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Report 1920: Rome, Tuscany, Venice & Amalfi for Beginners

By nikkihop from USA, Summer 2011

Trip Description: Two adults and two college girls for week one and nine days of solo bliss for the adults on the Amalfi coast later. Arrive in Rome on June 1, 2011 and return June 16, 2011. Three days in Rome, three days in Florence, two in Venice, one in Assisi on the way to Sorrento.

Destinations: Countries - Italy; Regions/Cities - Amalfi Coast, Florence, Rome, Tuscany, Umbria, Venice

Categories: Hotels/B&Bs; Vacation Rentals; Art Trip; Beach; Day Tours; Opera; Sightseeing; Walking/Hiking; Independent Travel; 3-4 people

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Page 1 of 16: Introduction

My Philosophy on Choosing Hotels

For me, location is key, followed closely by price and something I call the eye-roll factor. The eye roll factor comes into play when you imagine yourself telling people about your fabulous vacation and when you get to the part about the hotel you stayed in ... do you roll your eyes in disgust or comedic forbearance?

How do you know ahead of time whether you will roll your eyes? It’s a bit tricky, but it has to do with whether or not I would be ashamed to show anyone else the website photos and what the reviews on Trip Advisor say. I look at what others say about shabbiness, loud church bells ringing next door, lack of privacy, down-the-hall bathrooms and bed quality.

A note about that last one: If you Google search the Boolean terms tempurpedic, hotel, rome, and Italy, you will find hotels with Tempur-pedic® beds. I did this search for all the cities we stayed in because bed comfort is of particular concern to my man. I even found a hotel in Sorrento that purported to have Tempur-pedic® beds. That is another story, but the short version is that Domus Sorrento turned out to be a bait and switch, i.e,. when I emailed to confirm, they said they were under construction and wanted to move us to a non-Tempur-pedic® bedded place without Internet access across town. Reservation cancelled. Even bed quality is second to location. My strategy is to look at a tourist map online (see in the reference section) and find a location that I think will be within walking distance to several main sites. Then, I will note down several likely street names on Google Maps and Google search the street name and “hotel.” This is how I found Hotel Apollo in Rome and Casa Del Garbo in Florence. Then I check out the reviews of several hotels in this location, on Trip Advisor and before booking. I do it this way because I like to get up early and my man doesn’t. If I am within walking distance to several churches, fountains, markets, etc. that open before 10am, I can get up and explore for a couple hours and then meet him back at our fabulously-located hotel for brunch before setting out to explore together mid-morning. This way, he gets to sleep in and I get more culture, not to mention the smug feeling that I am getting more out of our vacation than he is. (wink)

Price is important to me, but I’m a fickle economist. If I like the location and I love the look of the hotel, I will shut my eyes and give them my credit card number. If I don’t see anything I love, I am the duchess of nickel and dime. I always cross check my need to be frugal against my eye-roll factor and my gut feeling on whether or not the cheap hotel will significantly reduce my travel experience. I don’t like to spend a lot of time in my hotel room. I consider it a necessary and preferably brief stop-over in between the night walk through the city and the early morning prowl through historic churches.

Love Letter to Steve Jobs

It recently became important to me that my hotels have free wireless Internet access. This is a luxury and isn’t a deal breaker, but I am addicted to my iPad and I love to be able to update my travel notes/journal and do my fussy Internet searches at will. No, I don’t work for Apple, but ya’ll should get yourselves an iPad. (Insert Italian hand-kissing gesture here) I take hundreds of e-books (including all the Rick Steves), maps, hiking guides, hotel reservation confirmations, itineraries, music, movies, world wide web and more with me on one compact, convenient and absolutely-adorable-in-its-lime-green-case package. I even use it to back up my camera’s memory cards.

Learning the Language

As an American, I have to admit I’m slightly ashamed of my “lack of culture,” i.e. that I don’t fluently speak a language other than English. I have stilted high-school French, some basic slang Spanish, a little Turkish thanks to an ex-boyfriend, and can count to three and say “thank you” and “you’re welcome” in German. What can I say? I was an Army brat and only learned what I needed to know. However, I love to learn languages and feel compelled to learn basic language skills wherever I go. My favorite classroom is my car. I learned beginner Italian through a combination of Mark Fobrose’s Behind the Wheel: Italian and Michael San Filippo’s Italian Word of The Day. It was fun and reduced road rage all at the same time. I now know enough to order meals, tell someone I’m tired/hungry/cold/hot, buy things and find things. I can even be cheeky in Italian. When the Navy Seals took out Osama Bin Laden, I was able to learn the phrase, "Io sono Americano. Posso ottenere uno sconto di Bin Laden?" which, roughly translated, means “I’m an American. Do I get the Bin Laden discount?” Hey, I figured since America rid the world of one of evil's minions, I might get some discounts on museum fare, fruit and coffee. It was worth a try.

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