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jeffmac
07-30-2011, 07:23 PM
I am in the early stages of plotting a trip to Italy for my wife and I. Looking at late next spring.

As the Tom Bihn forum is the source of all wisdom, I am looking for some input from you seasoned travelers out there for your ideas and suggestions for this trip.

Mainly interested in Rome and Tuscany but it is early enough at this point that any of my plans can be changed...

Looking forward to some of your ideas!

Frank II
07-31-2011, 06:41 AM
How about giving us more information like how long you plan to travel, what you're interested in--art, history, scenery? How will you travel in Italy--train? car? plane? Do you want to travel independently or on tour? Is this your first trip to Italy or have you been before? If before, where have you been?

PM4HIRE
07-31-2011, 09:35 AM
Checkout LonelyPlanet.com and Onebag.com too.

Frank II
07-31-2011, 09:58 AM
You can also check out the Italy section at Rick Steves.com

Rick Steves' Europe: Travelers Helpline - To the Boot (http://www.ricksteves.com/graffiti/helpline/index.cfm/rurl/wall/to-the-boot/index.html)

The Italy section at Trip Advisor:

Italy Forum, Travel Discussion for Italy - TripAdvisor (http://www.tripadvisor.com/ShowForum-g187768-i20-Italy.html)

For most people, their first visit to Italy encompasses the big three: Rome, Florence and Venice.

More than that, I'll need to know the answers to the questions I asked above: How long? How you plan to travel once in Italy? What are your main interests?

backpack
07-31-2011, 12:55 PM
The most important is the airline you pick from the U.S to Italy.



Check all the travel review websites (travelocity, expedia, tripadvisor) but do not book with them, book directly from the airlines, hotels and car rentals companies (Tuskany).
In Rome, it is much better to take public transports, tour buses and walk. (bring nice and comfortable shoes)

Many travelers using travel review/discount booking websites have been booked in an already full hotel (I witnessed that last spring in DC) and I have read accounts of people being the victims of overbooking by those sites for virtually all the services they offer.

Check epinions for testimonials about airlines.


For the least hassle, I recommend packing really light, take a plane to Munich, Geneva or Lyon and a high speed train to Rome for your U.S to Europe flght.
http://www.eurail.com/countries/italy/italy-train-travel


Fly directly from Rome on the return flight.


Airlines flying the intercontinental "Leonardo da Vinci" Roma – Fiumicino Airport.

Airlines - Aeroporti di Roma (http://www.adr.it/web/aeroporti-di-roma-en-/pax-fco-airlines)






This is taken from the Rome airport but this is pretty much what you are allowed to take on your flight.


Checked Luggage
Allowed weights and dimensions of checked luggage vary according to airline company. Therefore it is recommended that travelers check directly with the airline for those details and for excess baggage rates.

Carry-on Luggage
Only one piece of carry-on luggage is allowed. It is recommended that travelers check directly with the airline for details regarding the weight and dimension permitted for their hand luggage.
In addition to Carry-on Luggage it is possible to carry onboard:

handbags, briefcases
cameras, video cameras, CD players, personal computers (which must be removed from their cases for inspection at security checkpoints)
overcoats or raincoats
umbrellas
crutches or other objects to assist with walking
portable infant cradles
reading materials
items purchased in the "duty free shop"

Prior to departure, check directly with the airline website for details regarding further onboard limitations.
For lost luggage in the airport, contact the handling company, which provides ground handling services for the carriers , indicated on the terminal monitors next to the number of the luggage.

The last line says it all checked bags=lost bags.


During your vacation make memories of meals, experiences and pictures.

Stuff that tourist are trapped into buying will be lost in checked luggages or during the "highly efficient handling" by the Italian and U.S post offices, the only alternative is pricey but efficient UPS.

Note that your purchase might not be "lost" to everybody and might appear on online auctions later on.


The airlines sell lots of lost things to this store. Unclaimed Baggage Center (http://www.unclaimedbaggage.com/tourthestore.html)


Other forum members have recent experience with European trips, I hope they will chime in.

My post is more like a "better safe than sorry" preparation time for important trips kind of post.

Frank II
07-31-2011, 01:34 PM
Sorry, backpack, but I have to contradict some of the things you wrote.

First...why fly to Germany, France or Switzerland and take a high speed train? The train would take 9+ hours with changes. There are non-stop flights from the U.S. to Rome, Milan, Venice, Pisa and Naples. All in Italy. Flying to another country and taking a train would be more of a hassle than flying direct to the place you're beginning your trip. And a waste of a day. (BTW, Eurail sells train passes. In many cases, it's actually cheaper to buy point-to-point tickets especially within one country.)

Second, you make it sound as if Rome has specific carry-on rules. They don't. The EU sets maximum rules and each airline can either follow that or make their own, stricter rules. As an example, Alitalia, the national carrier of Italy, allows only one carry-on item, not one and a personal, and it can't weigh more than 8 kg (17.6 lbs.)

Flying "open jaw," meaning into one city and out of another can make more sense than doubling back to the arrival city and prices are usually not much different. But no need to fly into a place two countries away.

Packing light is always a good thing and it seems most people that are fans of Tom Bihn are usually "lighter" packers already. Or at least they're "wannabes."

backpack
07-31-2011, 02:19 PM
Sorry, backpack, but I have to contradict some of the things you wrote.

