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May 31, 2007

my itinerary

I leave in 1 week!! I still have SO MUCH to do!!

For this trip, I decided to go back to places I have been to before to get to know each one more in depth. I started out by reserving apartments in Venice and Rome and then decided on the "middle” according to the train schedules and connections.

I have never considered renting an apartment in the past but after reading so many wonderful comments about staying in apartments on the Slow Travel website, I decided to take the leap.

My apartment in Rome was the first accommodation reserved. I must thank Ann, another Slow Traveler, who pointed me in the direction of this lovely apartment in Trastevere.

I next found an apartment in Venice. I have been a little nervous about my apartment in Venice as there was no down payment required or a credit card number needed to reserve this apartment and the availability calendar continued to show that the apartment was not rented during my requested dates for months after I made my reservation. I was originally told that keys would be sent to me and I was given directions to get to the apartment on my own. I was also told to pay the agency the following Monday (as I arrive on a Saturday when they are closed).

When sending my re-confirmation email the other day, I was told that a new person was now handling the apartment. After my initial panic, and reassurance from Slow Traveler friends, the woman contacted me and all is well. She will meet me at the train station in Venice which makes me feel much better. This way, she can answer any questions I may have about the apartment and I won’t be wandering around lost with my 4 maps of Venice. The apartment is in the Cannaregio area close to where they filmed the flower shop scenes in the movie Bread and Tulips.

After setting my beginning and ending places, I next worked on the "middle". I always try to see my friends while in Italy and so the 3rd part of my trip planned was a stop in Coccaglio to visit Katia & Guido. We met many years ago while sitting on a bench in Vernazza waiting for a train that was an hour late and have been good friends ever since.

The rest of the "middle" was the hardest part to plan. I wanted to try to do more of a "slow travel" trip this time but ended up planning a 1 night stay in Bologna and then a 3 night stay in Cortona.

I thought about staying in Bologna the entire 4 nights but wanted to stay in a smaller town for this part of my trip. I have not been back to Tuscany for a few years and so I decided on Cortona, a town I have only spent a few hours in once many years ago.

After looking at the train schedules, I decided to make a 1 night stop in Bologna on the way. The train trip would have been 6 hours from Coccaglio to Cortona with at least 3 changes in trains and that is something I just did not want to do. That is how I ended up with a one night stay in Bologna. I am actually excited to return to Bologna, even if it is only for 1 night. The food is amazing there and I have already decided where I will eat. I will only grab what I need from my suitcase and I don't plan to unpack everything so I can get right out to see the city right after I arrive.

Recently I realized that my itinerary may now have a little glitch in it as a strike has been announced for the day I plan to take the train from Cortona to Rome. After looking at all my options, I decided that I will go to Rome a day early if the train strike is not called off. The apartment is available and the woman renting it has been extremely generous in offering it to me without charging me since I will still have to pay for my room in Cortona as I need to give them notice of any cancellations 2 weeks in advance.

Here is my final itinerary:

arrive in Milan, June 9th
take the train to Venice

1 week in Venice - apartment in Canareggio

2 nights with friends - (Katia & Guido) in Coccaglio

1 night in BolognaHotel San Porta Mamolo

2 OR 3 nights in CortonaB&B Le Gelosie
*depending on the train strike

10 OR 11 nights in Rome - apartment in Trastevere
*depending on the train strike

depart Rome
1 night at the Newark Liberty International Airport Mariott

arrive in Honolulu

I want to thank everyone on Slow Travel for all of your support, advice, hotel reviews, restaurant reviews, and trip reports. I will try to post when I can while in Italy to let you know of my adventures.

ciao!!
~girasoli

February 24, 2008

going back to Italy again!

I am going back to Italy!! I just bought my ticket, paying the most I have ever paid - $1868.45 flying into Milan and out of Zurich. It was about $60.00 cheaper last weekend, but I missed that boat on that great deal. I still have that 24 hour window where I can cancel my ticket.

I have been try to get a ticket using my miles for months now, but only the higher rate mileage awards have been available, which means 60,000 miles each way and this is only for the back of the bus type of seat. It would be 120,000 miles each way for business first. Right now, I only have 99,000 miles.

