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Italy for a month, any suggestions......

Discussion in 'Hangout' started by NonieMarie, Aug 31, 2016.

  1. NonieMarie
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    by NonieMarie » Aug 31, 2016
    My siblings and a couple spouses, 6 of us, will be leaving for Italy the end of Sept. We are flying in and out of Pisa and traveling by train to Florence, Positano, Rome, Venice and Lucca. We have a few things booked, The Vatican and Catacombs, The Colosseum at night, Pompeii, Leaning Tower and a driver for 2 of the 4 days in Positano. When we leave Venice we pick up a car in Florence and will be staying in a small town outside the city, Bagno a Riploli, before we drop it off in Lucca. Besides the hotel nights flying in and out of Pisa, we are staying at Airbnb villas and apartments.
    Does anyone have suggestions for local restaurants, shops or must see places?
     
    


    


  2. canuk-gal
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    by canuk-gal » Aug 31, 2016
    HI:

    NM, I don't know if you'll get to Siena--but if you do La Traverna di San Giuseppe is not to be missed. Everything delicious!!! And there is a public pay parking location fairly close by--the walk is lovely. (we street parked once and NEVER again! :cheeky: :twirl: )

    cheers--Sharon
     
  3. shaggy1
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    by shaggy1 » Aug 31, 2016
    I don't know if you have any interest in handmade furniture or woodworking, but the town of Sorrento is very close to Pompeii and they make the most lovely furniture, music boxes and jewelry boxes. It's been a local tradition for hundreds of years and the craftsmanship is amazing IMO.

    You can have large items shipped to the US. I have a fabulous end table and several jewelry boxes from there. My mother has a ton of the stuff.

    My favorite place to shop there is Cuomo's Lucky Store.

    A couple of pics of the table next to me:
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]
     
  4. distracts
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    by distracts » Aug 31, 2016
    I did a very similar trip with my parents, brother and SIL, and husband this summer. We also rented houses/airbnb everywhere - I wonder if you'll be staying in any of the same places as it seemed difficult to find ones for six adults!

    This place is not to be missed -
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Basilica_of_Santa_Croce,_Florence
    There is also a leather shop inside it where you can get many nice leather things and watch them work. Watching the stamping/embossing was interesting as it was in some ways similar to working with jewelry.

    Florence was my favorite - if I go back I think I will spend much more time in Florence. We also did the tour to see David, which was great, skipped the Uffizi because it was way crowded and we weren't up for that, and went to the Bargello which was spectacular (and had nearly no one in it! Be sure to go to all the levels - there's bunches of lovely metalwork on the upper levels).

    If the Ninfa Garden will be open when you visit Rome, it is a train ride away and very lovely. It looks like it will be open the 1st and 2nd of October. There is usually one English tour a day, but I don't know that the language really matters because I didn't listen anyway and just admired the beauty. You will need a driver from the train to the garden.
    http://www.fondazionecaetani.org/visita_ninfa.php

    I really loved our tour of the Forum in Rome - I don't know if it's just because we hit upon a particularly good tour guide or what, but it was really informative and interesting. (I had a migraine when everyone else went to Pompeii, but no one liked that tour. I was sad to miss it but would have been miserable for the car ride from Positano to Pompeii.) OH. And if you are driving/being driven to Positano, be sure to bring some bonine in case you get motion sickness. I barely EVER get motion sick but those roads were windier than anything I'd ever encountered before and I had to take one.

    Also in Positano, there is a big main beach and a smaller beach off to one side - if you do a sunset boat ride, the boats at the smaller beach were for us half the price of the boats at the main beach. Dunno why??? But that was how it was for us.
     
    


    


  5. AGBF
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    by AGBF » Sep 1, 2016
    I have never been there myself, but I would love to go to Arezzo (and also Valenza). (My husband is from Genova and I used to buy Italian gold jewelry there, but he told me that Valenza was the place it originated.) I have since learned that Arezzo is also a huge center of gold artisan design. Valenza is a bit out of your path, but Arezzo is close to both Pisa and Florence. Had I known of it when I was there, I would definitely have made a detour!

