Trip Report Italy Spring 2008...Finally!

Jun 12th, 2008, 10:12 AM
  #1  
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Join Date: Jan 2006
Posts: 109
Trip Report Italy Spring 2008...Finally!

First of all, I want to thank everyone who help me plan this wonderful trip! The Fodorites
are the best people in the world and I couldn’t have done any of this without you. Although my DH was reluctant about this trip with the dollar so weak, he absolutely loved it! The key was planning ahead and avoiding lines that were at all the major sites. While we were there (3/5/08 –3/15/08), things really fell apart in the U.S. and the dollar declined to its lowest point. Despite all that, we had the time of our lives and can’t wait to return! We booked our trip with GoToday.com and felt that the prices and convenience of pre-booking our trains and hotels was great.

March 5, 2008: Arrived in Rome at 8:30 am and after a long time in the processing lines, found our driver outside the airport terminal. We were so relieved that we found this service, Rome Airport Shuttle, http://www.romeshuttlelimousine.com. It cost us 35 Euros to be driven to our hotel, no tip necessary. Thank you to the person who recommended this great service! Our hotel offered us transportation at 60 Euros!! We stayed at a great place, Giulio Cesare, in the Prati district. It was a quiet street, within walking distance to both the Borghese Gallery and the Vatican (each @ 25 min walk). We took a nap in our beautiful room and headed for the Borghese to preview the time it would take us the following morning when we had a 9:15 am tour. That night, we went to a restaurant called La Caravelle, about a 15 min walk from the hotel. It was not a good choice. The food was not good and the service was very slow. On the way home, we passed by a brightly lit, contemporary looking place with large glass plate windows. Inside, we could see cases of prepared food and a large bakery section. We decided to check it out the next night.

March 6th: Up early and after a fabulous breakfast at the hotel (full buffet with everything you could ever want) and several cups of great cappuccino, we were off the the Borghese Gallery. This was truly the most wonderful place! The art was gorgeous and the rooms were not overcrowded and the statue of Apollo and Daphne was as spectacular as everyone has said. We were told that when they were cleaning it, the workers discovered that when the leaves growing from Daphne’s fingers were struck with cleaning pick, they rang like crystal! Amazing to see marble honed so delicately thin and rippled. As we exited, the crowds were massive! It’s a must-see and you’ll need reservations.(be sure to reserve the English tour at 9:15, and get there 20 min early). [email protected] Afterwards, stroll the gardens and grounds if you have time.

We hopped on the number 94 bus which goes to the Colosseum. The driver never asked us for money(although we offered) and took care to tell us when to get off. What a break to be rescued from the maze of the Borghese park! We got off in front of the Vittorio Emmanuele Monument and ran into a nice young couple who told us about the “Open Rome” bus tour that allows you to get off at 16 stops and is good for 24 hours. The cost was 18E each. Since it was a rainy day, cold and windy, we decided that this was the way to go. We toured around, getting off at many stops and passing others by. We skipped the Vatican since we had tickets for the following day. We managed to have lunch at a Fodor recommendation, Il Vantaggio, near the Piazza del Populo. The food was wonderful and the atmosphere was cozy and friendly. Back on the bus, and off to Santa Maria Maggiore church, but as we were walking though the maze of streets and getting lost despite the map, we took a break for a cup of cappuccino. (Forget about what people say about no cappuccino after breakfast. We saw it served all day long at cafes and coffee bars) We grabbed the last empty table and met a lovely Swedish couple who directed us to the Church of St Peter in Chains after we shared coffee and stories for about 30 minutes. On the way, we stopped at Santa Maria Maggiore and found ourselves in the middle of Police cars and members of the Press. There, right in front of us, we saw the Pope of the Greek Orthodox Church get out of a car surrounded by 3 Cardinals! We followed them into the church and watched as they all went to the tombs of the saints and some Popes beneath the altar and then retired to a small chapel on the left side of the church where they knelt and prayed together,. There were Greek tourists there and as their Pope walked down the aisle of the church, they called out to him and he stopped to clasp their hands and bless them. It was a beautiful moment! Then it was off to St Peter in Chains: a hidden gem with the wonderful statue of Moses by Michaelangelo. Bring coins if you want the statue illuminated or plan to wait until someone with change comes by! When we stepped out of the church, the vistas of the distant hills were lovely! We walked back to the Colosseum bus stop since it was getting very cold, along with the rain picking up.

