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Trip Report: Venice, Bolzano, Florence, Tuscany and Rome.

Trip Report: Venice, Bolzano, Florence, Tuscany and Rome.

Sep 17th, 2006, 11:43 AM
  #1  
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Join Date: Dec 2005
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Trip Report: Venice, Bolzano, Florence, Tuscany and Rome.

My DH and I have just returned from Italy. The trip was to celebrate our 10th anniversary and my upcoming 50th birthday. I have been planning for a year, using all the resources found here on Fodors and I want to thank all the Fodorites for their advice. I especially want to thank the people who emailed me directly with frank answers to some of my questions. I donít usually keep a journal, but you Fodorites were so helpful that I did keep a journal this time with the intention of writing a trip report. Here it goes:

Aug 24/25- left for Frankfurt then Venice on Lufthansa at 4:40pm from Atlanta. We used frequent flier miles to go Business class thinking we could sleep some. We didnít sleep at all and got to the hotel at 12:30 pm the next day, very tired.

We decided to take the Alliguna (spelling) gold line to San Marco. It was 24euros and well worth it. The regular line was packed in like sardines. We couldnít imagine how they would get more people on the boat and yet they did. The gold line left 10 minutes later. There was only one other couple on the boat. The set up is different than the regular boat. Instead of rows of seats, it has an upholstered bench around the hull of the boat, very comfortable. Also we could go up on deck as often as we wanted to take photos or have a better view. The trip is a lot shorter than the regular boat because it doesnít make any stops. When we got off at San Marco, we had only a five minute walk to the hotel which we found with no problem at all.

We stayed at the Hotel Corte Grimani. What a great hotel. It was spotless to the point that you would think the room was never used. Even the grout in the bathroom was spotless. We had a one bedroom apartment with a living/dining/kitchen combination and bath. On the web site it is labeled Classic with view. The photos are very accurate. There were sleek modern appliances: microwave, dishwasher, 2 burner electric stove, refrigerator and sink. The beautiful bath was large and had a hair drier, towel warmer, and washing machine. The bedroom was very comfortable and roomy. View room means that you can see over the surrounding buildings, not really a view of anything special, but pretty. We didnít have a canal view although the hotel is directly on a canal. There was certainly plenty of light and you could open the windows. There were tiled floors everywhere and beamed ceilings, and the furniture was warm. There was a cream ultra suede couch and cream leather chairs at the table. The bedroom was done in gold satiny fabric with two matching chairs. All the walls were white. There was fresh fruit in the lobby replenished during the day and this was our breakfast on most days.

After a short nap, we walked around in San Marco plaza. Around 4 pm, we walked near Campo San Stefano. It was not a very interesting area, but we had pizza and wine at a bar around 7. We took our time and watched the ďsidewalk salesmenĒ do their thing. It was pretty funny. One thing was becoming clear. We canít eat on Italy time. For the rest of the trip, we ate mostly in pizzerias and bars because the food was cheaper (you canít eat for two under 20e ever) and available. I was joking before we left about surviving on pizza, pasta and panini and that is exactly what we did with some notable exceptions. Also, there is a debate amongst Fodorites on drinking house wine or bottled. We went the house wine route primarily because it is really cheap and really not that bad. We had a special bottle here and there (we are big red wine drinkers at home and my husband spent a lot of time in Napa while he was going to Berkley so we arenít naïve about wines) but the house wine was fine for lunch and quick bar meals. Keep also in mind that we were trying not to add to our weight during this trip, so eating was not on the top of the list of things to do.

We went back to San Marco. There was a lightning storm fast approaching and it was a spectacular scene. We took photos of the storm behind the Basilica and only went back to the hotel when it got too close. We had our first gelato on the way. I am not a big sweet eater so I wasnít as orgasmic as some of the Fodorites are over gelato, but it was good. I like that it is a small portion and generally not very sweet.

We made it back to hotel and went to bed. I wore my pedometer the whole trip to determine how far we walked. That night we did 4,412 steps which I am estimating to be 1.6 miles.
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Sep 17th, 2006, 11:45 AM
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Aug 26- We went to Rialto market first thing. We were there by 8am. There were very few people out. The shops on the Rialto Bridge had not opened yet and we were able to take photos at our leisure and enjoy the peaceful view of shopkeepers receiving their wares by boat. Everything looks so good in the morning sun. We almost didnít walk far enough past the bridge to find the markets, but I caught a flash of color and walked further and they were in full swing. The markets were beautiful. The fish especially were unbelievable. It made us want to cook, but we came to our senses. We bought some plums because the market was irresistible. We took plenty of photos. I think we have a record of everything being sold that day!