First...why fly to Germany, France or Switzerland and take a high speed train? The train would take 9+ hours with changes. There are non-stop flights from the U.S. to Rome, Milan, Venice, Pisa and Naples. All in Italy. Flying to another country and taking a train would be more of a hassle than flying direct to the place you're beginning your trip. And a waste of a day. (BTW, Eurail sells train passes. In many cases, it's actually cheaper to buy point-to-point tickets especially within one country.)

Second, you make it sound as if Rome has specific carry-on rules. They don't. The EU sets maximum rules and each airline can either follow that or make their own, stricter rules. As an example, Alitalia, the national carrier of Italy, allows only one carry-on item, not one and a personal, and it can't weigh more than 8 kg (17.6 lbs.)

Flying "open jaw," meaning into one city and out of another can make more sense than doubling back to the arrival city and prices are usually not much different. But no need to fly into a place two countries away.

Packing light is always a good thing and it seems most people that are fans of Tom Bihn are usually "lighter" packers already. Or at least they're "wannabes."


I said I got the carry on rules from the Rome airport, I should have added website. It was a way to give Jeffmac (and myself) an idea of what can be carried onboard in Europe.

I love the fact that you and the other posters are bringing the perspective of more recent travels to Europe, the more info Jeffmac gets, the better he can organize his trip.

What can I say about the train suggestion? I love train travel! :)

Just
07-31-2011, 06:23 PM
Flying to another country and taking a train would be more of a hassle than flying direct to the place you're beginning your trip. And a waste of a day.



What can I say about the train suggestion? I love train travel! :)

I gotta agree with backpack and strongly disagree with Frank II on this - to call traveling via train a "waste" - appalling! It's not about the destination, after all, but the journey! :D

Frank II
07-31-2011, 07:00 PM
I gotta agree with backpack and strongly disagree with Frank II on this - to call traveling via train a "waste" - appalling! It's not about the destination, after all, but the journey! :D


I am a big proponent of train travel in Europe. Regional train travel. I love it. But, if I'm visiting Italy, I want to spend as much time as possible on Italian trains and in Italy. Not on trains getting to Italy. I agree the journey is as important as the destination. Jeffmac said he wanted to visit Italy. Adding 9-12 hours to their travel just getting to their first destination takes away from Italy. My suggestion to people is to use trains but in a regional way. Getting off a plane in another country just to spend a half a day more traveling by train to their first destination is a waste of time. Not train travel in general.

With your reasoning, why go so close as to Lyon, Geneva or Munich. Why not fly to London and train from there. Look at train travel time suggested by backpack:

Munich to Rome: 9 hours, 19 minutes with 1 change.
Lyon to Rome: 11 hours, 11 minutes with 2 changes
Geneva to Rome: 8 hours 3 minutes with 1 change
So after flying a good 9-11 hours or longer, you then suggest an 8 hour plus train trip. Guess what....they'll probably fall asleep on the train between exhaustion and jet lag.

Now, had the OP said they wanted to visit numerous countries, then by all means, trains between countries would make sense.

But, everyone travels their own way......

Katy
08-01-2011, 07:57 AM
I am in the early stages of plotting a trip to Italy for my wife and I. Looking at late next spring.

As the Tom Bihn forum is the source of all wisdom, I am looking for some input from you seasoned travelers out there for your ideas and suggestions for this trip.

Mainly interested in Rome and Tuscany but it is early enough at this point that any of my plans can be changed...

Looking forward to some of your ideas!

I can't wait to see pictures! Are you going to try to make it to Venice? :)

Lani
08-01-2011, 11:39 AM
Mainly interested in Rome and Tuscany but it is early enough at this point that any of my plans can be changed...

My husband and I spent a week in Rome doing a Rick Steves 7-day city tour. I'm so happy we did his tour because it was so efficient and we got to experience so much. We are particularly big fans of his city tours because they are essentially a week of walking the city. Unlike most tours where you're shuttled here and there on tour buses, his city tours have you staying in a pension or small motel for a week in the heart of the city, and you walk miles and miles every day. On his city tours, if you need to go somewhere that's too far to walk, you catch the city bus or the local train/subway; by the end of the week you're completely comfortable navigating the city all by yourself, too.

I can't speak highly enough of his city tours; one huge advantage was we never had to waste time standing in line to enter anyplace. They take care of all the admission for you, and you get to go through the group entrances (for example, the line was probably an hour long to get into the Vatican museum but we walked right past the queue and walked right in and saved a ton of time).

His tours are pricey; if you want to just do things on your own, I would definitely recommend his Rome travel guide, as well as making sure to download his Rome and Italy podcasts (and I believe he has a Rome walking tour you can download for free). His Rome book has some fantastic walking tours and you could easily fill a week of activities just doing the walking tours from his book alone.

I'm with others; pack light! I'd actually go with one of Tom Bihn's travel bags (Aeronaut, Tri-Star, or Western Flyer) and eschew rolling uprights. You'll be so much more mobile and have an easy time getting around (for example, you can easily take the train from the airport to the city).

Wear clothes you can wash in your hotel room and hang overnight. It lets you pack much fewer items in your bag. For laundry soap, I would suggest bringing a small Ziploc baggie filled with Charley's Soap; the best laundry soap in the world, and concentrated so you only need to take a few spoonfuls.

Haven't been to Tuscany so I can't help you there.

jeffmac
08-01-2011, 12:41 PM
Thanks for all the input so far! I obviously deleted a paragraph from my original post that had relevant info in it!

