trip report - 11 days in Italy (part 1)

Old Apr 17th, 2003, 06:08 AM
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trip report - 11 days in Italy (part 1)

Trip Report – 11 days in Italy<BR><BR>Three of us went and spent a marvelous time in Italy – 1 of us (my friend Dawn) was a 1st timer, this was my 2nd time there (farthest south that trip was Bologna-this trip was all new for me), and then there was my father who had actually lived in Italy for a time. Here are my thoughts/notes about the trip, and if anyone has any questions please feel free to let me know. Some may say that we did too much or did not get out of each place as much as we could have – I will not argue with that, but we wanted to do as much as possible, and I don’t think any of us would complain about what we did/or did not do (other than maybe spending a little bit more time in Siena).<BR><BR>Monica<BR><BR>Day 1: <BR>Arrival into Fuimicino at 800am on Delta Airlines, from National Airport through JFK in New York.<BR><BR>My father met us at the airport (he lives in Argentina and arrived a few days earlier). We took the train direct into Termini Station in Rome ($8.80 EUR per person, 1 way). We went straight to our hotel (Golden Tulip Mecenate Palace Hotel – Via Carlo Alberto 3, across from Santa Maria Maggiore). Only 1 of our 2 rooms were ready – but that was fine with us, we just wanted to freshen up and drop our bags off. We were given room 107 for the twin (can actually sleep 3, window overlooked courtyard), and my father was assigned room 104 (across the hall, a double bed, overlooking the street). <BR><BR>The hotel was wonderful – cute, great service, nice buffet breakfast each morning on the roof top terrace. Would definitely stay here again, and will recommend!<BR><BR>OK – we were off……we started off at the Colosseum – we looked at the Arch de Constantine, then walked over to the Colosseum itself. We were approched by an agent from Discover Rome Tours (www.discoverrometours.com), saying that an english tour was just starting, and that for $15 EUR (including entrance fee to the Colosseum, and to Palatine Hill) we could bypass then entrance line, and walk right in. Our tour guide was Paolo, and he was very knowledgeable, and with a good sense of humor. Tour lasted several hours, and went everywhere. At the end of the tour, we were given the option of either going over to Palatine Hill right then to be walked in, or to meet near the Arch at 230p to go in then. We were hungry, so we opted to go get something to eat, then meet at 230p for the entrance into Palatine Hill. <BR><BR>We found a restaurant with outdoor seating near the Colosseum (didn’t want to go too far). We chose the Royal Meat House, where my father ordered the Lasagne, and Dawn and I had a Margherita Pizza (not really what I had in mind for my 1st meal in Rome, but by that point it tasted good).<BR><BR>We returned to the assigned meeting spot, and were escorted into Palatine Hill. Tons of walking, and took lots of pictures. Great weather – nice and sunny. After a few hours here we were beat! We went back to the hotel and all took naps until dinner (we went to my father’s friends’ house for a home cooked meal).<BR>
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Old Apr 17th, 2003, 06:45 AM
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Message: Day 2:<BR><BR>Ate breakfast at the roof top terrace, then off to the Vatican. When we arrived, there was a line around the corner, but luckily it moved quickly. Cost to get in is $10 EUR per person &amp;#65533; be forwarned that they only accept cash &amp;#65533; no credit cards or travelers checks (even Euro ones) for entrance. They do accept credit cards for souveniers, but no travelers checks at all. <BR><BR>Amazing place &amp;#65533; wow!! <BR><BR>We ate lunch at the cafeteria right there - $13.70 EUR for 2 dishes, 1 water, and 1 soda.<BR><BR>Word of caution &amp;#65533; there was a woman who was holding a baby (or at least it looks like she is) and trying to get donations &amp;#65533; the &amp;#65533;baby&amp;#65533; is strapped somehow where her left arm/hand is free (you think she is holding the kid with this arm) - she did try to open 1 compartment of my travel bag &amp;#65533; I kept trying to get away from her, but she was persistant (luckily nothing much other than a map and my camera were in there) - nothing was taken.<BR><BR>That afternoon was St Peter&amp;#65533;s and the Sistine Chapel&amp;#65533;..we were in awe! Words can not do the Sistine Chapel justice&amp;#65533;..but beware &amp;#65533; don&amp;#65533;t sit on the steps to look up, they will make you get up. <BR><BR>We headed over to Piazza Navona after that, and sat at one of the outside tables at Bar Navona to enjoy a gelato (Dawn and myself), coffee, and some people watching. Took pictures of the Four Rivers fountain before heading over to the Pantheon, and the Campo de Fiori. We then went over to the Spanish Steps.<BR><BR>Dinner was at La Giggi Trattoria Romana (Via de le Carrozze, off the Piazza Spagna). Total cost for all 3 of us was $86 &amp;#65533; I had Prosciutto e melone as my first plate, followed by Tagliatelle e carciofi (Noodles and Artichokes), then Asparagi (Asparagus). We had wine from the Montepulciano region, and expresso<BR><BR><BR>
