Monday, April 01, 2013

One Week



OK, so in actually less than one week I'll be in Italy!  I'm so excited.  I still can't believe I'm going to Italy when there's the money and the kids and the husband and the daily responsibilities...  Who just drops everything and goes to Italy for a week?  Me.  That's who.  My husband is actually taking the week off work just so I can go frollicking about Europe with some girlfriends like I don't have a care in the world.  Trust me, I am so grateful to be taking a trip like this for no good reason at all, especially when my family is making so many concessions for me to do so.  If you haven't figured it out by now, my husband is pretty amazing.  I am very, very lucky.

Our itinerary is set--fly into Venice, then 2 days in Cinque Terra, then 2 days in Rome and back to Venice.  My trip is only a week total, so we're trying to walk that delicate balance of seeing a lot but not too much.  We have a few things on our to-do list, but we're also trying to leave it a little loosey-goosey as well.

I'd love to hear any travel trips from you Italy vetrans out there.  If you've been to any of those 3 cities, what were your must-sees and don't-miss sites?  Any great restaurants or good food tips would be appreciated.  Also, I don't speak a lick of Italian, should I be worried?  


*photo

20 comments:

  1. Ciara6:35 AM

    Lucky you! Prepare to eat loads of carbs and just accept and enjoy it! On the italian side of things it's not essential but it is nice to know a few phrases, I would download a free app or two and look at them on the plane. Have a fabulous time!!

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    1. Ciara--Yes! I am definitely not counting calories on this trip. Gelato for every meal! And thanks for the advice on an Italian app--brilliant!

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  2. So, I went to Italy a few years ago with my three girlfriends and our daughters. We had the most fun ever! My best advice is to relax and enjoy every moment. Don't worry about getting to the next place or event. It's not about how much you see. We would get up every morning and browsed through the day. We walked to most of the places we went stopping to shop and eat explore all along the way. We did a lot of self tours and a few guided tours for those places that we wanted lots of detail about. We loved being among the people going about their daily life. We did rent a car one day and explored a little of Florence, beautiful! The food was awesome. We always ate at the little local cafes, never the touristy restaurants, the atmosphere was unbeatable and the food even better. One last piece of advise, do not, I repeat do not waist your time worrying about what is happening back at the home front. Your husband is very capable, enjoy the wonderful gift you are being given. Give them all a big hug and kiss goodbye and let the fun begin. Amen!

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    1. Donna,

      Thank you. I NEEDED to hear that line about not worrying about the homefront. It feels impossible, but when you said "enjoy the wonderful give you are being given" I thought, yes. Enjoying it is showing appreciation...fretting and wasting time on worry is not. Thanks for the reminder!

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  3. Anonymous8:42 AM

    We Italians appreciate the attempts of foreigns to speak our language, but don't worry too much about it: we are masters of non verbal communication ;) and many of our youngsters, especially in touristic cities, speak a little of English.

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    1. Thank you Anon. I'm going to get an app and try to learn at least a few phrases!

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  4. Oooh...can I come? haha

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  5. I love Italy! Most recently to the mountains of Sicily to help with the olive harvest (and bringing home some of the oil!). I always make a valiant attempt at trying the language, but when I get there, it all leaves my head so the MOST IMPORTANT thing for me to do, wherever I go, is to learn the words for organ meats. I am an adventurous eater and would rather eat off the beaten path so if I'm at a place and can't read the menu or make myself understood, I know that I will not end up with brains, kidneys, or any offal that I might not want to eat. LEARN THOSE WORDS!

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    1. Haha..Arlene good advice! I don't want any fried spleen....thank you.
      And it sounds like you've seen some amazing parts of Italy...so wonderful!

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  6. Anonymous4:40 PM

    Have an amazing trip! I have been living in Rome for some months now, and wanted to leave a couple of words. I'm not an expert, but if it helps you enjoy your trip then I'll be very happy! I'm sorry if this all seems rather confused. Anyway:
    Rome has all the 'obvious' things to see (St Peter's, the Colosseum, Piazza Navona, Piazza Spagna, etc...), which doesn't make them any less worth seeing - they are still amazing! But I would also recommend to have a wander around the little streets of Trastevere for sure. If you have time, this basilica is beautiful and has nice streets around it for wandering - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Santa_Maria_in_Trastevere. Also, if you're interested, there's the main Synagogue around that area and also a really good bakery close by it (follow the crowds of people... or google 'antico forno del ghetto'). The little streets of Rome off the Corso which runs down from Piazza Venezia to Piazza del Popolo (where there used to be public executions. Climb up the steps by this square to get to a park and a beautiful view over Rome - worth the little climb!) are also worth a wander. To get a good view over the Forum by the Colosseum, go up by the Capitol. There is also a museum there (http://en.museicapitolini.org/) with a cafe with a terrace and a beautiful view over Rome - you can visit the cafe for the view even if you don't have time for the museum.
    As for food, you are in safe hands pretty much everywhere! If you go to a pizza place, look for a sign saying they have a 'forno a legno' - it means a wood oven and is a sign that the pizza is cooked 'properly'. Try some Roman street food - suppli' (rice balls - so good!) and fried things (usually you can ask for a 'fritto misto' with your pizza).
    Have an amazing trip!

