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Italy / France Trip

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Italy / France Trip

Postby Malise » Tue Nov 29, 2016 3:25 am

I just read a response you gave to a family travelling on a similar route that I am proposing.

I have a family of 4 including myself.  Our proposed trip was to land in Rome(arrive and stay two nights for a total of three days) off to Sorrento/Popeii via train(stay in Sorrrento) via rail to Ovieto the next day(stay two nights in Tuscanny B&B) car through Tuscanny(stay two nights in Florence, via rail to Venice(stay two nights) overnight train to Paris(stay three nights)

The two kids are 14 and 19 boys. I have travelled a lot in Europe, my wife not so much and the boys not at all.

Am I nuts for planning too much.  What would you drop if anything
Malise
 
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Joined: Tue Jan 14, 2014 9:31 am

Italy / France Trip

Postby Hodsone » Wed Nov 30, 2016 4:22 pm

I just read a response you gave to a family travelling on a similar route that I am proposing.

I have a family of 4 including myself.  Our proposed trip was to land in Rome(arrive and stay two nights for a total of three days) off to Sorrento/Popeii via train(stay in Sorrrento) via rail to Ovieto the next day(stay two nights in Tuscanny B&B) car through Tuscanny(stay two nights in Florence, via rail to Venice(stay two nights) overnight train to Paris(stay three nights)

The two kids are 14 and 19 boys. I have travelled a lot in Europe, my wife not so much and the boys not at all.

Am I nuts for planning too much.  What would you drop if anything
Hodsone
 
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Joined: Wed Jan 01, 2014 7:24 am

Italy / France Trip

Postby Milburn » Tue Dec 06, 2016 7:59 am

Hi . . . Allan Goulding!

AM I NUTS FOR PLANNING TOO MUCH?

Your question almost answers your own concern!  I assume and hope are not “NUTS”, but there are clearly some realities to consider, especially with your entire family of four traveling together to Europe for the first time.

FIRST, landing Rome, you will be tired with an upset body clock and lots of jet lag.  Your first day in Rome is not really a full day to attempt too much there.  AND, Rome is an extremely large, confusing, noisy and very intense city.  Rome has so much that is great and wonderful.  But it takes serious time to get around within Rome.  Rome requires some time to adjust and enjoy it.  Your opening time in Rome is too short.  The Amalfi Coast is great, but it takes time getting to the train station, getting down to Naples, getting to Sorrento, getting to your hotel.  That is not a whole day, but it may take a half day or so just for your basic logistics from your Rome hotel to the Sorrento hotel.  In Pompeii, do an English-speaking guide as a part of a group.  It will be well worth the added cost.

SECOND, with a family of four, you can not move and travel at the same pace as two people of similiar ages, interests and energy.  I don't know your family, but after a few days, it can seem like a FORCED MARCH that General Patton did to his troops in World War II.  Will all members of your family really love that travel style and pressure?

Tuscanny is wonderful, especially with a car.  But it takes time and effort to get from Sorrento back to Naples, then Rome, changing trains and then up to Florence.  A large part of a day will be consumed on that northern journey.  It is only three hours via rail to Venice from Florence and staying two nights there is very good. The overnight train to Paris and staying just three nights in this great city is also pushing it a bit, in my view.  Not everyone sleeps well on a overnight train.  One or two members of your party might arrive in Paris like Zombies.  

Tell me more how well the other three members of your family travel.  What do they really like to do on THEIR vacation?  Relax?  See history?  Have fun?  What do the other members of your family want to see, do and enjoy?  What kind of budget are you on?

You might consider flying FIRST into Naples, get a car and add a day in the Amalfi Coast to relax, rest up from the trip and enjoy it.  Then go to Rome, add a day in Tuscany, then do Venice.  Maybe fly from Venice to Paris to save such a long overnight train trip.  Add a couple days in Paris, etc.

Does this help? Also will include below some added info on Italy and France.

What are your reactions and needs for added information?  Be happy to provide additional info and answer other questions after learning more from you.  Be sure to complete the evaluation section so that our “bosses” on this volunteer service know we are working hard to make inquiring minds as happy as possible.  ENJOY!  Merci Beaucoup!