We had a 9:45 reservation to see the Basilica which I got on the web, so we walked back to San Marco. We were early so we took the elevator to the top of the campanile (6e). More photos.

As a side note, I took over 1200 photos on this trip and my DH took 3 hours of video. I used a 1GB card and uploaded to a 40GB portable hard drive every night. It worked well except once due to operator error, I lost half a day and Rome at night. Oh well. Overall I was very satisfied with our results.

We went back down to meet our reservation time and passed ahead of tremendously long lines. We paid 3e to go to the loggia and museum. The view up there was very nice. We walked around inside the Basilica. Every square inch is decorated with mosaic. I hated that we couldnít take photos. We paid another 1.50e to see the golden altar screen. Then we went back to the hotel for a short rest at 11 am. This morning was 5,795 steps or 2.1 miles.

We went over to the rialto shopping area in the afternoon. It was packed with people. We literally could not walk together going over the bridge. On the other side of the bridge there are some nice shopping areas that are a bit less crowded. We bought a mask and ate lunch on the Grand Canal at an outdoor café. (We didnít eat too many meals inside the whole time) We had spaghetti Bolognese and wine near the bridge for 23e. We took the vaparetto from Rialto to Salute in Dosodoro and walked back to the hotel. On the way, we took a gondola ride, partially on the Grand Canal and partially in the side canals. I liked the mix. I think part of the ride should be on the Grand Canal. We had hats but didnít bring them on this outing. We should have because the sun was hot. We bought champagne glasses and a glass Santa on a gondola.

Another side note: every year we buy two champagne glasses for our anniversary. This year for our 10th we decided they had to be Venetian glass. Based on advice from Fodorites, we didnít plan a trip to Murano thinking that we could get our glasses easily at one of the many glass shops in Venice. We had a hard time finding glasses. There was plenty of glass, but not many interesting glasses. There is no such thing as a pair. Each glass is hand crafted and slightly different. The two we bought are similar. One is slightly shorter but both are the same color, have etching on the top and gold on the stem. Different stem patterns. They are signed by the artesian.

We were back at the hotel by 4 pm for a rest. That was 2,240 steps or about 8 tenths of a mile. Sure seemed like more than that but I guess a lot of the time was sitting. We bought a bottle of wine for the room. As DH was reaching for his glass off the bed stand, he missed and it hit the floor. The splatter pattern was spectacular. It shot 7 feet into the air. It was on the walls, the floor, the rug, the beautiful gold upholstered chairs, the lamp shade, our clothes. What a mess. I went down stairs and asked for help. The desk person came up immediately with some cleaning fluid. She wiped up the floor but had to take the rug. How embarrassing. Thankfully, the furniture was fine but the walls needed to be painted and the lamp shade was destroyed. This was the first of what turned out to be a minor disaster at each place we stayed.

We went out for dinner, pizza of course. Then we went to San Marco for battle of the bands. When we got back around 10 we did laundry in hopes that the wine would come out. It did. That was 2,997 more steps or about a mile.

Aug 27-We woke up to a lightning storm so we slept in. To tell the truth, a lot of Venice seems the same; alleys with lots of restaurants and shops with similar wares. Once we saw San Marco and Rialto, we were ready for a change. We went out about 9:30. We were going to go over to the ghetto but halfway there changed our minds and decided to go to Burano. We walked to Fondamenta Nuove and took the vaparetto to Burano. It was very colorful and more open than Venice. We ate lunch alfresco again. I had sea bass with tomato and basil and DH had fried seafood from the Adriatic with wine for 35e. It was fabulous. We bought some gifts for people at home; some glass pendants, another mask, a lace sachet for me. The prices were better.

We took the vaparetto back to Fondamenta Nuove and walked back to the hotel. We bought a bottle of limoncello on the way. We rested and read. That little jaunt was 8,607 steps or just over 3 miles. This is the most walking we have done on any trip we have ever taken.

