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“Florence, Sienna, Pisa and Rome”
Review of Italy

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Cullman, Alabama
Level 6 Contributor
60 reviews
188 helpful votes
“Florence, Sienna, Pisa and Rome”
Reviewed November 27, 2010

Ah Italy. A country full of History, Art, Good Food, Good Drink and friendly people. It is some what of a dichotomy at times but this is one country in Europe you need to see. Personally I found the smaller cities of Florence and Sienna to be more a delight than the big city of Rome but Rome is something you need to see at least once and for no less than five days.

The first time visitor to Rome may remark that the city is dirty since it is so full of Graffiti but one must note that there are thousands of years of history here. Parts of Rome do need a good cleaning up but so is the case wtth most large cities.

You will also immediately notice the driving in Rome as the main mode of transportation is the Vespa scooter or a small car like the smart car. These vehicles whip in and out of traffic and one can see why people fret driving in Rome (though Paris is worse.)

History abounds in Rome as you simply cannot see it all in one day unless you take the HOHO bus (Hop On, Hop Off) for 25 euros. If you arrival early as we did and are waiting on your hotel to be ready, this bus is an excellent way to see Rome on the quick as you can either stay on the bus or get off where you want. You may wish to visit a Tobacco shop or visitor bureau and pick up a Roma Pass which givs you discounted bus rides for 3 days and entrance into your first two sites in Rome free. (Everything is discounted after that). The Roma pass cost 25 Euros in November of 2010.

One needs at least 5 days or more to really see Rome and even then you do not see all of it as there simply is just too much to see. Everywhere you look in Rome, there is something to see, a building, a church, a fountain or something else. Rome challenges the senses.

As for food, Rome has over 1000 restaurants so do your due diligence and pick your choices either before you come or when you arrive. Do stay away from the restaurants that are closest to the tourist sites as they tend to be pricey and have average food at best. By going a block or two away from a tourist site, you may find yourself a little Italian gem as they are everywhere. (BTW There really is no Italian Food but rather food from the regions such as Roman dishes). We wound up going to a real authentic locals place named Dino & Toni's in Rome and while they spoke no English, we were told how to say a few things in Italian and one of them was Feed Me Toni. The food and drink kept coming for 3 full hours and we got dishes of what everyone in the house was having. It was an amazing local experience and for sure we were the only people who were not locals in there. (This place has been visited by the Chef from the White House as his apron is signed and on the wall in a case). It isn't big on atmosphere but you experience a real local family run restaurant with outstanding food.

Wine is pretty much served with every meal and a glass of Vino De la casa will cost you less than a cola and is usually a good glass of wine. Tuscany which is the closest wine region, is simply amazing with flavorful Red wines and an occassional white. (Look for wines with DOCG on the label as those are Italy's best wines). Tours can be arranged from either Rome or Florence and are worth doing if you have the time.

Beyond Rome, Florence is a Gem of a city as it is less crowded and has world class art located here. This is a must see city and I would spend no less than 3 full days here. The Duomo (Church) in Florence is absolutely beautiful. Reservations are recommended to see the Ufizzi (Beautiful Art works of all type) and the Accademia (home of Michelangelo's David). Florence is the city of museums and if you love art and architecture, you will not be disappointed.

An easy day trip from Rome is one of my favorite cities, the medieval city of Sienna. The bus is the best way to get to Sienna from Florence because the train leaves you too far out of town in Sienna where as the bus brings you right outside the heart of Sienna though most of the city is in a no drive zone. When you arrive in Sienna, you will think you have returned to the Medieval times because the roads are narrow, the city surrounded by large walls and the roads are made of cobblestone. Without a doubt, Sienna has one of the most beautiful Duomo's in all of Italy. This is a city worth spending a day (and/or night) in. Sienna is located about 1/2 way between Florence and Rome.