That night we stopped by the Compagnia del Pane, the wonderful place we had seen the night before, and had the best pizza I’ve ever tasted! My DH loves to eat and this place was like finding water in the desert! Cases of breads, cakes, cookies, salami, cheeses and fresh salads along with prepared individual servings of lasagna, terrines and pastries. The best part: not one tourist! No one spoke a word of English! It was so much fun pointing and calling out in my broken Italian (mostly creative Spanish). The place was filled with young and old and everyone was having a great time. There was a wine bar, a coffee bar and a small dessert case. We feasted on funghi pizza, provolone and Parma ham pizza and asked for it “caldo” (hot). Then, almond cookies, hazelnut cookies with prune filling and 2 cappucini each. Total cost: 7.7 Euros! We were saving our money for a special dinner the next night. The atmosphere and warmth of the people in this place was wonderful! Afterwards, we went to have gelato at a nearby store and headed home. Hot baths, cozy, warm room. What a great day! More to follow...
mairseydotes is offline  
Jun 12th, 2008, 10:40 AM
  #2  
 
Join Date: Oct 2007
Posts: 2,337
Thanks for sharing your experiences and adventures. I look forward to more...especially descriptions of food.

So glad you decided to go even with the weak dollar. I believe that you cannot put any price on travel experiences. It is worth every single penny x 1000.
travel2live2 is offline  
Jun 12th, 2008, 10:46 AM
  #3  
 
Join Date: Mar 2003
Posts: 10,184
I've been waiting for this report to begin and am waiting for more!

By the way . . . you wrote

"The driver never asked us for money(although we offered) and took care to tell us when to get off. "

Bus drivers don't collect fares. You're supposed to buy a ticket before you board and validate it once on board. If you don't have a valid ticket when asked by a ticket inspector to present it, you could receive a hefty fine.
ellenem is offline  
Jun 12th, 2008, 02:54 PM
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Posts: 1,421
Good report. Keep it coming.

Yipper
yipper is offline  
Jun 12th, 2008, 03:01 PM
  #5  
 
Join Date: Feb 2006
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hi mairseydotes,

great start to your trip and your report.

How lucky to find a sympathetic bis driver.

keep it coming,

regards, ann
annhig is offline  
Jun 14th, 2008, 10:44 AM
  #6  
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Posts: 109
Thanks for your enthusiasm. My DH and I still aglow from the memories and I'm reliving them as I tell my story! Here's the Florence part.
March 8th: Well, here we are ready to leave Roma and the sun is shining! After a great breakfast, we walked a few blocks to the Metro and for 1 E each, took the subway to the Train Station where we caught a pre-booked train to Florence. The hotel told us to take a cab for @ 20E., but this was much better, faster and way cheaper! The train ride was peaceful and the scenery was great. What a great way to go! We arrived in Florence in the late morning and went straight to our hotel, The Mona Lisa. We had a lovely room overlooking the gardens and decided to dive right into all the sights. After a quick stop for coffee and sandwiches it was off to the Duomo, the clock tower and several of the churches around the city. It was cloudy, but no rain. The Church of Santa Croce is really outstanding. You don’t need to rent the cassettes for the guided tour as there are very nice guides all over the church who will show you and explain the various works of art, famous tombs, etc.. That night we ate at the “Trattoria Accadi” on the Via Borgo Pinti, right up the street from our hotel. It wasn’t fancy, but the food was great and the prices were reasonable. I had a bowl of vegetable soup and a Funghi Pasta dish with 4 different kinds of mushrooms that was wonderful. Rick had a casserole that was made of beans and sausage that was hearty and delicious! I must say that the wine in Florence is much better than the wine in Rome!

