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Trip report: Spoleto, Siena, Montalcino, Orvieto and Rome

Trip report: Spoleto, Siena, Montalcino, Orvieto and Rome

Aug 8th, 2007, 10:27 AM
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Trip report: Spoleto, Siena, Montalcino, Orvieto and Rome

Time: 14 March to 6 April 2007

A tradition in my family is to introduce everyone to Italy. I have taken all my children and now I am working my way through the grandchildren. This year it is Madison and Isabel�s turn. They are both in third grade and are cousins. Joining me, and my wife Pat will be Pat�s sister Barbara. Barbara is a docent at a big city museum and loves to introduce the children to art.

I have tried to put in prices when I have found the receipts. I know it makes a difference what we had but this will give you an idea of prices. No one had a glass of water or wine, the prices are for bottles or liters we had them with every meal. All the restaurants were good with one exception.

We flew, I don�t want to talk about it and you don�t want to hear it. We arrived at FCO and were met by the driver I hired, Rome Shuttle Limousine http://www.romeshuttlelimousine.com/FiumicinoE.htm. The driver was waiting for us with a sign at the arrival area. He spoke English, helped us with our bags, and gave us a running commentary on the sights we passed. I thought it was good service and only cost 50 euro for five of us to Termini. Got the tickets on an ES to Spoleto and boarded the train and called Laurie and told him what train we were on. At Spoleto Laurie picked us up and drove us to the apartment.

Terrazza Splendida http://www.umbriaholidayrentals.com/...ment&id=35.txt is a beautiful apartment in the old section of Spoleto. An English couple owns the apartment so language problems are minimal. Norma and her husband, Laurie, have quite a few apartments in Spoleto and I have rented from them before. When I set this trip up I e-mailed Norma and told her who was coming and she suggested this apartment and put an extra bed in the twin room. The apartment is huge and accurately described on the website. Laurie makes sure we can operate the appliances and TV and shows us the basket of brochures and maps of local tourists spots. He points out a list with recommended restaurants and discount coupons and his cell phone number in case we have problems. Laurie points out the provisions in the refrigerator and cupboards, which he thinks are enough to get us through the first day and breakfast the next. I tell him that one bottle of wine won�t get us through the first day and I plan to go to the COOP (grocery store). He insists on giving me a ride. Since I am paying less than a 100-euro a day all this extra service is remarkable.

At the COOP we pickup what we think we will need for the next three days and walk back to the apartment. On the way back we stop in piazza Garibaldi for gelato. The girls have been told this is the best part of the trip, and they agree. Seeing the look on their faces, as they taste their first gelato reminds me of why we bring the kids. While the girls are eating gelato I hit the ATM for 500 euro to pay for the apartment, Pat and Barbara also stock up. From the terrace of the apartment we watch the sun set while having wine and cheese. It is great to be back in Italy.

Dinner is at Osteria del Trivia. We have eaten here on previous trips and they serve a huge mixed antipasta. While the food was fine the girls �hit the wall� so we walked back to the apartment and everyone was in bed by 9:30. This system has worked for us. Let the kids stay up until they collapse then let them sleep in as long as they want the next morning. Pat and I don�t seem to be bothered by jet lag as much as when we first started to come to Italy.

The next morning, Friday, Pat and I are up at 7:00 everyone else is sleeping in. Madison is the next one up at 10:00 so I take her out to pick up pastries for everyone. She can�t believe how many choices she has. After everyone is up we head to the market where the girls shop. This becomes a recurring part of the trip, the girls shopping.

We headed to the Duomo and as we were walking down the steps I saw a sign for the �Museo Diocesano e Basilica di Sant�Eufemia� so I said to Barbara let�s take a look. My granddaughters had run down the steps with Pat trying to catch up so it was just Barbara and I. As we were admiring the paintings a gentleman came up to us and asked where we were from. He spoke no English so it took me a while to understand that he wanted to show us the library. We followed him as he unlocked doors and took us up to a library crammed with ancient manuscripts. He removed books and showed us music and census information from 500 to 1000 years ago. He encouraged Barbara to turn the pages and see the different styles of writing and music. Barbara was both thrilled and apprehensive; she had learned never to touch old manuscripts with bare hands. One of the joys of Italy is the people who are proud of their past and want to share it with you.

