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Travel Notes and Trip Report from our 2 week trip to Italy - and our catch phrase of the trip "too much American"

Travel Notes and Trip Report from our 2 week trip to Italy - and our catch phrase of the trip "too much American"

Old Nov 3rd, 2006, 10:13 AM
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Travel Notes and Trip Report from our 2 week trip to Italy - and our catch phrase of the trip "too much American"

We just returned last week from a 2 week trip to italy. Below are some travel notes from our trip. Thanks to everyone on this board for the past posts and direct help with our planning - it certainly made things easier!

Trip Oct 13-27, 3 Nights in Liguria, 7 nights in Toscana, 3 Nights in Roma, 1 Night in London

Heathrow Inbound: We bought our tickets before the Liquid ban, so we expected to travel with carry-ons and had a relatively short 1:40 Minute connection time from terminal 3 to Terminal 2. We arrived 30 minutes late, but still made it to Terminal 2 Check-IN in 40 minutes, collecting our bags and everything. That was nice on Friday the 13th!

Alitalia Flight: This was our first time flying Alitalia and it wasn't any worse or better than EasyJet, BMI, or British Airways for the hop over to Italy. We did have a great view of the Alps on the way into Linate! Plus it allowed us to practice our 12 words of italian we knew...

Autostrade: The A1 was easy to Parma but the A15 was very slow on Friday night between Parma and La Spezia due to constrution that kept switching us to one lane as we went through the mountains. We switched back and forth several times and I just wondered why they didn't just make it one lane for the entire section...

Driving around for an extra 90 minutes because the road to get to our hotel along the water was closed and I couldn't find another option was the only hicup of the journey

Liguria: We really lucked out on the weather and loved the area - I like the southern end of this area better than Santa Margherita and the Portofino side. We have stayed more to the north before but will stay on this side in the future.

Cinque Terra: We took the boat from Portovenere up the Cinque Terra and stopped in Monterosso. We wondered the back streets, bought some Limoncino, had a very, very salty lunch in an Enoteca and fought the tour groups back onto our boat and left them at the various towns on the way back to Portovenere. Travelling by boat was a great way to see the Cinque Terra.

Portovenere: This is a great town and had some amazing vistas and cool back streets. We did run into 3 different couples having sex either on the trail or just off of it around the castle above town. It must be something to do for the locals! We came around one steep corner to see a guys head below us and 2 womens feet in the air. My wife asks "ummm I wonder what are they doing below us"! I just started whistling and kept going as he zipped up his pants. Just below them on the way up was a family with 2 young kids...

Toscana: We travelled on to tuscany somewhat reluctant to leave the warmth of the coast but looking forward to red wine and some great hill towns. We stopped in Greve and visited the Le Cantine di Greve to get start with some wine tasting and get our Chianti groove started.

San Gimignano: Our hotel for 4 nights was the Relais Santa Chiara in San G. The hotel looked awesome and had some good reviews on the web. We won't return, despite the wonderful staff and great views the Hotel is not quiet. We could hear a pin drop from the the rooms next to us on either side. Unfortunately we knew could
easily hear people using the bathroom and shower on either side of us, heard alarms, phones, and even a wannabe karaoke singer at 4 am singing Sinitra from 4 rooms away...

The hotel did give us our catch phrase of the trip though, which we always look for when travelling. This time the loud Texan who woke up the entire floor singing Sinatra the night before was demanding things from the pleasant ladies in the breakfast room, after he was done asking for whatever he wanted the lady leans over and says quietly to him "too much american". My wife about choked - and that was our phrase for the rest of the trip!

More to follow...
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Old Nov 3rd, 2006, 11:31 AM
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Still in San Gimignano:
We found a very small osteria on our first night that was amazing - Osteria le Carcere - there was a sign on the wall inside that said "Antica Macellera Ceccini" which told me that some of the meat and products were from Dario Ceccini's place in Panzano. Some of the food was even prepared and reheated using a microwave! Who cares it tasted great along with a awesome bottle of 2003 Castello della Panaretta Chianti Classico recomended by the owner. My wife is still trying to figure out how to make Ribolita like they made! I had the Pork with rosemary, along with bruschetta with procini mushroom spread, while my wife had her soup and the turkey loin with orange sauce - both entrees were great and the owner was very nice.

