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Travel to Italy

Discussion in 'Off The Beaten Track' started by Angelskates, May 30, 2012.

  1. Tinami Amori

    Tinami Amori Well-Known Member

    Hallo Angel,
    (My “comments” will be in Blue, my “questions” will be in Red).
    (I may switch between “names of places” from English, to Italian, to “Russian translit as we pronounce it in Russian”…. It’s too hard to keep track of language when typing foreign names).

    I think the list of tours and day trips provided by your friend’s tour-agent is excellent, and covers all the sites and locations that are worth seeing and visiting. Of course, a lot depends on how the tour/trip itself is organized and handled, the size of the group, the knowledge of the guide, the time allocation to each element, etc.

    I would not be able to evaluate the quality of the listed tours by data given below. I have not been on an organized tour more than 2x in my life, and each time I went (for sake of my travel companions) – I’ve suffered, since traveling in groups, being time-restricted, and “led from place to place” is not pleasant for me.

    However, there are big advantages in joining organized tours:
    - such as convenience of pre-arranged transportation between hard to reach and/or distant locations.
    - Quality commentary and historic narrative by a professional guide (vs. reading a guide-book).
    - Priority access and hard-to-buy tickets into sights and attractions which otherwise may take hours to enter, or require very advance planning and purchase.
    - And last but for many people not least – security of traveling in a group, and temporary companionship of other tourists.

    If “traveling in a group” and “time constraints in each place” is an issue, there is a solution: One can always stay through the tour, and during or after the tour, leave the group and continue to walk on his/her own (in the museum, historic site, park or villa).

    Any historic site that is open to public, both groups and single-entry visitors, allows a person from the group, to continue his/her sight-seeing alone without the group.

    The only 2 sights that limit time inside and require one to stay with the group, as far as I know (in Italy), are the “Last Supper”/Milan, and Sistine Chapel/Vatican. All other places – leave the group if you like, stay till closing time.

    So keep that option in mind, in case “being dragged through a museum too quickly” or some other site is a concern.

    Also take into consideration “how” you want to enjoy a specific site, location, architecture, art work…. Do you want to be on your own and enjoy it through the prism of your own knowledge, perception, emotions….? Or do you want “specific information” about the leading events, the history of a place, the artists, their motivations, the meanings behind it all….. ?

    For example, let’s take P-za Navona, a “must see” in Rome. Navona has a lot of things going there…. 3 Bernini fountains, several pieces of historic architecture, many side-walk cafes and out-door restaurants (some were featured in many famous movies), and a plaza FULL of street artists and painters with their own art-stands…. So what do you want to do? Listen to history behind Bernini fountains and then move on to the next location? Or read up on the fountains in a tour-book, and enjoy the atmosphere, have a cup of coffee, people-watch, check out the works of the street artists? Not to mention the small narrow streets to and from P-za Navona are quite charming and interesting……

    So, here are my 2-cents on the listed tours (the ones I like by the basic info listed).

    • Tour“1 “AM or PM – IN THE HEART OF ROME– (Morning, 3 hrs approx)
    St. Peter’s Square ( visit inside), Navona Square, Pantheon (inside visit ), Trevi Fountain

    I personally think 3 hrs is not enough time to see St. Pete’s, Navona, Pantheon and Trevi Fountain. Trevi is 5 blocks from your hotel. It is also wonderful at night, and you can read up the history of it in 2 paragraphs. But it is not a bad “in-nut-shell” tour….

    • Tour “2” PM – ANCIENT ROME - (Afternoon 3 hrs approx)
    Colosseum ( visit inside), Roman Forum ( inside visit ), Palatine Hill ( inside visit )

    • Tour“2 B”PM – COLOSSEUM AND THE ETERNAL ROME – Walking tour (Afternoon, 2,30/3 hrs approx ) Colosseum (inside visit ), Palatin Hill (inside visit ), Roman Forum (inside visit )
    This sounds like a very good tour, and 3 hours is enough. But don’t you already have “Roma Pass” which gives you entry to Colosseum and Roman Forum? (I am not sure).

    • Tour “3” AM - VATICAN MUSEUMS, SISTINE CHAPEL & ST. PETER’S BASILICA – (Morning, 4h00 hrs approx) Vatican Museums (visit inside), Sistine Chapel(visit inside), St. Peter’s Basilica (visit inside)

    This sounds like a good tour. 4 hrs is MINIMUM one can spend seeing most of Vatican main attractions. If what you see is not enough, you can always a) stay behind in Vatican Museum/Sistine Chapel, and then enter St. Pete’s after, it is free entry at any time.
    (I would not take the afternoon Vatican tour, if you want to stay longer, you’ll be up against closing times. And I would not take “Vatican tours” which are listed @ 3 hours total – not enough time).

    But I do recommend at least 1 tour in Vatican area which guarantees you tickets into Vatican Museum/Sistine Chapel, which are otherwise very hard to get.

    • Tour “4” – CHRISTIAN ROME & CATACOMBS (Afternoon, 3 hrs approx)
    Basilica of St John in Lateran (visit inside), Holy Stairs, Catacombs (visit inside) St Mary the Major Basilica (visitinside)

    …….. CATACOMBS and Christian sites…. I don’t know ….. unless you are very interested, on this trip I think they are VERY optional… and may cut into time for other sites. You already have 3 tours for 3 days (Vatican, Ancient Rome, Walking Tour of Famous places) and the 4th day I strongly recommend to go to Tivoli/Haidrian’s Villa (listed below)

    • Tour “5”AM - TIVOLI AND IT’S VILLAS (Morning , 4 hours approx) Villa Adriana, Villa D’Este ( visit inside )

    TAKE THAT ONE! !!!! Tivoli and Haidrian’s villa (or Adriana villa) are worth seeing. Nice 1 day trip out of busy hot Rome, into the hill-site.

