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Back from Italy

Hi all,

I spent hours on this forum preparing for our trip and asked many questions. Therefore I am posting about our experience in case it might help others. (This trip involved a few other countries, I am posting the Italian part).

For reference our group had myself and my husband (late forties, our children 17 and 19 and my parents 69 and 76).
We arrived in Italy from Switzerland via de Bernini Express. Due to track work we had to take a bus, and our assigned bus was not leaving for over an hour so we had a lunch at a pizzeria in Tirano, before getting on the bus and then train to Milan. From Milano took a taxi and our Italian adventure began. (3 nights in Milan, Venice and Florence, 4 nights in Rome).

Hotels: Milano - Grand Duca di York - very close to the Duomo. Lovely stay. Bottled water and snacks (fruit and cookies) available in the lobby all the time. A drink included during happy hour. Our room had a mini fridge stocked with water and juice, included in the price and replenished every day. Included breakfast was very good. Venice - Residence Corte Grimani - apartments managed hotel style. They have a front desk up until 4:00 pm. Had a kitchenette and washing/drying machine. It was located a couple of minutes from San Marco. A water taxi can drop you off right in front of the hotel, there is a dock, but, they will charge an extra 15€ each trip as a difficult location to get to. Florence - Hotel Albani - Room was very big, and the bathroom as well. It had a sofa and also had a mini fridge. Breakfast was good as well. A few minutes walk from the Santa Maria Novella train station. Rome - VIcario Suites - These are apartments affiliated to Hotel Nazionale. We rented two of the three units they have. Very spacious. Also had a washer/dryer. Next to the parliament building, several minutes from Piazza Navona. Could purchase breakfast at Hotel Nazionale for 10€.

Travel/transportation This was part of a long trip, and despite all of the required vaccines, COVID-19 was a real worry. For this reason I booked all of the seats first class. This allowed our group sit together with no one else, and also made it easier to deal with our luggage (we each had two carryon size rollers, our personal item, and sometimes extra bags with food). We took Trenitalia Freccias between Milan and Venice, Venice and Florece and Florence and Rome. Thanks to this group we got Cartafreccia and thus got a discount for the teens and the seniors. We also took a high speed train Rome to Naples. In Milan, Venice and Rome we took taxis from the train stations to the hotel. We walked in Florence. In Milan and Florece we walked everywhere. In Venice we walked everywhere except to get to Murano, Burano and Torcello where we took the vaporetto. From Florence we took a day trip to Pisa, Chianti and San Gimignano. Private driver with Driving Guide Tours. From Rome we took a day trip to Naples Pompeii on the the fast train to Naples and then the Circumvesuvina to Pompeii. In Rome we took a few taxis and some Ubers. Our last three days were affected by the taxi strike in Rome, to get to the airport we had to take a hotel shuttle.

Activities: Milan - Best of Milan tour with Last Supper (Walks of Italy), Sforza Castle and Museum, San Mauricio church and the Archeological Museum. Venice: Apart from walking lots of places, did a trip on our won to Burano, Torcello and Burano (in that order), and a Venice in a day tour (Walks of Italy). Florence - Totally on our own, saw Uffizi Gallery, Duomo, Baptistery, Museum, Ponte Vecchio, Accademia, Michaelangelo Plaza and many other plazas. Day trip to Pisa (saw the duomo, baptistery, camposanto and museum, did not climb the tower). Fattoria Saint Appiano for lunch and wine tasting and San Gimignano briefly.

Continued in first comment.

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136 posts

Activities continued: Rome: Crypts Bones and Catacombs (Walks of Italy), Vatican Pristine Sistine with breakfast (Walks of Italy), Coliseum with Gladiators Gate and Arena (Walks of Italy), Piazza Navona, Pantheon, Fontana de Trevi, Spanish Steps, St. Peter in Chains, Borghese Gallery among other things on our own. Naples: Piazza Garibaldi, Naples Cathedral, Pompeii.