A couple of hours after my ticket purchase, I went back onto the Continental website just for kicks to see what would happen if I tried to use my miles, wondering if I could purchase one way and use miles one way. I was surprised to find out that I can indeed purchase a ticket using my miles if I pay for the additional 21,000 miles I need. This would only cost me $733.70 in total including tax and fees. So now, new decision, with less than 24 hours to decide. Keep my ticket and earn more miles or wipe out my miles completely and get a great rate.

I also thought of trying to upgrade to business first instead with a paid ticket, but the office to do this is not open on the weekend - risking that 24 hour window decision. The tricky part is that because I am not elite, I would not find out until the last minute if I even got any portions of my flight upgraded. Then there's the whole talk of Continental and United merging, which makes me a little nervous. It also makes me wonder what the chances of using miles will be if they combine airlines. I am hoping that they do not merge. I never have to wait in a long to check in when flying out of Honolulu but the lines for United are always a nightmare.

Meanwhile I am thinking of all the advantages there are if I use my miles. Besides the low cost of the ticket, I would be able to rationalize better hotel rooms and perhaps a few days longer in Italy. I would not have the restriction of flying on a Saturday/Sunday for a higher cost. I could still buy that new Canon DSLR camera I have been dreaming about. It is like having $1134.75 extra free money to spend!

Italy...here I come!!!

**UPDATE: Decison made - I went the miles route and I still have 798 miles left!

March 2, 2008

my itinerary for my trip to Italy, 2008

Here's my bare bones itinerary for my summer trip. I'll reveal more details about each place I plan to visit over the next few days.

If nothing changes (which could still happen), my itinerary for this summer looks like this:

*depart from Honolulu in the evening/ spend much of the following day in the Newark Airport / arrive in Milan the following morning

*7 nights in Santa Margherita Ligure (Liguria) - Hotel Jolanda

*5 nights in Acqui Terme (Piemonte) - Relais dell'Osso

*6 nights in Bologna (Emilia-Romagna) – Hotel Porta San Mamolo

*3 nights in Zurich (Switzerland) - Hotel Glockenhof

*depart from Zurich in the morning / over night in Newark / arrive in Honolulu the following evening

**Changes were made on March 24th - see "my new itinerary ~ Italy trip 2008" for updated itinerary.

March 26, 2008

a big change in my itinerary ~ Italy trip 2008

Back when I was planning my trip, I realized that it was cheaper to fly in/out of Zurich than to fly in/out of Milan. The airfares were so high that I was trying to find a way to save a few dollars. Because I did not want to deal with the long train ride both ways, I decided to compromise and fly into Milan and out of Zurich. In 2003 I spent my last night in Zurich before flying home. I enjoyed my brief visit to Zurich and always wanted to return to get to know this lovely city a little better. I thought it would be fun to go back to Zurich for a few nights again.

I initially paid for my ticket, but then during that 24 hour time frame when I was able to cancel my ticket, I decided on using my miles instead to book my trip. I did not even think about any other options when canceling my paid trip and booking my trip with miles. That was pretty stupid of me. I could have even stopped in Boston on the way home for a few days to visit friends and family and possibly catch a game. This would not work now though as I am starting my trip later during my summer vacation and only have a few more days off when I return home before starting work again.

At the same time I booked my trip, I booked a room at Hotel Glockenhof in Zurich. It was a more expensive hotel, but I was able to get a good deal (200 Swiss Francs/133 Euros per night) compared to their regular prices. The following day the Euro hit a new high and since then the dollar has continued to fall.

During the past few weeks, I have continued to read up on Switzerland. At the same time, I started checking out the train tickets. I did look at the travel options before booking my trip but did not think to check on the prices. I was in shock when I saw that it would cost 133.90 Euros for first class/87.50 Euros for second class if I took the fastest train - Bologna to Zurich (a 5 hour 35 minute trip) and 121.90 Euros for first class/80.50 Euros for second class for the slower train - Bologna to Zurich (a 6 hour 35 minute trip).

