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September 2008 Archives

September 5, 2008

Fluctuating Hotel Prices

When I'm planning a trip like this I always do an extensive search for accommodations. I check different travel sites for reviews and prices so I can do an informed comparison.

I consider location because we like to be in the historic centre and with the exception of Rome (on this trip) we will need parking for the rental car. In many cases it has been cheaper for us to keep the rental car for 1 or 2 weeks than turn it in while we are in a city like Milan for 2 or 3 days.

Another thing I consider before booking the accommodations is the deposit/cancellation policy. I prefer to only give the credit card number as a guarantee rather than a deposit or full payment at time of booking. The cancellation policy needs to be reasonable where I have up to a week prior to arrival to cancel without penalty.

Anyway, these are my preferences and considerations, but I have taken a risk with priceline.com when booking the Marriott in Copenhagen last year. The price was too good to pass up at $100 +$32 tax/per night in US$, so I prepaid this one and took my chances on losing it all if I couldn't make it.

Another time where the price was too good to pass up was for the Mansion in Savannah. At a prepaid, non refundable rate of $169 + taxes I took the chance that we wouldn't have to cancel. Risky, yes, but it all worked out for us.

My preference is also to book with the hotel site directly rather than sites like Expedia, Travelocity, Booking.com, Venere etc.

If the price for the same property is quite a bit lower or the cancellation policy suits my needs better on one of those sites I will use them instead.

So was the case for my Milan hotel in the historic center for this trip.

After doing monthly searches for the past 11 months I had a good idea what Milan hotel prices were. I was really happy about finding a huge discrepancy between the discounted Expedia price and the hotel site price, so I prepaid Expedia (with a $42 dollar cancellation penalty policy) to secure this great price.

My great deal is still a deal when looking at the hotel site today, however, Expedia is now offering an even better deal for the same hotel and same time period. I jumped at it a little too soon and could have saved myself a few euros. If I cancel or change my booking, the saving wouldn't be worth it, so that's the chance you take.

I do feel a little burned by this, but what can you do?

We are so looking forward to this trip in only 12 more days.

September 6, 2008

Time to Check the Weather Forecast for Italy

http://www.accuweather.com/world-forecast-15day.asp?partner=accuweather&traveler=0&locCode=EUR|IT|IT007|ROMA&metric=1

I'll be checking the weather forecast a few times before I pack over the next 10 days.
Looks like it will be summer clothes in Rome.

September 7, 2008

Driving to Florence & Parking

http://www.bella-toscana.com/traffic_violations_italy.htm

Here is another site with a click on map that shows the restricted parking zones in Florence.
I am using this site along with the notes I printed out from the slow travel site on this topic.

September 8, 2008

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Leather Pen Cases Made in Italy for the Pen Collector

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Ceramics Made in Italy

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A few Italian made things we've bought: ceramics, shoes, purses, and leather pen cases.

Also, olive oil and wine are on top of the list.

We don't travel to shop, but travel to see and experience Italy. However, I'm sure we'll bring back a couple of things this time around, probably for the grandbaby to be.

September 9, 2008

My Packing LIst

Over the last 4 years I've learned to take only one 26" suitcase each with an empty duffle bag inside one of the suitcases to use on the return trip from Italy. We carry one small carryon bag each with the cameras/laptop in them and a book and MP3 player.

So, here goes for a 19 day trip:

-7 days worth of clothes (only those I know we will wear-covering summer & fall)
-2 nightgowns
-1 jacket each
-2 pairs of shoes for me, 1 pair for him
-Grooming items & products in the small sizes (enough for 19 days)
-medications
-Purse, passports, tickets, vouchers, money, credit cards, maps & 2 guidebooks, pages printed from internet & notebook, pen.
-Laptop & accessories
-2 Cameras and accessories
-1 pillow each & large scarf/pashmina to use as blanket on plane, earplugs

I'm probably forgetting something, but I have 7 days to remember.

