All Roads Lead To-From-To Rome

Posted on October 2, 2011. Filed under: Italy, travel | Tags: |

Previously: Rome, If You Want To

Before I forget (any more) about this trip perhaps I can write a bit down. Having cleverly convinced the family that we should take this once-or-twice-in-a-lifetime trip, the details had to be hashed out.

Given that I had a business trip to Rome (I know, tough life), it made sense to start there. The young one being nearly a teen, I figured he could help his travel-challenged father on the trip out and they could meet me after my work was done. Then we’d start with Rome and go from there.

First step: consult the guide books, the internet, and friends-n-family who had been there. Perhaps we went overboard with the guide books. Especially since this doesn’t include the books I got on the Kindle (another copy of Rick  Steves Italy book for one.) In my defense some of these books were acquired during the previous trip twelve years ago–they still spoke of the Lira as the monetary unit–and some were acquired during the trip. I also didn’t take all of these books WITH me. I took the Rick Steves only on the Kindle (and the family brought an iPad which also had a copy on it through the Kindle app.) We did take the Fred Plotkin “Italy for the Gourmet Traveler” but only because it came after I left but before the family left and I didn’t realize how BIG it was before I suggested they bring it–oh and there is no Kindle version.  We took the Blue Guide concise–I love their focus on art, architecture and history–I generally ignore anything about accommodations or food. Taking a very old edition of the Blue Guide can be kinda hilarious.

Other books I took on the Kindle  just to set the mood:

The Big Plan

Normally I am the (reluctant) chief logistics officer for any and all vacations but I find it very stressful. I always beg for help and assistance but it is seldom granted. And, left to my own devices, I can construct a very drill-sergeant like itinerary (hup one, move every day, visit that museum, climb those stairs, hup two,  next town, next city, next site, check!).  This time I got some very valuable input from my husband: Focus on four main areas to stay for several days with side-trips, if possible and spend one entire day between places just moving from point A to point B with no other agenda. This turned out to be a great move and made for a more relaxing (for us) vacation. Here was our plan for 21 day vacation after the work portion of the trip:

  • Arrive in Rome, get to hotel
  • Spend a few days in Rome with a side trip to Pompeii
  • Take the train to the Cinque Terre
  • Spend a few days in the Cinque Terre
  • Take the train to Venice
  • Spend a few days in Venice
  • Take the train to Florence
  • Spend quite a few days in Florence with side trips to Pisa and Siena
  • Take the train to Rome
  • Fly home the next day
Each bullet that says Take the train to…. was the entire focus of the day’s activities. We never bought the tickets in advance but just went and got tickets from the handy machines for the next available train. When we got off at the train it was our job to get to the hotel, check in, unpack a bit and rest. Aside from eating that was the only plan. No rush to get anywhere by any time. That part worked well.

What to Do

That settled the next part was to decide on what to do in Italy. What were the MustDos vs. the CouldDos. My mantra was “You can’t do everything.This was repeated at regular intervals to calm myself because let’s face it, Italy is a country with way more museums, sites and restaurants that you can do justice to in anything less than a full lifetime. Really. I’m not one of those people who can go to a place like Italy and say OK that’s it, I’ve done it, no need to do it again.  Also I’m not too hip to do the “touristy” things since, in fact, while traveling to Italy on vacation I was, in fact, a tourist. I embrace it. So here are some of the things on our MustToDo list:

Rome

  • The Colosseum because it’s The Colosseum!
  • Spanish Steps because of Roman Holiday  and The Talented Mr. Ripley
  • Trevi Fountain because it’s baroquely packed into a tiny square and you can ensure your return to Rome there
  • The Pantheon because I adore architecture
  • Sistine Chapel and St. Peters because, well, duh
  • Food because it’s Italy (and I include all the major food groups like gelato and wine here)
  • Side Trip to Pompeii because, as a child, upon hearing tales of our trip to Italy when he was 8 months old, my son said “The next time we go to Italy, we have to go to Pompeii!”

