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Some tips from our visit to Venice and Florence

Some tips from our visit to Venice and Florence

Aug 22nd, 2005, 09:18 AM
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Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 427
Some tips from our visit to Venice and Florence

My husband and I, along with 2 other couples, just returned from our 7th trip to Venice and our 3rd the Florence. One couple had been to Venice with us, but at Thanksgiving rather than summer. The other couple was on their first trip to Italy. My husband speaks some Italian. We stayed 3 days in Venice, took the train to Florence for 3 days, and returned to Venice to spend one night and fly out. I do not have a trip report, but I did keep some notes on things that might help others on a trip to these two cities.

Before we left, I used a tiny (3X4 inch) notebook and put tabs on the sides with ideas on directions and phone numbers for restaurants for lunch and dinner in each city. I made a section for each sestieres of Venice and a section for Sunday and Monday for Florence, since some places are closed on Mondays in Florence. I did not really think we would use them that much, because we like to try new places, but it gave us something to go on if we found ourselves tired and needing food in a hurry. I also made a section in each notebook for things I had run across on this website and just wanted to remember.

We were there the first week in August which is off season for most hotels. We were able to get rooms at the Hotel American in Venice for 85 Euros per night. It was our first time at both, and we liked them very much. At the Hotel American, we had rooms 211, 105, and 107 which were reasonably sized, very pretty rooms, with nice new bathrooms. We did not have a canal view, but on the return night before flying out, we were given 302 and 203 which were on the San Vio canal and were both very large. We also had 207 which was small, but had a little balcony off the bathroom. We really don't care much about a view, because we leave early in the morning, and, except to drop things off, do not ususally return until late at night. The breakfast room is lovely and has a good breakfast that includes meats, cheeses, boiled eggs, cereals, yogurt, breads, and pastries. I think I will always stay there, unless it is winter, and I can get a Grand Canal room for a good price at the Leon Bianco!

We stayed at the Residenza Proconsolo in Florence for 95 Euros per night. The rooms were very simple with nice bathrooms. There was not view, but the location was excellent--about 10 steps from the back right corner of the Duomo. We filled out a sheet telling what we wanted for breakfast and at what time, and it was brought to our rooms. When I return with my travel group in the spring, that is where we will stay.

I took the Eyewitness books for each city, because they are my favorite. They are heavy, but I am used to them and have my own markings in them. As far as carrying them, I had a small leather shoulder bag with a long strap that had a zip pocket for my passport, another easier one to get to for my money and cards, and it was just big enough for my guidebook to find in the middle. It was not made for travel (Nine West), but it worked the best of anything I have taken before.

We walked everywhere and only used the vaparetto to get to the train station. I know my way around pretty well, so it was just as easy to walk as to wait for the ride. Since we go to see the city itself, we hate to ride and miss seeing anything up close. Every corner has something new to see. We were on no schedule, so meandering did not bother us.

We debated the water taxi/Alilaguna ride both to and from the airport. When we arrived, we decided on the alilaguna, because one traveler was a little afraid of seasickness and thought the bigger boat would work better for him. He found that his new medications worked very well, so we did take the water taxi back to the airport. We figured by the time we took the water bus from Accademia to San Marco at 3.50 Euros each, paid 10 Euros for the ride, and bought something to eat (because we would miss breakfast at teh hotel by leaving so early) that we came out just as well to take the taxi. There were 8 of us, since another couple at the hotel asked to share. We were quoted 20 Euros per person, but when we got to the airport, he tried to up the price by 60 Euros telling us that we had to pay extra for our luggage. We stood our ground, and he backed off very quickly.

We took the train from Venice to Florence, and as always when we used the trains in Europe, we just walked over and bought the tickets the day before. We always go second class. We did find that this time in Venice that at the information counter on the left facing the canal, they will find destination and times and mark what you want on a sheet, so that all we did was hand it to the ticket agent and pay. We told him we were a party of 6 and got a group discount of 10%.

August is the best summer month for us to travel for a variety of reasons. Several things that we wanted to see were closed, but the weather was great. Some days it was very cool for August. Our ride from the Accademia Bridge to the train station early in the morning was almost cold. The humidity was very low. We have been in August before and know that it can be hot, but we are from the South, and even Venice's "high" humidity does not compare to ours! Many people prefer off-season weather, but I love European cities in the summer. Both couples with us had never seen Europe in the summer, only in winter and early spring, and they all preferred summer, even with the heat.

