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First Trip to Italy...not in Love

3 nights in Levanto (Cinque Terra adjacent) 3 nights in Sovana, Tuscany (for a wedding) 2 nights in Rome, near Piazza di Spagna Flight: Alitalia, direct from LAX to FCO
Rental Car: Dollar/Enterprise (Fiat Panda Manual) I studied. I researched. I put together a travel wardrobe for my husband and I that followed Rick Steves' every direction and suggestion. Packed light. Planned well. Didn't love it. We planned the trip around a dear friend's wedding in Tuscany. We booked the tickets prior to deciding on time in Cinque Terre, so that long drive after the flight was my fault, but the drive wasn't actually that bad, even though it was 3.5 hours or so. We saw Italy, that's for sure! To start, I had a bad feeling getting on the Alitalia flight. I adopted an attitude of persistent politeness and forced myself into a "no worries" attitude. I was determined to roll with anything that happened and enjoy Italy. I completely took to heart Rick's advice to become a "temporary local." As soon as I hit the plane I knew it was going to be tough.

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We had already had problems with Alitalia before boarding. After calling for days trying to select seats after we bought our tickets, we FINALLY got a live person on the line. By then, there were no seats left together. We were across the aisle (fine), but the representative we spoke with assured us that when we checked in 24 hours prior to the flight, we could upgrade the seats for around 50,00 per seat to "comfort" and we could be next to each other, or at the very least move them around when others upgraded. 24 hours prior arrived, and their system simply would. not. let me in! Finally after an hour I got in, and was offered no upgrade, but was able to get us two seats together. Great. When we checked in 2 hours before our 3:30 pm flight, we again inquired about the upgrade. We were informed that you could only book it online. When we said we weren't given the option, the rep said "oh wait, yes we've been giving them out at the gate since 9am this morning and they're all gone. Sorry." Ok fine. I don't need an upgrade. On to the flight... We got on the plane, and the flight attendants all looked just...cranky. I smiled. I was packed lightly. I got to my seat quickly, sat down, and was ready to go. We took off, and at some point the beverage service started. Yay warm Pepsi! I knew not to expect cold drinks or ice (thanks Carlos Mencia), so whatever. I can handle it, no big deal. Then...at about 4:30...dinner is served? It was terrible. We could chose salmon or chicken, so I got salmon and my husband chicken. It was awful - I mean Denny's was Michelin star earning compared to this. To make matters worse, the flight attendant looked cranky when I didn't eat it all! Then the video system went out. That's ok, we came prepared with iPhones and movies!

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Finally, because I am not a good plane sleeper, I fell asleep about 3 hours before we were to land at 12pm Rome time. 20 minutes later I was woken up by a flight attendant plunking breakfast on my lap! Thanks for that, I just fell asleep. Even when I tried to turn it down, the guy basically dropped it on me. Apparently turning down food is not an option. I let it go, again. The final straw came when, while everyone in the cabin was up out of their seats wandering the plane. I got up to use the bathroom, and, as I reached for the door, the FA in the back yelled "NO. ABSOLUTELY NOT. GET BACK IN YOUR SEAT RIGHT NOW." I was exhausted, jumped straight in the air because scared the heck out of me, and then slunk (slinked?) back to my seat for an hour or so until I felt the coast was clear, and then went. I have no idea why I was yelled at. There were people up everywhere, and no line or crowd back there. No idea. So that was awesome.

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Then we hit Rome. It was hotter than Missouri in August, and just as humid. We followed the signs to the rental car area and grabbed a number. There were TONS of people packed in there, but it was only about a 20 minute wait to the counter...but I was surprised to see only 1-2 employees working at the counter taking 10-15 minutes per transaction, for no reason, and being totally rude to customers, again for no reason. It was only so short a wait for us because we took the stairs and cut the elevator queue and got there first! Then came our turn. I was totally cheerful and polite, and the transaction was fine, but only because I was prepared. When the employee finished, he said, "that will be 310,00, does that sound right?" I looked at my paper, where I had a total quote of 190,00, and I said, "no, here is my paper I think it was 190,00." His reply? Oh ok, I just wanted to ask because all of our pricing has been totally wrong today." What? Seriously? If I didn't have my reservation in hand you would have charged me an extra 120,00?!? It wasn't better when we hit the lot to get the car. It was a Fiat Panda, a much lower class than what I had booked...but at that point I didn't care and just wanted to get. out. of the airport. So we did. Made it to Cinque Terra in about 3.5 hours with only one wrong turn (worse than Florida, you miss your exit it's 15 miles to a place to turn around!). Paid about 35,00 in tolls, so fine.

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We made it to our Levanto "hotel" 5 minutes before I had told them I would be there, in an email, which was responded to and confirmed the night before. So where was our host? I had to call and wait for her to come over, and she was slightly annoyed about it but I was my steadfastly polite self and by the end of our check in she was smiling and telling us where to eat. Fine. We couldn't figure out the air conditioner, but it was getting late so we just opened up the windows and it was tolerable. Barely. Then...the bed! Like laying on a sheet of plywood. After that long day of travel I wanted to die! But I sucked it up, took a sleeping pill, and went to sleep. The next day was not a planned day, so we slept in, went to lunch in Levanto, had some Gelato, and walked around the "beach." As warned, it was more pebbles than beach, but I was not at all prepared for the lack of breeze and waves! We went swimming for a minute, but it was silly, so we went back and changed and hiked around town. That was ok. Then dinner, and that was the night of the World Soccer championship, so we hung out in the square and watched on a big screen with the town. That was fun and pretty interesting to watch! We finally went to bed, still tired from travel.

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The next day was "hike Cinque Terre day." We started at the south end, starting with the easy part. The first section was easy. The second section, Riomaggiore to Corniglia, was closed (expected) so we took the train around. The final two sections almost did me in! They weren't particularly technical, but the stagnant heat and humidity made it hard. Still, Rick's estimates on time were accurate. It was then I realized...our hikes in California absolutely rival (and surpass, I think) anything Italy's cost has. Yes, it is interesting to see historic towns built into cliffs, but not interesting enough for me to travel half way around the world for. So that was that. The next day we were off to Tuscany. We took 2 unplanned stops on the way to Tuscany. The first was Carerra. A friend had suggested the marble caves, so we did it. We found our way there, and took the tour into the Cavo di Marmo...it was one of the highlights of our trip!!! Our tour guide, Valentina, did the tour in English, French, and Italian. She was also really funny, and professed a crush on Ceasar Milan (yes, the dog whisperer) so if anyone can get him out to Carerra and into the Cavo di Marmo, Valentina is his biggest fan!! It was so informative of Italy's history, industry, and current climate that I learned more in that hour than I have in some history classes. Next unplanned stop - a Pisa drive by. It was as filled with tourists as I feared, but we were able to park, run in, see the thing, and run out. Great. Now I don't have to do it again!