    Video of Arezzo Gold Jewelry...https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RA0iOfxIau8

    AGBF
     
  6. ac117
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    by ac117 » Sep 1, 2016
    My husband and I went in January and we’re big foodies! Man oh man how I wish we had a month to spend over there haha!! Here are a few recommendations:

    Venice: Absolutely LOVED Cantina Do Spade…highly recommend this spot where we saw so many locals eating and hanging out and even got turned down the first time we tried to go! :lickout:

    Florence:
    1. Food:
    -Trattoria La Casalinga – absolutely delicious food; we thought it was going to be basic but everything we had was incredible (tortellini panna e prosciutto, Florentine steak with arugula/parmesan cheese, their roasted potatoes OMG, and their pork chop, and tiramisu!) :lickout:
    -We also went to La Giostra and it was good, but overpriced
    2. Sights: I second the recommendation of seeing the David….left a huge impression!
    3. Jewelry: I bought a memento (Florentine ring) of our trip at a lovely family owned jewelry shop called Falai Gioielli (address is Via Por Santa Maria, 28/R). More info about that ring and some other shops in this thread https://www.pricescope.com/community/threads/my-so-far-2016-bling.221262/

    Greve in Chianti: If you’re driving through Tuscan wine region, highly recommend Antica Macelleria Falorni (famous Tuscan butcher shop)

    Gaiole in Chianti: The oldest winery in Italy and second oldest in the world is Barone Ricasoli; we went for a tasting and highly recommend! Their Brolio Castle was closed for the off season and we really wanted to do that along with the tasting!

    Rome: L’Antica Salumeria for a delicious lunch or snack – recommend going to the back instead of buying one of the premade sandwiches, but those are good, too

    Important note: Since you said you’re renting a car, be very careful with their ‘no car zones’, ‘resident only zones’ and ‘taxi only’ zones. DH didn’t listen to me, said it would be fine and he received 3 or 4 tickets in the mail after the fact from Hertz! :rolleyes:

    Have an amazing time!!! :wavey: :naughty:
     
  7. NonieMarie
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    by NonieMarie » Sep 1, 2016
    ac117, I love the ring you found in Florence. I am going to be looking for a similar piece. Was it very expensive? We will be picking up the car by the Santa Maria Novella train station and driving out of Florence. I asked the rental company about the tickets. They said that the company registers the plates so we can get out of the city with no tickets, we'll see. We are returning the car in Lucca and it looks like the rental drop off is outside the wall.

    AGBF, When I told my sister about Arezzo, she said she had in her notes

    Thanks to everyone that have given suggestions, I'm writing them down. I hope more chime in, I would be very grateful.
     
  8. rainwood
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    by rainwood » Sep 1, 2016
    Nonie

    How fun you are doing this trip with your siblings!

    What sights people enjoy is such a personal thing and sometimes people don't even know what they like until they've been there for awhile, and it can be hard trying to make everyone happy. So I'm going to throw out a bunch of suggestions and try to explain why we liked them so you'll have a better idea if you would too.

    When we were in Lucca, we really enjoyed walking around the city "walls." Lucca is the one place where they've done a park all the way around the city where the walls used to be. I think it's a mile or so with trees and grass and a wide path (gravel if I remember right) and it's a great place to walk and people watch before dinner or to walk off a big lunch or see families out together on a Sunday morning. Makes you feel like a local.

