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Mad Cow's Italy trip discussion thread


Where should we go for our trip?  

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On 5/31/2019 at 12:09 PM, jamny said:

Has anyone used a personal wifi hotspot, like this, while overseas?

 

Pros/Cons?

I ordered the one in the link, I'll post my experience with it. Wont have a huge need on this trip but we're going to Switzerland in August with a lot of train travel and like 5 or 6 hotels. If it works well, it'll really come in handy.

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4 hours ago, Bluto Blutarsky said:

Regarding the first day there.

Our flight gets into Naples at 10:55pm and then we have a van ride to Ravello. Is there enough to do to try and stay up through the night? 

book the hotel for that first night........

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On 6/3/2019 at 11:42 AM, Nigel said:

No car needed for the first two legs. Train from Rome to La Spezia, the hub for the local trains heading out to the Cinque Terre villages (which are you staying in?). Then on the way out grab a car in La Spezia and drive to your Tuscany destination and eventually to the Venice airport, where you can drop it and then take a water shuttle in to Venice.

We did a very similar trip last summer, with the order of Tuscany and CT switched and a night in Verona thrown in on the way to Venice. Good times.

Cars in Florence are a big pain....

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On ‎6‎/‎15‎/‎2019 at 12:28 PM, jamny said:

I'm on the 4th day of having the flu. Still beaten up but the worst is over. I just hope it's all gone by Wednesday.

I thought the worst was over but I didn't realize it was going to be a 1-2 punch. Still hacking up crap from my lungs, only made worse by me taking Sudafed to try and loosen everything up so my ears will pop. Real concerned about damaging my eardrums in flight. Absolutely brutal week since last Tuesday and on a day that I should be excited, I'm dreading the flight.

Not happy that I can barely walk a few blocks without getting winded either. Really wanted to get some good hikes in. Hopefully the fresh Italian air makes it all better!

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2 hours ago, jamny said:

I thought the worst was over but I didn't realize it was going to be a 1-2 punch. Still hacking up crap from my lungs, only made worse by me taking Sudafed to try and loosen everything up so my ears will pop. Real concerned about damaging my eardrums in flight. Absolutely brutal week since last Tuesday and on a day that I should be excited, I'm dreading the flight.

Not happy that I can barely walk a few blocks without getting winded either. Really wanted to get some good hikes in. Hopefully the fresh Italian air makes it all better!

Jeez, man. I hope you feel better. It’s too big and nice a trip for that.

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56 minutes ago, rockaction said:

Jeez, man. I hope you feel better. It’s too big and nice a trip for that.

Thanks, gb! :thumbup:  I'm just glad my wife didn't catch my flu. That would've really sucked! She had some kind of cold/bronchitis a week or so before I got the flu and still has a lingering cough. We're a mess...lol  Spending the last week on the couch ruined some research I wanted to do. Not too concerned. Bought some earplanes for the flight. Supposed to work really well for congested ears.

Gotta get my head in this. I'm the tour guide on vacations and my wife relies on me to entertain her and keep her laughing. Can't be a mope! I've never gotten a flu shot before but I will starting next year.

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Oh man. I hope your flight is okay. I had the salt water in my nasal cavity thing while in Hawaii last summer. Wife said I should fix it before the flight home, I said whatever. Worst two flights I have ever been on and I have had some brutal ones coming home from Las Vegas. Pain so bad that my head was in my hands and silent tears streaming down my face. ####### the worst. 

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1 hour ago, ex-ghost said:

Oh man. I hope your flight is okay. I had the salt water in my nasal cavity thing while in Hawaii last summer. Wife said I should fix it before the flight home, I said whatever. Worst two flights I have ever been on and I have had some brutal ones coming home from Las Vegas. Pain so bad that my head was in my hands and silent tears streaming down my face. ####### the worst. 

wow...that sucks. How did you know it was in there and what could they do, suck it out somehow? Or some kind of absorption thing?

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15 minutes ago, jamny said:

Nice!

 

My wife packed a week's worth of clothes into 2 carryon's. Love that.

This is the only way to travel.  For our upcoming trip for our family - 10 days, 4 people = 4 carryons.

