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Rome, Venice, Paris 2015 Trip Report

My husband & I just went on our Yearly Trip of a Lifetime as our kids call it, to Rome, Venice & Paris. We live in Michigan but due to much cheaper cost of airfare, flew out of Windsor, Canada to Toronto then to Rome. The fire had just happened a few days earlier than our flight so I was concerned about issues at the airport but we didn't really experience any. Of course, we didn't land at Terminal 3 since it was closed but we got right through Italian passport control with no problems whatsoever. Actually the officer just waved us through without even looking at our passports! Our private transfer was waiting for us at the meeting point so we were off to Rome! It was so nice to be dropped off right at our apartment door rather than shlep our stuff through unfamiliar trains or metros. I highly recommend.

We rented an apartment in Rome on Via Merulana through AIRBNB and our contact person was waiting for us there. She showed us a few things in the apartment then gave us a few recommendations on where to eat & how to get around and we were free to unpack & go. We didn't do much that day other than find the grocery store & bankomat, had dinner at a restaurant right across the street and walked down to see Santa Maria Maggliorre basilica at night. Went to bed early since we hadn't slept much on the plane.

Day 2 was our Ruins Day. We walked to the Colosseum from our apartment, got our Roma Pass at the Metro station right across the street then walked to the Forum to begin our adventure. The lines there were not long & we got right in. We really enjoyed looking at all the ruins & I used our Pocket Rome book as our tour guide to explain what we were seeing & get some of its history. Next we went to Palatine Hill & took in the wonderful view. After that we found a nice ristorante & had a pizza for lunch then walked to Victorrio Emmanuel II monument for more amazing views. We did pay the extra to go up the elevators to the top but at that point, we were getting a bit tired so it was well worth the cost. Last on our agenda was to go into the Colosseum. With our Roma Passes in hand, we didn't have to wait in the long line. Again we used our Pocket Rome book as our guide & did a self tour. Of all the ruins we saw that day, it was our least favorite. Its impressive yes but we liked the Roman Forum better. We felt it gave us more of a picture of Roman life. But that was just us. We did enjoy the Colosseum just not as much as the other ruins. Finally we walked back home & had a nice supper close to our apartment.

Day 3 we got up early, took the Metro to the Vatican where we had an 8:30 tour of the Vatican Museums, Sistine Chapel & St Peters Basilica with Through Eternity Tours. This was money well spent. Our guide was very knowledgeable and the three hours passed so quickly. We saw so many wonderful tapestries & art in the museums and the ceiling in the Sistine Chapel, what can I say, it was more amazing than I thought it would be, just wonderful. We ended our tour in the basilica, again amazing, beautiful, huge, what can I say? What a wonderful morning we spent. We'll never forget it. After the tour, we had a quick lunch then walked to Castle Saint Angelo & decided to tour it as well. Very interesting, not crowded at all, great views from the top. Walked the long walk back to the Metro, stopped along the way for our first gelato of the trip (yummy) then home for a rest before having a nice dinner near our apartment.

Day 4 we took our time getting ready, we had a 1pm appointment at Borghese Gallery. We walked to the Metro only to find out there was a STRIKE! Oh no, we have to find a taxi but couldn't figure out where they were. I knew we couldn't just 'hail a cab' like they do in the movies so we set out on foot to find a taxi stand. Long story short(er) we finally found a taxi stand near Termini station & waited our turn (remember there's a strike so everyone wants a cab today), got in & got to Borghese Gallery, 5 min to 1.

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There was a short wait before they let the 1pm group in. We took Rick's advice and went to the second floor first to avoid crowds which worked very well. We spent a half hour on the 2nd floor and the rest of our two hours on the main floor. Its an amazing & beautiful place. Not just the paintings & sculptures but the rooms themselves are so beautiful. We really enjoyed it.

