U.S. CitiesCity-Data Forum Index
Go Back   City-Data Forum > General Forums > Travel
 [Register]
Please register to participate in our discussions with 1.5 million other members - it's free and quick! Some forums can only be seen by registered members. After you create your account, you'll be able to customize options and access all our 15,000 new posts/day with fewer ads.
Jump to a detailed profile or search
site with Google Custom Search

Search Forums  (Advanced)
Business Search - 14 Million verified businesses
Search for:  near: 
Reply Start New Thread
 
Old 10-26-2011, 08:56 PM
 
221 posts, read 187,971 times
Reputation: 204
Default Couple of questions about Italy

Two weeks from tomorrow, I leave for Rome. I'm very excited. I will spend 6 nights in Rome and 3 in Florence.

When I am in Florence, I think I would like to see a small town or two in the area. While it might be touristy, I would like to see the Tower of Pisa, and I hear the town itself has some interesting sights and history. I have also heard good things about Siena and Lucca...and not so great things about San Gimignano.

There is a bus tour that was highly rated on TripAdvisor for an all day trip to Pisa, Siena and San Gimignano. I don't mind tours, but am not a big fan of big impersonal buses. But it would let me see a couple of towns and the countryside. And I would be with other people (I'm traveling alone). I could also take a train or bus by myself and visit Pisa and maybe Siena or Lucca for a half-day each. I would then have flexibility - if I prefer to just stay in Florence I could - but I am worried about traveling alone and potential anti-American sentiment which I have found in small towns in two other European countries.

So: group bus trip or individual trip to a town or two? And if you could visit only one town near Florence, what would it be?

I have a couple of Rome questions but will ask them tomorrow
Reply With Quote Quick reply to this message

 
Old 10-26-2011, 09:15 PM
 
Location: If you're not living on the edge, you're taking up too much space
12,345 posts, read 4,845,343 times
Reputation: 53748
I just got back from a trip to Italy - Venice, Florence, Rome. Personally, I think you've divvied your time up well between Rome and Florence and am looking forward to seeing your questions about Rome tomorrow.

I traveled with my husband and didn't experience any anti-American sentiment. In fact, quite the opposite - a lot of the Italians we encountered were very open about how disenchanted they are with their government - and about how much they like America.

Even though you're traveling alone, I'd choose to travel by train on my own instead of taking a big bus trip - especially one that zips through all those towns in one day. The train is very easy and traveling 2nd class is basically the same as 1st there but less $$. I can share more about that if you have questions. However, if you find a tour that is limited to 15 people or less, that could be fun.

We had 3 days in Florence and considered a side trip but are glad we stayed in Florence because it was less hectic, gave us time to feel more familiar with the area and absorb the local flavor. Plus, there's plenty to see there. Of the towns you mentioned I think I'd choose Siena for a laid back day or Pisa for a quick hit (that would still mean several hours all told devoted just to travel, though.) Personally, I'd skip the side trip.

Do you have questions about Florence? I can recommend small tours and other things in both cities if you like. If you want to see the Uffizi or Accademia (David) you should book your visit online ahead of time or expect to spend half a day in line just to get in.
Reply With Quote Quick reply to this message
 
Old 10-27-2011, 06:58 PM
 
129 posts, read 55,720 times
Reputation: 323
When near Rome visit Bagnoregio. Interesting place. Also stop by monster park, parco dei mostri di Bomarzo.
Reply With Quote Quick reply to this message
 
Old 10-27-2011, 07:49 PM
 
221 posts, read 187,971 times
Reputation: 204
Thanks for the ideas.

I think I will skip the bus tour and try things on my own if I feel like it. It would be good to have a carefree day when I can do what I feel like doing.

I was thinking of going on guided tours for Uffizi and Academia where they reserve the tickets for me. I don't know much about art and thought it would be good to have someone who could explain it to me. I enjoy the occasional walking tour, especially when I first get to a city and need an orientation. Do you have any recommendations for guided tours in Florence or Rome? And for food, are there any friendly stores or restaurants where I can get food to go? Still not sure about eating alone in restaurants.