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On 6/19/2019 at 9:06 AM, jamny said:

wow...that sucks. How did you know it was in there and what could they do, suck it out somehow? Or some kind of absorption thing?

Had been in Hawaii a few weeks and had many water up the nose moments. Started having headaches and noticed that my sinuses were sore to the touch. Had the same issue a couple years back and flushed with a Neti pot. That did the trick, was too stupid this time to do it again. Lesson learned.

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On 6/19/2019 at 10:07 AM, jamny said:

Thanks, gb! :thumbup:  I'm just glad my wife didn't catch my flu. That would've really sucked! She had some kind of cold/bronchitis a week or so before I got the flu and still has a lingering cough. We're a mess...lol  Spending the last week on the couch ruined some research I wanted to do. Not too concerned. Bought some earplanes for the flight. Supposed to work really well for congested ears.

Gotta get my head in this. I'm the tour guide on vacations and my wife relies on me to entertain her and keep her laughing. Can't be a mope! I've never gotten a flu shot before but I will starting next year.

better to be sick here than having to go to pronto soccorso while in italy like i did!  never fails, i always get sick in italy....always.

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1 hour ago, Chemical X said:

fyi-it is now between 100-105 degrees in rome and florence.

I just left for Barcelona and missed the heat. Had stayed in Rome and Florence for the week prior. Will update people on what I saw as a tourist when I get more time. 

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2 hours ago, wikkidpissah said:

As a point of reference, Carrageen tea is the standard Euro remedy for wet lung - the air moisture is just different there - and it can be useful to have a daily cup in the week before crossing the pond

interesting, cause I need to change what I do someway.  I bought my place in 2011 and literally have been sick one way or another on almost every trip.  not sure if its the flight, the smoking, the moisture in buildings, the general reduction in overall hygiene.  thank god the emergency room only charged me 25 euro and I can grab a boatload of meds without prescriptions.

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Had a really good time in Positano, dampened a bit by my lingering flu issues, especially the first few days. The flight was pretty miserable, even with wearing the earplanes, which I'm sure saved me additional discomfort. Couldn't eat anything on the plane and thought I was going to throw up but it all cleared up as soon as we landed. My ears are still clogged today. It feels like I've been wearing ear plugs for the past 3 weeks.

Illness aside, we stopped at a small town of Gaeta to crash for the day/night before moving on to Positano early the next morning. Driving wasn't as bad as expected and I actually enjoyed it. Needless to say, Le Sirenuse is exceptional in every way. It's hard to say it's worth the money because the prices are insane but there are no complaints, just a great place from the service, the view, the food, the pool and we had a great balcony where we spent a lot of time each day, drinking wine. There's even a secret back staircase that leads to the beach to avoid the crowds.

Positano itself is a beautiful place and I wish we had an additional day or two to explore. We spent an extremely hot day travelling to Amalfi by ferry and up to Ravello on an open air bus and as beautiful as Ravello is, I would have rather spent more time in Positano than make that trip.

Some restaurants that we checked out:

LO Guarracino - on the path leading to Fornillo beach, which is a short walk west of the main beach/piers in Positano. Very good view, cool atmosphere, nice staff and great pizza.

Da Ferdinando - One of the beach clubs on Fornillo Beach. Incredibly hard working staff with a great attitude. Family owned. Excellent lunch.

Ristorante Max - Good food and great décor but not a fan of the service. We went without a reservation and even though the place was nearly empty at the time, the only seats they offered were next to another couple. A little awkward in a nearly empty place although it did fill up fast. But the service was boomboomboom, get 'em in, get 'em out. We had probably 5 different people wait on us during the meal with the boss barking out orders and waiters whizzing all around. Not a relaxing place, too frenetic. The food was really good though.

Da Vincenzo - Excellent all around. They gave out Prosecco to people that were willing to wait outside. Really cool atmosphere inside with a friendly staff. Food was great. There was a table of about 12 drunk Brits that kind of ruined the vibe a bit but didn't take away from it and I actually was impressed with how well the staff handled them.

La Sponda - Highlight of the trip. I'm not much into small food but this really was exceptional. We went with the Chef's Menu with wine pairings and each course topped the next. An explosion of taste with each bite. With a limited amount of tables, each very private at least in the area where we sat, it was a special meal. Expensive but in this case, worth it.