At this point, I started checking out cheaper hotels to find a way to save a few dollars. I also started reading about recommended places to eat and realized that Switzerland does not have any no-smoking laws in place. I have taken for granted the new no-smoking laws in Italy and forgot that Switzerland has not also adopted the new policy. The long train trip was not sitting well with me. I hate being enclosed in any type of transportation vehicle, especially when the trip is long, and that includes planes, trains, and automobiles. I think that is why I love being on a boat.

I started to think about the hassle of being in smoking places, the cost of the train trip, and the falling dollar and started to wonder just why I was going to Zurich since it would be such a long trip to get there for only a few nights.

The other nagging problem with my itinerary was that I was not going to stay with my friends Katia and Guido on this trip. We have been emailing back and forth since I planned my trip for this summer trying to figure out how we could meet. I was trying to plan a trip with longer stays and fewer travel days and finding a weekend in Coccaglio was not working out. I was hoping that we could meet somewhere instead but that was not looking good and was not the same as staying for the weekend.

I first met Katia and Guido during my very first trip to Europe back in 1999. While waiting for a train to arrive in Vernazza, I sat next to this nice couple (Katia & Guido), on a cement bench (which I found out in 2006 is no longer there). Lucky for me, the train was running an hour late. During that time, we struck up a conversation, exchanged emails, and rode together to La Spezia where we were both making connections. We kept in touch through email and the following year, Katia met me in Verona and took me to her house in Coccaglio where I spent the night. Our friendship has grown over the years and each time I have returned to Italy (except my trip to Sicily), I have stayed with Katia at her family's house. A little over a year ago, Katia and Guido married. I was invited to their wedding but could not attend due to my work schedule. Katia and Guido came to Hawaii last summer for their belated honeymoon. We spent a wonderful week together renting a house up on the North Shore.

After writing my posts on Santa Margherita, Acqui Terme, and Bologna, I started writing my post on Zurich, but for some reason, I kept finding other things to write about and could not get my Zurich post finished. I still have it in draft form.

Sunday night, I had this brilliant idea. What if I spent my final weekend with Katia and Guido and flew out of Milan instead of traveling to Zurich. I remembered reading somewhere that I could change my airline ticket for $50.00. I checked the flights and there were still seats available with miles flying out of Milan. I sent an email to Katia with the idea. She was thrilled. Here is part of her email:

ciao!!!!!
che bello!!! che bello!!! che bello!!!
wonderful!! wonderful!!! wonderful!!!!
My easter egg brought me a wondderful surprise!!! You are in the egg!!!!!
I'm so so so so so happy that we'll see you and we'll spend some days together!!! WOW!!!

I called the next day to make the change. The best part is that it will only cost $36.00 instead of $50.00 because I asked about the Switzerland Airport Passenger/Security Charge of $36.70. The person re-priced the ticket and I was refunded the difference.

Now my trip is perfect!

March 27, 2008

my new itinerary ~ Italy trip 2008

I finally have everything confirmed once again :-)

*depart from Honolulu in the evening/ spend much of the following day in the Newark Airport / arrive in Milan the following morning

*7 nights in Santa Margherita Ligure (Liguria) - Hotel Jolanda

*5 nights in Acqui Terme (Piemonte) - Relais dell'Osso

*6 nights in Bologna (Emilia-Romagna) – Hotel Porta San Mamolo

*2 nights in Coccaglio with Katia & Guido

*1 night at a Malpensa airport hotel - First Hotel

*depart from Milan the following morning / over night in Newark / arrive in Honolulu the following evening

June 16, 2008

a wonderful surprise!

I found a great travel discussion board, when planning my first trip to Europe back in 1999. On this board, I was very fortunate to meet Francesco. I was looking for information on Florence and he was interested in learning more English. We began to write back and forth and after a few months of corresponding, we decided to meet for dinner during my stay in Florence that summer. I remember my mom being nervous about me meeting a strange man that I had met over the internet. I assured her that after many months of corresponding and the fact that he was bringing his girlfriend, Irene with him, everything would be fine.