-adding a snack for the plane
-buy water at airport after security
-adding umbrella (acuweather forecast has some rain...temps. in low 20's in Rome)
-adding 2 washcloths

September 11, 2008

Six Days & We Will Be Gone

Packing has begun, giving me enough time to take out half of what I pack that we really don't need.
Our second rental in Siena has laundry facilities for guests to use and we'll certainly take advantage of this. I know it takes a little bit of holiday time away, but it can be done on a "down time" day, before we head out to Bellagio.
Our animal and house care has been confirmed, as well as, our ride to and from the airport here at home.
I've made a second attempt at thinning out the pages I printed out from travel sites on the internet. It was just getting too heavy to carry. I'll recycle the pages I'm taking after I'm done with them, along the way.
Hair and chiro. appointments are scheduled for the next few days and we'll be all set to go.
Thin crust pizza and lemon gelato, here we come...6 more days!

September 15, 2008

British Airways is Sending Me Reminders

I'm receiving daily reminders from British Airways about my upcoming flight by email.

I will be flying into Heathrow's Terminal 5 from Toronto, and connecting to my flight to Rome from there. This is the first flight into T5 from Toronto.

Today's message was to remind me that I must go through security before making my connection.

I remember flying into Terminal 4 last September on my way to Copenhagen. We got off the plane and went right through security before being allowed in the departure area for our Copenhagen connection. I'm assuming this is the same idea.

All bottles of water etc. had to be dumped before going through security. You could buy more once you were through the security line before you took the connecting flight.

This year we'll be allowed 2 - 23kg suitcases and 1 carry on bag plus a purse or laptop bag, each.
Last year it was one carryon bag and the purse had to be put into it.

Husband's suitcase is packed and I'm off to finish off my packing.

September 16, 2008

Checked In Online

We have checked in online and will be off to beautiful Italy in less than one day.
Can't wait!

Time to Pack the Laptop

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I've blogged from Italy before, but this is the first time I am taking my laptop. Let's hope the rentals have internet access as promised.

Ciao,
Until we arrive in Italy.

September 18, 2008

Ciao From Rome, Italy!

We are in Rome at a rental!

Details to come on day 3 about the fiasco.

I'll give some remarks re: flights when we return.

We arrived as scheduled, with the driver arranged by rental manager waiting outside baggage claim at Rome airport holding a sign with our name. Very easy to find and I really believe this is the way to do it when you've been on the go for the last 24 hours, without one ounce of sleep. He wasn't very talkative until we arrived in Rome and he started pointing out the historic sites and asking us about SNOW in Toronto.
Well, worth the 50 euro plus tip for door to door service, just for the 2 of us.

For the first time on a trip to Europe we did not nap since arriving. We checked out the rental and then headed out for a walk to get the legs moving again. We ended up in a shop where DH bought something for me (I said we could keep it for Christmas). He's okay with this, now he doesn't have to scout out the sales at Canadian Tire at the last minute to buy my present like he did last year. Anyway, this helped get a bit of the fiasco off my mind.

We then headed out to a little outside cafe for a pizza and water/wine and ended up sitting next to a lovely couple from Sydney, Australia. They are first time visitors to Italy and asked for advice, (which we gladly offered up). It was really hard to keep the eyes open and we thought it best to just pick up a few drinks at the supermacado on the way back to our rental.

No gelato, too tired to even think about going down to get some today. It'll have to wait until tomorrow...our first full...and I hope normal day in Rome.


September 19, 2008

Laptop Travels Well....Awake On Roman Time

I love having my own laptop computer with me in the rental. This is the first time I've taken it out of the house.
The familiar keyboard is a real bonus and it is great being able to get my emails from family while I travel.

Staying up upon arrival and trying to sleep/wake on Roman time seems to be helping with the jet lag.

More later today. We're just going out to wander around in a few hours. No definite plans, as we've done most of the tourist things on previous trips.

Photos to come.
ciao from Rome,
chiaro

Roma - Our Balcony

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Well, let's say it's our balcony in Rome for 2 nights, then we move. Re: the arrival fiasco that I'll write about on Day 3.

Off to the Piazza Navona

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This morning I was up at 6:30 am Italy time, husband was up at 8:30 am. We had juice and coffee and a few biscuits and headed out in the rain towards the Piazza Navona. Recognize this?