    • Tour “8” - ROME BY NIGHT PANORAMIC TOUR (Afternoon 2 hours, approx ) Illuminated Rome by night tour with stop at Trevi Fountain ( walking ), Capitol Hill, Colosseum, Palatine Hill, Janiculum Hill, Castle St. Angelo, St. Peter’s Basilica, Trastevere

    • Tour “9” - ROME BY NIGHT with dinner in ‘TRASTEVERE’ Panoramic tour by bus & dinner in a typical Italian restaurant located in a traditional popular area. Stop at Trevi Fountain ( walking ), Capitol, Colosseum, Palatine Hill, Viale Trastevere, Janiculum Hill, Castle St. Angelo, St. Peter’s Basilica, Trastevere

    NIGHT TOUR is a good Idea, but all depends on how the tour company sets it up. If they drive you on the open top bus and you can sit and enjoy the light play on all ancient buildings – then it is worth it for 2 hours!

    On the other hand…. From your hotel Trevi Fountain (which looks great at night) is 5-6 blocks and there are plenty of people in that area on the streets at night… The other locations look great at night, all light up, but you can see them by walking around..

    I don’t know about tours like “Papal Blessing, Christian Rome, etc”. I would not pay to be led to Papal Blessing. You can lead yourself, on the days when he is there, and just stand in line…… :D.

    I would not do ANY combined tours “Rome Site-seeing AND Vatican/Sistine Chapel” – it will be a RUSH tour.

    • Tour “15“ - ASSISI – PERUGIA or ORVIETO ( 1 day ) Discover the charming, Medieval Assisi, Perugia or Orvieto Once on the bus, the majority of participants will decide if stop in Perugia or Orvieto. Assisi, Perugia or Orivieto are very charming hill-top towns, and maybe a substitution for the day in Tivoli/Haidrian’s Villa, if for some reason you’re not inclined to go to the later.

    - I am not sure (looking at the tour-agent’s list) if what they are offering is a driving trip from Rome to Florence, or the tours below are offered once you’re in Florence?

    - If these are tours once you’re in Florence, then some will suite your purpose.

    - The two “must see” museums in Florence are: Uffizi and Accademia. Others are great but optional during a short visit.

    - The two “must see” Churches are: Duome and Fiesole S. Croce.

    Florence Guided Walking Tours (I prefer walking to buses).

    - I think you are going to be walking, even if the tour states “bus”…… I can not imagine how a BUS can be driven between the listed sites in the Old/Historic Centre. It is simply NOT physically possible to drive a bus on those streets (you’ll see what I mean when you get there), so that means the bus will be driving on main roads around the historic centre….

    I would take walking tours of famous sites (without museums included in that schedule). And separate Museum Visits. And do not take tours which offer lunch, unless it is full-day tour..

    San Lorenzo, Duomo, Piazza Signoria, Ponte Vecchio, Piazza Pitti.

    This one is PERFECT, if the tour ends at Pitti Palace, just buy a ticket and go into Pitti Palace to see if anything – the Boboli Gardens inside the Palace.

    Florence Museum Guided Tours
    - Any of the choices are good! All depends if you want to see 2 museums in the same day.


    Excursions from Florence
    - Also, all sounds good, unless you want to take public transport to Siena one day, and St. Gimignano the next day, and wonder on your own.

    • 3 – SIENA, SAN GIMIGNANO & CHIANTI AREA - Landscape tour

    Outlet Shopping Tours from Florence

    - if you’re interested in Outlet shopping – let me know. It does not require advance planning, but some Discount Outlet Shopping Malls will take a 2-hour bus ride going up north. EVERYTHING THERE IS STILL EXPENSIVE.
    - If you’re in Florence – many street vendors sell great leather goods right inside the Old centre, for reasonable prices.

    Dinner and Show in Florence

    - I don’t know anything about those arrangements. Dinner and music may be fun….. Historic theme dinner in a palace maybe fun…..

    In conclusion on Florence, I have questions:
    - Do you want info on how to get to Siena and/or St. Gimignano on your own? I recommend seeing both places 1 day each, not all in 1 day.
    - Do you want Uffizi and Accademia Museum web-site so that you can order tickets on-line and go on your own?


    Two walking tours of Venice (given on your lists)- Both tours are great! And will occupy both of your days VERY productively.
    - Since the first tour is less than 2 hours, and does not provide tickets inside the Museums and main Attractions, you can take the walking tour, and 2nd part of the day buy tickets and go inside the main attractions.
    - The “tourist must sees” are: Galleria Accademia (next to your hotel), San Marco Basilica, The Doge’s Palace/Ducale.

    - The trip of the local Lagoon Islands is a great trip…..

    QUESTION: do you want websites on how to get tickets? Or will you enjoy Venice by walking? One can enjoy Venice just by walking around….. without going inside of any paid venues…. All churches (except St. Marco Basilica) have free entry when open to public.

    So, to sum-up Rome, Florence and Venice:
    Some tours are worth taking.

    Do you want web-sites to museums in Florence and Venice to go on your own? Or have you made up your mind on going on a tour with a group?

    Once you reserve the tours, and still want my advise, I can make suggestions how to allocate your time between the remaining attractions and areas not covered by tours.

    (Next section will be on Sorrento/Capri/Amalfi Area, which is not covered in the above).
  2. Tinami Amori

    Tinami Amori Well-Known Member

    So, the last segment not yet covered – Naples/Sorrento/Amalfi/Capri. At the end of your stay in Roma you’ll be getting on a train to Naples

    … and this is about the right time to use few clichés about Petty Crime in Italy, in Naples, in crowded tourist places and while using trains and public transport - aka: pick-pocketing, luggage-purses-jewelry snatching, money exchange and other minor swindles.

    Cliché 1: Petty crime is not specific only to Italy, but in Italy it exists on a notable level.
    Cliché 2: Petty crime in Italy is not specific only to Naples, but in Naples it is slightly higher than in other major areas (in-spite of official government statistics which try to dispute this fact).
    Cliché 3: Petty crime is not specific to train stations/trains, bus-stops/buses, busy tourists spots, but those are the areas where it commonly occurs, and with greater ease, due to many factors.