Thanks.  Terry Casey in Columbus, Ohio

A. KEY STRATEGIC ITALIAN TIPS

1. Relax and enjoy!  The Romans already controlled the world once and are not in that much of a hurry.  It will all work out.  Be patient!  That's their approach to life!

2. It's hard to have a bad meal in Italy!  If you like seafood, you'll find lots of great dishes there.  But most everything is wonderful.  Enjoy the food!

3. The driving in the cities can be a little crazy, but the Italian are great, defensive drivers . . . very alert and aggressive.  Outside of the cities, it's much easier and lots like driving right here in Ohio.

B. KEY ITALY AREAS/HIGHLIGHTS

VENICE(pop. 299,000), best options/priorities of St. Mark's Basilica(Sun. 2 5:30, M-S 9:45-5:30) be sure to take stairs/steps and go up to the higher second level for both great inside and outside views, wonderful 1000-year old church; Doge's Palace(9-6 daily), see the jail area, great outdoor pictures from the balcony off of the grand ballroom-reception area on the second level; do sunrise walk, enjoy the “battling bands” at night on San Marco Square; Grand Canal boat ride; Rialto Bridge and its area is wonderful; Gallerie dell'Accademia(9-10, Sun 9-6) has very good art, but not as great the Uffizi in Florence, nice stuff by Leonardo DaVinci;  wonderful shopping options, including silk, such as ties for $8.50(15,000 lire on San Marco Square); just walking around Venice is the total joy, no cars, truck or motor scooters, just lots of interesting people in a great, historic setting!  You'll walk where Marco Polo walked after being in China!

FLORENCE(pop. 384,000), best options/priorities of Il Duomo Cathedral(open 9 6 daily), if ambitious, climb to the top of the tower, great views, good way up; Palazzo Vecchio(their historic town hall) has great old rooms, climb higher for wonderful views of town; Uffizi Museum and Gallery(open 9-7, closed Monday) enjoy wine on their patio overlooking the Vecchio Plaza near the end of the museum visit; Accademia with Michelangelo's David(8:30-7); Ponte Vecchio bridge; Santa Croce Church, lots of the famous buried there; Pitti Palace(open 8:30-7, closed Monday).  Try to get advanced tickets for both the Uffizi and Accademia.  This could save much time waiting in line.  Things are busy now, but not as bad as in the late Spring and Summer.

ROME(pop. nearly 3 million) This vivid city has so many unforgettable images: St. Peter's Dome against a pink-and-red sunset, the city's silhouette from Janiculum Hill at dawn; the array of broken marble columns and ruins of temples of the Roman Forum; a Bernini 17th-century colonnade resting against an Egyptian obelisk carried off from Heliopolis while Jesus was still alive; Renaissance frescoes in a papal palace built on top of the tomb of a Roman emperor.

Rome went all out to spruce up for 2000 and the Jubilee with decades' worth of grime from pollution scrubbed from the city's facades, revealing the original glory of the Eternal City. Many of the most popular areas(such as the Trevi Fountain and Piazza Navona) are sparkling and inviting again.

Whether they're still time-blackened or newly gleaming, the city's ancient monuments are a constant reminder that Rome was one of the greatest centers of Western civilization. In the heyday of the Empire, all roads led to Rome, and with good reason. It was one of the first cosmopolitan cities, importing slaves, gladiators, great art, and even citizens from the far corners of the world. Despite its carnage and corruption, Rome left a legacy of law; a heritage of great art, architecture, and engineering; and an uncanny lesson in how to conquer enemies by absorbing their cultures.

But ancient Rome is only part of the spectacle. The Vatican has had a tremendous influence on making the city a tourism center. They created great Renaissance treasures and even occasionally incorporated the old into the new- as Michelangelo did when turning the Baths of Diocletian into a church. And in the years that followed, Bernini adorned the city with the wonders of the baroque, especially his glorious fountains.