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Finally, we arrived in Sovana, part of the Grosetto province of Tuscany, near Pitigliano. Checked in with gracious hosts into a medieval building with a decent bed and nice bathroom. We stayed 3 days, and the wedding we had gone to Italy for was absolutely great. We had dinner the night before at an "agriturismo," which was actually the farmhouse where the groom's grandmother grew up. This particular location still made everything from meat/produce grown on that land. They told us this is no longer the case with most agritruismos, so check if that is important to you. Another day was spent ad Terme di Sovana, the local hot spring, which was really fun. Next, it was off to Rome!

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At some point between Levanto and Tuscany, the air conditioning in the rental car had gone out. I tried to call the service number, but no one spoke English and my Italian is not good enough for car maintenance. I didn't want to drive in Rome anyway, so from Tuscany we headed back to the airport to return the car. Getting back in was easy enough, and I was super polite when I returned the keys. I just said well, we decided we didn't need a car while in Rome, so here it is early. Would you mind crediting us the 2 day difference? Ok thanks! As a side note, I mentioned, "oh, while we were driving back from Levanto, the air conditioning stopped working. It was working when we picked it up so I'm not sure what happened." The employee's first reaction was "you broke it." I think he was being funny, and I laughed and said "well it was 35c outside!" Haha. He proceeded to explain to me that I shouldn't have been running the air anyway, and "you Americans" run the air too much anyway, and when he drives he doesn't turn the air on because it gives him a headache. From what I've read, I knew this lecture was coming, so I just said "oh, I know, but I'm from California and it gets very hot there too, over 35c, so we do like our air conditioning!" Haha. I was not about to start something, and since Dollar/Enterprise has US offices and I made the reservation through AMEX, I'll let them deal with it here. I probably got a better 2 day credit tacking that tact than the "my air broke" tact, which is the one I would have taken in the US. So good riddance to the car!

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Off to the train. We hopped the train to Roma Termini, all prepared to take the Metro 2 stops to our hotel at the Piazza di Spagna. Surprise! METRO STRIKE! So we got in line for a cab. Just under 10 euro, so fine. No big deal. At this point I had enough Italian to give directions to the cab driver and to respond coherently to his questions in Italian, like "where are you guys from." I don't know what other Americans are doing overseas, but I was told more than once that I was "too polite to be an American." I learned to laugh and say I was from California, which everyone seemed to think was funny. When we walked into our hotel, it was like a ray of sunshine on my otherwise pretty lackluster trip. Our room, in a 17th century building parked right near the Spanish Steps, was beautiful...with very well functioning air, great bathroom, COMFY bed, and pastries delivered at 8am every morning. I could have hugged our host. I might have. She set us up with places to eat, shop...everything. We rested and went out for a walk, and found ourselves at the Castel Sant'Angelo. We just wanted to see it, but found they had a 10:30pm night tour. Against my better judgment that wanted to sleep, we did it. The tour was great, but the tour guide was a mess. I knew more about the location than she did! Sad. She kept losing the 20 person tour, so the 2 hour tour took 3. After that we got a snack from a street vendor (just fruit, but I was starving) and went to sleep.

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Saturday was our final fully day, and I had booked a garden tour at the Vatican well in advance. I gave our taxi instructions and we were there in no time, able to skip the line because of the reservation, and hung out inside. It was very, very hot, but our tour guide was wonderful at walking us under trees and walls to keep to the shade. She had been a resident of Rome and now the Vatican City since she was young, had understandable English, and was a classical history student and had an incredible amount of information. It was great, because the only way to get on the grounds back around the Vatican was through this tour. So great. Then came our foray into the Vatican Museum itself... Well, sort of. We had been told our tickets were good until 6pm that night. We got slightly lost, and found ourselves facing an exit door. Upon trying to turn around and go back, they wouldn't let us go back! We had NOT gone outside, but were just a little lost, and they chased us out. When we tried to get back in, we were basically yelled at, told our tickets were good only once, and that we had to buy more if we wanted back in. Fine, I get I made a mistake, but I was chased out the exit door! The guards were NO help whatsoever. From reading other online comments, I'm now convinced this is a Vatican scam to get you to double pay. Overall, it wasn't worth a fight over an extra 30,00 to get back in. So we started again...

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We wanted to do the "short" tour, but the shortcuts were roped off! We were forced to go into every hall and nook with a press of crowd, in the heat, and I thought I was going to lose it. There were so many people filing through that, had there been an emergency or reason to evacuate, I'm sure someone would have been trampled and probably killed. The Vatican has traded profit for crowd control and safety. I hope they change this before someone is hurt! Finally, we made it to the Sistine Chapel. The guards tried to make people cover their shoulders, but I was a little put off by the number of short shorts/skirts that were let in! Also, you are not supposed to take pictures or carry on conversations while inside, but people were SO disrespectful the guards would just yell "NO PHOTO. NO PHOTO" over and over again, ruining the space. People were so loud, there was a constant hiss of "shushing" of them, making it worse. It ruined the sacred space and should not have been allowed. I'm not even christian and I was offended! We made a beeline to get out. We finally left the Vatican and went back to our room to hide from the afternoon heat. Since the metro was running again, after dinner we took the subway to the Colosseum area, which was closed that late (lack of lighting?), but walked around the perimeter which was enough for me. By this time I was noticing that my ability to order and ask for things in Italian was getting me giant gelato servings, which is pretty funny. It was obvious I'm American (and Californian) by my accent, but I think they appreciated the effort.

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The next morning early, we hopped into a cab and headed to the airport about 3 hours before our flight. That was ALMOST not enough time! As we checked in, we noticed there was commotion all around us. We were VERY patient, but I started to worry when I overheard people being told that they would have to seats at the gate, that the flight was WAY overbooked, and they might not get seats (I heard and understood this in Italian). As all of the color drained from my face and I looked like I was about to cry, it was clear that the Alitalia employee, maybe a manager, saw that I knew what the female employee had said to him about our reservation and was about to faint. He immediately came over, and I told him that I had booked the tickets 6 months earlier and I would really appreciate it if there was anything he could do, since I had to work the next day. After 40 minutes standing there, he was able to secure our seats after several phone calls to the gate and typing on the computer. It seemed their computers really were a mess, but my patience and stubborn politeness won out. I thanked him profusely for his help, but really wanted to start screaming. We made it to the gate and it was clear that this flight was NOT going to take off on time due to the computer issue. Fine. I shopped. Good shopping at FCO! Buy Gucci - good discount there versus Los Angeles. Finally we get on the plane, and it was clear that lots of families were separated. On Italian guy just sat down next to his wife in an exit row seat, and they ended up moving the passenger that had that seat assigned and had probably paid for it! But what was his choice? Eat the 30 euro or sit next to a pissed Italian for 12 hours. I would have chosen to eat the euro too! The flight attendants proceeded to try and feed us something every 2 hours again, and by the time we got over the east coast of the US I wanted to jump out of the plane.