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Old Apr 17th, 2003, 06:46 AM
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Message: Day 3:<BR><BR>Breakfast again at the hotel. This was our last full day in Rome (for now). We walked over to the Forum, but even though opening time was supposed to be 9a � things did not open up until the afternoon (they were working on some of the areas). We headed over to the Vittorio Emmanuel building where we watched (with tons of other people) a wreath laying ceremony. There were members of several different armed forces, a military band, and dignataries (not sure who � we couldn�t find anything on the news or in the papers to tell us who was there). <BR><BR>From there we went back to the Spanish Steps, this time to climb them (my dad all the way, Dawn and I half way). We soaked in the atmosphere, and rested our tired feet. From there we went to the Trevi Fountain, and had lunch down the street at Quirino�s Restaurant. Lunch was Ravioli con spinaci e ricotta, followed by Ossobuco. We trekked over to the Bocca della Verita.<BR><BR>Dinner that night was at Piro Trattoria (Via Daniele Manin 55/57) � Quatro Formaggio Pizza for me, Pizza Margherita for Dawn, Lasagne for my father, and gelato.<BR><BR>Day 4:<BR><BR>Breakfast at the hotel, then off to pick up our car with Thrifty from the Termini (we rented the car for a week, to be returned on the 3rd of April back at Fuimicino). We originally were given an Alfa Romeo, but it had no trunk space, so we were upgraded to a Lancia Lybra station wagon. <BR><BR>Off we went to tackle the rest of Italy. <BR><BR>We started off in Orvieto � arrived there around 10-1030am. Went straight to the Duomo (front of the building was covered with scaffolding, so unable to get the whole experience). WOW, is this an amazing place! Gorgeous! We then walked around and looked at the ceramics, and other local shops. A friend of mine had recommended the Gelateria to the left of the Duomo (same square), but due to the time of day we didn�t indulge. <BR><BR>Next came Perugia � my father�s friend had recommended coming here to see the underground area � nothing much there except for a bookstore, so pretty much a bust in my opinion. We did eat lunch off the beaten track, at what appeared to be a local hang out � the Serenella e Alfredo restaurant (sorry I did not get the address here). My father had the lasagne, Dawn had a pizza, and I had gnocchi e pomodoro sauce. Tartufo nero was my dessert, while my father had tiramisu.<BR><BR>Gubbio came next � very cute little town � great ceramics, too. We walked around for several hours, then decided to start on our drive towards Florence (we knew we would stop somewhere along the way and spend the night). Arezzo ended up being our stopping point � we found a 3 star hotel called the Hotel Europa (would not personally stay here again � it was like stepping into the late 60�s/early 70�s, could hear everything happening next door, but location and cost worked for us ($78 EUR for the double, room 56� $50 EUR for the single, room 71)). Dinner that night was at the La Vigna Trattoria around the corner � I had gnocchi, and spinacia salata. My father had the agnello (lamb) � cooked on the grill � delicious!!!! <BR><BR><BR>
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Old Apr 17th, 2003, 06:48 AM
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Message: Day 5:<BR><BR>Off we went to Florence – we arrived a little after 9am, and drove to our hotel – I redeemed Starwood points for a splurge for 1 night at the Grand Hotel (part of Sheraton’s Luxury Collection, located at Piazza Ognissanti 1 (across the Piazza from the Westin Excelsior)). We checked in, and were given our rooms – 316 and 318. I have never stayed at any place like this, ever (and doubt I will again)!!! I have never been walked to my room by an agent, and shown the room – wow, this was decadent. The fabrics/d&eacute;cor/furniture were out of this world. I can tell you that this would not have been our hotel if it had not been for the point redemption – breakfast was $52 EUR per person. Definitely a dream place! <BR><BR>We dropped our stuff off, and headed out the door – 1st to Ponte Vecchio – window shopping (partly because of the prices, and partly because things were just opening up). We