    Most travelers know the basics: keep money and passport in a pouch inside your clothes, wear over-the-shoulder purse, don’t let your foto-camera lay loose or on a thin string, don’t take out the whole wallet, have small bills ready, don’t wear expensive looking jewelry when on public transport or stations, don’t leave luggage unattended, be discreet with information with strangers, trust your instincts, etc..

    But, because the above information is now so easily available on many travel websites, and most travelers do take is seriously, the petty criminals are getting wiser and their schemes become more elaborate. It’s no longer young Italian lads on Vespas who yank your purse, or bare-footed boys who surround you while one is aiming his hand at your pocket, and it’s not longer just “Italians”.

    There are many variations of schemes and schemers… :D. Women or men, dressed as wealthy tourists or business travelers, with suitcases or briefcases, who may sit next to you and strike a conversation. They maybe after your luggage or purse, waiting for you to let your guard down; they have accomplices, they will not be the ones to run off with your stuff, they will keep on a pleasant conversation maintaining an eye-contact with you to make sure your head is facing them, while their partner slowly pulls away your bag or purse from the other side.

    They may simply ask you to “exchange just a small, maybe 5 or 10 euro bill” and give you a counterfeit.

    There are older children and teen-agers pretending to be lost or in some kind of distress, or starting a fight under your nose …….. There are adults wearing what looks like a uniform (which may very well be some old obsolete uniform) who will try to sell you the use of a luggage cart for 1 euro (while carts are free in most train stations and uniforms), or some other ticket or service logical to the venue or location, but it is a fake….. There are “taxi cab callers” who will appear official, but will lead you to a car that is not an official taxi cab, and you have to guarantee of a fair rate…

    Just remember, at a train station, for example, it is enough for you to let go of your luggage handle for 2 minutes and turn away 180-degrees, and you suite-case may be gone.

    Any time you feel that a disturbance around you is unusual, and/or is created for the purpose of taking away your attention – trust your judgment and stay put and calm.

    Practically ALL tickets/tokens for local public transport are sold at newspaper stands, kiosks, tobacco counters located in a terminal or close to the terminal or a bus-stop. Do not buy “tickets/tokens” from private individuals.

    While on a train, try to use rest-room at least 30 minutes before arrival to the next stop, so that you can return to your sit and check if your suite-case is in place. Suite-case snatchers usually grab a suite-case 3-5 minutes before the train arrives to the station, so they ran with it as soon as the doors open.

    Don’t let the thoughts of petty crime dominate the enjoyment of your vacation, BUT do take minimal precaution…. Italy is not a war zone, but Italy, especially Naples area, is known for it’s petty crime incidents.

    And so now you’ve arrived ex Rome to Naples Central/Garibaldi Square.
    The hotel website (the one you booked) posted excellent instructions how to get from Naples Central Train station to the hotel/Sorrento.
    Train: Inside the station you will find the local line, actually a “metro” rather than “train”, "CIRCUMVESUVIANA”. Trains towards Sorrento leave 1 every hour. Just take the escalator and directions towards “Visuviana” or “Circumvisuviana” (I forgot how the signs look).
    From Sorrento metro-stop, you may either catch a taxi, or public bus-direction Sant'Agata. There is a bus that runs from Sorrento business centre up the hill where your hotel is. Hotel website states the same.
    So, now you have this one after-noon, and 3 full days, which you’ll use (in any order) for Pompeii, Amalfi Coast, Capri, and use this and other afternoons to explore Sorrento, which (the best of) can be easily seen in 1 or 2 afternoons.
    Just familiarize yourself in advance with a basic map of central Sorrento. Your hotel will have all this, the maps, the local bus and boat time-tables, and even offers of day-trips or excursions.
    Here is the map of Central Sorrento, your hotel is to the left, up Via Capo.
    A Note: The “business town centre” of Sorrento is up the hill. The tourist section, where all the nice walks along the Sorrento cliffs are, all the shops, restaurants, and promenade walking areas is down below near the entry to the Port Marina Piccolo.
    All the “touris fun” starts down towards the water from the intersection of Corso Italia and Via Correale, which is Piazza Tasso.
    Few notes on “souvenirs” and how authentically Italian they are. In case you already know all this, skip the next few paragraphs.
    There famouse “sovenirs” of Sorrento, besides lemons, and lemon-liquiore, are: a) Marquetry/wood inlay pictures, boxes, plaques. b) Cermaics called “de-rutta” (lossley, since de-rutta ceramics come from another area near Florence) or “majolica” which is produced in towns along the Amalfi coast.
    MAKE SURE that “small pieces” of touristy majolica ARE NOT made in China, because they are…. :D. (Same with small-size touristy “Murano” Glass souvenirs in Venice).
    The silk scarfs, “copies” of Armani, Gucci and other designes, some with “Sorrento Lemons” around the borders which are sold on the streets or in tourist shops for 5-10 Euro, on the stands next to post-cards – are made in Indonesia or Sri-Lanka…
    Small and large “a-la-baroque” tapestries, sold as pillow-covers, or wall hangings – are made in factories in suburbs of Brussels… and there is no guarantee that now they are not “made in China” as well.
    Any souvernirs that are made in Italy, or in Italy by hand, cost more, and are visibily of better quality. But be careful of “hand-made” label too; the item can be very well machine-made, and the only “hand-made” element are two strokes of “red paint” on the edge… technically it is “hand-made”….. :D.
    Again, if you know all this, sorry for redundancy. But I hate this aspect of globalization. National souvenirs should be made localy, not cheaply over-seas..