After lunch we take the girls through the Roman house unearthed from the 1st century it still has mosaics in good condition. Next is the bridge of towers. The views are still breathtaking but Ponte di Torre is closed and can�t be crossed. Dinner is at Osteria di Matto right off Piazza Mercanto. Fillipo the owner keeps the girls entertained all night while bringing out dish after dish of food. At 16 euro each this is a real bargain. We don�t leave the Osteria until after 10:00 and we practically have to roll home. While each dish is only a sampling there are so many of them that eventually you have to say enough!

The next morning we walk to the train station and head to Assisi, it takes about forty minutes and about 12 euro for five of us. There is a bus waiting at the train station and I quickly get tickets and we head up to the town. Our first stop is the basilica and we spend a lot of time as Barbara explains the frescos to the girls. Between the upper and lower churches there is a gift shop so even in church shopping is done. We have a nice lunch at Locanda del Podesta.

We spend the rest of the afternoon visiting St. Maria Sopra Minerva, St. Ruffino, and St. Chiara churches as well as shopping and gelato breaks. Back to Spoleto we eat at the apartment.

Sunday morning we have a large breakfast on the terrace. The little ones help make the breakfast and serve the adults. It is a beautiful day. After breakfast I take my granddaughters on a map reading exercise. Each girl is given a map and two locations to find. Besides teaching the girls a much-needed skill this allows us to stroll through most of the town. Barbara and Pat spend the afternoon shopping. Dinner is at Trattoria/Pizzaria della Dorsu. The girls discover real pizza and it is love at first bite. After dinner while strolling through town with a gelato we meet a man now living in Spoleto but originally from Scotland who catches us up on all the latest town gossip.

Henry is offline  
Aug 8th, 2007, 11:11 AM
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Great report! How wonderful to share this with your grandchildren. Can't wait to hear more.
Barb is offline  
Aug 8th, 2007, 12:07 PM
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What a great idea Henry. I can learn from this report---give us more.
bobthenavigator is offline  
Aug 8th, 2007, 12:33 PM
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I'm enjoying your report and trip with the young ones immensely. I think it is a great idea to introduce them to map reading early--a life skill well worth having. Good work! Paul
macanimals is offline  
Aug 8th, 2007, 01:15 PM
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Henry,

Your reports are always so wonderful! Do continue...
Dayle is offline  
Aug 8th, 2007, 01:21 PM
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hi, henry - i like your style.

keep it coming!

regards, ann
annhig is offline  
Aug 8th, 2007, 03:19 PM
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Henry, what lucky grandchildren you have!
Can't wait to hear about the rest of your journey.
dina4 is offline  
Aug 8th, 2007, 04:58 PM
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Monday morning Laurie picks us up and takes us to the train station. After a quick change in Orte and Chiusi we arrive in Siena. A taxi from the train station takes us to the Alma Domus (no website). Nuns run this very basic hotel and keep it spotless and cheap (270 euro for two rooms for two nights). The Alma Domus is inside the walls of Siena so it is convenient to everything. While this is a no frills accommodation the girls discover the coffee machine also makes hot chocolate. Since the coffee machine only takes exact change the girls make sure that they get all the change from every purchase and are more than willing to go get me coffee every morning as long as they can get themselves hot chocolate.

Lunch is at La Finestra (5 primi, 2 secondi, 3 contorni 74 euro) behind the town hall. We eat inside since it has become cold and raining. After lunch we spend a lot of time in the Duomo; Pisano, Donatello, Bernini, Michelangelo, and the Libreria Piccolomini, Barbara is very happy. The little girls like it but not as much as Barbara. Dinner is at Sassos and while it is good it is not as good as we remember. I find out later it has changed hands.