walked around, and found ourselves in the Mercato Nuovo with the statue of the pig/boar “Il Porcellino”, and rubbed it’s snout (for good luck). The Duomo was next – gorgeous, but this did not affect me the same way that the Duomo in Orvieto did. <BR><BR>We ate an early lunch as we had reservations for 115pm at the Uffizi Gallery (we booked reservations on line through Florenceart.it). We chose to eat at the Caffe Caste Vecchi (piazza near the Uffizi). I had Ravioli Burro e Salvia (butter and sage), followed by Piselli Florentina (Florentine Peas – with prosciutto), and torta al cioccolato. Dad had Scalopipine e funghi to start, then Canelloni e ricotta e spinaci, followed by Tiramisu. Dawn had Pizza Margherita, then torta al ciccolato.<BR><BR>We walked right into the Uffizi – did not even need to wait behind 1 person. Dawn is more of a museum person/lover than I am, so we did the must do’s together (“Birth of Venus” “Springtime” “The Pieta” “The Annuncion”), and fast tour, then I sat down and Dawn went back for a more leisurely look at all the paintings. I didn’t want to rush her enjoyment, so I gladly took a rest. <BR><BR>We met my father at about 245pm, where he stated he wanted to go back to the hotel for a rest. Dawn and I had reservations at the Accademia for 430pm, so we decided to see if we could get in early. No problems getting to the Accademia, and were allowed in 1 hr earlier than our scheduled time. The “Prisoners/Slaves” were a sight to see, and “David” is indescribable. We just sat there staring at this amazing statue. We stayed there for a while, then saw the rest of the gallery. <BR><BR>Dawn wanted to buy her husband a Harley Davidson t-shirt, so after we were done at the Accademia, we decided to try to find the store. We went into a hotel nearby and asked the clerk if he knew the address to the store – he said “sure”, and wrote down the street name for us. So off we go into a taxi, to the street he said, and low and behold – there is no store there. We wasted both time and money based on his information, then had to try to get back to our hotel. Once we finally got back, we relaxed in our room until time for dinner.<BR><BR>Dinner was at the Le Giubbe Rosse (Piazza della Repubblica), were I had Ensalate Capriese to start (tomato and mozarella salad), followed by Pasta con salsiccia e spinaci (spinach and sausage) – good flavor, but a little too spicy for my taste. Then came expresso. We walked around Florence on our way back to the hotel, and while getting a gelato were privy to a parade/demonstration by EMS/Ambulance/Emergency vehicles all with their sirens and lights going. We were assuming it was for Peace as many cars/trucks/vans had rainbow colored flags with the word PACE (peace) waving from them (these were everywhere). <BR><BR><BR>
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Old Apr 17th, 2003, 06:49 AM
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Message: Day 6: <BR><BR>We left Florence without breakfast at the hotel at 8am, and headed to Pisa. There, my father took “cheesy touristy” pictures of Dawn and myself “holding up” the tower. My father and I then purchased our tickets to climb the tower (all 300 steps). The cost is $15 EUR per person ($2 EUR to see the church), and you are put in groups and assigned a time to climb (you are given either 30 or 45 minutes-sorry, don’t remember how long). Dawn opted not to do the climb, so she got to relax on the Duomo’s steps while we hiked up the building. We made it up to the top – me huffing and puffing, and shaking (I’m scared of heights and have had 2 knee surgeries), but this was on my to do list. My father had to take pictures with my camera for me, as I was shaking and thought either I would drop the camera, or my pictures would come out really blurry. I was never so glad to touch the ground! Dawn and my dad ended up then going into the Duomo, but I didn’t trust my legs so I sat out. From what they told me, tho, I wish I had done it.<BR><BR>We then left to go to San Gimignano. This was definitely a favorite!! I loved this city! We had lunch upon arrival at the Torre Guelfa Caf&eacute;/Pizzaria in the Piazza della Cisterna. Pizza was had all around, then gelato across the Piazza at the Gelateria di Piazza. We walked off lunch, and did some damage shopping before we were back in the car to head to Siena. <BR><BR>Siena was originally on our list of places to see, but then we opted to do San G instead. We ended up being able to do both, but had a hard time finding a hotel to stay in – we ended up staying about 2 km from the Porta Pispini, at the Palace Hotel Due Ponti. A very modern building, near other office buildings - $75 EUR for the double, including breakfast. We dropped off our things, then got back into the car to go see Siena. <BR><BR>We