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Mad Cow's Italy trip discussion thread


Where should we go for our trip?  

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17 hours ago, Keerock said:

In no particular order:

staying at Aurilia Residence near The Vatican 

evening tour of Coliseum 

breakfast tour of Vatican

boat ride on Tiber 

day trip to Florence - may stay one night at Hilton Garden Inn

foodie tour still in the works

restaurants/cafes still TBD

we had a great guide in florence that we did 2 foodie, sights type tours with, if you are interested.

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1 hour ago, Chemical X said:
19 hours ago, Keerock said:

In no particular order:

staying at Aurilia Residence near The Vatican 

evening tour of Coliseum 

breakfast tour of Vatican

boat ride on Tiber 

day trip to Florence - may stay one night at Hilton Garden Inn

foodie tour still in the works

restaurants/cafes still TBD

we had a great guide in florence that we did 2 foodie, sights type tours with, if you are interested.

Very interested!  Thanks!

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2 hours ago, Keerock said:

Looks like she's unavailable until 2019 :( 

i spoke to giovanna, she suggested veronica in her absence.  giovanna is not booked, rather she is traveling till 2019 and out of florence.

https://www.toursbylocals.com/TBL/WebObjects/ToursByLocals.woa/1/wo/uAcNnlhegg6unzzbqCatgg/0.37.3.1.16

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16 minutes ago, Chemical X said:

i spoke to giovanna, she suggested veronica in her absence.  giovanna is not booked, rather she is traveling till 2019 and out of florence.

https://www.toursbylocals.com/TBL/WebObjects/ToursByLocals.woa/1/wo/uAcNnlhegg6unzzbqCatgg/0.37.3.1.16

Thanks!  Any recommendations for commuting in the absence of public transportation in Florence?

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11 minutes ago, Keerock said:

Thanks!  Any recommendations for commuting in the absence of public transportation in Florence?

commuting in what regards?  florence is hyper walkable.  all the sights are within 1/2 hour walk.  you wanna eat the food, you gotta walk it off.  unless you mean getting around outside...l

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48 minutes ago, Chemical X said:

commuting in what regards?  florence is hyper walkable.  all the sights are within 1/2 hour walk.  you wanna eat the food, you gotta walk it off.  unless you mean getting around outside...l

My son is in a boot, so walking a bit less doable.

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4 hours ago, Keerock said:

My son is in a boot, so walking a bit less doable.

I'd recommend renting a little electric vehicle to cruise around the city center.  I saw several of them while I was there, small and easy to maneuver around the massive amount of people.

https://www.google.com/search?q=gem+electric+car&source=lnms&tbm=isch&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwil5dKRlfrcAhVFiqwKHe30D1AQ_AUIDCgD&biw=1440&bih=824#imgrc=_

 

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And consider Airbnb, especially if your group is more than four. You’ll need two hotel rooms in that case, very strict about it everywhere, and you’ll get way more space for less. We found great apartments in Florence, Vernazza and Verona, all with AC and washing machines which allowed us to pack much lighter. 

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15 hours ago, Keerock said:

Still debating where we’re staying in Rome.  Any specific locations/hotels that you’d all recommend close to “everything” including transportation?

I am a hotel fan when travelling, but many people, including here, recommend AirBnB.  I have recently come to love Hotel Ponte Sisto.  The location is right across from Trastevere, it is across from a great gelateria and next door is a small supermarket.  Great breakfast room indoors, but they have an amazing internal courtyard for breakfast when the weather is nice, sitting and enjoying.  They also have a roof top lounge, with happy hour every night ($15- pp).  With the market, you can hop in and buy some drinks, snacks and sundries.  Very walkable location (I know - Boot).  I have also enjoyed the Hotel Rex, not as great location, but pricing, comfort and cleaniless is spot on and we are pretty particular.  A/C is top notch, a big reason why I avoid AirBnB, Italians just don't do A/C like we do.

When you are in Rome, with your son in a boot, I recommend even more the 4 hour golf cart tour.  There is some walking, but the golf cart is pretty awesome.

