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Simply Italy Winter 10/17-10/30

2 Nov 2010 Virge said

Virge
First off, I'm not going to do a day by day travelogue. Jay K, my fellow traveler and adventurer, will be doing that. This is more of impressions that I got from the trip, money advice, and other tips.

Arrival at Rome
1. Do the Contiki Transfer! It's alot easier than the train or bus, and cheaper than a taxi. Book through Contiki or your travel agent. I believe it's about $60 US.
2. If you get to the hotel Regent early and want to wander, the metro entrance is right there! The entrance is Euclide; take the train towards Rome- Piazza del Popolo. It's only one stop and the train line ends. You exit and take a second train. The next train entrance is to the left of the exit. Take the train towards Termini, if you want to go to the center of Rome. Exit Barberini; that exit is the closest to the Spanish Steps and Trevi Fountain. Towards the Vatican, take Ottaviano- S. Pietro. The hotel has maps of Rome and the metro lines. The tickets are also super cheap, 1 euro for 75 min. That means you can hop on and off trains/buses, free of charge for 75 min.
3. Too tired to go the center? There are a lot of shops and cafes around the hotel. Try the gelato/cookie cafe on the corner. Ask for "panna montata" (whipped cream) on top of your gelato. Btw... if you want a cafe latte, make sure to say the cafe part. Latte is just hot milk. Smiler
4. There are two atms right next to the hotel, on the Regent side. No atm cards have been eaten by them, to my knowledge. Withdraw enough to last you a few days.

Pompeii
1. Do the optional tour. The guide is amazing, and you can always wander off to take pics.
2. Best place to buy raunchy souveniers.

Sorrento/Capri
1. Sorrento is beautiful! Get lost in the little alleyways. The scarves here are super cheap too.
2. There is an atm by the main square, right by the bridge going to the port. It's next to a shop that sells chess sets. DONT USE IT! It has eaten many cards, and doesn't dispense your money. In saying this, bring a second Atm card, just in case the first gets eaten.
3. The first Optional dinner is the Pizza Dinner in Sorrento. Do this one! The cheese is amazing, the pizzas are pretty good. The pizzas are not like in the States, but at the same time, they aren't really authentic Italian pizza, since they use tomato sauce. Just watch out with the Limoncello intake Smiler.
4. Capri boat ride. If you get seasick, take the Dramamine! And take extra for the trip back. The optional walking tour wasn't worth it, I felt. The only good thing is that they take you on a bus, so you dont have to fumble with figuring it out yourself. That's it. Not enough time to explore Capri and Anacapri. Do the ski lift to the top of the mountain. Beautiful views and a great little cafe to enjoy a cappucino.
5. The included dinner is HORRIBLE! Go to the pub or outside cafe if you can. Unless you like cold pork and french fries.
6. I love you Meloncello!

Tuscany/Florence
1. The winery is interesting. The guide doesn't like it if you talk too loud though :P. Tip: Use the bathroom before the tour. Or you'll be waiting in a LONG line to use it afterwards. Buy the olive oil and biscotti. I'm not a wine drinker, but I bought wine here as presents. Nice to say you got it at a winery, instead of just a shop or market.
2. Florence is by far, the prettiest and cleanest city. Enjoy this city. Sit at a cafe at Piazza Nettuno and just relax. Shopping is fantastic, the leather and fur is cheap. The leather demonstation is ehhhh. Doesn't really teach you much about leather, other than alot of it could be fake. The optional dinner is again, gross. Not sure what the meat sauce was made of. Do the karaoke, and stay after the tour bus leaves. It's fairly easy to get back to the hotel.
3. Optional Tuscany dinner, I didn't do. I went out with two friends instead and found an amazing hole in the wall restaurant. Had the best dinner so far. And far less cheaper than the tuscany dinner. I didn't do the Space Disco (loss in the translation communication) but heard it was super fun.
4. Free Wifi! Woohoo!

Pisa
1. It was okay. You spend most of your time trying to take a cool pic of the tower.

La Spezia/Cinque Terre
1. Beautiful and romantic. Enough said.
2. Walk the beach; take a bottle of wine and relax. You can do the old town/castle, but sometimes it's just nice to chill out. And if you're lucky, you get to see a bunch of hot Toronto guys diving off a big rock into the ocean. Smiler

Milan
1. Great shopping, but not as pretty as Florence.
2. Gay clubbing, woohoo! Do experiences that you'd never do back home. You won't regret it.

