Italy for 2 Weeks - Suggestions?

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    Jul 20, 2013 1:43 PM GMT
    Hey all - I'm going to Italy for two weeks the end of July into August. Besides the typical things to see and do, any recommendations for things off the beaten path? Anything you all recommend to see that the guidebooks don't list, but is equally amazing?

    We're going to Florence, Rome, Positano, and Venice - and a day trip to Cinque Terre as well as Pompeii.

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    Jul 20, 2013 4:41 PM GMT
    Take the water taxi , called the Vittorio,, to the island of Murano. It is where the Venetian blown glass is made. You can pay a simple cover and watch them making the glass.Its fascinating.
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    Jul 20, 2013 4:42 PM GMT
    Sorry in Venice.
  • Suetonius

    Posts: 1842

    Jul 20, 2013 4:52 PM GMT
    Rent a car in Florence and spend a couple days driving through the Tuscan countryside. Wonderful old hill towns and wineries (e.g., Montepulciano and Altesino areas) to visit. If you do get out of the cities in Tuscany, I would recommend staying at Casa Portagioia, a gay bed and breakfast, not too far from Arezzo -about halfway between Florence and Orvieto, about 20 km east of the A-1. Actually over time it has become gay-ish, since many of the other guests at any given time could be straight. Run by Terry, who is English, and his partner Marcello (Italian) who are both very charming hosts. My partner and I have stayed there several times, and each time has been a delight. It is the most luxurious bed and breakfast that I have ever stayed at.
    http://www.tuscanbreaks.com/
    or look them up on TripAdvisor

    For seeing the David in Florence, or the Villa Borghese museum in Rome, online reservations are a must (and easily obtained.) Rome: definitely get a guidebook - if you are into art- a lot of great renaisaance paintings are viewable for free in various churches - you just have to know where. Walk around Trastevere. If you are there at the right time, there are free-almost free concerts sometimes at the protestant church, complete with lectures.
  • UncleverName

    Posts: 741

    Jul 20, 2013 5:05 PM GMT
    Probably know this if you're going, but do the walk between the five towns of cinque terre. Place is so beautiful. Stay for night time too, if you can. We got some amazing night time shots.

    I'd suggest hiring someone to drive you around for a one day tour of Tuscany. It's beautiful and has so much rich history and so many little things to see. It's not too expensive if split 4 ways. If you can't do that, I would echo the last poster's commen about renting a car to see Tuscany. I'd also recommend going to a winery and learning about how to taste wine. Depending on the winery, it'll be free. And it's tough if fun if your host is especially hammy. I mean, what's more pompous than wine tasting?

    And enjoy! Italy is unbelievable!
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    Jul 20, 2013 5:31 PM GMT
    If "we" means a romantic partner, then don't underestimate the aphrodisiac power of Rome. Walking around the piazze at night is really romantic. Spend a little bank on dinner at a pavement cafe on Piazza Navona, order some red wine, and let the night settle over you.

    Rome is amazing, and most people don't give it enough time. It is my favorite city in the world so far, and that is because it is cosmopolitan, friendly, complex, beautiful, and sensual. I left it with the most regret of any city I've ever visited. I traveled with my partner at the time, and it was great to share with him.
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    Jul 20, 2013 5:31 PM GMT
    Great guys! Thanks for the tips. We did some online reservations for the tourist type stuff and I'll have to check out some of the other suggestions.

    Thanks again!
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    Jul 20, 2013 6:43 PM GMT
    Same trip I just came back from. Expect tons of crowds at the tourist attractions and very hot. 90-100 degrees and humid. I would do it again only on a cruise ship so I didn't have to deal with trains and planes.

    The best times were just walking off the beaten path as you said and get lost in the side streets and normal Italian life. Most everything is walking distance anyway even in Rome. Look of a map, locate a monument or fountain and just walk there. You will find 2000 year old sculptures and old buildings that will amaze you. There is virtually no gay life as I saw it. Everyone is pretty much on the down low there. No one is flambouyant or obvious at all. Not much in the bar and bath scene like northern europe.

