In February, Suzanne and I headed off to spend 10 days in Italy. This was one trip we were both really looking forward to. We had considered going for our honeymoon in 1999, but decided a week, all the time I could be away due to teaching assistant duties, would not be enough. Now we had the time and it was only a short flight, 2 hours, from Frankfurt, so off we headed to the airport and hopped a RyanAir jet to Rome.
Our basic itinerary was to fly to Rome, arriving in the evening and spending four nights there. Then we’d hop the train to Orvieto for a night on our way to two nights in Florence. Next was on to Venice for two nights and then back to Pisa for a night before our early morning flight home.
Here are the Photos:
For those who are interested, here’s some notes about some practical travel related stuff.
- Getting there: We flew with RyanAir (one of the European budget carriers) from Frankfurt-Hahn. The flight was fine with no problems. We did get to the airport extra early as we could either get there 2 hours and 45 minutes before the flight or 1:45. Since we didn’t know where to catch the bus from the Frankfurt train station and we’re sure about the traffic as it was after work time on a Friday, we took the earlier one. Arriving at Rome’s Ciampino’s airport, we tried to get tickets for the bus to the Anagnina metro stop to catch the metro downtown, but the machines were broken and the shops were closed. (We arrived around 10 PM.) Instead we paid the extra to take the RyanAir bus direct to Termini, which was probably the best idea anyway as it was simple. (It did cost EUR 8 per person instead of ~EUR 3.25.) We walked from Termini to our hotel on Via Venezia, managing not to get too lost. (It was only a few blocks.)
- Hotel: Our hotel was the Hotel and Pensione Italia and we paid EUR 74 per night with breakfast (with low season discount and Rick Steves Guide prices). The hotel is on Via Venezia, just of Via Nazionale. While it’s in the direction of Termini, I wouldn’t say it is really near Termini and the neighborhood was fine. Our room was actually in the annex across the street. It wasn’t huge, but it was bigger than our room in London for sure. We thought it was okay and would stay again.
- Transport: We used the Metro a few times including to the Colosseum, out to Ostia Antica (with train connection), and to the Vatican. The rest of the time, we walked, including back from the Vatican a couple of times and back from the Colosseum area. We never used the bus, though there were stops for many lines close to the hotel on Via Nazionale.
- Eating: We found the restaurants to be quite good in Rome. Two nights we ate on Via Venezia: on the night of our arrival we had pizza at the place just next door to the hotel and it was good; on our last night we ate at the place across the street and it wasn’t so good. Our favorite meal of the entire trip was at Grotto del Teatro di Pompeo near Campo de’Fiori. Just remembering the risotto with squash blossoms and the roast chicken makes my mouth water. For lunches, we either bought stuff at a market (one memorable such lunch was sitting in St. Peter’s square) or grabbed a sandwich.
- We took the InterCity train from Rome, buying our tickets at the counter in Termini for both Rome-Orvieto and Orvieto-Florence. We traveled second class as this has always been adequate in Germany and traveled without reservations. Both were fine as we only shared our (6-seat) compartment with one person for the trip. In Orvieto, we stayed at the Hotel Corso on the main street for EUR 70 without breakfast. Unfortunately much was closed and they were not running the archaeological tours as it was winter. We had dinner at Trattoria del Cocco and it was good. It was also quiet we were one of only two tables that night.
- As we had bought our tickets the day before, we only had to wait for the train and hop aboard. (Of course it was late.) We walked from the train station to our hotel, and while the area around the station isn’t great, we felt it was fine. We stayed at Casa Rabatti, which is a small four room pension run by a wonderfully friendly couple near the Central Market. We paid around EUR 47 per night without breakfast, but were “upgraded” (for free) into the larger room with a private bath. The only problem we had is that we couldn’t get the heat to work and it was a bit cool at night. We walked everywhere in Florence as things are fairly close. We didn’t make reservations for the Accademia or the Officio, but that worked out well as we literally walked into both. (In fact, we missed the Accademia entrance at first at it is very small and we were expecting some sort of line.) For lunches, once we ate at the Gran Caffe San Marco self-service restaurant near the Accademia and once had paninis near Piazza della Signoria. We also bought stuff at the Central Market (Mercato Centrale) for lunch on the train to Venice. This is a great place to visit as well. We had a great dinner at Trattoria Sabatino, in Oltrarno across the river, of good home-cooked food in a local atmosphere for only a little money.
- We took the Eurostar Italia, purchasing our tickets the day before. (Note, when we were at the Florence station, the main hall sold only tickets for that day, so we had to go to the “Advance Purchase” windows.) Again, second class was more than adequate. Our hotel in Venice was the Hotel Campiello, located to the east of St. Mark’s Square. The location was nice as we were close to St. Mark’s, but away from the tourists. We paid EUR 79 per night with off-season discount. We walked everywhere in Venice, except for trips to and from the hotel and a trip down the Grand Canal. We found restaurants quite expensive. One evening we found a place between the Accademia and Rialto bridges on in San Polo or Dorsoduro (across the Grand Canal from St. Mark’s). For our second night, it was a couple of pasta dishes and some great tasting appetizers at the self-service Rosticceria San Bartolomeo, near the Rialto Bridge on the St. Mark’s side of the Grand Canal.
- We took the Eurostar between Venice and Florence and then local train (IIRC a diretto) to Pisa. We had no problems getting a ticket/reservation on the Eurostar just before it was to leave. In Pisa, we took the bus “to” our hotel (it wasn’t that close), the Hotel Amalfitana, which was recommended by my colleague who is from Pisa. It’s located 5-10 minutes from the Piazza del Duomo down the main road and we paid EUR 65 without breakfast. We took a taxi to the airport (10-15 minutes, EUR 6) to catch our RyanAir flight home, which also went fine.