Mimi Ristorante Pizzeria in Ravello was also worth seeking out although I'm sure there are plenty of options there.

One more day in Positano would have been nice but it was still a memorable trip.

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9 minutes ago, jamny said:

Had a really good time in Positano, dampened a bit by my lingering flu issues, especially the first few days. The flight was pretty miserable, even with wearing the earplanes, which I'm sure saved me additional discomfort. Couldn't eat anything on the plane and thought I was going to throw up but it all cleared up as soon as we landed. My ears are still clogged today. It feels like I've been wearing ear plugs for the past 3 weeks.

Illness aside, we stopped at a small town of Gaeta to crash for the day/night before moving on to Positano early the next morning. Driving wasn't as bad as expected and I actually enjoyed it. Needless to say, Le Sirenuse is exceptional in every way. It's hard to say it's worth the money because the prices are insane but there are no complaints, just a great place from the service, the view, the food, the pool and we had a great balcony where we spent a lot of time each day, drinking wine. There's even a secret back staircase that leads to the beach to avoid the crowds.

Positano itself is a beautiful place and I wish we had an additional day or two to explore. We spent an extremely hot day travelling to Amalfi by ferry and up to Ravello on an open air bus and as beautiful as Ravello is, I would have rather spent more time in Positano than make that trip.

Some restaurants that we checked out:

LO Guarracino - on the path leading to Fornillo beach, which is a short walk west of the main beach/piers in Positano. Very good view, cool atmosphere, nice staff and great pizza.

Da Ferdinando - One of the beach clubs on Fornillo Beach. Incredibly hard working staff with a great attitude. Family owned. Excellent lunch.

Ristorante Max - Good food and great décor but not a fan of the service. We went without a reservation and even though the place was nearly empty at the time, the only seats they offered were next to another couple. A little awkward in a nearly empty place although it did fill up fast. But the service was boomboomboom, get 'em in, get 'em out. We had probably 5 different people wait on us during the meal with the boss barking out orders and waiters whizzing all around. Not a relaxing place, too frenetic. The food was really good though.

Da Vincenzo - Excellent all around. They gave out Prosecco to people that were willing to wait outside. Really cool atmosphere inside with a friendly staff. Food was great. There was a table of about 12 drunk Brits that kind of ruined the vibe a bit but didn't take away from it and I actually was impressed with how well the staff handled them.

La Sponda - Highlight of the trip. I'm not much into small food but this really was exceptional. We went with the Chef's Menu with wine pairings and each course topped the next. An explosion of taste with each bite. With a limited amount of tables, each very private at least in the area where we sat, it was a special meal. Expensive but in this case, worth it.

Mimi Ristorante Pizzeria in Ravello was also worth seeking out although I'm sure there are plenty of options there.

One more day in Positano would have been nice but it was still a memorable trip.

Personally, I would have done more time in Positano.

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2 minutes ago, jamny said:

Yeah, the day trip to Ravello was our only real regret. Would've gotten us another half day in Positano.

I was kidding, GB.  You only mentioned it like 3 times in your post.  Still sounds like an awesome trip.  Glad you enjoyed it  :)

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Well Italy was freaking amazing. Stayed in Ravello because of the wedding but would have preferred staying down on the coast. Still, that place is beautiful. We rented a boat and took it down the coast to Positano and drove around some of the private islands out there. Also made it to Minori and Madori (iirc). Need to go back and take that boat all the way to Capri for sure next time. 

 

That night pic in the link was our last night there at 2am. Beauty 

Edited by Bluto Blutarsky
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So I just got back from a little over a week in Italy and then a little over a week in Spain.

Thoughts:

First, thanks to all the people who contributed to this thread. It was, at times, an indispensable guide to Italy. We specifically ate at a restaurant one night in Florence, the Ristorante Accademia, thanks to this thread. Well worth it. Wonderful. Italy was a dream-like experience, simply put.