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Cul de Sac

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A familiar place for lunch. We heard about this wine bar/restaurant quite a few years ago when Diva and a group of Slow Travelers went there for a GTG, and tried it out on our trip 5 years ago.
It has become a favourite. Even the rental people here are recommending it.
Pictures of today's lunch to follow. I was thinking of Jane from San Diego when they brought out the dish with these delicious tomatoes.

Cul de Sac

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Tuna, green bean and tomato salad.

Cul de Sac

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My entree: lasagna was delicious. I almost forgot to take the photo.

Cul de Sac

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Pasta in Sicilian sauce for husband. Had a bit of a nip to it.

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Cul de Sac

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Shared one dish of stuffed figs...with 2 kinds of cheeses.

OMG.....so delicious!

Pizza Dinner on Thursday Night

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Photo for first night's dinner at a small outside restaurant near the Spanish Steps. I didn't write name of the place down. Pizza was good, other entrees did not look so good to us.
Toppings were proscuitto, mushroooms and sausages.

The Pantheon

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After lunch at Cul de Sac, we went outside and it was pouring rain. Husband bought an umbrella for himself from a guy on the street, I had brought mine with me, so we headed off to the Pantheon. Love going there. It was very busy with people stepping in to get out of the rain plus the tour groups that were being trooped through. No one was standing in the centre of the Pantheon, as the rain was falling through the circular hole in the roof.
Isn't this an amazing structure?

The Trevi Fountain

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We walked over to the Trevi Fountain to throw our coins in so we will return to Rome.

Our First Gelato in Rome 2008

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On our walk back to the rental we stopped at this place for gelato. Mine was fig.

A Gift For Someone Special From Shop in Piazza Navona

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Another Gift For Someone Special From London, England Airport

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The Rest of Friday

After our rainy day walk we returned to the rental in the late afternoon, tired and soaken wet. Husband had enough walking for the day so we might ride on the bus to get to places tomorrow, our last full day in Rome.

We chose to take advantage of this huge apartment this evening and just have a few slices of meat, cheese, grapes, nuts & wine instead of going out for a meal.

We get two channels on tv...BBC & CNN that are in English. We also have a beautiful view from our room. There is an awning over the balcony, so we can still sit outside, even though the rain has been coming down quite a bit today.

It has been a wonderful first day in Rome. Perfect really.

ciao,

chiaro

The Fiasco

As promised I will tell the story of our arrival at the rental.

First, a bit of history: There are 6 apartments & suites that are part of this rental property. We enjoyed our last visit here so much that we booked atleast 11 months in advance even though the same suite we had last time (which cost 190 euro for 3 people) would now cost 275 euro for 2 people.

When I researched I found this was quite a bit less $ than the Del Senato that a lot of Slow Travelers stay at, so I booked the same suite as we had last time.

Each apartment has a name and a description including size. When you book online you get an email and also an attachment called a Confirmation Voucher naming the specific suite or apartment that you booked with the price and details for the rental.

I was in regular contact with the managers of this property to have them arrange a driver to pick us up at the airport, giving them flight details and just recently confirming the time we would be arriving and another time recently letting them know there was a change in credit card information.

A couple of months ago I noticed on the rental's website that they were offering a Promotion for North Americans which included the dates of my travel and all the suites and apartments. It did not say "for new bookings only".

The price would now be 208 euro per night as opposed to 275 euro per night.
I emailed the manager and asked for the promotion to be applied to the same suite I had booked. She said "no".

I emailed again and suggested that I cancel the current reservation and book the same suite at their new price for North Americans. I explained that I was a returning guest and felt I was being penalized for booking so early.

She agreed to the 208 euro/night promotion price and sent me a new Confirmation Voucher with the same suite's name on it for the same 3 nights, as my original booking. I did not have to cancel and rebook to do this.

Boy, were we delighted with these people who made our last stay in Rome so special. It felt like we were coming back to our home in Rome. Something familiar.

The Fiasco:
When we arrived at the rental our passports were photocopied, I signed the form for the police and the employee escorted us to a different suite from the one we booked and stayed at last time.

All the while I am talking excitedly about the suite I booked and how we loved staying there last time. We were shocked to see that they had downgraded us to a smaller suite, without a word about this prior to our arrival. Someone was occupying the suite I had the Confirmation Voucher for in my hand.