On our way out at about 10 PM I wanted to get Gelato at the award winning worlds best gelato but noticed they were closing, they were washing out the bins but had 2 flavors left, pistachio and strawberry - I had the pistachio and it was out of this world! I kept trying to go back to this place but the next night they were closed at 8 PM and the following night at 7 PM.

Toscana Day 2:
Our second day we were directed by our hotel to the Trony store in Poggibonsi to buy a cell phone to work with my TIM card - found a phone for only 59 euro and we were on our way. We zipped our 4 door SMART suv around Poggibonsi, dodging market day shoppers, and somehow found the bicycle shop I was looking for when we made a "wrong turn". We went back around the block, parked, and went inside my first italian bike shop. The shop was small and had a decent selection, but I couldn't find a interesting jersey to buy. This store and all of the other places I found all carried the standard pro-team jerseys that I can buy here. I was hoping to find a club jersey or local team jersey.

We then headed deep into Chianti with our first stop at Castellare in Chianti for some tasting and a bottle of their 2003 chianti classico. Then we headed towards ristorante Badia a Coltibuono for lunch. The lunch was very good and in a nice building. The sausage pasta I had was very good and the Half bottle we shared was great.

We then headed to Castello Brolio for a quick tasting and then I headed off to find Rocca Di Montegrossi while my wife rested in a nice park having tired of the curvy roads for the moment.

As I passed the sign for <i>Monti in Chianti</i> I wanted to stop and have my picture taken so that I had a picture of Monty in Chianti - standing next to the sign Monti in Chianti...

Since I was by myself at this point I have no picture, but on our next trip to Chianti I will go there first and get my photo

I bought a bottle of the 2003 Chianti Classico from Rocca Di Montegrossi and went back to pick up my wife.

We then started heading back to San Gimignano and napped.

For dinner we had our only really disappointing meal of the trip at Ristorante Enoteca il Castello in San G. We ate here on our honeymoon in 2004 and enjoyed it, but this time the food was just not good. I think our expectations are higher now, and after even beter meals we had later in this trip our expectations are even higher now...

Tomorrow we will meet up with my wifes younger sister and brother in law...where I become the tour guide known as Monti from Chianti for the rest of the trip.
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Old Nov 3rd, 2006, 12:51 PM
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We were expecting our SIL and BIL to arrive sometime later in the afternoon so we had the morning to ourselves. We decided to head to Voltera for the morning and then meet back at the hotel when they arrived.

The dive to Voltera was great and we passed our first Italian prison. The most interesting aspect of the prison was the laundry hanging out of the windows to dry...even in a prison you hang your clothes to dry outside the window!

Voltera was a beautiful town and we wondered several back streets, watched an artist working with alabaster, found the etruscan arch, visited our first larger Coop - where I tried to figure out how to smuggle a whole procuitto leg in by luggage home. I think they were only $45 for the entire leg...We did a little shopping and visited a few chappels checked the views and then started back to San G in the early afternoon.

We found a very nice winery on the way back called Fattoria Il Palagio where we bought a nice bottle of 2003 IGT Sangiovese for 15 Euro. This was there top bottling I believe, but they also had a couple of whites; chardonnay, vernaccia and sav. blanc to go along with a few reds.

We then headed to the hotel to meet with our family. After they checked in we took them to the center of San Gimignano and after finding our choices for wine bars closed or no longer serving food we ended up at the cafe in the center of town of some nice salumi, bread, pizza etc...

For dinner that night we had reservations for Dorando, and as recomended here and at SlowTrav the meal was very good. The only complaint, and I mean only complaint at all was the slightly tough boar chop - but hey that is a boar not some fancy pampered american pig like animal. This meal was very nice and the staff was great. Finally, even the deserts were over the top!

All of us had lots of stories to tell about the first parts of our trip to Italy and to catch up. This was my BIL's first trip to Europe and my SIL's first trip to Italy.

Our next day was the first day with any clouds, and it had cooled down a bit. We started our day with a trip back through Chianti to Radda for a stroll and some boot shopping for the ladies, on to Volpia to check out the village and a quick taste of the wines (5 euros for 3 tastes) and then to Panzano to look for Dario's butcher shop. We took the dirt road from Volpia to Panzano which may have taken longer and we were tight for time and didn't ever find it. We did find the Macelleria Checcuci - close but not correct.