Rome was the first four nights -- we stayed right next to the Vatican, and visited The Colosseum, The Sistine Chapel, St. Peter's Basilica, and then did a papal sighting in three straight days. After that was a tour in Pompeii and then a day of free time before leaving for Florence. We stayed at an American hotel in Rome, The Best Western, and it was nice. No complaints. The Vatican is not the heart of downtown Rome, though. It is not secular and if you're staying by Vatican City, the nightlife seems limited. Other areas of Rome seemed more vibrant and of course, less austere than a religious area. I didn't really get out in pure Rome except for one night, and the difference was palpable. But overall, I liked what we did. Part of it was the convenience of a modern hotel, and that the weather happened to be temperate and beautiful while I was there, part of it was the city itself. The tours we went on (The Colosseum, The Sistine Chapel, and Pompeii) were all run by the same company whose name I forget. I think it was CityWorks or CityTours. Either way, they were in English, and we walked around like total tourists with headsets and guides for the group tours. We generally did the basic tours for all -- there was no going at night to the top of The Colosseum or underground to the pit where the animals and gladiators were housed -- and they were pretty good, if nothing special.

Florence was next. Florence was a dream. We did apartment living this time, Airbnb. We stayed in the heart of Florence and I've never seen anything like it. From its history to its architecture, this was absolutely a place I could get lost in and live in. Cobblestone streets, beautiful buildings, Florence had such an easy vibe to it. Most people spoke English, and the area was tourist-friendly. One thing that struck me about Florence was how darn fashionable it was. It was not New York or Paris or Milan, but people there were certainly looking like they (and their outfits) were straight out of magazines. People were just well-put together. Loved it. It just made me feel good. We went to the Uffizi Gallery one day and to The Accademia Gallery to see David the next. I am nothing more than a dilettante when it comes to the visual arts -- I had no idea just how large the statue of David was. Those were both interesting tours. The beauty of the artwork was staggering. We also did a bunch of other stuff I can't really remember as this is sort of off of the top of my head. I'd have to check with the party I traveled with to remember, so the Uffizi and Accademia to me are must-sees. A quick aside: There was a record store right outside where we stayed that was a pretty darn good one, even by larger American standards. It was called Rock Bottom records, and anyone who reads me on the board will know how into it I was. I looked out our window the first day in Florence, saw it, and said, "Yup. This is for me." I bought a rare and used Mogwai record (My Father My King) and a Strokes record that you can only get in Europe (Room On Fire on 180g vinyl) there. It was cool as ####, and was a nice little touch that I can't necessarily recommend to anyone, but was a part of the overall experience.

And that's about it for Italy. The food was great, the people accommodating and friendly even if they knew you were a tourist, and the cities we visited were lovely. I would definitely go again, especially to Florence, which was just stunning.

Edited by rockaction
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Any recommendations for Milan?

We are at an Air B'N'B there in the fall for a few days before our tour (Como/Venice/Florence/Capri/Pompeii/Rome).

I am looking at taking the train to Turin for a day and possibly do a tour to Bergamo.

Duomo and Last Supper are on my Milan list, so far.

Thanks for any help.

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3 hours ago, Mr. Mojo said:

Any recommendations for Milan?

We are at an Air B'N'B there in the fall for a few days before our tour (Como/Venice/Florence/Capri/Pompeii/Rome).

I am looking at taking the train to Turin for a day and possibly do a tour to Bergamo.

Duomo and Last Supper are on my Milan list, so far.

Thanks for any help.

Recommendation for milan is to stay in como and visit milan for the tours.  maybe take a train from como to milan.  milan is meh imo, i’d rather stay in como and enjoy the lake area.  my .02.  maybe catch an opera at la scala for the experience.

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3 hours ago, Mr. Mojo said:

Any recommendations for Milan?

We are at an Air B'N'B there in the fall for a few days before our tour (Como/Venice/Florence/Capri/Pompeii/Rome).

I am looking at taking the train to Turin for a day and possibly do a tour to Bergamo.

Duomo and Last Supper are on my Milan list, so far.

Thanks for any help.

I think Milan is underrated. We've been twice and I would definitely go back. Small city, nice to walk around and easy to navigate. The Duomo might be my favorite church I've ever been to. Incredible architecture, really beautiful at night. Try to get up top. I personally didn't care much for Turin, preferred our day trip to Verona more but it'll still be nice to see. Obviously the Last Supper is a must. It's a special thing to see for real. In Milan, check out Via Fiori Chiari for a ton of restaurant options.