I had some questions about Rome, too. One was day trips - thank you to the poster for the Bagnoregio suggestion; I'll look into it. I don't feel like going all the way to Naples to see Pompeii and was thinking about Ostia Antica. Is that a good choice? Or Tivoli where Hadrian's villa was?

What is the best way to get from the Rome airport to the hotel and back? Is it easy and reliable to take the train from the airport or is it better to just get a taxi or shuttle?

I am debating whether to bring my laptop. I don't want to lose it but worry that there aren't many places for me to use the internet. Are you likely to have your bag stolen on a train? Finally, I have read that there are places to store your bags for the day at the train station. Is it safe to do so? There's a 40 lb bag limit, and I'm not sure I can meet that, but I also worry that the hotel won't let me drop off bags before check-in, and I get in very early to both Florence and Rome.

Thanks!
Reply With Quote Quick reply to this message
 
Old 10-28-2011, 07:16 AM
 
6,561 posts, read 8,701,336 times
Reputation: 6395
We took the local buses to these towns from Florence - Siena and San Gimignano (actually, it's been several years, we may have taken a train to Sienna and a bus to SG). Forget the cattle tourist buses, you don't need a tourist bus. We brought our bags with us and stayed a night in Siena.
Siena was beautiful of course and SG was great. I am guessing the people that did not like SG went with a tour. When we went it was uncrowded, peaceful, like stepping into a medieval town. If you are morbidly curious - visit the torture museam there, with it's various geniune implements of medieval torture on display.
Most of the travelers will tell you to not go to Pisa, nothing really to see there except snap a picture of the leaning tower. I never went there however.

For Rome, again my memory is fuzzy. But as I remember there is a train that gets into Rome center from the airport, and from there Rome has a few subway lines that stretch out. The train is reliable and much cheaper than a taxi. For Pompeii - don't stay in Naples. Naples is like the armpit of Italy. We took the train down to the Amalfi coast and stayed at one of the little towns there (and also went to Capri). From there Pompeii was only an hour away by train or so. We took trains everywhere in Italy, or buses. Never once in a taxi or (God forbid) tourist shuttle. I don't remember having trouble with my luggage at all except that my luggage roller wheel came off why rolling it from my hotel to the station, and yes they have places to keep luggage at the stations. But we pack light, as every traveler should.
The only way I would bring my laptop is if I was working (and I travel to Europe for work often). I cannot fathom bringing my laptop for a vacation. But, yes, property theft is an issue all over Europe, suprisingly worse than anything you will experience in the US. Don't get paranoid about it, but be aware.

Last edited by Dd714; 10-28-2011 at 07:33 AM..
Reply With Quote Quick reply to this message
 
Old 10-28-2011, 08:25 AM
 
Location: Toronto
294 posts, read 580,091 times
Reputation: 681
I think using a guide in Florence is a good idea. We used tgiFlorence and it was excellent. Eugene is a US native, art history graduate of NYU and has lived in Florence for many years. tgiFLORENCE He is very personable and knowledgeable.

There are many good guides out there, but do your research. You don't want to get stuck in one of those massive groups where you're herded around like cattle.
Reply With Quote Quick reply to this message
 
Old 10-28-2011, 11:12 AM
 
Location: California Mountains
1,450 posts, read 1,139,594 times
Reputation: 2254
Quote:
Originally Posted by poopycat View Post
While it might be touristy, I would like to see the Tower of Pisa, and I hear the town itself has some interesting sights and history. I have also heard good things about Siena and Lucca...and not so great things about San Gimignano.
My opinion might be different from other tourists, since when we visited Tuscany, we were "local tourists" so we didn't have the rush to see it all as others.

For me, Siena is beautiful and San Gimignano is worth seeing for the many towers. Pisa is a place to visit once but not again because asides from the Leaning Tower, there is less to see there than in any other town.