Rome is also a city of sounds, the peal of morning church bells, yielding into an urban symphony. The streets fill with cars, taxis, and motor scooters, all blaring their horns as they weave in and out of traffic; the sidewalks become overrun with bleary-eyed office workers rushing to their desks after stealing into crowded cafes for the first cappuccino of the day. The shops lining the streets open for business by raising their protective metal grilles as loudly as possible. Before long, fruit-and-vegetable stands are abuzz with activity as homemakers, maids, cooks, and others arrive to purchase their day's supply of fresh produce, haggling over prices and clucking over quality.

By 10 am the tourists are on the streets, battling crowds and traffic as they wind their way from Renaissance palaces and baroque buildings to the famous ruins of antiquity. Indeed, Rome often appears to have two populations: one of Romans and one of visitors. The traffic is worse than ever, complicated by a confusing lay-out of changing street names, twisting directions, etc.

More than Florence or Venice, Rome is Italy's treasure trove, packed with masterpieces from more than two millennia of artistic achievement -- Michelangelo painting the Sistine Chapel ceiling to Federico Fellini filming La Dolce Vita and 8½ .

Rome's 2,700 years of history are laid open with every step. Nero fiddling, Mark Antony praising Caesar, and Charlemagne being crowned. Walk in their footsteps past the masterpieces of Michelangelo, sip your caffè in the shadow of Mussolini, and dodge Vespas speeding by Baroque palazzi and Egyptian obelisks.

TUSCANY Can travel 17 miles south from florence via SS222/Strata Chiantigiana, to Greve in Chianti, vineyards area along the way; then 25 miles south to Siena(pop. 65,000); this  would be a very good travel option for going south from Florence; Can take expressway route back.

San Gimimgnano is nearby to Siena and is the town of seven towers; has very, very nice shops, including leather goods.

VENICE DINING

Suggested and Highly Recommended by Us from May of 1999:

Taverna La Fenice, Campiello de la Fenice 1938; next to fire-damaged, but being repaired Opera House, wonderful food; if nice, can dine outside

Restoranti da Raffaele, Calle larga XXII Marzo 2347, phone: 041/523-2317, right along side of canal, wonderful food and great setting; if nice, hopefully can dine outside.

Suggested and Well-Rated by others: Al Covo *, expensive, three stars from Access, 14-Gault

Flaschetteria Toscana,  Canareggio, to north near Bridge, three stars from Access, 14-Gault; classics: squid w/polenta, SEAFOOD

Corta Sconta * Just ask where the Fermata Vaporino(Arsenale) is. Three stars by Access, 15-Gault

Osteria da Fiore. 2202 Calle del Scaleter, San Polo, 39-41-528-6396*(choc. souffle!), high marks from Knoff, 14-Gault, star from Fodors

Antica Martini three stars by Access, next to Fenice, 15-Gault

Osteria Da Alberto, three stars by Access

Venice's Ristorante Ai Due Vescovi, just north of Piazza San Marco(Calle Fiubera, Tel. 041-5236990). Owned by a delightful young couple who couldn't have been more gracious. Nino does the cooking and Ruxandra runs the dining rooms. She's from Romania and speaks flawless English. Don't miss Nino's rolled eggplant stuffed with tiny pasta, whether as an antipasto or first course. Gelato:  Gelateria Causin, east end of Campo Santa Margherita

Gelati Nico, Zattere  (very good gelato)

FLORENCE DINING

Suggested and Highly Recommended by Us from May of 1999:

Oliviero, very elegant setting, couple blocks from Vecchio Palace, wonderful food, family run, three stars by Access, 15-Gault, Via delle Termi, 51; phone: 055/28 76 43 Ristorante Nandina, near to Ponte Vecchio bridge, moderately priced, great meal, more informal than Oliviero; two stars by Access, nearby to one of the best shopping areas, 15-Gault; Piazza S. Trinita, phone: 055-213 024

Suggested and Well-Rated by others:

Alle Murate, 52r Via Ghibellina, three star by Access, 15-Gault, Eyewitness good marks   

Enoteca Pinchiorri, 87 via Ghibellina(meal of a lifetime, very expensive and nearly impossible to get into.

