Author Topic: Italy - July 2012  (Read 2859 times)

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Milash

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Italy - July 2012
« on: February 09, 2012, 03:55:53 AM »
My family and I are all travelling to Italy this July, spending most of our time in a villa in Tuscany, but also visiting Rome, Vatican City, Milan and Venice. As this is the first time I've ever flown internationally, I was wondering if anyone has any tips on the place, and flying comfortably. ( flying from Australia)

Thanks
Milash

Snowy Owl

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Re: Italy - July 2012
« Reply #1 on: February 14, 2012, 04:44:17 PM »
Italy is wonderful, gorgeous and one of my favourite places.

Generally for flying in comfort, take a change of underwear and clothing in your hand luggage, also wet wipes, plenty of books and some sweets.  Check the airline website for information on restrictions on carriage of liquids and prohibited articles.  Make sure you know when you need to be at the airport and allow extra time to get through security. 

Tuscany is incredibly wonderful with great food and lovely people.  San Gimignano has some beautiful towers, picturesque cobbled streets and really good food and wine.  If you're hiring a car then you can drive into the chianti countryside and enjoy some wine tasting.  Look for the small establishments with "vendita direta" outside as these are places that sell wine to the public.  Buy some and take it back to the villa.

Siena and Firenze (Florence) are both lovely.  Personally i think Siena is more intimate and unspoilt.  Firenze has an awesome leather market in the Cascine park which is great during the day but a bit dodgy at night.  Firenze also has the Uffizi gallery which is worth spending time in.  Most tourists also like the Leaning Tower of Pisa but I wouldn't bother, it's not much to look at and full of tacky souvenir stands.

Venice is beautiful but very expensive.  Any drinks on Piazza San Marco will cost you over the odds.  Don't hail a gondola and expect it to be affordable.  If you stop one they will charge you over the odds and subject you to bad singing.  The cheapest way to get the experience is the traghetto which is essentially a ferry service at some points from one side of the river to the other.  It's not as romantic but it's a lot cheaper.   Water buses are on the other hand very affordable and a lot of fun. If you take a water bus out to Murano on one of the small islands you get to see the views and then see the glass museum.

Rome is lovely but watch your wallets at all times.  There are a lot of pickpockets.  Don't wear any ostentatious jewelry and keep a sharp eye out especially on the buses.  My favourite art gallery there is the Doria Pamphili which is in a beautiful building and has some lovely unusual collections.  People like throwing coins in the Trevi fountain and seeing the Spanish steps.

I didn't go to the Vatican but I understand it's quite large and can take ages to get around.  If you want to see the pope do the thing where he stands on the balcony (not sure the correct name) and blesses people, check in advance for the timings. 

Other things that are fun are window shopping and eating nice food.  In Italy I'd say avoid anything that has plastic menus in several languages displayed and waiters walking outside trying to drag people in.  Locals don't eat there.  In the early evening the main street of any town will have what they call the passegiata which is where people dress up and walk down the street, meeting their friends and being seen.  A good way to find somewhere to eat is go to a pavement cafe, watch the Italians passing and see where they wind up going to eat.  Italians do tend to dress up for dinner and operas and tend to eat dinner quite late.  Gelato (ice cream) is heavenly, pizza is great and pasta is so good you'll dream of it later. 

Opera is wonderful in Italy.  Venice has a lovely opera house, so do most other places.  Nothing beats the sight of Italian opera in the native language. 

And we should consider every day lost on which we have not danced at least once.

Friedrich Nietzsche

MacadamiaNut

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Re: Italy - July 2012
« Reply #2 on: February 14, 2012, 08:01:33 PM »
If you're going into the vatican, plan to get up really early to stand in line and bring water or something thirst quenching because it will be a long, hot wait.  Stores are open nearby too so you can always do store runs while someone else keeps your place in line.

Also, if you're wearing tank tops, be sure to carry with you something that will cover your shoulders to go into any churches in general on your trip.

In Venice, you can split the cost of a gondola ride with others to lessen the cost.  I recall it was very expensive.

People say the gelato in Rome is the best but I found the one in Milan better!  We just ate gelato in every city to cover our bases  ;)

I'm sure at some point you will find yourself riding the rails.  Never forget to stamp your train ticket before boarding!  Oh, and you can find cheaper train tickets online than at the train station. 

I'll write back if I think of anything else.  It's a lovely trip and your itinerary sounds awesome!

Paperweights, for instance - has anyone ever established what, when, and why
paper has to be weighed down? ::) ~Don Aslett

Milash

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Re: Italy - July 2012
« Reply #3 on: February 14, 2012, 08:12:12 PM »
Thanks for the suggestions macadamia nut and snowy owl.

I was also wondering if anyone has been to Pompeii, and if it's worth going to

MacadamiaNut

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Re: Italy - July 2012
« Reply #4 on: February 14, 2012, 08:28:04 PM »
I've been to all the places you mentioned in the OP but not Pompeii.  No friends of mine have been there either so I have no feedback.  How long is your trip?  I ask because I found that most places were easy to see fully in just a day or two so fitting several other cities (or countries) into the itinerary became a snap.  For example, we walked the entire city of Rome (tourist map-wise) twice in just a day and a half.  I guess it depends on whether you want to relax a lot or run around a lot.
Paperweights, for instance - has anyone ever established what, when, and why
paper has to be weighed down? ::) ~Don Aslett

Milash

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Re: Italy - July 2012
« Reply #5 on: February 14, 2012, 09:04:48 PM »
We are going for 3 weeks

SisJackson

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Re: Italy - July 2012
« Reply #6 on: February 14, 2012, 09:31:00 PM »
I was also wondering if anyone has been to Pompeii, and if it's worth going to

I've been - we spent a day there poking around and loved it, but I am a big history buff who loves museums, so this was like a big open-air museum.  I did a bunch of reading on Pompeii beforehand and got the audio tour available, although nowadays there are downloadable audio tours for your iPod or mp3 player online.