Lucca did not do much for me.

Quote:
Originally Posted by poopycat View Post
There is a bus tour that was highly rated on TripAdvisor for an all day trip to Pisa, Siena and San Gimignano. I don't mind tours, but am not a big fan of big impersonal buses. But it would let me see a couple of towns and the countryside. And I would be with other people (I'm traveling alone).
Depends on the bus tour. I'm against any bus with slogan such as "imagine yourself having breakfast in Florence and dinner in Venice" or "with 30 minutes stop for photo ops", etc. However, one day to cover Pisa, Siena and San Gimignano is not a bad deal since the three towns are not far apart from one another. You could take the train or bus yourself but it would take much longer time since there are schedules and waiting time involved.

In addition, note that many, many, many Italians often take bus tour to visit other towns whenever there is a long holiday weekend so not all bus tours are evil.

Quote:
Originally Posted by poopycat View Post
I could also take a train or bus by myself and visit Pisa and maybe Siena or Lucca for a half-day each. I would then have flexibility - if I prefer to just stay in Florence I could - but I am worried about traveling alone and potential anti-American sentiment which I have found in small towns in two other European countries.
Half day in Pisa is 1/4 day too long, IMO.

There is no anti-American sentiment in Italy. One or two individuals may say bad things about the American government, but I doubt you would have the opportunity to meet them to discuss politic over a glass of wine.

Quote:
Originally Posted by poopycat View Post
So: group bus trip or individual trip to a town or two?
Either way is fine.

Quote:
Originally Posted by poopycat View Post
And if you could visit only one town near Florence, what would it be?
If I only had three days in Florence, I wouldn't visit any other town. You would need the whole three days to "feel" Florence. Walk around, in and away from tourist spots. Take a whole day to see how far into the Oltrano you can walk, and see how the locals live.

Last edited by Ol' Wanderer; 10-28-2011 at 12:02 PM..
Reply With Quote Quick reply to this message
 