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I will never fly Alitalia again, and I will pay closer attention to the Yelp reviews next time. I'll happily pay a premium to not be treated like a cow. I have never been so happy to have a plane land at LAX as I was coming home. It will be a long time before I try international travel again (by long time I mean 2-3 years). I successfully represented the US as a tourist and made a good impression, but basically did so at the expense of enjoying my holiday. What is the point, exactly, if you have to work so hard to have fun? Nothing was what everyone talked it up to be...the food, even when locally grown and ordered in Italian, or ordered like Rick Steves' instruction to "make me happy" and serve me whatever the locals are eating, was not any better than anything I can get somewhere in California. At the risk of sounding like a spoiled American, give me the California coast and some great "slow food" restaurants in the wilderness here over Italy any day. Still, it is something everyone should do once, if for no other reason that the historical significance. I think a big part of the mess was the fact we were there at the peak of the peak tourist season. Go in spring, fall, or anytime that is NOT summer.

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Sorry for the novel there. I just would have like to have seen THIS info before I went...

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4737 posts

Patricia, The reason that you will rarely see post like yours on a travel board is because most of the people who regularly post on travel boards absolutely LOVE the experience ... the good, the bad, and the ugly. I love Italy and it doesn't matter to me that some things are not as convenient as in the States. It doesn't matter that I can't get the same food that I get in the States ... I like trying new and different things. It doesn't matter that it sometimes takes an hour to get the bill in a restaurant. It put up with the fact that sometimes the air conditioning doesn't work so well because the pluses ( the Roman ruins, the great art, the scenery, etc.) outweigh the minuses to me. I love the challenge of figuring something out when I don't speak the language. When I come home from the trip, I usually only remember the good things and quickly laugh at the not so good things. If European travel is not for you, choose something you love and go with it. Glad you gave it a chance and sorry that you didn't love it.

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Nigel: Funny. I doubt it, though...I'm really just looking for some human decency from people, and some sensible organization from locations. Just enough to keep people from getting killed. Fish at least only eat you if you look like dinner. Also, fish don't report on my behavior to the media so I wouldn't hesitate to yell at a fish ;-) Now, if I go to the Reef and someone jumps off a boat and lands on my head...yep, then I'll complain.

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Patricia,
Thanks for sharing this. I recently had a wonderful trip to Italy and can't wait to return, but honestly and without sarcasm, I think negative trip reports like yours can be far more entertaining than glowing ones! I'm always interested in what makes a place special to one person and intolerable to another.

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1288 posts

Patricia - I'm sorry you had such a negative experience. If you do decide to travel to Europe again, I hope you'll consider an RS tour and go off season. I think you'll have a much better trip.

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30 posts

Laura: It wasn't the inconveniences that bothered me, and it was certainly not that the food wasn't the same as in the States - because it was! It was exactly the same as what I can get at the local Italian place run by an Italian family. I didn't mind the 2 hour long dinners at all. No complaints about the food itself, just surprised it wasn't as amazing as I had thought it would be. I love trying new things, but I didn't feel like Italy was trying new things, for me, at least. It was like ping a Disneyland crowd into the Vatican, without the crowd control. The Vatican was new, and so were the other sights, but you can't enjoy them while you are scared of being trampled. It wasn't the air not working, it was the fact that when it didn't work and I thought of a way around the problem, I was basically told that I was a whiner for wanting it anyway (which I didn't even complain, just matter of fact informed the guy that it had stopped working). I think it was the attitude – I was completely willing to roll with the hitches and all of the service industry people wanted to make it sound like the hitches were my fault! I have to wonder if tourists in general aren't rude and demanding so this is the service industry's default reaction. It may be.
I don't think it is funny to be pressed into an ancient building with so many people it is unsafe. I think death by trampling is probably more than a little inconvenience for someone. Nancy: I haven't either, and all the rest have been great trips. But again, I don't think death by trampling would be a funny story later. Grier: That's ok, I had the experience and that is what was important. Next time I will for sure go off season, and possible consider a RS tour. I'm not a big one for guided tours, but maybe. I think the next trip will be New Zealand or a Great Barrier Reef trip to Australia.

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28099 posts

I think the next trip will be ... a Great Barrier Reef trip to Australia and we will read in a trip report, "I just wanted to snorkel there and this great big fish ran into me!!!, despite me forcing myself to be polite..." ;-)

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4373 posts

Italy is...Italy! It gets easier with each trip (sigh). Drink lots of wine ;-)

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8395 posts

I love your writing style... it was very entertaining, so thank you. I love Italy and all of Europe but I can still sympathize and understand. Some things ARE very frustrating. Grier made a great suggestion... to take a RS Tour... they aren't at all like other tours... read some of the trip reports in the "Scrapbooks" section under the "Tours" tab and you'll get a sense of what they're like. But then again, Europe isn't for everyone... and it may just not be your cup of tea :)

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223 posts

Patricia, I appreciate your trip report. I'm trying to repair a primary error I made in planning my first trip to Italy (I will return just before Opera season), and my attitude really went south, even though I have the blessing of being invited to stay for over a month. I'm warning Italy right now: if I don't hear some opera, I'll try to sing some myself, and I can't sing at all!!! I understand how things just pile up until you can't 'get a jump' on the bad luck going your way.
I learned a lot from your experience. I would rather be at a cafe during a strike (I love their strike by appointment policy) than be driving, getting a ZTL ticket, or having any car trouble. You helped me decide.

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2986 posts

Hi Patricia, I had posted earlier suggesting Bath, Stonehenge, etc. but removed it because I was thinking my post was way too long and boring. I suggest that you #1. Go on a trip next time in the off season. No crowds, no hot weather, lower prices on hotels. :) Big smile there! Suggestion #2. What you seemed to like most about your trip was your hotel. Therefore, why not plan your next European trip around a good hotel? London? Paris? Vienna? I think you will find it much less stressful to not try to travel as much on your next trip. If you choose one of the aforementioned cities, settle into your comfy hotel for a week or so, and explore that city every day; another museum, a new coffee shop and restaurants, take a walking tour of a neighborhood (in London, look at London Walks, or follow the walks Rick has in his book). Along that line, why not choose a great little hotel in the Cotswolds of England, and from that village, explore the other villages of the Cotswolds. Some villages are walking distance to one another; 5 to 10 miles apart. There is a path called The Cotswold Way that goes through the meadows and backyards from one village to another. You could rent a car and explore Bath, Stonehenge, Salisbury (gorgeous cathedral), Avebury, and Stratford-Upon-Avon. Low-key, low stress and some mornings or evenings, just relaxing on the terrace of your hotel or walking around that village. Love England. Polite, well-mannered people, and if you have a problem, such as with your rental car, you at least speak the same language. Have a better trip next time, and try not to let the glitches ruin your trip. :)