    Sights off path: Rome - Gelato place called Giolatti's I believe. Obamas go there while in Rome. Best Gelato in Rome and fun. Just north of Pantheon.
    Sign up now for the underground Scavi tour. It is only 15 euros. You get a private tour of St. Peters burial place and the original catacombs down there before the cathedral was built above it. You get a response back from the Vatican when your tour is scheduled. You have to give them a time frame. It doesn't go into the museum or cathedral above though.

    Venice - wake up at 630-7 in the morning and watch the sun rise while there are no people around. This is the best time to see Venice.

    Positano and Cinque Terre. Not much to do but see the sights. Go swimming on the beaches. All rocky though. Take the boat ferries that go to each city around the peninsula. Very fun and worth the money. Capri is nice but extremely crowded and frustrating. Blue Grotto is disappointing for 32 Euros

    Pompeii. Get there before 10am. That goes for everywhere. Tour buses come in around 11am - 3 so really annoying French, Italian and Chinese groups. Naples museum is probably good to visit for all the Pompeii artifacts. But Naples and the train from Sorrento are pickpocket central. Watch your wallet at all times. I heard multiple people get pickpocketed. Leave your passport and train tickets in a safe at the hotel. Hotels are pretty safe overall. You can even trust the desk staff in decent hotels.

    Florence and Sienna and the wine region were the prettiest and least crowded for me. Need a car or driver.
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    Jul 20, 2013 8:41 PM GMT
    Find a way to spend a month or more. If not, skip Rome no matter what and hit Florence. Still, 2 weeks is never enough time, but in Italy you will regret not being able to spend at least a month.
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    Jul 20, 2013 10:26 PM GMT
    bradomo saidSame trip I just came back from. Expect tons of crowds at the tourist attractions and very hot. 90-100 degrees and humid. I would do it again only on a cruise ship so I didn't have to deal with trains and planes.

    The best times were just walking off the beaten path as you said and get lost in the side streets and normal Italian life. Most everything is walking distance anyway even in Rome. Look of a map, locate a monument or fountain and just walk there. You will find 2000 year old sculptures and old buildings that will amaze you. There is virtually no gay life as I saw it. Everyone is pretty much on the down low there. No one is flambouyant or obvious at all. Not much in the bar and bath scene like northern europe.

    Sights off path: Rome - Gelato place called Giolatti's I believe. Obamas go there while in Rome. Best Gelato in Rome and fun. Just north of Pantheon.
    Sign up now for the underground Scavi tour. It is only 15 euros. You get a private tour of St. Peters burial place and the original catacombs down there before the cathedral was built above it. You get a response back from the Vatican when your tour is scheduled. You have to give them a time frame. It doesn't go into the museum or cathedral above though.

    Venice - wake up at 630-7 in the morning and watch the sun rise while there are no people around. This is the best time to see Venice.

    Positano and Cinque Terre. Not much to do but see the sights. Go swimming on the beaches. All rocky though. Take the boat ferries that go to each city around the peninsula. Very fun and worth the money. Capri is nice but extremely crowded and frustrating. Blue Grotto is disappointing for 32 Euros

    Pompeii. Get there before 10am. That goes for everywhere. Tour buses come in around 11am - 3 so really annoying French, Italian and Chinese groups. Naples museum is probably good to visit for all the Pompeii artifacts. But Naples and the train from Sorrento are pickpocket central. Watch your wallet at all times. I heard multiple people get pickpocketed. Leave your passport and train tickets in a safe at the hotel. Hotels are pretty safe overall. You can even trust the desk staff in decent hotels.

    Florence and Sienna and the wine region were the prettiest and least crowded for me. Need a car or driver.


    Wow - this is great! Thanks for the info. We definitely will take the Venice advice and the Pompeii advice. We rented a car for the pompeii and almafi coast portion because we heard about the pickpockets and figured we'd just get a car for the last few days of the trip.