Everything did turn out fine. In fact this chance meeting on a discussion board turned into a wonderful friendship. We have kept in touch over the years and have continued to meet whenever it worked out. Both Francesco and Irene (who married in 2001 and now have two children, Sara and Gabriele) as well as both of their families have welcomed me whenever I have come for a visit.

Somehow, we lost contact last summer. The other night, while finding anything possible to do besides concentrate on trip organization and packing, I decided to try once more to contact them using every email I had for them…and it worked!!

My wonderful surprise is that we will be able to meet once again. I was already planning a possible daytrip to Florence after not having been there since 2001. Yes, I know, a daytrip is not long enough, but a walk around the beautiful city of Florence is always worth a visit. The train travel time is short and since all my photos of Florence are pre-digital, I thought it would be fun to spend some time there once more.

So, instead of lunch in Florence, I will hop on another train and have lunch in Empoli with my wonderful friends. I will also meet Gabriele for the first time. I am so excited and just know it will be a day I will treasure always.

March 10, 2009

new trip to Italy...let the planning begin

Today's post is my 400th post!

I started this blog by sharing my trip to Italy two summers ago. What better way to celebrate my 400th post than to share my plans for my upcoming trip to Italy this summer.

If you asked me last week what my plans were, I would have told you that I had no idea. For a couple of months now, I have been going back and forth over whether or not to return to Italy this summer. With the economy the way it is, talks of a possible cut in our pay or an increase in the amount of our share of monthly insurance payments (which basically is a cut in our pay), I kept thinking that I should be the responsible adult and wait until all of this is settled before making any plans.

Yesterday, I decided *screw it*! You never know what the future will bring. The airfares are a little more reasonable at the moment, the exchange rate is better than it was last year at this time, and I am dreaming of Italy again...

Although I am always thinking about my next trip to Italy, I have been pretty undecided for months now on just where in Italy to go. Train schedules are usually a deciding factor in how I plan my trips. For some reason, I just was not able to come up with a plan that was working out. Then last night, after I plugging in a few new different train combinations on Trenitalia, it all sort of fell together with an open jaw ticket option.

This is what my plan looks like at the moment...

*Flying into Fiumicino Airport outside of Rome. Taking the train into Rome and then hopping on another train to Arezzo.


*4 nights in Arezzo
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Although I am a little tempted to stay in Rome a night or two I think Arezzo would be a better place to deal with my jet lag. I visited Arezzo two years ago on a daytrip. I really enjoyed my short visit there and knew then that I wanted to return for a longer stay in Arezzo some day. If it works out, I would like to do a daytrip to Orvieto while in Arezzo. I spent a few nights in Orvieto many years ago and have always wanted to return there again, even if just as a quick daytrip. Now that I have a digital camera, I would like to take more photos of Orvieto.

So far, I have found one recommended hotel in Arezzo, the Hotel Continentale Arezzo. Venere.com gives it good reviews. I also found one recommendation for this same hotel on Slow Travel. I would greatly appreciate any other recommendations anyone might have on hotels in Arezzo. Many of the hotels seem to be located just outside of Arezzo. I will be traveling by train and would prefer to stay in the city center.


*6 nights in Lucca
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During my very first trip to Italy, I spent two nights in Lucca. That was 10 years ago. I think about that trip often. The above photo of Lucca hangs on my wall to remind me of my time there. I have been thinking of returning to Lucca for a while now. I almost went to Lucca last summer but could not work out the train arrangements. I was having the same problem this year until Arezzo popped into my mind. I checked with trenitalia and the train times and connections sealed the deal. Arezzo ended up being my key to Lucca.

I emailed the B&B La Romea last night and am so excited that they still have a room available. I now have a reservation for the green room at this beautiful B&B with rave reviews located inside the city walls of Lucca. While in Lucca, I plan to do a daytrip to Pisa and finally climb La Torre Pendente di Pisa (the tower of Pisa).


*5 nights in Bologna
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How could I not visit Bologna again after all my recent blog posts, dreaming about the food in Bologna, the beautiful buildings, and all I have yet to see there. I emailed my favorite hotel, Hotel Porta San Mamalo, and they are saving me a room. While in Bologna I plan to do at least one daytrip, maybe two. I am not sure if I will return to Ferrara, Parma, or Modena or visit somewhere new. I have been thinking about maybe Reggio Emilia.