March 9th: We got up early and after a nice breakfast at the hotel, we wandered around the city heading for the Piazzale Michelangelo where we had a panoramic view of Florence and the distant hills. It was quiet a climb, but worth every step! We got to the Uffizi Gallery for our 2 pm reservation and were stunned to see the lines. No problem for us since we had reservations. Then onto the Academia at 5. We were overwhelmed by the amount to see. Of course, The David was outstanding and seeing again after almost 30 years was truly thrilling. On the way back to the hotel, we had yet another gelato. OMG! We can't stop eating them!! Dinner at the Acquacotta restaurant, a Tuscan trattoria that had a good menu and lovely ambience. We had each a delicious fish dinner with a starter of calamari for him and soup for me. After dinner we had a dessert wine and a cheese plate to finish. Yum! Off to a hot bath and a good night's rest!

March 10th Since we knew Monday would be pretty limited in terms of what was open and we were both pretty “museumed out” at that point, it was time to try the winery tour and cooking class that I had reserved 4 months earlier with the Accidental Tourist. I heard about it on this message board and want to say that it was great! Looking back, it was one of the top three memories that we have of Italy. We toured the olive oil/wine cellars, had a tasting afterwards and then it was off to a Tuscan farmhouse for the cooking class.

There were 10 of us and we made homemade pasta, ravioli and then went upstairs to the main kitchen and shared the fruits of our labor as a wonderful dinner. The lady who owned the house served us her little goodies (pizza,a ceci bean bread)and then we enjoyed our home-made spinach ravioli and tagliatelle noodles with a wonderful spicy, fresh tomato sauce and bread galore. The dessert was her special apple tart with ice cream (gelato) and espresso!! What a great day!
mairseydotes is offline  
Jun 15th, 2008, 04:46 AM
  #7  
 
Join Date: Nov 2005
Posts: 2,850
Hi mairseydotes!
Sounds like you had a wonderful time. I'm glad you enjoyed the Accidental Tourist day since I am probably one of those who recommended it so highly.
Looking forward to reading more . . .
LCBoniti is offline  
Jun 15th, 2008, 03:11 PM
  #8  
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 425
I am enjoying your report. Is this the place you were talking about?
www.compagniadelpane.net

I will be in Rome this September and would like to check it out based on your report. If this is the same place, I'm guessing of the three locations you went to the one closest to the Vatican?

Thanks!
sherhatfield is offline  
Jun 16th, 2008, 04:01 AM
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Join Date: Jun 2003
Posts: 3,774
thanks for the report!
marigross is offline  
Jun 19th, 2008, 09:24 AM
  #10  
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Well, here's part 3: Venice.

Sherhatfield: yes, that's the place. They have 3 locations in Rome, but not in any other cities gt;( We went to the one near the Vatican on Fabio Massimo.

March 11th: Off to the train station, bound for Venice! We took a bus from a stop near our hotel…cheap and fairly quick. From the station in Venice, we took the Alilaguna boat to the San Zaccaria dock,near our hotel and it was great! What a savings over taking a vaporetto! The views of the Bay of Venice from the roof of the hotel were outstanding and there were tables/chairs/umbrellas for seating. Tonight we had our dinner on the roof with goodies from the local Supermercato. There we met several folks from England, Scotland, and U.S. doing the same! We all shared our wine, cheese, olives, marinated seafood, bread, crackers and stories. It was a great time! After watching the sun set, we ambled into the streets and found cafes and bistros where we had a café and pastry before coming home.

March 12th Up early and off to the Doge Palace and the “Secret Itineraries Tour” . Don’t miss this if you are in Venice!
You can reserve online at Secret Itineraries Tour:
Doge’s Palace (Palazzo Ducale), Venice
The Doge’s Palace in located in Piazza San Marco.
Call for booking the tour: 011-39-041-520-9070b
This is the official site to book the Secret Itineraries tour, in English:

http://www.teleart.org/itinerarisegr...tdate=20070803

San Marco’s Square is so crowded during the day that it’s impossible to see the church unless you go early in the morning.