    All good advice thanks!
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    Jul 20, 2013 10:28 PM GMT
    smartmoney saidFind a way to spend a month or more. If not, skip Rome no matter what and hit Florence. Still, 2 weeks is never enough time, but in Italy you will regret not being able to spend at least a month.


    Man - if I could only spend a month there that would be great. Two weeks definitely is the world wind tour but we'll make the best of it and then take notes for our return trip icon_biggrin.gif
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    Jul 20, 2013 10:30 PM GMT
    Get plenty of bottled water for sure! Do not drink their tap water.
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    Jul 20, 2013 11:52 PM GMT
    Italian here. End of July/beginning of August is a TERRIBLE time to be in Rome. It is typically sweltering, many stores are closed for the summer, and it is inundated with tourists. Venice is no fun, either: the canals tend to smell foul when it gets hot.

    The trick is to get up early, run around in the morning, go back to your hotel for an extended lunch, and explore some more in the evening into the night. Catch a siesta!

    Venice: the most amazing thing about Venice is how ALL the tourists stay on the straight line from sight to sight. Ignore straight lines and you'll be quicker and see a lot more. Also: take the ferry gondola from one side to the other of the Canale Grande. So much cooler (and factors cheaper) than the touristy gondola with the singing gondoliere. They have them at several locations on the Canale, and you see them easily from any bridge. Oh, and Venice is usually deadly boring at night (might be different in summer).

    Florence: don't stay in town, explore. Day trips worth taking include Siena-Chianti-Volterra, Assisi-Perugia, Pisa-Portovenere, Bologna-Ravenna. The Tuscan coast is also worth a trip, especially the part South of Livorno. In Florence, the cathedral, the Piazza della Signoria, and the Uffizi are musts.

    Positano: Great choice, the whole coast is breathtaking! Make sure you take the ferry to Capri. There, skip the Blue Grotto and take the bus to Anacapri and visit the Villa San Michele.

    Rome: say hi to my hometown! If it get too hot, leave town for either the gay beach (41.6572, 12.4142 on Google Maps) or beautiful and cooler Tivoli (see the gardens and Hadrian's Villa - did I mention Hadrian was gay?).

    Once you know where you are staying, go to Google Maps and search for caffe, gelateria, ristorante and other ITALIAN words. You will get results in Italian, with the reviews and votes of Italians. Romans know that you don't get the best food and drink inside the walls, where real estate is crazy expensive, but outside.

    On that topic, stay away from hotels near the Stazione Termini. Some areas are definitely sketchy. And do not drive a car in Rome without full insurance coverage. Both accident and theft. Trust me.

    The mandatory sights in Rome are the Vatican (Saint Peter's probably more than the museum), the Forum and Capitol, the Colosseum and Gay Street (right next to it), Trastevere (especially at night), one of the catacombs (I'd do Priscilla, next to the beautiful park of Villa Ada), E.U.R. in the South (the large scale model of ancient Rome is particularly fascinating). You can't go wrong, though: in any other place, Rome's secondary sights would be a reason by itself to go there.

    More in general:
    * do not EVER eat at a restaurant that has a bilingual menu or a menu in English (and run as fast as you can if the menu has pictures).
    * The coffee bars that are everywhere usually have delicious snacks.
    * Try at least once to take the bullet train (Rome-Florence is the easiest connection, but taking the train into Venice is quite amazing). You can buy your tickets in advance on the trenitalia.com site).
    * Italians love socializing. If you don't speak any Italian, but learn "mi scusi" (excuse me), "grazie" (thank you), "parla inglese?" (do you speak English?), that's pretty much all you need to get by.
    * Make eye contact. It is expected of you. Not making eye contact is considered weird and somewhat suspicious.
    * If you can, avoid driving in urban centers, especially South of Florence. The traffic will drive you insane. Also, you will not be used to European freeway speeds.
    * If you are on a budget, choose a trattoria over a ristorante. If you like good food, do the same.
    * Eat what's in season. Don't ask for artichokes or strawberries in August.
    * Ask Google about good pizzerie. Type "pizzeria" to get the Italian reviews.