With a 3 PM reservation for the Academia in Florence and a stop planned for Greve we had to move on.

We stopped in Greve at Le Cantine di Greve again to show our family the wines and let them taste some different wine.

Some of my favorites were: Ornellia, the Morellino's, Lamole a Lamole Chianti Classico. We each bought a 10 euro card and jumped around from station to station. Since we have visited Vino Venue in San Francisco a few times we really like this type of setup for wine tasting.

Back in the car and on towards Firenze and the Academia and David.

When we exited the Academia it had started to rain, and with everyone tired we kind of zipped through Firenze to the cathedral, the central piazzas, and over to the Ponte Vechhio.

Our timing was terrible for rush hour traffic our of Firenze, but once we were on the SI-FI highway things were easy.

I wanted to eat dinner in Monteriggioni and we stopped there. On our honeymoon we had eaten at Ristorante il Piccolo Castello and loved it so we decided to return. It was still pouring and the town was deserted. With my SIL shopping for boots I stopped into the Fattoria Castello di Monteriggioni wine shop to taste their amazing wines. I need to find their 2001 Chianti Classico here as it was only 8 euro. The 1997 Chianti Classico Riserva was only 13 Euro! I mentioned Il Piccolo to the man helping me and he told me he much prefered Il Pozzo, and that was were we should eat.

Il Pozzo: Man was this place amazing. We are so glad we took his advice. Now we decided that we should sample as many things as possible so we all picked a primi pasta that we all would like. I choose the papardelle con cinghale, my wife the pici wih pesto, my BIL the &quot;ravioli&quot; with truffle, and my SIL another stuffed pasta. With our bottle of Chianti we came up with a plan for our first course. Anytime someone reached to their wine we would all have to rotate our food to the next person. The Boar and the Truffle pasta were voted best with the pici pesto coming in a close third.

Now for our secondi my BIL had been missing steak for days and I told him to hold out for a good place. At 38 Euro per KG the Bisteca alla Fiorentina was his choice - boy was that amazing. It was the best steak I have ever had, and I don't like steak much. Having grown up eating grilled T-Bones every Saturday night as a child it was a treat to taste something so different and good, it practically melted in your mouth...

The rest of the main courses were also excellent, but the standout was the steak. My grilled chicken was excellent and my wifes Risotto with mushrooms was great also. Our waiter recomended a Riecine Chianti Classico 2003 that was stunningly good.

We rolled out of Monteriggioni to lighter rain and headed for the Santa Chiara...

Next up - San Quirico &amp; Brunello country
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Old Nov 3rd, 2006, 12:57 PM
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Off to a great start on the report! Looking forward to hearing more.
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Old Nov 3rd, 2006, 01:04 PM
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Good stuff Monty !
I knew I loved Portovenere--others seem to agree.
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Old Nov 3rd, 2006, 01:33 PM
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After our first rainy day in we woke up to what looked like clearing skies. Our view for the 2nd story deck at Santa Chiara was almost worth the price, but as I mentioned before the hotel just didn't have the 4 star feel and was too noisy for us. I think the other 3 star places we have stayed were at least as nice.

The clouds then dropped and you couldn't see across the street. A quick breakfast, packing, picking up laundry up in town and we were on our way. Originally the Monty in Chianti tour was to include Siena today for the morning and since it was hard to see anything due to the low clouds we decided to push on to the south.

First stop was Montalcino to visit the Fortezza. We had a flight of Brunello and some food here and wondered the stalls of Market Day. Our favorite Brunello was the Castelgiocondo 2001. The second favorite was Casanova di Neri 2001. I don't even remember the other 3 but they were still tasty.

Looked at the menu for Taverna Grappolo Blu for future evening ideas...we never did make it back though.

After driving around the roundabout several times trying to decide which road to take for San Quirico we made it down the hill and to town.

San Quirco:
This town is a great small town in Tuscany. It does have a few places to eat, shop and relax and we enjoyed the slow life here.