    There are different ways to experience a place like Florence. We thought we got a better understanding of the city by taking a walking tour and I'd recommend doing that the first morning you're there if everyone is physically able to do it. I don't remember what company we used, but doing the tour did help us to see things we'd have missed otherwise and to enjoy the city more than the first time when we just walked around on our own. The same with places like the Duomo (the cathedral). You can walk in, look at the Golden Dome, say "How pretty" and then maybe walk up the bell tower and leave. Or you can schedule your visit to be on a guided tour. For the big places like the Duomo, I recommend doing a tour. It's totally worth it. We understood and appreciated what we saw a lot more. And there are a million churches you can go to if that's your thing, but we got "churched" out so often just poked our head in, went "Pretty" and kept on going. There's nothing wrong with that either.

    There is another church in Florence that you don't need a tour to appreciate although the name escapes me. It's a smaller church and it's uphill from the Piazza Michelangelo (I think that's what they call it, it's the prime lookout over the city). Gorgeous on the inside. And less crowded because a lot of people don't think to make the trek uphill. And as long as you're going to be in the Santa Maria Novella area, go into the Farmacia Santa Maria Novella which if I remember correctly is attached or part of the church grounds. They have lovely soaps and lotions in this big dark historic pharmacy that is or was run by nuns. It's a great place to shop for gifts - their almond soap is luscious!

    I agree with a previous poster that 'David' should not be missed. Be sure to make a reservation though so you don't spend a lot of your day waiting in line. And it's okay if all you want to do is see him and leave. Time is precious. The Uffizi museum is vast and some people could spend all day there. We didn't. I made a list of the art we didn't want to miss, we saw those and left. The whole visit took about an hour. We didn't bother to go inside on our second trip. Some would think that's terrible, but we preferred the Bargello, which is smaller and devoted to sculpture. Many people have never heard of it, but we came to realize we're more sculpture people and that we tended to like smaller museums that could be fully enjoyed in an hour or two.

    And how much you'll end up doing in Florence will depend on the weather. I don't know when you're going, but Florence can get hot and smoggy in the summer. Plan accordingly. We found churches and museums tended to be cooler on the inside so often saved those for the heat of the day.

    And speaking of the heat of the day, on our second trip we fully embraced the notion of the long Italian lunch. We usually saved the special restaurants for lunch and would spend a couple of hours enjoying a great meal. It's easier to get in without a reservation (in 5 weeks, we only got turned away once) and it's less expensive. Dinner is usually later there (8 or 9 is when Italians come in) so going to a restaurant at 6 or 7 meant it was usually empty unless its main clientele was tourists and those are the places you usually want to avoid. It's not much fun to eat in an empty restaurant and my DH was more of a morning guy so we tended to eat lightly and later for dinner, and save the special meals for lunch. I'd follow that same strategy again the next time I go.

    Some people love Venice, some hate it. We loved it but part of that was we didn't go in the heat and crowds of summer and partly because we had low expectations. We thought we'd love Florence because everyone else seemed to, but we didn't. We thought we'd be lukewarm on Venice because people told us the canals smelled and it was so crowded, but we loved it. So you never know how you're going to feel about a place. We really enjoyed the Peggy Guggenheim Museum because it was small and easily done in an hour and is in this lovely palazzo overlooking the Grand Canal. We probably spent as much time out on the terrace as we did inside. Venice is a great place to just get lost in. The farther you get from the day trippers, the better. And at some point, you'll see a sign to St. Mark's Piazza so you can never get irretrievably lost. And it's easy to do a water tour by getting a ticket for the vaporetto that makes a big circle.

    If you're going to be over at Pisa, you might want to go to either or both Portofino or Portevenere. Portofino is one of those places that is so photogenic, you simply can't take a bad picture of it. It used to be a fishing village, but is now more of a haunt for the rich and famous. Have a seafood lunch and a glass of wine at one of the restaurants on the water and relax. One of the highlights for us. Portovenere is also a fishing village, a little more off the beaten track, and it's gray and white striped church on the water is famous for its sunsets. Great food too. Lunch was sometimes an onion foccaccia from a little shop and eaten on a bench by the water.

    And have a cappuccino in the Il Campo (the square) in Siena and people watch. It gives you a chance to rest your feet, enjoy a nice coffee, and feel like you're really in Italy. This was probably my husband's favorite moment of the trip. You never know what's going to make the best memories.