    The advice on drinking bottled water is, with all due respect, horse crap. Rome's tap water, in particular, is better than bottled water. You will find water fountains everywhere in town, and you'll drink the same crisp, refreshing mountain water that the ancient Romans drank.
  • Suetonius

    Posts: 1842

    Jul 21, 2013 2:51 AM GMT
    Suggestions:

    Pickpockets: Expect them in Rome/Florence/Touristy areas/train stations. - Not a danger if you are aware - just be aware of your surroundings - like walking through a bad neighborhood in the states. No wallet in the back pocket, no jewelry, no swinging cameras, no obvious Rolexes, etc. A frequent tactic is for children or teens) to distract you (I won't specify their ethnicity, since RJ is so politically correct, but you can guess), and then another grabs your bag, or a guy on a motorcycle will whiz by, and grab your camera (or ladies' purse) on the fly. Two guys traveling together should be safe from pickpockets - just look strong and watch your backs.

    Trains are easy and cheap. If you don't get your tickets online, consider buying them at a smaller city train station. Lines at large stations can be horribly long. Smaller city stations like Assisi, for example, can sell tickets for the entire country, without any lines to speak of. If taking the train from the Rome airport, consider taking a train to Trastevere station instead of Termini, and taking a taxi from there. Much easier to navigate, and the street is right in front instead of a block away.

    Driving - like others said - don't drive in cities. Get a Garmin or TomTom or similar with europe maps (or rent a car with one) - it will not only give directions (where there are no road signs this can be very useful) but it will warn you of the speed limits. Also warns of speed cameras, which might clock your speed and send an automatic traffic ticket to the rental car company - very expensive. Speed limits change frequently on the autostrada, and the police would rather target tourists for tickets. So don't assume that just because locals are driving 10 miles over the limit that you can do so also without getting a ticket. If you should decide to stay at Casa Portagioia, rent a car through their website. The boys have arranged for a greater discount then you can find elsewhere.

    Florence: Themachine is right - don't bother staying inside Florence - a noisy city, without much to offer except its museums, churches, and restaurants.

    Pompeii - Read up on nearby Herculaneum, a better preserved and less crowded (though smaller) city from the same eruption. You might decide to go there instead of Pompeii, if you can't see both. Both Pompeii and Herculaneum have stops on the Circumvesuviana train that runs from Naples to Sorrento (commuter line most tourists take to the ruins). Don't know how you are getting to this region, but since you are there, take the Circumvesuviana into Naples and make a quick stop at the Naples National Archaeological Museum, where most of the statuary and mosics from Pompeii and Herculaneum has been taken. Be sure to visit the Gabinetto Segreto (secret room) in the museum (you may have to ask), where all the erotic art from the buried cities is on display. You'd be amazed at what the Romans kept in their living rooms.

    Rome restaurant suggestion: My favorite restaurant in Rome is La Carbonara on the Piazza Campo Dè Fiori - a great place for lunch.

    Car rental: check the trunk to make sure you have a spare tire. Believe it or not, some companies have rented cars without one (though illegal). If driving in the country (hill towns?) consider buying a can of tire filler/flat repair at a gas station. It could be a life saver if you get a flat in the middle of nowhere (or a great time saver on the autostrada). Bring along a tire gauge for filling your tires.

    Credit cards; Be advised that at self service gas stations, your credit cards probably won't work (since american cards don't have the chip that european credit cards have) - so fill up when you can at full service stations.

    Weather: It will be very hot in July August, so consider wearing shorts during the day (although no Italians will). If you do, you might want to consider long pants at night.

    Venice: The local food is fish, so try fish there instead of the standard pasta or pizza. Enjoy the morning and evening, before the tourists arrive and after they leave, since most are day trippers. Search out a hotel that's not right in the center of things.