We also tried to reach the Cinque Terra region of Italy but learned real quickly that this area is best seen in the Summer and it is not wise to visit when it is either cold or rainy. One might compare the Cinque Terra to the French Rivera on a smaller more quaint scale. Multiple trains are needed to reach the Cinque Terra. We wound up having to stop in Pisa due to time restraints as we could not get into the Cinque Terra and back out with ample time to see the various cities. The area also had mud slides while we were there but I would highly recommend seeing this area IF you have plenty of time.

Pisa is worth maybe a 1/2 of a day as everyone wants to see the Leaning Tower of Pisa and that is the highlight of the city. Pisa is where many people switch trains to go on to the Cinque Terra. There is not a lot to Pisa but it is on the route to the cinque terra.

All in all, Italy is an amazing place. There are not enough adjectives to describe Italy. What ever you do, make sure you have plenty of time to spend in Italy and do not rush around as Italian keep different hours than we do here in the USA. Between all the shopping, sight seeing, eating and museums you are going to have a very full days. Do not crowd too many cities into your trip.

Next rrip we will take in Sicily, the Amalfi Coast and Vience. IWhile the high speed trains are great, Italy is simply bigger than it looks and unless you have 3 or more weeks, you simply cannot see most of it.

La Dolce Vita....Enjoy the good life in Italy.

7 Thank JKRecord
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Brooklyn, New York
Level 3 Contributor
11 reviews
2 helpful votes
“Driving Through Italy”
Reviewed October 12, 2010

I highly suggest you rent a car when travelling through Italy and stop in small towns. There is so much to see, and so many beautiful places that you will not get bored. However, do not take your car into any cities unless you have researched that city's driving regulations. Many cities do not allow you to drive in them.

Driving through Tuscany and spending a few days in Florence is a great trip if you do not have time to see more of the country.

1 Thank kimmyrm
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Clifton, New Jersey
Level 5 Contributor
82 reviews
72 helpful votes
“Rome, Venice, Florence - Trafalgar Tours”
Reviewed September 28, 2010

We just returned from the Italian Dream tour of Italy which is operated by Brendan/Trafalgar. We booked on Brendan but 98% of the tourists booked with Traflagar.

They are quick to point out this is a budget tour - which means that if you really want to see a lot, prepare to purchase the side excursions which were in each city you visit. Our tour hotels were located in the middle of no where - so we opted for the excursions - an excellent decision even though it added considerably to the cost of the trip. The hotels were okay with the last hotel being the best - we were there one night only.

The excursions typically involved a meal in addition to siteseeing. These were by far the best meals we had throughout the trip. The meals incuded in the basic package were poor at best. We were thankful there were only 3 dinners included because they were practically inedible. The meals on the excursions were excellent and fitting for what one would want from Italy. Italy has come to the realization that tourists like breakfast which means more than a roll. There were buffets at each of the hotels with cereal available in addition to what they consider scrambled eggs and breakfast sausage (more like egg soup and hot dogs). The coffee in the hotels was terrible and we all wished for a Starbucks along the way.

Our tour guide, Colleen, was excellent. We toured over 20 years ago and Colleen was by far so knowledgeable in comparison and passed along a lot of information, we learned so much that you can't pick up from reading alone. She made the experience wonderful. She was very helpful for those w/dietary restrictions and made sure the tour ticked like a finely tuned clock.

Our driver, George, was also excellent. He manouvered the streets through the mountain towns like a true pro. The bus was always clean and he was always there to help anyone on or off.
The bus itself could have used more legroom - the right side of the bus had less space between the seats than the left (driver's side). We didn't realize this until we "rotated" our seats daily and finally got to sit on the left.