At about 6:30 we went out for dinner. We had spaghetti with seafood and pizza with water for 32e. We went back to the room with another mile down for more laundry and limoncello. I have to admit it is an acquired taste, but one that I acquired that night by the end of the bottle.
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Sep 17th, 2006, 11:45 AM
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Aug 28- We packed and left early for the #1 vaparetto to Piazelle Roma from the Rialto. We offered to pay for the hotel damage before we left but they wouldnít hear of it. The walk to the Rialto was easy; we didnít even go over any bridges. Once we got to the Piazelle Roma we found the Hertz office with no problem and drove to Cortina díAmpezzo. I got a cold. Every pharmacy we stopped at was closed. We continued on to Bolzano. The drive on the Dolomite pass would have been good except for tour busses. We stopped for lunch about half way. I had spinach stuffed ravioli with parmesan and DY had wurst and fries. (I won that one!) We continued on and with only a little difficulty found the hotel. Actually, we were always on the right track but sometimes had moments of lack of confidence. We bought Michelin maps of Italy before we came and used viaMichelin to plan our route and follow it on the map. The practice was extremely helpful in navigating around. The only thing I wish we had was more detailed maps of the area approaching the cities.

We stayed at Hotel Colle-Kohlern which is at the top of an 8km switchback road up a mountain overlooking Bolzano. The hotel is nice in a south Tyrolean kind of way. The room had pine floors with traditional painted furniture and a balcony with a partial view. We headed straight for the hot tub. It was great because the weather was a bit chilly and the view from the hot tub looking out at the mountains and into the valley below was great. Afterward we took a nap and a shower and headed to dinner at 7pm.

The service was excellent and the meal even better. By far, this was the best eating we did on the whole trip. I had calfís liver with onions prepared Venetian style. DH had pan fried locally caught trout. Both were excellent. We also had smoked beef and cheese as a starter and cabbage salad with bacon made on the property. We had our first grappa, an acquired taste I never acquired and have no desire to. The couple at the next table has a restaurant called Portofino in NJ near where I was raised. We talked a bit about cars and NJ. He was going to an F1 race the following week.

We mentioned to Josef that our bed was too hard and he switched our room. The room didnít have a balcony but it had windows with a direct view of the snow covered mountains. DH took my camera and couldnít stop. It was worth the whole diversion to the Dolomites. The bed was much better. The bath was just as nice, big and all marble. The shower was better too-more power. Our minor disaster for this location was that Josef forgot to tell the staff that we changed rooms so our room wasnít serviced the next day. Finally to bed, we stayed up much too late chatting with our dinner partners. We did another mile that day; short because of the driving.

Aug 29- We got up for breakfast at 8 and enjoyed the view some more. Breakfast buffet was breads, meat and cheeses, smoked salmon, hardish boiled eggs, yogurt. I loved it. I hate American breakfast foods. I canít get enough of the proscuitto and the salmon was great. I had to hold back from eating more than my share.

We drove to Petersberg to play golf. We try to play once in every country we visit. We have already played in all 50 US states. Golf was pretty. We were glad to have pants and a sweater because the weather was sunny but cool. We played the first nine with a nice man who only spoke German. We rented clubs and these very strange golf carts. They were like scooter chairs for one with a basket on the front. Fun. The second nine we were on our own so people let us play through and we were done in a flash.

We stopped in the town for lunch. I had gnochetti and DH had the spinach stuffed ravioli with parmesan.

We wanted to see the castle that we could see from our room. So in trying to find it we wound up in a pedestrian district in Bolzano. We couldnít wait to get out of it. Very tense driving conditions. We went up to Schloss Runkelstein but realized on the way it would be closed on Monday. We walked all around; we bought some wine in the gift shop but never went in the castle because we knew it was closed on Monday. It wasnít until we got back to the hotel that we realized it was Tuesday! We did think it was funny that the gift shop was open. Oh well.

Back at the hotel we opened our wine, hit the hot tub again, took a shower, and on to our next fabulous dinner at 7.

DH had the same liver I had the night before. I was surprised because he isnít a real liver fan but mine was so good that he wanted his own. I had Herrengroste which is boiled veal and potatoes. We also shared cheese dumplings with butter and a cocktail of tomatoes. We had two great wines: Abtei Muri Sudtiroler Lagrein Riserva and Haderburg Pas Dose Prosecco.
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Sep 17th, 2006, 11:46 AM
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Aug 30- Got up for another great breakfast, I tried the muesli and yogurt this time. We drove south on the A22 down to Lake Garda. We drove the entire east side of the lake. It was beautiful. We stopped for pizza on the lake with a beautiful view. There werenít many people because it was breezy and cool. Just gorgeous.