    Amalfi coast: If time permits, consider taking the bus up to Ravello, visiting the gardens of the Villa Cimbrone, and the view from the vertical drop down to the sea. Eat or have refreshment on the outdoor terrace of the hotel Villa Maria (great views). If you like walking, you can walk back down to Amalfi on a path/road along the stream (inquire locally if it has been restored since last year's floods).
  • mybud

    Posts: 11837

    Jul 21, 2013 5:55 AM GMT
    Pass on Honey Boo Boo's moms recipe fo Shagetti
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    Jul 21, 2013 6:37 AM GMT
    Be very careful driving in Italy. The drivers in Europe are very aggressive and you will be worried about dents, accidents and the drive around Positano, Amalfi is all curvy with a sheer drop of 1000 feet or more. Many people recommend taking the bus or ferry to avoid the danger. But a car would afford you to spend a lot of time or little time in each small city. These are all small little cities with a cove. I rented a car in Dubrovnik. They don't have street signs at all. I hated it. Got lost for hours. Italy might be the same. Street signs sometimes non-existent. Get insurance through American Express. $15 per rental ahead of time.
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    Jul 22, 2013 3:47 AM GMT
    AtlantaSouthGuy saidGet plenty of bottled water for sure! Do not drink their tap water.

    Not sure why anyone would say this. Water in Italy is as safe as in the US.
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    Jul 22, 2013 3:54 AM GMT
    Florence is wonderful and you do not want to miss it. It is crowded and the hotels are expensive. We visited Lucca on our last trip and when we go back to Tuscany we will try and stay there. It close to Florence and you can commute by train easily. Lucca is a beautiful old city surrounded by a massive wall that is perhaps the original "High Line." Atop the walls is a linear park.
    One thing you might really want to do before you leave is buy admission tickets online. You can do this for the Uffizi Gallery in Florence and many other museums. The Borghese Gallery (Bernini sculptures and Caravaggio paintings) can only be visited by making and advance appointment. You can also pre-purchase your tickets for the Water Buses in Venice. I would try to tell you how to do this online, but you are young and will figure it out very fast!
  • bischero

    Posts: 847

    Jul 22, 2013 4:09 AM GMT
    Che belloooooo!!!!! Ti invidio!!! icon_wink.gif


    In Florence go to Carapina for gelato. Their fruit flavors are to die for. Gusta Pizza and Yellow both are great pizzerias. Tempi and Toto are both wonderful restaurants.

    Remember! If the gelato is piled up high and looks "moundy" - it's not fresh. God knows how long it's been sitting there.

    Buon divertimento!!! icon_biggrin.gif


    PS. You MUST watch the sunset from Piazza Michelangelo!
  • bischero

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    Jul 22, 2013 4:12 AM GMT
    AtlantaSouthGuy saidGet plenty of bottled water for sure! Do not drink their tap water.


    Their tap water is fine. Generally, Italians just order bottled water and not tap, but if you want tap water, you can ask for it in Italian: acqua del rubinetto. You'll get tagged as a foreigner immediately though. icon_razz.gif
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    Aug 09, 2013 2:28 AM GMT
    Just got back from the trip - thanks to all who made suggestions. I was with a few friends (female) so I didn't get to do some of the things on the list - but had a blast all the same.

    We broke Rome up over several days throughout the trip - so did the day and night we arrived in Rome (Colosseum, Forum, etc). Headed to Venice the next day and stayed two days - hit up Santa Margherita late at night for some drinks.

    We then went down to Florence and saw the Florence Sites as well as spending a day in Cinque Terre. There was a restaurant (and of course I don't remember the name of it) but every waiter was hot...looked to be in their early twenties so maybe too young for me but nice to look at ;)

    We then went back to Rome and went to the Vatican and Spanish Steps area. We got a car and drove down to Positano - interesting experience, especially driving through Santa Maria near Naples...I learned a few driving skills I'll try to apply here in the states! The Almafi Coast was awesome...great food/wine/scenery.

    Thanks for all the comments - truly a great trip, great food, great country and great people we met along the way!