We will likely be there for 6 days and than I will fly from there to Frankfurt for business. We are interested in art, history and architecture (particularly church related for both) and food and wine. Of course, can you mess up the food and wine part in Italy?

While in italy I am totally comfortable with public transport and walking if it works anywhere nearly as well as Germany and England. I am willing to rent a car but would prefer not to drive inside of Rome if possible.

I would like to avoid a full structured tour as I find that the pace that they try to keep you on makes lingering over the really lovely stuff difficult. I would be more than willing to contract a tour for a limited time period for something that makes good sense like the Vatican or a "high points of Rome" type approach.

Light packing is no problem for me but I am in the process of converting my wife, so that may be a bit more work...this is also part of the plan.

My gut tells me that that time period only gets me Rome and one other location, but maybe even that is optimistic and I should stick to only Rome?

Lani
08-01-2011, 01:21 PM
My gut tells me that that time period only gets me Rome and one other location, but maybe even that is optimistic and I should stick to only Rome?

I guess that's kind of like asking if you only have two hours for a mid-day meal, and should you just spend the whole time at the buffet at the Bellagio. lol

Honestly, especially given your interests, you could easily spend all 6 days in Rome and go nowhere else. I do agree that a tour can make it hard to linger, although to be quite honest, the Vatican museum was such a treat and EVERYTHING in there is just fantastic that after a while, we got into sensory overload mode.

If you are willing to hire a tour guide, there was a woman who was a local expert who led us on a tour of the forum. Having someone walk us through Rome's history as we walked through the forum gave us so much more than we would've ever gotten out of the area on our own (there's no real signage and if you don't understand all the history you're walking through, the area just looks like old rocks and stuff). I can find her name for you (and I'm sure you can contact her via Rick Steves' travel office). Actually, if you are considering hiring a guide for some places, I'd recommend one for the forum, Coliseum, the Vatican museums, and the Borghese gallery. If you can afford a private guide, you might be able to linger all you want. Keep in mind that many of the areas in the Vatican museum are very crowded, and if you stop and linger too long, you'll be like a rock in the river swarming with salmon. Actually this place (20 tips on Visiting the Vatican Museums | Ron in Rome! (http://www.roninrome.com/sites-and-attractions/20-tips-on-visiting-the-vatican-museums)) has some good practical tips for the Vatican. They do tell you to check in big bags... I suspect the Co-Pilot would be a fantastic museum-visiting bag, wouldn't you say? ;-)

The one thing you definitely want to do is obtain tickets in advance for a number of places. Based on your interests, I strongly recommend a visit to the Borghese Gallery--SO IMPRESSIVE! The catch is that you cannot walk up and buy tickets; you must make reservations in advance. Fortunately, you can do so online now so I don't think you have to phone them in Italy.

Wow, I am getting all nostalgic. We had such a fantastic trip. Our hope is to go back in a few years with my husband and in-laws, since they are very interested in seeing the works of Michaelangelo (and specifically, the Pieta).

Frank II
08-01-2011, 01:45 PM
I'll agree with much of what Lani said.

You have two options....spend the entire time in Rome & its surrounding areas, or split the time between Rome and say Florence since you mentioned you wanted to visit Tuscany. (It's a little over and hour and a half by train.)

You do not need to rent a car. Even if you decide to leave Rome, take the train. It's easier and faster.

I would suggest finding a tour of the Vatican. It can get very crowded and the lines long. With a tour, you bypass the lines and once the tour is over you can stay as long as you like.

Ron in Rome's website, as Lani pointed out, is terrific. Ron is a great guy and used to work as a guide in Rome. Unfortunately, he's relocated to Copenhagen.

One suggestion for the first day or two, and some people will scream when i suggest this, is the hop-on, hop-off bus. This bus goes past all the main sites and offers commentary. You can get off and on as often as you please. I suggest people make one complete loop and then get off and on as you please.

One other thing....Rome is known to have a serious pickpocketing problem. Be vigilant and wear a moneybelt. For a primer on moneybelts, go to:

Money*belts - OBOW Blog - One-bag, carry-on, light travel tips, techniques, and gear (http://www.1bag1world.com/blog/2011/7/13/money-belts.html)

Yonkdaddy
08-01-2011, 03:38 PM
On our trip to Italy a couple of years ago, we did a day trip down to Ostia Antica; this is the ancient port city for Rome. It was a short, approximately 1 hour train ride followed by a 15 minute walk to the site. Excellent, active archeological site with many ancient structures in much better shape than many in Rome. It's very easy to self-guide once you're there.

We also spent a couple of days up in Cinque Terre; if you have time, this area was spectacular.

Lani
08-01-2011, 03:56 PM
Frank's tips are also awesome. Yes yes, do NOT bother renting a car for Rome. Eek! You're familiar with those teeny tiny Smart cars, yes? A lot of people in Rome drive those because the alleyways are so narrow and crooked, and there is no parking for full-sized cars. People park their Smarts like Americans park their bicycles. You don't want to have to worry about that. Plus, it's VERY easy to get around by bus, train, or walking.


One suggestion for the first day or two, and some people will scream when i suggest this, is the hop-on, hop-off bus.