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  7. Anonymous5:41 PM

    Oh, and another thing, the metro in Rome is not super helpful (kind of impossible to dig and construct a metro with so much history buried under ground), so be prepared for quite a lot of walking! Or buses, the buses are fine. For public transport - you can get a 100 minute ticket for one euro fifty. On the ticket, you can have one metro ride and as many bus rides as you can within the time limit. You get tickets from machines, though they are not at every bus stop, so it might be an idea to get a couple at a time (I mean, if you fancy the risk, it's entirely possible to ride without a ticket on buses... I've never seen anyone stopped and it seems sometimes that actually buying a ticket is a clear sign you're not from round there!).

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  8. Marisa7:37 PM

    I just got back a few weeks ago from a 'spring break' trip (I'm a US College student studying abroad in London, UK) to Milan, Venice, Florence, and Rome. By far, Venice was my favorite city so I'm glad you are hitting that one! I can't attest to Cingue Terra, but for Rome and Venice you absolutely can speak English. However, I personally would recommend learning a few key phrases and at least attempting the language - it is stereotypical for American tourists to go to a foreign country and just assume that people know English. I've studied Italian for 8 years but the rest of my friends didn't know a word and they were just fine. (For the record, the phrases we used the most all related to food).



    For Venice: Definitely ride a gondola. It's going to be expensive (80 euro is the standard), but if you go off the beaten path you can find some for cheaper. It's completely worth it. Try and find the hand painted masks shops - a lot of the 'cheaper' ones are actually made in China (they'll have made in PRC on them). You can even see some artists at work right in the shop, which is pretty incredible. Venice is also a labyrinth of streets - you will get lost. But don't worry, you're on an island so you'll never be that far from where you need to be. And remember, all roads lead to the Piazza San Marco. Go up the bell tower, the view is incredible and worth it. There are also some nearby islands with pretty cool attractions - apparently one has an incredible glass blowing museum, but I unfortunately didn't make it. As for food, everything is amazing! To be honest the best food I had was in Florence so I don't remember specific places, but just try and go to restaurants that don't have English names - they're most likely to have the most authentic food.

    The one place I would absolutely recommend in Rome that hasn't been mentioned yet is the Villa Bourghese. It's a large park with an amazing view of the city. My friends and I did a 'Segway' tour through the park and it was absolutely the highlight of the trip! I definitely recommend it.

    Overall, just eat as much food as possible! I'm gluten intolerant so food wasn't really my thing on this trip, but for my boys it was the best part. Just relax, go with the flow, and have fun!

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  9. For some of the large tourist attractions like the Colosseum and the Forum, I downloaded Rick Steve's audio tours to my iPhone. I'd highly recommend that. Also, leave extra room in your suitcase when you pack so that you have room for fabulous souvenirs like Italian leather purses! A suitcase with really good wheels can make all the difference, especially in Venice. On any "English" menu that uses "rocket," like "rocket chicken," it means arugula. I don't know why, but that was a common mistranslation. Ask the person at the front desk of your hotel for an authentic restaurant. That's where you'll get the best food and have the most memorable meals. Have fun!

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    1. Anonymous4:29 PM

      Rocket is the British English version of arugula! :)