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213 posts

Hi Patricia! I just have to tell you I loved reading your travel 'adventures' - better than some Bill Bryson novels I have read! :0) Really sorry you had such bad luck and wow! you really did hang in there and not lose your cool - not always easy to do! Good for you! Our first trip to Europe was RS Best of Europe tour and it was SO fabulous! However, of all the countries we toured, Italy was our least favorite. Due to the crowds, graffiti, etc.... Not saying I wouldn't go back at all or didn't enjoy our time there (Sept. Oct. great time to go) - just saying we preferred the other countries. Our experience at the Vatican was extremely crowded and we had the same thing going on in the Sistine Chapel, so I totally understand! Each country was so different it's almost hard to compare them. Anyway, I hope you do as others have advised and consider a RS Tour. It is so easy, you don't have to worry about anything, all your transportation, entries, lodging, it's all taken care of for you. Also hope you check out some of the other countries, and have a much better experience next time! Thanks again for sharing your story!

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30 posts

Thanks everyone for the comments! I really do try to be an entertaining writer. Someone posted earlier with a suggestion to try the stonehenge area, bath, etc. and I wanted to thank them for that. The comment seems to have vaporized for the moment but it sounds lovely. I won't give up on Europe travel just yet! Glad I was able to help others with their trips. My only issue with the RS tours is the expense - I'm a darn good planner and could probably do the same trip on my own planning for half the cost. Then again, we see how well THAT went in Italy...although the frustration was more circumstantial than my planning. Like my husband said "if the a/c goes out on a RS tour, there is nothing they can do about it either!" I've done lots and lots of travel to Canada, Mexico, and around the US, so I think I was just caught unprepared for the level of chaos. Saying something when I've spent weeks working in the impoverished areas of Mexico! I really think it was the crowds and heat that put me over the top.

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1 posts

Hi Patricia, LOVED reading your story. Really it is great! I am headed to Italy for the first time this summer. A wedding as well. So I might as well see Italy while there.....;) Thank you for your input.
Joanne

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24 posts

We went to Italy last year - in December! We spent a few days in Naples, overnight in Pisa, and then a week in Rome. Weather averaged in the 50's and NO crowds! Before going, we were a little concerned about weather, but only one afternoon of a small rain storm, and really only cold on one night because of wind.
I think I'd only go earlier in the year if I was wanting to do boating or swimming activities. We actually just walked into the Vatican Museum, right up to the ticket purchase counter. We left Rome on Christmas Eve to come home. It was great seeing all the decorations, especially in the Churches. we rented an apartment in Trastervere for the Rome section. The only low point of our trip was a journey up to Mt Vesivius. We rode the train to Pompeii, and then got a ride up via a guide at the local tourist info booth at the train station. It was clear enough, at the train station, but completly socked in on Vesivus - no view whatsoever - we trudged up the swichbacks anyway, and took a picture of the non-view. The only other issue was a few of the places were doing some refurbishing in the off season, so a couple of exhibits we didn't get to see, and some scaffolding at the Forum.

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11450 posts

Fun read Patricia,,but one thing is driving me crazy ,,why was swimming "silly"at Cinque Terra, sounds like it was hot enough.. I personally love the sights of Italy,, really , the history , the museums, the churchs and the ruins,, but I have never had a meal that made me go "wow"( I have only spent a total of 9 days in Italy over two trips to be fair) and the people have never struck me as any more charming or wonderful then those in UK, France, Switzerland, etc etc,, they actually sometimes strike me as a bit fake really and the way some things run do drive me batty too.. I have however read so many bad reviews and posts on this and many other forums about Alitalia that I would never use them myself.. that whole things was quite the fiasco! poor you! All airlines food sucks though(perhaps excepting 1st class) , I bring my own all the time now.

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31516 posts

Patricia, Sorry to hear your trip to Italy wasn't all that you anticipated. I disagree with the previous reply on using a different airline. I suspect your trip may have started on a much better tone if flying with a different carrier. Although "Sardine Class" is a bit uncomfortable with any airline, I've found the staff at other airlines to be much nicer and the food better quality. I do agree that the comfort level would undoubtedly be much improved by sitting up front with the "rich folks". Regarding your other experiences, I've found that Italy is somewhat a country of "contrasts". At times, travel there can be miserable and exasperating, but at other times it's wonderful! The unpleasant experiences tend to fade quickly in my memory, and I tend to remember only the good. Despite the possibility of problems, I look forward to getting back to Italy every year. You may find it entertaining to have a look at This Short Cartoon which highlights the differences between Italians and other Europeans. Whenever I'm having a bad day in Italy, I try to remember "it is what it is", good and bad (a fine hot meal and glass of Vino usually puts me in a better mood). Based on what you've posted, my impression is that the experiences on your trip weren't the result of lack of planning or anything you failed to do, but rather just a series of unfortunate events. Two things to improve your chances of a good experience on the next trip: 1.) DON'T use Alitalia. They're rated at 4.7/10 on the Airline Equality ratings, so it would appear that lots of others found their service less than adequate. 2.) Travel in the shoulder seasons (I realize you didn't have a choice on this occasion, due to the wedding) when crowds will be less. Cheers!

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3 posts

Thanks for posting your experience! I was happily surprised that you posted here. Your pictures on FB were so great, especially the Cinque Terre. Rick and I are going on the RS Heart of Italy tour in the fall but we're adding 3 nights in Venice and an extra 2 days in Rome on our own. We're flying Delta and not renting a car so I'm hoping no car will allievate driving difficulties. We planned our own trip a couple of years ago using RS Ireland books and it went very well, except we didn't get to see everything. I'll let you know how our Italy trip goes.

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I have to say "Amen" about the hard beds. It's the only thing I am not looking forward to on my upcoming trip!

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30 posts

Ken: I almost died laughing when that cartoon got to the part with the traffic signes. Firenze cannot be both north AND south from here! Hilarious. Kathy: Hi!! I need to get more pictures up, I'm glad you liked them! The pictures from the real camera rather than my iPhone are really, really good. It just wasn't worth the misery getting them. Shoulder seasons would really be much, much better! Claudia: Oh, I can imagine - I've led youth groups of 30 through Mexico, California, and DC and they can be a handful! Like herding snakes. No great Italian in the valley, (well, that isn't true - Mi Piace and Louise's aren't bad) but down in Santa Monica there are several (Fritto Misto comes to mind). For Pasadena, you can buy fresh pasta at Roma Italian Deli, and my sauce with home grown tomatoes or basil is just as good as Italy's (maybe because my husband's family is Italian and I stole their recipies for pesto). There is also Angelini Osteria over in WeHo. Most of the good Italian places in North Beach/San Francisco rival or beat what I had in Italy. Pat: Swimming in Levanto was silly for me because it was a rocky beach with no waves. I'm not a person to just hang out on the beach, so it just wasn't my thing. Anyway I think I've got the message: no Alitalia, no peak seasons (from comments here) and get a better rental car, stay in nicer places (from my own analysis).