made a beeline to the Duomo – to see as much of it as we could before the sun went down. I really loved the floor with the symbols for the cities. Gorgeous! We then walked over to El Campo – Dawn and I sat down (like the locals) while my father scouted out the restaurants for dinner. We chose the Ristorante Asperanza (or it could have been the Ristorante Toscani) where Dawn had Pizza, and my father and I chose the Il Tagliere di Salumi tosani (plate of Tuscan cold meats and salami), and Il Carre di agnello in crosta di erbe e pecorino fresco (Roasted loin of lamb with aromatic herbs and fresh pecorino cheese – minimum of 2 people must order). This was delicious! We capped off dinner with expresso, and a plate of local sweets (we were expecting panforte, but it turned out to be something else). A little walking after dinner, then back to the hotel.<BR>
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Old Apr 17th, 2003, 06:51 AM
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Message: Day 7:<BR><BR>We ate breakfast at the hotel, then it was off to Montalcino &amp;#65533; we arrived early &amp;#65533; not much open (not sure if just due to the time we got there, or the fact that this was Sunday), but we walked around the castle, and window shopped in a few Enotecas. On our way out, we found a ceramic shop that was open (and busy), where Dawn and I had to stop and shop. We were off once again&amp;#65533;..this time south, past Rome onto World War II sites of Anzio and Nettuno. We stopped and had lunch in an AutoGrille (turnpike stopping place for gas/food), where my father and I had a Spinach and Ricotta Panini, and Dawn had Pizza. Not bad for turnpike food. We got to Anzio just before 4pm and headed over to the WWII Anzio landing museum &amp;#65533; it was closed until 430p, so back into the car we went and headed over to the American Cemetary in Nettuno (where the Americans killed during the campaign from Sicily to Rome are buried) which was open until 430pm. This is such an overwhelming place &amp;#65533; I have been to the Cemetary in Normandie, but this one is touching as well. We weren&amp;#65533;t there for anyone in particular &amp;#65533; just to pay our respects, some thing I felt even more strongly about doing due to our situation right now (another war). We then went back to the museum, then back on the road with a plan to stay as close to Ercolano as possible. We finally found a hotel called Villa Santa Teresa (Cso. Vittorio Emanuele, 88-in Torre del Greco, I think). We were given rooms 10 and 19 ($72EUR for the double). <BR><BR>Dinner was down the street at Ristorante da Peppino, where I tasted Buffalo Mozzarella for the first time. That combined with prosciutto was delicious! <BR><BR>This area did not look good at night &amp;#65533; not so bad in the day light, but kind of creepy at night. This was the 1 night that my father and I called home &amp;#65533; first to my mom in Argentina (who had not come along due to a bad back), and my sister/nephew. We found out that the flight we had scheduled for the 3rd from Rome to JFK had been cancelled, and we were now going from Rome to Venice, then JFK then back home. Unfortunately, we did not have any time to see Venice (I&amp;#65533;ve been there before, but Dawn has not).<BR>
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Old Apr 17th, 2003, 06:53 AM
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Message: Day 8:<BR><BR>Started out with &amp;#65533;breakfast&amp;#65533; at the hotel (in &amp;#65533;&amp;#65533; as we were able to chose from croissants, and nothing else&amp;#65533;.no options at all). We rode the bus down to Ercolano, and purchased a multiday/multiplace ticket, as we were planning on going to Pompeii as well (cost $18<BR>EUR per person-includes total of 5 sites &amp;#65533; Pompei, Ercolano, Boscoreale, Oplontis, and Stabia). This is a very interesting place &amp;#65533; it&amp;#65533;s amazing what has been uncovered. I had read that this place was a must see-better preserved than Pompeii (after seeing both I don&amp;#65533;t know if this is true or not (at least not regarding mosaics and wall paintings)). We opted not to hire a tour guide, but went into the Bookstore first and Dawn and I each bought one of the Ercolano/Pompei books with the transparent overlays. Dawn also bought a larger book just about Ercolano. This helped us figure out what some of the locations were supposed to be.