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  1. #11
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    Jun 2005
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    So with the new boards did we lose that huge thread on Italy from the WC??? Too bad, a ton of great info on there.

    EATS I will echo someone else's recommendations for eats in Florence - Aqua El Due. Fabulous meal. The pasta sampler is amazing. We ordered that, the house red wine, and a couple steaks (peppercorn steak was amazing) - easily one of the best meals we have ever had. Make a reservation if your time is limited in Florence and you only have a few nights for dinner there. By the way...they also own Aqua Il Due (2) in downtown San Diego for anyone on the West Coast. Altogether same menu and wonderful meal.

    Also a wonderful meal was Trattoria Quattro Leoni across the Arno in Florence. We had the Florentine steak; I had the pear pasta (my god it was to die for, order it) and the usual house red. Really special meal not frequented by tourists. Outside seating as well. http://www.4leoni.com/dove.asp

    I have to agree it will be touch to find a bad meal (and gelato) in Rome, although I am not sure of the restaurants we ate at there. We were only there for two nights and one night we spent walking around until we found an outdoor restaurant. It was a wonderful mix of Italians, Germans, some French, and a few Americans. Anyway...Rome is a wonderful walking city (as is Florence and Venice) so if you can I might just explore until you find a place where you like the vibe.

    Venice...we did eat well here, but we had a recommendation from our cousin who worked in Italy at the time. I can't recall the name, sorry. But just keep in mind this cuisine is different from Rome and Florence, (from what I understand the food is very regional) yet we had two great meals here as well.

    HOTELS We stayed at wonderful hotels in the off season so they were greatly reduced.

    Rome - Hotel Ambasciatori Palace. Wonderful hotel located on the Via Veneto close to Spanish Steps and metro. http://www.hotelambasciatori.com/en/

    Florence - Hotel Plaza Lucchesi. Located along the Arno, on the edge of Florence. Great location, wonderful service and good breakfast. Also recommended to us were Hotel Brunelleschi, Hotel J and J, and Hotel Alle Ville Sull'Arno.

    Venice - Hotel Londra Palace. Steps from San Marco. Beautiful luxury hotel. http://www.hotelondra.it/

    DAY TRIPS We do quite a few. Milan for a futbol (soccer) match at the San Siro to see Inter Milan play. What an experience. If you enjoy sports, take in a match - it really is where you get away from everything and experience life in there. We also went to Lucca which I highly recommend. An ancient walled city, it's safe, beautiful, and the people are wonderful. Sienna Someone else mentioned Sienna and it is worth the trip. Architecture is very medieval and difference from that of Rome and Florence. Chianti region We hired a driver and toured a few wineries, stopped in Greve in Chianti, Castellina, a few other places.

    GUIDEBOOKS Not knocking Rick Steeves, because many people travel using his books, but we prefer Frommers and Fodors. Make sure you check out more than one guidebook.

    Enjoy your trip! I can't wait to get back there!!!

  2. #12
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    Jun 2005
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    Yes ordering cappucino after 3pm is a red flag that you're a tourist. Then again, that will probably be pretty clear anyway, so if you want one just order one. I actually went out to dinner with an ITALIAN last month and she ordered a cappucino after dinner. It's more acceptable to order a caffe macchiato (this is an espresso with a drop of milk) after dinner.
    That is bizarre. We were with my ILs, and my FIL is from Italy. He prefers espresso, so that's what he ordered, but the rest of us ordered cappucino and no one even batted an eye. We even went out to dinner with my FIL's cousin and his wife (they live in Rome) and she ordered cappucino after dinner as well.

    That said, everywhere we went, people pegged my FIL as Italian (spoke to him in Italian right off) and the rest of us - my husband, my MIL and me - they pegged as obviously American. It's funny b/c my husband is 100% Italian, and he could probably pass for my FIL's younger brother, but they still knew w/o either of them having to say a word. I don't think you will "fool" them either way, so I would just order what you like.
    isabella noelle :: 12.7.09

  3. #13
    Join Date
    Jun 2005
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    NC by way of Los Angeles
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    6,197

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    I lived in Venice for 3 months, so I can give you some ideas for there. I love Rome, and I think anywhere you go in that city will be worthwhile. But since I'm more of a Venice expert, here are my thoughts:

    Tours
    If you get a chance to take a walking tour of the city, do it. I believe Thomas Cooke offers tours, and theyíre really informative. If you take a tour, youíll hit all of the main highlights of the city and youíll learn a lot, too.