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403 posts

What an entertaining report, refreshingly honest! I had to share my kids' comment from when were planning our trip for this summer. They have been to 5 continents and travelled to many interesting places. When we asked them where they wanted to go this year, in UNISON they replied GERMANY!! I was so surprised. Why? They said, "Because it's clean and organized. We like it there." From the mouths of babes... We did go to Germany and Benelux, just got back. And yes, very clean and organized. The train runs on time. The hotel bathrooms are spotless. Driving is easy. Things are open as posted. Alles in ordnung. Which can be a little unnerving on occasion, honestly, but we had a lovely trip!

Posted by
6460 posts

Can't help but wondering where in the valley you find good Italian food?!? Unfortunate that you found the Eternal city and Italy such a disappointment. Alitalia is known for it's poor customer service. Did you peruse the web and this forum for reviews before you booked? Summer time is always going to be crowded anywhere in the world. Vacation time for many.
Italy is a country of contrasts. As different as the Valley is from downtown, Hollywood or the west side. I found Felicia's trip report where shepherded a scout troop in Europe to be most entertaining. Can you imagine doing that?

Posted by
6460 posts

Mi Piace maybe but with a big question mark!!! IMHO Louise's Trattorias are poor excuses for Italian food. American tastebud Italian food yes, but true Italian, nope! Try the tiny Vivoli Cafe on Sunset Blvd @ Laurel to taste the difference. North Beach Italian is questionable. Best SF Italian is either Zuppa's or SPQR on Fillmore. Out of curiosity did you check the Mouthwatering Italy link on this website's Graffiti Wall before you left? Personally, I still dream of two meals I had in Italy. One in Rome which I came upon when I got lost: http://www.latavernadegliamici.com/eng/aboutus.asp. The other was La Grotta in the town of Radicofani. Amazingly wonderful meals. If you can on the next trip try traveling off season to avoid the crowds and the heat. Rome in November can be lovely. Nice temps. Vatican Museum was NOT wall to wall people. Took all of 3 minutes of standing in line to get into St. Peter's. Takes longer than that on any Universal City or Disneyland ride. Check airline reviews before booking. Sometimes the cheapest flight is not the best way to go especially on a flight from LAX. Lastly, would love to know where in my home state's coastline there is anything as intriguing as the Cinque terre? Seriously? Carmel? Gualala? Fort Bragg? Encinitas? Bodega Bay? Where? I'd love to see it.

Posted by
30 posts

Claudia: Off Filmore in SF? That isn't in North Beach...I was thinking more along the lines of Mona Lisa and its attached Italian deli. Still run by the kids of the original Italian family that founded it. Also Pasta Moon in Half Moon Bay...just as good as anything I got in Tuscany. I said Louise's and Mi Piace aren't bad, not that they are fantastic or a shining example of authentic Italian cuisine. As far as CA hiking that is as good as Cinque Terre - well, Yosemite's backcountry is one that springs to mind. Past little Yosemite valley, into the wilderness, is amazing. For coastal hiking, I would say Half Moon Bay, Pescadero area, or even Cambria/Moonstone Beach. Even Tahoe! The coastal hikes near Big Sur (especially Salmon Creek Falls) are amazing. Fort Bragg is good for abalone diving, nearby Gurneville is better for kayaking and wilderness. I believe you that Rome/Vatican are way better in the off season, I do! Disneyland is also fantastic in January when it is raining. I'm being funny here, but my point is just that sometimes, a place isn't worth the hassle. For me, Italy in the summer isn't. I'm sure I'll try it again, in the off season, and then it might be. It feels like since I've returned, whenever people ask me how it was and I'm honest, I get a lot of agreement that us Californians (or people on the west coast/pacific) are just spoiled and it is hard to stop measuring everywhere else by that stick. Weird that people don't warn you about that before you go. Apparently I'm inducted into the "been to Europe" club now and people can tell me about their bad experiences. Kind of like how pregnant women don't share their horror stories to women that don't have kids yet...

Posted by
2995 posts

Ah, a spoiled Californian. Me too! I haven't been to Italy yet and honestly part of the reason why is because I just have a general feeling I may not enjoy it so much. I'm still going to go (I have friends living there now who are insisting) but when it comes to coastal beauty and good food, California IS very hard to beat! So you really got to be into the culture and history and cool with the uh, "cultural differences" to enjoy yourself, I think. I am into the history, which is why I'll go eventually. If you do decide to come back to Europe, I'd consider Northern Europe. It's REALLY different from California, and the people tend to be more polite (not...friendly, exactly, but polite) and things tend to be far more efficiently run. It's a stereotype, but it's true. I absolutely love France, but every time I return to German there is this sort of sigh of relief that now I know everything will be that much less stressful. (of course living here, I am well used to some of the differences that might have stressed me out when I first arrived). Also Claudia - excellent recommendation for SPQR. I'm not huge into traditional "American-Italian" food (which is mostly Sicilian influenced, I think?) but SPQR was absolutely amazing. Anyway I enjoyed the honest trip report. Italy (and Europe) just isn't for everybody - no place is! I adore Mexico and I'm sure many people on this board would hate it. C'est la vie! Oh, and in my book, the most amazing coastal scenery in California starts at the Navarro river and north through there through the Lost Coast. Absolutely stunning.

Posted by
8860 posts

I quite enjoyed Italy, though I found Rome to be very stressful to me. I understand what you're saying though. Everyone is different and some places just aren't right for them. It's not right or wrong, just personal likes and dislikes. As a 4th generation Californian, I agree with Sarah about the most beautiful part of the coastline. The Big Sur area is also quite beautiful. A friend saw a picture of me that was taken on a hike in Cinque Terre. She asked if it was at Sea Ranch. It is quite similar in terrain, just missing the cute towns!

Posted by
251 posts

Enjoyed your honesty. Thanks for an entertaining read.

Posted by
192 posts

We were in Rome 6 years ago, our first trip to Europe. We loved the history but not the city or the locals. We are 'seniors' and were astounded at the rudeness of the younger Italians. I was having to walk with a cane at that time and I was constantly brushed off the sidewalks into the streets by 30-somethings walking arm in arm and not once stepping aside for an older woman obviously walking with some difficulty. One morning I got up and thought to myself, 'not today, kids', and the very first time I was approached by the younger set, I planted my feet firmly on the sidewalk, put a big Yankee-Doodle smile on my face and stood my ground. The 'kids' actually stopped dead and waited for me to step off into the street. I didn't do it, I just kept smiling and saying "Good morning", in Italian, in my mid-western accent. After several moments, they grumbled amongst themselves and moved around me and went on their way. We found Rome, the city, to be filthy and smelly. We had wonderful guides at the Vatican and museums, and had some yummy meals, but dealing with the locals proved to be very stressful. We did our best to be good Americans but it didn't matter, they were rude and disrespectful. Maybe it was culture clash, I don't know. But neither of us has any desire to return to Rome.

