Good tips, thanks! My Mom goes to Italy three or four times per year and this will her 6th Rick Steve's Italy tour so she will be like a tour guide within a tour. I am not much of a skirt person but sounds like that might be a good thing to take along.
My husband and I spent 10 days in Italy last summer, travelling on our own, but in the same area. We started in Siena, then Bologna, Florence, and Rome.
I had visited Italy as a child (in 1964) and things have changed a LOT. No more clusters of little old ladies in black outside each village church. No more 20 year old cars held together with baling wire and string. No more families of 4 all on one motorbike. No more masses of people using bicycles for basic transportation (lots of bicyles, but being used for entertainment/sport, not basic "go to work" transportation).
In those days it wasn't just knees and shoulders that had to be covered to go into churches, but head/hair as well.
For Sophie going to Siena, by sure to see the town square where they hold the horse race for the Palio in the summer. We were there in late June, too early for the race, but we came across a group, some quite young, practicing flag throwing (will add photo later).
It is definitely worthwhile visiting Monteriggioni, a medieval walled town on top of a hill, with great views from the walls, and San Gemignano, another old walled town with lots of tall towers, some of which you can climb.
On the south side of Siena, you should visit Pienza (a World Heritage site). It is a small town that was extensvely rebuilt by Pope Pius II (who was born there) as an "ideal Renassance town" in the 15th century.
ETA for Laurirace- I see your tour includes the church of San Clemente in Rome (multiple churches built on top of each other, with a Roman temple and houses at the bottom). That is one of my favorites, both in 1964 and 2012.
There is a similar juxtaposition (though next to each other instead of on top of each other) at Santo Stefano in Bologna.
Thanks Janet! I am taking notes ;) We won't be there at the same time as the Palio, which is just as well as I have mixed feelings about that race (wounded or dead horses every year).
As a kid I visited Naples, Pisa, Florence, Sienna, Pompei, Ischia and have vivid memories of it. At the time Italy was a cheap vacation destination for northern Europeans.
Congrats you should have a wonderful time. We've taken Rick's books throughout Europe and honestly the guy have uncovered just about every one-horse town (especially in Italy) worth checking out.
Originally Posted by Laurierace
My wife and I were married in Italy and have gone back numerous times. We'll go back again this late August. Although Rick Steves didn't have much to say about the town were married in which is fine by me :) We've always made Florence a bit of a home base for our visits. Very easy to get around. Very. I'm sure your itinerary will hit all the high notes for each location.
For Florence I would recommend going to see the Mercato Centrale at noon just for the visual appreciation of all the foods. Have gelato at Gelateria dei Neri - they have a sensational coal black chocolate that is magnificent. Rick has it in his book.
Far too many things to recommend throughout the country, but the most critical above all else is just enjoy a different place, culture, and approach towards a lot of things.
Outside Florence, I would also recommend Vinci (as in Leonardo da Vinci). In addition to a good museum on Leonardo, they have one of the modern castings of the gigantic horse statue Leonardo designed, but naver cast. Pictures are on other computer, but I will come back and add one.
Thanks for all the suggestions everyone! I will make sure to put this thread into my kindle for reference when I get it.
I found shoes problematic because Europeans are very fashionable and I didn't want to be the tourist in the big white tennis shoes -- but big white tennis shoes are the most comfortable for the kind of walking I would be doing!
So I second the comfortable shoes, but at the same time, try to find something halfway attractive.
I lived in Venice for 3 years in the early 1990's (20 years ago already...EEEEKKKK!). September is not *quite* as busy as the summer months but it will still be crowded. Lots of group tours. It is very pretty though and St Mark's is beautiful. I am sure you'll enjoy it a lot.
For sure bring comfy walking shoes. To save a little money on meals you can stop in pretty much any bar at lunch time and find panini and other little sandwiches, which is generally much cheaper than a restaurant meal, especially in the area around St Mark's. The little bars also have excellent local wine and at least when I lived there it was the cheapest beverage that existed. :) In the Venice region the local whites are very nice. Or you can try a "Spritz", which is a local drink made of Campari, white wine and soda water. Eat gelato every day or you will be kicking yourself for not enjoying to its fullest when you come home.
Be very careful of pickpockets, especially around the big attractions in Rome, and the train stations and on buses. Keep a very close eye on your luggage and other belongings. Beware of small children waving papers in front of you - it's a distraction. Just assume that anything you set down unattended will be stolen. I know that sounds awful but theft is very, very common and not just for tourists.