    Weather:
    If you're going in the summer, it will be HOT and MUGGY. And there will be mosquitos, so bring repellent with you (You can ignore the rest of this paragraph if you're travelling in the summer). If you're going in the winter, it's cold Ė generally in the 30ís and 40ís and rainy. If you're going in November and December, they're prime months for acqua alta. The key to dealing with acqua alta is tall rubber boots. They do build narrow platforms for people to walk on when acqua alta hits, but the locals donít use them -- only the tourists do. So if you want to blend in, bring tall rubber boots. They also make it much easier to get around because those platforms are often pretty crowded. The places most affected by acqua alta are Piazza San Marco and the Rialto Bridge, which are the lowest points of the city. You wonít be taken by surprise by acqua alta because in the morning, if they expect it to happen, sirens go off. And if you do get hit with it, itís kind of fun to go sloshing about in big boots Ė very liberating!



    Places to go/do/eat:
    Thereís a cafť in the Piazza San Marco with the best tiramisu in town (or at least it was in 1996). I believe itís the Gran Caffe Lavena, and itís on the right side of the square, if youíre looking at it from the Basilica. Definitely go into the Basilica, and maybe do a tour of the Palazzo Ducale -- itís not my favorite thing in Venice, but it does have an interesting history, and if you take the tour, I believe you can go through the Ponte dei Sospiri, which is pretty cool. Go to the top of the Campanile. You get a beautiful view of the city from there.

    Best pizza is at the ďPizzeria ae Ocche,Ē (the ďaeĒ is pronounced like ďallayĒ), which is located at Calle de Tentor 1552-B (adjoining campo San Giocomo dell'Orio). Telephone 524-1161.) Itís inexpensive and sort of looks like an American college hangout, but there are always tons of locals there. Itís in a part of town nowhere near the tourist stuff. In order to find it, ask locals to point you to Campo San Polo. Once there, someone should be able to tell you where it is. You just need to keep asking folks for directions, and theyíll point you in the right direction. Itís a bit of a hike, but the pizza is great, and itís nice to go to part of the town not as over-run by tourists as the Piazza and the Rialto.

    One other quick restaurant suggestion -- On the Piazza San Marco, if you're feeling the desire to spend a lot of money, you should go to Ristorante Florian. I believe it's the oldest cafe/restaurant on the square.

    You should definitely walk down la Strada Nova. Itís one of the main drags, located between the train station and the Rialto Bridge (which you should of course also see). Thereís a gelateria there that has GREAT gelato. I donít know how I didnít gain 20 pounds while I was in Venice because nearly everyday I ate gelato from this place. Itís called La Gelateria Caí díOro. If youíre walking from the train station towards the Rialto, itís on your right hand side. When you visit the Rialto, make sure to stop by the fish market. It smells pretty awful, but itís interesting to see all of the weird fish they catch in Venice. Venetians eat a lot of fish. One of the indigenous dishes is a seafood soup made with a broth of squid ink. Iíve never been brave enough to try it, but if you want to sample true Venetian cuisine, get some of that.

    If you have a chance to visit the island of Murano, Iíd do that. The glass-blowing is pretty cool. And though morbid, the cemetery island is interesting: itís an island devoted entirely to burial ground. There are a lot of famous people buried there, including Wagner and Stravinsky.

    Keep in mind that locals are a bit leery of tourists. If you can speak Italian with them, do that. It will make them feel a bit better about you. And if theyíre a little cold, donít take it personally. I found that until the locals had seen me over and over again (for instance at the bakery or the market), they didnít warm to me. Theyíre just so used to tourists schlepping through their city with no interest in the culture. And really, the beauty of Venice is all of the little streets and tons of churches. Just wander around and let yourself get lost (actually, you probably wonít be able to avoid getting lost in the city). There really arenít any very scary areas Ė itís not like Rome or Milan which are both full of pick-pockets. Itís a nice city, and the wonder of it is in its small alleyways and bridges.



    Sorry for how long this post is, but Venice is such an amazing place. I have such love for the city, and I hope that you'll enjoy it when you go.

  4. #14
    Join Date
    Jun 2005
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    Milan, Italy
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    Quote Originally Posted by laura
    That said, everywhere we went, people pegged my FIL as Italian (spoke to him in Italian right off) and the rest of us - my husband, my MIL and me - they pegged as obviously American. It's funny b/c my husband is 100% Italian, and he could probably pass for my FIL's younger brother, but they still knew w/o either of them having to say a word. I don't think you will "fool" them either way, so I would just order what you like.
    It's in the way you dress, the way you hold yourself, the way you walk... it's not in the face at all. It's hard to explain, but I can peg a tourist or a model (who are basically tourists that live in Milan full time) from 2 blocks away just by how they hold themselves and what they're wearing.