Sirmione/Verona
1. Really really bad weather. Freezing cold and rainy. DO NOT buy the small 4 euro umbrellas! If you forgot your umbrella, buy the larger ones. The small ones fall apart after a good gust of wind. Or better, bring a good umbrella from home.
2. Verona is beautiful, but too cold and rainy to really see anything.

Venice.
1. Experience the grocery market. You can buy all the fruit and veggies you've been missing out in this trip. And ask for the fresh bread. Btw... you have to scale your fruit/veggies before bringing it to the cashier. And you have to pay 5 cents for a shopping bag, if you want one.
2. Did the glass blowing; the man's a master. Murano glass is very expensive though. If you just want the experience, go for the cheapy stuff. Still pretty and save on the euros. Skipped the lace demo; went out for a long lunch instead. Food becomes a priority in this trip. You have horrible dinners and kinda need to make up for them. Again, get lost and find a restaurant as far from the tourist traps as possible. Closer to the square, the more expensive and gross the food. Get the gnocchi with meat sauce, not basil. The bellini was okay.
3. Do the gondola ride. Try to get your guy to sing.
4. Do buy masks and wear them around. It definitely makes wandering Venice more festive and fun!

back to Rome
1. Comfy shoes. The Rome walking tour will be long and tiring. Use the free restroom by the Spanish Steps. There will be alot of scams in Rome. Don't fall for anyone saying stuff is free. Get the gelato by the Trevi Fountain (San Crispino? I think?). Mmm... buy the chestnuts! Fantastic!
2. The Vatican was amazing. Don't take pics in the Sistine Chapel, or they'll confiscate your sim card.
3. Optional tour of Colloseum and Forum. I did this, but only to avoid the long lines. After that, I just wandered by myself, since I already am well informed about its history. You can stay with the tour, but it'll get a bit boring.
4. Did the farewell dinner, to see everyone, but it was really really gross meat. By far, the worst dinner. I would suggest doing dinner someplace else, and just plan to meet up for cocktails afterwards.

Long story, short:
1. Don't do all of the optional dinners, a bit of waste of money and you'll be hungry. I'm a bit a foodie, but these dinners were ridiculous.
2. There will be atms everywhere and most places accept credit cards. Take out enough to last you a few days, but feel free to make larger purchases in plastic. Budget for your trip about 100 euro a day, even if you dont drink. I didn't drink and I was still spending that much on souvenir shopping and food.
3. Explore, but dont forget your map.
4. Wear comfy shoes or bring sole padding. I wore my boots with inside padding and they were fine.
5. Layer up! Bring thin long sleeves, some sweaters and a jacket. I wore my leather jacket with lining, which was fine for October. If you're going in the colder months, definitely bring a thicker jacket. Or you can always buy one in Milan. Oh don't forget the gloves and scarves.
6. Brings meds, especially cold and sinus. TRUST ME on this. Facial Tissues and hand sanitizer as well.
7. Adapter for your ipods/phones and convertor/adapter only if you plan to bring a flat iron.
8. I brought my ipad and it was very useful. I shared it with people who didnt bring a computer and just wanted to check their email/bank accounts. Lighter and more convenient than a laptop.
9. Bring the extra battery for your camera. Bring an extra SIM card as well.
10. Bring a comfy head pillow, not the crappy blow up ones. I didn't and had to wander Sorrento looking for a pillow.
11. If you didn't buy tickets to the museums, don't worry. Our tour guide planned it for us.
12. Keep all your plastic bags to wrap your breakables in.
13. Learn some of the language. And dont do Gracias, instead of Grazie. You'll just get funny looks.
14. They DONT weigh the bags and don't measure as well. Don't overpack though, as you'll be acquiring more stuff through out the trip. Extra duffel bag is good for all your dirty clothes in the end.

I think that's it. I had a fantastic time and made really amazing friends. Love you Angie (tour guide)! Keep in mind, this isn't a regular Contiki tour. We had alot of couples and the age majority was older. I'd say this wasn't a party tour, because most younger people were in school and this being a regional tour, instead of country to country. So you want to party, you have to be the instigator. Angie was fantastic in her recommendations of where to go to have fun. Also, for first time tourers, this is a fast paced tour. Not as bad as going country to country, but you will be on the bus alot and wake ups are early.

If y'all have any questions, please feel free to ask~

Ciao Bella!

-Althea
  • 6 May 2012 Heather said

    Heather

    Hey there, I’ll be doing this tour in December this year, and I’m wondering if it is actually worth doing the boat tour of the grottos in Capri in winter or should i just explore the island? also is there enough free time in milan to be able to go and see the last supper painting or the Duomo?

    Cheers, from Heather

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