Old 10-28-2011, 11:40 AM
 
Location: If you're not living on the edge, you're taking up too much space
12,345 posts, read 4,845,343 times
Reputation: 53748
Quote:
Originally Posted by poopycat View Post
I was thinking of going on guided tours for Uffizi and Academia where they reserve the tickets for me. I don't know much about art and thought it would be good to have someone who could explain it to me.
This is the actual official site (as opposed to all the ones that say they are but aren't and charge more $$) for the museums in Florence. http://www.firenzemusei.it/ When you get to the first page the welcome link doesn't work but you'll see a banner sticking out from the left - click that banner where it says B-Ticket and it will take you into the site. At the next page, you can click the British flag on the top right for the English version. There you can see what days/times are available and purchase tickets to the Uffizi and the Accademia. There's a small booking fee for each ticket and usually there's a special exhibit so there's an extra 11 euros, for example, on top of the regular 6.50 entrance fee. My advice is to get your own tickets in advance and then buy the headset with self-guided tour at each museum rather than going in one of those massive tours - especially for the Accademia which really is about David and is a very small museum. If you can find a tour limited to less than 15 people then that's a different story. See my link below for Presto tours in Rome. If you get your own tickets, let me know and I can give you some pointers about picking up your tickets. Oh and, I'd get the earliest hour available - especially for the Uffizi. The Accademia could be about an hour visit (I spent that long just with David) but the Uffizi is at least 3 hours, I'd say. The nice thing about the Uffizi is that it's not a maze - you can go through every single room (except the ones that are closed - and there are always closed rooms.)
Quote:
Originally Posted by poopycat View Post
I enjoy the occasional walking tour, especially when I first get to a city and need an orientation. Do you have any recommendations for guided tours in Florence or Rome?
On our friends' recommendation we did the Original Taste the Best tour with Taste Florence | Where eating is an art on our first morning in the city. It was a terrific introduction and set us up for knowing where to get more good, authentic, and reasonably priced food for the rest of our stay in Florence. The tour ended around 12:30 and it was an easy walk to get into our 1pm entry to the Accademia that day. Trip Advisor has lots of reviews of them, there are links on their own site, or I could tell you more about it if you like. Highly recommended - they limit the tours to 9 I think but we just had 6 - perfect. More about other tours for Florence and Rome below.
Quote:
Originally Posted by poopycat View Post
And for food, are there any friendly stores or restaurants where I can get food to go? Still not sure about eating alone in restaurants.
Yes but Florence especially has very little public seating so it can be hard to find a place just to perch - let alone to sit and eat a sandwich. Taste Florence will have recommendations and I might come back with a few also - The San Lorenzo market is a good bet for tasty, inexpensive lunches but they're closed for dinner. They have picnic tables where you might feel less obvious than at a real restaurant.
Quote:
Originally Posted by poopycat View Post
I had some questions about Rome, too. One was day trips - thank you to the poster for the Bagnoregio suggestion; I'll look into it. I don't feel like going all the way to Naples to see Pompeii and was thinking about Ostia Antica. Is that a good choice? Or Tivoli where Hadrian's villa was?
We did the Ostia Antica tour with Italy Tours - Presto Tours and really enjoyed it. We chose it specifically as an alternative to Pompeii since it's so much closer. We did a buy two, get one free package with Presto and also took their Colosseum/Ancient Rome and Vatican tours. Each was well worth it - particularly the morning Vatican tour. It gets you in an hour before the general public and provides a direct link between museum/basilica which also saves a lot of time. All the Presto semi-private tours are limited to something like 15 people. Our Ostia one was just the two of us! The Colosseum/Forum one was 8 and the Vatican was 4. The Vatican one was the only one that used those headsets so we could hear her once the crowds picked up. You'll see at their home page that they also do tours in Florence - Uffizi, Accademia, and the city. Although we didn't do those tours I would if I had the chance again. They did a great job - highly recommended. This could be especially nice for you on your own with a small group because there's more of a connection. Each of the guides was really open to answering questions afterward about restaurants and other recommendations.
Quote:
Originally Posted by poopycat View Post
What is the best way to get from the Rome airport to the hotel and back? Is it easy and reliable to take the train from the airport or is it better to just get a taxi or shuttle?
We didn't travel from the Rome airport but did take trains from city to city and they were so easy and not expensive. We went 2nd class and usually bought our tickets at the machine the day of or the day before travel. In Rome, I'd recommend that you go to the ticket agent, though, because people are really aggressive about begging and trying to rip you off at the machines. It was bad enough with my 6'3" husband along - I wouldn't want to contend with that as a woman alone. Once on the train, I felt comfortable keeping one bag by my feet and one in the open overhead. I was awake and alert the whole time.
Quote:
Originally Posted by poopycat View Post
I am debating whether to bring my laptop. I don't want to lose it but worry that there aren't many places for me to use the internet.
My husband met me after a work trip and always brings his laptop anyway. We left it in the room and everywhere we stayed had a decent, free connection.It did come in handy a few times to help map our days and find what's near what - things like that.
Quote:
Originally Posted by poopycat View Post
Finally, I have read that there are places to store your bags for the day at the train station. Is it safe to do so? There's a 40 lb bag limit, and I'm not sure I can meet that, but I also worry that the hotel won't let me drop off bags before check-in, and I get in very early to both Florence and Rome.
Not all train stations have that - Termini does. I would never do it. The hotel will take your bags in advance and keep them at the desk for you. Ours put them up in the room for us, too, before we got back from our day. Call your hotel to confirm if it'll ease your fears but they will take your bags early AND they'll keep them for you after check out also if need be.

A couple things you might not be thinking about yet...

1. I wore my tennis walking shoes and sandals and was glad I did. Bring whatever shoes you already know you'll be ok walking miles in. You'll do a lot of walking and those cobblestones and marble floors really take a toll on your legs - might as well avoid blisters by wearing shoes you've already broken in.