Posted by
2297 posts

It is quite similar in terrain, just missing the cute towns! That's a comment you can make very often if you try to compare Northamerica with Europe. Here, you are comparing the California coast with the Italian coast. But the same comment could be made comparing the Rocky Mountains with the Alps. If you go to Europe for the scenery chances are you might be disappointed. Nature is not the main draw, the reason to go is to see the human imprint on nature, the way human culture has changed the environment throughout the millennia. That's why sites like the towns in the cliffs of Cinque Terre or Positano appear so unique, that's why a site like Mt. St. Michel or the many castles atop of mountains are so different from anything you see at home.

Posted by
1446 posts

Hi Patricia. Thanks for the honest and entertaining trip report. It's so unfortunate that you didn't fall in love with Italia but you gave it a try! I'm a fellow southern Californian who is leaving in 5 weeks for my 3rd trip to Italy. I know I'm repeating some of the earlier advice but next time I would definitely not go during peak season and not just because of the crowds but also the heat. And, I also second the suggestion to take an organized tour. While I haven't personally taken a RS tour, I have been on other tours through Europe and the up side is that you don't have to deal with much of the minutia that you had to deal with. You have someone with you from the tour company to act as your liason when things go wrong (i.e. the air conditioning goes out in your room, etc.), etc. Things definitely do go wrong when travelling abroad but it sounds like you had more than your fair share. I would give Italy another try before throwing the towel in but next time perhaps try a tour & let someone else deal with the unplanned interuptions! Interesting comments comparing Italy to California...I've never encountered those comparisons. I've lived in So Cal my whole life and visited much of the state but I can't personally say that So Cal is very much like Italy. Maybe the coastal areas in CA are similiar in topography to the coastal areas in Italy but what differentiates the experience for me is the food, the gelato, the buildings stacked one upon the next, the quaint little towns, the people, the gelato (Oh, did I already mention that??!!), etc. Thanks again for sharing the good, bad & ugly aspects of your trip. Hope you'll give Italy another try in the future. As for me, I just can't enough. On my upcoming trip, I plan to find George Clooney, get him to fall in love with me & offer to move me into his villa on Lake Como!

Posted by
868 posts

Well, the OP made some simple errors: 1. don't visit Italy's most popular sights during high season 2. don't visit Italy's warmer regions during summer 3. don't expect good food and prices at the touristic hot spots 4. don't rush I can understand the notion to see Romes highlights in just two days, but (especially during summer) this can't be enjoyable. And I'm quite shocked that the remote, small villages of the Cinque Terre are in a book for novice travellers to Europe now! This will surely kill them! :(
Sorry to say this, but your trip could have been much more enjoyable if you would have stayed in Sovana for the entire week to explore Tuscany by car.

Posted by
11 posts

Thanks for posting this Patricia. We are going on our Italy trip in September, and you seem to have hit all the bad luck I have been worrying about. We have an Alitalia flight on our schedule and I have read so many really bad reviews of Alitalia, and a friend from work had a totally miserable experience with them as well. Hopefully your review will be read by others who will make every attempt to book another airline. Sounds like you had some really bad weather as well, which can ruin any vacation. I always think people who live in drought ridden regions should hire us to vacation there, since whenever we try to do an outdoorsy vacation there is record rainfall, or record cold, or both! Thanks for your entertaining article and wish us luck!!

Posted by
6460 posts

CA native who by the very nature of being born in Socal, raised and worked in the Santa Clara Valley (Silicon Valley) pre and post Apple, schooled in the Central Valley and Bay Area, spent every summer enjoying either Yosemite, Mt Shasta, or a vacation home N. of Bodega Bay TOTALLY understands the uniqueness of California. HOWEVER , I'd never it compare it to any other country in Europe. Kind of like comparing LA to San Francisco. They don't compare in any way shape or form!!! Truth be known I'd sack LA in a nano second to return to SF and as much as I love The City By The Bay if given the opportunity to live in London, Tuscany, Ireland or New Zealand I'd leave without ever looking back.

Posted by
6460 posts

Guess after all this back and forth have to ask what your expectations were of Italy? Wonder if they are the same which the countless tourists I see each morning wandering along Hollywood Blvd looking at the Walk of Fame and mostly CRAP stores had before they arrived. No bigger disappoint in the States than Hollywood. All an illusion. Movie magic. Doesn't look like 90210 or Baywatch.
Travel in Italy is about the history of mankind, hillside towns, tradition, farms, people, cheese, vino, historical art, sinking islands, seaports, ruins, beautiful lakes, and La Dolce Vita.

Posted by
11973 posts

I think your description of Italy is pretty accurate, you really do have to "just go with it." In a way, it's part of the attraction but it's just as easy to be put off by the arrogance you get from some Italians - especially with how run-down their entire country is. Before Costa cruises crashed their boat I considered taking a cruise with them. After reading reviews on cruise critic, however, I decided against it. Cruising "Italian Style" means fat middle aged men in speedos ogling your wife and a pursors staff that ignores any issue you have (usually billing you for something you didn't purchase). There are two mistakes that, if corrected, might improve your disposition toward Italy. First, don't fly Alitalia. I consider most airlines roughly equal with Alitalia placing a distant last in virtually every category. Second, don't go in the heat of summer if you can possibly avoid it. We started up north in mid-October and finished in Rome in early November; outside of some very light rain, the weather was ideal - there are still crowds but they are more manageable. Some sleep on the plane going in really helps too. Skip dinner and/or entertainment and get some sleep (even if you have to take a sleep-aid) - it pays dividends later. If you get through those, you will have a lot less of your "just go with it" quotient used up so early in the trip. You know you have arrived when you find yourself laughing about Italy - because it really is funny. There are also some amazingly great people in Italy - but apparently none of them work in any customer service related field.

Posted by
30 posts

Martin, I want to address your comment: First you say: "Well, the OP made some simple errors:" 1. I didn't have a choice, I was there for a wedding. 2. Again, no choice.
3. I never ate at one. singular. touristy. spot. ever. I'm not dumb, just an Italy virgin. I got recs from locals and ate mostly in Levanto, once in Monterosso, Sovana, and in Rome at places far away from the "touristy" spots. I'm talking about places where the menus had 0 English and the entire transaction was in Italian.