    There is a great message board on msn called Expats in Italy. You can ask ppl there for suggestions and get the scoop from people who still live in the cities you are actually going to. It's a great crowd. Really, really friendly.

    If you are coming anytime this summer, be prepared. I mean PREPARED. They are saying it will be worse than 2003 when thousands of ppl died. The last two days in Milan it has been over 110F with the humidity index. I have never felt this kind of heat in my life!
    "He who knows he has enough is rich" - Lao Tzu
    --<--@ Tiffany @-->--
    LJ ~ Chart

  5. #15
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    Jun 2005
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    It's in the way you dress, the way you hold yourself, the way you walk... it's not in the face at all. It's hard to explain, but I can peg a tourist or a model (who are basically tourists that live in Milan full time) from 2 blocks away just by how they hold themselves and what they're wearing.
    Yeah, I know why they did it, it was just funny. The funny part is that my FIL has lived in the US for ~40 years now, and he dresses and acts pretty American. It was absolutely uncanny, though, the way the Italians (mostly older men, same generation) just knew.
    isabella noelle :: 12.7.09

  6. #16
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    Jun 2005
    Location
    Michigan
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    Becki, that is so awesome you met Rick Steves! I am majorly jealous! His books really helped us to really feel like we had Europe at our fingertips. We weren't intimidated or cultured shocked at all. He is one person I'd love to shake hands with and tell him what a great job he's done.

  7. #17
    Join Date
    Jun 2005
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    Sunny So. Cali
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    Ditto on what Tiffany said about the Island of Murano. From Venice, you can take a ferry over to the Island and roam around the island to find beautiful pieces of glass. We also watched a demonstration on how the glass is blown there as well!

    I also second (or third) taking the small trips to both Sienna and Pisa. Great small communities! Definitely worth the pictures!

    As a side note, if you are going to Milan at all I would definitely reccommend getting in touch with my 2 uncles who reside there. They LOVE to take in american families that come reccommended by us (family). PM me if you're interested, but they definitely know the places to go as well!
    A.K.A. LeahBeah and Ellemm

  8. #18
    Join Date
    Jun 2005
    Location
    Texas
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    123

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    We were just in Italy this past month....and I'm so ready to go back!

    So, here are a few odds and ends of information.
    Check out fodors.com message board, you can find some pretty good stuff there.

    I'll second Il Latini in Florence, although we had an interesting time with making reservations. We went in the morning and the man basically said he would remember us! That evening we didn't even see him, but got in regardless. It is a mad house trying to get in, but just push your way to the front, as everyone else is doing. It's great fun and good food. Also in Florence not too far away from Il Latini is the Artist Bar. Yummy!

    Don't skip out on gelato! We had 2 and 3 a day But with all the walking we did I think it evened out.

    Speaking of walking, bring comfortable shoes.

    For a day trip you might want to check out Orvieto. Neat hilltown with a gorgeous cathedral.

  9. #19
    Join Date
    Jun 2005
    Location
    Milan, Italy
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    Quote Originally Posted by bunnyboo
    As a side note, if you are going to Milan at all I would definitely reccommend getting in touch with my 2 uncles who reside there. They LOVE to take in american families that come reccommended by us (family). PM me if you're interested, but they definitely know the places to go as well!
    If you want a list of stuff to do in Milan just give a shout. I actually just wrote up a whole post about Milan for another forum so I can copy and paste it here.
    "He who knows he has enough is rich" - Lao Tzu
    --<--@ Tiffany @-->--
    LJ ~ Chart

  10. #20
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    Jun 2005
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    We just got back from a honeymoon in Italy and we stayed in Rome, 5 Terre, and Florence. I highly recommend the Beehive Hostel/Hotel in Rome - relatively inexpensive, clean, and funky place, with lots of good (a la carte) food. 5 Terre was our favorite place - we stayed at a little ex-convent in Monterosso. It has fabulous views, but unfortunately, a trememdous hike to get up there. Could not believe the hospitality though. I enjoyed all the food there - try to get local specialities and local wine everywhere. Make reservations for Uffizi gallery pretty quickly if you plan to go while you're in Florence - they were all booked up for the entire month of June due to a new exhibit, so I don't know if that's affected later reservations or not.

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