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Going to Italy
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jducoeur
So Kate and I will be heading to Italy in October (for our honeymoon). We're mostly good on where we're going, how we're getting there and what to see while we're there. (Florence and Rome, flying in with a train in between, and lots of stuff, respectively.) But we haven't worked out where to stay (lots of ideas, but still brainstorming) and we certainly haven't started exploring any "special" meal possibilities (we'll mostly do casual fare, but it might be nice to do one or two nice dinners over our week and a bit). Anybody have any recommendations?
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Will you have a car?

Unlikely -- from everything I've heard about Rome, that doesn't sound like a relaxing thing to do. (Aaron has told us to get a cab back to the airport, simply as a thrilling adventure.)

Do not drive in Rome. Period. Full Stop. Taking the shuttle bus from our hotel in to the city was... exhilarating at times, painfully obnoxious some times. The subway wasn't too bad. But as a pedestrian it can be entertaining to watch the profusion of super-tiny cars whizzing around doing crazy things.

We took a cab from our hotel to Vatican City, which my son described as right out of Crazy Taxi, the videogame. I wasn't sure if he'd misheard us as wanting to go see St. Peter, instead of St. Peter's Square!

Agreed - when we were in Rome, our hotel was right on the Tiber, and we realized we could walk anywhere we needed to go in the city. (Seriously. We walked to the Vatican, to the Coliseum, to the parks, everything. It's not that big an area.)

As for food, we never made any reservations; we just ate wherever was nearby and caught our eye. It meant we got a lot more diverse and interesting food, instead of tourist fare.

This was the gustatory approach we took as well. I remember after visiting the Vatican it was probably 5:30 or 6 at night, and rainy. Too early for most of the restaurants to have bothered opening up yet, but we were hungry and it seemed a convenient time for us. After a bit of scouting around we found a place that had fantastic food, but given we had to catch an 8pm shuttle we did not have the time for the full experience, just the three appetizers and dessert. If I remembered enough details I'd recommend it, but so it goes.

Good to know -- we tend to be walking-focused anyway, so we're likely to prefer hoofing it most of the time. Thanks!

Heh. Driving in the cities seems undesirable, but I asked because we stayed in a gorgeous inn in the countryside in Tuscany, but you really needed a car to get there.

Makes sense. But I think we're mostly going to be focused on the cities this time around...

Congratulations! To do this well, you should immediately get Rick Steves' book on Italy. (See http://www.ricksteves.com/ or go to Amazon.) It will tell you about all sorts of cool places to stay in Italy, how to beat the lines at the Uffizi Gallery in Florence, where to eat, and far more. I wouldn't think of going to Europe again without one of these books. I used them to plan trips in Italy, Spain, Portugal, Germany and Austria, all with wonderful results. They got me rooms at a Bishop's Palace in Toledo, a truly amazing hidden gem in Sevilla, fed us amazingly in Venice, Florence, and Rome, and the resulted in the best tour of Pompeii.

Everyone goes to Pompeii. Go see Herculaneum instead. Same volcanic disaster, but buried by mud instead of ash, so actually better preserved in some ways. And with little enough crowd to actually wander around and see things fully.

We did both. Pompeii is still worth seeing and touring. The (Rick Steves) Pompeii trick is to find a good tour guide and a small group, which gives you a sense to where you should go wandering afterwards. Herculaneum was also very cool, as was climbing Vesuvius. (All this presupposes a few days in that area; if I had to do it again, I wouldn't stay in Naples, but further south, commuting north to the sites on the train.)

Yeah -- the main strike against the field trips is simply distance. We only have a few days in Rome, so I suspect we're not getting down to the stuff in the Naples area...

Speaking of Rick Steves, the wife and I are leaving on a Rick Steves tour of Italy *this afternoon*. Will try to remember to report back on likely places in Florence and Rome when we return; poke me in a few weeks if you don't see me post somewhere you can read it.

There was this little family-run hole-in-the-wall around the corner from our hotel in Florence when my aunt and I were there in 2000. If I can find my travel journal, I'll look it up and search the net to see if it's still there.

Lovely, toothsome food for a great price, and the cook (and part owner of the place) peered out from the kitchen to see the American woman who had ordered the day's special (tripe Florentine) and was actually eating it. I'm glad I was so entertaining to them.

Cool -- we're both foodies, so restaurant recommendations like that would be most welcome. (Kate probably wouldn't go for the tripe, but I might give it a try.) Thanks!

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