Friday, April 3, 2009

Italy Vacation

Pincio Point

Hubby and I recently went on an Italian Babymoon vacation. We visited Rome, Florence, Pisa and Venice and had an absolutely great time!

It was my second time in Rome, and this time I got to stay there longer and get to know the city better. We rented an apartment from Rental in Rome. I have mixed reviews about their service. They don't respond to emails right away. I had to send emails a couple of times before they replied.

We stayed at a rented apartment in Via Capo d' Africa called the Costantino Loft. It was very cold when we were in Rome and the apartment didn't have a good heating source so we were still quite shivering inside the apartment even with the heater on. But then again, I come from a tropical country. I'm also not a fan of incandescent bulbs which the apartment used for all of its lighting as they are not energy efficient. The shower area was super small. I'm a 5'0 petite woman and yet I have a hard time maneuvering inside the shower. But the apartment owner was nice except she didn't speak English and we didn't speak Italian. And the location was excellent. It's very near the Colosseo and as soon as you walk out the apartment building, you'd have a view of the Arc of Constantine. Once you get a hang of the buses, it's pretty easy to get around and back.

One thing to note when having coffee in Rome when you're on a budget is it's cheaper to have your coffee standing up by the bar. Be wary of bartenders asking you to take a seat.

Duomo Clock

We just spent one day in Florence and Pisa. Florence was nice and there were so many shops selling leather bags near the church of Sta. Croce, I went a bit crazy. There's even a Leather school inside the church. Note that there's another entrance to the Leather School where you don't need to pay the 5Eu entrance to the church. But the church is also pretty interesting because it's the final resting place of some famous Italians like Raphael and Michelangelo.

Leaning Tower of Pisa

Pisa, on the other hand, was just so so for me. I don't exactly get the point of preserving a building that wasn't designed properly in the first place. In my opinion, all the renovation and maintenance takes away from its charm. If not for the maintenance and renovations it wouldn't even be standing at all. And if I remember correctly, only a few of the tower's marble remain original. Most of it have been replaced.

Piazza San Marco

Of all the places we went to, we both feel that Venice was the place we loved most and we definitely plan to go back there in the future. We loved Venice partly because the bed and breakfast we stayed at was really nice and cozy and the owner, Lorenzo, was very warm and accommodating. So if you are planning to go to Venice, be sure to check out Ai Tagliapietra Bed and Breakfast. The place is very near Piazza San Marco yet far enough to be away from the touristy area.

Here's some when going for a vacation to Italy:

  1. A rented apartment might prove cheaper than a hotel if you're staying for at least 3 days.

  2. If you're renting an apartment, the tourist offices would be the place to get your maps for free.

  3. Consider taking the train to and from the airport to the Termini station. It costs only 11Euros per person compared to a 40Euro taxi ride for 2 going to central Rome.

  4. Buy the ATAC bus tickets (valid for 24 hours/3 days/7 days). Getting lost in the bus is cheaper than getting the bus tour. We got the 16 Euros ticket each for 7 days which was so worth it. It lets you get on the bus and metro free while it's valid.

  5. Eat your breakfast standing up by the bar! The Bars (Cafes as we know them) charge extra (almost double) for sitting on tables. Be wary of bar servers asking you to sit down. They probably want to take advantage of you being the ignorant tourist.
    Once we ate at this bar along Via del Babuino near Piazza di Spagna. The bar server (tender?) asked us to sit but we insisted we'd stand. When we asked for the bill, he was charging us 20Euros for a pizza, a small sandwhich, a cappuccino and a hot chiocolato. He didn't even give us a breakdown of the charges! So when we asked how much each individual item was, he just said "Ok, then 17 Euro." He then gave us a tape receipt that still didn't have a breakdown, only a the amount 17.00 Euros. Honestly, we've been eating 50Euro meals and we don't really care as long as we know it was worth 50Euros. But it sucks to know you're being cheated. In the end, we paid the 17 Euro. It's hard to argue with someone who can't speak English.

  6. The good value for money restaurants are far from the tourist spots. If you go to Rome expecting to sample good Italian food, you might find yourself disappointed like I was. We'd recommend I Buoni Amici on Via Aleardo Aleardi 4 for good value for money (it's not cheap but it's reasonable and the food is good.) We also liked Franchi along Via Cola di Rienzo (1 bus stop away from Piazza del Risorgimento) in the Vatican area. You can get something to munch on from there before you wait in line at the Vatican Museum. And we also tried Alle Fratte di Trastevere Ristorante in Trastevere which was also good. It was the first good place we tried after being frustrated with other places. I almost cried because I finally was able to taste what I expected Italian food to taste.

    Also, one thing to note: I saw Luzzi Pizzeria behind the Colosseo recommended in 2 of the guide books I read. It does get packed at night with locals but I didn't really find their food amazing. Their trippa ala romana which was recommended in Let's Go Italy guide book was actually blech! Plus, one time we were seated near the kitchen, I was observing them do the bread, I'm quite certain that they recycly the bread they serve. They take uneaten pieces of bread from the tables and serve it to other tables. I'm not sure if this is common practice in restaurants but when it comes to this bit of information, ignorance is bliss.

1 comment:

Rome Apartments said...

Great advice for fellow travelers! In most cases staying in hotel accommodation can be 50% more expensive than staying in an apartment. The benefits are that you also experience what it would be like to actually live like an Italian, rather than stay in another no-personality hotel room.