Trip Report- Venice & Tuscany

Oct 30th, 2006, 08:12 AM
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Join Date: Aug 2003
Posts: 121
Trip Report- Venice & Tuscany

Trip Report Ė Venice and Tuscany

I am posting my trip reports separately under Switzerland, Italy and France forum. I thought it would be too long to post our entire trip in one forum.

We arrived in Venice on a sunny and warm day on the last week of September. We had been in Switzerland the week before and took the train from Locarno, Switzerland to Venice.

We had to make two transfers from Locarno to Venice and found the connections very easy to make. We noticed though that even when you have made reservations for your train seats in first class cars that you would sometimes find other people sitting in your seats. Itís like a bluffing game to see who can sit there the longest before you can get someone to leave. Itís very helpful to make sure you know how to read your train tickets so when you need to ask the other party to show you their ticket you can confirm if they are sitting in the right seats or car. We found that sometimes people who have second-class seats will often sit in first class seats or they are in the wrong car. Another tip about traveling by train is to write down a couple of names of the towns your train will stop before your actual destination stop. This is helpful so you know when to get your luggage ready when your stop approaches.

Since we were traveling by train through Italy, we made our train reservations for Florence as soon as we arrived in Venice. The ticket line is always long no matter when you decide to do it so we thought we should get it over with to avoid having to return to the train station again to make the reservations.

We walked out of the train station and saw immediately the vaporettos waiting on the Grand Canal. We purchased our tickets and got on the one to take us to our hotel in the San Marco area. They really do pack you in like sardines but itís an inexpensive way to take in the sights of Venice when you arrive.

We stayed at the Hotel Mercurio (2 stars), which you got off at the San Marco stop. It was pretty easy to find with my husband consulted the map only once. The main floor is found on the 2nd floor so you do have to prepare to bring up your suitcase a flight of stairs. Our room was on the receptionist floor. The room was large with high ceilings but decorated with bare bones furniture. The shower took a few minutes to get hot water but otherwise the room was sufficient. The hotel staff (especially Monica) was friendly and very helpful. The location is very convenient to shops, restaurants and around the corner from the Le Fenice Opera House. It was fun to see all the people coming and going to the Opera. The Italians are elegantly dressed up for their opera.

Venice is extremely crowded but we took very nice walks along the promenade in Dorsoduro and Castello areas that have fewer tourists and cruise ship crowds.

In the evening when all the tour groups have left, the San Marco square is filled with entertainment from different restaurantsí musicians. Very romantic to be in Venice and hear the music and watch couples dancing in the square. You can feel the love in the air.

We had drinks at Harryís Bar that is a landmark in Venice and famous for there bellinis drink. Yes, the drinks are extremely expensive but itís a fun place to go and to people watch. I saw quite a few couples being politely turned away because their men were in shorts. The indiscreet bar is small and hard to find except for the name on the door. Itís right across from where the San Marco vaporetto stop is.

The stores stay open rather late but donít open until around 10:30. I had wished I had bought more glass jewelry while I was there. I saw the same glass necklace that I bought for 85 euros being sold in Portofino for 220 euros. I thought the glass jewelry like earrings and pendants were rather inexpensive in some shops in the San Marco area.

I had a pedometer on so we walked anywhere from 6 to 13 miles each day on this trip. Venice was the place where we were walked the most at 10 to 13 miles a day. We were very fortunate to see Venice in the sunshine. On the day we left it was pouring rain and I was really grateful for the weather we had.
portobelloB is offline  
Oct 30th, 2006, 08:13 AM
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Next stop was Florence. We were staying at Hotel Globus, 3 stars, that was not far from the train station. It was right next to the San Lorenzo market so it was in a nice location. Again, the main reception was on the second floor. The hotel was very modern and our room was nice and quiet. The hotel staff was very nice and helpful. They gave access to the Internet that you could use. I think there was a time limit of half and hour per quest. There was a self-service laundry place right around the corner from the hotel so it was very convenient.

We made advance reservations through the hotel for the Uffizi and Accademia museums. We didnít have any problems getting the tickets from the reservation place and then walked right into the museum at our designated time. We were lucky we did not have to stand in the very long line for those people who didnít reserve their tickets.

The shopping in Florence is fabulous especially in the San Lorenzo market. Since our hotel was close by I spent some time each day there. I had read through the guidebooks that you could bargain down the vendors but when I tried to do it the vendors didnít seemed to come down in their price. I found when you bought a item that was over 100 euros would the vendors come down a few euros but for small priced items they didnít. Maybe others are good at bargaining but Iím not very good at it and really donít like doing it. So if you really like the item I would buy it.

The restaurants were rather inexpensive in Florence compared to Switzerland and Venice. There were many restaurants to choose from and we often would get recommendations from the hotel staff on places to try. We were never disappointed.

Our next stop was Cortona; a small Tuscan town built on a steep hill. This is also where they filmed the cute movie ďUnder the Tuscan SunĒ. We got off at the Camucia-Cortona train stop and tried to find a taxi to take us to Cortona but there was no taxi in sight. I was about to call the Hotel San Michelle where we were staying to have them call a taxi for us when my husband spotted a blue bus (just like in the movie) that had Cortona on it so we hopped on with our luggage.

