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Trip Report: Rome-Tuscany-CTerre-French Riveria-Provence-Barcelona - WHEW

Trip Report: Rome-Tuscany-CTerre-French Riveria-Provence-Barcelona - WHEW

Jun 6th, 2007, 01:18 PM
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Join Date: Sep 2006
Posts: 377
Trip Report: Rome-Tuscany-CTerre-French Riveria-Provence-Barcelona - WHEW

We're just back from our crazy driving trip and I'm in the process of putting together the trip report. Overall we had a blast however there were some challenging moments with regards to allergies (yuck more on that later).

We flew direct from Newark to Rome and rented a car at the airport. Per many fodorites recommendation we used Auto Europe and had absolutely zero problems at any point.

This was a driving trip for us and before the trip we bought a TOM TOM unit. TOM TOM (or Simon as we like to call him) was a blessing. Before the trip my husband was genius and preprogrammed all of our hotel locations as well as the airport location in Barcelona (our last stop) into the unit as favorites. This way, we could really go any direction we wanted during the day and when we were ready to turn in, we just hit favorites, our hotel and TOM TOM led the way home. TOM TOM was perfect in Italy however he had some issues around Monte Carlo and Nice - might have to do with the mountains but not sure.

Rome was very hot when we were there. We stayed outside the city center at the Cavaleri Hilton with VIP points. As others have mentioned if it's free go for it, otherwise it's a little inconveinent. Beautiful hotel but locationally challenged and super expensive - try 11E water.

We saw all the usual sites that are on everyone's list. One thing I will bring up again to reinforce is the day you decide to go to the Vatican Museums. We drove by the entrance on Monday and there were literally at least 7,000 people in line. We went back on Tuesday at noon and walked straight in. Therefore NEVER go on a Monday.

Another highlight of the trip was the restaurant La Rosetta. I can't remember if the recommendation came from this board or a magazine however the dinner was amazing. Quite possibly the best cooked octopus we've ever had and this is after YEARS of quality NYC dining. This is a link to their website if you're in the area: http://www.larosetta.com/eng_index.php

Driving in Rome with TOM TOM was easy. We hit a little traffic and then headed north to Tuscany (my favorite part by the way)
jodeenyc is offline  
Jun 6th, 2007, 04:36 PM
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 11,134
Thanks for the tips, I never really thought about different days for the vatican. tom tom sounds like a good idea, thanks.
SeaUrchin is offline  
Jun 7th, 2007, 04:23 AM
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Great trip report, looking forward to hearing more! I just loved Rome!
natc143 is offline  
Jun 7th, 2007, 01:29 PM
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Jodeenyc, how did you enjoy the ballooning?

I am still going through my photos and I really have to start writing something!
flygirl is offline  
Jun 8th, 2007, 08:43 AM
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hi flygirl - i was dreading telling you this but I had to cancel last minute. On the scheduled day of balloning I actually was seen by an Italian doctor (yes, the trip report gets worse). I felt very bad that I gave little notice but unfortunately balloning didn't seem prudent with a fever, nausea and a headache.
jodeenyc is offline  
Jun 9th, 2007, 09:00 AM
Join Date: Jan 2003
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Jodee, very sorry to hear you got sick, that isn't fun. I got a head cold about 5-6 days before we left but that isn't more than an inconvenience.

Sorry to hear you didn't get to balloon, you have to go back now! (a very good excuse).

Your story about the Vatican line - I am even more glad that I got us both in for a private after-hours tour of the Vatican (private meaning only about 20 people in the group as opposed to thousands...)
flygirl is offline  
Jun 10th, 2007, 05:42 PM
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flygirl -I would have loved to do a private tour. We had emailed the Vatican in February but unfortunately didn't the smaller group tour. That's definitely something I would recommend as there is so much to take in.

Okay so on to Tuscany. Because we had Tom Tom we avoided all freeways and stuck to 100% local roads. We headed up the coast to Civitavecchia (which was nice but not a core stop I'd recommend). From there we went to Viterbo which was a beautiful walled city. We shopped around a little, chugged a cup of coffee and were back on the road. We went through Montefiascone again another quaint little town with a beautiful church and sweeping views. My favorite little stop (and this was on advice from a poster) was Radicofani. We didn't go into the town but we did go up to the fortress which offered beautiful views of the valley. The funny part was there was only one other group of four people there and there were from Manhattan. We made stops in San Quirico and Montalcino where we tried to get into Grappo Blu but unfortunately our timing wasn't right. We did go to a great little restaurant where we got to sample some local wines and olive oils. Our hotel was near Montalcino and we headed in for the night. We did venture out one day to Montepulciano and explored the beautiful town. We were able to eat at the much promoted La Grotta which was a wonderful lunch. Unfortunately as previously mentioned this was around the time my allergies truly kicked in so one day we spent entirely at the hotel and thus missed Sienna but another excuse to go back!

I can't enforce how nice it was to have Tom Tom here. We literally would see some amazing hilltop town and head for it and never get lost. Whatever unit you get I highly recommend it.
jodeenyc is offline  
Jun 10th, 2007, 05:52 PM
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Argh. I just realized how many spelling/grammatical errors were in that last post. Apologies in advance. Brain and typing can't keep up with each other.

From Tuscany we were on to the Cinque Terre which ended up being one of my most favorite parts of the trip. Again we took local roads over to the coast and went through Pisa, LaRosa, Lucca and San Gigimano. We stayed at the Hotel Continental in Santa Margherita. The hotel was very nice with wonderful views of the water. It ended up being somewhat challenging to find an open restaurant in town. Apparently reservations book up quickly for the best places therefore I would recommend you speak to the hotel about their recommendations early in the day. The Cinque Terre was one part of the trip that I was unsure of and didn't have completely planned out. I knew I wanted to see Portovenere and Portofino but didn't really know the specifics on how to get to either. Unfortunately as it turns out, these two towns were literally at opposite ends with Portofino being close to our hotel. We ended up taking the train to the last stop, La Spezia and then taking a local bus to Portovenere. Although this was a challenge and interesting, I would recommend taking the train to Vernazza and the boat to Portovenere from there.

