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Contiki Italian Espresso Review June-July 2011!

5 Jul 2011 Elena said

Elena

Guys, I just got back from my Italian Espresso tour and it was really fun! Both the people and workers were great to be around and the sights we saw were amazing! I still do wish we'd have a little more time in Rome, but it was definitely a good mix of things to see! It really is an Italian Espresso, where you get the best of Italy in such a short time! You get a good half a day of free time in Florence, so I'd suggest reserving a ticket before, since some people tried reserving it on the same day and as you can understand, the number of tickets were limited. Definitely pack light, but I'm sure most things you don't even need sometimes! I only had 12kg going there with 15 kg going back and even I thought it was heavy!

Our tour manager (named Giuseppe, I hope you're lucky enough to get him as your guide!) was so great that even if you didn't have anything planned for free time, he'd give you advice on how to use your time in the most efficient time! :) Once, I was the only one who wanted to look at the church and even though he had to get back to his office, he went with me so I wouldn't get lost on my way there. I was surprised at how he really helped each and every person! One thing I'd like to suggest to everyone is be on time! We were always all on time except two girls who were always quite rude, so we actually had to leave them in Rome and leave to Florence. We waited and waited, but we literally can't ruin everyone else's vacation for those two.

The hotels we stayed at, yes, they were smaller than hotels here. I expected that already and I researched them before going to have more realistic expectations. The beds were quite comfy the first two hotels (especially the one in Florence), but was slightly hard for the Venice one. It didn't really bother me though. The rooms were clean and the breakfast had quite a good selection of food (here, the Venice one was really good with all of its' food options). Me, the only problem I had is that some of our rooms in the Florence and Rome hotels didn't have a shower curtain, so it felt a little weird. The one in Venice had sliding shower doors though, so it was nice! Also, it's true that you stay outside of Venice, since the prices are realllly realllyyy high to stay on that island. Luckily, I had a good roommate so I hope you'll all do too!

The optional excursions were DEFINITELY all worth it. They were much better than the included ones at times (I'm talking about the meals, not the tours). The tour guide in Rome was really funny, so I hope you get him as your guide. "Contikiii, Contikiiii, follow the guide!". You'll laugh when he says that!

Before, I didn't want to see the leather demonstration or the glass-making demo, but they turned out to be really interesting! I do recommend you to see them then! I mostly walked with either my group of new friends or the whole tour group, because it was really fun with them. Just be prepared to walk a lot and not sleep too much. The meals in the evenings are yummy, but I couldn't finish my plates because they had so much food! I pretty much survived on only breakfasts and dinners most of the time. Don't forget putting sunscreen on EVERY part of your body that's exposed. I thought that my big hat would protect my neck (it did a noon though, but only then) and I forgot to put some sunscreen on. I got a really bad burn, but some high quality cream from Florence helped me get through it! :)

I can answer any questions you guys have for your tours!

  • 19 Jul 2011 livestrong said

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    I saw what you wrote about Hotel Noto, I too read the reviews and was horrified… I guess it wasn’t that bad?

  • 19 Jul 2011 livestrong said

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    SO I too just read the reviews for Hotel Noto and I am upset they changed it…you don’t think this hotel was that bad? I definitely DO not want bed bugs… :(

  • 19 Jul 2011 Elena said

    Elena

    @ Alexander: I feel like 400 Euros would be enough, just for all of the smaller stores or kiosks outside. It’s also a quicker way to pay when you’re following the tour group and don’t want to get left behind. For other stores, or in your free time, they usually accept credit cards, so you can simply use that instead.
    Jeans are definitely a nono… Wayyy too hot for them. Shorts are a good idea, but remember to have some slightly longer ones because churches sometimes complain no matter whose knees are seen.

    @ livestrong: The hotel room was clean, I didn’t bring any bed bugs home for sure ;) and the beds seemed comfortable. The Florence hotel had the best bed in my opinion though. The hotel room’s walls were quite thin, as we could hear people go back to their rooms a little at first… but since we were all contiki groups next to each other, we were all respectful and quiet. I think that the high level of sounds that some reviews mentioned was by people who were travelling alone and got rooms next to younger travelers. So while you shouldn’t expect the perfect hotel experience there, it’s still a good place in my opinion.

  • 19 Jul 2011 livestrong said

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    I am so sorry I posted twice, I didn’t realize it went up. I don’t want a perfect hotel, just no bed bugs lol I am also use to hotels in the states, my friend chris keeps telling me they are different in Europe, which I am fine with as long as there are no bugs…that just grosses me out :0) thanks so much for all your information…your great =)

  • 19 Jul 2011 Elena said

    Elena

    Yeah, the only thing I really recognized as different was just that the rooms were smaller, but I find that I had way more than enough space in there anyway. I’m glad to have helped, feel free to ask any more questions that may come up! :)

  • 19 Jul 2011 Explorer1269135 said

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    Hi Elena, I will be doing the tour in September and just a have a few questions, if you don’t mind.