Lunch was a splurge: Osteria da Fiore restaurant on the Calle del Scaleter in the San Polo district, which had a special 50 Euro p.p. 3-course luncheon in a lovely atmosphere tucked away in the Cannareggio section. The dinner prices for the same menu would have run 80 + E. each, so we thought we'd give it a try...and...best food EVER!!! It’s very elegant with the waiters dressed in black ties, but the service is friendly and warm. The salmon and the tuna steak were out of this world and the desserts are to die for!

March 13th: Our last day in wonderful Venice. We took a traghetto, one of the “gondola in training” boats across the Grand Canal from the Cannaregio section to San Polo where the fruit and seafood vendors have their stalls in a huge outdoor market. From there we walked all around the S. Croce and S. Polo area, stopping into little shops and taking in the Ca’d’Oro, a beautiful Venetian palace that is extremely ornate. The Santa Maria Gloriosa church was our last stop for sightseeing musts. After that, it was window shopping and an afternoon coffee stop.
On the walk home, we stopped into our last gelato splurge and it turned out to be the #1 gelato in all of Italy for us! It’s called La Boutique del Gelato in the Castello district. The receipt says Cavaldoro S.& C., Castello 5727 Venezia. The phone # is 041/522 3283. The creamiest, most wonderful concoction we ever had!!!
Since it was our last night in Venice, we decided on Ca’ D’Oro in the Cannaregio District. The people were so nice and the food was well prepared and plentiful. Good wine and delicious soups! Be prepared for sticker shock: dinner runs about 75E per person…

March 14th: Up early and onto the Alilaguna at 7:30 to catch our 10:30 flight from the Venice Airport. Good thing we left plenty of time! It was so crowded and the lines were really slow. Arrivederci Italia! We’ll be back soon!!!





mairseydotes is offline  
Jun 19th, 2008, 12:08 PM
  #11  
 
Join Date: Dec 2006
Posts: 2,832
Thanks for the wonderful report. Can you tell me a little more about booking through GoToday.com? Did you just choose a "Rome-Florence-Venice" package (I think they vary in price according to the quality of the hotels)? Did you include air travel and if so, were the flights convenient? Sounds like you had a wonderful time, and your budgeting efforts sound like mine. I do like the idea of having the intra-city transportation pre-arranged without a lot of hassle trying to do it yourself.
azzure is offline  
Jun 20th, 2008, 05:09 AM
  #12  
 
Join Date: Feb 2003
Posts: 9,095
Hi, love both your report and your handle (is someone in your family named 'does_eat_oats'?

To add to what ellenem pointed out about bus fares: You might have noticed little yellow boxes on the bus, and people boarding pushing tickets half-way into the boxes. This was so as to validate the ticket by giving it a date-time stamp; you can ride any bus (and not have to re-stamp the ticket) up until the time shown on the ticket stamp.

Nasty fine, of € 100 to € 500, if you are found without a ticket by the inspector, so you were really lucky!
Sue_xx_yy is offline  
Aug 8th, 2008, 07:21 AM
  #13  
 
Join Date: Aug 2008
Posts: 8
I just returned from a Rome vacation and spent over $1,000 on Rome Shuttle Limousine's services. I do NOT recommend them. Stay away. All over the site they advertise a Mercedes Benz fleet. Two of our rides were in dirty old cars, a Chrylser mini-van and Lancia. The latter vehicle had no air conditioning. I complained but they don't care.
ESmythe is offline  
Aug 8th, 2008, 12:42 PM
  #14  
 
Join Date: May 2004
Posts: 303
Great report. What was the name of your Venice hotel? It may be in the report but somehow I missed it. The hotel rooftop sounds nice.
sequess is offline  
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