    You have three options:
    - Go by yourself, by Circumvisuviana Train. Once there either walk around the grounds on your own, or join an English-language official tour sold at the entrance to Pompeii.
    - Take a pre-arranged tour with transportation and guide on site, and back.
    - Take a pre-arranged tour, but stay behind to walk the grounds on your own after the end of tour, and get back to Sorrento on the train/bus.
    If you do not require a guided tour, getting to Pompeii on your own is very easy. There will be many many other tourists on the train with you this time of the year.

    - Trains leave about 1 per hour. It takes 45-50 minutes from Sorrento to final stop for Pompeii. You will need to do 1 transfer, I believe. Here is the map of the routes, and where to transfer to Pompeii line. Exit at POMPEII SCAVI stop, and the entry into Pompeii grounds right across the street.
    - You’ll buy ticket @ the entrance into Pompeii, buy a good guide book if you don’t have one, and you’re set. If you do not want to buy a book, or carry a book, DO BUY A MAP OF THE GROUNDS (or print one out on line). You will be given a basic map with main attractions at the entrance, but it is very basic, a brochure, not much more.
    - Do make a note which entrance into Pompeii you’ve entered, and exit from the same one. There are several entrances/exits in Pompeii, and the territory is large. You want to exit from Pompeii from gates that are next to train station.
    Or take a guided tour with transportation:
    - ON Tour. Viator can arrange your trips to Pompeii, around Amalfi Coast, and a combo trip Pompeii & Naples.
    My only reservation going an organized tour to Pompeii is limitation of time and freedom of movement, since you have to keep up with the group.
    One can easily spend 5-6 hours walking around Pompeii territory, and most tours are only 3 to 4 hours. It is nice to know what you’re looking at and what certain buildings are, and having a tour guide has advantages, plus company of other people, which is nice if you’re travelling alone, but with a good tour-guide book or some-one’s log, which you can get on-line for free, you may not need a guide.
    I recommend you take a sandwich or lunch and water/juice. Food inside Pompeii is either “junk food” sold at few kiosks, or expensive at a nice sit-down restaurant on the West-North end.
    There are MANY houses on Pompeii grounds, which are still “standing houses” and you can go INSIDE many of them. You can find one which has something to sit on and take your lunch inside an ancient Roman house.

    (next section will be Amalfi Coast and Capri)
  3. zhenya271

    zhenya271 Active Member

    When in Rome, I would recommend Giolitti for gelato - everyday! They have the best flavors and I would never want to waste my calories on any other gelateria ever again. There are so many flavors to choose from it is a bit overwhelming, plus you can't but help want a repeat of the flavors you love. Fortunately, no matter which size cone or cup you get, you still get 3 different scoops to choose. It's popular with tourists and locals alike, we found the best time to go was around lunchtime. When on vacation, why not a little dolce before your main meal?:)
  4. Tinami Amori

    Tinami Amori Well-Known Member

    (continue....... Amalfi Coast ride/visit).

    Same idea as with Pompeii – take an arranged guided tour, or go on your own.

    - the tour offered by Viator, covers transportation and visit to 3 locations: Ravello, Amalfi Town, Positano.


    - It would be somewhat difficult to cover all 3 locations in one day on a bus. But 2 locations, Amalfi and Positano, can easily be done.

    SITA system and other buses leave Sorrento central bus stop (near train station) every 20-30 minutes.

    Your hotel should have the bus-schedule, but if not, here are few websites.

    It’s best to start early in the morning, go as far as Amalfi Town, see Amalfi for 2-3 hours, take lunch there, take bus back towards Sorrento, get out in Positano – 2-3 hours in Positano, and bus back to Sorrento. It is truly easier than it sounds.

    And stating the obvious: going ex Sorrento to Positano/Amalfi – you want to grab the window seat on the right side of the driver, all the sea views will be on the right.

    And on the way back, the reverse – grab the window-seat on the left side, behind the driver or any on the driver’s side.

    Flight for those seats if you have to……. :D. Sitting on the window side looking down the cliffs is essential EXPERIENCE of the Amalfi Driver…. :lol:

    Any simple guide-book or internet site about Amalfi Coast will give you info what to see in Amalfi Town and Positano, both places are fairly small and can easily be seen in 2-3-4 hours.

    Amalfi Town has a church right at the entry into Town from the main/beach-front road, you can’t miss it, and then few charming places up the main street which goes up the hill. There are 2-3 side streets, parallel to the main street, they have shops and archway entries into the residential buildings passageways which nestle on the cliffs. To enter one’s home or apartment door, one must walk through a labyrinth of passages cut inside the cliffs. I would walk up few flights to get the “feeling”…

    Positano is basically 1 main street going down about 1 mile (???) from the main road up on the hill down to the water. It is lined with shops and restaurants. Towards the beach there will be few streets branching off to the sides and many souvenir and ceramic shops. At the bottom of the road, just before the beach, there are several sea-view restaurants and eateries. A walk on the beach and taking fotos of Positano hills from the beach is one of the main attractions. There is a Church, and few nice hill-side walks.
    That's about it in Positano itself.... There are few grottos and sites outside of Positano, but you would need a car.

    (next Capri......)
  5. Angelskates

    Angelskates Well-Known Member

    TA - is it necessary to book all these things in advance? (I do have a Roma Pass, by the way). I'm really, really busy at work at the moment, and emotional and physically exhausted by some things going on here. Just reading your post has made me tired and worried that I don't have time to get everything done!

    I haven't even thought about packing yet either :(
  6. Tinami Amori

    Tinami Amori Well-Known Member

    Oy! We certainly don’t want planning something as pleasant as travel to become a source of frustration…. :lol:

    Let’s see…… One thing I have to say: Even if you don’t take 1 single tour, or enter once single museum or a historic building or a site – just walking and looking around in most parts of Italy is a rewarding experience.

    Let’s sum up your trip:

    - You have 20 full days; you wanted to see the major attractions in Rome, Amalfi/Sorrento/Capri, Florence, Tuscany, Venice, Milan/Lakes; we already eliminated Sicilia and Ice Show in Dolmatine Mountains.

