Italy – Travel the right way

Traveling to Italy is important. It is the dream of millions of people. It doesn’t have to be just a dream. It can be a reality. Save each month for a vacation to Italy. When you have enough, make reservations. See this beautiful and romantic country. Airfare is the most expensive part of the trip. Traveling off-season can drastically reduce airfares. Stay in small European hotels not big name American hotels. Make sure you have a private bath. Eat in bars or a trattoria. Never travel in August! It is hot and very crowded.

Tour groups can be expensive as well. They are run like cruises. The initial expense doesn’t seem bad but then they always have side-trips you want that can run up on the bill. They guide you to their restaurants and shops that give them a kickback. These are not always the best places for a memorable vacation. Be a smart traveller! Do your homework. Buy a guide-book or study the Internet. Here is a checklist:

  1. List the cities you ant to visit. Don’t try to do all of Europe or even all of Italy in one trip.
  2. List the top things you want to see in each city.
  3. If museums are your thing, list the top things in each museum that you want to see. Don’t try to do all of a large museum.
  4. Research Italian hotels. Look at location, price, amenities and other travelers reviews. Don’t worry if breakfast is included. Breakfast in Italy at a bar is cheap and delicious.
  5. Estimate the time you need in days in each city. Then estimate travel time between cities. You can fly, drive or take a train. Flying gives you the most time in your cities if they are a distance from each other. Trains are romantic and you can see the country side.
  6. List entrance costs and local transportation (metro) to get to each attraction. Many cities can be walked if you are in shape.
  7. Now estimate your trip. List days in each place and when you should go. Airfares are often cheaper on Tuesday through Thursday than weekends.
  8. Now you have an itinerary and an estimate on cost. Add in spending money and extras that you will find spur-of-the-moment.
  9. Now you are ready for a wonderful trip. Sit back and enjoy it.

We love taking people around Italy. We enjoy seeing the amazement in their eyes and the joy they feel. When we take a group it is always small and we don’t try to do everything in a single trip. It is important to end your vacation feeling happy and full of memories, Our rules are:

  1. Visit the main cities first. See the top ten things in each city. Experience the city as an Italian. Meet and talk with people. Most Italians speak some English as it is the national second language.
  2. Visit small mountain and sea-side towns next. Some of these are so small that the large tour busses can’t get to them.
  3. Never go to touristy restaurants or shops. Be spontaneous and see what you find during your walks.
  4. Have a general itinerary but be spontaneous and be able to change it.
  5. Experience not just the monuments but the people, food and wine.

Italy is a passionate and romantic country. Experience all of its emotions.

George & Jo Anne

 

 

Categories: Bars, Europe, General Travel, Italy, Money, Mountain Towns, Museums, Romance, Small Towns, Trains, Wine | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Capri Italy

Capri is an Island off the coast of Sorrento and south-west of Naples. It is the playground of the rich and famous. To get to Capri you must take a ferry. There are two types: 1) the fast hydrofoils and 2) the slow boats. The hydrofoils cost more but cut the time almost in half. All boats arrive at Capri at the Marina Grande (Big Marina). If you are spending the night, there are porters here that take your bags to your hotel for a small fee. At first we were concerned about people grabbing our bags but it is normal here and all the hotels use them.

From the ferry you can take a bus up a winding road or a funicular up the mountain. Take the funicular. It is in a store front directly opposite the ferry docks. At the top you are in Capri City (on Capri Island) in the main square (Piazza Umberto). This is a huge Piazza with views, clock tower and restaurants. One of the roads (directly opposite the funicular exit) is Via Roma. Take this a short distance and on your right is a bus station. From here you can go to Capri’s other city, Anacapri. This trip has magnificent views of Marina Grande. You will find great ceramics here.

We also rented a boat to tour around the Island (not just the Blue Grotto). It cost us about $160. There are two restaurants near Fragolini Rock. They are down hundreds of steps but worth the view and the food. They are 1) Fontelina Beach Club and 2) Da Luigi ai Fragolini. You can also take a boat here from the small Marina (piccola Marina).

The boat trip around the Island and through Fragolini Rock is well worth the trip. You see small caves with beautiful blue waters, you can go into the famous Blue Grotto but it is usually very crowded. You go past both marinas and on the east side of the island you can see Vesuvius volcano in the distance and the start of the Amalfi Coast.

Fagolini Rock

Fragolini Rock

Capri is a romantic place with friendly people, great shops (some very expensive), great food and wine and the best views around.

George & Jo Anne

 

Categories: Italy, Amalfi Coast, Capri, Europe, Naples, Wine, Caves, Beaches, Sorrento, Ferries | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Enoteca

An Enoteca is a special type of wine store that originated in Italy. It is a Wine Library. The idea is to have owners of a local wine group on hand to serve wine and answer questions about it. Visiting an Enoteca is rewarding in that you can try many types of local wines and understand how they are made and from what grape they are produced. These are small bars that specialize in wine. Usually you sit at the bar and can speak with a knowledgeable person as you try the wines.