*6 nights in Stresa (photo from Wikimedia Commons)
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I always try to go to at least one new location each time I visit Italy. I also usually plan at least one of my stays as a location on the lake or the sea. This year, thanks to Dana's Stresa Sights blog, I have been inspired to spend some time in Stresa, which is located on Lake Maggiore. I stayed in Locarno, Switzerland, which is located on the northern part of this lake, back in 2003 but have never been to any of the Italian towns on Lake Maggiore. I am still working on finding a hotel for my stay in Stresa. Dana has been very helpful, asking friends about hotels in the area and helping me with location suggestions. I would greatly appreciate any other recommendations anyone might have on hotels or B&Bs in Stresa.


*A few nights in Coccaglio
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My last stop will be a visit with my friends Katia & Guido in Coccaglio. I can't wait to see Katia & Guido and their new house they have been building. They are supposed to move in by the end of March, but of course there have been many delays. Diana's blog posts about construction in Italy will help you understand the craziness of construction in Italy. Click here to read one example of her numerous construction nightmares.

My final night will be at an airport hotel and then I will fly out of Malpensa Airport near Milan. I will probably stay at the First Hotel again. I stayed there last year and was happy as one can be at an airport hotel. I still need to do a review on this hotel.

Now I just need to purchase my airline ticket (which makes this trip real) and renew my passport or I'm not going anywhere.

I have not forgotten about Bologna and will finish my 10 reasons later this week.

March 11, 2009

glitch in my plans

I rushed home after work today to purchase my airline ticket. I needed to purchase it before 6pm because the airfare sale ended today. I entered my itinerary at 4:30 pm Hawaii time (10:30 pm EST) and saw that the fares were gone! How could that be? The fare now costs $540.00 more than it did yesterday. There are still tons of seats left on the planes I plan to take so they can't say it is because the fares sold out.

I am so mad at myself that I didn't buy my ticket earlier but even madder at Continental. The airlines continue to make customers mad. From the ridiculous idea of charging to use the bathrooms to changing prices before an announced sale is over. Not good!

Yes, I should have bought my ticket yesterday but the announcement on the Continental website said that the sale ended today (March 11th), meaning the sale would end at the end of the day, today. I didn't buy my ticket yesterday because I wanted an extra day to decide which day to return. I read a comment on Flyertalk tonight from another upset person who also tried to buy their ticket today, finding that the sale prices were gone. He made the same comment stating that March 11th means the end of the day on March 11th.

Now I don't know what to do. I could wait and hope that Continental again offers lower fares, bite the bullet and pay an outrageous $2032 for a ticket, or cancel my trip. I am not a happy camper right now.

Thank you everyone for your comments and your excitement about my trip plans. I was excited also until I saw the airfares today. Shit happens. I know. I'll figure it out. It will just take a few days to get over the shock of losing out on a good airfare, something that is rare to find for a flight from Hawaii to Italy.

**Update (3-12) After searching a bunch of combinations, I came up with a fare $393 dollars more than the original sale fare. At least that is better than $540 dollars more than the sale fare.

I doubt fares will go back down now that seats are selling out so I bit the bullet and bought my ticket. Yay!! I'm also getting two more days out of this trip. Maybe I should rethink Rome.

Now I need to just let it all go and start getting excited about my trip again.

March 22, 2009

decisions decisions... Arezzo or ??

Due to the Continental ending its sale one day early, which caused a change in my dates, I am now arriving a day earlier and leaving a day later. This along with uncertainty about hotels is making me think twice about my current itinerary. Nothing new for me. I end up making changes to my itinerary just about every trip.

With my current itinerary, I will now be spending 5 nights in Arezzo instead of 4 nights before heading to Lucca. The B&B in Lucca is not available the day before my reservation so moving everything up a night to give me 2 extra nights at the end of my stay is out.

I did think again about spending the first couple of nights in Rome, but I am pretty much useless from jet lag the first two days and Rome would probably not be the greatest place to be wandering around in a daze.