    - You are left with the following segments and attractions you wanted to see, some of which most certainly can be seen ON YOUR OWN without a pre-arranged tour; few of them DO need a pre-arranged tour, since tickets are hard to buy; and few of them do NOT need a tour at all – you can walk there and see it on your own.

    Rome: You have 4 full days. Allocated as following (in any order).

    a) Vatican/St. Peter’s Basilica/Square
    - Vatican Museum (Sistine Chapel) – You DO NEED to sign up for a Tour, or it will be difficult or impossible to buy tickets; if you don’t sign up for the tour - you will have to stand in line very early IF there are any tickets for the given day (and there maybe no tickets).
    - St. Peter’s Basilica (the Church of Vatican) and St. Peter’s Square – you can easily go in on your own, when it is open to public (and it is open to public most of the days and time).

    However, since most tours include both, Vatican Museum AND St. Peter’s Basilica, it’s up to you, if Vatican Museum is THAT important to you to see….. You will be able to go inside the Church without a tour.

    b) Art/Fountains/Plazas/Architecture - Major outdoor sites vs. a Walking Tour – Do not need a tour. You can walk to them.

    P-za Spagnia (Spanish Steps), Tervi Fountain, P-za Navona/Bernini Fountains, Pantheon, Campo Di Fiori (Flower Market), Villa Borghese Park and Grounds, Triton Fountain, Isola Tiberia, Old Jewish Ghetto, Monumento Vittorio Emmanuello, Campodollio, Palatine Hill, Banks of Tiber River and Beautiful Bridges …… ALL can be easily reached, visited and ENJOYED simply by walking there without a tour. If you want “history” – you can read a guide book.

    c) Ancient Rome: Colosseum, Roman Forum, Baths of Caracula – If your RomaPass allows entry (check it again), you don’t need a tour to enter the sites. If you don’t need “history” and have a guide book, or without a guide book, you’ll be fine on your own.

    d) 1 day trip out of Rome (if you want one) – To Tivolli/Villa De Este/Villa Hadriana.

    I recommend you taking a tour strictly for purpose of EASE OF TRANSPORTATION. You can take public bus (a hotel clerk will easily show you where the buses to Tivoli leaver from) to Tivoli/Villa De Este, but without a car it will be hard to also see Villa Hadriana.

    You can enjoy Rome without any pre-arranged tours because there is plenty to see just by walking around.

    You can easily (except for Vatican tickets) reach all the major places on your own.

    You can make some tour arrangements when you get to Rome, but there is not guarantee what dates and times will be available during your 4 day stay.

    You can either take time and plan now, or you will have to take time and plan when you get there but then you are taking a chance, or not plan at all and just see where your feet will take you!

    (read my info in the previous post – you’ll see clearly which “tour” vs. “on-your-own” options you have.

    - Sorrento – you don’t need a guide. Tourist area is small, easily covered in 2 after-noons.

    - Amalfi Coast/Pompeii - The only reason to reserve pre-arranged tours for Amalfi Coast and Pompeii – is CONVENIENCE OF TRANSPORTATION. Otherwise you can easily reach these places by local transport.

    - Capri Island - does not require a tour. Your just take a boat from Sorrento to Capri – and walk around Capri. By a small guide “walking tours of Capri” at any gift shop at Capri Port (Marina Grande) – take the Tram up the hill – and start walking to all the sites you find interesting.

    FLORENCE/TUSCANY – 4 full days (2 for Florence, 2 for Tuscany Towns/returning to Florence).

    2 days in Florence – Same as Rome, you can easily spend 2 days just walking around the Old Town, looking at architecture, status, fountains, bridges, go inside the Duomo and other Churches.

    Buy a “walking tours/major sites” guide book, or find one on-line, and you will not need a guide.

    Duomo may have a long line, most other churches probably will not.

    Museums: Uffizi and Accademia – you will need tickets if you don’t take a tour.
    Get them on line:

    Commercial site, where you can buy ALL tickets.

    Official Museum sites
    Uffizi – Accademia

    2 days in Tuscany Towns – St. Gimignano and Sience – you do NOT need a pre-arranged tour IF you’re willing to take buses, there and back. The buses are direct. The trains are not – each destination requires a 1-time transfer.

    Any hotel will give you info where to take buses to those two towns. Take a bus – get out – walk up the hill – and you’re inside St. Gimignano one day, and Siena the other day.

    Buy a “walking tours/major sites” guide book, or find one on-line, and you will not need a guide.

    VENICE – 2.5 days – same as all other places – You can enjoy Venice just by walking around and seeing major attractions, some just from the outside: San Marco Place, Rialto Bridge, Boat-Bus on Grand Canal, Church S.M.D.L. Salute, Several major Churches, Jewish Ghetto, Narrow Streets and Small Canals, etc.

    You would want to buy tickets in advance to: San Marco Church, Duke’s Palace/Casanova Prison, Accademia Museum, Ca’ D’Or (Palace Museum), Ca Rezonica (Palace Museum).

    Galleria Accademia

    Site for all tickets in Venice, Venice-Pass/Card (for museums and transport).

    You can take a regular bus-boat to Islands of Murano (Glass Art), and Burano (Lace Art) on your own and see both Islands in 4-5 hours.

    Let me know if you need more clarifications, or additional info.

    And don’t worry! You’re taking a wonderful trip and all difficulties will be forgotten once you will land in beautiful Italia!