    Let me know if there's anything specific you'd like to know. I can't offer anything on Rome or Positano as I've never gone that far south. I do have thoughts on the Chianti region if you're going there.
     
  9. NonieMarie
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    by NonieMarie » Sep 1, 2016
    Thanks Rainwood, We are leaving 9/25 and returning 10/25. I'll be sure to add your suggestions to my list. Farmacia Santa Maria Novella is on our list. My sisters and I are excited to go, the guys not so much, lol.
     
  10. SB621
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    by SB621 » Sep 2, 2016
    I live in Europe and travel often (when I"m never on PS anymore). We just did 3 weeks in Tuscany with my in laws. For Florence I highly recommend contacting Tuk Tuk Florence. Best "tour" we took and it was so much fun. They took us to several local places to eat that were cheap and fabulous! It was the best way to see Florence as many places cars can't drive so the Tuk Tuk was so much fun!

    In Florence we really loved Osteria Pastella for food. It was wonderful and they make the pasta fresh that day. You can actually watch them make pasta. It is across the street for a great store that makes perfume (can't remember the name) and it is down the street from Piazza della Repubblica. http://www.osteriapastella.it/..
     
    


    


  11. ac117
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    by ac117 » Sep 2, 2016
    I don't think it was very expensive considering it's hand made and 18k gold. I want to say it was ~700 euros. The smaller ones from the other jewelry store were significantly less, I believe ~300.

    I'm glad you asked about the tickets and make sure to hold them to it!
     
  12. canuk-gal
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    by canuk-gal » Sep 2, 2016


    There was a really fabu place for marzipan in Florence, but I forget the name. Anything come to mind SB621???

    Driving in Florence was frustrating--lots of round-abouts that no one really follows! Anyway, when we drove in from Siena, we parked in a public lot near a shopping center on the perimeter of the city and took the train into the core. It was so much better than negotiating traffic.

    I know that outlet malls might not be on your radar, but there is one that has the "best" genuine stuff (Dolce, Valentino, Prada, Diesel etc) and the location is unreal. Barberino Designer Outlet Mall.

    cheers--Sharon
     
  13. Tekate
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    by Tekate » Sep 2, 2016
    I would just say that ANY food in just about any restaurant in Florence is really good.. We stayed last summer at Hotel David for 4 days.. Florence, no words, next time I stay in Italy I plan to spend a week or more just in Florence.. many touristas last summer.. I love Italy, I love the food there, most of the restaurants in Rome are very good, but some have meh... you can usually tell the meh ones, nobody there etc. I am not that 'in love' with Venice, I stayed there only two days, it's so crowded, but I had the best gelato of my life there.... I envy you! when I saw the David I was shocked, I had no idea it was so big (literally ;-) ) I wish you a safe flight, wonderful time, and eat! and drink if you do! the best fish dishes I have ever had are in Italy!

    have fun!!

    :wavey: :wavey:
     
  14. NonieMarie
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    by NonieMarie » Sep 2, 2016
    One of the things my sister and I decided, at the beginning of planning this trip, was that we were not going to rush from place to place.
    Florence 7 nights, Positano 5 nights, Rome 8 nights, Venice 4 nights, Bagno a Ripoli 3 nights w/car and Lucca 2 nights. We will spend 2 nights in Pisa hotels at the beginning and end. All the apartments and villas are just outside the tourist areas but close enough to walk to everything. The Venice villa is crazy, 4 bedrooms, 3 baths and right on a canal. Our brother and sister are leaving after the first 3 nights in Rome so the rest of the trip will be us and our spouses. Our brother would have stayed but our sister needed to get back to work and didn't want to leave by herself. Retirement is great, such freedom.
     