One thing that happened in Pompeii is that rain started dumping down in crazy amounts, causing rivers of rainwater to rush down hills and pool in low-lying areas.  There were several tourists there wearing completely impractical shoes and they had to severely abbreviate their exploration in order not to ruin what they were wearing.  It made me glad I wore shoes that were able to go in water and rinse clean later and dry quickly.

Do you have your hotels booked?  I was very pleased with the hotel we stayed at in Venice and the proprietors were very helpful in finding us a nice baccari (local pub) with cicchetti (local appetizers) and really reasonable house wines.  We actually did a dinner one night just strolling from baccari to baccari.  They also pointed us in the direction of a lovely restaurant favored by locals where we got great authentic Venetian cuisine.

We got the recommendation on the hotel from Rick Steves.  While I don't buy into everything he says (I simply cannot pack for a two-week vacation in a single 9" x 22" x 14" bag) he does have some awesome ideas and tips and recommendations.  For the most part he really knows what he's talking about when it comes to European travel.

Milash

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Re: Italy - July 2012
« Reply #7 on: February 14, 2012, 09:35:20 PM »
Thanks sisjackson, we have only booked the Tuscany villa so far, which will be our base, and need to book the other places soon.

MacadamiaNut

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Re: Italy - July 2012
« Reply #8 on: February 15, 2012, 10:36:15 AM »
Oh yes, to me, three weeks sounds like plenty of time to get a lot of side trips in.  You could even hop a train to Paris from Milan if you want!
Paperweights, for instance - has anyone ever established what, when, and why
paper has to be weighed down? ::) ~Don Aslett

cicero

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Re: Italy - July 2012
« Reply #9 on: February 15, 2012, 12:54:08 PM »
I'm jelous!!  I spent one day in milan a few years ago - it was wonderful. people are just nice and friendly, and  i got a long with english and lots of hand gestures.

I knew someone/ distant relative who lives outside of milan and she took me to Bergamo which is a beatiful old walled city on a mountain - i took the train there from Milan (this relative told me to never take the bus inter-city because there are *always* bad accidents and delays on the highways).

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Sophia

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Re: Italy - July 2012
« Reply #10 on: February 15, 2012, 01:50:12 PM »
I adore Italy.  I spent 7 weeks touring Europe several years ago, and about half that was Italy because I kept coming back.

I really enjoyed the "City Secrets" travel books for Italy.  They had one for around Florence and one for Rome when I went.  The premise is that they ask local Art History professors, etc.  "When friends visit you, what are your must visit places, and why".  Totally cool, and totally eye opening.  I'll never forget reading about the Vatican's marble penis collection (from the statutes).  The books gave you the information a really great tour guide would.  How to get there, you had to get from somewhere else.

Pompeii was really cool, the Naples museum is still in my top 5 museums (and I have been to many around the world). 

I don't know if this will apply to you.  As a Texan, I have always felt a kinship with Australians.  I also felt very comfortable with Italians.  With Australia/Texas, I think it is frontier thing.  Don't know what it is about Italy.  But, maybe you will feel it too.

Snowy Owl

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Re: Italy - July 2012
« Reply #11 on: February 15, 2012, 04:45:36 PM »
Thanks for the suggestions macadamia nut and snowy owl.

I was also wondering if anyone has been to Pompeii, and if it's worth going to

Pompeii is fascinating.  I actually liked Herculaneum better though, it's quieter and slightly more intact.  It also has fewer large groups of tourists.  Both are well worth going to.  I was there in quite a hot summer and it got very dusty so worth taking drinking water. 
And we should consider every day lost on which we have not danced at least once.

Friedrich Nietzsche

Cereal Killer

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Re: Italy - July 2012
« Reply #12 on: February 16, 2012, 09:41:44 AM »
Pompeii is just fascinating, as well as Herculaneum - I can't imagine where else you could see something similar. But yes, bring a lot of water with you.

In Tuscany, as someone already mentioned, Siena is very lovely. It is also very cheap and easy to travel around Tuscany with local commuter trains (even if you don't speak Italian). To me it seemed like all the little towns were lovely and fascinating and therefore it was really nice to be able to see many of them so easily.

Another nice town is Lucca, you can spend a couple of days there wondering around or just see the main sights in a couple of hours and move on.

If you do visit Pisa, please see the city around the tower. It's much less touristy in other areas: lovely alleys and little market squares and all. They also have a local microbrewery if you're interested in beer, it's called Orzo Bruno (Their homepage http://www.orzobruno.it/index.htm seems to be in Italian only).

Shopaholic

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Re: Italy - July 2012
« Reply #13 on: February 16, 2012, 10:16:19 AM »

Another nice town is Lucca, you can spend a couple of days there wondering around or just see the main sights in a couple of hours and move on.


I second Lucca. It's a wonderful little town. You can take a walk on the city walls, or rent a bike. On weekends there is a market which my MIl highly recommended.
In the summer there are sometimes free concerts. We just happened by a church with people going in and got to hear a wonderful acapella concert.