    :D. (but that’s not all, do read below)

    When you have time, please read what entries you will have and how to use ROMA-PASS. Make sure it covers all the places you want to see:

    • Free entry to the first 2 visited museums and / or archaeological sites of your choice. Free admission includes the exhibition held in the museum.
    • Concessionary ticket to all other museums and / or archaeological sites visited thereafter. The concessionary ticket includes the exhibition held in the museum.
    • Free use of the city’s public transport network. Valid until midnight of the third day inclusive that of the first validation for ATAC public transport (bus, metro and railway lines Roma -Lido, Roma Flaminio Piazza del Popolo-Viterbo, Roma-Giardinetti), within the territory of the Municipality of Rome. All special connections tpl Atac, the railway lines Trenitalia FR, the connection Tiburtina/Termini/Fiumicino airport, the connection Trenitalia “No stop” Roma Termini-Fiumicino Aeroporto (Leonardo Express) and all connections to and from Fiumicino and Ciampino Aeroporto are not included.
    • Discounted tickets to exhibitions, events and other collaborating operators and businesses.
    • Reduced charges for use of the On-call Multi-lingual Medical Service for Tourists (MET Travel Health)
    • Tourist cultural service Roma Informa.
    At the Coliseum a reserved turnstile is available for Roma Pass holders to get direct access to the monument
    In the kit::
    • The Roma Pass card: the card used to visit museums / archaeological sites and on the public transport system as described above.
    • Roma MAP: A map featuring all the Tourist Information Points, Metro stations, museums and other sites of interest (complete with addresses, tel. no’s opening times and nearest bus stops and metro stations);
    • Roma Pass Guide: The guide to all participating museums and sites;
    • Roma News: a programme detailing all the events and services for tourists offering discounts, divided by type: art, dance, music, theatre, reviews, exhibitions, panoramic tours, as well as tourist services at the Lido in Ostia and MET Travel Health
    • Roma Informa: the card that provides details of how to access information on events and other useful services via internet
    How to use it:
    • The overleaf form must be filled with name, surname and validation date
    • the card is valid for three days and is activated at the time of the first entry to the museums/sites, and/or at the first journey on public transport, up until midnight of the third day, including the day of the activation
    • It is validated on the first visited site/museum and/or the first journey on the city’s public transport network
    • Direct access for the first 2 sites. From the 3rd site onwards please apply to the ticket office for concession;
    • It must be produced along with your identity papers when required by the staff in charge
  7. alilou

    alilou Crazy Stalker Lady

    Hi Angelskates I just discovered this thread! I admit I haven't read it all (or even half of it) but have discovered 2 things - everyone has their own ideas about what's interesting and exciting to see/do (and so of course that's all we can offer), and Tinami is a breathtaking, astonishing fountain of information.

    As I think you know (from my blog) I was in Italy for 7 weeks last year so here's my 2 cents worth:

    There is a mountain of things to see/do in Italy and I would favour seeing fewer places at a leisurely pace than trying to cram everything in. Make sure you plan some days where you have no agenda and can be as lazy as you wish. I don't mean do nothing necessarily, but let the pace of the day unfold itself instead of rushing off to the next thing on the list that you have to see - e.g. take a whole day in Positano just to laze on the beach (as an example). This way you'll feel like you're having a holiday, not just checking things/places off a list.

    Unless you're really interested in the ancient Romans don't bother with the Forum, the Palantine Hill, etc., but do get yourself to the Coliseum - the size of it alone is amazing.

    My absolute fav places in Italy - Cinque Terre, the hill towns of Tuscany (esp San Gimignano, and Orvieto - which is actually in Umbria), and Venice. Someone earlier said Venice is not worth more than a day or 2, and both Mr alilou and I completely fell in love with it. Which brings me back to the beginning of this post - all of us who've spent time in Italy have our different fav places. If you get away from the usual tourist haunts Venice is a dream.

    Re the Vatican museums - someone up thread said they were boring and I can see why unless you're really interested in art history, though the building itself is fabulous. We were glad we went , but the highlight was the 13th and 14th century Christian art - I guess because I love this period of European art. The sheer elegance of design, and there's an innocence to it, a sense of connection to their God, an untrammelled trust. At least that's how it is for me anyway.

    Re the Sistine Chapel - If you haven't already please read this that I wrote about it, and see the photos I took so you won't be disappointed. I know you're busy so just scroll down to the part about the Sistine. http://alisonarmstrong.blogspot.ca/2011/11/rome.html (well maybe you don't need to bother - it's just a rant about the crowds so be prepared for that when you get there.)

    And finally - have a wonderful time! Stay present. Enjoy yourself :cheer2:

    ETA just read Tinami's post above and it reminded me - you must go to Burano when you're in Venice. It is absolutely magical.
    Last edited: Jun 12, 2012
  8. Angelskates

    Angelskates Well-Known Member

    Will read through everything tomorrow (I'm seeing Artistry on Ice tonight :cheer2:) but I love to walk, have asked my friend in Rome for help there, and think I'll wait till I get there before making other decisions. My priority at the moment is preparing for my absence from work so I can actually ENJOY my holiday as much as possible.

    Aside from comfortable walking shoes, anything I absolutely need to pack?

    Aside from good cheese, anything I should buy there?
  9. maggylyn

    maggylyn Well-Known Member

    Tinami, you are amazing!

    I'm so excited for Angel's trip from reading your travel guide! :)
  10. fan

    fan Well-Known Member

    guys, i'm also going to italy 15 june - 3 july (so excited!). I've already booked all hotels, vatican & uffizi, but do i need to book the intercity buses ahead of time too?
    here's my itinerary:
    15-19 june rome
    20,21 june siena
    22-24 june florence
    25-26 june lucca
    27-28 june cinque terre
    29-1 july - viareggio (beach)
    2 july - rome
  11. milanessa

    milanessa engaged to dupa

  12. acraven

    acraven Well-Known Member

    I like to take a bunch of Zip-Lock bags so I can buy messy foods (pastries! cheese!) and carry them somewhere for a picnic. The last time I was in Italy (1995-ish), a lot of food shops packaged things in paper. I also take some sturdy plastic or lightweight metal eating utensils and a small knife for slicing bread, tomatoes, etc. Be sure you have clothes that will work if you encounter cool, rainy weather. But you're right: comfy shoes are the #1 priority.