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19 hours ago, rockaction said:

So I just got back from a little over a week in Italy and then a little over a week in Spain.

Thoughts:

First, thanks to all the people who contributed to this thread. It was, at times, an indispensable guide to Italy. We specifically ate at a restaurant one night in Florence, the Ristorante Accademia, thanks to this thread. Well worth it. Wonderful. Italy was a dream-like experience, simply put.

Rome was the first four nights -- we stayed right next to the Vatican, and visited The Colosseum, The Sistine Chapel, St. Peter's Basilica, and then did a papal sighting in three straight days. After that was a tour in Pompeii and then a day of free time before leaving for Florence. We stayed at an American hotel in Rome, The Best Western, and it was nice. No complaints. The Vatican is not the heart of downtown Rome, though. It is not secular and if you're staying by Vatican City, the nightlife seems limited. Other areas of Rome seemed more vibrant and of course, less austere than a religious area. I didn't really get out in pure Rome except for one night, and the difference was palpable. But overall, I liked what we did. Part of it was the convenience of a modern hotel, and that the weather happened to be temperate and beautiful while I was there, part of it was the city itself. The tours we went on (The Colosseum, The Sistine Chapel, and Pompeii) were all run by the same company whose name I forget. I think it was CityWorks or CityTours. Either way, they were in English, and we walked around like total tourists with headsets and guides for the group tours. We generally did the basic tours for all -- there was no going at night to the top of The Colosseum or underground to the pit where the animals and gladiators were housed -- and they were pretty good, if nothing special.

Florence was next. Florence was a dream. We did apartment living this time, Airbnb. We stayed in the heart of Florence and I've never seen anything like it. From its history to its architecture, this was absolutely a place I could get lost in and live in. Cobblestone streets, beautiful buildings, Florence had such an easy vibe to it. Most people spoke English, and the area was tourist-friendly. One thing that struck me about Florence was how darn fashionable it was. It was not New York or Paris or Milan, but people there were certainly looking like they (and their outfits) were straight out of magazines. People were just well-put together. Loved it. It just made me feel good. We went to the Uffizi Gallery one day and to The Accademia Gallery to see David the next. I am nothing more than a dilettante when it comes to the visual arts -- I had no idea just how large the statue of David was. Those were both interesting tours. The beauty of the artwork was staggering. We also did a bunch of other stuff I can't really remember as this is sort of off of the top of my head. I'd have to check with the party I traveled with to remember, so the Uffizi and Accademia to me are must-sees. A quick aside: There was a record store right outside where we stayed that was a pretty darn good one, even by larger American standards. It was called Rock Bottom records, and anyone who reads me on the board will know how into it I was. I looked out our window the first day in Florence, saw it, and said, "Yup. This is for me." I bought a rare and used Mogwai record (My Father My King) and a Strokes record that you can only get in Europe (Room On Fire on 180g vinyl) there. It was cool as ####, and was a nice little touch that I can't necessarily recommend to anyone, but was a part of the overall experience.

And that's about it for Italy. The food was great, the people accommodating and friendly even if they knew you were a tourist, and the cities we visited were lovely. I would definitely go again, especially to Florence, which was just stunning.

Very cool. I’m in Florence at the moment. 

1. Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore (the Duomo) - absolutely stunning, must take the tour to the top and look out over the city.

2. The Baptistery and the bronze doors

3. The Academia - Michelangelo’s David and the Prisoners

4. The Medici Chapel is very underrated - has several Michelangelo tomb sculptures and the chapel itself is incredible

5. The Bargelo - contains Donnatello’s David and Bacchus

6. The Uffizi - with Botticelli’s Birth of Venus

7. The Piazza della Signoria, Palazzo Vecchio and the Ponte Vecchio

8. Two great food markets with fresh meats and produce

9. Piazzale Michelangelo overlooking Florence from the south

10. The Laurentian Medici Library (also underrated) has some amazing books

11. The Boboli Gardens

And many others. Something new and beautiful around every corner.

 

 

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1 hour ago, Tom Skerritt said:

Very cool. I’m in Florence at the moment. 

1. Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore (the Duomo) - absolutely stunning, must take the tour to the top and look out over the city.

2. The Baptistery and the bronze doors

3. The Academia - Michelangelo’s David and the Prisoners

4. The Medici Chapel is very underrated - has several Michelangelo tomb sculptures and the chapel itself is incredible

Nice post. We weren't there long enough to do all of that stuff, but I've edited your post to comment on things that, IIRC, we did and I neglected mention. Hopefully any comments or things that I remember will help somebody else in the thread. 

There was indeed something around every corner in Florence. We stayed about three blocks from the street commemorating Dante. It was just...incredible. Everything.

I forgot that we took about a four or so hour walking tour of Florence, too. We did see the Cathedral and Baptistry and Bronze Doors on said walking tour, but never went in nor took the tour to the top. We saw the people who had done so -- they were looking over the city and we were looking up at them. I think our guide said you needed to book that way in advance, IIRC. There was some tour to the top that you had to, regardless. I think to get into the Baptistry was twenty Euro and you had to line up at 8:00 or so in the morning. The Bronze Doors were one of my favorite art works of the trip and I can't believe I forgot to mention them. Just beautiful.

We also saw the Medici Gardens on the tour of the Uffizi; the Chapel, IIRC; and the Medici square. It was very cool. They had a Bowie exhibit going on at one of the Medici places. Did you see that? It was sort of a funny contrast. There was a band playing Bowie in the open square where the academics would gather.

More stuff is coming back to me. I was tired from the flight and from Rome for part of the trip. I just know I dug it. If I can think of any other useful information, I'll be sure to add it. 

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2 hours ago, Tom Skerritt said:

Very cool. I’m in Florence at the moment. 

1. Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore (the Duomo) - absolutely stunning, must take the tour to the top and look out over the city.

2. The Baptistery and the bronze doors

3. The Academia - Michelangelo’s David and the Prisoners

4. The Medici Chapel is very underrated - has several Michelangelo tomb sculptures and the chapel itself is incredible

5. The Bargelo - contains Donnatello’s David and Bacchus

6. The Uffizi - with Botticelli’s Birth of Venus

7. The Piazza della Signoria, Palazzo Vecchio and the Ponte Vecchio

8. Two great food markets with fresh meats and produce

9. Piazzale Michelangelo overlooking Florence from the south

10. The Laurentian Medici Library (also underrated) has some amazing books

11. The Boboli Gardens

And many others. Something new and beautiful around every corner.

 

 

go have lunch at the mercato centrale....

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32 minutes ago, rockaction said:

They had a Bowie exhibit going on at one of the Medici places. Did you see that? It was sort of a funny contrast. There was a band playing Bowie in the open square where the academics would gather.

More stuff is coming back to me. I was tired from the flight and from Rome for part of the trip. I just know I dug it. If I can think of any other useful information, I'll be sure to add it. 

My wife saw the Bowie exhibit. She said it was pretty cool. 

Im getting a black/grey Florentine fleur de lis tattoo this afternoon. Pretty stoked about that.

Also... I hate the “poster boys” who lay out cheap posters right at the curbs, hoping people will step on them and end up paying for them. 

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2 minutes ago, Tom Skerritt said:

My wife saw the Bowie exhibit. She said it was pretty cool. 

Im getting a black/grey Florentine fleur de lis tattoo this afternoon. Pretty stoked about that.

Also... I hate the “poster boys” who lay out cheap posters right at the curbs, hoping people will step on them and end up paying for them. 

That's awesome. If I wasn't on the tour, I would have gone in. My tour guide did not find the Bowie/Medici contrast funny like I did, but he was the rare tour guide with no sense of humor.

I'm not a tattoo guy, but if there's a tattoo to get...that's the one.

I missed the "poster boys." I must have just been oblivious. I was a mark the first day in Rome for the street "vendors," and after that I learned really quickly to say "no thank you" as soon as eye contact was accidentally made. 

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3 hours ago, Tom Skerritt said:

Very cool. I’m in Florence at the moment. 

1. Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore (the Duomo) - absolutely stunning, must take the tour to the top and look out over the city.