After lunch we continued to Florence. We really needed a map with more detail approaching the city. We missed a turn and wound up finding a Hertz place, just not ours. They gave us a better map and detailed directions and we made it without a problem.

We used sleepinginflorence.com for the Lepri apartment on Borga San Lorenzo in the pedestrian district. It was a long walk from the car rental place on crowded streets with luggage on a travel caddy-not fun. We had to wait to be let into the apartment and then walk up six flights with luggage. We have these sort of duffels from LLBean that strap on like backpacks, so getting upstairs wasnít really that bad.

The apartment was really cute and worth the effort. It was very clean. We had heard from another poster that there was no soap or toilet paper so we brought our own. The apartment has a big room on the first floor that has a table and chairs, a sofa and TV and a mini kitchen with a clothes washer. There is also the bathroom, which is small. The bedroom is upstairs. The bed is firm but comfortable. There is a post on Slowtravel about this apartment and it is very accurate if you are interested in it. http://www.slowtrav.com/italy/vr/review.asp?n=634 Gabriella was very nice, showing us how to work everything in excellent English. Again the apartment was spotless. We rested and watched CNN.

The great part of the apartment is the location, right in the middle of everything you want to see. We walked around the San Lorenzo market which is right at the end of the street. We walked over to the Duomo and took photos including the famous Baptistery doors. Then we walked back and had dinner. We didnít want much. We had a 10e tourist dinner at the restaurant down stairs. I had a quarter of a chicken and salad with lasagna, DH had a pork scaloppini and French fries with lasagna and wine. Both were pretty good and just enough. We met a woman from the Netherlands who was traveling alone. We stayed up way to late talking with her and drinking more wine.

Aug 31- We went to the Accademia for our 8:15 reservation.

I got the reservations by phone. I used the instructions that I think Ira posted. I practiced my Italian for 20 minutes before I called. Simple stuff, like do you speak English. I was a bit nervous and got through the menus fine. When the woman answered in Italian, I panicked and lost all hope of speaking Italian. I whimpered: Do you speak English (in English). I had no problem, she spoke perfect English. I got the reservations for the Accademia and the Uffizi.

We were a bit early so we walked around and saw same famous fountains, and found a supermarcato. We were one of the first ones in and headed straight for the David. There were only 3 other people in the room when we where looking at it at first. It was beautiful but I hated that we couldnít take photos. We walked around for about an hour but honestly we arenít really museum people so there wasnít much more there that interested us. There were a lot of plaster casts of famous statues, but not the actual statue.

From there we walked to the Duomo and climbed to the top. There werenít many people there at 9:30 which I think made the climb better. The view was great. The walk up was thrilling, especially the last flight. We walked down again and went inside. Then we walked to the Ponte Vecchio. We saw the town hall and the copy of the David. I took photos. There is also an outdoor statue gallery which had many of the real statues from the casts we saw in the Accademia. We went across the Ponte Vecchio for lunch. We hadÖpizza! Surprise. We looked at gold but we werenít really in the market for it. We walked back to the supermarcato and bought bottled water and things for dinner. We went back to the apartment for our nap. This was 10,837 steps or almost 4 miles.

There was a nice wine shop across from the apartment run by an Italian married to an American. We bought some Chianti for dinner and some sparkling wine for our anniversary and got a recommendation for dinner the next night.

We went out again in the afternoon and walked the markets some more. I bought a purse, DH bought a wallet, and we bought the obligatory pashima and ties.

We went back to the apartment and made pasta with mussels and sauce and bread and had our Chianti. It was pretty good.

Sept 1- Our Anniversary. We made it to the Uffizi for our 8:15 reservation. Thankfully we figured out that we had to get the tickets across the street before we got in line. They did say door number 3 but we only saw doors 1 and 2. I stood in line while DH went to look. He got the tickets and got back to me before the door opened. There where plenty of people behind us on the reserved line and even more on the general line.

We did lots of walking. DH is fascinated with DaVinci and the Uffizi had a special exhibition on him. With that and all the other things we saw, we were there for 3 hours. Then we went to Santa Croce and had pizza outside. The inside is very interesting. We saw the graves of Michelangelo and Machiavelli. To me it is exciting to be so near them even if they are dead. We left there and went to the Baptistery which never seemed to be open. We got in this time. It has beautiful ceilings.

We went back to the room. We had a snack, coke and wine. We did 7,314 steps on that trip or 2.7 miles. That sounded low, but we did stand around a lot between walking.