Posted by
30 posts

Second Part: "I can understand the notion to see Romes highlights in just two days, but (especially during summer) this can't be enjoyable. And I'm quite shocked that the remote, small villages of the Cinque Terre are in a book for novice travellers to Europe now! This will surely kill them! :(
Sorry to say this, but your trip could have been much more enjoyable if you would have stayed in Sovana for the entire week to explore Tuscany by car." I wasn't trying to see all the highlights - just the Vatican and wander the city a little. I actually thought Rome was pretty fun, except for the Vatican cattle-call. The garden tour was lovely. As far as me being a novice traveler...no. I've hiked Yosemite's backcountry, Colorodo/RMNP, Hawaii, Oregon, and travelled quite extensivley in the US, Canada, and Mexico (actual Mexico, not resort towns. Places where only Spanish is spoken and the officials carry machine guns). The Cinque Terre hike wasn't hard, it was just HOT and miserable. Staying in Sovana probably would have been smart - but exploring by car not so much with the a/c out! I hope I'm not giving the impression I'm a novice traveler...like I said, just an Italy virgin, but I know how to travel. Also, I'm not comparing just southern California, just CA/west coast in general. I'm saying we are so lucky to live in a place where the natural beauty is almost impossible to beat. Between CA, WA, OR, and HI...we have it pretty good.

Posted by
30 posts

Brad: good tips! Like I said, I'll try again and implement all of these things. Claudia: I expected to enjoy the amazing history of the area. I expected food that would knock my socks off as long as I looked for it and stayed off the beaten path. I expected people to respect the Vatican for what it is. I expected that, if I went in with a good attitude and "roll with it" philosophy, eventually I would have that "ah ha! Italy IS all everyone said it would be!" moment. All of my crazy adventures aside, it IS a pretty amazing place...the Etruscan ruins, the Vatican, the Carerra marble mines...really great. Is it for me? Maybe. Maybe in the off season with more time. Is it "La Dolce Vita" like everyone likes to insist? I'm not convinced....and that's the beauty of travel and trip reports. I adore Yosemite, and think it's a shame more non-Americans visit the backcountry some years than Americans. If you go an have a terrible time and hate it, maybe it just isn't your thing. Of course, I'll try and give you tips and convince you of its awesomeness, but if I don't do it, that's ok too. Mostly I wanted people to know that Italy is not all rainbows and awesome people as it seems everyone wants to convince you before you go. I'm excited to go down to Del Mar this weekend. I need some serious real beach and Pacific Ocean time. What can I say, CA is in my blood!

Posted by
1810 posts

I would like to say I enjoyed your trip report, but I don't want to make light of things that weren't pleasant to experience. I am impressed that you were able to get off a trans-Atlantic flight and drive anywhere! We also were disappointed with The Vatican in general and the Sistine Chapel in particular. The good news for those who love Rome is that we won't be taking up space there again. There are too many places yet to visit or re-visit. From your post, I am wondering if you might not enjoy the Northern countries, like Germany, more. Visiting Italy, France and even Great Britian means the possibility of strikes that will impact transportation. In Italy, you aren't allowed to turn on the air-conditioning before the end of May, period. It doesn't matter if it's 80'. In our experiences in Italy and France, they are much more genuine in their emotions as relates to service. If it's a good day, it's a good day, if it's not, it's not. If the host at the B&B says to arrive at 3 p.m., they don't mean to show up at 12 and expect service. In the States, we have a customer service survey for buying anything and everything. From what the rest of my family says, the Germans run things a bit more strictly

Posted by
192 posts

6 years ago, Husband and I found ourselves in Rome, Florence, Pompeii. Absolutely loved the history of all three areas. Want to return to Florence and Pompeii for several reasons. You could not pay us enough $$ to return to Rome, however. The hotel was fantastic (here, a plug for the Hotel Lancelot), and the people there were wonderful, but the General Population of Rome we found to be very, very rude and inconsiderate. We are Old, in our 60's at the time of that visit, and maybe that was the problem...we did not see many oldsters in Rome. Maybe they've learned, and they stay away? We are quiet tourists, we do not demand burgers and fries, we say 'please' and 'thank you', but no go...the young adults (20s-30s-40s) of Rome pushed us off sidewalks, refused to answer questions about directions, etc.
No way would we go back.

Posted by
11613 posts

Wow. I'm conflicted - on one hand, I want everyone to have a great time in Italy; on the other hand, glad to know that there will be more space for those of us who do love it since Patricia and several other posters will have scared off some potential travelers. Nope, I really do want everyone to have a great time in Italy. About travel expectations: Leave them at the boarding gate (especially on Alitalia). To paraphrase Goethe, what's the point of travel if it doesn't change you?

Posted by
357 posts

Little things can shape our impressions of a country or a city--bad weather, a bad flight or taxi experience, a closed museum. I too did not enjoy Rome as much as I thought I would, have no desire to return, and personally would not pl ace it on the same tier with London and Paris. But I like Italy. A lot. The Amalfi coast is extraordinary, and Venice is one of my favorite places in Europe.

Posted by
515 posts

Loved reading your story, Patricia. We did the 14 day Best of Europe tour and found Italy to be just as hot and humid as the good ol' Texas Gulf Coast. But since I teach, and summer is our travel time, we just glistened. I cannot recommend an RS tour highly enough. All the logistics are taken care of, and in the summer when the piazzas and museums are crowded, short travels from city to city on a great big bus with a great guide are so much fun and so easy. And you will make friends for life on some of these trips. Try one of his tours. A few years ago, we also did a 7 day London tour in early June, great weather, great guide, followed by time on our own in Paris, Normandy, and Belgium. Lovely weather everywhere. Don't give up on Europe. Just make it an easier trip.

Posted by
8 posts

Patricia as an italian amercan I can absolutley understand your issues. I went to Italy in 1999 had a great time but encountered some of the rudest people imaginable on the trains. They would rather save a spot for their suitcases then give it up for a passengar. I can't tell you how many times my sister niece and I had to stand because people wouldn't move. We finally had to become as rude as them and force them to move so we could sit. I grew up around italians and understad their somewhat gruff manners but rude is rude no matter where you are. You shouldn't have to apologize for expecting good service no matter where you are. I would suggest going in the off season to Italy if you ever return. Even my italian relatives told us not to visit in the summer because of the crowds and heat.

Posted by
59 posts

We went to Italy in Oct 2009 and loved it. Rome, Florence, Venice. was everything perfect? no, was the food and scenery superb? yes. Were some Italians rude? yes, but Italians are rude in the US too (I say that being part Italian and somewhat tongue in cheek) Sounds like you picked the wrong airline and wrong car rental. We used USAIR and had a driver (but have since used Gemut car rental in Germany with zero issues)
It may be better to reserve via a non airport car rental office and just take a cab there to get away from airport crowds. Also, Italy can be like an oven in the summer, so tell your friends to get married in Sept or May next time (just kidding) We are planning to go back in May one of these years, maybe Rome again and south to the Amalfi coast towns...