Pallazo Relais dei Capitano:
This hotel is a very nice hotel with the best breakfasts we have had in Italy. The staff was great and the rooms were really nice. My Bro and Sis had the Capicorno suite and it was huge. We had the Gemili room with the turret - My wife loved the turret and read up there every chance she got. Our only complaint was the hot water in the morning - it wasn't always hot. Also with the rain and cold weather you couldn't turn on the heat so the old rooms were a bit chilly. We felt like we were a bit younger than their typical clients ranging in age from 29-39 but we still really enjoyed our stay.

The restuarant associated with the hotel is Al Vechio Forno which we all ate at the first night. I am not sure I would again, even though the food was pretty good. I was a little turned off by the wine prices. All the other places we visited in Italy always had reasonable markups on their wine lists, especially local wines - here it felt like an american mark up of 2 1/2 times retail...The food was good, but better food is to be found in the area...

We found a great enoteca wine bar on the main street where we had a great bottle of Casanova di Neri 2001 Brunello and some local salumi. This bottle was only 30 Euro! Once the man helping us figured out we were American he pulled out the Wine Specator to show us the ratings for the wine! We retuned later in the week to drink more at this great bar.

Up Next: Biblical Rain, Siena, Pienza, Latte Di Luna
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Old Nov 3rd, 2006, 02:13 PM
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Terrific report - I especially like all the wine references! And the &quot;too much American&quot; comment was hilarious!
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Old Nov 3rd, 2006, 03:32 PM
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Enjoying your report. We were in Lerici (just south of Portovenere) this summer and loved it. Enjoyed our visit to Portovenere as well, and would consider staying there next time. Appreciated your comments comparing northern Ligurian coast and southern coast as we didn't make it up to SML and Portofino but thoroughly enjoyed the southern portion.
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Old Nov 3rd, 2006, 03:37 PM
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LOL, loving this, Monty!
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Old Nov 3rd, 2006, 04:33 PM
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An Italian wine tour. I'm salivating . . .

Great report, Monty!

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Old Nov 6th, 2006, 09:04 AM
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Since my wife and I both love Siena - we wanted to take our brother and sister there so they could see a town that while still large and bustling still feels like a small town. We decided to go in the morning after breakfast and stay through lunch. On the drive up just as we got to town it started to rain. Not too bad, but it was raining. My wife and I had our rain coats in our bag, but we still bought some umbrellas in the parking garage as it started to rain harder. We proceded into the center of town as the rain got harder and harder. It was fun to watch the tour groups try to follow people in the rain. Also dodging groups of people all going a different direction with umbrellas was a challenge...

Then it really started to rain and it only got worse. We went in and out of a few shops - looked at the campo for 2 minutes and decided to retreat.

That was Siena - I like it better when it isn't raining!

So now with our morning and afternoon free the vote was to find a wine bar close to San Quirico and hope for better weather and maybe visit some wineries. For days we tried to get the Consorizo Map and information but the Hotel, Tourist office, and the Fortezza were out or didn't have them. We ended up staying in Pienza and had Lunch and a great bottle of Brunello along with 5 different bruschetta's (bruschetti).

We wondered around Pienza for a couple of hours and secured diner reservations for that night at Latte di Luna and decided to find some Brunello wineries out on the road. I wanted to go back to the hotel to get my winery information and see if anyone wanted to change any clothes, but it was decided that if that happened a nap would be in order and we wouldn't make it back out.

So after planning several special wineries to visit and not having that information I was just going to wing it. We tried Casanova di Neri but they were closed, from there we found a sign on the side of the road that said aperto and an arrow to a Brunello winery. Down the driveway I go - boy this place is small. I park near a building where a man is working behind some machinery, he glances over at us smiles and keeps working. Not a singe person opens a door to the car &quot;alright lets go&quot; I say, nothing - So I get out - no one moves as I start to look around. I go down to a lower builing with some big doors and windows - looking back everyone is still in the car, my wife gives me a thumbs up..grrr I ruturn a nicer hand gesture as they all are laughing.