Next we decided to do the Heart of Rome walk in Rick's books so we walked to the Spanish Steps (underwhelming to me, not sure what all the fuss was about here, just lots of people sitting on the steps) then to the Pantheon where there was a small political rally outside. We enjoyed sitting down inside the Pantheon and soaking it all in. Next we walked to Plaza Navona and enjoyed that a lot. There was a small orchestra playing music, a very funny street performer/comedian with a box of prompts he used to make fun of people walking by (not in a mean way but just funny) and also the two beautiful fountains. We really loved it. After that we walked to Campo del Fiori where we sat at a cafe & enjoyed a glass of wine and some people watching. When it was time to head back to the apartment we easily found a taxi stand & enjoyed a stress free ride back home.

Our last day in Roma we were planning on going to Ostia Antica but by that time my husband is feeling poorly (nasty cough) so we decided on a Plan B - visit Santa Maria Maggliore basilica which was just beautiful inside then to the Rome National Museum (very interesting, lots of busts, tapestries, jewelry) and finally the Roman Baths of Diocletian which were converted into a church designed by Michaelangelo. Very beautiful, maybe our favorite church in Rome. On our way back to the apartment we stopped in a cafe for a glass of wine & a birra then home to pack for our train trip to Venice. After packing we took the Metro to the Colosseum to see it light up at night. Very pretty & a nice way to end our trip to Roma.

The next morning we took the Metro to Termini and found the correct platform for our train to Venice. We ended up with 7 minutes to spare! A 'helpful' person who I thought was affiliated with the train helped us find the correct car, our seats & put our luggage in the overheads, all for 3 euros! I'm sure he wanted more but that's all we gave him! The train ride was enjoyable, pretty scenery, a nice lunch in the club car and more wine and we arrive in Venice. Get off the train & easily found the vaperetto and head to Rialto Bridge. Our hotel is located a canal off the main, busy area - Hotel alla Fava which we wholeheartly recommend to everyone - we get our bearings once off the boat & find it, check in and relax for a few minutes. A knock on our door & the hotel clerk has two glasses and a bottle of Prosecco for us, complementary! We enjoyed most of that & the view from our room (108 canal view) then decide to go for a walk & explore a little. After crossing the Rialto Bridge, we ended up in the square and a young lady who was getting married soon decided my husband looked like just the person to buy her a glass of wine, which he did of course. We enjoyed talking to her then went down by the Grand Canal & sat down to enjoy the view. We had dinner that night at Devil's Forest Pub which was close to our hotel. Fun atmosphere, food was ok (we just had a sandwich) and finally a short, after dark walk near our hotel & off to bed. We love Venice so far!

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Hey Diana!

I'm heading to Rome in July with my two sons age 12 and 15. I don't want to wait on a long line at the Colosseum. With the Roma Pass, you don't need to wait on line? You bought yours at the train station, can you get it at any station? Can you also buy it at the Forum? I read in a post on TripAdvisor that you can walk up to the group tour window, which has little or no line, and purchase an audio tour to avoid the line. Did you see people doing this?

Thank you for any information that you can give me about avoiding lines at any of the main attractions in Rome. July will be hot and I want my boys to enjoy Rome and feel like they're on vacation!

Thanks!
Debra

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The next morning we woke up early & went for a walk to the Grand Canal to watch Venice wake up. That was enjoyable. Then off to San Marco Square. It was beginning to get busy so we got in a line for St Marks Basilica. Turns out it was a tour group line but we could join if we wanted, only 15 Euros each & we get to skip the very long line for the basilica. So of course we did. Not sure who ran the tour but our guide was wonderful. She was so knowledgeable about art, history, the Bible. We enjoyed the tour very much. We stayed in the basilica once it was over and at 11:30 they turned on the lights inside & it really sparkled. They only do this once a day per our guide.After the basilica, we had lunch (pizza again, complementary lemoncello after lunch, yum) crossed the square & got our combo tickets for Correr Museum & Doge's Palace. We went into the Correr Museum first, it was lovely, beautiful rooms, interesting paintings, we loved the library, the chandeliers made with Murano glass were amazing then cross to the Doge's Palace, using Rick's Pocket Venice for our tour guide. We did a little shopping afterwards then wandered back to our hotel for a short rest then just before 7pm we walked to where the gondolas were near Rialto Bridge & went on a gondola ride. It was fun & interesting but I wish it was longer than a half hour! After that, we had dinner at a nearby restaurant (de Mamo).