Italy is not what it was twenty years ago. It is much more commercialized; more people speak English; and it is covered by graffitti in all major cities. It is such a shame - but we are from the NYC area so we are able to look past this...but it is disappointing to see it nevertheless. St. Mark's Cathedral in Florence is being restored. Unfortunately, to get the funding, it appears that they have to sell advertising so the right front of the Cathedral is covered by an advertisement by the sponsoring company...the same is true if you look down towards the Bridge of Sighs...more huge advertising...at least half a block long and several stories high. It looked like Times Square and was so distracting from the beauty of Venice. There are also charges for entry to areas we saw for free in the past. So that adds more to the overall bill.

Be prepared to spend with the dollar being down...be prepared to walk a lot...but, be prepared to have the trip of a lifetime - you will never see anyplace so beautiful with so much art and history. Don't miss David or the Sisteen Chapel...get there early to beat the crowds.

34 Thank Foodaholic5270
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Level 3 Contributor
20 reviews
25 helpful votes
“Rome/Cinque Terre trip”
Reviewed August 9, 2010

Just returned form Rome/Cinque Terre trip. Travelled with my wife, 20 y.o. son and 18y.o. daughter. We've been to Rome before. This time used mass transit for our entire Italy trip. Some of my concerns were luggage on trains. Simply put, not a problem. We took the train (Leonardo Divinci Express) from the Rome airport to the Termi, Walked to our hotel without problems. A word of advice. If you are planning on using an ATM card, there was only 1 working machine at the Termi. However, just out the front doors on the right is a bank with an ATM. We stayed at the Hotel Diocleziano. Very clean, reosnably priced and close to the Termi and metro.Ate at Babbo's, one block from the hotel. Fantastic ! Took the train to Rapallo, a 4 hour ride. Very easy to navigate. Stayed at L'Approdo, a very nice hotel on the road betwenn Rapallo and Santa Margherita. Convenient to both towns and transportation to C T, Portifino and other destinations a breeze. Antonio's in S.M was great, as was the corner pizza joint in San Michelle . The name was Restauraunt Pizzeria, can't miss it on the road from Rapallo to S.M. around the sharp bend. The owner was a hoot and the food reasonable and good. Took the local train to C T twice. Crowded but amusing. The "walk" is quite an excursion. the initial phase from Montorosso to the next town is VERY strenuous, so plan accordingly.

8 Thank vito711
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Level 5 Contributor
50 reviews
71 helpful votes
“Italy - some helpful tips!”
Reviewed August 6, 2010

Just returned from a two week holiday in Italy, staying in Rome, Venice and Sorrento. A few, hopefully, helpful tips for those of you thinking of going:
1. Make sure you take plenty of cash with you. For some reason the top tourist destinations ie Doge Palace in Venice, Pompeii, St Angelo etc do not take plastic and we had to go searching for ATMs all the time to get money out
2. Additionally a lot of the shops do not like to take plastic and will ask you for cash rather than using plastic. On a couple of occasions, we had to insist they took the card
3. Buses - great way to travel, but you HAVE to get a bus ticket prior to getting on the bus. This can be quite annoying late at night when you dont know where to get a ticked from. They can be bought in bars and Tabacs so look out for the "T" sign above these shops
4. Get up early for some of the tourist attractions - if you go during the Summer, they get very very busy
5. Personally, I would avoid the tour guides at major tourist places. They dont really tell you anything different than what you would pick up in the audio guides (always available) and they are extremely expensive
6. Venice is very very expensive. A couple of times we got ripped off for prices for drinks when we stupidly did not ask the price. If there is no menu, check the prices first before you sit down
7. It is always worthwhile moving slightly away from the touristy areas if you want to look for a good value meal - whilst queuing at the Vatican, we went to find some breakfast and only walked a few streets away from the Vatican and got some lovely food at a local bakers
8. If contemplating going to Rome and looking for a hotel - stay at the IQ Rome, newly opened and a fantastic hotel with a great idea of vending machines rather than room service. Definately the cheapest water in Rome! Also, the laundrette in the hotel was a godsend and we got all our clothes washed and dryed before our next move to Venice

Hope this helps!

34 Thank mang0jam
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC

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