We started laundry. Remember I said I had a cold. Well the day before I had done a load of laundry with a pack of tissues in my pocket. Everything was linty and we didnít have a way of getting it off. So before our nap, I re-washed everything. When we got up from a 2 hour nap, the laundry had finished. I opened the front loading washer and water came gushing out onto the floor. I slammed the door closed as fast as I could but I got some clothes stuck in the door and water was still coming out. I had to open it again for another deluge. We threw all the towels and all our remaining dirty clothes on it to sop it up-minor disaster number 3. We got the floor dry but then had to wash the towels and the rest of the laundry. What a mess. Thankfully everything dried over night because those were the only towels.

We walked to our recommended restaurant for our anniversary dinner but it was closed for vacation- rats! On the way back we found a nice place. We had Steak Florentine for two. It was huge and very good. We had proscuitto and mozzarella for a starter and tiramisu to finish. It was great. We watched the vendor stalls in San Lorenzo being taken down for the night on our walk back. We returned to the room, hung up laundry and sat down with our bottle of Franciacorta Bellavista Gran Cuvee Saten from Erbusco. We watched TV mostly in German (we donít speak German), read about what we saw at the Uffizi and went to bed.

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Sep 17th, 2006, 11:47 AM
  #5  
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Sept 2- We got up and went straight to the car rental place by 8:30am. We repacked so I could take a heavy bag standing on end on the roller and DH could take the lighter one as a backpack. It was much easier to navigate than having two bags flat and wide on the roller. We got lost right off out of the garage. We wound up going up a hill which gave us a great view of Florence below. I took photos of course. Then we went down some very narrow roads lined in stone walls you couldnít see over. Finally we got out and headed south. We stopped in Greve in Chianti. We first went up to the medieval town close by. We walked around, had a wine tasting from the vineyard right there and bought a bottle. Then we went into Greve where there was a market in town. It was for locals with everything from meat and cheese to bed spreads. We didnít stay because it was too crowded so we went back up the hill to the medieval town to a restaurant overlooking the vineyard. The view was excellent. We started with crostini with pate-mushroom and truffle, tomato, chicken liver and walnut butter. I have to admit the mushroom one looked like it was made for fear factor- really icky looking, but it didnít taste bad when you ate it with your eyes closed. We both had spaghetti with wild boar sauce plus a half liter of wine for 29e.

We headed out again still getting semi lost. We stopped in Radda. It was more interesting than Greve but we just walked through. Most people donít speak English here. We went to Gaiole in Chianti thinking it was where our hotel was but after driving around a bit we stopped at an information booth and found out we had the wrong town. We found the hotel after this with no trouble.

We stayed at Castellare deíNoveshci in San Sano. The room had stone walls with little port holes (as well as two big windows). There were tile ceilings with wooden beams, tile floors and a stone bathroom. The bathroom smelled, we think it was the water, so we kept the door closed. We were told not to drink the water. The bed was comfy but when DH sat on his side, the frame fell to the floor-another minor disaster. I wrote down from my Italian dictionary how to tell them about it and apparently did pretty well because they knew what I meant. The lovely man minding the desk came up to fix it. I asked about dinner and breakfast. He walked me over to the hotel in town and made a reservation for dinner.

Thankfully I asked about breakfast because it wasnít until 9am-late for us. Dinner was 7:30. We sat on the patio drinking the wine we bought that day. It was very pleasant. There are only 3 rooms in the inn and we met one of the other occupants. They are a nice couple from England on their honeymoon.

We went to dinner at the hotel in town. There were only 3 tables being served and we all had the same thing. We had aperitif, salad, pasta with a meat sauce escalope with ham, grilled vegetables and dessert for 62e. We walked about 2 miles that day before hitting the hay.

Sept 3- DH wasnít feeling well. We went to breakfast and decided not to go anywhere. I sat on the patio and read for a while. Then we went to the pool and sat on lounge chairs and read some more. We ate some snacks we had been carrying around with us for lunch. For dinner we went to the trattoria in town. (By the way, calling it a town is an overstatement, there were only the two places to eat.) DH had half of a chicken in olive sauce, I had rabbit, and we shared a chocolate torte and a half bottle of wine for 42e. None of it was worth having again. They have a cute little (very little) market. We bought sodas for the next day.