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41 minutes ago, Chemical X said:

I am a hotel fan when travelling, but many people, including here, recommend AirBnB.  I have recently come to love Hotel Ponte Sisto.  The location is right across from Trastevere, it is across from a great gelateria and next door is a small supermarket.  Great breakfast room indoors, but they have an amazing internal courtyard for breakfast when the weather is nice, sitting and enjoying.  They also have a roof top lounge, with happy hour every night ($15- pp).  With the market, you can hop in and buy some drinks, snacks and sundries.  Very walkable location (I know - Boot).  I have also enjoyed the Hotel Rex, not as great location, but pricing, comfort and cleaniless is spot on and we are pretty particular.  A/C is top notch, a big reason why I avoid AirBnB, Italians just don't do A/C like we do.

When you are in Rome, with your son in a boot, I recommend even more the 4 hour golf cart tour.  There is some walking, but the golf cart is pretty awesome.

Thanks GB!  Ponte Sisto must be really nice... all booked up :( 

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1 hour ago, Keerock said:

Thanks GB!  Ponte Sisto must be really nice... all booked up :( 

If you are not looking for a traditional hotel, I have stayed here.  http://www.locandanavona.com/en/

They have about 5-6 rooms on 1 floor of an old building about 2 blocks from Piazza Navona.

Here is my TA review to better understand............perhaps my experience was an outlier?

Pros & Cons here make this an average stay for me and a buyer beware situation.
Stayed recently 2 nights in late May 2016 (Friday & Saturday). I look for clean, nice shower and air conditioning, coupled with location and sleeping ability. This is 1 floor in an older building (walk up 2 flights of stairs, no elevator), blocks away from Piazza Navona, located above a bustling and noisy square. Once inside the hotel door, you are in a small waiting area with reception desk. Check in is OK, but know that this is not your standard full service hotel. Small staff, friendly and helpful. Our room, I believe #105 had a great view, with 2 Juliet balconies. The balconies opened and let the noise in, but once closed, the noise proof balcony doors silenced all street level noise. The a/c was dynamite, likely the best one I've encountered in Rome. Bathroom was clean and shower was top notch, with fantastic water pressure. Really, no issues with the room. The rub is that the hotel (or maybe just room #105) is located directly below the Capitolina KAV , which appears to be some type of German boarding school or residence for students. On Friday evening around midnight and until 4a we heard constant dragging of wood furniture across the floors. Almost like someone was dragging a desk or chairs constantly. On Saturday, there was some type of raging kegger party, complete with wall thumping music and loudly singing students (almost like being in a soccer stadium). Coupled with the once again wood dragging, we didn't get to sleep until around 4a. The hotel can't control this and when we asked what the story the next morning, we got the typical Italian "I don't know of this situation" look. We paid cash for a small discount. Checkout is 10a. Breakfast not included, but the room is equipped with coffees, teas and minor food items. Instead, walk outside next door to the coffee bar and grab some cheap eats, which are quite inexpensive.

I would say the room was nice and the location great, but being unable to actually sleep in the room was an issue for me. Once again, its not the outside noise, which the room filters wonderfully, rather, it's interior noise from upstairs that the hotel can't control. Maybe this was just a random occurrence, but it makes me a bit buyer beware. In room Wi-Fi came up quickly and I was able to make a connection but, either speed was way off or my device struggled, I had a hard time actually surfing the web.

I wouldn't stay here again and, for me, will likely look to stay at a hotel that can control the interior surroundings (i.e. a hotel that has multiple floors or is stand alone).

Edited by Chemical X
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  • 2 weeks later...

Just returned from a really nice trip to Italy (Rome/Florence).  This was a make-a-wish trip for my son.  He is struggling a little getting around (wearing a boot) which made things a bit difficult.  We really couldn't just "walk" places we wanted to go very easily, so needed taxis often (which were not cheap or, many times, easy to find).  That being said, we really did do a lot!