Portovenere was hands down the highlight of the trip for me. It was everything I expected and so beautiful. We were there on a Saturday so things were a little crowded but the weather was beautiful and I was instantly mad that I didn't wear my swimsuit under the days clothing. From Portovenere we found a boat (which was how everyone else got to Portovenere) and we took the boat to Vernazza. The boat was amazing and relatively cheap (20E pp). Disembarking from the boat was interesting but we made it. From Vernazza - another amazing little town - we took the train back to SM. Our hotel was nice as it was only 2 blocks from the station.

After this challenging multi transportation vehicle day, we packed it in early and ended up only driving through Portofino the next day on the way to the French Riveria.
jodeenyc is offline  
Jun 10th, 2007, 07:31 PM
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Jodee, sounds good so far (apart from the allergies!). Mom and I also lucked out and got into La Grotta - we just happened to meander past Montepulciano around 7 PM, drove down to see the church and take photos... and there it was. We even got garden seating which was great.

While in Tuscany, did you have pici (the local handmade pasta?). I had that several times - very good!

I'll have to remember Tom Tom. I had the TCI map which was quite helpful though.
flygirl is offline  
Jun 13th, 2007, 09:27 AM
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I'm kind of being slow with this trip report so I hope it's helpful.

We stayed in Eze for the next part of our trip. Eze is a beautiful hilltop town with sweeping views of the water.
We stayed at Chateau Eza which was our most expensive hotel of the trip. While the room was beautiful I don't know if the price was completely justified. We had to park at the bottom of the village (where they did valet services) and then walk up to the hotel. It wasn't a long walk but after a couple days we found the location of the hotel to be challenging overall. The town pretty much shuts down as of 6pm at night so hanging out in the hotel was really the only option besides a couple other restaurants.

Here is the hotel website: http://www.chateaueza.com/

From our base in Eze we did a Michelin drive through the Pre-Alps one day stopping in Saint Martin, Sospel and other small little towns. The roads were completely scary to me. Tons of switchbacks, steep drop-offs but also amazing views on every turn.

We also did a day in Monte Carlo. This was a fun day as they were basically taking down everything involved with the Grand Prix. We were able to see the course and grand stands. While in Monte Carlo we did a little shopping and also visited the Cousteau Aquarium. The yachts in the harbor at Monte Carlo were amazing and the cars..... I think my husband was panting at several points. They truly know how to live.

On our third day, we stopped in Nice, Cannes and then ventured back up into the Pre Alps again visiting Vence, Grasse, Pont du Loop, Saint Paul. We were also able to go to the Fondation Maeght Modern Art Museum as well which was a wonderful museum.
jodeenyc is offline  
Jun 13th, 2007, 02:39 PM
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From the French Riveria we moved on to Provence.

It was very cold when we were there and most people had their fireplaces roaring. It definitely was in the 40's at night in late May.

We hit Aix En Provence, Arles, Avignon (which I liked much more than Aix En Provence) and Saint Remy.

My absolute favorite however was Les Baux. This town was amazing - the village itself and the surrounding countryside. I felt like I was on a different planet there with the rocks. Very amazing.

We only had one day in Provence but I definitely plan on going back. We stayed at the Hotel Crillon le Brave which was a wonderful hotel. The hotel is comprised of multiple buildings and we were lucky enough to have a room with a sweeping view of the valley. The best part, which we didn't anticipate, was the hotel restaurant. This was hands down the BEST meal I had in France. I highly recommend the restaurant even if you aren't staying in the hotel.

With packed bellies, we got up the next morning, had a lovely breakfast at the hotel, promised them we would return (in fact my husband literally asked if it was easier to fly into the South of France or Paris for our next trip) and stopped off at Pont du Gard on a beautiful day.

We wanted to get to Barcelona quickly therefore this was the first point in the trip where we drove on the freeway. It was a four hour drive from our hotel to Barcelona. We stopped along the way in Colliure (per Fodorite suggestions) and LOVED the little town. It was almost as if by each turn of the road, the scenery was more beautiful. The hills are filled with vineyards that practically touch the rocky coast. And the water.... so beautiful. We ended up driving along the coast and took a break at a small little beach on the Spainish border.
jodeenyc is offline  
Mar 5th, 2008, 06:00 AM
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We're planning to do the same trip but in the opposite direction-Barcelona to Rome. We have 2 weeks to travel to Rome and then a week in Rome. How long was your trip? Would you have spent more time in Cinque Terre? We're going in September and I'm just beginning to plan. We have to visit friends in Barcelona and Aix en Provence but other than that we're free. I want to visit Cinque Terre, Pisa, Sienna, and Assisi on the way. Is there anything in route that we shouldn't miss? I do want this to be more relaxing than rushing from place to place. Any suggestions?

pjfd4all is offline  
Mar 5th, 2008, 06:30 AM
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Hi there - our trip was two weeks total.

While I enjoyed the CT, I think you can do it justice in two-three full days.

Pisa I think we did in an hour

We didn't go to Sienna or Assisi.

If we would have had more time, I would have spent more days in Provence going to the little towns and taking things a little bit more leisurely. I may have even gone up to Lake Como- Italian Alps area. Perhaps more time exploring Tuscany as well.

Although the French Riveria was nice I think our time there was more than enough.

Tom Tom or some other navigation is really a good idea for this trip.
jodeenyc is offline  

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