On the way back to the hotel Pat reminds me to get more euro since we are going to Florence tomorrow. At the ATM I request 500 euro and it says to call my bank. I reinsert the card and request 250 euro and it spits it out, so I reinsert the card and get another 250 euro.

The next morning it is cold and raining and our friend picks us up to go to Florence. On the way it starts to snow then changes to a very heavy snow. It takes us two hours to get to Florence but by the time we reach piazza Michelangelo it has changed to rain. The views are breathtaking but we are like Chevy Chase at the Grand Canyon, uh huh, uh huh, back in the car. We park at the train station and go to the Duomo. We get the audio guides for the Duomo and the girls seem to enjoy it but it soon becomes apparent that this is a shopping trip. Lunch is just soup and sandwiches at Caffe Le Rose (49 euro).

Pat and Barbara get leather jackets made for them in one of the shops and then take the girls on a buying spree. Pocket books, gloves, scarves, belts, jewelry, tee shirts, sweatshirts, paper, postcards, pens and I am not sure what else. I am just a pack mule. I get the same instructions I got for my daughters wedding: Show up, shut up, and pay up.

The drive back to Siena takes about an hour. Our friend drops us at San Dominicas church so the girls can see saint Catherines head. The kids always find this fascinating. Dinner is with friends at Bagogas. The napkins are folded like a tuxedo jacket and a red dyed farfalle is the bowtie; the girls will refold every napkin the rest of the trip to match this. The meal and the wine are excellent.

Pat reminds me that tomorrow, Wednesday, is market day and I better stock up on euro. A quick stop at the nearest ATM and I am restocked.

I sleep in today. All the girls are up early and off to market. I check out of Alma Domus and store the bags. The girls return from the market with numerous bags. My granddaughters are bubbling about all they got, new outfits, shoes, headbands, belts etc.
After a last look around the campo and a gelato and some shopping we head back to the hotel and call a taxi, I think we need a dump truck. The taxi takes us to Eurocar, I rented through Autoeurope, where we try and pack the luggage and numerous new bags in the car.

Henry is offline  
Aug 8th, 2007, 05:33 PM
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I love it! More please, and how old are the grandaughters? Helaine
boatgirlhm is offline  
Aug 9th, 2007, 03:44 AM
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More! Please.

I will go next year in the exact same period!
marigross is offline  
Aug 9th, 2007, 08:10 AM
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On the way to Montalcino we stop at the COOP in Buonconvento for groceries. The COOP in Montalcino is closed Wednesday afternoons. Our apartment for the next week is in La Crociona http://www.lacrociona.com/index.htm

La Crociona has beautiful apartments in the heart of Brunello country. The website http://www.lacrociona.com/ is a little sparse on pictures but the apartments are lovely. This year I rented two apartments A the two bedroom and B the studio. There is an outside door then a small hallway with separate entrances for A and B. This allowed us to keep the outside door closed and open the doors to each apartment giving us a lot more room for five people. My wife and I had a bedroom in apartment A and our two granddaughters had the other bedroom. My sister-in-law had the studio. We all congregated in the two-bedroom apartment and there was plenty of room to eat and hangout but having the second bathroom available with four girls was a big help.

All the beds were comfortable and there was enough furniture for five in the two-bedroom apartment. There were enough dishes and cookware in apartment A for the five of us. The studio had a small kitchen and dishes and cookware but we never used it.

There is a pool but it was too early in the season for it to be open. We did use the hot tub. My granddaughters thought the hot tub was fantastic. We used the hot tub after dinner so it was dark and cold and the steam frosted the windows. The heat from the hot tub made it warm inside the enclosure but it was very cold for the 100 feet I had to walk back to the apartment.

The new wine cellar is very large and furnished with 17th century French furniture. My wife and sister-in-law were very impressed with the décor. Personally I thought the wine was the best part.