I poke around a bit and a lady comes out to ask what I need - she speaks no english, figures out I don't speak any italian, and surmises from my gestures and coments that I want to try some wine. She gets on her phone and calls the same guy who is working right next to our car he walks over and is smiling. Husband and Wife is what I guessed - I guess he wanted her to help - Up the stairs I motion for my family to get out of the car already - and we enter the winery which is a just a very tiny aging room and the owners appologize for the size, tell us that this is the entire production and that they are very small. There are just a few barrels. We taste a 2004 Rosso which tastes very young, learn after many hand signals and botched words that it has been in bottle since March. The Brunello is much better - openend from a blank unlabeled bottle. We taste and I learn that normally his young school aged son is around and he speaks english so that makes things easier. We don't exchange a single word that any of us understand - beyond si, yes, grazie, nothing else.

We buy a few bottles, I would have bought more but we don't have room to pack them and I already have 4 bottles we need to drink.

My brother and sister buy a bottle each of the Brunello and Rosso - the Brunello is hand numbered and one of just 360. We thank them and move on. I am still mad at them for making me do the leg work, but I am the tour guide so to speak.

I don't remember the name of the winery so I will have to ask my SIL to get them out of storage to find the producer.

We venture to few more established places next and find more modern tasting rooms where more english is spoken. One of the wineries I was really interested in was Canallicchio so when I see I sign for that I stop. Turns out this is Canalicchio di Sopra which is not the one I want to visit. The wines are good, just not what I was looking for.

We venture around some of the white (dirt) roads for and wind our way the back way up to Montalcino. We stop in 2 enotecas. In one place we try 2 impressive brunello's. One is &quot;modern&quot; and the other is &quot;traditional&quot;. According to the man running the tasting he recomends the traditional one be kept for 100 years before opening. Hmmm don't plan on living that long. Not sure any future relatives would like Brunello - seems to be a strong selling point. The wine was had strong tannins and was very strong. The wines were 1) La Colombina, di Caselli Anna Maria, Castelnuovo Dell'Abate Montalcino 1999, and 2) Poggio Deglu Ulivi 1999 Brunello. Now I can't remember which is Modern and which is Traditional but I have photos of each of them...

Finally after a bit of wine shopping we head back to Pienza.

Latte di Luna:
We get seated and one of the first things I notice is the kitchen cooks are all grandmothers (or so it would seem) Noni cooks! This should be good. I would rate Latte di Luna just below Il Pozzo in Monteriggioni, but my wife prefered it. I had their pici with cinghale and the roasted duck with olives. Both were incredible. My wife had the Pici with garlic sauce which was excellent. We really enjoyed this meal and loved the staff and the watching the other diners who all seemed to be enjoying their meals.

This was also a very reasonable meal for the quality of food.

The rain continued off and on for most of the day and evening - we were hoping for better weather the next day.

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Old Nov 6th, 2006, 09:27 AM
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&quot;too American&quot; &quot;that's so American&quot; or, about my French son's American girlfriend, &quot;she so American&quot; - all frequently employed by my French in-laws and to me derogatorily - it's been a catch word for me in trips to French in-laws for years.
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Old Nov 6th, 2006, 09:49 AM
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We visited Montepulciano for most of the day and the fog and clouds were lifting as we got into town. We parked at the bottom of the town and slowly worked our way up to the very top. Last trip to Montepucliano my wife and I really liked the town but didn't get to spend much time.

We tasted at a few of the cantina's that were not mobbed, did some shopping, had some gelato, dropped in on the end of mass in the main church at the top, and finally sat down to a leisurly lunch towards the bottom of town. There we shared a very tasty bottle of Poggio alla Sala, Rosso di Montepulciano, that was recomended by our waiter.

I learned that in general I tend to like Brunello and Rosso di Montalcino better than most of the Rosso or Vino Nobile di Montepulciano wines I tasted. The Vino Nobile and Rossos here just seemed a bit more earthy and rustic with less fruit than the wines from the Montalcino area. Never go the wow here like we did in Montalcino or Chianti. I was hoping that Poliziano was tasting their Le Stanze but they weren't. I still have a bottle of that from 2001 that I love.

Poggio Antico:
During Lunch I called Poggio Antico to get reservations for diner. We secured 7:30 reservations.

Since I had only seen the signs for Poggio Antico on the road side and since I can get lost on occasion in Italy we left at about 6:40 from San Quirico. We arrived at about 7:10 and they were closed. My SIL was nursing a cold and so she sat in the car while my BIL knocked and had them open the front for us early so she could sit in the warmth. This is a very nice looking place and they treated us very nice. Roberto the Chef was sitting in the front with us at first, but I am not sure he speaks english.

