Posted in Destinations, Italy

Venice, Italy

  • The Grand Canal - Venice, Italy
 

Our Itinerary:

Nice, France to Venice, Italy

Duration: 2 Days

Travel: Depart Nice, Italy 09:00 – travel by rental car.

We drove from Nice to Venice as it had been a life long dream to spend my birthday in Venice.  When we landed in Nice we picked up our rental car – an Opel Mokka – with the intention of driving to Venice.  After several wonderful days in Nice, we loaded up into the Mokka and hit the road!  Now it should be noted that the Mokka may say it is rated for 5 Adults and their luggage, but what it really means is 3 1/2 people with small overnight bags.  Alas, that was not us.  Instead we had suitcases jammed all over the vehicle.  A tight fit indeed.  It should also be noted that this particular SUV has all of the power of a squirrel pushing a skateboard.  The driving in Italy can only be described as break neck.  I suspect this is the reason why Italy produces so many professional race car drivers.  More on the drive here.

Hotel: Hotel Villa Adele – 3.5 Stars out of 5.  Average price $84 per night for a triple room with balcony.

This hotel is a well situated within 10 minutes from the Historic Venice Downtown in a nice, quiet area.

There are only 18 rooms in the hotel – spread over three floors.  Unfortunately, there are no elevators.  And our room was on the top floor.  That said, I loved the hotel.  The rooms were very historical – and unique.  A really good value for the price and location.

There is a breakfast that is offered during the early hours as well…though we didn’t manage to wake up early enough to partake.

Within a couple of blocks from the hotel is a stop for the local transit (passes can be purchased from the front desk).  From there it is a short journey to the Grand Canals.

 

Must See/Do in Venice: Take public transit to the Grand Canal.

Places we visited on this trip, and reviews of them:

  • Caffè Lavena – Piazza San Marco (St Mark’s Square). 2 Stars out of 5.  This restaurant is the exact reason why you should never eat in the touristy areas.  But in our case, even though we knew better, we were starving.  We were still starving after we left.  I started with the coquille saint jacques – see pictures – which were so over cooked they were nearly impossible to get out of the shells.  I then had the Ravioli – again see the pics – which really looked as though they dumped canned cat food on top…kinda tasted like it too.

The service is overly pompous – and odd.  We wanted water.  There were four of us.  The waiter brought one small bottle (6 Euros).  We requested more.  Again, one bottle.  Ugh.  That was the real sign of things to come.

  • Piazza San Marco (St Mark’s Square) – The main attraction on land in Venice.
  • Pizzeria Capri – 5 Stars out of 5.  A must stop for some of the best pizza you will have!  Fantastic service, great prices and amazing food.

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Posted in Destinations, Italy

Must See and Do in Rome

Unless you have endless time in Rome, you will have to make a list of activities and sights that you want to see.  And prioritize them.  Nothing happens quickly in Rome.

There is just so much to see and do.  Take my word for this.  Just wandering the streets takes hours as every shop and every cafe offers treats that are just too good to pass up.

Here are some of the things that I think you really have to do:

Gallery Borghese: My absolute favorite part of our visit to Rome.  Go fawn over works such as  Apollo and Daphne,  and David (as in David and Goliath). Be sure you book your tickets in advance – space is very limited.  Each visit gives you two hours to tour around inside the gallery – and it really does take that long to properly take it all in.

The Colosseum (DUH) you can’t go to Rome without seeing it.  But try to do a night tour instead of the day one.  Not only is it a lot less expensive and not nearly as crowded, but the dark just adds another layer to the tour.

– Shopping (another DUH).  Try the Via del Corso – it is a handy Metro ride from almost anywhere in the city.  On the main road you will find all of the extremely pricey shops such as Armani and Dolce and Gabanna.  If paying $900 Euros for a t-shirt isn’t your thing, go a block or two off the main road – this is where you find the great little shops and cafes.

Most of Rome is laid out like this – the expensive, designer shops are on the main roads, and the bargains and mom & pop shops are all along the streets behind.  Be patient.  There are tons of great little shops – and finding them is half the fun.

 

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Posted in Italy

Northern Italy by Car

We packed in like sardines into our handy Opel Mokka.

Toll roads are crazy when you know nothing about them and they only yell at you in Italian.

 

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Posted in Italy

Milan, Italy

  • Sforza Castle

 

Our Apartment in Milan

Itinerary Coming soon…

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Posted in Italy

Discover Ferrari & Pavarotti Land

  • The Ferrari bus - travelling in style

Be sure to make time during your Italian adventure for this gem.

Tickets are a great deal at $48 Euros.  The include busing and admission to all of the venues.

Tickets can be booked here: Discover Ferrari & Pavarotti Land.