Sept 4- We arranged for an 8 am breakfast, checked out and drove south toward Rome. We decided to stop at Montepulicano. We walked around and had lunch at another sidewalk café. The town was interesting. Then we drove to Rome. We took a wrong turn and missed the north side of Rome-really wish we had better detailed maps on the approach to the city. We came in from the east side and headed to the train station to turn in the car. Driving wasnít bad but finding the location was not easy. We finally found the office after circumnavigating the train station and they sent us to a nearby building and told us to drive up 7 stories. This all was not easy at the end of a very long day. We turned in the car and got a taxi to our apartment.

Marina Ferri was there to meet us. She is wonderful. We toured the apartment which we found on VRBO #34035. What a great view of the colosseum and you can also see St Peterís dome in the distance. She stayed with us for more than an hour showing us how to use everything and telling us how to buy metro tickets and location of restaurants, etc. She left us prosecco and croissants to celebrate our anniversary. We decided to stay in and eat that for dinner.

The apartment is a two bedroom, two bath apartment on the sixth floor with elevator. It has a complete kitchen and clothes washer. It even has a computer. Everything you need. It is furnished very homey as well. The web site says that it was designed by an architect. My DH said, ďIt may have been designed by an architect it was built by MacGuiverĒ. That is too true. The place is a little quirky, but is it is like home away from home. The view on the web site is the actual view.

We checked our email, did laundry, sat on the patio and watched the view and went to bed.
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Sep 17th, 2006, 11:47 AM
  #6  
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Sept.5- We walked to the colosseum and stopped at the supermarcato to get breakfast on the way- gator aid and biscotti. We got to the colosseum exactly at 9am; no lines. We each got a headset and listened around a tour of the grounds. After that we went to the Forum with another head set. It was really hot. The weather up to now had been very pleasant. This was hot. It could have been worse. I expected the whole trip to be hot! We filled our water bottles from the fountains. We had to, it was just so hot. There were so many tour groups by now. We were glad we went early. We saw some people with private guides. I would advise being careful if you hire one. We heard one of the guides telling a couple something entirely different than what we were hearing on our headset.

We then went to the Palentine which had great views of the forum. We walked around more taking photos the whole way. We decided to buy lunch at the supermarcato and head ďhomeĒ. We bought two kinds of salami, cheese, proscuitto, bread and wine, plus soda, more wine and grapefruit-all for 27e. It was delicious. Things in Rome are more spread out than in the other cities we visited. We did 9,517 steps that morning or 3.5 miles.

We stayed in a while and rested then went out around 5pm. We took the metro to the Spanish Steps. There where throngs of people. You couldnít really see any steps for all the people sitting on them. We walked up the stairs then went around the block and over to the Trevi Fountain. Of course we threw coins in and took a bunch of photos. It wasnít nearly as crowded and you could actually take photos that looked like no on was there! We went for our usual pizza dinner and then hung around for dark. We went back to the Trevi and took photos and then walked back to the apartment. We saw the Presidential palace, the Forum, the Colosseum all at night. We put on another 3.5 miles. Unfortunately, due to operator error, I lost all the photos from the afternoon and evening walk- double rats!

Sept 6- Today we ironed, checked email and then took the metro to the Vatican. We were early so we ate lunch. Then we checked where we had to go and sat around for an hour. We walked some and bought souvenirs. Then we went to the Scavi Tour. It was very interesting and well worth it. You actually walk on the 2000 year old roads and view the necropolis uncovered by the Vatican. It ends at the tomb of St. Peter. We had a rosary blessed at the tomb for my brother-in-law. Neither of us is very religious but that was a moving experience. We went into the Basilica. There are no words to describe how absolutely amazing it is.

We walked to the Plaza Navona. We sat down for a meal but the service was so poor that we left. We then went to the Pantheon and then walked home. We were dead tired after logging 13,145 steps or 4.8 miles. We had leftover meat cheese and wine and went to bed.

Sept 7- Got up early to go meet our Vatican Museum tour. The only tour we took. We got there at 7:45 and met our guide by the bus stop outside the Vatican Museums. Lines were already pretty long but our guide had positioned the rest of our tour group close to the front of the line. We didnít have a very long wait to go in. We used Argiletum Tours which had been recommended by our hostess. They were cheap at 44e including admission. We had only 9 people in the tour and we had the headsets so we could hear our guide. He was very knowledgeable with good English. He had us head straight to the Cistine Chapel. There were maybe 20 other people in there with us. When we went back later, there were hundreds in there, shoulder to shoulder. The museums are amazing. We left the tour which continued into the Basilica at noon because we were exhausted and had already been in the Basilica. I am sure the tour lasted 5 hours. We ate lunch and took the metro back to the apartment. We did 9,955 steps that day or 3.6 miles, most of it in the Vatican!