They offered us a nice complimentary chardonnay as an apertif and then sat us down a few minutes early. Now at this point we are the only people there. No one else ever showed up. This made for a slightly uncomfortable evening as we were being waited on by several people all the time.

Only one menu they handed out had prices. Mine didn't and I was a little worried - didn't they know I was the tour guide! Of course I argued that my BIL would have to buy diner since he had been given the menu with prices!They had 3 seperate tasting menus: A Business Lunch with 3 courses for 35 Euro, a Petite Menu with 5 courses for 50 Euro and their Tasting menu with 7 course for 75 Euro along with a normal menu of ala carte items.

I can never eat 2 menu items usually so I opeted for ala carte. I asked for the Roasted Rabbit with artichokes and olives to go with a pasta primi.

Only my SIL opted for the &quot;small&quot; 5 course menu and she couldn't finish it all, she surrendered when the cheese plate come - at least got to swoop in on her desert samples without losing a hand. The mint coconut sorbetto and the chocolate cake were to die for! Everyone else chose primi and secondi from the regular menu.

We also shared an incredible bottle of the Poggio Antico Rosso di Montalcino 2004. I will be looking for this wine in the stores later.

The meal was very good, and a bit more fancy than I expected considering all of the other meals we had that week in Tuscany seemed much more casual. It was much more of a fine dining experience than any of our other stops.

My BIL had what he called the single best food dish of his life in their pumpkin risotto. I tried it and it was amazing how you could taste all of the individual ingredients so well. Total meal was 200 Euro, and we left very full.

Since we went on a Sunday night I asked the waiter why it wasn't busy. He explained that most people will stop by on there way home to Roma, Bolgona, or Firenze on a Sunday afternoon. He told us that earlier in the day they were fully booked. Plus he also said that in some guide books they are listed as closed on Sunday nights. Now not visiting this place during the day I am sure we missed out on the views, but we did get their food and wine so that is OK with me.

With just a glass of wine each my wife and I opted to have some wine in San Quirico at our new favorite bar while my SIL tried to sleep off her cold. We had a nice night and saw another example of &quot;too much american&quot; as a group of americans came walking down the street, say 6-8 people or so. One guy was carrying an open bottle of wine with the cork in it (probably from diner) - they argured about buying some more wine while one of the women tried to hide from them by slinking away. As they argued over what wine to buy we overheard them in the bar saying &quot;I don't understand what is so special about this Brunello stuff - I just don't get it&quot; My wife and I chuckled over our glasses of Brunello and toasted each other whispering &quot;too much american&quot; as we watched them walk away down the street with their new wine purchase...

Quite the fitting end for our visit to Tuscany
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Old Nov 6th, 2006, 10:18 AM
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Thank you for the trip report. I especially liked the Tuscany part since this is my favorite area. But your comment on the picture in Monti in Chianti has me wondering about the picture my wife wanted of me in Bastardo in Umbria.

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Old Nov 6th, 2006, 01:01 PM
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I really enjoyed this, monty! Great information and some great wines to look for - thanks for sharing!
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Old Nov 6th, 2006, 01:25 PM
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Thoroughly enjoyed your report. Did I miss where you stayed in Portovenere?
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Old Nov 6th, 2006, 01:50 PM
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we just visited Portovenere
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Old Nov 10th, 2006, 12:22 PM
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The finish in Roma:

We dropped our 2 rental cars in Chiusi and just missed the 11:35 train, so we relaxed and waited for the 12:59 Train.

Hotel San Carlo:
We opted for the Anex rooms, since my wife loved that room on our honeymoon. We ended up in the exact same room, #52. Our brother and sister opted for the top, 4th, floor room with a huge - I mean really big - balcony with a big dining table, couch, coffee table and tons of chairs.
We enjoyed this deck a few times for lunch with take away pizza and a evening snacks all the while enjoying our various bottles of our Tuscan wine.

Our room was nice, but plain. We still enjoyed it. My main complaint was the electronic key setup was broken so we had to use a regular key for our door and the electronic key to get into the building, plus the broken reader had a high pitched screech that I could hear more than my wife.