Our last day in Venice we went back to San Marco Square & visited the Campanille Bell Tower. There was a short line that got much longer after we got in it. We enjoyed the beautiful views of Venice from the top then walked around a little bit (its fun to just wander in Venice) before heading to see the Bridge of Sighs and then walk to Accadamia Bridge. We had lunch at a nice little restaurant overlooking the Grand Canal then went to the Accadamia Gallery. We enjoyed the religious artifacts as well as the huge paintings showing the history of Venice. Finally we walked back to the hotel then had dinner on the Grand Canal then packed up for an early morning ride to the airport for our flight to Paris.

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Nice flight to Paris, Air France & were picked up by Inter Service Prestige private shuttle from CDG to central Paris. We had rented an apartment (AIRBNB) and there was some confusion about keys. We ended up having to go somewhere else to pick up the keys before going to the apartment on Rue de Rivoli but it all worked out & we were finally in our tiny little apartment in Le Marias! First day we did grocery shopping (FranPrix), a little walking through the neighborhood, mostly resting, enjoying our tiny balcony with a glass of wine & did Asian takeout, easy & delicious!

By this time, my husband's cough is much worse & within a few days, I also have it so we ended up canceling any day trips (nothing booked, we just decided to stay in Paris rather than go to Giverny, Fontainbleau & D Day beaches like originally planned). Day 1 in Paris walked to the Picasso Museum which we enjoyed then got a sandwich, frites & Orangina and picnicked in Place des Vosges and in the evening we had tickets to the Moulin Rouge dinner show which we really enjoyed. The show that is, dinner was just ok but the show was very entertaining. It was rather chilly in Paris compared to Italy & I had only brought a lightweight short sleeve sweater plus a rain jacket so I spent a little time shopping on Rue de Rivoli looking for a jacket of some sort, which I never did find but had fun shopping!

Day 2 Walked to Hotel de Ville then across the Seine to visit the Concergerie then to Notre Dame (didn't go inside this time, we did that last year) where my husband stopped to feed the birds then across the Seine to find Shakespeare & Co bookstore. I tried last year to find it but never did so this time I asked directions & found out it was about a minute away! Went in & bought Julia Child's My Life in Paris book. Ate lunch at Cafe Panis right by the river. Croque Monsoir, yummy. Walked to St Michel metro & headed to Pere Lachaise Cemetery. Got a map before entering (5 euro rip off but without a map you won't find anything). We walked though it, took lots of pictures then found Jim Morrison's grave & Edit Piaf's too. Back to the apartment for dinner (left overs from our first night) then walked about a block to Maison Georges Larnicol & got a couple of macarons for dessert. Delicious!

Day 3 we went to the Catacombs. Got there at 10:15 and we had a two hour & 15 minute wait to get in but since we didn't see it last year, we decided to stick it out. Glad we did, it was pretty awesome. Walked to the closest metro on the way out & there was a flea market set up (it was Saturday). We did a little shopping (got a set of 6 tiny little apertif glasses and a book from the Orsay Museum) then stopped for a cafe creme at another cafe. We then went to our old neighborhood from last year (St Germain des Pres), got some food at the Monoprix we went to every day last year & had a picnic in Luxembourg Gardens! After lunch we walked back to Saint Sulplice church & went inside. Last year our apartment balcony had a view of the steeples of the church & we never went to it so we decided to see it this year. Its really beautiful. Then home via Metro and dinner at the restaurant next door to our apartment (duck, goose tartine). They were really busy & only one waiter serving the entire place!
After dinner we walked to Notre Dame to see it lit up at night. The church bells starting ringing once we got there & we ended up going inside where mass was being held. It was a wonderful end to our evening in Paris!