Happy to answer any questions, but highlights are:

Rome:

  • So many cool, historical things to see.  Some of the things we enjoyed most:
    • Vatican.  Unreal.  We did the breakfast tour which I would highly recommend.  Seeing everything is tough enough, but having a guide that can throw in info and other tidbits made it that much better.  Breakfast was also quite good... an "American" breakfast.
      • My son got a special blessing from a priest in the Sistine Chapel.
      • We also stayed after the nearly 3 hour tour to visit the crypts and my two oldest boys and I climbed to the top of San Pietro (St Peters)... 500+ steps
    • Trevi Fountain
      • Impressive both in daylight and lit up at night
      • Go early morning to avoid crowds, but be aware it gets cleaned MWF from 8-9am
    • Spanish Steps
      • Missed it at night (lit up), but still cool during the day.
      • Chestnut vendor had massive nuts :D
    • Pantheon
      • Amazing that this building still stands today.
    • Coliseum 
      • We did the night tour, which I would highly recommend.  All lit up and basically empty - no tourists.
      • Tour also included Roman Forum, Capitoline Hill, Piazza Venezia and Trajan's Column
  • Our hotel (apartment) was arranged and paid for by the wish organization, so we had no say in it. 
    • Unfortunately it was not ideal for several reasons
      1. It was in the San Pietro area which is pretty well removed from everything except the Vatican
      2. On a one-way street which was under construction.  Made driving, let alone walking, very difficult
      3. Not a clean or new place by any stretch
      4. Hotel staff was awesome, though!
    • Next time, we will try to stay around either the Pantheon, Trevi Fountain or Spanish Steps if possible.
  • Food
    • So very many restaurants in and around Rome... especially near the more "touristy" areas.  We avoided the places that had waiters out front trying to lure you in.  We tried to go off the beaten path to eat, found some nice places and some great food.  Spent nearly €1200 on food and drinks for 5 people for 7 days (including in Florence... see below).  Not cheap, but we went ALL OUT!
    • Some of the highlights
      • Il Duca In Trastevere - Really good food.  Fresh pasta and gnocchi.  Bruschetta and deserts were fabulous
      • Melo at Piazza Venezia - Best meal and experience we had.  Veal and pasta were to die for.  Owner took an instant liking to my boys (and my wife ;)).  Put a bottle of Sicilian desert wine and a bottle of Lemoncello on the table and didn't charge us for either. Probably the best cannoli I've ever had in my life.
      • Papa Rex in San Pietro - Almost didn't go because of 1) the name and 2) it was 300 yard from our apartment... but very glad we did.  Food was amazing and our waiter was excellent.
      • Ponte e Parione near Piazza Navona - Best pizza of the whole trip, and we had a LOT!  Waiter was also very good... loved us when he found out we were from Detroit because M&M is his favorite artist :crazy: 
      • Frigidarium - Best gelato in Rome
    • There were some clunkers too for sure, but we won't talk about those ;) 

Florence:

  • Took the train to Florence for 2 days. Sooo glad we did.  If/when we go back to Italy, we'll switch it up and do 5 days in Florence and 2 in Rome.  Really loved Florence... the vibe was very cool.
  • Architecture and history are amazing
    • Duomo is just beautiful as are the many other churches, basilicas
    • The general architecture of the buildings lining the street are so cool... exactly how you'd picture Italy
    • Ponte Vecchio (and other bridges) is really cool.  Even if you don't like shopping. 
    • The view from the Piazzale Michelangelo is breathtaking.  Do it early before the crowds. Highlight of the trip.
  • Hotel
    • We stayed in a Hilton... no big whoop.
  • Food
    • Like Rome, a crapload of places to eat, but a few of our favorites:
      • Trattoria Antellesi - Recommended by my son's boss and did not disappoint.  Fresh pasta, steak and potatoes were awesome.  Tiramisu and cheescake were the best deserts we had on the trip.
      • Ristorante Il Boccale - Kindof a hole in the wall, but the pizza and pasta were really good.
      • Gelateria Santa Trinita - Outstanding gelato

Like I said... happy to answer any questions.  Enjoy!

ETA:  One of the funnest things we tried to do was speak the language.  Consistently asked "Come se dice" (how do you say...) words or phrases and people LOVED that we were trying to communicate with them in Italian. Made it fun when we screwed it up too... which I did on a regular basis.  The places where we had the most fun were the places the waiters/cab drivers/locals engaged with us to help us learn to speak some Italian.

Edited by Keerock
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On 7/25/2018 at 9:27 PM, Chemical X said:

it is such a pure place.  no fuss, no muss.  couple of small shared tables.  good beer.  great pizza. not a parlor

Crap... we were RIGHT THERE!  Wish I had this thread with me at the time.