    About shopping: A few years ago there was a flurry of warnings in travel magazines about fines levied on tourists who bought counterfeit merchandise. I think it was mainly things like scarves, sunglasses, and leather goods with fake logos bought from street vendors. I don't know whether that enforcement activity is still going on, but the fines were very, very high (some over $1000 US). I think there was also something about being sure you exit cafes/restaurants with a receipt, because local authorities were cracking down on tax evasion by cash-based hospitality businesses. Customers were being stopped as they exited restaurants and fined if they couldn't produce a receipt.

    Italy has traditionally been known for silk and leather goods, folk pottery, glassware (beware imports in Venice as Tinami noted), and Florentine paper, among other things. There are all kinds of wonderful food products, but I have no idea what China's import regulations might say about that. For example, I don't think an individual can bring prosciutto back to the US, and unpackaged food (such as spice from a street market) is a no-no, but canned goods are generally OK. Not sure how you'll fare with cheese.
  13. Angelskates

    Angelskates Well-Known Member

    acraven, I live in the land that makes all that fake stuff and have absolutely zero intention of buying it in Italy when I could buy it (if I wanted to!) so much cheaper here :lol:

    You can pretty much bring anything into China; I brought cheese back from Australia at Christmas. ;) In 10 years, I've never been checked at customs and have rarely actually seen anyone there!
  14. Angelskates

    Angelskates Well-Known Member

    Thanks for the info Allison, I am looking forward to everything a lot, but I am also looking for a break. I need this holiday to be a holiday.

    My mum wrote to me today, "don't stress, enjoy" and that is really what I am aiming for.

    Me, too! Tinami - I have writing to my friend in Rome's travel agent friend to ask some questions about the tours, and also to see if they have trips from Sorrento to Amalfi and Pompeii. I would also like to be somewhat social ;) though I love being alone as well (I'm an introvert!).

    It felt like everyone I know messaged me about this! :lol:
  15. bardtoob

    bardtoob Former Choreographer for Anna Maria Tragikova

    Whatever you do, save yourself all the waiting in line and book one of those tours that includes the ACCADEMIA and UFFIZI because everybody in the world wants to see those places and the line reflects that.
  16. Stefanie

    Stefanie Well-Known Member

    I am going to Italy as well...in October. :) I just can't get over the cost of airfare. It costs nearly $1500 for a direct flight from DC to Rome! :yikes:
  17. skatesindreams

    skatesindreams Well-Known Member

    As am I!
    I've learned so much from reading this thread.
  18. cruisin

    cruisin Banned Member

    If you stay in a hotel with a concierge, have them make a reservation for the larger museums, like the Uffizi and the Academia. Then you go to the advanced sales window and don't have to wait on line (well, at least not much of one).

    Don't miss the Opera del Duomo museum, it is incredible. That is where Donatello's Mary Magdalene is. Also one of Michelangelo's Pietas.

    Best gelatto in Firenze - Vivoli. Next best would be Grom.

    Best restaurant pizza - Baldovino. The pizza with mascarpone, porcini, and truffle oil, is heaven! But rich!

    Best street pizza - Pizza Taglia next to the Swatch store, on the Piazza Del Duomo

    If you can find Andrea Bianchini's shop (it is in the "general" Santa Croce area) - you will have one of the most ecstatic chocolate experiences in your life! If they have it get the balsamic reduction in dark chocolate. Swooning just remembering!

    Go to the Piazzale Michelangelo (on the other side of the Arno) at sunset - breathtaking!

    The climb to the top of the Duomo is with it, amazing views.

    Santa Croce is my favorite church, Michelangelo, Dante, etc. are entombed there.

    The Santa Maria Novella (near the train station) is also a favorite.

    Pitti Palace and the Boboli Gardens behind it.

    Near the Santa Maria Novella is the Mercato Centrale. You can buy food there and eat there. They close early though. but there are butchers, cheese shops, fruit, olive, olive oil, vinegar, all sorts of wonderful shops.

    Around the Mercato Centrale is street after street of vendors. Selling scarves, tee shirts, leather goods, shoes, all sorts of touristy, inexpensive but nice things.

    Something else that's interesting, is the Leather School. You can watch leather good being made and decorated with gold leaf. You can also buy things there.
    It is behind Santa Croce.

    Favorite store for clothing is Stefanel (on Via Calzaiuoli). Great sweaters! Not cheap, but not $$$.
    Last edited: Jun 13, 2012
  19. Angelskates

    Angelskates Well-Known Member

    So, I received a reply from the tour/travel company...

    Are there "priorities" as far as this list? Is 1/2 a day (two hours) in Pompeii enough? From what posters in this thread have said, it's not!! The prices seems little expensive since they don't include a lot except transport...

    They also told me that the Roma Card allows entry to the Colosseum etc but not guided tour...but I don't necessarily need a guided tour...

    Grazie mille!
  20. cruisin

    cruisin Banned Member

    You don't need a guided tour at the Colosseum. But you might want to read up on it before you go. Learn about the building, mechanics, contests and spectacles, etc.

    Is that all you will be doing in Florence? That is not much. San Lorenzo is wonderful, but not as wonderful as Santa Croce or Santa Maria Novella. The Piazza Signorina is at the end of the Ufizzi and the Palazzo Vecchio is there. You should go into both, but you need time. It is the original site of Michelangelo's David. But, the David that is in situ is a replica. The real one is in the Academia. If you are going to the Boboli Gardens, you have to go through the Piazza Pitti, but why not go into the Pitti Palace? Ponte Vecchio is literally an old bridge (ponte=bridge, vecchio=old), it is all gold shops. If you go into one, you've seen them all. Not much variety store to store. It's all 18kt gold, but more $$ than it should be. How long will you be there?

    San Gimignano is a smaller version of Siena. Very cool, but sort of a medieval mall. Will you get to go to any vineyards? We did a wine tasting at Dievole, which is not far form San Gimignano. It was very well done. And they have some wonderful Super Tuscans and Chianti Classicos.
  21. alilou

    alilou Crazy Stalker Lady

    There's big sign boards all the way through the Coliseum giving you as much info as you could possibly want.

