Trip Report- Italy May 6-21

May 25th, 2005, 11:57 AM
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Trip Report- Italy May 6-21

I don't have a lot of time but I wanted to post a thank you to all of you who helped make the logisitics of this trip so much easier to plan. My mom and sister commented numerous times that the trip was so smooth and that I had planned well. Thank you! Your patience with endless repeat questions (ATMs, train tickets, etc.) is admirable.
Here's a few notes:
We started in Sorrento (flew into Naples-the Curreri shuttle bus was great and easy to find) We got lost finding our hotel and I hoped it wasn't a predictor for our trip (it wasn't) We learned to go ahead and get a cab when loaded down with luggage and not sure where we were going.)
Il Buco in Sorrento was truly lovely. The restaurant spills out into a cobbled alley way with beautifully set tables and a wait staff that waits on you hand and foot. The food was excellent and the white wine the owner picked was the best I've ever had! Dinner was fresh raviolis with buffalo mozzarella and a light white wine sauce and a huge bowl of seafood "stew" really a huge bowl of fresh seafood with a small amount of broth--yum!
Day two we hired a driver to take us down the Amalfi Coast and to Paestum. It was more than worth the 250 E we paid. It was a fantastic day and Tony Monetti our driver was attentive and thoughtful without being overly controlling. Paestum was worth the trip without a doubt. Its different than Pompeii in that its just laying out in the open, unprotected and unrestored. The temples there are astounding beyond words. I still can't get over how privileged I felt to be walking right up to a more than 2000 year old temple. The museum was also worth the time.
The next day we were off to Naples and Pompeii. Pompeii was impressive and what I loved most about it is that unlike other ruins I have visited (Macchu Picchu), it requires no imagination to picture how the people lived there, its all in front of you, with wall paintings and floor mosaics right under your feet and even graffiti.
Naples was like getting drunk, its exciting and mind altering but it also makes your head spin. My mother unfortunately hated it. She insisted after the Archeological Museum on returning to the hotel, so we missed out on dinner at Pizzeria Bellini. Too bad, the menu looked great. The cab drive back to the hotel was exciting to say the least, people drive all over the road and red lights are meaningless as are lines in the road. Thankfully the cab driver was wonderfully kind, and though he spoke no English he managed to get my mother laughing and coaxed her out of her panick attack! My mother's chief complaint was that all of the beautiful old architecture is covered with graffiti and grime. She just couldn't see past that. I look forward to returning there. I never felt uncomfortable or unsafe and I am not a big city person. People were helpful and warm in a way they often are not in a big city.
After Naples we took the train to Cinque Terre. To those who wonder if its worth the trip, it is. At night the villages were quiet and the appeal of the place was evident. The towns were a bit crazy during the day (partly because of hordes of Italian school children) Out on the two most difficult hiking trails (Vernazza to Corniglia and Manarola) it was peaceful and the views were the most beautiful I have ever had the chance to experience. If you go visit the pastry shop at the end of Vernazza near the parking lot. Its operated by two Sicilian brothers and their sister and the pastries were amazing! We had two wonderful meals in Vernazza, first at Il Castello (a balcony at the very top of the harbor point) I had a pesto lasagna that made me a pesto convert (its never been a favorite). One of the best meals of the trip was Gambero Rossa. I had the tasting menu and it was superb. If I went back I would have a full order of the fish ravioli though, it was perfect.
After CT came Florence. I didn't have a lot of expectations for Florence but ended up loving it. The historic center is very easy to navigate and there are wonderful surprises around every corner. It is a city full of beauty and culture. Its easy to see why it was one of the starting points of the Rennesaince. David was astounding and worth the trip even for people who aren't art lovers. Our favorite meal in Florence was Il Ritrovo. Its an experience restaurant, its tiny and the room is as others have described it cave like. The host (owner/cook) and his wife were charming and eager to please. The house wine (red) was delicious and the chocolate souffle was our best dessert of the trip. I still drool thinking of it. A chocolate lovers dream come true... My sister's pasta was a bit over spicy and they insisted on making it again, which they did.
After Florence came Tuscany, which I'll have to save for another day as I'm out of time.
A couple of logisitic points:
I think its much easier to go ahead and make train reservations from home on Trenitalia. The station lines were long and the automatic ticket machines were easy to use. ATMs were also easy to use. My mom lost a lot of money on exchanges because she insisted on bringing a large amount of cash to start with. She wouldn't do it again. As others here have noted, if one ATM doesn't work try another or try a different amount. I had to do that twice but the next ATM worked fine.
Parking in the Tuscan hill towns was a bit difficult to figure out for a newcomer, get recommendations from your hotel or from whatever restaurant you are going to.
Eat planty of gelato, you'll walk it off, I manged to lose four pounds!
kemarshall64 is offline  
May 26th, 2005, 07:30 AM
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kemarshall64 is offline  
May 26th, 2005, 07:38 AM
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I think your report may have merit, but I had to quit halfway since my eyes could not focus. Try using some paragraphs with spaces.
bobthenavigator is offline  
May 26th, 2005, 07:43 AM
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Thanks for posting, Kemar!
Holly_uncasdewar is offline  
May 26th, 2005, 08:08 AM
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Looking forward to the rest of your report. We will be in Florence in September.
mamc is offline  
May 26th, 2005, 08:09 AM
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There's so much talk about Il Ritrovo on this board... I cannot wait to go back to Florence to try it. Good for you in taking your Mom..had she been to Europe before? I took my parents in December. They still talk about it.
sandi_travelnut is offline  
May 26th, 2005, 08:15 AM
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WOW, I can NOT imagine what would it be if you HAD time! LOL Thanks
Ziana is offline  
May 26th, 2005, 08:31 AM
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Thanks for the report, kemarshall. Sounds like you had a good trip.
Statia is offline  
May 26th, 2005, 08:37 AM
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Sandi, This was my Mom's first trip anywhere out of the Eastern US, she LOVED her father's homeland. I have never seen her so relaxed and happy.
We had to drag her back!
kemarshall64 is offline  

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