Sunday was our museum day, our passes expired that day. Went to Musee Marmotten Monet, Parc Monceau, Nissim du Carmondo & the Louvre! Busy but wonderful day. Saw many lovely paintings, beautiful furniture & rooms, Parc Monceau was so relaxing & wonderful and in the Louvre, we saw Napoleon's Apartments & the Winged Victory of Samorathe! After dinner we went to the Arc de Triomphe to see at night. Used the elevator to the top & what a view! Another great day in Pahree!

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Just two more days in Paris. My the time flies when you're having so much fun!

Monday morning I did my usual walk to the local boulangerie for a cafe creme & pain au chocolat. It was sprinkling a little bit but that let up thankfully before we headed out. Went to Palais Royal gardens, Galeries Vivienne for a little window shopping, lunch at The American Dream, shopping at Fragonards perfumerie, then to Printemps for the terrace view (did a little shopping there & at C&A Haussman too) and finally toured the Garnier Opera. WOW. Just Wow. If you haven't seen the Opera, it is a MUST SEE. So beautiful. I can't even begin to describe it. Just Wow. For dinner that evening, I wanted lamb but we checked three places & no one had lamb on their menu. We ended up with pizza (what can I say, hubby loves his pizza) instead. All I have to say about pizza is don't go to Italy and have amazing pizza then order pizza in Paris. It just isn't the same thing. After dinner, we walked to the Seine to try to find where the boats take off & we found it but just missed the time and would have had to wait for 40 minutes so we decided to skip it & headed back home.

Our last day in Paris - woke up early coughing. Yes it finally hit me full strength. But we pressed on. First though we had a cafe creme (me) & espresso (my husband) in a cafe near our metro stop then went to the Petite Palais and toured the gallery which was very nice & not at all crowded. Took pictures of the Grand Palais and the beautiful Pont Alexander II bridge then to Montmarte where we did some shopping, had lunch near the carrousel at the foot of Sacre Couer then took the funicular to the top where we walked around the Place de Tertre (artist gallery). We looked for the artist that did our portrait last year but couldn't find him then went to the Dali Museum which was very interesting. Enjoyed escargot at Le Cremerie Restaurant then back home to begin packing for our trip home the next morning. Supper that night in Saint Germain des Pres, near our apartment last year (where I had lamb but it wasn't on the menu anymore so we had the most delicious beef I've ever eaten with tiny little flavorful potatoes) then after dinner we went to Trocadero to see the Eiffel Tower light up. What a wonderful trip we had with so many fun memories, in spite of being sick, we thoroughly enjoyed ourselves.

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Overall thoughts & impressions - Rome is very busy, noisy, a bit dirty but wonderful sights to see. Metro not great, taxis great but expensive. We loved it but will probably never return (in our 60's bear in mind). Venice - beautiful, magical, wonderful, amazing. We loved it & would definitely go back again. Paris - ah Pahree! When you have fallen in love with Paris, its hard to describe its pull on your soul. J'adore Pahree. I'd move there in a heartbeat if it were possible.

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It was Through Eternity Tours & his name was Raoul (not sure on how to spell that). He was great.

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Very glad to see that you enjoyed your trip, Diana, and especially that you loved some of my favorite places too! One little note for that next trip (and for others about to pack a bag)?

"...then to Notre Dame (didn't go inside this time, we did that last year) where my husband stopped to feed the birds.."