As in all bars in Italy, alcohol is served with food. An Enoteca usually serves small plates of food or even small sandwiches. The idea is not to get drunk but to taste different wines and learn about them. This can be an inexpensive and enjoyable way to have a small dinner with wine.

The Enoteca can be found in most large Italian cities and in some smaller ones. It is a great way to learn and sample which wines are local to the area you are in. You can also buy a bottle or two of these local wines.

These special bars are showing up all over America. For the real experience, you will have to travel to Italy!

George & Jo Anne

 

Categories: Bars, Enoteca, Europe, Italy, Wine | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Orvieto, Italy

Orvieto is a small mountain top town in Umbria. It is north of Rome and can be easily gotten to by car or train. The train station and free parking lot are at the base of the butte. The butte is of limestone and volcanic ash. It goes straight up on all sides and town sits on the top. It is flat and easy to walk. From the train station or parking lot take the funicular up the butte to the town. There is a bus that will shuttle you to the piazza with the duomo (cathedral). You can easily walk around this town.

IMG_5400 a

Funicular

There is a large fort at the top of the funicular. Inside you have great views down to the train station and countryside. Walking straight out of the funicular is Corso Cavour, follow this to the bell tower in the center of the city and make a left at Via del Duomo. The duomo is in a Piazza at the end of this road.

IMG_5422 Clock Tower IMG_5426

                                          Bell tower                                      Duomo

The duomo is so large it is hard to believe it is in this small city. On Via del Duomo there are ceramic and leather shops with fantastic local products. Restaurants abound in this area. In Piazza Duomo there is a small trattoria. You can eat outside with great views of the duomo.

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Trattoria

Walk the narrow streets and enjoy this great city. If you go back to Corso Cavour and go left to the end, you are at the back side of the city with views of the countryside.

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Countryside Views

 This is a city worth a stop. If you have time spend a night here and get to know the local people. As you ride the funicular down you are a little sad that you are leaving Orvieto. There is a fantastic local white wine here called Orvieto and Orvieto Classico. What a romantic place!

George & Jo Anne

 

Categories: CVathederal, Duomo, Europe, General Travel, Italy, Orvieto, Romance, Rome, Small Towns, Umbria | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Where do you WiFi in Italy

Being connected is important tool of us. We are on vacation but we want to be connected to:

  • Stay in touch with the office
  • Check on an illness in the family
  • Facebook, text or email your status to family & friends
  • Keep up with your texts and emails so you don’t return home to hundreds of unread items

We typically have caffè at a local bar with free WiFi. We can spend a little time over breakfast catching up and telling everyone what we are doing. Jo Anne is in sales and sometimes needs to keep in touch with customers. In this case we either buy a data plan from our provider or rent a WiFi box in Italy. One such company is Witourist. The box comes in 3G and 4G versions. It allows up to 5 devices to connect to its WiFi signal.

If you have economical ways to stay connected in Europe let us know.

George & Jo Anne

 

Categories: Europe, Italy, WiFi | Tags: , , | 1 Comment

Ordering Coffee in an Italian Bar

Coffee in Italy is a religion … a way of life. They mainly drink espresso. In America in larger cities like New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, etc., you can find good espresso. It is common here as well. In small American cities, it is not so common. Most forms of Italian coffee are available in America. The barista in Italy study for a long time. It is a serious job. About Travel lists “How to order coffee in an Italian Bar”. Here are some coffees in Italy:

  • Caffè – Normal Italian coffee (espresso)
  • Caffè Lungo – A larger cup of espresso. This is also known as Caffè Americano. It is weaker than normal Caffè.
  • Caffè con Panna – Caffè with sweet cream.
  • Caffè con Zucchero – Caffè with sugar.
  • Caffè Macchiato – Caffè with a little steamed milk.
  • Cappuccino – Cappuccino with steamed milk (a thick foam on top).
  • Caffè Latte – Caffè with milk. A cappuccino without the foam.

There are many more forms at the link above. Most people order one of the above. Just step into any bar and say un Caffè per favore.

George & Jo Anne

 

Categories: Bars, Cafè, Caffe, Espresso, Europe, General Travel, Italy | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Rome Temperatures

Yesterday we spoke about what to see in Rome Italy. Now let’s look at when it is a good time to go there. August is always bad! The temperatures can be very hot and muggy and everyone in Europe is off on holiday for the month of August. Standing in long lines  in the heat or not getting in at all can ruin a vacation. Spring and fall are the best times to go to Rome. Even winter can be nice but Rome can get a little snow.

The average temperatures from holiday weather.com are:

  • January – 46
  • February – 48
  • March – 50
  • April – 55
  • May – 63
  • June – 70
  • July – 75
  • August – 75
  • September – 70
  • October – 63
  • November – 54
  • December – 48

These are averages and any day can be much hotter or colder.