I still have not settled on a room in Arezzo but am looking at two possibilities - Hotel Continentale and Hotel Patio.

Continue reading "decisions decisions... Arezzo or ??" »

March 23, 2009

more decisons... 2nd half of my trip

I want to thank everyone again for all of your suggestions regarding my Arezzo dilemma. It really helps to talk it out and get input from travel friends. I have booked with Hotel Patio in Arezzo but am still considering other options. At least I have a hotel at the moment. I have even thought about Siena. Haven’t been back there since 2001 (studied Italian twice in Siena – 5 weeks total). The major negative though about Siena is my timing would bring me there right before the Palio, which would usually be great, but the extra all night singing and other noise would not be a welcome additon to my jetlag. I did find one amazing new place on the outskirts of the city but within easy walking distance, which would be nice and quiet, but they want 150 per night! I will have to continue to mull over this part of my trip.

Meanwhile, onto the second half of my trip. After leaving Lucca, I currently have five nights booked at my favorite hotel in Bologna. I plan to do a couple of daytrips while there. Possibly returning to Parma and Ferrara. I have also thought about going back to Modena and visiting Reggio Emilia for the first time, and then there is the thought of returning to Ravenna. I realize I could never visit all of these places so again more decisions.

I am starting to wonder if I should extend my stay in Bologna or add a second place to stay somewhere in the Emilia Romagna region. If I do choose a second location, it will have to be somewhere either not much farther from Lucca or Stresa. One of my conditions I put on my itinerary this year was to keep all train travel to two hours if possible. A second location would most likely add time to one of my train trips so I would have to look carefully at the possible connections as part of my decision. And as you probably know by now, I am very picky about hotels and will have to look at options in each possible location. I do have a favorite in Ferrara if they still have a room available. I might just end up staying in Bologna the entire time adding a night or two to this part of my trip.

And then there is Stresa. My original plan was for six nights in Stresa. I love staying near the water and I love being on boats. Still, I am a little uneasy about committing six nights in Stresa, mostly because once again I am not finding hotels that are jumping out at me saying, "Stay here, Stay here!”

Continue reading "more decisons... 2nd half of my trip" »

April 1, 2009

change in plans

After reading both Chiocciola's post and Sandra's post about their indecisions on which hotel to stay at while in Bologna and how they both have been able to get some good offers on room prices, it got me thinking about my stay in Bologna. If you have been reading my blog, you know that I have been very happy staying at Hotel Porta San Mamalo. Even so, it would be a treat to stay right in the center of town. I thought about this idea for a short while, but then decided why mess with something I know is good. Like Sandra said, I could end up in the "smallest double in the back over the garbage containers".

I then started thinking about my stay in Arezzo. I wrote about my difficulty decision about staying in Arezzo or possibly Orvieto or Florence here. I have been very comfortable and even excited about staying in Arezzo and did make a reservation at Hotel Patio but I am still not feeling great about my hotel reservation there. I do not have visions of being put in a room over the garbage containers, but I would feel much better if I knew a little more about this hotel.

And then Florence popped back into my head again. After reading about the deals both Chiocciola and Sandra found, I started wondering if I would be able to find any good deals in Florence. I ended up spending almost the entire day yesterday searching for hotels and B&Bs offering non-smoking rooms in Florence. I narrowed my search down to two B&Bs.

Residenza d'Epoca, Bed and Breakfast in Florence - In Piazza della Signoria, a luxurious B&B with rave reviews, located just a few steps away from Piazza della Signoria. A laptop is available for free use, the B&B provides assistance with reservations, the breakfasts are supposed to be wonderful, as well as many other amenities.

AND Bed and Breakfast Il Salotto di Firenze, a B&B with beautiful rooms and great reviews, located steps away from the the Duomo (Santa Maria del Fiore). This B&B provides free internet connection (which would mean I would need to bring a laptop), basic breakfast, many other amenities and there is a helpful person there in the mornings for assistance.

I wrote to both B&B’s. I heard back from the Residenza d'Epoca, B&B In Piazza della Signoria with an offer of a small discount since I will be staying 5 nights. With the discount, the cost would be 20 euros more per night than if I reserved one of the available rooms at the B&B near the Duomo.