Posted by
177 posts

Patricia, I enjoyed your report very much. The "Northern Europeans" have the same problem with Italy you had. A vacation there goes from the sublime to miserable in no time. But when you cannot take it anymore you suddenly have a memorable experience. I remember spending the day in Milan, completely fed-up with the ambient rudeness and then driving to lake Orta having a fabulous time, enjoying a great meal, and experiencing fabulous views over the island of San Giulio.
You have to be mentally prepared.

Posted by
1589 posts

Patricia, you are a born writer, but perhaps just not a born adventurer. Do you remember the Joan Wilder charcter ( Kathleen Turner ) in "Romancing the Stone"? Thanks for sharing & hope the next trip goes a little smoother.

Posted by
4590 posts

Patricia, Loved reading your adventure - very entertaining! Yes, my husband & my memory of the Sistine Chapel is also, "guards would just yell "NO PHOTO. NO PHOTO" over and over again, ruining the space. People were so loud, there was a constant hiss of "shushing" of them, making it worse." Luckily, one of our favorite Italian restaurants near Seattle has part of the S. Chapel painting, so we can enjoy it without the sound effects. : ) I agree with others on airlines. We've always used Air France or Delta with excellent results. And, we only use trains, so we've missed the other car rental stories. Hope your next vacation is relaxing...or, write a book, and we'll all buy it!

Posted by
242 posts

Hi Patricia, I just loved your report and could relate to a number of things. I think that the Romans will just keep offering the level of service they see as adequate for travelers as long as we keep going! First observation: I don't think it is a stretch to think that Rome is run by the tourist organizations and guides. It is so hard to find your way around by yourself and it is obvious they want it that way in order to force the insecure to use guides! Agree: American "Italian" food is every bit as good as you can find in Rome. My pizzelle is so much lighter and I'm 0% Italian. Same goes for the main dishes. Second observation: I can't believe the number of folks who do NO research. Why would a tour guide make her group leave through the main exit from the Sistene to get in another long line for the Basilica? Is it just that RS readers are more intelligent? Why don't the masses get their tickets online for the Vatican? I couldn't believe that just this relatively inexpensive step allowed me to pass the hoardes of folks in the ticket line. The Vatican website was easy to navigate. Just don't get it. Thanks again for your honest assessment.

Posted by
118 posts

Italian food in Calfornia same as in Italy? I find it hard to believe. However, I am sorry that you were not found good in our peninsula, we are a people full of flaws and some merit.

Posted by
30 posts

Born adventurer, just not where there are other people! I've never been a big one for crowds. Backpacking for days through the back-country...I'm totally happy. Next up on my list will be something like that. An inn to inn horseback ride in Ireland, perhaps, or a trek through New Zealand. I'm sure I'll be back to Italy eventually, and it will be an amazing trip - because now I know better. I'm thinking hiking in the alps in the off season, or one of the adventure bike tours that REI puts on. Next up for me is just Hawaii, the Big Island this time, for my birthday in February. 7 days of hiking remote areas, mountains, lava flows...I can't wait!

Posted by
8395 posts

Claudio, I love the food in Italy, thought it was amazing. And Americans are also full of flaws and some merit as well. Americans are not better than Italians. Patricia, your future trips sound wonderful. Enjoy Hawaii! :)

Posted by
12040 posts

Big Island- one of the most awesome landscapes I've seen anywhere in the world. Enjoy!

Posted by
118 posts

I understand you, Patricia, unfortunately, in August the tourist areas such as Tuscany, Rome and the Cinque Terre are overcrowded, and maybe you've had an unfortunate series of experiences, probably you would have found better to go hiking in Trentino Dolomites or in the beautiful Piedmont Langhe or little known Montefeltro, area of central Italy that rivals the Tuscan, but not its prices and its crowds of tourists. You do not forget, however, that Italy is a small country (one-thirtieth of the USA) with sixty million people, where everyone is convinced that he is the most important person on earth!
Americans are still one of the people who most loves Italy and to my countrymen who are rude to them I say that I am ashamed to have their same nationality. To the Americans who find that everything in America is better, I suggest them to stay at home, they will be happier.

Posted by
242 posts

Claudio and others, Didn't mean to offend about the food, but I learned to cook some Italian dishes from an immigrant from Rome and I watch and follow Italian Americans on the FoodTV network. I grow my own herbs, buy quality and imported ingredients, follow directions and my risotto, lasagna, chicken piccata, pizzelle, etc. are to die for! I'm not a professional chef but people love my Italian cooking. You would swear you were in Italy at my holiday meals. BTW- what happened to my Polish and Swedish heritage?
Donna

Posted by
118 posts

Donna
I'm convinced that you prepare great Italian dishes, moreover, Italian cuisine was born from Italian mothers and grandmothers in home kitchens, it was not born as the cuisine of great chefs, (those are the French). I had to search on google the Pizzelle, I do not know it and I was born here. in Italy there are more food than one will ever learn.

Posted by
242 posts

Claudio, I learned to make pizelle over a gas flame with the patterned iron skillet from this Italian mother. I am not that brave and so own three different electric pizelle makers. I bought pizelle from a lovely bakery in Rome and their's was not crisp and light. You need to keep those stored so that air does not destroy their texture. Their other pastries were wonderful though. So, I know that you can find this cookie in Rome! My best friend (Incoranata Ella) growing up was Italian, so I was exposed to a lot of good Italian cooking and was smart enough to ask to learn and that served me well.
Donna

Posted by
118 posts

Donna I hope you will accompany your chicken piccata with a little polenta, here in the north Italy, we do not ever do without it.

Posted by
791 posts

Especially here in the Veneto, the people here are derisively referred to as "polenta eaters" by the rest of the country. I personally love polenta, it can be very tasty.

Posted by
118 posts

All northern Italians are called by the rest of Italy "polentoni" polenta eaters, also because in the past was the dominant food of the Lombardo-Veneto folk cuisine. In Lombardy before the war, the pasta was eaten only by the southern italians, same thing for olive oil. I think the same in Veneto.

Posted by
791 posts

And here, the Vicentini are called cat eaters...

Posted by
639 posts

Patricia, I'm just getting around to exploring these trip reports. I loved your report! I'm not in a hot hurry to visit Italy, although I know people who've gone there time and again. And I know now to avoid Alitalia completely - so, thanks! I thought your report showed you'd prepared very well for your trip - for pete's sake, you even know the language - and made the best of it. Love your writing style. I can't criticize a single thing about your behavior or your report. Now, as for your idea of visiting Australia or NZ. First, just do it! I was there 5 years ago and hope to return, especially to see more of Australia. Second, based on my experience 5 years ago, I highly recommend flying there on Qantas if at all possible. The service even in steerage was superior to that of United, which I flew to Thailand a couple of years later (and in United I was in Economy Plus, a half-step up from total steerage). Although on neither airline was I treated rudely or awakened from sleep by the flight attendants.