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9 minutes ago, Keerock said:

Crap... we were RIGHT THERE!  Wish I had this thread with me at the time.

how many times did you here people say 'allora' or 'boh' or 'beh'?  also, to be a language snob, its come si dice (how does one say.....).  se is actually used as "if". 

si dice is the 3rd person singular reflexive (putting the action on one's self).  mi dico is 1st person, ti dici is 2nd (informal). 

a great example is lavare - to wash.  if you say io lavo, you are saying I wash.............if you say mi lavo, you are saying I wash myself.  si lava is one washes his/herself/themselves.

ooooof.

hope your son got around enough and enjoted, doesn't seem like it was 100 degrees.

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3 minutes ago, Chemical X said:

how many times did you here people say 'allora' or 'boh' or 'beh'?  also, to be a language snob, its come si dice (how does one say.....).  se is actually used as "if". 

si dice is the 3rd person singular reflexive (putting the action on one's self).  mi dico is 1st person, ti dici is 2nd (informal). 

a great example is lavare - to wash.  if you say io lavo, you are saying I wash.............if you say mi lavo, you are saying I wash myself.  si lava is one washes his/herself/themselves.

ooooof.

hope your son got around enough and enjoted, doesn't seem like it was 100 degrees.

It was a little warm, but not terrible.  We actually had a riposo each afternoon for a few hours during the hottest part of the day.  Most of our non-eating activity was done early mornings 7am-11am) and evenings (5pm-midnight).

Getting around was a bit of a hassle, but for the amount of time we were there and the challenges his boot presented, I think we did very well!  He loved it!

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  • 3 weeks later...

so, going back may/june 2019 to look for detached forever home, then 4 nights in positano and 2 nights in rome.  booked hotel marincanto already.  entire hotel was sold out 5/20-30, so had to move my dates back, but wanted to stay here.  looking at barbaro car service to drive us from naples centrale to positano.  likely will get 11 nites at my current place to house hunt.  if i didn’t have a dog, i’d do a month, but about 3 weeks seems fair to the fosters that watch him.

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40 minutes ago, Chemical X said:

so, going back may/june 2019 to look for detached forever home, then 4 nights in positano and 2 nights in rome.  booked hotel marincanto already.  entire hotel was sold out 5/20-30, so had to move my dates back, but wanted to stay here.  looking at barbaro car service to drive us from naples centrale to positano.  likely will get 11 nites at my current place to house hunt.  if i didn’t have a dog, i’d do a month, but about 3 weeks seems fair to the fosters that watch him.

Looks like we are going around May 1.  SIL is 100% Italian. He has family in Monte di Procida.  We will hand with them a few days, then explore surrounding area a few more days, and then go on a Rome to Spain and south of there cruise for 10 days.

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29 minutes ago, Getzlaf15 said:

Looks like we are going around May 1.  SIL is 100% Italian. He has family in Monte di Procida.  We will hand with them a few days, then explore surrounding area a few more days, and then go on a Rome to Spain and south of there cruise for 10 days.

I expect to be at my place around 5/15, positano and rome first week of june.  let me know if paths intersect.

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  • 2 weeks later...

Bookmarking this thread. First trip to Europe for me, we have 7 days in Rome with a planned overnight trip to Florence. Got a great deal, but the trip is the first week of February. I hope its not too cold, but at least we will be going in the off season and won't have to deal with hordes of tourists. Lots of great info in here.

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On ‎9‎/‎19‎/‎2018 at 11:09 AM, Chemical X said:

so, going back may/june 2019 to look for detached forever home, then 4 nights in positano and 2 nights in rome.  booked hotel marincanto already.  entire hotel was sold out 5/20-30, so had to move my dates back, but wanted to stay here.  looking at barbaro car service to drive us from naples centrale to positano.  likely will get 11 nites at my current place to house hunt.  if i didn’t have a dog, i’d do a month, but about 3 weeks seems fair to the fosters that watch him.

Looking forward to a review. We'll be in Positano 6/21-6/25

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Btw, I'm not expecting things to be very busy at all this time of year, and having already visited the main sites in both Florence and Rome, I'm mostly taking the 2 days in each to get around and enjoy but not be too scheduled.  That said, as it's been a while, any things that I should try and book ahead of time even this time of year to make it easier/cheaper?