2. The Baptistery and the bronze doors

3. The Academia - Michelangelo’s David and the Prisoners

4. The Medici Chapel is very underrated - has several Michelangelo tomb sculptures and the chapel itself is incredible

5. The Bargelo - contains Donnatello’s David and Bacchus

6. The Uffizi - with Botticelli’s Birth of Venus

7. The Piazza della Signoria, Palazzo Vecchio and the Ponte Vecchio

8. Two great food markets with fresh meats and produce

9. Piazzale Michelangelo overlooking Florence from the south

10. The Laurentian Medici Library (also underrated) has some amazing books

11. The Boboli Gardens

And many others. Something new and beautiful around every corner.

 

 

Not mentioned as often as it should be, but if you can, go to Santa Maria del Carmine and go see the Brancacci Chapel.  The works of Masaccio are amazing, there's no lines, and doesn't take too long.  It's a little out of the way compared to other sites in the center of Florence, but still close enough that you can fit it in rather easily even walking.

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On 7/6/2019 at 6:32 AM, rockaction said:

So I just got back from a little over a week in Italy and then a little over a week in Spain.

Thoughts:

First, thanks to all the people who contributed to this thread. It was, at times, an indispensable guide to Italy. We specifically ate at a restaurant one night in Florence, the Ristorante Accademia, thanks to this thread. Well worth it. Wonderful. Italy was a dream-like experience, simply put.

Rome was the first four nights -- we stayed right next to the Vatican, and visited The Colosseum, The Sistine Chapel, St. Peter's Basilica, and then did a papal sighting in three straight days. After that was a tour in Pompeii and then a day of free time before leaving for Florence. We stayed at an American hotel in Rome, The Best Western, and it was nice. No complaints. The Vatican is not the heart of downtown Rome, though. It is not secular and if you're staying by Vatican City, the nightlife seems limited. Other areas of Rome seemed more vibrant and of course, less austere than a religious area. I didn't really get out in pure Rome except for one night, and the difference was palpable. But overall, I liked what we did. Part of it was the convenience of a modern hotel, and that the weather happened to be temperate and beautiful while I was there, part of it was the city itself. The tours we went on (The Colosseum, The Sistine Chapel, and Pompeii) were all run by the same company whose name I forget. I think it was CityWorks or CityTours. Either way, they were in English, and we walked around like total tourists with headsets and guides for the group tours. We generally did the basic tours for all -- there was no going at night to the top of The Colosseum or underground to the pit where the animals and gladiators were housed -- and they were pretty good, if nothing special.

Florence was next. Florence was a dream. We did apartment living this time, Airbnb. We stayed in the heart of Florence and I've never seen anything like it. From its history to its architecture, this was absolutely a place I could get lost in and live in. Cobblestone streets, beautiful buildings, Florence had such an easy vibe to it. Most people spoke English, and the area was tourist-friendly. One thing that struck me about Florence was how darn fashionable it was. It was not New York or Paris or Milan, but people there were certainly looking like they (and their outfits) were straight out of magazines. People were just well-put together. Loved it. It just made me feel good. We went to the Uffizi Gallery one day and to The Accademia Gallery to see David the next. I am nothing more than a dilettante when it comes to the visual arts -- I had no idea just how large the statue of David was. Those were both interesting tours. The beauty of the artwork was staggering. We also did a bunch of other stuff I can't really remember as this is sort of off of the top of my head. I'd have to check with the party I traveled with to remember, so the Uffizi and Accademia to me are must-sees. A quick aside: There was a record store right outside where we stayed that was a pretty darn good one, even by larger American standards. It was called Rock Bottom records, and anyone who reads me on the board will know how into it I was. I looked out our window the first day in Florence, saw it, and said, "Yup. This is for me." I bought a rare and used Mogwai record (My Father My King) and a Strokes record that you can only get in Europe (Room On Fire on 180g vinyl) there. It was cool as ####, and was a nice little touch that I can't necessarily recommend to anyone, but was a part of the overall experience.

And that's about it for Italy. The food was great, the people accommodating and friendly even if they knew you were a tourist, and the cities we visited were lovely. I would definitely go again, especially to Florence, which was just stunning.

We are looking at spain next summer. Where did you go?

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