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Italy Trip: October 22-November 4 2016

I recently returned from a solo trip to Italy. I found myself with some unexpected time off, and my wife could not join me-so I did it solo with her encouragement.

It was my sixteenth Europe trip (not counting business which would add around six more trips), the fourth that included Italy (five if I count a cruise in 2011 that stopped in Venice and Ravenna). Last time my wife and I did an Italy trip on the ground was 2007. This trip was booked very on the fly-booked on Wednesday and flew on Saturday. Turns out this time of year United lets you do that on miles, for a reasonable amount of miles, if you have their Explorer card (at least I think that's why).

The itinerary was: five nights Rome; two nights Orvieto; one night Siena; four nights Florence. Before booking I observed on booking.com that hotels were pretty reasonable. I paid and average of about $82 per night for singles in good quality, clean hotels with good to very good location.

Some general reflections:
-The sights really are stunning (Vatican Museums, Borghese Gallery, ancient sights in Rome, Uffizi). There is a reason why Italy is so highly touristed. When I list them out I realize that Rome in particular is special to me.
-Much as I was thrilled to be back in Italy after so long, I don't think this was the trip I needed. I needed to relax someplace where there is not so much to do. Urban Italy is so intense, and there is so much to see. Goal-oriented tourism-so much seems obligatory when there are so many incredible sights to see, even if you've seen them before. (How can you go to Rome and not see the Vatican Museums? I guess you can, but I cannot imagine it).
-This time of year, around All Saints' Day (Nov 1)-not the best time to go as Italians take vacation around this time, apparently, and it was generally pretty crowded especially in Rome and Siena.
-Italy trains are still excellent value, and a great way to travel between the places on my itinerary. Think I paid $60 for the whole trip train tickets, and it was really easy to buy tickets at kiosks.
-Without my wife to keep me in check, I ran myself ragged walking, especially in Rome and Florence. Urban Italy is just exhausting if you can't help pushing yourself to see that one extra sight or what's around the next corner.
-Yep, there are pickpockets. I lost a pair of sunglasses and a case at the Vatican Museums. Stupid me, was in an outer pocket of my backpack. They don't like to take smaller bags at the baggage check at the Vatican.
-Eateries will accommodate if you don't want to eat the full menu, first, second course. Order an appetizer and salad, for example, and you are fine. This time of year the country is over resourced for restaurant seats. The food was better that I remembered, I often had just a salad and a bruschetta.
-The size of wine pours can be pretty small (100 ml which is what, less that 1/7 a bottle for 5-6 Euros?)

Posted by
79 posts

Thank you for your trip report. I visited Italy for the first time this summer on a RS BOE tour. Never realized how much I would fall in love with Italy. My husband thought I would like to visit somewhere new on our next trip to Europe but I can't wait to revisit urban Italy.

Posted by
1878 posts

I have been meaning to circle back to my original trip report and note my Rome hotel, plus a couple of restaurants/cafes that were memorable.

Rome Hotel: 95 Rooms in Rome at 94-95 Via Panisperna in the Monti Neghborhood. Walking distance to Cavour Metro Station. Very good breakfast cooked to order served in your room, from a predefined list of options. Nice staff, comfortable room in a family run style hotel. Walking distance from Termini, near Via Nazionale where a lot of bus lines run. This place was just a really great value in an authentic neighborhood not overrun by other tourists. The Coliseum was also walkable from here. It proves you don't have to break the bank for a good place to stay in Rome.

Rome Restaurant: Fres&Co Via dei Coronari 96, Centro Storico in Rome. Easy walk from Castel S'Antangelo. Faux rustic décor, modern and clean, great wine and casual dining food like panini and antipasti. Kind of cross between a wine bar and an upscale deli. Nice ambience but reasonable prices, good sized wine pours, friendly staff that will offer a taste of a wine if you are unsure. Whoever chooses the music has very good taste in classic jazz. A lot of locals seemed to go here.

Siena Restaurant/Café: Cartazucchero Libreria and Caffetteria 92-94 Via Camollia. This one is on the street that leads from the top of the escalator from the train station. It's far enough from the center to be away from the crowds of other tourists. Siena was very crowded in early November but this felt like more of a neighborhood place. Just a very pleasant and calm ambience with nice staff and good food, in a part of Siena that's not as crowded. I visited on my way to the train station and it just really hit the spot to be someplace quiet after the hectic atmosphere closer to the center. It's also a bookstore, which is always a fun combination with a café.

Posted by
1068 posts

Thanks VS.
I am going to Scandinavia in June. But, I have already started planning a possible trip to Italy for next May. My husband is done traveling but wishes he could sit in one of those cafes in Italy (but be back home by late afternoon). I will just have to go for him and take lots of photos.

Posted by
303 posts

Good timing for me on your post because I have a question on the crowds! Thinking of a trip this year and I can get to Rome either Nov. 1 or 2, or bring it forward so I'm there the week before. So, these crowds. Are they normal big city holiday crowds or more like the insane summer crowds that people talk about in the forum (if you know)? Flights are still pricey so I may start planning the trip and buy the ticket later, so I appreciate your posting this (and sorry if I'm taking invading your trip review. It sounds like a nice one, even if not as relaxing as you might have wanted. Maybe turn off the phone for a weekend and have a spritz and some pasta and pretend. 🙂)

Posted by
303 posts

Good timing for me on your post, as I'm looking to go around the same time this year. So I have a question for you. Were the Rome crowds as bad as people make summer sound? Or just a little more crowded than they might normally be? I ask because the dates I'm looking at would either get me to Rom on the 1st or 2nd, or the week before. November might be a little less expensive, but if it's complete insanity, I might be willing to go earlier. Sounds like a great trip, and you can relax here at home!

Posted by
1878 posts

I don't think anything I experienced in late October/early November in Italy approaches what happens in summer. (I have never been there in the summer though so I am just judging from what I have read). Combining that with the heat, I think visiting in the summer would be horrible. The crowds when I visited on this last trip were bad mostly relative to what I would have expected not knowing about All Saints Day being a crowded time.

Posted by
303 posts

Thanks for the info. That's looking like the best time for me to be in Rome. I can handle crowds within reason, which it sounds like this is. But summer crowds, no way.