The Hotel San Michele, 4 stars, is right in the historic part of Cortona. Our room was nicely decorated and comfortable but finding our room was like walking in a maze. When coming back from our first outing, it would take several turns in the hallway, staircases, before I could find my way back to our room. We were on the 3rd floor and you had to go through the sitting room. I think it was just our location of the room that was so hard to find.

One of our finest meals on this trip was eating at the Osterio De Teatro. It was highly recommended restaurant and the food so outstanding that we ate there again the next night. That is how much we loved it! Everything on the menu looked wonderful but I thought the special treats were their Osterio appetizer specialties (easily enough for two) and the chocolate cake (which was really homemade ice cream shaped like a cake).
The ice cream was so rich and heavenly. This place had very reasonable prices.

The beauty of the town and the scenery from top of Cortona
(you have to have good walking legs) to take in the view of the Tuscany landscape. Although, we had sunny weather the days were not as clear from top and was hazy. I had wished we had rented a car because it would of allowed us to really see the beautiful landscape that surrounded us. We definitely will rent a car the next time we visit Tuscany.

The highlight of being in Cortona was seeing Andre Rieu, the famous Dutch violinist and conductor who was there to film a special for German TV. We learned that he was there a couple of years ago and did a concert for the people in Cortona. He fell in love with Cortona and was doing a special to talk about that experience. We were asked to sit with him on the steps of the l3th century Palazzo Communale along with few other tourist couples. It was a fun thing to do. We were so surprised when we returned home and learned that he was in our city the following week to perform so of course, we had to go see his concert.

When we left Cortona, we had the hotel call a taxi for us, and it took only about ten or 15 minutes to get to the train station.

The last hotel we stayed at in Italy was the Hotel Metropole, 4 stars, in Santa Margharita Ligure. We stayed here many years ago and loved the beautiful resort town. Itís located between Portofino and the Cinque Terra, which made it a nice base to take day trips from. The hotel is only a 2-minute walk down the hill from the train station. Our room was on the corner on the fifth floor and had a nice view of the ocean and town that surrounds the pretty harbor. The hotel is at the one end of the harbor and very private with lounge chairs down by the water.

This was the nicest hotel we stayed in and it had an incredible breakfast buffet that was included in the room rate. The poached pears and apples were incredible, assortment of fruits, croissants, pastries, breads, yogurts, juices/champagne, and cheeses/meats. bacon and scrabble eggs were the best spread of all the hotels we stayed at. The hotel staff was very nice and helpful. I would highly recommend this hotel and stay here again.

We ate one of our finest meals at Oca Bianca restaurant in the pedestrian zone area not far from our hotel. The staff was friendly and service exceptional. They served you complimentary glass of champagne to begin your dining experience. Our three-course meal included several nice treats along the way. Very charming small restaurant and reservations recommended.

One day we took the train to the Cinque Terra and stopped at Vernazza which is where we were going to begin our hike but then a crowd of tourists was about to ascend with us and it was too crowded for my husband so we took the next train to Corniglia and started our hike there and went through Manarola and ended in Riomaggiore. We were going against the crowd who were going up the hill as we were going down the path that made the walk very easy. Very pretty to see the small towns built along the cliff sides of the Cinque Terra.

I know this seems like a strange thing to write about but maybe it will help others to be prepared. Many of the washrooms run out of toilet paper in Europe so I always carry my own tissues. Some women (first time travelers) were often shocked to learn there was no TP so I would offer them extra tissues that I had.

Another day we took the bus (1.50 euro) to Portofino to have lunch and take in the scenery and the pretty yachts in the harbor. We walked back to SML (4 miles one way) where you can admire the ocean and beautiful lush scenery along the way. It really is a nice walk with a few spots that you have to walk on the road where you have to be mindful of the vehicles. The cars/buses tend to go slow since there are sharp curves on the road except maybe the four Ferraris who whipped by us during our walk. Iíve never seen so many Ferraris in one place, which were exciting to see.

Next we head to South of France where a rental car awaits us in Menton.

portobelloB is offline  
Oct 30th, 2006, 11:20 AM
Join Date: Mar 2003
Posts: 654
Thanks for the trip report. I love the idea of hiking from SML to Portofino. Gives you time to savour the area.
Pawleys is offline  
Oct 30th, 2006, 07:03 PM
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 3,789
Oh, what fun - seeing Andre Rieu live in Cortona!!! Sounds like you had a fabulous trip. Thanks for posting your report.
Holly_uncasdewar is online now  
Apr 19th, 2007, 04:42 AM
Join Date: Feb 2006
Posts: 145
Nice trip report. Andre Rieu is really great live and seeing him in a foreign country would be wonderful. I like the idea of a pedometer will on vacation!
tinyteacup is offline  
Apr 19th, 2007, 05:08 PM
Join Date: Aug 2005
Posts: 159
PortobelloB- nice report. Just a question since we are planning to be in Venice early October this year- what were the temperatures like when you were there? thanks
ssvw27 is offline  
Apr 19th, 2007, 06:17 PM
Join Date: Nov 2003
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Hi P,

I never heard of separate forums for Europe !!!
barbmike is offline  

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