The location of La Crociona is one of its best features. Less than three kilometers from Montalcino you can walk to the town in twenty minutes or drive in three minutes. There are plenty of places to visit that are easy short drives (see http://www.slowtrav.com/italy/tuscany/hs_planning.htm). Having a very good restaurant (La Crocina) just a 100 meters from the apartment is great. You can also walk to Fattoria dei Barbi (http://www.fattoriadeibarbi.net/), which is the next farm, for wine tasting or dinner. SantAntimo (http://www.antimo.it/pagine_en/00FRAME.html) is about a five-minute drive or an hour hike down the road.

Barbara and Roberto take care of the farm Roberto is in charge of the wine and Barbara takes care of the apartments. Their mother Fiorella cant seem to let the kids handle the farm so she is still there most days making sure everyone is happy and things are running smoothly.

I have stayed at La Crociona many times because I love the area and I am treated so well by the family. When I get to La Crociona it seems like home. I highly recommend it to everyone. At 100 euro a day (or less for the one bedroom apartments) I think this is a great value.

Since the girls have had a tough day shopping we have lunch and dinner at the apartment with just a quick visit to SantAntimo.

The next day we head to Pienza and a tour of the Popes house. The Palazzo Piccolomini tour (7 euro) was not as good as in years past. The guide didnt seem as enthused as previous guides. My granddaughters liked the house and the town. Lunch was at La Bucca delle Fate (5 primi, 3 secondi, 2 contorno 71 euro). We then drove to Montepulciano where the girls thought the striking of the town bell was the highlight. The Duomo and the view of San Biagio were not as interesting to them as the town bell. Dinner was at La Crocina (3 primi, 5 secondi, 2 controni 105 euro) in La Croce. The little girls had shrimp and French fries and marveled at the size of the shrimp. I had the risotto de brunello and the girls thought it looked gross but tasted good. Everyone enjoyed the meal.

Today is Friday, market day in Montalcino, so we must go. All the girls big and small find things they must have. I have given up trying to keep track. After lunch we go to Frattoria dei Barbi for a tour and wine tasting I am surprised that my granddaughters enjoyed the tour. Back to Montalcino I take the little ones on a tour of the fortezza while the big girls enjoy a wine tasting or two. Both girls enjoyed the fortezza and took a lot of pictures of the town and countryside. Dinner is at Grappolo Blu, which everyone enjoys.

Henry is offline  
Aug 9th, 2007, 09:18 AM
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Henry, I am really enjoying your report!
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Aug 9th, 2007, 09:22 AM
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How wonderful that you're able to share Italy with your grandchildren! I'm going to look up the places you stayed. We have a family of five, and it's always hard to find reasonable accommodations. Thanks!
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Aug 9th, 2007, 01:21 PM
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Saturday is another rainy day so no one is in a hurry to leave the apartment. Lunch is at Porta Cassero, my favorite for wild boar and white beans, in Montalcino then we go to Bagno Vignoni. The girls think Bagno Vignoni is a cute place but after they put their hands in the water what else is there. Everyone decides that it is too rainy and cold for touring so it is back to the apartment. We have been invited to have dinner with Fiorella and her family and my granddaughters are looking forward to it because they have been told what a fabulous cook Fiorella is.

As usual Fiorella makes a fantastic meal. The girls only problem is that they dont know how to pace themselves. The first course is ribolitta and the girls love it so they each have three bowls. I warn them that there are four more courses coming but kids dont listen. So after four courses the kids are too stuffed for dessert. They cant even eat the chocolate Easter eggs they are given. Barbara, Pat and I manage to pace ourselves on the food but have a little trouble resisting the many pitchers of Brunello. Everyone has a great time but after a four-hour meal the girls are ready for bed. So are the adults.

Sunday morning we have a big breakfast in the apartment then go on a tour of the wine cellar. The cellar is huge but because it is mostly underground this surprises the girls. Pat and Barbara oh and ah over the décor, mostly 17th century French. The little girls think it would be a great place to play hide and seek.