There is a lot of debate as to what order to do the big cities- start in Venice or Rome. I think starting in Venice was best. First, we were so tired getting of the plane that it would have been difficult to handle the hustle of a big city like Rome right off. Going to Venice first gave us a chance to work up to it and practice Italian. Next, Rome is amazing. I think if I started in Rome I would have been disappointed in everything I saw after that. Again starting in Venice, things just got better as we went.

On the way back to the apartment we went to San Giovanni de Laterno, it had beautiful mosaics. We napped a while, did laundry and went to the supermarcato for dinner plus desert and wine all for 14e.

Sept 8- On our last day, we slept late. We walked to Trastevere. We went to Santa Maria and had cappuccino and pastry at an outdoor café. We donít drink coffee but we had to do it once. We walked over the island and walked some more. We had a lunch of seafood risotto and linguine with seafood near the Forum. We went back to the apartment and began packing. We had yogurt and muesli from the supermarcato for dinner. Sill we did 11,750 steps or 4.3 miles this morning.

Sept 9- We were picked up from in front of the apartment building at 4:15 am; made it home without a hitch.
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Sep 17th, 2006, 11:48 AM
  #7  
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A few other notes:

Shoes- It is very important to pick a good shoe. We had sneakers and Ecco Sandals. My DH had Performance Yucatan and I had Cosmo II. Both were very comfortable and seemed to go with everything we wore.

Packing Light- We knew we would have washing machines available so we packed what we thought was light. I packed 2 pair of shorts and matching tops thinking we would need them on days we werenít going into churches-like playing golf. We never used them. There is hardly ever a time you wonít go into a church. Leave the shorts home. Also it was so easy to do laundry that we washed so often, we didnít need as much as we took. I would have been satisfied with three pair of crop pants and three shirts. We did need pants and a sweater for the mountains. I took two skirts but only wore one once. We only took 3 sets of exofficio quick dry underwear and socks and washed in a sink when laundry wasnít available. I brought a very light sweater and hat that fit into my daypack. The sweater covered my shoulders in churches and went straight back into the bag. However, even with too much, we had comments from two of our hostesses that they couldnít believe that was all luggage we had! Our LLBean duffel/backpacks also have small zip off backpacks that we used as carry ons. They fit all our souvenirs and snacks for the plane trip.

Daypack- I bought a PacSafe Metrosafe 200 day bag for DH. It was great for him. He carried his wallet, passport etc all the time. There are so many barriers to it; it would be very tough to pickpocket. It fit his video camera fine as well and he always had a water bottle with him. I bought an Eagle Creek Instant Messenger bag for myself. It was a bit big for me but not too big. It had a map pocket on the front as well as a place for glasses. Both compartments were well used. It has two big zipper pockets on the inside. Taking my cue from the PacSafe, I sewed claw hooks that I bought at a craft store into the lining so I could grab my zipper to hold it closed and make it a lot less pickpocket friendly. I used another claw hook on a chain to hold the zipper of my wallet so if you got past the flap and the hooked in zipper you still had another one to deal with to get the wallet out. It was big enough to hold by digital SLR with two lenses, my hat, sweater, water bottle, wallet, passport, and a snack. It felt very safe. There were a few other zipper compartments for various uses like holding extra batteries or ticket stubs. I also bought two silk security wallets. We never used them.

Other things- We brought a small alarm clock; none of our rooms had one. We brought fabreeze. I used it twice on my shoes, we left the rest there. We could have lived without it. We brought a small bottle of hand sanitizer-glad we did! We brought soap- glad we had it. One place didnít have any and it was nice not having to use the ďsoap chipsĒ they have in most hotels. We didnít pack a hair dryer. I just decided I wasnít going to care about my hair. As it turns out, most places had a hair dryer. We used DK Eyewitness guides for Rome, Venice and the Veneto and for Florence and Tuscany. Loved them all.

Camera and doodads- I have a Minolta Digital SLR 5D with two lenses. I had five rechargeable batteries (only needed 3) I had a 1 GB card and a Wolverine 40 GB portable hard drive. I had a CTA Mini Charger for Konica-Minolta NP-400 Battery which plugged directly into the wall. DH had a Panasonic PV-GS180 2.3MP 3CCD MiniDV Camcorder with 10x Optical Lens and a Digital Concepts BP-DU21 High Capacity Battery. He used 3 tapes and that was about enough.