Hop-on, hop-off buses are fantastic! They're available in many tourist destinations and they are a great way to get a "lay of the land." You can get a sense of general neighborhood areas (my suggestion is that you take a city map with you and follow along; the bus may actually offer a little map brochure for this purpose), how far things are, keep an eye out for anything that looks really interesting, look out for things you recognize from photos, keep tabs on the places you know you'll be visiting later. Price is pretty reasonable, especially if you consider that you'll have an all-day pass so you can use it later on in the day to get somewhere else. There will be some things the bus probably won't go to (such as the Pantheon or the Spanish Steps) but still very well worth it.

Ooooo I just went to check Rick Steves' website, and I forgot he has a great little iPhone/Android app! I checked, and he has walking tours of the Colosseum, the Forum, the Jewish Ghetto, Ostia Antica (this requires a drive or bus ride to the outskirts of the city, but it's fascinating), the Pantheon, Pompeii, St. Peter's Basilica, the Sistine Chapel, and Trastevere. Looks like you could have Rick Steves as your persona guide!

I do agree though, signing up for a tour at the Vatican is probably worth the extra money. If nothing else, it lets you skip the humongous line just to get inside.

backpack
08-01-2011, 06:32 PM
Pictures of gorgeous Italian trains with equally gorgeous names.

http://www.trenitalia.com/cms/v/index.jsp?vgnextoid=f4e43bf7c819a110VgnVCM1000003f 16f90aRCRD

3 most important things, select your airline and your hotel very carefully and try to convince your wife to use a Tom Bihn Bag.


Below is a link of Rome's yearly average temperature and precipitation.

Rome Climate - Climate of Rome Italy | World Climates (http://www.world-climates.com/city-climate-rome-italy-europe/)

That should help you and your wife plan for your travel wardrobe. It might sound silly but consider a rain hat instead of an umbrella, it is lightweight, fold to nothing and can be secured with straps if its windy.



I

Seesul
08-02-2011, 09:29 PM
You might want to consider hiring a private guide and car for your time in Rome. We had limited time after a cruise and found it was cheaper than a night in a hotel. We only had one day, so he picked us up at our hotel and since we wanted to see the Vatican, he dropped us off there for a private tour, led by a young PhD in Art History. She was able to get us to the front of the line. Our tour was incredible (though I wish we'd had the afternoon to browse it on our own. The afternoon tour was by the private driver. He interviewed us to get an idea of what we wanted to see. We listed a few things and then to him to show us his favorites and that he did. The advantage was that he could double park and get us close to things on a very hot day. For lunch we asked for a reasonable restaurant with authentic Italian food, one that he would take his family to. It was unreal and we were the only tourists there. They treated us like royalty, making sure we all got personal favorites.

If you can swing one day like this, or better yet one day with the car and another with a morning tour at the Vatican, the rest of the day on your own, I highly recommend it.

Frank II
08-03-2011, 02:25 AM
Something I forgot to mention but is very important.....if you decide to take any train in Italy, you must remember to validate your ticket before getting on the train. There are yellow or orange boxes that you stick the ticket in and it gets stamped with the date. Do it just before boarding.

Should you board a train without a valid ticket, the conductor will more than likely fine you and you are required to pay on the spot. The fine, last I heard, was 50 Euros per person.

Not surprisingly, someone has made a Youtube video on how to do it:

‪How to Validate Train Ticket in Italy by Rooms and Menus‬‏ - YouTube (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rdvRkB7E-sY)

Lani
08-03-2011, 11:58 AM
Seesul, it sounds like you found a great deal. Quick question. You mentioned that you hired a "private driver." Do you mean that you got the personal services of a professional driver with a limo or cab license? I'm thinking that's how he was able to double-park, yes?

How did you go about finding the driver, and was the art history tour guide someone your driver got for you?

moriond
08-04-2011, 06:10 PM
Ooooo I just went to check Rick Steves' website, and I forgot he has a great little iPhone/Android app! I checked, and he has walking tours of the Colosseum, the Forum, the Jewish Ghetto, Ostia Antica (this requires a drive or bus ride to the outskirts of the city, but it's fascinating), the Pantheon, Pompeii, St. Peter's Basilica, the Sistine Chapel, and Trastevere. Looks like you could have Rick Steves as your persona guide!

I do agree though, signing up for a tour at the Vatican is probably worth the extra money. If nothing else, it lets you skip the humongous line just to get inside.
@Jeffmac, Lani and Frank have given you lots of good suggestions. Since Lani has mentioned the Rick Steves apps, and it's apparent that you have an iPhone and an iPad from your earlier posts, I'll add some suggestions of free apps from the Ministry of Culture (MiBAC):

i-MiBAC top 40 (http://itunes.apple.com/it/app/i-mibac-top-40/id378780364?mt=8) The top 40 tourist sites in Italy
i-MiBAC Voyager (http://itunes.apple.com/us/app/i-mibac-voyager/id433857243?mt=8) Virtual Reality reconstructions of buildings and audio narration; also with HD iPad version (http://itunes.apple.com/us/app/i-mibac-voyager-hd/id437257994?mt=8)
Rick Steves' Audio Europe (http://itunes.apple.com/us/app/rick-steves-audio-europe/id414357125?mt=8)

The first app is in Italian but has maps, photos, links to web sites for tickets, and listed hours, as well as descriptions of the top 40 sites. You may find the connections for the photos slower to update if you're running the app at high network traffic times outside the country. (All the other apps I mention work offline, without an active network connection).