Lunch is at Il Griffa, it used to be Dado and still serves great pizza. After lunch we drive to San Quirico but it is early in the afternoon and the place is like a ghost town. It is too early in the season for the rose garden to be in bloom but the kids like climbing up on the walls for a view of the town. After visiting three churches the kids want to go back to the apartment, eat in and relax.

Today we head to the Chianti area, first stop Monteriggioni. The kids like this tiny town. They can run from the front gate to the back gate in under two minutes. They like climbing the walls for a great view of the countryside. And yes they find some things to buy. I find coffee and pastries. Next stop is Castellina in Chianti the girls like the tunnel by the outer walls. We have lunch at Tre Porte (5 primi and 2 secondi 80 euro) by the edge of the old town. Radda is the last stop and while the kids liked see the old town what they talked about was the panty machine. On the street like a gumball machine was a machine that had thongs in clear plastic balls for two euro. I couldnt explain why this machine was there.

Dinner is at Trattoria LAngolo (3 primi, 4 secondi, 2 contorno 89 euro), in Montalcino, it used to be Trattoria Sciame, and still has good food. The waitress is impressed that the girls order for themselves in Italian and refers to them as the bella princepesa.

Tuesday we head to Siena. We park in the campo parking garage and walk to the campo. The little girls chase pigeons while Pat watches and Barbara and I look for Mailbox etc. so she can ship things home. She ships three boxes back home; she has bought way more than she can carry. We meet up with Fiorella and all of us go the Museum Pinacota, which has a large number of 13th and 14th century wooden art. The pieces are gorgeous and I thank Fiorella for showing us this museum because I had not seen it before. Fiorella tells me that there are fifty museums in Siena so I havent seen most of them.

We have a great lunch at Papeis (4 primi, 2 secondi, 2 contorni 79 euro) behind the town hall in the Piazza Mercanto. Then we go to see Fiorellas parents. They are getting too old to be at the farm very much and we missed seeing them. After the usual hugs and kisses and oohing and aahing over the kids they show us the apartment. It is a small apartment in the old section of Siena. Huge wood beams support the ceiling and all the furniture is several hundred years old. The place is spotless and there are cookies and candies out for the kids and wine and liquor for the adults. I am afraid they spent too much time getting ready for this visit. We have a lovely time but eventually we say goodbye to nonna and nonno and Fiorella.

On the way back to the car Barbara decides she needs a phone, she has been using mine. We stop at a TIM store and she gets a phone with a SIM card and 5 euro talk time for 39 euro. Back at La Crociona Barbara decides she wants to ship a case of Brunello home. The shipping charge was about 165 euro. Dinner is again at La Crocina (4 primi, 5 secondi, 1 contorni 114 euro).

Wednesday morning we pack up and drive to Chiusi about 50 minutes away. After dropping the bags and Pat and the kids at the train station Barbara and I drive to the Eurocar office about a block and a half from the station. There is no lot so we have to park on the street in front of the office. It takes about two minutes to walk back to the station. Chiusi is a tiny train station so the girls have to go across the street to get the kids something to eat and drink. It is a short ride to Orvieto and we get a cab to Valentinas.

Henry is offline  
Aug 10th, 2007, 03:21 AM
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Aug 10th, 2007, 04:31 AM
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Ever think about adoption? I'm only 56. LOL... wonderful report. I'm wondering if I can get away with one of your comments "Show up, pay up and shut up"? mmmmm...
GREAT report. Such fun! Thank you. I am particularly interested in Orvieto and Rome.
SuzieCII is offline  
Aug 10th, 2007, 07:27 AM
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Valentinas bed and breakfast also offers an apartment. On her website http://www.argoweb.it/bedandbreakfas...entina.uk.html the bottom picture is the two bedroom two bath apartment that I rented. In the center of Orvieto this is a great location.