Food: We thought the the prices were great. Pizza as awesome and the ultimate fast food (even at a sit down restaurant). What I didn't like is that pastas do not have protein (I knew this) and getting a pasta dish and a protein dish was too much food for me at most restaurants. Sharing was not an option most of the time because pasta (and risottos) do come with seafood a lot, and they really wanted to enjoy this. I am allergic to sea food so it was a no go for me. Did not like the bread. As a result, I ended up not eating much past or risottos, which I was disappointed about. This has nothing to do with the taste or quality, its just the way food is served in Italy that was not so great for me. Where we ate: Milan: Trattoria Milanese (good food, beware: they brought us side dishes with our meat dishes that we did not order and then they charged us, and they also directly asked for a tip). San Mauri, very good food. Again, husband and son each got a past dish and then ordered a fish dish to share. They brought each a fish dish (too much food) and charged for both. Also asked for tip. Da Giordano al Bolognese, had to walk quite a bit to get here. Food was good, plentiful they brought was we ordered and were not pushing for tips. Venice: Trattoria Dona Onesta; The best place we ate in Venice. The 'fritto mix" our son ordered was beautifully presented. Pizzeria and Ristorante da Alvise. Here I had steak with potatoes which was good. Three people had seafood risotto and commented with it was undercooked (not al dente, really undercooked). Also I had a reservation but our name was not on their book. They did accommodate us though. Taverna San Trovaso - really good food as well. We saw there a lady and her daughter that had been on the same tour with us in the morning. Their hotel concierge recommended the restaurant as the one with the best sepia in Nero. My husband would agree. Florence: Ostaria dai Centopoveri - food was great and it was a lot. My dad ordered the fish menu for 29 € and it included an octopus with potatoes appetizer, sea food pasta, fritto misto, dessert, water and coffee. More than enough for two people. Giglio Rosso; my fish dish was OK. My kids were fighting over my son's seafood risotto, my daughter tried it and wanted more and my son did not want to give her more because it was not very big Ciro and Sons - had Napolitan pizza which was really good. Then everyone else had a dish, mine was gnocchi a la sorrentina, which was good. Had a reservation and still had to wait over 30 minutes for our table. Rome: Tavernaccia da Bruno - my family wanted me to cancel it was far away from the Trastavere main drag. I persevered and they were happy I did. We had a delicious crispy flatbread and I had the suckling pig. Really good. Armando al Pantheon (for a late lunch) - the pasta Amatracina and the Carbonara very good. We also had the lamb (OK) and the Saltimbocca (good but very small portion). Ai fienaroli - panzanella with octopus really good and the cod portion was huge. This reservation we made last minute. Naples; Ristorante Attanasio for pizza - really good. Despite me writing down numerous recommended gelaterias, didn't try. Just bought gelato which was near when we felt like we wanted. Did go to "La mela verde" upon the recommendation of our hotel concierge, very good. We also had many granitas, the best one was in a place I can't name in Murano. We liked the panzerotti at Liuni in Milan but did not care for the sandwiches at AlAntico Viniao. All those creams are not our thing.

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Final thoughts: despite everyones suggestions, I could not convince our family to travel with just one carryon suitcase, so we carried two. It wasn't too difficult, but next time I would try to go with just one. We were busy, but I felt we spent enough time in each city. This was a once in a lifetime trip for us (we hope to travel more, but we will not get the change to go with kids and parents) and we wanted to see many tings. We packed in a lot of things, yet still had some downtime.

We didn't have major disturbances although the trip was not without glitches. The day we left Florece there was a train strike (regional) so the train station was mobbed. Coming back from Naples the board said our train was cancelled (it was not, but there was a mini chaos), got to Rome termini to hundreds of taxis but no drivers.. Had to use hotel van to get to hotel and they arrived late, making us super nervous that he would miss our flights.

Overall this trip was everything we dreamed it would be, and I want to thank all of you that helped make this dream come true as I was planning. Those of you who might be in the planning stages, go for it. You will have a great time.

Posted by
8615 posts

I am so glad to hear such a good report and that the Cartafreccia cards made a difference.

I’m going to be taking “Venice in a day” through Walks of Italy in a few weeks. Any tips I should be aware of since you recently took the tour?

Posted by
516 posts

Thanks for the report. Loved your food reviews!

Posted by
2488 posts

Thanks for sharing your experience! Very helpful. Were you happy with and would you recommend the Walks of Italy Vatican Pristine Sistine w/breakfast?

Posted by
3961 posts

Thank you for sharing your family trip report. I really enjoyed reading it. It’s been 4 years since traveling in Italy. Always great to hear about accommodations and restaurants. I was especially interested in the benefits from CartaFreccia! @Carolretired thank you for your posting on this. I missed it several months ago. Very helpful! I am bookmarking for future reference. ;)

Posted by
7444 posts

Thank you for sharing your trip report and glad to hear you had a wonderful time! I appreciate the details you provided.