The second app gives a 3D reconstruction of the buildings in the area around the Colisseum with audio description (English or Italian). You can run this in offline mode (without an internet connection) and as you pan around, you'll be able to select an audio narration of the history of the buildings you view. The narration continues as you move towards other buildings, although you'll see the new structures highlighted as you move. You can stop and switch to the tracks for the new structure(s) at any time. While the display is more impressive in the HD iPad view, it's more convenient on an iPhone, since you tilt the device in the direction of the structures you want to view; if you hold it flat on a table you'll only view the ground, even though you can still use the compass navigation controls to move to different structures for the audio narration.

The Rick Steves' Audio Europe app lets you select and download tracks for your "playlist" from a variety of categories (e.g., "General Europe", "Italy", and "Italy (Venice, Florence, Rome)". "General Europe" has sections discussing topics like Architecture or Art Appreciation for Travelers, Art outside of museums, Bike Touring, or Driving, Business customs, Food Specialities, Castles, dealing with Fear of Flying, etc. There are several specific walking tours in the "Italy (Venice, Florence, Rome)" section. You can try these out, and then decide whether you're interested in the specific paid apps (with images, maps, and videos) for St. Peter's Basilic and Ancient Rome ($2.99 each currently).

The Rick Steves apps are very well executed for the mobile medium. Some other things you might do:
Get some Italy maps in apps
Download regular eBook travel guides borrowed from your public library using the OverDrive Media Console (http://itunes.apple.com/us/app/id366869252?mt=8) app
Overdamped has a good series of HD art apps that are currently on sale for $0.99 each, e.g. Michelangelo HD for iPhone, iPod touch, and iPad (http://itunes.apple.com/us/app/michelangelo-hd/id384363339?mt=8)
Get electronic versions of special topic books like Flavors of Rome Presents Best Restaurants of Rome 2010 (http://www.amazon.com/Flavors-Rome-Presents-Restaurants-ebook/dp/B003VIWORU) by Carol Coviello-Malzone
Get the mPassport Rome (http://itunes.apple.com/us/app/mpassport-rome/id366979322?mt=8) app in case of medical emergencies


The second list of suggestions is very discretionary. Even though the digital images won't compare with viewing art in person, I find that in a lot of instances that I want to refer to details of the artwork (before and after seeing the original). It's hard to take note everything you want to view on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, even if you've read about this beforehand. There are whole series of Overdamped art by various artists and sculptors. If you want some background popular reading, try your public library downloads (eBooks and/or audiobooks) through the free OverDrive Media app. You can use this for both scholarly and popular works (e.g. Ross King's "Michelangelo and the Pope's Ceiling" or "Brunelleschi's Dome" in eBook or audio format), as well as conventional travel guides. I linked to the Amazon Kindle site for one example, but you can get the same book at other sites/formats, or go to Smashwords if you want to get a version (in any format) that is free of DRM.

I'll just comment that the Lonely Planet guides as apps (e.g. Lonely Planet Rome) feel a bit as though they stuffed the printed guide into an app: it's OK for the content, but clearly not optimized to take advantage of the media format, the way the Rick Steves apps are. A number of these guides, including the one for Rome, were free for the week following the volcanic eruption in Iceland that stranded several passengers.

Finally, the mPassport series of apps are interesting: they support medical needs of English speaking travelers abroad by giving information on hospitals, emergency numbers, pharmacies and their hours, along with lists and contact information for English speaking doctors and dentists that have been pre-vetted by HTH International. What's particularly useful, even if you don't have a medical emergency, are the drug equivalency guides and the "Medical Translations" section that lets you look up phrases and sentences covering medical situations in either English or the other language. This all works without an internet connection, and will use the GPS of your iPhone, if available. (The only additional feature that relies on an internet connection is hearing the spoken audio for the translated phrases in Italian, Spanish, German, etc.). These apps have all been free at some time or another. If you want to try this out, you can get mPassport Vienna (http://itunes.apple.com/us/app/mpassport-vienna/id364350787?mt=8) or mPassport Barcelona (http://itunes.apple.com/us/app/mpassport-barcelona/id361443667?mt=8), which are both free for the month of August. Not all cities are covered, and not all of the covered cities have the Medical Translations feature, but their are apps for both Rome and Florence.

If you have traveled to Germany before, you will be familiar with the procedure for validating tickets on public transportation that Frank described for Italy, since a similar system is in effect there.

moriond

Lani
08-05-2011, 02:51 PM
Moriond, are you a reference librarian? What a fantastic post! Wow!!!!

PS: If you're a librarian in Hawaii, let me know! I got my MLIS at the UH and worked at SLIS as its student services officer for many years before private industry recruited me away to California (so I know a lot of librarians in Hawaii).

backpack
08-05-2011, 08:33 PM
I am going to add, don't over plan. A vacation is also about getting breakfast in bed or in the room balcony looking at the gorgeous scenery, taking leisurely strolls and eat load and load of yummy food.

While I do think major museums are better enjoyed booked in advance, churches and monuments can be walked in and enjoyed peacefully with your wife by finding a quiet corner away from the tours.

That said, Moriond, as always, is an encyclopedia!

Jenne
09-02-2011, 07:42 AM
Everyone's already given great advice and it sounds like you've decided where you're going, but I'll chime in just for the general feeling of the thread! I lived in Italy for a total of six years and love it dearly. It is the home of my heart. My son and I are going later this month to meet up with my husband, who's an overseas contractor. Our plans are to visit Venice and Florence and structure the visits around our son's interests (science, architecture, and the sites in the game Assassin's Creed.) We're flying in and out of Venice, which I've done before and find to be very easy. Of course my son and I will be carrying TB bags! I'll probably carry my Tri-Star and he'll have an Aeronaut. So easy to get around with public transportation and stay light on our feet!