<BR><BR>We then headed back to the hotel, got our car, and headed further south to the Sorrentine Peninsula. We had reservations at the Hotel Piccolo Paradiso in Massa Lubrense (actually Marina della Lobra). We found the hotel, and checked in &amp;#65533; we stayed what used to be the Hotel Nereidi across the street, in rooms 2 and 3 &amp;#65533; Dawn and I were in room 3 with the larger, wrap around balcony. WOW! I loved the balcony and view! We arrived right before 2pm, and had not had lunch so luckily the hotel restaurant was still serving. The main dish was Ravioli a la Capresa &amp;#65533; very good! After planning what we should do (sitting on our balcony) and though resting in our rooms, over looking the Bay of Naples was very tempting, we headed off to see Positano and Amalfi. I had seen so many pictures of these places, but they can&amp;#65533;t compare with being there. The drive had me white knuckled (I was in the front passenger seat), but my dad drove like a champ (Dawn and I are soooo grateful for all that he did for us). I loved this place &amp;#65533; I can definitely see myself going back and staying longer. <BR><BR>Dinner was back at the hotel, where Dawn had a reprisal of lunch, and my father and I had the Pasta con funghi e pomodoro, Pork chops and potatoes, and we all had Limoncello to end the meal. That stuff is good! Then off to bed.<BR><BR>Day 9:<BR><BR>We started out with breakfast at the hotel, then headed to Pompeii. Like Ercolano, this is amazing. The mosaics and paintings &amp;#65533; to think that these have survived! We got there shortly after it opened, so by about 1pm we were ready to head out. We decided to park in Sorrento and take a side trip to Capri (not originally planned). We took the 245p departure of the Linee Marittime Partenopee at $9.50 EUR per person/each way. My father thought we should do the Blue Grotto, but when we arrived and tried to purchase tickets we were told that there were no excursions there as the tide was too high. This was probably my only disappointment with the entire trip. We decided instead to rent a taxi for a tour of the island (we had Vincenzo Verdoliva &amp;#65533;driver nbr 26). It cost $60 EUR for all 3 of us, and he took us all over, and even included time for us to shop. <BR><BR>We returned to Sorrento using the 620p sailing, then drove back to the hotel. There were 3 tour buses there once we arrived (Germans and Brits, I think), so we were lucky that we could park our car. Dinner was again at the hotel &amp;#65533; I had Crema di asparagi ( Cream of Asparagus soup), Scaloppine al Marsala (Veal escalopes in Marsala sauce). Dad had a Penne dish to start with, then the Scaloppine al Marsala, and gelato. Dawn had Insalata verde (mixed salad) and Pollo alla Cacciatora (chicken). Dad and I also had a Limoncello.<BR><BR><BR>
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Old Apr 17th, 2003, 06:54 AM
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Message: Day 10:<BR><BR>Breakfast again at the hotel, then it was off to Monte Cassino. It�s amazing what they�ve done with the place after it was bombed by the Allies. It is beautiful! We stopped at the Polish Cemetary, and the German one before heading toward Rome. We had lunch in Cassino at the Goa Pub/Pizzaria/Birreria/Paninoteca. My dad had the tourist menu lunch (2 courses, plus drink), Dawn had a Pizza Margherita, and I had the Pizza Quatro Formaggio. <BR><BR>We arrived in Rome, and headed to our hotel � the Four Points Sheraton Roma West (Via Degli Eroi di Cefalonia 2). I was using Starwood points for 1 free room night for myself and Dawn, and 2 nights for Dad. We had rooms 309 and 311. This is about 20 miles from the city, and 20 miles from Fuimicino airport. They have a free shuttle that will take you both places (it drops you off/picks you up not too far from Piazza Venezia in the city). My cousins from Argentina happened to be arriving that day from Paris, so we headed into town to see them (I hadn�t seen them since 2001). We took the shuttle in, took a taxi to the Harley-Davidson store off Via Veneto to get Dawn�s husband his shirt, then a taxi to the Hotel de la Naccione to see the Chao�s/Morini�s. We all went out to see the Trevi Fountain, and the Spanish Steps (Dawn and I did climb them this time), and had dinner close to the Via Veneto at La Corte dei Leoni (Via di S. Basilio 70 near Piazza Barberini). There were an assortment of appetizers, then I had Risotto con Carciofi (Risotto with Artichokes) for my main course. We walked back to their hotel, and then the 3 of us took the 1020p shuttle back to the hotel � Dawn and I needed to repack as our flight was leaving the next morning. I will mention that this was the 1st day/night that the weather was not on our side � it rained on and off during the drive north, and all night. <BR><BR>Day 11:<BR><BR>We�re off to the airport. Dawn and I took the shuttle to the airport, and my father drove the car back (he was afraid that he might get lost, so he prefered that we go with the shuttle). We checked in with Alitalia for our flight to Venice, and were able to check our bags all the way through to National. I had one last coffee with my father, before he headed back into the city for his last night in Italy, and we headed through security. I ended up having to open my carry on due to a question about�.my slippers (from the Sheraton)�.I think the guards gave the xray guy a hard time about that (personally I prefer to be questioned than to have a problem). That became a joke between Dawn and myself for the rest of the trip (we had to go through xray machines in Venice, too).<BR><BR>Well, we got home safe and sound and with some great memories. <BR><BR>Hope you have enjoyed this, and please feel free to email me any questions � [email protected].<BR><BR>Monica<BR><BR><BR>