The apartment has two bedrooms with comfortable beds and dressers and closets. There are windows and skylights that make the apartment very bright. There is a bath off of one of the bedrooms, which has a shower only and another off the hall between the bedrooms, which has a tub, this one also has a washing machine. A full kitchen with dishes and cookware make cooking easy but with all the great restaurants in town there may not be much cooking.

There are in my opinion two negatives. One the apartment is up two flights of stairs and since it is directly under the roof the ceilings in the bedrooms slant so that I at 6foot 2 inches could not stand at the bedroom windows. I slept on the high side of the bed and had no trouble and my wife who is vertically challenged slept on the low side and had no problems. This is offset by having skylights in the bedroom and living room, which makes the apartment bright in the day and makes it possible to watch the stars at night.

Valentina speaks wonderful English and is very sweet. She does her best to make guests feel comfortable and will make recommendations and reservations for places to eat. Since Valentina lives on the first floor she is available if there is a problem or you just need a taxi to the train station.

I have stayed in the B&B rooms and have recommended them now I can recommend the apartment. I paid 150 euro a night in March and thought it was a great value for the five of us.

After dumping our bags we go the tourist office to get tickets for the underground tour, 5.50 euro, then go across the piazza to see the Duomo while we wait for the tour in English to start. The kids like the Duomo but they really enjoy the underground tour. The many steps and low overheads dont bother them and all the dugout rooms and pigeon coops fascinate them.

Dinner is at Trattoria dei Moro and as usual the little girls charm the waitress and are taken back to the kitchen to pick out special desserts.

The next morning all the girls are up early and out the door. At the piazza right around the corner from us a market is in progress. The girls buy bags of goodies. My granddaughters are going to think Italy is just a big shopping mall. We have a nice lunch at Locanda del Lupo (3 pizza, 2 primi 59 euro) then take the kids to the fortezza. They enjoy walking on the walls and playing in the park inside the fortezza. Dinner is at La Bucca del Bocca (6 primi, 4 secondi, 2 contorni 110 euro).

Friday we decide not to go to Civita and just hang around Orvieto. We have a great lunch at Trattoria DAronne (antipasto, 5 primi, 4 secondi, two wines 89 euro) and the kids think the well, Pozzo Etrusca DAronne, is cool. After lunch we go to the Archeological Museum because they have a self guided tour for kids (Museo faina Orvieto, Museo del ragazzi). The girls enjoy the tour and then spend a long time doing sketches of the piazza Duomo. Dinner was at the Trattoria la Grotta (4 primi, 5 secondi, 3 controni 138 euro) and I thought it was a little expensive for what you got.

Saturday we say goodbye to Valentina, she has arranged transportation to the train station for us. While waiting for the train which was about 30 minutes late we got a call from the driver my sister in law had arranged for us from Rome to the apartment. He spoke no English and my sister in law spoke no Italian so she would never have met him at Rome without us.

Henry is offline  
Aug 10th, 2007, 03:06 PM
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My sister-in-law actually rented this apartment (Cedro Roof Garden Penthouse) in Trastevere. She said the Rental in Rome people were responsive to all her questions and dealing with them by e-mail was easy. The Rental in Rome people assured her that the apartment would be perfect for herself, brother-in-law and wife and two nieces and that there would be plenty of linens and towels. My sister-in-law also had the Rental in Rome people provide car service from the train station to the apartment. We did provide the time and train number and our cell phone number to the Rental in Rome people.

The driver called us about the time the train arrived in Rome to say he couldnt park so he would be in the car near a bar outside the exit to the station, fortunately I recognized the name of the bar so I knew which exit. He did take us to the apartment where we met the assistant key holder. We had been called while in the car and told that the person who was supposed to meet us would be delayed about twenty minutes but that someone would be there with the key. A lovely lady met us and provided the keys. She spoke no English and told us to wait for another lady. This gave us a little time to look at the apartment.