Also, my art teacher taught me a very important way to approach museums-- choose just a handful of works you want to focus on, rather than trying to see everything in the museum. You'll absorb a lot more about the few works you spend a lot of time with. So I have a few things I want to see, like some specific works at the Guggenheim in Venice, along with some statues in Florence. We will also be spending a lot of time soaking in the gorgeous September weather and having espresso at cafes!

jeffmac
09-02-2011, 01:58 PM
Jenne,

Thank you for the very personal reply on this! Venice is definitely on my bucket list, just no sure I can make it this trip...

Badger
09-02-2011, 02:29 PM
Jeffmac, if you have the time, I'd put in a plug for Orvieto. It's 1.5 hrs from Rome by train, and a great place for a day trip. The old city (centro storico) is perched on a tufa cliff; from the train station you get up there via funicular. There are a few cars in the upper city, but it's very walkable. The cathedral is beautiful, there are a surprising number of good restaurants and the most amazing gelato (Pasqualetti--there's also an outpost in Rome).

Mrs Badger and I stayed in Orvieto for 10 weeks while she was doing a course in Italian, and we are planning a brief return trip this Christmas. This time is sure to be even better, because we'll be traveling only with carry-ons, and not two suitcases fully of my dissertation books. :D

moriond
09-06-2011, 09:57 PM
Moriond, are you a reference librarian? What a fantastic post! Wow!!!!

PS: If you're a librarian in Hawaii, let me know! I got my MLIS at the UH and worked at SLIS as its student services officer for many years before private industry recruited me away to California (so I know a lot of librarians in Hawaii).
Hi Lani,

Nope, not a librarian -- just a consumer of books! @jeffmac for more good, free iOS travel apps this week, check out the mTrip apps that normally list for $5.99. The one for Rome should go free about 24 hours from now, and the one for Venice goes free a day later. For other cities, and the scheduled release, check this TUAW article on "mTrip offers free iPhone travel guides (http://www.tuaw.com/2011/09/06/mtrip-offers-free-iphone-travel-guides/)". Today's free cities are London, Berlin. San Francisco, Madrid, Dublin, and Shanghai. (Today means as of about an hour ago, and the availability doesn't seem to last 24 hours).

moriond

jannilee
09-07-2011, 07:23 AM
Great! I am going to San Fran this month and Madrid next month. Perfect timing!

Badger
09-09-2011, 01:19 PM
@moriond: thanks a ton for that link! I happened to click it today and lo and behold, Venice was available! BTW, the other cities for today are Barcelona, Stockholm, Munich and Hong Kong.

Lani
09-10-2011, 11:31 AM
moriond -- I was able to snag quite a few of those for free!! Unfortunately, I missed the day they had Chicago for free, and it's one of the cities we'll be visiting next month on a trip. These guys are actually so good I might go ahead and pay for one.

moriond
09-10-2011, 03:41 PM
Hi Lani,

I think the mTrip guides are better, but a number of the TVtrip guides went free yesterday, including the Chicago City Guide (http://itunes.apple.com/us/app/id450733811?mt=8&ls=1), and these are not bad. Others that are currently free in the TVtrip series are Paris, Amsterdam, Seville, New York, London, Barcelona, and Singapore. These normally list for about $3.99 each, and have gone free a few weeks earlier, too.

moriond

Seesul
09-12-2011, 06:53 PM
Seesul, it sounds like you found a great deal. Quick question. You mentioned that you hired a "private driver." Do you mean that you got the personal services of a professional driver with a limo or cab license? I'm thinking that's how he was able to double-park, yes?

How did you go about finding the driver, and was the art history tour guide someone your driver got for you?

Sorry it has taken me so long to get back and answer this. The private driver was licensed. We found him through a suggestion on a cruising message board. The driver suggested was already booked, but he recommended a friend that was great. When my sister took the same trip, the opposite happened and my driver was booked, so she got the friend and he was just as great. It was worth every penny we spent. I wished we'd had more time, but if you don't, this is the way to go. The art history guide was hired by our driver. She was absolutely amazing. If you have a limited time to see the Vatican, you can't beat it.

Badger
09-12-2011, 07:06 PM
The art history guide was hired by our driver. She was absolutely amazing. If you have a limited time to see the Vatican, you can't beat it.

It's also sometimes useful to hire a guide because often, tour groups can jump the queue, also saving time. The Vatican Museum offers guided tours, and, as noted, there are many private guides out there. The forum on Slow Travel (http://slowtalk.com/groupee/forums) is very useful for recommendations on all things Italy, but I remember in particular there were recent questions about the guided tours of the Vatican Museum.

jeffmac
03-06-2012, 10:17 AM
Oh my word, where has the year gone?!?!

I just went back and re-read all of this valuable information that the smartest people on the interwebs have provided (thank you all so much!)