    Day 2: How was the walking tour? Did you have time to see the major spots (i.e. Trevi Fountain, Spanish steps)? Did you have time to go inside the Pantheon?
    Day 3: Was the optional tour of the Fourum & Colosseum good? Did you get any free time (est time)?
    Day 4: What hotel did you stay in Florence? Was it near the attractions?
    Day 5: Based on other reviews this day is the only day you have time to visit the Florence attractions (i.e. Uffizi, Accademia) This is my favorite city and want to take full advantage of the one day we are there. Is the optional tours really worth it (i.e. Tuscany dinner, Disco club)? Did everyone on your tour do it? How much free time are you given if you do the optionals? Based on other reviews looks like 1-4pm, is that accuarate?

  • 19 Jul 2011 Explorer1269135 said

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    Sorry just one more question, what time in morning did you meetup to start the tour?

  • 20 Jul 2011 livestrong said

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    Your thread is great..a lot of ppl have a lot questions! I am sorry if you answered this one already, when ended your tour, did you leave from Venice or Rome? I was going to take a train from Venice to Rome, but where the hotel is there is no train, they recommended a flight (which I have to convince my brother to do) or take the bus…i feel like the bus is a waste of time…just wondering what ppl did when you went…thanks :0)

  • 20 Jul 2011 Alexander said

    Alexander

    You have an option to end in either Rome or Venice, just choose one or the other and if you are going for extra nights Contiki can book hotels for you, or you can book them yourself :)

  • 20 Jul 2011 Elena said

    Elena

    Wow! So many questions now, haha. xD I’ll try to answer them to the best of my knowledge and memories. :) Also, to everyone, I have uploaded three photos which have the plans for the days which we were recommended to take a photo of by our guide to always know when we’re meeting. Hopefully this will help you all a little too! :)

    http://postimage.org/image/132xws10/
    http://postimage.org/image/139k2604/
    http://postimage.org/image/13cv4uzo/

    @ Explorer1269135:
    Day 2:
    The walking tour was nice and we had a small break at the Trevi Fountain to meet and get a taste of some recommended Gelato there. :) We did pass the Pantheon and had about 10-15 minutes inside. It wasn’t much, but we found that we got the feeling of it after that time break. We saw a few more buildings along the way, some of which we saw the night before when we were walking to the pizza place. It helped us see more that way. Then, in our free time, we could wander anywhere and our guide showed us how to get to and from the Spanish steps. I, myself, didn’t go and explored the churches and small sights in the area. Especially because I didn’t want to rush to walk there and back in the heat, because if you’d miss the coach back, you had to take the metro (though we got an extra ticket from the night before). I didn’t really feel like taking the metro though, so I stayed around the area.

    The optional tours of the Colosseum and Forum were really interesting. Our guide was just the funniest and interesting guy, but we really had little time in the Colosseum. That was the only thing that I kind of wished we had some more, because we had approximately 20 minutes to walk around there. :( For the Forum, “lucky” us, they had some labor-related problems so they opened about 30 minutes after we got there. So, we kind of slowly walked through the Forum with explanations, but we didn’t get any actual free time to touch stuff. Haha.

    Day 3: This morning was the Vatican City and it was really interesting. We didn’t get too much time to explore St-Peter’s Square while on the tour, but we had about 1-2 hours of free time so it was possible to go back if you were careful not to get lost! :) There’s a nice dinner that we had all together and I do recommend just checking out the karaoke place. xD It was funny seeing tourmates acting silly, but I didn’t stay there for too long.

    Day 4: For the hotel, it was the Hotel Firenze Florence (Via del Corso 50122, Florence, Italy to be more precise). It was really the greatest spot you’ll have from all the three locations! It’s even awesome that you get so much free time that day. It was right between the duomo and the piazza della signorina. We were really in the heart of Florence and we could reach any of the two places within 10 minutes of slow walking. It’s a really good place and the rooms were really way nicer than the one in Rome.
    This is actually the day that has all of the free time, so if you reserve a ticket in advance, get the one that coincides with day 4. The Tuscany dinner was really nice, but I didn’t go to the Disco club because I was too tired. Those who went had fun, but it seemed like less fun than in the party in Rome or Florence’s karaoke bar. Me, I stayed on the bus with another 3 people and the coach driver took a taxi back with us. :) Otherwise, everyone else went to the Disco club. I’d say that if you do those optionals, you need to be there to leave at 6:30 pm. So, from about 1pm-6:30 pm, you can do whatever you want! :)

    The photos will have all of the meetup times we had so you can always see it there. :)

    @ livestrong: I left from Venice, but I heard some people talking with the guide about which train to possibly take back to Rome. There were about 21 or 22 people out of 51 who were taking the coach back home. While it may be a waste of time in one way, me, I wish I could have taken it instead of flying out from Venice. I was going to miss my friends, as most of them were leaving there. :( I’m not sure about the different train and plane ticket prices though, sorry.