Roma was very warm and a bit muggy. 28C the first day and 30C the others.

Enoteca Cul De Sac was our final and favorite meal of Roma

We found a great bakery and lunch stop just across the Ponte Cavour bridge (Vatican Side) right on the NW corner on Lugotevere dei Mellini. We ran into a itailian tourguide who brought in a group of unruly older americans who couldn't do anything for themselves and were extremenly rude to our server. The Guide tells them she is going to walk around the block while they eat lunch and they started to panic!

Enoteca via della Croce had a nice selection of wine, and a slightly expensive anti pasta afternoon point and serve menu.

San Crispino was excellent, very fresh flavors - all very clean and nice.

Antica Gelateria del Corso (by the Pantheon) was incredible and one of my favorites

My favorite chocolate gelato of the trip and Roma was a cafe I believe on Via Frattina or Via della Vite - you had to pay first and then show the receipt to the server. It was amazing!

Other Notes:
Coloseo - we went inside this time and I am not sure it was that much better than being outside of it. We thought it was just as impressive walking around it as being inside...

Vatican - Lines went quickly arriving at 8:40 we were inside at 9:10 - stopped at the Vatican stop on the Metro, but I think the St. Peters stop would be quicker to get in line.

The Sistine Chappel is much larger than I imagined. I loved the Raphael rooms the most.

Trevi Fountain - This was the only place with too many people and too many guys trying to sell balls and stupid trinkets. I would be relaxed looking at it and then one of them would get in my face and start trying to sell me a dumb toy! Va Via!!!

Cat Sanctuary - This was an accidental find and interesting

Pantheon - We still love this place and I think it is one of the best parts of Roma...

Campe de Fiori - this was a great market and made us want an apartment next time so we could cook!

It was certainly busy in Rome - Shoulder to Shoulder season I think fits. There were crowds everywhere and if Rome ever gets busier during the &quot;high&quot; season I never want to see that.

Hotel San Carlo arranged a taxi to Ciampino Airport for 30 Euro for all 4 of us, which was great. On Thursday morning with a 7:45 AM pick up we were at the aiport at about 8:20. The metered fare would have been about the same was my guess.
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Old Nov 10th, 2006, 12:44 PM
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Our final stop on our journey was a 1 night layover in London. We &quot;won&quot; a room on Priceline at the Riverbank Park Plazza which was a very nice hotel inside with nice staff and super clean modern rooms. It was kind of a shock going from rustic rooms in Italy to a 4 star business hotel room in London. Our automatic in room minibar even had happy hour prices - now that is a first!

I lost our bet on who would be the first person to say Grazie to a server at our pub stop for Lunch. She tried to find me some gross pickeled item to eat, but fortunately didn't!

Ummm beer and the pie special! I missed Italy already, but was looking forward to getting home.

Diner that night was in the hotel resto and it was unremarkable but good.

Both of our only money issues were at the hotel. The food bill had &quot;optional 10% gratuity added&quot; on the bill and when I went to pay by credit card in the morning they had done DCC and stated that they included a 3.5% comission fee for the converion to dollars - I don't think so! Bill me in pounds please...

Walked to the Tube station and took the Tube to Heathrow and flew home. My wife wanted to kiss the ground when we got home since she was a bit tired of travelling - but only a week later she is planning our next Northern Italy trip for 2007 or 2008.

A couple of other interesting notes: Why do people sign up for group tours when most of them looked bored and generally unhappy? I would hate to be shuttled around with 20-30 other travellers. I swear not a single group I saw had anyone smiling, come on you are on vacation, enjoy yourselves.

Groups also were rude when you tried to get around or through them, as if they are a single entity - this happened on boats and at monuments, or just walking the city streets. Everyone seemed to have to get out of their way to let ALL of them on or off something even if you were seated in front of some or in line before them. Kind of rude! I let a few people go in front of me many times, and if it was a group, suddenly all of them started to force their way through.

Photos: We took photos of most of the wine we liked - I prefered this to taking notes, and now I have a permanent record to refer to. With a digital camera you can also record voice notes to go along with something to remind you later...

Menus were also a good thing to photograph...

Thanks again to all fo the Fodors posters for all of the help here which made our trip that much better!
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