Late last night, I made an impulsive decision and booked a room at this beautiful B&B near Piazza Signoria. With the great location and the luxurious accommodations, I no longer was concerned about dealing with jet lag while in Florence. I am now dreaming of climbing towers, strolling along the Arno River, spending time in the Bargello, and getting to know Florence a little better.

I just have one more decision to make now. Which room to reserve?

Beatrice ~ Double room located on the main floor where most of the rooms are located. This room has an amazing Jacuzzi bathtub and original frescoes on the wall. It looks like there may be a small balcony (need to check) although the view is nothing to rave about. I fell in this room right away. I think it is the color that hooked me. I am usually more of a shower person but the bathtub in this room looks heavenly (click on the room link for more pictures). I have this room reserved at the moment.

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Machiavelli ~ Double room located on the same floor as the breakfast room and the lounge. This room has a view of the roofs of Florence. The bathroom has a bathtub and shower. I would be happy to have the shower available. I could also hang clothes to dry there. Having a view might be nice, although the window is not as big. I am also not sure if I would prefer to be on the floor where the breakfast is made and people hang out in the lounge area.

inpiazzadellasignoria_1th.jpg


So which room would you choose?

And do you think I am crazy to splurge on this fabulous B&B? Especially since the other B&B looks very nice? I figure no major shopping sprees while in Italy, lots of tuna sandwiches and almond butter sandwiches for lunch for the next few months, and no new tiny travel computer I have been thinking of buying for my trip would allow me to afford this splurge.

January 29, 2011

bought my ticket for Italia this morning!

I just could not get motivated about the PhotoHunt theme (standing) this week. Instead, I would like to share my Italy plans. YES :) I am heading back to Italy this summer!!!!

To get into the spirit, first I would like to share a few Italian flag photos I took during the same afternoon and evening as my previous post.

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Now about my trip...

I will be flying in and out of Malpensa Airport. I don't have the first four nights of my itinerary set yet but will either spend this time with my friends in Coccaglio or possibly spend the time in Verona or Parma or who knows? There are tons of possibilities.

My next stop will be 6 nights in Venice staying at a cool little B&B that my blogging friend Annie discovered.

I have been to Venice four times so far. I didn't like Venice during my first visit. In Venice's defense, I did the two night rush around and try to see as many things as possible type of stay. Two years later, I booked a hotel in Venezia Mestre my last night in Italy and spent the afternoon/evening in Venice and I liked it. Five years later, I returned to Venice again. This time, I fell in love with Venice. I returned again following year for a week and loved every minute of my stay. This will be my fifth time in Venice and as a bonus, my blogging friend Sandra will also be staying at the same B&B for 4 of the 6 nights of my stay!

My final destination, well final before the boring last night at the airport hotel stay, will be 10 nights in an apartment very close to Piazza Maggiore in Bologna.

Those of you who read my blog regularly know how much I love Bologna. This will also be my fifth stay in Bologna. During this trip, I will not only enjoy more time in this wonderful city, but I will also be taking Italian lessons for a week with Andrea of Bolognalingua. My blogging friend Palma spent three weeks last summer studying with Andrea. I read her blog every day while she was in Bologna and dreamed of doing the same thing one day. At first it didn't look like it was going to work out because he was booked during the time period I planned to be in Italy but then the person reserving one of the weeks that worked for me had his dates mixed up and the week opened up! What luck!!

I have not formally studied Italian for many years now and my Italian has suffered because of this. I will definitely be doing some cramming before leaving for Italy this summer. I planned my itinerary so that I would have some time to shake out some of the cobwebs and become a little more comfortable speaking before my lessons begin. I am hoping that after a week of intensive Italian language lessons, I will then be able to use my improved Italian during the last few days of my trip while I hang out in Bologna and/or take a few day trips.

I tailored this trip so that I would only have to travel by train with my luggage on four occasions. Also, most of my train travel will be direct, meaning I won't have to lug my bags up and down stairs at lightening speed to catch connecting trains and I purposefully made my last stop in Bologna so I could take advantage of the new direct train from Bologna to Malpensa Airport.