George & Jo Anne

 

 

Categories: Europe, Italy, Rome, Rome Temperatures | Tags: , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Roman Holiday

When you plan a trip to Rome, there are certain things you must see. Rome is an ancient city and a modern city of architecture. People have apartments with modern convinces in ancient buildings. The cobble stoned roads make you think of ancient roman with an army of Roman soldiers riding into the city on horseback.

Rome has many museums and attractions as does any big city. The attractions we love are:

  • Trevi Fountain – This fountain has been undergoing restoration but is a beautiful work of art. It is not that old by Roman standards. It was constructed in 1732.

trevi-fountain

  • Pantheon – Originally commissioned during reign of Augustus (27 BC to 14 AD). The current structure was built 118AD to 128 AD. It is a modern structure with a floating roof like modern sports arenas. They actually built a wooden roof structure then used blocks and cement to create the actual roof. Finally they tore down the wooden structure. It has a hole in the center that is open to the sky.

Pantheon

  • Old Roman & Coliseum – The Coliseum was commissioned 70-72 AD. although most of old Rome is ruins, the coliseum is still seen in its full glory. There are stone roads in old Rome that make you fill the Roman legions are marching through. This is what Roman Citizens would see during the Roman period. It is a very unique and interesting place preserved for all time.

coliseum

  • Vatican City & Saint Peters Basilica – Vatican City is a separate country from Italy. It’s president is the Pope and its army is the Swiss Guard. At one end touching upon Rome is Saint Peter’s Basilica. The courtyard is massive and the church is impressive by any standard. You can usually enter any time and see this magnificent structure. The vatican and Sistine Chapel is on the other side behind well guarded walls. You will need a reservation to enter. After you go through the Sistine Chapel, there are two exits: 1) to Saint Peter’s (but you can not return and 2) back to the vatican city.

St Peters St Peters 2

  • Castel Sant’Angelo – Construction began 135 AD. This beautiful castle is just down the street from Saint Peter’s. The bridge nearby leads back over the Tiber River to the main part of Rome. The bridge has beautiful angels on it.

Castello Sant'Angelo

  • Villa Borghese – This is a huge park behind the Spanish Steps. It has restaurants, walks, rides for the kids and the Borghese Gallery which is a wonderful museum worth seeing. You will need advance reservations.

Villa Borghese

  • Spanish Steps – Was first opened in 1725. A set of a 135 steps lead up a steep rise in Rome. Climb them to see Trinità dei Monti church at the top. You can then continue into Villa Borghese park.

Spanish Steps 2

We started at Trevi Fountain and circled around and ended up at the Spanish Steps. There is much more to see in Rome but we love these sites.

George & Jo Anne

 

Categories: Castel Sant'Angelo, Coliseum, Europe, illa Borghese, Italy, Pantheon, Rome, Saint Peter's Basilica, Spanish Steps, Trevi Fountain | Tags: , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Perugia, Italy

Perugia is a special city. It is home to Perugina chocolates. They are best known for their Bacci (Kiss) chocolate. The chocolate factory (with tours and tastings) is just outside the city. The city itself is medieval. What a charming place to stroll. Imagine walking on the same small walkways as people did during the medieval period. There are old squares, churches, Castles and fortresses.

Perugia

This is a great town to spend a night or two and go back in time. It is a very romantic place to spend some time. Imagine peaceful walks on old narrow streets, eating in a small trattoria, having some Perugina chocolates, sipping some local wine. Eat a Perugina back (kiss) then kiss someone special. Are you ready to go?

Perugia is near Assisi and Cortonia (where Under the Tuscan Sun took place and the real Frances Mayes home is). It is also not a long drive from Siena or Florence.

George & Jo Anne

 

Categories: Chocolate, Cortona, Florence, Gelato, General Travel, Italy, Perugia, Perugina Chocolate, Romance, Siena, Wine | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Assisi, Italy

Assisi is a beautiful small town on the eastern side of Italy. It is very close to Perugia the chocolate town that is home to Perugina. Assisi is known as the birth place of Saint Francis. St. Francis is known because as the son of a rich man, he gave up all his worldly possessions and lived in the forest. He later founded the Franciscan Monks.

Assisi is home to the cathedral of Saint Francis at one end and a typical small city center at the other end of the town. You can easily walk around this city. Driving in the center is restricted but you can park in lots outside the center and walk in. The church is actually two churches, one on top of the other. Visit Saint Francis’ grave. Walk around the church complex and visit inside each church. Then walk to the city center and enjoy a caffè, gelato, Panini (sandwich) or lunch at a trattoria.

The church is built on a hill and the surrounding countryside and mountains are beautiful. This is a special place to be enjoyed and o relax in.

Assisi

George & Jo Anne

 

Categories: Assissi, Cafè, Chocolate, Europe, Gelato, General Travel, Italy, Mountain Towns, Perugia, Small Towns | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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