He said, "You will be staying in here."

I tried to reason with this employee without getting anywhere, so asked for the manager/owner.

The manager/owner (who I believe is the son of the couple who greeted us 4 years ago upon our arrival) came up with our email/booking papers he had on file.

He then tried to justify the switch in suites by saying he was upgrading us to the smaller suite. They do this all the time and people like the smaller suite better. It has two windows looking out over the alley, instead of one. A much smaller space, noiser space and smaller bathroom/shower area.

I told him we considered the smaller suite to be a downgrade. We went in and looked around both suites to get an accurate impression. Lucky the occupants of our confirmed suite were out at the time, as I'm sure it would have been very unpleasant for them to hear us talking.

I refused to accept this smaller suite. He said they had nothing else available, we'd have to stay in it.

I told him I had recommended this rental property to others and people have stayed here after talking to me.

At this point, I'd had enough. I told him I had been traveling for 24 hours and should have been told about this change in my reservation before arrival. I had been in regular contact through email with the rental's employees and nothing was ever mentioned about this switch. When something like this happens, I would expect an Upgrade, not a Downgrade.

I mentioned at home when a consumer/customer has a problem like this we'd report them to the Better Business Bureau and they must have something like this in Italy. I also said, I wonder what the Italian Law System would have to say about my Confirmation Voucher not being honoured.

Well, at this point a miraculous compromise came about. A four room apartment was being offered to us for the first 2 nights and then we would have to move to the small downgraded suite for the last night. He verified that we would pay only the 208 euro per night.

We accepted the compromise.

We love this apartment, location, view, balcony. Everything is wonderful today. I didn't see or hear from the manager or any employee here today--day 2 in Rome.

It is sad that we won't be returning to this wonderful historic building we've actually stayed in 3 times now. Five years ago we stayed on another floor, an associated rental.

I felt the manager/owner was trying to cheat us. I believe this because he kept bringing up the Promotion Price I was paying and saying the smaller suite was an Upgrade in his opinion.

Another reason we won't be back is the way he talked to us. At one point, he wanted to repeat what he had said about the smaller apartment being an upgrade, so he said to me," Will you shut up and listen?"

Good customer service? No.

Are we happy with the compromise? Yes.

I won't be posting the name of this property. I will not be writing a review about this.

My blog is a trip journal, not a hotel/apartment review site.

What a way to start our wonderful trip to Italy!

September 20, 2008

Church Bells Are Chiming - Good Morning in Rome

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The first thing I noticed when I woke up yesterday morning were the beautiful sounding church bells.

On our third day in Rome we chose to have breakfast at Babbington's Tea Room. We have been here before and have enjoyed our breakfast of cheese & mushroom omlette for me and ham & cheese omlette for husband. We both had ice tea. Everything was delicious. They are located right beside the Spanish Steps.


Babbington's

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Babbington's

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Riding the Bus Around Rome

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We've taken the HOHO bus before. This was how we spent 2 hours this morning riding around Rome.

Over to the Vatican and Then Across the Tiber

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Piazza del Popolo Being Set Up for a Concert

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Piazza del Popolo

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After riding the bus for the full loop we got off and walked around abit on our way to get gelato.
Sorry, ate it before the photo.
It was lemon gelato for both of us.
Husband is off on the bus again.
I am in the room ready to take a nap. For some reason I did not sleep more than 4 hours last night.
ciao until after dinner.

September 21, 2008

Leaving Rome This Morning for Siena

We are up and off early this morning to pick up our car booked through Auto Europe. We'll take a taxi over to get it and then head out to the highway with only one anticipated stop for lunch.

Good bye Rome.

Limited Postings...How to find the Fiasco

I will not have internet access in my room in Siena and will be posting only when I get the time.

So, I'll be back abit, but not alot over the next 5 days.