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On 9/19/2018 at 8:09 AM, Chemical X said:

so, going back may/june 2019 to look for detached forever home, then 4 nights in positano and 2 nights in rome.  booked hotel marincanto already.  entire hotel was sold out 5/20-30, so had to move my dates back, but wanted to stay here.  looking at barbaro car service to drive us from naples centrale to positano.  likely will get 11 nites at my current place to house hunt.  if i didn’t have a dog, i’d do a month, but about 3 weeks seems fair to the fosters that watch him.

da vincenzo for lunch/dinner in positano

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On 7/25/2018 at 3:20 AM, Chemical X said:

Across the arno, over the Ponte Vecchio.....Da Angelo Gelateria & Gusta Pizza.

Find them and thank me later.  Also, i used a guide twice the last 2 years and she is great if needed in Firenze.

Like i also said, go to the Il Centrale Mercato for lunch upstairs.  I highly suggest finding either the porchetta woman or the trappezino stand.  Also, find the enoteca for dirt cheap high quality italian wines.  Shark tip, they have 2 hidden tables away from crowds to eat and drink.  Just watch pickpockets up there and be on alert.

Here right now. So good.

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On 10/5/2018 at 8:18 PM, Chemical X said:

delta offering direct flights from jfk to rome for around 900- rt seems a bargain.  500- less than AA from philly.

Of note, look at Google flights when looking to book. Got tickets from AA leaving Philly for under $900 when booked through British Airways (had to call). Exact same flight through American was $250 more. Only way I found out was Google flights telling me.

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I know Easter (more important than Christmas) & October (savings with still-good weather) are the times that Mediterranean-Americans traditionally visit their homelands. It's so weird to go to Greece in October and actually see Greeks instead of German tourists.

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  • 1 month later...

I will eventually surf the 22 pages of this thread, but we are just trying to sketch out a trip for next fall. Sister recommended Rome, Florence and Amalfi Coast. For starters, is 3 nights good for each? Train travel easy and accommodate big luggage? Can Tuscany be done in a day trip from Florence? Anything else I should know to start?

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4 hours ago, 3 hour lunch said:

I will eventually surf the 22 pages of this thread, but we are just trying to sketch out a trip for next fall. Sister recommended Rome, Florence and Amalfi Coast. For starters, is 3 nights good for each? Train travel easy and accommodate big luggage? Can Tuscany be done in a day trip from Florence? Anything else I should know to start?

too far apart.  too much too do/see.  you'll lose half a day, at least, traveling from one to the other.  

train travel is fairly easy.  define big luggage.  if you're willing to haul it and leave it wherever you can find a spot a for it on the train, go for it.  that might mean in a separate car from your seats.  i travel as lightly as possible in europe.  

amalfi is ridiculous

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10 hours ago, 3 hour lunch said:

I will eventually surf the 22 pages of this thread, but we are just trying to sketch out a trip for next fall. Sister recommended Rome, Florence and Amalfi Coast. For starters, is 3 nights good for each? Train travel easy and accommodate big luggage? Can Tuscany be done in a day trip from Florence? Anything else I should know to start?

Amalfi Coast is a trip all its own. I would not add that in such a short time. Rome is actually a little tight too but doable. I would do either Venice/Florence/Rome or Venice and Florence and day trip out of Florence. Siena, rent a car for some Tuscany driving, Cinque Terra. A lot of small towns to visit around there. Also, if you want a day trip out of Venice, we really liked Verona.

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12 hours ago, 3 hour lunch said:

I will eventually surf the 22 pages of this thread, but we are just trying to sketch out a trip for next fall. Sister recommended Rome, Florence and Amalfi Coast. For starters, is 3 nights good for each? Train travel easy and accommodate big luggage? Can Tuscany be done in a day trip from Florence? Anything else I should know to start?

- Europe and big luggage is antithetical unless you're traveling to the 1920s

- I am very much in favor of using the train system thru most of Europe, but Amalfi must be driven and Tuscany aint far behind that way. Havent done much Eurotravel in the last decade (but once or twice a yr for 30 yrs before that) but it used to be simple to hire guides/drivers in virtually any area of the continent and it was a wonderful way to get a true sense of a region

- i like the 3X3 idea. rushing Eurotravel is only good for having exactly the same memories as every other tourist and about 1/100th of what it's really about.