It's illegal to feed the pigeons in Paris and in many other European cities as well - even if you may see hawkers around selling bird seed. They're very, very destructive to architecture art outdoor sculpture, and one of the reasons eating in certain piazzas and other public areas is discouraged or even banned as crumbs and garbage left behind draws them in. They're doing everything they can to try and get RID of the darn things but it's an uphill battle, and they need all the help they can get! :O)

I'm with you: IMHO the Spanish Steps is probably the most overrated 'attraction' in Rome next to Trevi Fountain. I've no idea what all the fuss is about.

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Re feeding the pigeons..

He stopped to talk to a man who was obviously taking care of them, to give him a couple of euros to help with the costs. While there, the man gave him a handful of bird seed & the birds literally ate out of his hands, perched on his arms, his head, etc. He didn't actually feed them any people food. We know better than to do that.

We didn't go to Trevi Fountain since its under renovation. Probably would have if it wasn't since we mostly followed the Heart of Rome walk in Rick's books. Whatever is at the top of the Spanish Steps was covered up, so it probably wasn't as pretty as it normally is. So many places to see, so little time!

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Just to clarify: they're not supposed to be fed at all. Not even seed. Food keeps them around, and the acid in their urine and droppings is highly corrosive and literally eats the surfaces of valuable statuary, fountains, roofs and exteriors of historic buildings. If you look around, you'll often see spikes placed on windowsills and above doors to try to keep them from nesting or sitting on them. They're a real headache for preservationists so withholding food is one method of trying to drive them out of historic centers.

It's just a good thing to know if RS members going to Paris, Rome, Venice, etc. are unaware that they shouldn't buy seed from the peddlers in the piazzas and squares who sell it (until the authorities make their rounds: then watch them scatter like mice!)

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Thanks. Good to know. In Venice, San Marco Square there were policemen telling people "no feed the peegeons" but of course, as soon as they moved on, people kept doing it.

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Wow, for two sick people, you sure didn't let the creeping crud get you down much. Couple of real troopers!

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Great review and it is appreciated. It's really nice to have such a detailed account of how you spent your days and such a positive spin throughout even though you both weren't at your best.

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My husband just told me today a little story about him & a woman with a ring in Paris. All I could say was how much did you give her? He knew it was a scam too. But he has a pretty gold ring now as a souvenir from Paris! LOL

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Great report. I'm going with daughter in fall, at night , in Paris, did u use the metro, or taxi?
Bummer, about getting sick, but you didn't let that keep u down.

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We used the Metro to get everywhere in Paris, day or night. Its so easy to use. Have a great time on your trip!

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Ditto to what Diana said: we either walked or used the metro as well. It's not difficult at all once you understand how it works.

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Great report, Diana. Many thanks. And I happen to agree with your comments.

I loved Venice, finding it, yes, "magical," but have no interest in returning to Rome.

I have seen Paris twice. The first time, 38 years ago, I absolutely loved Paris. The second time, about seven years ago, I still liked Paris very much, but on that trip found that I enjoyed London a tad better. However, the high point of my stay in Paris was a trip to the D-Day beaches in Normandy. It is hard to arrange a one-day trip to Normandy from Paris, but it is possible and totally worth it.

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Great trip report, thanks! In an attempt to not get sick while on vacation my husband and I start drinking Emergen-C 5 days before our trip, one in the airport to fight any airplane airborn virus and everyday while on vacation. This has worked so far.

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So glad for the good review of Through Eternity Tours as I am just getting ready to book a Vatican our with them!

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Diana - so grateful for your detailed report! I'm taking my nieces in August next year. We're all first-timers in Europe (4 adult women). Would highly appreciate your suggestions and insights. We'll have 9 days, including travel from and back to Los Angeles. I'm thinking of doing Paris and Venice and starting my planning (with a little trepidation!).

Thanks in advance - verna

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Diana, great report and appreciate the details. I've been to all cities and Paris is my favorite.
I hope to rent a place for one week, too. Do you mind sharing what the cost of the apartment was for 7 nights?

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I believe it was $1181 USD for a week.