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  10. Anonymous2:27 PM

    Yes Darling,

    Enjoy Italy... it's a constant "feast for the eyes"! One thing I loved in Rome.... (aside from the Vatican including the Sistine Chapel, fabulous frescos and other unbelievable art.... which is MUST SEE in my book...) was the Piazza Navona. On our last night in Rome (which happened to be our anniversary....) we decided to choose from either seeing the "Spanish Steps" or another local sight. After talking to some locals, we decided on visiting the Piazza Navona. This is an open air plazza which is shaped like a racetrack, with of course a trio of beautiful fountains in the middle and a stately, large church on one side. Around the rest of the piazza outside of this "racetrack" are numererous sidewalk cafes. We chose Piazza Navona, because this is where many Romans go in the evenings. Families, singles, young, old, all types... and they just mingle and walk around the plazza and eat at the cafes, share a gelato by the fountain and enjoy! And up one side of this plazza is small street we entered that was full of antique shops. Here Dana bought me a little treaure (antique Ivory bracelet) from two women who literrlay spoke no English! As we sat at the edge of the plazza enjoying a simple dinner at one of those lovely cafes, a handsome, young man approached and stood only ten feet from us and with outstretched arms began singing the most incredible opera I have ever heard...It was a little concert sung just to us! Then a crowd gathered in an arch all around our table, It was one of those "pure magic", never to be repeated scenes that sent tingles up our spines! The thoufht of this still does. And then just as the large crowd began an enthusiatic applause, another yourng man came and laid two red roses on our table! What a perfect evening...The feeling in the air was palpable. What a treasured memory! We made the right choice for us. Next time I will see the Spanish Steps, which of course house some of the most popular shops, such as Channel, Louis Vuitton etc.... But my vote is definitely for the Piazza de Navona!

    La Dolce Vita!

    Love,
    Mom

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  11. Anonymous2:37 PM

    PS.

    Ditto on the Villa Bourghese....it's like the Central Park of Rome. And DO go inside. You will have to ask for a map and to rent a small audio tour... definitely worth while.... the most incredible statuary ever! And the grounds are incredible... again this is a place that Romans just love to walk through... it's all very park like!

    Love,
    Mom

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  12. In Cinque Terre it would be helpful to learn a couple of standard Italian phrases. You will make the locals happy if you try and will probably have a better overall experience even if your Italian isn't great.

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  13. Hurrah for a trip for you! I was just thinking about Rome today, so I have some ideas. I agree with others who recommended Rick Steves. We have used his guides for a few different international trips and he rocks. My favorite restaurant in Rome was Buffeto's. It was popular with the locals and was the best bruschetta and pizza I have ever had - bar none. Please eat copious amounts of gelato. Don't be afraid of McDonald's or Burger King - you can go to the bathroom for free and without asking...just in case you are at Villa Borghese and they have closed and locked the bathrooms at 4 pm. Not that I know from experience or anything.... My absolute favorite thing to do in Rome was rent bikes and ride on the Appian Way, just outside of town. I know you will only be there for 2 days, but it was fun to see the countryside a bit. Myy second favorite thing to do was just wander around looking at things. So, so beautiful. Finally, I didn't know a lick of Italian and was fine, although I did know a fair amount of French and Spanish. Good luck and have fun~

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  14. I go to Italy regularly, and you will want to go again. Last summer I brought my 2 girls to Rome for 2 days, just for the experiences I wished I could have shared with them the previous time. That restaurant on top of Piazza di Spagna with the turtles and the view on Rome - turn left. There is an elevator and no need to climb the steps more then once. They have Prosecchino. The turtles bite. The Antico Caffè Greco on via dei Condotti is more for adults but is breathtaking. A caffè there is the regular price. L'Archetto is near La Fontana di Trevi (just ask when you find the fountain) and is a spaghetti ''assagi'' place meaning you get to choose between dozens of types of spaghetti. I would go again even if there are other great places to eat. The food is great in Venice too (black squid ink risotto!) and everyone is helpful. Have a great trip!

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  15. Thoughts...in no apparent order...that I may have already told you. Hike the Cinque Terre. At least part of it. I liked the Monterosso end better than the Riomaggiore end. We stayed in Vernazza, which I thought was great. Venice at night is the most amazing place in the world. Venice during the day is kind of Disney. So stay out all night and siesta during the day. We drove all over, and stopped in Lucca, which was probably my favorite town. If you can swing it stop and grab lunch and rent bikes and ride on the city wall around the perimeter. We found an awesome street market in Rome where I got vintage Italian postcards (one from 1904) for $1 each. They are amazing and I've loved them. So check out the little stalls. This one was somewhere near Piazza Della Torretta. We did one of the free tours around the Colosseum grounds. It made all the difference between boring and fascinating. Even though it's the ultimate tourist thing to do, I would pay for the guide. Climb to the top of Saint Peter's Basillica. But WEAR PANTS! You can't go if you've got shorts on. And my best piece of advice, that I tell all my patients when they ask for permission to leave their kids for a trip: Your family is going to have the exact same experience whether you have the time of your life or whether you worry and fret about their well-being the whole trip. So live it up and have the time of your life. And return refreshed and all the better for it.

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