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14 hours ago, 3 hour lunch said:

I will eventually surf the 22 pages of this thread, but we are just trying to sketch out a trip for next fall. Sister recommended Rome, Florence and Amalfi Coast. For starters, is 3 nights good for each? Train travel easy and accommodate big luggage? Can Tuscany be done in a day trip from Florence? Anything else I should know to start?

gotta know your Italy airport to start.....

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I get the love for the trains, but I enjoyed driving the Autostrada.  It has its quirks, but it was nice having a car, particularly in Tuscany. We picked it up when we left Venice and dropped it off when we arrived in Rome.  I wanted nothing to do with driving in Rome, and it's completely unnecessary.  The Metro's pretty fantastic. And cheap.

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4 minutes ago, Bob Sacamano said:

I get the love for the trains, but I enjoyed driving the Autostrada.  It has its quirks, but it was nice having a car, particularly in Tuscany. We picked it up when we left Venice and dropped it off when we arrived in Rome.  I wanted nothing to do with driving in Rome, and it's completely unnecessary.  The Metro's pretty fantastic. And cheap.

Exactly what we did our first time although I was really ready to be done driving by time I got to Rome. Mostly because this was before GPS and I was driving manual pretty much for the first time. Also, got to Rome in the dark and the way they have the street names on the buildings was tough to see at night. Great trip though, still have lots of funny memories from the drives.

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Just now, jamny said:

Exactly what we did our first time although I was really ready to be done driving by time I got to Rome. Mostly because this was before GPS and I was driving manual pretty much for the first time. Also, got to Rome in the dark and the way they have the street names on the buildings was tough to see at night. Great trip though, still have lots of funny memories from the drives.

We drove from Montepulciano to Sorrento.  That I do NOT recommend.

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Just now, jamny said:

In one shot? That's a long one!

 

We'll be driving to Positano from the airport in June but planned an overnight in a small town (Gaeta)

Yep.  We were going to do Venice--> Tuscany --> Rome

When I asked my daughter what she really wanted to do while we were in Italy, the ONE thing she wanted was to go to Pompeii.  So we made some adjustments. 

In retrospect, I'm glad we went to Sorrento. It was beautiful.  The Blue Grotto was a favorite.  Pompeii was up there, too.  It was a great part of the trip. Just not the way I would plan it.

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3 minutes ago, Bob Sacamano said:

Yep.  We were going to do Venice--> Tuscany --> Rome

When I asked my daughter what she really wanted to do while we were in Italy, the ONE thing she wanted was to go to Pompeii.  So we made some adjustments. 

In retrospect, I'm glad we went to Sorrento. It was beautiful.  The Blue Grotto was a favorite.  Pompeii was up there, too.  It was a great part of the trip. Just not the way I would plan it.

Is there a Blue Grotto in Sorrento too or did you go over to Capri?

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I forgot to come here and post a few thoughts from my recent trip:

1) While staying in Florence, tried to hit Trattoria Sostanza but they had no openings the couple nights we were there.  Instead, we ended up going a few doors down on the same street to Trattoria 13 Gobbi.  The food was amazing and I would highly, highly recommend.

2)  We stayed in a wonderful little place in Rome with a great location that I thought was worth mentioning.  The place is called Art Seven Roma and is located in Piazza Cavour right next to Castel Sant'Angelo.  It's right next to the river and is a 5 minute walk to the Vatican and very close to the Pantheon, Trevi Fountain, Piazza Navona and other great spots.  We paid less than $100/night and it's a converted apartment building with 6-7 rooms total.  It's run by a couple women who speak perfect English (one is from New York but has been there 20 years) and they are super nice.  The other nice thing is it's across the street from a bus shuttle that goes directly to Fiumicino for $6 (SIT Bus Shuttle). 

3)  Right next to the above on the other size of the Piazza is the best gelato spot I may have had called Neve di Latte.  Amazing and incredibly friendly.  Went there in the morning and got one and my mother wasn't going to have any.  Server just made her a cup and gave it to her for free since no one else was even in there at the time. 

4) Did this walking food tour in Trastevere again and thoroughly enjoyed it again

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