We are leaving in about 2 weeks and this is the general plan so far:

Day 1 Rome- Historical stuff- Coliseum, Capitoline Hill, Pantheon, Trevi Fountain, Spanish Steps, Forum and probably crush a museum in this day (maybe the Borgia if I can get a reservation)
Day 2 Vatican and all the pomp and circumstance there, looking for an end of the day something

Day3 Train to Florence- Duomo,Piazza della Signoria , Pallazo Vecchio, San Giovanni Baptistery

Day4 Florence- Uffizzi, Gallerie, Santa Maria del Fiore, Galleria dell' Accademia

Day5- Tuscany - Tour booked with Viaggi Dambra (http://www.viaggidambra.com/eng-home.php) to do Chianti region for wine and Villages (Greve and Volpaia)

Because of the brevity, I am opting to put off Venice for another time.

I have a couple of restaurant picks ( Florence Il Latini (http://www.illatini.com/) and La Bussola (http://www.labussolafirenze.it/home/#)) but still very open to further suggestions.

And because I know you will all ask, I will be traveling with a TriStar and the Co-Pilot my sweet wife bought me for Christmas!

autolycus
03-06-2012, 11:47 AM
Oh my word, where has the year gone?!?!

I just went back and re-read all of this valuable information that the smartest people on the interwebs have provided (thank you all so much!)

We are leaving in about 2 weeks and this is the general plan so far:

Day 1 Rome- Historical stuff- Coliseum, Capitoline Hill, Pantheon, Trevi Fountain, Spanish Steps, Forum and probably crush a museum in this day (maybe the Borgia if I can get a reservation)
Day 2 Vatican and all the pomp and circumstance there, looking for an end of the day something

Day3 Train to Florence- Duomo,Piazza della Signoria , Pallazo Vecchio, San Giovanni Baptistery

Day4 Florence- Uffizzi, Gallerie, Santa Maria del Fiore, Galleria dell' Accademia

Day5- Tuscany - Tour booked with Viaggi Dambra (http://www.viaggidambra.com/eng-home.php) to do Chianti region for wine and Villages (Greve and Volpaia)

Because of the brevity, I am opting to put off Venice for another time.

I have a couple of restaurant picks ( Florence Il Latini (http://www.illatini.com/) and La Bussola (http://www.labussolafirenze.it/home/#)) but still very open to further suggestions.

And because I know you will all ask, I will be traveling with a TriStar and the Co-Pilot my sweet wife bought me for Christmas!

Oh, I've got to get in some recommendations! Dinner near the Spanish Steps @ Il Gabrielo. Best meal my wife and I had in Italy. It's a "splurge" fancy meal, although still nowhere near as pricey as a lot of places. Every single thing we had was perfectly prepared.

In Florence, check out the paper stores Il Torchio and the other one I can't think of right now that's right across from Pitti Palace. If you want well-made leather gloves at a very good value, go to Madova. It's just across Ponte Vecchio. They make stuff for lots of major labels but sell their product under their own name in a small shop. Huge variety of styles and colors.

Badger
03-06-2012, 11:59 AM
Jeff,
You know you can buy tix in advance to most of the places you're going, right? You definitely want to do this (says the person who stood outside the Vatican for FOUR HOURS because she didn't buy ahead). tickitaly.com. Seriously, it will rock your world.

One thing to maybe do is to return to the Capitoline Hill post-Vatican and watch the sunset. It's a little backtracking, but I doubt you'll want to do very much after going through the museums and St. Peter's. I'm a little concerned with your Day 1 itinerary because jet lag is likely to catch up with you, and you'll want to have time to chill with a glass of wine in the Campo del Fiore or visit a market or two to take pictures (and buy crap, natch). If you are planning for the Villa Borghese, I'd definitely suggest saving the Fontana Trevi for Day 2, as well, since it's nice in the day time but really pretty at night.

One thing to try in Rome is a place with a huge antipasto menu. Basically, the antipasti start coming and you eat until you feel like you're going to die. And then they bring pasta. I haven't been to Rome in a few years, but man, those antipasti. Good memories. Oh, and try and get coffee at Cafe Sant'Eustachio. It's near the Pantheon.

Have fun! Did I mention how jealous I am?

jeffmac
03-07-2012, 03:00 PM
Badger,

tickitaly.com

Lifechanging, no sarcasm intended! Thank you so much!

Booked the Vatican tour and bought the Coliseum tix and still playing with the Firenze stuff (sounds so much cooler that way!)

Dumb question...they did not have the early morning tour available so we are on the 11:45 tour. Is there something good that is in or close to the Vatican to do that will likely not be on the 3 hour tour?

Oh dear, I just re-read that last sentence. Gilligan complex.

Autolycus, I will definitely check out Il Gabrielo!

Badger
03-07-2012, 05:08 PM
Is there something good that is in or close to the Vatican to do that will likely not be on the 3 hour tour?

Jeff, glad I could help. Seriously, people in the queue will shoot lasers from their eyes when you walk past them. You, being a good person, will hide your smugness.

Is your tour for just St. Peter's or just the museum, or both? I'd be tempted to go the Vatican Library or to Mass if I had to kill some time--there's usually a separate entrance that you can enter for services (I just checked the parish website for you--it's in Italian--there's a Mass at 10 a.m. in the Chiesa de Sant'Anna). You could also go to the gift shop (which is super nice, btw) or stroll around St. Peter's Square. The other option might be to stay closer to the city center for the early morning, hit up some open air markets (like in the Campo) or stroll through one of the neighborhoods. Trastevere might be a good option. Then you can just hop a bus to the Vatican City. If you're thinking you'd like a midmorning snack or something, I highly advise steering clear of the Vaticano neighborhood. It's really expensive and it's too easy to fall into a tourist trap selling crappy coffee.