Caffe Cibreino, Piazza Ghiberti 35(next door to costly Cibreo)(tel 055-234-1100) not too far from Santa Croce

San Zanobi, via San Zanobi, 33 red, tel. 475-286)(Mardee) several write ups

La Baruciola, 61 Via Maggio, tel. 218906 Just one street over from Piazza di Pitti.  It is the only restaurant on a street filled with antique shops. For a five course meal for two, with wine, we only spent 53,500 - 63,500 Lira($30.00 - $35.00).  This is half of what we spent on dinner any other evening.This restaurant was not filled with tourists, although they were extremely cordial to those of us who were, asking about our travels and recommending small towns and sites to visit nearby.)

TUSCANY DINING

Suggested and Highly Recommended by Us from May of 1999:

Osteria alla Piazza, just off of the SS222/Strata Chiantigiana route near Castellina in Chianti; in small village of La Piazza, telephone: 0577-73 35 80; simply wonderful food in a great setting

OTHER TRAVEL NOTES

Venice The water - of the river, of the sea, of the lagoon - is the main characteristic of Eastern Veneto.  Each one of the many people settlements in Venice area during the centuries have had to deal with this natural element. The real Queen of water is Venice, unique town for many reasons, not last the way it has been constructed(apart from any pittoresque suggestion) which reveals intelligence and a great architectural ability. Even simple numbers in this case take a special meaning: 411 bridges, 118 small islands, 150 channels - the "Canal Grande" is 3800 mt long - are the basis of this town miracle.Its artistical, historical and cultural treasure is due to an incredible, intricate and harmonious communication system based on water and on stones.

Ride the vaporetto-#1 - for a slow tour up the Grand Canal-#82 is the Express;  Lots of churches loaded with Tiepolos, Tintorettos and Titians, Bellinis, etc. The Accademia for classical art. Walk across the canal on the wooden Accademia Bridge and on the shop laden Rialto Bridge. Osteria da Baco on Calle delle Rasse behind San Marco has wonderful sandwiches; La Taverna alla Fenice has the best risotto in the world. Poste Vecie in the fish market area has fabulous fish and is a real old Venetian Landmark; KEY PARIS HIGHLIGHTS/OPTIONS:(Some times might have been adjusted slightly since this was put together a couple of years ago; plus there can always be strikes, budget shortages, etc. that affect scheduled openings in France.) 1. Louvre(closed Tuesday, open 9-6, Monday and Wednesday until 9:45 p.m.) with Cafe Louvre on site for lunch or dinner, plus food court area with wide mix of different items; encyclopedic coverage divided into seven departments covering ancient times to middle of 19th century; Pyramid entrance designed by I. M. Pei, opened in 1989; very big and can spend four days there and still not see everything; Denon(south) Wing on first floor has many of the key European paintings; Richelieu(north) Wing opened in 1993 and has large, covered sculpture courtyard in its middle; Sully Wing(east) has mostly Egyptian and other antiquities.

PRIORITY

2. Notre Dame and Palais de Justice on island of Seine River at site of Paris' start; Notre Dame completed during the 1163-1345 period, tours 9:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m.; famous southern Rose Windows, climb up 380 steps of the tower for the best views of the city; Sunday night 5:30 p.m. organ concerts; famous Rose stained glass windows; Sainte-Chapelle near Palais de Justice is 700 years old with outstanding stained glass windows; La Conciergerie is prison where many, including Marie Antoinette were held prior to being guillotined, is well-light at night with its unique architecture, functioned as prison from 1391 to 1914. PRIORITY

3. Musee d'Orsay(door-say)(closed Monday, open 10-6, except Thursday 10 9:45), covers 1848-1914 period, especially great for Impressionist art; former railway station and hotel; excellent cafe in museum; on Thursday night perfect for walk from museum west toward Assemblee Nationale and cross Seine River bridge towards Place de la Concorde seeing all of the building lighted and then looking back towards Eiffel Tower; Place de la Concorde was designed in 1775. PRIORITY

4. Eiffel Tower,(985' tall, 3rd floor at 305', built for 1889 Universal Exhibition).

5. Seine boat trip(board at Pont Neuf), great views of famous Paris sights, especially at night as major buildings are lighted.