  15. Tekate
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    by Tekate » Sep 2, 2016
    I think your trip plans are perfect Nona Marie.. last year we flew to Nice and stayed in NIce for 5 days and went to Monte Carlo and then over to Cinque Terra for 4 nights then on to Florence for 4 nights.. it was wonderful - I would much much rather spent more time in Florence, at least for me and my husband, there is more there than can be seen in a few days, I've been there twice but next time, at least a week... We are planning a cruise next year starting in Greece, so I shall see how that goes to see where I want to go back.. I am jealous but actually happy happy for you.. it sounds like the best trip ever!!!

    :dance:
     
    


    


  16. dk168
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    by dk168 » Sep 2, 2016
    The Golden Bridge, as in Ponte Vecchio in Florence, IMHO, the biggest selection of 18K WG jewellery in one place.

    I went to a steak restaurant called Buca Lapi as recommended by the hotel where I was staying, famed for its Florentine steaks - reads massive for 2 to share, and serves rare and bloody unless one asks for it to be cooked longer.

    It may have changed now as it was over 10 years ago when I last went to Florence, however, I loved the San Lorenzo market.

    Enjoy your trip!

    DK :))
     
  17. Snowdrop13
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    by Snowdrop13 » Sep 3, 2016
    Wow, what a trip that will be! All of the places you are going to are amazing. The Leaning Tower is one of the most incredible things ever, you absolutely must walk up inside, so weird walking up a spiral staircase on a tilt.

    Florence has the most lovely little shops in the streets just next to the Duomo- I found one that stocked hand made gloves, every possible design, colour and size. The prices were reasonable too. My DH went into a tailor's shop where he found the most beautiful silk ties in all colours of the rainbow. The whole place is worth several days of pottering about!

    In Venice I'd pretty much avoid the main tourist areas such as St Mark's Square- it is very busy, quite dirty and full of pigeons! I've been before many years ago but this summer it seemed a lot worse. During the day there are often 3 or 4 cruise ships berthed and all the passengers will be milling about. You will find the evenings much more pleasant, wandering about in the back streets is much nicer, you see where the actual Venetians live, work and shop. I'd highly recommend a visit to Murano, it's like a mini version of Venice, has it's own canals, an interesting glass museum and many restaurants serving delicious fish.

    I'm very jealous, my retirement plan also includes many, many visits back to Italy, it is my favourite country by far.

    PS please be careful if you are driving along the Amalfi coast, it is very busy and the roads are a bit scary, lots of bends and cliffs!
     
  18. NonieMarie
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    by NonieMarie » Sep 5, 2016
    We contacted Tuk Tuk, thank you. We were thinking of going on a wine tour with them but we would need 2 and would be crammed in with 3 and 3 for a long tour. We are going to contact them when we get there and do a couple hours around the city. I put Osteria Pastella on the list. I wonder if it is across from Farmacia Santa Maria Novella. We are staying in the Santa Croce area, from the map, it looks pretty central. We can walk, Tuk Tuk or cab it.
     
  19. NonieMarie
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    by NonieMarie » Sep 5, 2016
    We have our tickets for the Tower. We are going to tour other places in Pisa before we get on the 4pm train to Florence.
    We made arrangements for a car service to pick us up at the Naples train station. They will drive us to our Positano villa and we've scheduled the return along with 2 days of sightseeing along the coast with a visit to Pompeii. We'll have the same driver everyday and the Trip Advisor reviews were glowing.
     
  20. NonieMarie
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    by NonieMarie » Sep 5, 2016
    rainwood, I've sent my siblings a link for a private tour of the Uffizi and Accademia. When I was at the Louvre, it was so large and crowded I know a lot was missed.
    We are in contact with a company that does many private wine tours outside of Florence. My sisters favorite is one that goes to Chianti and includes a castle. I'll ask if one of the wineries is the one mentioned. They said you can request where you want to go.
    The same company has options from Venice. We are leaning toward Piedmont and a Prosecco wine tour.

    distracts, Thanks for the suggestion of the Bargello, it's on the list.
     

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