One thing to keep in mind is to try to arrive to the Vatican bit early even with the tickets, since it's possible that there may be a short line for ticket-holders. It will save stress and you will likely appreciate having a few minutes just to gawp. I totally strained my neck staring at the HUGE statue of St. Helena. I wasn't right for days, and it was worth it.

Frank II
03-07-2012, 05:09 PM
In Florence, make sure you get reservations for the Uffizi and Accademia or you will miss your flight home waiting to get in.

Badger
03-07-2012, 05:13 PM
To clarify my last point: Sant'Anna is not IN St. Peter's. It is the parish church of the Vatican City. It's very nice, and loaded with marble and religious (duh) frescoes. I doubt as many people will be there, so that could be a nice stop to prime the pump for the Holy See.

jeffmac
03-20-2012, 04:07 PM
OK, on the plane for Frankurt now so literally just days away at this point! Roma on Friday! Any suggestions on the perfect pizza there?

Thanks everyone for all the input !

jannilee
03-20-2012, 07:15 PM
Not pizza, but possibly the best gelato in the universe is at Via Principe Euggenio 65 - Fassi is the name of the place. Huge servings and yummy flavours. Also recmmend Church of Santa prassede near Maria Majiore. Fabulous 9th century mosaics and seldom visited. Have fun!

Badger
03-20-2012, 08:45 PM
best gelato in the universe

Them's fighting words, jannilee ;). Jeff, you'll also have to check out Giolitti and report back. Hell, have gelato everywhere.

In the Vaticano neighborhood (not Vatican City) you could check out L'Isola Della Pizza. Isle of pizza, yes. I wouldn't say it's the best by any means, but it's tasty and dependable, with a wood-fired grill if you would prefer a steak to pizza.

Oh, and the name is stupid, but check out the Eataly chain of food shops. You can eat in many of them, or pick up good picnic fixings.

JLE
03-20-2012, 10:00 PM
If you or your wife like clothes and you have any spare time in Firenze (not likely, give your schedule! :)), a trip to the designer outlets could provide some variety from all the magnificent culture and history you will be absorbing. They are located a short distance outside the city.

I have stayed in Chianti a number of times over the years - it is quite stunning and a place I plan to return to often. If you like food and wine, you will probably wish you had longer there! In fact, I am sure you will leave Italy with plans to return. It is such a richly textured, hugely diverse place.

Have a wonderful trip!

Frank II
03-20-2012, 10:32 PM
For everything Rome:

Ron in Rome! | Assistance, Coaching, & Thoughts on Visiting & Living in Rome! (http://www.roninrome.com/)

Franco
03-22-2012, 08:03 AM
If you're looking for excellent pizza then "dar poeta" in Trastevere is the place to go (vicolo del bologna n. 45), make sure you take some time for a walk around the streets of Trastevere in the evening, I 'm sure you'll have a great time there.

If you feel like walking some more you can cross Ponte Sisto and get to Campo de' Fiori (5 minutes walk from Piazza Trilussa in Trastevere).

Do whatever you want during the day, but don't miss trastevere in the evening...

jeffmac
03-30-2012, 11:13 PM
Oh, I've got to get in some recommendations! Dinner near the Spanish Steps @ Il Gabrielo. Best meal my wife and I had in Italy. It's a "splurge" fancy meal, although still nowhere near as pricey as a lot of places. Every single thing we had was perfectly prepared.



Autolycus we did il Gabrielo for dinner and it was meraviglioso! Thank you so much for the tip!!

jeffmac
03-30-2012, 11:20 PM
Jeff, glad I could help. Seriously, people in the queue will shoot lasers from their eyes when you walk past them. You, being a good person, will hide your smugness.

One thing to keep in mind is to try to arrive to the Vatican bit early even with the tickets, since it's possible that there may be a short line for ticket-holders. It will save stress and you will likely appreciate having a few minutes just to gawp. I totally strained my neck staring at the HUGE statue of St. Helena. I wasn't right for days, and it was worth it.

Badger, great suggestions that I greatly benefitted from!

Posted my day's path through Rome here (http://restlesstech.com/roma-day-2/).

Thanks to everyone for the great suggestions and I will be getting the Florence and Tuscany portions posted in the next couple of days.

LegalNomads
05-19-2012, 08:20 AM
Hi Jeff! I just got back from a few weeks in Italy. For pizza, I've been recommended Pizzeria Dar Poeta - Vicolo del Bologna, 45 - try with their super-buffalo cheeses. That's what we're missing in N. America - the freshmilk deliciously pillowy buffalo! If you're there (it's in Trastevere) you can wander over to Fior di Luna Via Lungaretta, 96 for gelato. They use all natural ingredients, based on whatever's in season. Incredible stuff. In Florence, I did a food & wine tour with Walks of Italy, which was great (I only had a few days in the city so it seemed the wisest option) and I'd recommend trying out Cibreo for restaurants (Ristorante Cibreo (http://www.edizioniteatrodelsalecibreofirenze.it/index.php?option=com_content&view=section&id=12&Itemid=2)).

Other pizza option is RIGHT near the Termini station in Rome (really convienient) - Meid in Nepols - Via Varese, 54. They're lunch and dinner, closed Sundays and in between the two meals. It's a new restaurant, but it's got terrific pizza, homemade pastas and their roasted artichoke was incredible. Sharing encouraged ;)

-Jodi