6. Champs-Elysees(bargain with painters for pictures) and Arc de Triomphe, started 1806 to celebrate Napoleon's early victories, completed in 1836, 165' high.

7. Montmartre/Basilique du Sacre-Coeur(church started being built in 1875 on one of highest points in Paris, dedicated in 1910); dome is second highest point in Paris, took 35 years to build with public conscription, great views at dawn and dusk plus from dome area over city, area made famous by artist Toulouse Lautrec, cubism born there; do direct Metro here, nearest station is Anvers or Pigalle.

8. Luxembourg Palais and Gardens, built in 17th century for Marie de Medici, now houses French Senate, sculptures and fountains adorn extensive gardens, food available in gardens, great place for picnics, across street from apartment. 9. Saint Germain Market, open 8 a.m.-1 p.m. and 4-7 p.m., open air, various food and meat items, near apartment; many galleries, cafes and antiques shops in area; rue de Buci street market.

10. St. Sulpice Church, second largest church in Paris, block from our apartment, famous for its organ and DeLacroix paintings, took 134 years to build, open 7:30 7:30.

11. Le Marais Area, NE of Hotel de Ville/City Hall, has Musee Picasso(structure built in 1659, opened in 1985 to settle his estate, open Wednesday-Monday 9:15 5:15) and Musee Carnavalet(built in 1540, two adjoining mansions with decorative arts from the various periods in Paris history), older area starting around metro St Paul statio;, has Jewish section in area with special foods and historic areas.

12. Musee Rodin, has nice scale in both the interior exhibit area as an old mansion, plus the gardens with the outdoor sculpture, at Varenne Metro stop next to Hotel des Invaldes, has third largest private garden in Paris, originally built in 1730, Rodin used as his studio from 1908 until his death in 1917, open Tuesday Sunday 10-5:45.

13. Palais-Royal, former home of Cardinal Richelieu who died there in 1642, old houses, restaurants, teas rooms and shops border the formal gardens on three sides, near Louvre.

14. Pompidou Center or Beaubourg Museum, opened in 1977, closed Tuesday; mostly post 1918 art work; duct-work and steel framing on outside.

15. Paris Opera House, opened 1875; 2nd Empire style, see grand staircase and foyer, 2200 seats, large stage area, current home of Paris Ballet.

16. Musee de l'Orangerie de Tuileries, impressionism collection, including Monet's work; closed Tuesday, open 9:45-5:15 p.m.

17. Musee Marmottan, open Tuesday-Sunday 10-5:30, excellent impressionist art, including Monet works.

18. Hotel les Invalides, Napoleon' s tomb, 643 foot dome, built in 1676 by Sun King for old soldiers, many disabled, open 10-5:45.

VERSAILLES: By suburban subway/train(RER-C5 line, from St-Michel, every 15 minutes) or train(30 minutes) from Saint Lazare; started being built in 1660's for Sun King Louis XIV(during 1661 to 1715 period, involved 32,000 to 45,000 workers) in French classical architectural style; conceived as a world unto itself as seat of government, permanent residence of the royal family and the cream of nobility, was previously modest hunting lodge in swampy area; palace highlight is 236-foot long Hall of Mirrors where treaty signed ending WWI; in garden areas are Grand Canal, Grand Trianon, Petit Trianon and Hameau used by Marie Antoinette; town population of 100,000; possible bus tour or car drive options out to Versailles; open 9:45-5, park open sunrise to sunset; tour palace first and gardens later(closed Monday).