    In Florence you must go to the Baptistry (right next to the duomo) and stare at the ceiling - just breathtaking.

    There is a fabulous view of the Arno and Ponte Vecchio from inside the Ufizzi. Ponte Vecchio itself will be so crowded you won't be able to see anything much really except for the breaks in the gold shops where you get to look up and down the river.
  22. Angelskates

    Angelskates Well-Known Member

    I think aside from Rome, everything else I will book when I get there.

    cruisin, wine tasting is not really my thing.
  23. Sylvia

    Sylvia Prepping for club comp. season!

    I spent 3 days in Rome when I was 10 and vividly remember how awed I was touring the city by night. Many thanks and :respec: to Tinami & everyone else who have provided wonderful travel tips -- I'm inspired to travel around Italy someday and will be sure to refer to this thread for planning purposes.

    Angelskates, I hope you have a fabulous vacation and will share your highlights with us afterwards! :)
  24. vesperholly

    vesperholly Well-Known Member

    We did the tour at the Colosseum only because it was a much shorter ticket line.

    IDK if 2 hours in Pompeii is enough, especially if you're interested in Pompeii. We spent probably 5-6 hours there and maybe saw 30% of it? But there's a large part of it that's just "suburban Pompeii" aka house after house that isn't all that important. We didn't do a guided tour, just listened in on other tours, so if you have a tour guide then you might be OK with hitting the highlights. We missed all the plaster casts of bodies (the ones on the ground) but did see the ones that are in the pottery storage area.
  25. milanessa

    milanessa engaged to dupa

    Have a wonderful time, Angelskates! :cool:
  26. Angelskates

    Angelskates Well-Known Member

    Thanks, milanessa! I'm getting extra excited now, but SO much to do before I leave!!

    My friend in Rome has said she can take me on the night tour, so keeping in mind I have a Roma Card - what should I book for Rome?

    Do you think I should book all of the others??
  27. cruisin

    cruisin Banned Member

    I've done the Vatican with and without a tour. It was a private tour, the guide and my family. It was very interesting and educational. More for my family than for me, since I have a very strong background in Renaissance art history. I found, however, that we missed a lot doing the tour. When I did it without a guide, I saw much more, and had the leisure of taking my time. But, that was my second time there. So, for a first time, a tour might be good. Tours will get you in faster, group or private. You can also go on line and book a day and time, then you don't have to wait on line. I don't know why anyone would stand on that long, long line when they can book tickets and print them out on line.
  28. kosjenka

    kosjenka Pogorilaya’s fairy godmother

    You will have amazing time!

    Tinami is a master genius, she helped me a lot last year when I was in Rome.
    I am a little sad that I will not be able to see you Angelskates, since I arrive in Rome on 28th and stay all July.
    So if any you here are there - let me know. I would love to meet skating fan in Rome:)
  29. Angelskates

    Angelskates Well-Known Member

    I leave on Wednesday for ITALY, folks!! I'm really going to Italy :cheer2:

    Here's the proposed schedule, with some of the tours not 100% confirmed yet.

    June 20 arrive in Rome, my friend is collecting me from the airport, and we're probably going to dinner after we drop my stuff off at the hotel!

    June 21 - free day to walk around and see my friend.

    June 22 (afternoon) - Colosseum and the Eternal Rome walking tour, visiting the Colosseum (inside visit ), Palatin Hill and Roman Forum

    June 23 (morning) - Tivoli and its Villas tour, visiting Villa Adriana, Villa D’Este

    June 24 - Vatican Museums, Sistine Chapel and St. Peter's Basilica

    In the free mornings and afternoons, I'll be seeing my friend and walking around. My friend is taking me on a night tour (not a real tour, and friend-led tour!) one night, we'll Trevi Fountain, Capitol, Colosseum, Palatine Hill, Viale Trastevere, Janiculum Hill, Castle St. Angelo, St. Peter’s Basilica, and Trastevere. She'll also take me to Castelli Romani and near the Albano lake, to have dinner there and take me through the very nice narrow streets over there.

    June 25, train from Rome to Naples, train from Naples to Sorrento

    June 26 - fall day Amalfi Coast drive

    June 27 - visiting Pompeii

    June 28 - full day in Capri and Anacapri

    June 30 (morning) take train back to Naples and from Naples to Florence

July 1 - a tour of Medieval and Renaissance Florence (San Lorenzo, Duomo, Piazza Signoria, Ponete Vecchio, and Piazza Pitti, and then visiting the Boboli Gardens

    July 2 - a day in Siena San Gimignana and Chianto Area

    July 5 (morning) take the train from Florence to Venice

    July 5, 6, 7 - Venice

    July 8 (morning) take the train from Venice to Milan, where I will be visiting, and staying with, alhrayth, who will be taking me to Lake Como and Maggiore.

    July 11 - fly back to Beijing

    I'm almost all packed :cheer2:

    kosjenka - come and visit me in China!

    Tinami, thank you so much for all of your help!!

    I'll be blogging about my trip on my normal blog (no special travel blog for me, actually my blog is pretty boring to people who don't know me, it's more to keep those at home up-to-date and save me sending out mass emails).
    Lizziebeth and (deleted member) like this.
  30. cruisin

    cruisin Banned Member

    ^^ Be careful in Rome. There are a lot of pick-pockets and beggars around the Trevi Fountain, other outdoor sites, and in the subways. The pick-pockets are VERY talented, so watch your purse/pockets.

    Alos, I am confused, you have July 1 and 2 scheduled for Firenze and Siena/San Gimignano, then you skip to July 5 to leave for Venice. Will you be in Firenze from the 1st to the 5th? Does that mean you will have 2 days to explore Firenze, beyond the tours?

    An FYI, it's aout 470 steps to the top of the Campanile of the Duomo, but well worth it!