A sample itinerary:

Itinerary 2 – from Bologna
09H00 – departure from BOLOGNA AUTOSTAZIONE (BUS STATION)
Piazza XX settembre – BUS WAY n. 25
10H00 – Arrival to Maranello – collect your passports and entrance tickets at the Tourist
Office, next to Ferrari Museum entrance.
Visit Ferrari Museum
12H00 – Departure on RED LINE to Pavarotti’s House Museum
13H30 – Departure on Blue LINE to Modena – Enzo Ferrari Museum
14H15 – Visit Enzo Ferrari Museum in Modena
15H15 – Departure on RED LINE to GAVIOLI WINERY and Wine Museum
16H45 – Departure on RED LINE to GIUSTI Balsamic Vinegar Production
18H15 – Departure to Modena Enzo Ferrari Museum (arrival 18.35)
18H45 – Departure to Bologna
19H30 – Arrival to Bologna

Posted in Destinations, Italy

Rome, Italy

  • A little lunch before hitting the shops

Rome.  In September.  With temperatures down from the blazing summers, September is the perfect time to visit Rome.

Our Itinerary:

Edmonton, Alberta to Rome, Italy

Duration: 7 Days

Flights:

Outbound was WestJet – Edmonton (YEG) to Toronto (YYZ) (3 out of 5).  When we first boarded the flight, we were honestly confused as to if it was in fact a WestJet plane as the seats were literally an inch thick and looked flat, cheap and rigid.  Thankfully it was going to be a relatively short flight at just under four hours duration!

Then WestJet did the next most annoying thing you encounter on a flight – secondary only to the bare-foot-on-the-arm-rest-guy – they announced that there were no seat-back televisions but they would be happy to rent you a small tablet – for an added fee of course – or you were able to watch their entertainment selections via their proprietary app.  C’mon WestJet!!  No one wants to watch The Notebook or The Fast and the Furious on a mobile phone screen!  Grr.

Our next leg was AlItalia from Toronto (YYZ) to Rome (FCO) (4.5 our of 5).  In a stark comparison to the WestJet minimalist flight, as soon as we stepped through the doors of the AlItalia plane we knew we were in for a treat!  The Flight attendants were impeccably dressed complete with jaunty hats and each thick, comfy seat had been carefully laid out with a pillow and blanket.

And not only did each seat have a nice sized seat back television screen in front, but it had a remote control in the armrest!!  Shortly after take off, we discovered that these wonderful entertainment systems also offered a crash Italian language course!  Yippee!   Another win!

The food on the flight was also tasty and nicely served, an added bonus!!

Return Flight:

Rome (FCO) to Amsterdam (AMS), Amsterdam (AMS) to Calgary (YYC), Calgary (YYC) to Edmonton (YEG)

I won’t bore you with the minutia of this series of flights, other than to strongly recommend KLM!  Our flight from Amsterdam to Calgary was flown by KLM and it was fantastic.  The seats were spacious, complete with pillow and blanket, and offered an ample entertainment system. Where they really out did the competition was with the meal and snack service.  As this was a daytime flight, there were no nap time breaks for the lovely staff either.  Rather they served lunch, a snack, dinner and another snack!  And each offering was tasty and satisfying.  Super well done!

A strong 4 out of 5 Stars…sadly I can’t give them 5 stars as the delayed flight caused us to miss our connection from Calgary.  But given the choice, I would totally fly KLM again.

Hotel:

Città Eterna Bed & Breakfast Booked through Hotels.com. Total price $504 Euros.  3 out of 5 Stars.

Huge pro tip here!!!  After you retrieve your bags at the Rome airport, clear immigration and make your way through the passageways at the airport, you are hit with a wall of taxi, shuttle and limo drivers, all hankering for their next fare.  They are loud.  They are aggressive.  Oh well.  Pick one.  Negotiate a rate.  Trust me.  We were prepared to take the train from the airport into the city.  And by prepared I mean we had researched it online and thought we had a good idea where to go.  WRONG!!  After the long flights, lack of sleep, crowds etc I decided that I really didn’t want to mess with public transit and negotiated a ride to our hotel for $40 euros total.

Thank the travel gods for that!!

Addresses in Rome are brutally hard to find!  There are no outside house numbers like we are used to back home.  Rather they are written in small type on the call buttons.  We would have never found it.  Plus we would have been headed for the wrong metro station – turns out there was one literally down the block from where we were staying.

So fellow Stampers, take my word for this – after a long, international flight, take the easiest way possible to your destination…you can be brave and venture from there.  After you are well rested and have your bearings.

As for the hotel – if you check our travel tips, tip numero one is always read the reviews on whichever travel site you are booking on!  Which we did.  So we knew that there was 50-50 chance that we would not get breakfast at our bed and breakfast.  As neither of us are morning people, we were willing to accept this risk.  What the other visitors failed to mention were the mattresses on the beds.  The Do Not Remove or Risk Certain Death or Imprisonment tags stitched onto them declared them as being manufactured in 1983.  Nineteen friggen eighty three.  The first three nights we toughed it out.  We tossed.  We turned. On the fourth night the kiddo discovered another mattress just hanging out under the bed.  Hmmm.  He stacked it on top of his mattress and gave it a whirl.  Much better!!  We then discovered that we could take the other half of my bed and stack that on top as well.  Much better.  Now we could actually sleep and not wake up like crippled old men.

Oh and we never got breakfast.  And the housekeeping was bizarre at best – the first day we drank three out of the four coffees provided and used three out of four towels.  When we came back to the room we found they replaced two of the towels.  No coffee.  The next day,  the reverse.  And it didn’t get any better from there.

We just rolled with it, as the saying goes, “When in ROME…”

Click HERE for our list of Must See and Do in Rome

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