Posted by
2252 posts

What a great trip report and what a blessing to be able to have three generations traveling together. Truly the trip of a lifetime. Thank you tmalave, for sharing your adventure.

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136 posts

@Carol now retired

We really enjoyed the Venice in a day tour. Nico was our guide and he was really good. There is a break at plaza where you can get a drink in the morning. The last thing in the morning part is the gondola ride. If they use the same spot we used you finish behind the St. Marks Square (very close to the Zara store). The guide recommended some lunch spots. We had spotted a Gelateria that sold pizza by the slice and other quick things, and bought and took it to our hotel, since it was so close. Here we had apartment style so we ate comfortably and rested before the afternoon part of the tour. In the afternoon, I regret not being able to buy a Venice Chico bag they had at the gift shop in the Dodges Palace. Had I known once we were out it would be just the goodbyes, I would have stayed in the gift shop a few minutes. My other recommendation is that if you would like to buy at the Rialto market, plan on going the next day as you will not have time in the tour.

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136 posts

@roubrat
This trip was supposed to happen in 2020, and I had booked the tour without breakfast. Then post COVID they stopped taking you directly from the Vatican Museums to the Basilica, so for a while they gave everyone breakfast. As my trip approached and that "direct passage" option was still not available, I changed my tour to the one with breakfast (in part this solved the problem of getting breakfast so early). On the day of, they had just recently changed and were allowing the passage again. It was not included in the breakfast tour, but the guide gave us the option if we all agreed. Thankfully we all did. The breakfast happens before anything else and then when you go to the Vatican Museums its already pretty crowded. If I had to do it again, I would choose the option without breakfast, to 1) get into the Vatican museums and the Sistine Chapel earlier, and 2) to ensure the tour part of the Basilica . At the meeting point (which they reference as a bar) I am pretty sure they were selling coffee and snacks in the morning.

Posted by
173 posts

Thanks for your report! I have 2 questions: what is the Cartafrecia? And how did you enjoy the Crypts, bones, and catacombs tour with walks of Italy? My grandson has expressed interest in this (he is 16). Thanks!

Posted by
136 posts

@Karen the Cartafreccia program is a loyalty program that trenitalia has. It is mainly for Italians, but you can apply for one (it would be digital not a physical card) even if you do not live in Italy. Carol now retired posted about this back in February or March. I applied and got it the same or next (you do this by email). I have read other people that have applied this summer that are still waiting or have taken a looong time to hear back. When you purchase your train tickets, there are some fares that are lower (example the fare for young people and the fare for seniors) that you can only purchase if you have the cartafreccia program. That is because those fares are age dependent and asking for you cartafreccia number ensures you buy the fare for people who actually qualify. Per their rules they may ask to see your card if you have a discounted ticket. You can search the forum and find the posts where how to get one is discussed.

In terms of the catacombs tour, we enjoyed it very much. We took several Walks tours and this is the one that we did the least walking. First you go into the Capuchin crypt (kind of creepy but interesting). Then you take a bus to the catacombs and in this route take part and see some of the Appian way. From the catacombs you go to the aqueduct park which was unexpected but really neat. Then its back to the city center. Enjoy your trip!

Posted by
16082 posts

Thank you for the detailed report! Happy to hear that you had a great trip, and especially pleased that your Walks of Italy tours came off without a hitch. I remember that you were worried about those awhile back! :O)

Posted by
323 posts

Thanks for the great trip report! I loved the information. We are staying at the Gran Duca di York in September. I was happy to hear your details and positive review. We are also signed up for the Walks of Italy Milan and Last Supper tour! We are also going to Venice, Florence and Italy so took note of some of your other info from those locales.

Thank you!

Posted by
22 posts

Thank you for sharing all of the details. We are travelling next month and will be in Naples. I would like to know your thoughts on the archeological museum? We plan to visit Pompeii and I haven't read much on the museum. Second question on the Uffizi - is there a Medici section? I am interested in seeing a portrait of an ancestor Eleonora DeToledo Alvarez and Cosimo I Grand Tuscany deMedici and I read her portrait is in the Uffizi. Not sure if it is still there, but it I am curious. Thanks again.