Yes your phone will work on wifi, however to be on the safe side check with your cell company as to whether or not you need to add/change your plan while in Italy. When I was in Mexico for 3 weeks, my phone worked fine with free wifi at public locations for web browsing etc. but I did get the Mexico plan (cost like $10 extra on my bill) while I was there in case I needed to make an emergency phone call.
Most importatnly, MAKE SURE you have turned Data Roaming OFF on your phone or it will be in constant roam mode and you will end up with a big bill! A friend had this happen when in Mexico, bill was over $350 just because they had left data roaming on...
All our breakfasts and most of our dinners are included but we will keep the bars in mind. Unfortunately, I have yet to find any wine that didn't taste awful to me but I will give it a try.
Originally Posted by Spooks
LOVE Italy! You are going to have such a great time. If you are going to Rome, be sure and pick up a Popener. :)
Before I went, I took a class called "Italian for travelers" at our local community college. If you can find something like it, I suggest you take it. I learned enough Italian to where people thought I was fluent in the language, and it sure made the trip more enjoyable for me to be able to interact with the locals.
I've been to Rome several times, Siena, Tuscany and Puglia. On our bike tour, we were admitted to all of the cathedrals while wearing bike shorts. I did have the kind that have a skirt attached, but not everyone did. We were told no bare shoulders, no halter tops, etc., but nothing was said about our knees. The bike tour was in 2005. Nonetheless, it's good to be respectful of local customs. Be QUIET in the churches and do not walk across any roped-off areas. Doesn't matter if you're covered from head to toe if you traipse across the altar
Hubby is an avid cyclist, he wasn't even deterred when he got hit by a car in January. I imagine he would love a bike tour of Italy but that isn't in the cards for me. I bet that was gorgeous.
I hate you. :D No, but I am insanely jealous. I LOVE Italy. I've been all over! Florence, Venice, Rome, the Amalfi Coast, Lake Como. It is my favorite country in the entire world.
I think I am most excited about the food. I could eat Italian food every day as it is, there is it just food.
oh the food! When I was in Venice I had gelato twice a day! Always seeking out different places to have it. Its a great way to explore the area when you put yourself on a mission!
Also, check out Atheltica.com for comfy, easy to hand wash, light, easy to pack clothes pants that wick away sweat and keep you cool.
As your mom travels a good bit, she will probably already be up on where US cellphones work and where they don't.
I know that GSM companies have phones that will work in Europe (ATT, TMobile etc.) and that Verizon says they can rent you a phone that will work.
My mother is going to France for two weeks next week, and what we did for her instead was to order a phone from www.roamsimple.com -- we got a phone that will text and call and a Western European sim card -- that way, she doesn't have to find a cheap phone when she gets there, and can keep it for subsequent trips.
It was a recommended solution from the Rick Steves forums, actually, and I did a bunch of research and it seemed to be the most cost effective way to do it. If you mother hasn't ever looked into it, she probably travels enough that it would make sense for her too. It gives you the phone number before you leave, which is helpful.
I think the cost was around $79, which was less expensive than renting a phone from Verizon.
Have a great trip!!
i forgot about the FOOD!
in my dotage i'm learning to eat paleo/primal for better health and going to italy is def going to be a test of the lifestyle. we plan on december until march in sicily, spending march and april traveling north and exploring until may when we come back to the states.
i'd better be really firmly entrenched in my new eating habits by then!
Yes, I was going to mention that my personal smartphone (Verizon) doesn't even work when I travel to Europe. I put it in airplane mode anyway, but data or even call roaming isn't even an option since this phone is not globally enabled. I am in The Netherlands right now and while wifi does work at the cafes and such, generally it is quite slow. I don't remember if the same was true in Italy.
Originally Posted by Bensmom
Italian food in Italy is amazing, but in my opinion, there are still some weird things to watch out for. Example: there was a cream filled puff pastry given to me as an appetizer. I bit into and first tasted sweat, creamy....but then....salty and....fishy? I almost threw up. There was a heavily salted anchovy in my puff pastry!! Some people love that, but I was not happy.
Still, cooking my own steak slices on a hot rock, the pasta, the wine. It was great.
If you see Bonet on the desert menu,definitely order it.
Basically a macaroon, chocolate and caramel custard.
Also ricotta gnocci.