  • 20 Jul 2011 Explorer1269135 said

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    Thanks Elena for the info!. Just one more question. In looking at my itinerary looks like there is a pizza diner. Is it included or optional? Did you have the dinner your first night in Rome or the next day?

  • 20 Jul 2011 Elena said

    Elena

    The pizza dinner (with the demonstration), which is on the first one of the useful pictures that I’ve included, was the second day that we had in Rome. The first dinner is an optional one I think that costed us 18 Euros each. I remember 18 exactly, because I gave 20 Euros and let the server keep the change. ;)

  • 21 Jul 2011 Monja said

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    Hi Elena! Thank you so much for the info!!!! Those pictures reallly helped allot!! Just a question :-) (again) hahaha . I love churchs and cant stand museums but I really would love to see the Vatican (in my top 5 things to see) Would you say that the time spend there is sufficient? or could you have stayed longer?? I am comming a day earlier so i would be able to go and see that more (if i need to) I am not really interested in museum like stuff but would really like to see the “FAMOUSE ROOF”… let me know…..

  • 21 Jul 2011 Elena said

    Elena

    Well, we spent a few minutes in the Sistine Chapel looking up and all around while the guide was explaining different facts to us. I think that I sure would have liked to stay a little longer in each of the locations, so definitely go there the day before. The lines are HORRIBLE though. They go all the way around 2 of the walls of the Vatican in the morning just before it opens up. Some guides were selling ‘quick passes’ because if you go with them, groups are let in before the majority of the other visitors. Even then, there were a –lot of people that morning. Definitely go visit it though, so that when you go back with the guide, you might even have a few questions already planned! :)

  • 21 Jul 2011 Monja said

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    Great Idea TX!!

  • 21 Jul 2011 Elena said

    Elena

    No problem once again. ;) I’m glad to have helped everyone here. :)

  • 23 Jul 2011 Alexander said

    Alexander

    Elena, I assume you went to San Gimignano, and the wine tasting? How was it? People are saying that you should use this time to visit Cinque Terre instead, How would you rate San Gimignano and the things you did there? Im torn between the choice of the 2, as some people that are going in September want to go to Cinque.

    Thanks in advance :)

  • 23 Jul 2011 Explorer1269135 said

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    Hey Elena, what did you do with your free time in Florence and was it enough to see everything you wanted to see?
    Thanks again for all the info you have already shared!

  • 24 Jul 2011 Elena said

    Elena

    @ Alexander: San Gimignano is a very interesting town, especially because of the really nice architecture. I loved the tall towers that reminded me of a city when looking at it from afar. :) We had about one hour free time I think…? Some people went to look at the churches, especially the main one there. I mostly walked around the streets and took photos. xD The wine tasting was nice, but not being a wine drinker before coming to Italy, it was the most special event there. Haha. I feel like, by that time, I was so close to many people there that I would not have minded basically sitting in an empty room with them and chatting for days though… so I’m a little bit biased for that. :) I think that you wouldn’t miss out on too much if you’d go to Cinque Terre instead, so if you and some others go there, I’m sure you’ll have just as much fun!

    @ Explorer1269135: Me, for my free time, I visited the Uffizi gallery and then went out walking outside the duomo and getting a few souvenirs. I also went back to see the river and the famous bridge (it’s 7am in the morning right now, so the name has slipped my mind right now xD). It was so hot that I was a bit dehydrated and I still had a bad sunburn from Rome, which my tour manager noted with a concerned tone, that it was “more than red”. xD So, I didn’t push myself too much and was alright for simply exploring the streets. Some of my friends went shopping most of that time and some actually went up the bell tower, the actual duomo church and explored some more places (including both the Uffizi Gallery and the Academia Gallery). Depending on how much energy you have, that free time between the end of the guided tour and the restaurant in the evening should definitely let you have enough time to do almost everything. The only time problem is usually the long lines, but if you get tickets in advance, you should be alright. The hotel we had, and which I hope you stay in too, was so well-positioned that you can really explore the city center without even setting foot on any public transport. :)

  • 25 Jul 2011 paulique said

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    Question: booking museum tickets, it appears online that the day we are touring Florence are Monday and Tuesday. There appears to only be 4:30 tickets on the Tuesday, and it’s closed Monday. Would we still be able to do the 4:30 at the museum and get back in time for the disco? thx

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