We took our digital camera and had not trouble finding places to burn our CD's in both countries. We also took cell phones for the first time. We rented them from World Cellular Rental for $29.95 each for two phones. The minutes were 46 cents for outgoing calls and no charge for incoming. Calls home were $1.45 per minute. We rented rather than buying just to see if we really needed them. They were convenient for when we went in two directions, but we could have made it without them. We used them to make restaurant reservations, but we could just have easily have called from the hotel or walked by. When I get the bill, I will make a final decision on whether it was worth it!

We had some very good food and lots and lots of prosecco. Bacarro Jazz is a favorite hang out place of ours, and it has 2 for 1 drinks from 4-7 each day, so we had our bellinis and spritzes there. Vino Vino has great wine and drink prices. One night on the way back to our hotel, our group had 3 glasses of wine, two beers, and a scotch for less that 10 Euros! We also made several stops at the Lowenbrau bar right on the Grand Canal at the foot of the Rialto Bridge.

In Venice, we had our best food at Alguibagio on the Fondamente Nove. I think they only open for lunch. We sat by the water, the waiters and owner were very kind and helpful, and the food was great. Try their vegetable lasagna and ham and melon. We always eat at Taverna San Trovaso, and we ate there twice this time. The food is just good Italian food with no frills. Their pasta with pesto, calamari, and mixed seafood are always good. The good thing about the restaurant is you can always count on the food to be the same. Their prosecco is 9 Euros for a large pitcher! We also ate twice at the snack bar at the foot of the Accademia Bridge--good lunch food and right on the Grand Canal.

In Florence, our very best food was at Tira Baralla right beside Farmacia Di Santa Maria Novella on Della Scala. The Farmacia was closed, so we just walked in this unknown place. No on spoke a word of English, so it was truly a neighborhood trattoria. Everything we ate was the best we had on the trip. They also bottle their house wine which was excellent in half bottles, and we bought some bottles (not enough!) to bring home. We also had some very good pizzas at a tiny pizzaria at the end of Cimatori right off Calzaiuoli at the end of the street on the right. I don't remember the name, but the have outdoor seating with a tiny little place to sit and wait.

We had reservations at the Uffizi, but you need to know that when you go to pick up your tickets at the office across the courtyard from the main entrance that you must have cash--no credit cards.

Some people here have asked about walking tours in Venice. We have never done any, but I picked up a brochure from Venice Walks and Tours, www.tours-italy.com, which looked good. I also picked up one in Florence for the Original and Best Walking Tours of Florence that I wanted for my group trip in the spring. Their website is www.artviva.com.

marty is offline  
Aug 22nd, 2005, 09:42 AM
Join Date: May 2003
Posts: 4,257
Hi Marty,

Thank you for your great tips. I have made notes on the restaurants you enjoyed and stuck them away for our trip coming up Jan/Feb, 2006.

Additionally, I wrote down the information you provided on cell phones. We do need to bring one, and are still in the research phase as to which option is best for us, so your info is very helpful.

It sounds like you had a wonderful time. We will be doing the reverse of your itinerary. Florence and then Venice.

Thank you again, and welcome home, Tiff
Tiff is offline  
Aug 22nd, 2005, 09:47 AM
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 7,113
Thanks for the report, marty. Sounds like you had a good trip and your report lists good tips for future travlers.
Statia is offline  
Aug 22nd, 2005, 10:04 AM
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Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 427
Tiff: I will try to remember to let you know how much the phones actually cost when it is posted to my credit card. I am little surprised that they have not done so already. Maybe they have forgotten me!!
marty is offline  
Aug 22nd, 2005, 10:14 AM
Join Date: Jan 2003
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Hi marty,

Thanks for sharing.

ira is offline  
Aug 22nd, 2005, 11:05 AM
Join Date: May 2003
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Marty, that would be very kind of you!

Most appreciative, Tiff
Tiff is offline  
Aug 25th, 2005, 05:52 AM
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Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 427
Tiff: My bill from WCR was posted today. It came to $87 for the two phone and the calls. I do not have the breakdown on costs yet, but we did lose one adaptor, so I know there is a small cost there. We made several calls back and forth on the two phones while in Italy, and one couple called home for about 10 minutes. We are splitting it three ways, so the cost was great for us.
marty is offline  

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