Just for fun, I made a word cloud of this post:
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*To see a larger version, click on the word cloud.

March 16, 2011

first two nights of my trip

It took me a while to decide on where to stay the first two nights of my trip. My first thought was to return to Verona, but I could not find an available hotel I was happy with. Staying somewhere on Lake Garda also crossed my mind however arriving on a holiday made me a little uneasy about the bus and ferry schedules that day. Spending my first day in Italy having difficulty with transportation options to arrive at my hotel was not high on my list. I also thought about Torino, but that was going in the wrong direction and would make both my arrival day as well as my travel day to Coccaglio for the weekend much longer.

I then started to think about staying right in Milan. Why not Milan? I have flown into Malpensa Airport (located right outside of Milan) four times before and have also flown out of Malpensa airport four times in the past yet I have never stayed right in Milan.

I have however taken a quick daytrip back in 2001 with Katia to Milan. We took the train in to see the Duomo (back when it was gray and gloomy) before the restoration began. We also climbed up onto the roof of the Duomo (which was very cool), stopped for a gelato in the famous Galleria, saw the outside of the Teatro alla Scala, and walked up and down some of the high fashion streets where we saw some sort of princess with a bunch of guards around her in one of the stores. I have also spent many hours at the Milano Centrale (main) train station in Milan and have taken one scary ride on the metro to get to the Cadorna train station to take that train straight to the airport (long story). Scary only because it was rush hour, packed with people as well as crazed fans going wild on the eve of the World Cup final right before they won the World Cup and I had no idea where I was going.

I am not sure why I have never thought about staying right in Milan before. I guess the big city thing kept me away. But after reading Michelle's blog post: "What to Do in Milan" and checked out her beautiful photos of Milan last December, I was inspired.

After shooting down Verona & Lake Garda, I started to give Milan some more thought. I have been wanting to see the Castello Sforzesco for a while now. Katia and I have talked about taking another daytrip into Milan to check it out.
039MilanoCastelloSforzesco


I have also wanted to see the Duomo again now that it has been all spiffed up, especially since I only had a crappy camera the last time I visited the Duomo.
Milan Cathedral from Piazza del Duomo

AND of course it would be very cool to see the Last Supper if only I would be lucky enough to snag a ticket.


So I started looking at reviews of hotels in Milan. Because I end up spending more time in my hotel room during the first two nights of my stay (jet lag) my criteria is always a little more stringent (no single tiny boxes and the bed needs to look very comfy). After checking out a few hotels, I came across Hotel Canada. I was able to get what I thought was a great deal and booked the room for two nights (made this reservation about a month ago/am just behind in sharing my plans). I can cancel my reservation up to a night or two before I arrive leaving me that reassurance that I can still change my mind but I am already pretty excited about staying in Milan. It is a 10 minute walk to the Duomo from my hotel and it sounds like there are a few good restaurants nearby.

I arrive early in the morning, giving me two full days to explore. From past experience, I know that I will be in a haze much of my time there since I will be dealing with jet lag and so I am going to keep my "to do" list to just the three things I mentioned earlier in this post.

Oh, and I did manage to snag a ticket to the Last Supper!! I kept my eye on the date the tickets for June would be released. I checked the ticket website about 9pm my time (8 am Italy time). No tickets yet. I got distracted doing other stuff and almost forgot to check again! I checked back again about an hour or so later and the tickets were released. The best time left was a mid-afternoon time on the second day I will be in Milan. There were only a few tickets left for one of the two dates I will be in Milan. I was able to reserve a ticket but the site would not take either of my credit cards. The website gives you 24 hours after reserving the ticket to purchase the ticket. I sent an email to Katia to see if she could purchase the ticket for me. Thankfully, she was able to sign in as me and pay for my ticket. My reserved ticket time may prove to be a challenge since I usually fade around that time of day during my first couple of days in Italy, but even if I have keep my eyes open with toothpicks, I will be there!

SO, Milan it is for my first two nights in Italy!


*Photos are courtesy of Wikimedia Commons ~ click on each for info on the source of each photo.

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