The first thing we noticed was the marble tub because it sat right in the entryway. It had a couple of inches of water and a lot of dead bugs in it. The lady at the apartment did not know how to drain it. Then we discovered there was no hot water. Again the lady did not know how to turn it on. Finally the primary key holder arrives and gives the impression that she is very busy and drops the linen and towels on the first floor bed and wants her money so she can leave. We tell her the problems we discovered and she makes a phone call and says a technician will be here in twenty minutes so we can give her the money. We tell her that when we have hot water she can have the money. The technician comes and drains the tub and turns on the hot water.

After the key holder leaves we discover that there are only enough linens if we sleep two doubles and a single. My granddaughters would like to sleep in the two singles (pullout couch singles). Next we find that the heat is on and is unresponsive to the thermostat. We call Rental in Rome and the technician comes and basically tells us that if we want hot water we have to have the heat on. So for a week we have to kill the heat except when we want hot water (it was very pleasant in Rome while we were there) or leave the heat on all the time. Nothing is done about the linens.

The website for Rental in Rome is accurate with the pictures but there are some problems. There is only one bedroom (when the apartment was rented it showed it slept six). The bedroom is shown fully curtained including the ceiling. It looks better in the picture. It is like sleeping in a tent. There is just enough room to walk around the bed. With the door closed it gets very stuffy (no windows or air circulation will do that). With the door open there is no privacy since the bathroom is right out side the door (next to the tub with the dead bugs).

The apartment has nice furnishing and is really pretty nice if there are only two people. The roof top garden was nice but there was no view of rooftops only of the buildings next to it.

We paid 1397 euro in April for the five of us and I think we could have done much better. I would not recommend this apartment for more than two people. I would not use their pick up service unless you speak Italian.

We are in Rome and anxious to show the girls the sights. As we walk around Trastevere we notice a lot more street vendors than we saw on our last trip to Rome two years ago. Trastevere has become much more touristy. We have lunch at Carlo Mentes, which has good food at good prices. I always thought that this was kind of a tourist restaurant but today Italian businessmen surround us. We walk around the area and get some supplies for the apartment (wine for the adults and juice for the kids). Dinner is at Dar Poeta a couple of blocks from the apartment. We get to the restaurant early because I know it is popular with the locals but I didnt realize how popular. Fifteen minutes before it opens there are about twenty-five people waiting to get in. The pizza, which is all they serve, is still very good.

This morning on the way to the Sisto Bridge we run into a procession for Palm Sunday. Priests alter boys, and most of the congregation takes part. We continue on to Piazza Navona where we have portraits of the girls done. This is another tradition. Each grandchild gets their portrait done in Italy and then gives it to their mother for Mothers day. The girls love Piazza Navona and spend a lot of time watching the street performers. We have a nice lunch back in Trastevere at the Trattoria del Scala.

After a short rest we take the girls on a tour of Campo dei Fiori, Piazza Navona, the Pantheon, St. Ignatius, and the Trevi Fountain. They also manage to shop so it is late by time we head back to the apartment. The girls want pizza for dinner so we get take away and eat at the apartment.

Today, Monday, we grab the bus, 271, to the Colosseum. We join one of the tour groups for a tour of the Colosseum and Palatine Hill. Both tours are pretty good and the girls seem interested. After the tour ends we spend a little more time around the Palatine Hill then get a cab back to the apartment. Dinner is at La Tana dei Noantri a favorite of Nancy, an artist, who we met in Rome two years ago. The food is good especially the fried Zucchini blossoms but the lights are so bright you can wear sunglasses inside.

Because the girls liked the tour guide for the Colosseum and Palatine hill we made arrangements to take a tour of the Vatican and St. Peters the next day with the same tour guide. We are to meet her at the metro stop by the Vatican Museum at 8:40. Our plan is to take a cab that we have seen everyday sitting across from the Sisto Bridge. You can see what is coming.

