we bought that day. It was very pleasant. There are only 3 rooms in the inn and we met one of the other occupants.

We went to dinner at the hotel in town. There were only 3 tables being served and we all had the same thing.

Sept 3- DH wasn’t feeling well. We went to breakfast and decided not to go anywhere. I sat on the patio and read for a while. Then we went to the pool and sat on lounge chairs and read some more. For dinner we went to the trattoria in town.

On to Rome Sept 4- We arranged for an 8 am breakfast, checked out and drove south toward Rome. We decided to stop at Montepulicano. We walked around and had lunch at another sidewalk café. The town was interesting. Then we drove to Rome to our apartment.

Marina Ferri was there to meet us at the apartment. She is wonderful. We toured the apartment which we found on VRBO #34035. What a great view of the colosseum and you can also see St Peter’s dome in the distance.

The apartment has two bedrooms and two baths. It has a complete kitchen and clothes washer. It even has a computer. Everything you need. The web site says that it was designed by an architect. My DH said, “If it was designed by an architect it was built by MacGuiver”. That is too true

Sept.5- We got to the colosseum exactly at 9am; no lines. We each got a headset and listened around a tour of the grounds. After that we went to the Forum with another head set. The weather up to now had been very pleasant. This was hot. It could have been worse. I expected the whole trip to be hot! We filled our water bottles from the fountains. There were so many tour groups by now. We were glad we went early.

We then went to the Palentine which had great views of the forum. We walked around more taking photos the whole way. Things in Rome are more spread out than in the other cities we visited.

We took the metro to the Spanish Steps. You couldn’t really see any steps for all the people sitting on them. We walked up the stairs then to the Trevi Fountain. Of course we threw coins in and took a bunch of photos and hung around until dark. We saw the Presidential palace, the Forum, the Colosseum all at night. Unfortunately, due to operator error, I lost all the photos from the afternoon and evening walk- double rats!

Sept 6- Today we took the metro to the Vatican for the Scavi Tour. You actually walk on the 2000 year old roads and view the necropolis uncovered by the Vatican. It ends at the tomb of St. Peter.

We walked to the Plaza Navona and then went to the Pantheon and then walked home.

Sept 7- Got up early to go meet our Vatican tour at 7:45. Lines were already pretty long but our guide had positioned the rest of our tour group close to the front of the line. We used Argiletum Tours which had been recommended by our hostess. We had only 9 people in the tour and we had the headsets so we could hear our guide. He was very knowledgeable with good English. He had us head straight to the Cistine Chapel. There were maybe 20 other people in there with us. When we went back later, there were hundreds in there, shoulder to shoulder. The museums are amazing. We left the tour which continued into the Basilica at noon because we were exhausted and had already been in the Basilica. I am sure the tour lasted 5 hours. On the way back to the apartment we went to San Giovanni de Laterno, it had beautiful mosaics.

There is a lot of debate as to what order to do the big cities- start in Venice or Rome. I think starting in Venice was best. First, we were so tired getting of the plane that it would have been difficult to handle the hustle of a big city like Rome right off. Going to Venice first gave us a chance to work up to it and practice Italian. Next, Rome is amazing. I think if I started in Rome I would have been disappointed in everything I saw after that. Again starting in Venice, things just got better as we went.

Sept 8- On our last day, we slept late. We walked to Trastevere. We went to Santa Maria and had cappuccino and pastry at an outdoor café.

Sept 9- We were picked up from in front of the apartment building at 4:15 am; made it home without a hitch.

A few other notes:

Shoes- It is very important to pick a good shoe. We had sneakers and Ecco Sandals. My DH had Performance Yucatan and I had Cosmo II. Both were very comfortable and seemed to go with everything we wore.

Packing Light- We knew we would have washing machines available so we packed what we thought was light but we still didn’t use some things

Daypack- I bought a PacSafe Metrosafe 200 day bag for DH. It was great for him. It fit his video camera fine and he always had a water bottle with him. I bought an Eagle Creek Instant Messenger bag for myself. Taking my cue from the PacSafe, I sewed claw hooks that I bought at a craft store into the lining so I could grab my zipper to hold it closed and make it a lot less pickpocket friendly. It was not very large but still big enough to hold by digital SLR with two lenses, my hat, sweater, water bottle, wallet, passport, and a snack. It felt very safe.

Other things- We brought a small alarm clock; none of our rooms had one. We brought a small bottle of hand sanitizer-glad we did! We didn’t pack a hair dryer. Most places had a hair dryer. We used DK Eyewitness guides for Rome, Venice and the Veneto and for Florence and Tuscany. Loved them all.

Camera and doodads- I have a Minolta Digital SLR 5D with two lenses. I had five rechargeable batteries (only needed 3) I had a 1 GB card and a Wolverine 40 GB portable hard drive. I had a CTA Mini Charger for Konica-Minolta NP-400 Battery which plugged directly into the wall. DH had a Panasonic PV-GS180 2.3MP 3CCD MiniDV Camcorder with 10x Optical Lens and a Digital Concepts BP-DU21 High Capacity Battery. He used 3 tapes and that was about enough.

Electricals- We never needed a converter. We just needed the plug adapters. I had 3.
sdtravels is offline  
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Oct 14th, 2006, 07:23 AM
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Very nice report with useful details.
When will you return? You seem to be hooked.
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Oct 14th, 2006, 09:52 AM
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Thank you for the report, sdtravels, and Happy Anniversary.Did I read that right? Was the washing machine incident on your actual anniversary? Oh no!

Bolzano sounds particularly interesting and different than the usual tourist tramp. I enjoyed the tips on Venice, Florence and Rome as I am headed there in a mere 23 days.

It sounds like despite not being able to conform to Italian dining times, you still managed to find meals as needed.

I am glad it worked out so well for you.

Olive Oil
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Oct 14th, 2006, 10:09 AM
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I enjoyed reading your trip report. Thanks for sharing
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Oct 14th, 2006, 02:32 PM
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LOL, two "spills". You guys sound like us. Sounds like you had a great trip. We did similar but in reverse for our 10th last April.

Thanks for sharing!
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Oct 16th, 2006, 05:57 PM
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Thanks everyone. It was a great trip. I forgot to mention that I have photos posted at www.sdtravels.shutterfly.com if you are interested.
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