Cinque Terre

  • The Cinque Terre itself because we read about it in a guide book  and some of our family members went there
  • Food  because we gave a cookbook by Fred Plotkin extolling the virtues of the Ligurian cuisine on the region. More books from Fred on Amazon here.

Venice

  • Venice itself
  • St. Mark’s square because, remember, I’m a tourist
  • A gondola ride because I regret that I didn’t do this the one other time I was here
  • Museums, generally
  • Food because I felt that I gave the food in Venice short shrift the last time I was here

Florence

  • David
  • The Duomo
  • The Uffizi
  • Machievelli’s tomb and statue because The Tween wanted to see these
  • Side Trip: Pisa because I’ve never been there and I hear they have a Tower that Leans
  • Side Trip: Siena because I have been there and they have an odd shaped Piazza where they do a twice-annual horse race and also an Enoteca of some note
  • Food because ya gotta eat, especially in Italy
That’s all I can recall of the MustDos but we had a lot of other things we DidDo because the opportunity presented itself. We tried to stay open and flexible to be able to roll with the punches. We got to do everything we wanted to if not always in the exact way we wanted. We got to do things that we hadn’t expected but which turned out lovely. We didn’t get to do everything because–you just can’t– but that was OK.

Accomodate Me, Please

So the last part of the planning was planning where to stay. I hate this part. I’m not good at it. I worry that I’ve picked the wrong place and will end up in a bad neighborhood in a filthy hotel (oh yeah, I did that once, in Montmartre). But with a little bit of “take the easy path” added to Rick Steve’s Italy 2010 advice added to flipping despairingly through one of the two Frommer’s guides that we bought through desperately trolling Trip Advisor to sending frantic emails to anyone in Italy who would respond…it worked out like this:

  • Rome: The Hotel Genova — recommended by our business partners so why work any harder than this–it turned out to be a nice boutique business hotel by the train station which turned out to be kind of a cool foodie neighborhood and–Colosseum-adjacent
  • Cinque Terre – Locanda Ca Dei Duxi — In Riomaggiore, the first of the five terres because they were the only ones who answered my email in the affirmative that they had rooms. Worked out very well.
  • Venice:  Ca’  Turelli — In the quiet Dorsuduro neighborhood. Only place we could find and only for two nights. Great locale but the hardest beds ever.
  • Venice-Lido: Hotel Villa Mabapa – A quick pick from booking.com via TripAdvisor without a lot of research. Didn’t mean to switch hotels in Venice but no choice. This is actually Venice-Lido separate from Venice “proper” but actually a pretty nice place to stay. I’d stay there again and take the ferry to Venice itself (and surrounding islands).
  • Florence: Hotel Europa — because I was running out of steam and I found them with nights available — turned out much better than I thought when I first arrived.
  • Rome: The Hotel Genova because why work any harder than this…just ask them for one more night before we head home
It all worked out well in the end despite my worrying. I would stay at any one of these hotels again though I might look for something with a softer bed in Dorsoduro. Or I might just head back to Venice-Lido for cheaper rates and an even quieter locale from which to base any Venice-related ventures.
Next step: When in Rome….coming soon
Previously: Rome, If You Want To
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3 Responses to “All Roads Lead To-From-To Rome”

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[...] Up next: All Roads Lead To-From-To Rome [...]

I and my daughter will be meeting my husband in Zurich, in a couple of weeks, and plan to go to Italy for 5 days. I enjoyed reading your post and hope that you write about Rome soon! Our trip will be very quick- one night in Milan, 2 nights in Florence and 2 in Rome. Is it cheaper to buy train tickets from city to city or get a pass? I can’t decide.

The Rick Steves guide has a lot to say about train passes. Eurail Global great for all-Europe, bad for Italy only. Italy Pass saves neither time nor hassle. Eurail Select may work for 3-4-5 adjacent countries. Check http://www.ricksteves.com for more/later info. On reading all of that, we did not do any passes. We hesitated the first time we bought tickets and the person at the next booth helped us and suggested 2nd not 1st class which was fine. Smaller regional trains don’t have that distinction but all were good.


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