Tuesday morning and we are at the Ponte Sisto about 8:00, no cab. We cross the bridge and hope to catch a cab going towards the Vatican, no luck. This becomes known as the forced march. We get to the metro stop a little before 9:00 and there is the guide, Hannah, coming up the steps. We follow about twenty people and Hannah to the end of the line for the Vatican. The end of the line is in the next country (I know Vatican City is a small country). We have about a two and a half hour wait in this line. When we get in we get headphones and start the tour. The Vatican is more crowded than a Japanese subway and not nearly as polite. I spend most of my time trying to protect my granddaughters from being trampled by other visitors who are pushing and shoving to get close to their tour guides.

I think Hannah does a good job and my little girls are impressed. The tour ends after a brief tour of St. Peters and everyone is exhausted. We cab back to the apartment and have dinner at Trattoria del Scala.

Wednesday we sleep in and because it is raining decide not to go to Ostia Antica today. Instead we stayed around Trastevere. We visited Villa Farnesina to see the Raphael frescos. Another map reading exercise for the girls, and a visit to the island in the Tiber River complete the day. Dinner was at Marios 53/55 via del Moro. It was awful, the only bad meal of the trip. The soup had enough grease on it to be a fire hazard and the spaghetti carbonara tasted as if the pancetta was rancid. There wasnt enough gelato from Blue Ice to get the taste out of our mouths but we did try.
Henry is offline  
Aug 11th, 2007, 07:35 AM
  #19  
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Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 1,155
Thursday and no rain so we get the 271 bus to Ostiense train station then the train towards the Lido and get off at Ostia Antica. From the train station it is a straight shot to the pedestrian overpass and about three blocks to the entrance of Ostia Antica. While only about forty minutes from downtown Rome it is a world apart. No crowds and lots of open spaces and trees and grass and a well preserved view of ancient Roman life.

We got the audio guides which are just MP3 players and not the most efficient to use but the girls could get the information they wanted and skip the rest. They really enjoyed themselves. They quickly learned to identify what each vendor was selling by the mosaic in front of the shop and were amazed that the Romans had fast food shops on the corners just like we do now. They had no problem with the cafeteria, which I have never liked, and were anxious to get back to the ruins. They took a lot of pictures of the mosaics and like most kids thought the communal toilets were a great photo opportunity.

We spent the entire day at Ostia Antica because the kids were having such a good time. We trained back to Ostiense then got a cab to the apartment. Dinner was at Carlo Mente.

Friday was our last full day in Italy and the kids were anxious to get going. They had planned the day. We walk to Campo dei Fiori, Piazza Navona, the Pantheon, the Trevi Fountain, and the Spanish steps. Our destination? McDonalds! After lunch, which two of the five of us enjoyed, we head up to the Borghese gardens so the kids can ride the k-carts. All our kids have enjoyed riding these pedal carts and the adults enjoy the beautiful gardens full of statues and busts. After the gardens we walk through piazza Populo and the kids like to watch the street performers. Since this is our last day the girls feel a need to shop.

Saturday morning I have arranged to have Rome Shuttle Limousine pick us up at 0530 because we have an early flight. The van shows up fifteen minute early. I cant believe the driver is Italian. I ask him about it and he says he allowed time for traffic. We fly home. It was not as much fun as flying to Italy.

Things I learned:
Shopping increases exponentially with the number of girls in your group.
Children open doors to local Italians
Traveling with children doesnt slow you down just changes your perspective.
Coping with change is a problem for adults not children.
Children appreciate art and beauty but arent impressed by names.
Traveling with your own docent makes art more enjoyable for children.
Hugs and kisses from little girls make old men happy.
Little girls giggling must be the sound of angels.
Henry is offline  
Aug 11th, 2007, 07:59 AM
  #20  
 
Join Date: May 2006
Posts: 794
Hugs and kisses from little girls make amost everyone happy! My little girls are now 19 and 23 and I still love to travel with them (and they still open doors that wouldn't open just for me!)

Sounds like you all had a wonderful trip. Thanks so much for sharing it with all of us!
plafield is offline  

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