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Old Apr 17th, 2003, 06:55 AM
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I apologize for the dupes - Besty on part 2 recommended I do each part as a reply to the 1st part so that it was all on 1 posting.<BR><BR>I hope you enjoy, and again- I apologize!
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Old Apr 17th, 2003, 07:21 AM
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Hi Monica, <BR><BR>Thanks for such a great trip report, I truely like to read trip reports. You did so many many wonderful things, some of which I hope to do on my next trip. <BR>It sounds like you found some great restaurants and were able to see alot but relax some too. <BR><BR>I really want to rent a car next time but I am not sure about it. <BR><BR>Thanks again, <BR>April<BR>[email protected]<BR>
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Old Apr 17th, 2003, 07:31 AM
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April,<BR>Thanks for the comment. Regarding the car - it would depend on where you are going - in Rome, and Florence a car is more of a negative than a positive. Please feel to ask me anything else.<BR><BR>Thanks,<BR>Monica
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Old Apr 17th, 2003, 07:51 AM
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No apology needed, Monica. I wanted interested Fodorites to be able to access your trip report easily!
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Old Apr 17th, 2003, 10:21 AM
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Monica,<BR><BR>I will be in Italy in October and am considering a side trip to Pisa on my way to San Gimignano. Would appreciate any info you could give. How long did you have to wait after purchasing your ticket to the tower in Pisa? Is there a car park nearby? Is the tower and car park easy to get to from the north (not sure what road we will be on just know it will be north) How long was the drive to San Gimignano from Pisa and how was the parking in San G? Thanks.
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Old Apr 17th, 2003, 10:22 AM
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You saw a LOT in 11 days in Italy! But the sentence that captured my attention (was it a typo??) is:<BR><BR>&quot;breakfast was $52 EUR per person&quot;<BR><BR>Oh my!
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Old Apr 17th, 2003, 10:30 AM
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Mariarosa---unfortunatly that was not a typo....I know that the rooms we stayed in run $990 EUR per night - so that cost for breakfast is probably just a drop in the bucket for those who can &quot;pay&quot; to stay there.<BR><BR<BR><BR>Monica
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Old Apr 17th, 2003, 10:43 AM
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Hi Monica,<BR><BR> Thanks for a great report.<BR><BR> Dawn really likes pizza, doesn't she?
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Old Apr 17th, 2003, 10:53 AM
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Ira - LOL!<BR><BR>She does as a matter of fact, but it was also a &quot;safe&quot; thing to eat (she knew what to expect).<BR>Monica
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Old Apr 17th, 2003, 12:15 PM
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Sounds like a great trip. I'm impressed with all you were able to get into 11 days. Food sounds wonderful. Would like to hear about the wine you had (if you had any).
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Old Apr 17th, 2003, 12:22 PM
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Monica, Thank you so much for sharing your wonderful trip report with all of us. I spent my lunch break at work today reading it twice. I leave in 27 days for my 1st trip to Italy and can hardly wait. Thanks again...
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Old Apr 17th, 2003, 02:44 PM
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Monica - Did you have time to see anything in Venice? If so, please share with us.
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