2. Euro credit cards have chips in them now so many places don't even take the swipe cards anymore. You might not be able to use your credit card over there so you'll need plenty of cash and/or a way to get plenty of cash. We used an ATM card. Not all ATM machines take US cards either - if it's only in Italian it probably won't...if it has English available it will.
Reply With Quote Quick reply to this message
 
Old 10-28-2011, 11:51 AM
 
Location: California Mountains
1,450 posts, read 1,139,594 times
Reputation: 2254
Quote:
Originally Posted by poopycat View Post
What is the best way to get from the Rome airport to the hotel and back? Is it easy and reliable to take the train from the airport or is it better to just get a taxi or shuttle?
You can take the Leonardo Express (~ €15) from the airport to Termini, then either take a taxi or walk to your hotel from there, depending on the distance. Google to see how far your hotel is from Termini first.

If your hotel is in Trastevere, it's a different train from FCO, not the express one, and cost half the fare. Make sure to let the ticket agent know of your destination and board the correct train.

Remember, the law dictates that you MUST validate your ticket before boarding the train or incur heavy fine. That's not a threat; we've seen it happened many times.

Never, ever, ever accept any taxi offer from inside the airport or inside the train station. Take a taxi from the first one in the official taxi stand, where all taxis must have the official seal on the side ("Comune di Roma, Lic.#")

You can also take a taxi to the airport directly to your hotel. The fare is set at €40 (if it has not changed recently -- and even if it did, it should not be more than a couple extra Euros) from FCO to any destination within the Aurelian walls, which is all parts of Rome that most tourists would care to see.

Quote:
Originally Posted by poopycat View Post
Finally, I have read that there are places to store your bags for the day at the train station. Is it safe to do so? There's a 40 lb bag limit, and I'm not sure I can meet that, but I also worry that the hotel won't let me drop off bags before check-in, and I get in very early to both Florence and Rome.
There is a paid luggage storage inside Termini. It's not a locker but a large and manned storage room. It's very safe. However, most hotels allow guests to drop off their bags before check-in. Check with them by email first, let them know the size of your bag (in kg, so there won't be any misunderstanding).
Reply With Quote Quick reply to this message
 
Old 10-28-2011, 12:00 PM
 
Location: California Mountains
1,450 posts, read 1,139,594 times
Reputation: 2254
Quote:
Originally Posted by toosie View Post
Euro credit cards have chips in them now so many places don't even take the swipe cards anymore. You might not be able to use your credit card over there so you'll need plenty of cash and/or a way to get plenty of cash. We used an ATM card. Not all ATM machines take US cards either - if it's only in Italian it probably won't...if it has English available it will.
I wouldn't worry too much about that yet. Last month, I received a personal request from a frequent poster on this forum about this matter, and since we left Italy almost 4 years ago, I checked with a great many of my Italian friends to make sure I had an up-to-date answer for the person who requested the info. I received 16 replies from Umbria, Tuscany, and Lazio (where Rome is), and all confirmed that there was no change yet on the credit card system in Italy. That's as of last month, but after many years living and understanding the Italian way, I wouldn't start to be bothered about this matter until after the entire Europe has uniformly used the same cc system.

Last edited by Ol' Wanderer; 10-28-2011 at 12:11 PM..
Reply With Quote Quick reply to this message
Please register to post and access all features of our very popular forum. It is free and quick. Over $68,000 in prizes has already been given out to active posters on our forum. Additional giveaways are planned.

Detailed information about all U.S. cities, counties, and zip codes on our site: City-data.com.


Reply
Please update this thread with any new information or opinions. This open thread is still read by thousands of people, so we encourage all additional points of view.

Quick Reply
Message:


Over $79,000 in prizes was already given out to active posters on our forum and additional giveaways are planned!

Go Back   City-Data Forum > General Forums > Travel

All times are GMT -6.

2005-2014, Advameg, Inc.

City-Data.com - Archive 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24, 25 - Top