After getting our flights and accomodations settled, I then move on to sightseeing, not so much a day by day itinerary as researching different things to do in each location. We'd rather play it by ear after we arrive instead of having to follow a set schedule. So, with this in mind, I look into various passes that will give us the freedom to visit sites as we please and not be tied to reservation times, at least as far as that's possible.
I find mention on Fodor's of an annual pass covering museums in Florence. Upon investigation, it turns out to be an excellent idea. The Amici degli Uffizi (Friends of Uffizi) family pass will give us unlimited access to all the state museums, including of course the Uffizi, the Accademia, the Pitti Palace and Boboli Gardens, and the Bargello (argh, says Dave...there she goes again with the statue fetish.) I dream of starting off each day with a visit to the Uffizi - a different room each morning...sounds heavenly! Ordering the pass is very easy. The day it arrives in the mail, I am practically giddy with excitement!
Now comes the hard decision - the VeniceCard. I read opinion after opinion, more against than in favour of getting the pass. Orange passes for our family will total 308 euro, quite a hefty sum. But will give us unlimited vaporetto (water bus) and bus rides and one visit each to many museums and churches. I weigh the pros and cons and try to estimate how often we'll ride the vaporetto (at 24 euro per trip for the four of us, individual trips add up fast!) We plan to visit several islands in the lagoon, and possibly take the bus to Chioggia (sp?), plus I know we will want to ride the vaporetto just for fun and to admire the gorgeous palazzos and houses along the Grand Canal. Not to mention all those churches full of gorgeous Titian and Tintoretto paintings that we are so anxious to admire. Eventually I decide to splurge on the passes. I actually believe we'll get our money's worth, but even if we don't, the convenience will be worth it. I go ahead and book the card (although we'll pay for it when we pick it up on arrival in Venice).
I also buy advance tickets to the Leaning Tower. My younger daughter's number one "must see" is the Leaning Tower of Pisa (which she learned all about in school and also has seen in my photos). I am NOT not taking any chances on missing out on this!! With a grin and bear attitude toward the exhorbitant cost of the 30 minute climb (68 euro for the four of us), I proceed to order online and receive my voucher promptly by email.
The other advance tickets I buy are for the Cezanne exhibit in Florence. (I thank fellow SlowTraveller Jane for posting about this exhibit as I otherwise would not have known of it.) I paid only 10 euro each, but I noticed another site, SelectItaly, was charging 27 US each, which seems to me is about double (although being Canadian, I don't keep up on the current euro-US dollar exchange rate.) But it definitely pays to purchase directly from museums, if possible.
Last, but definitely not least, what to do about England? I check out the price of a few historic sites - ouch - something pricey this way comes!! I briefly ponder an annual English Heritage membership...and then I discover the Great British Heritage Pass. For 114 BP, we get a family pass covering 500+ sites, including the Roman baths in Bath, Tintern Abbey, St. Paul's Cathedral, Hampton Court Palace, and on and on. (Not to mention lesser known sites...I mean, who wouldn't want to visit a place called Ickworth House near Bury St. Edmunds?!) No problem to order online, although I find it a tad worrisome that the only reasonably priced delivery option is regular mail, and there is NO recourse for lost passes. Needless to say, I break out the happy dance when this package arrives in the mailbox! The accompanying map is hanging on the wall to my left as I type...I see Southwold and London and Bath and ...