PARIS METRO/SUBWAY: Great, great system! Probably best to buy packets of ten tickets, rather than a multi-day, three or five day pass. There are thirteen different subway lines, plus the suburban RER rail options. It is important to know which line or lines you want to use, IN ADVANCE, and the name of the end station for your direction so that you go down the right set of stairs to be on the correct side of the tracks. It's not as simple as New York City with uptown or downtown! But it offers totally great, fast, frequent service. Very clean and nice! PARIS MUSEUM PASS: Strongly suggest getting the Paris Museum Pass for access to 65 museums and monuments in Paris and the surrounding region. Multiple visits to the same museums are possible and there is no waiting in line. You get: * Entry into 65 Paris museums and monuments inside and outside Paris, including Arc de Triomphe, Pantheon, The Louvre, Notre Dame, Musee d'Orsay, Musee National du Chateau de Versailles, Musee National Picasso, Pompidou Center, Musee Roding, Chateau de Rambouillet, Basilique Saint-Denis * Multiple visits to the same museums or monuments at no extra charge * Validities: 1, 3 or 5 consecutive days * No admission charge, no waiting in line Paris Museum Pass, 1-Day Pass $14 Paris Museum Pass, 3-Day Pass $28 Paris Museum Pass, 5-Day Pass $40 You can get the Paris Museum Pass at the Paris Tourist Office, and in its reception offices in Paris train stations, and the Eiffel Tower or the major Métro stations or at the 65 museums and monuments concerned. EXCELLENT PARIS WEBSITES, including hotels:

www.paris.org

www.travel-in-paris.com

www.paris-touristoffice.com

www.parisbandb.com

www.chezvous.com

For high quality, budget-priced accommodations in Paris, try: www.paristravel.com for discounted rates at quality-level two-star hotels; and www.yourstayparis.com for low-cost studio apartments. OUTSIDE PARIS ACCOMODATIONS OPTIONS:

www.gites-de-france.fr

HERE'S SOME BACKGROUND ON THE LOIRE VALLEY:

This is the major chateau and castle country southwest of Paris; area peaked in power in the mid 1400's to 1700's period; Joan of Arc helped win battle at Orleans in 1429 that spurred power of French monarch to unify the country and drive out the English; Blois has population of 50,000; Tours has population of 130,000 with half-timbered houses on Place Plumeneau; priority for lunch or dinner at Chateau de Beaulieu(4 1/2 miles SW of Tours, 18th Century country estate, phone 47-53 20-26); among the top chateaus to see(all rated as three stars by Michelin Guide) that we have seen and loved are: Azay-le-Rideau, 15 miles SW of Tours, built between 1518 and 1527 with Gothic elements combined with early Renaissance decoration set in wooded area surrounded by water on River Indre, "a romantic pleasure palace", exterior unaltered over centuries, open 9:30-6, night lumiere program during summer; called by Balzac as "multifaceted diamond set in the Indre";  PRIORITY

Chenonceau, 14 miles SE of Tours, built starting in 1513, structure stretches across waters of Cher River, early home for King Henri II's mistress; developed later by Catherine de Medici and five successor women associated with royal families, "a romantic pleasure palace", open 9:00-7, see first since it is closest to train station, avoid crowds and opens at 9 a.m., lunch or dinner at L'Orangerie on grounds. SUPER PRIORITY Cheverney, eight miles SE of Blois, privately held by family with lavish interior furnishings, rich tapestries, hunt tradition, built between 1604 and 1634, open 9:15 noon and 2:15-6:30 p.m.; kennel feeding time of 5 p.m., except 3 p.m. for Tuesdays and weekends. PRIORITY  

These other two are also rated as "three stars" by Michelin: Villandry, 12 miles west of Tours, gardens are key focus, open 9-6 for chateau, last great Renaissance chateau built in Loire Valley; Chambord, ten miles east of Blois, with curved exterior towers, double curved interior staircase and Italian influence, largest in Loire Valley with 440 rooms, 365 fireplaces, begun in 1523, can rent horses here to ride in nearby woods, downside: few furnishing on interior and big to see in short visit; royalty of this period did not keep their furnishings at each location, they moved rugs, tapestries, furnishings, etc. as they shifted from location to location; open daily 9:30-11:45 a.m. and 2-4:45 p.m.

WEB-MAPPING FOR FRANCE: Use this website to get any detailed maps you need. Scroll to the bottom of the page and follow the directions with your details on where are coming from and going to. It will give both graphic maps and written point-by-point instructions. http://goto-france.com/maps RAIL SCHEDULES: You can go to this website www.raileurope.com and check all of the various train options, timings and costs on rail travel within Europe. Great, very useful site!  
Milburn
 
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