Electricals- We never needed a converter. We just needed the plug adapters. I had 3.

Overall we had a great, great time. It was fun doing the planning and reading all the advice from Fodorites. Where should I go next? Hmmm.

sdtravels is offline  
Sep 17th, 2006, 12:56 PM
  #8  
 
Join Date: Feb 2006
Posts: 52,325
Hi SD - thanks for the great report. We are off to Florence in about a month, so i was interested to read your experiences. We are there for 5 days, with one day in Pisa. Would you suggest hiring a car at all for the trip? I am worried that with 4 of us, paying for trains/buses to get to siena etc. might prove exspensive, but I understand that parking has got much worse in florence since we last went, 25 years ago.
your thoughts would be much appreciated.
ann
annhig is offline  
Sep 17th, 2006, 01:46 PM
  #9  
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Join Date: Dec 2005
Posts: 636
I would definitely NOT rent a car while you are in Florence. Driving is not easy. However, I would rent a car in Florence to drive to Pisa because I don't like to be tied down to schedules or unable to stop when I want to. Driving outside the cities is easy. We used Hertz and you can walk to the rental office from near the Basilica.
sdtravels is offline  
Sep 17th, 2006, 05:51 PM
  #10  
 
Join Date: Oct 2004
Posts: 953
Great, detailed report!!! We will be staying at Corte Grimani in June, and have reserved a canal view room. I really wanted to stay on the Grand Canal, but the positive reviews on this board and tripadvisor convinced me to stay here. Glad you liked it too!!
Jayneann is offline  
Sep 18th, 2006, 07:15 AM
  #11  
 
Join Date: Nov 2003
Posts: 4,874
I think we all need to stop talking about the Corte Grimani. I fear that the next time I want to stay there, it will booked years in advance! (It was terrific, however!)
missypie is offline  
Sep 18th, 2006, 08:12 AM
  #12  
 
Join Date: Jul 2006
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I'll be in Rome and Florence this February. Thanks for the great trip report, full of practical tips.
samsmom1127 is offline  
Sep 18th, 2006, 11:49 AM
  #13  
 
Join Date: Sep 2004
Posts: 45,322
Hi sdtravels, what a delightful report! Informative and so interesting. And the wine bottle making a mess in your room in Venice. I can just imagine you running down to the front desk in a panic. How nice that you offered to pay the damages and that the hotel refused your offer.

And the washing machine. A friend of mine in the region of Veneto did that one day while I was staying with her so I guess it happens to even the most experienced person with a front loading washer.

The food you ate, so many of the dishes are some of my favorites, especially the Venitian liver and onions and the rabbit. And the wine..I love the wine in Italy.

Thanks so much for sharing your trip, I wish you many more!

LoveItaly is offline  
Sep 18th, 2006, 12:01 PM
  #14  
 
Join Date: Feb 2003
Posts: 9,402
Hi SD,

REally enjoyed your trip report! It sounds like you survived the lodging disasters just fine.

You might really enjoy going back to Venice and spending a little more time seeing some of the great art there. Lots to see! Always a good reason to return.

How did you like the tiny village of San Sano? We stayed there at the Residence San Sano (the small hotel) 6 years ago and loved it. Were the rooms you rented by the same owners? We thought the trattoria was excellent, but then we went for the pasta dishes there. We absolutely loved that San Sano was SO untouristed!
Dayle is offline  
Sep 19th, 2006, 09:32 AM
  #15  
 
Join Date: May 2005
Posts: 357
Thank you for such an entertaining and fun trip report! I have not been to Italy yet, but it is next on my list (if I can tear myself away from Paris and Provence!). I'm keeping your report for future reference -- sounds like you had a great time, ate well, and saw alot!

joy/luvparee
luvparee is offline  
Sep 23rd, 2006, 09:41 AM
  #16  
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Join Date: Dec 2005
Posts: 636
Thanks everyone for your kind comments.

Dayle, as for San Sano, we have mixed emotions. Since we needed a rest, it was perfect. We enjoyed sitting by the pool and doing nothing. If you plan on being active and seeing the sights, I wouldn't recommend it. Just too far off the beaten track. I agree the hotel looked like a better option. I don't think they are owned by the same people.

I hope to have some photos posted somewhere soon!
sdtravels is offline  

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