If you're looking for the Posting on The Fiasco...go to the archives, as I wrote it on Sept. 19th and published it today.

ciao

September 26, 2008

ciao from siena

quick post on italian keyboard, excuse spelling & no caps

6 nights here and off to bellagio sat.

went to fattoria viticco in greve bought wine and oil, met receptionist there
lovely place to choose for a year stay with a child
parked between white lines in greve piazza and ate at il portico..best wishes to casey

off to radda and cashmere farm...lovely stuff there

great meals in siena, small rest. and love this place

thurs. went to cortona, and had a nice walk through town, bought linen tablecloth at i.g., then gelato and off to perugina

bought chocolate and had panini and back to siena.

photos to follow.

ciao
chiaro

September 27, 2008

Fattoria Viticco Kitty for Casey

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Fattoria Viticco Buying Wine & Olive Oil

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Fattoria Viticco

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Lunch at Il Portico ...say hi to Casey

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Cashmere Goat Farm and Shop - Beautiful Products Owned by Slow Travel Member

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Near Radda

Siena...Romulus & Remus

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Hotel Duomo in Siena...a good value for our money

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It is a 3 star hotel with parking and breakfast included for 150 euro per night. 3 beds in room. View of rooftops. Just basic but 2 blocks from front of Duomo. Lots of shops and restaurants nearby. Recommended by some travel guide writers.

Ciao from Bellagio. It is Beautiful Here.

We arrived in Bellagio this afternoon. I hour free wifi to use each day, so I've added some photos from last week.

We have a small balcony overlooking the lake right by the ferry dock.
Walked up the big hill and then down tonight.

Dinner at small restaurant behind this hotel. Parking is free down the street and there is a breakfast buffet included.
We are trying to figure out the ferry to visit surrounding towns over the next 4 days.
ciao until Sunday,
chiaro

September 28, 2008

Bellagio...many stairs

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Bellagio...many stairs to shops and restaurants

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Dinner first night in Bellagio

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View of Lake Como From Our Balcony

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Lake Como View From Our Balcony

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September 29, 2008

Comment About Comments

Okay, here is a frequent commenter to this blog. This person is really enjoying my trip to Italy and loves the photos. They wish they were here. I've had a lot of practice reading scribble writing, so I must know what they are saying.

Comment posted is:
wcwH5W jsreqdyctkgb, [url=http://jqpetovirgni.com/]jqpetovirgni[/url], [link=http://gvkmylvcmglx.com/]gvkmylvcmglx[/link], http://uxmcurnnhnha.com/

To this person I say: Dear, please get the pyschiatric help you need. Bless you.

chiaro

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A Little Taste for the Foodies Out There

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Some meals in Bellagio.

Bellagio slow connection...will post from Milan Thurs. & Fri.

We arrived in Bellagio on Saturday afternoon, parked the car in the free parking area (where there are green lines). Blue lines you pay 1,50 euro per hour from 8am to 8pm, even on weekends and holidays.
This is the oldest hotel in Bellagio, where Mark Twain stayed. There is a little booklet with the history of the place in our room.
It is a modest 3 * hotel on the lakefront. Most of the hotels along this street are comparable, except for the Grand at the end of the Piazza Mazzina.
We walked by the Grand a couple of times and took a look at the restaurant menu today, thinking we might go for a meal this week. I think not. Everything seemed to be priced atleast 10 euro more than the restaurants right in our block.
This hotel has everything one could ask for except a pool, for the summer months. With one hour of wifi in the lobby per day, I am happy. Breakfast is good. Glad to see some whole wheat bread there this morning. The grapefruit juice is real. Even boiled eggs.
The balcony and view are to die for. It has been very relaxing these past three days. Tomorrow we hope to take the ferry to a couple of nearby villages and walk around.
The stairs haven't been too bad. We take the long way around by the Grand Hotel and then walk down the stairs, past the shops, mini markets and restaurants.

Wed. night post.....we went by ferry around Lake Como on Tues. for most of the day. Lovely little villages and it is a great way to see them from the water. We had lunch in Menaggio, my favourite. I'll post photos when I get online in Milan...Thurs.

September 30, 2008

Slow Connection...Problems Posting on Blog

I will give it a try but am having alot of problems here with the connection.

This page contains all entries posted to Chiaro's Travel & Photo Blog in September 2008. They are listed from oldest to newest.

August 2008 is the previous archive.

October 2008 is the next archive.

Many more can be found on the main index page or by looking through the archives.

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