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Report 943: Italy Alone

By DMae from Alaska, Summer 2005

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Page 2 of 9: A cold, dark winter spent planning

photo by DMae


I started planning my first trip to Italy in January 2004. I planned this trip in January 2005. It is cold, cold, cold in Fairbanks in January. It is also dark, dark, dark. I think planning for a trip to Italy might be the best cure for cabin fever, ever.

Some of my favorite planning books: "Italy: Instructions for Use", by Nan McElroy. This tiny gem of a book is packed with tons and tons of useful information. It is a very good size which fits nicely in my hand. I found it great for all stages of planning as well at being a great reference on the go.

"The Civilized Shopper's Guide to Rome", by Pamela Keech and Margaret A. Brucia. Another "fits in my hand" book I found indispensable while wandering around Rome, peering into the shops. As the title suggests, it is a book listing the authors' favorite shopping haunts in Rome. The book is arranged into nine areas of the city. It has clear maps and dining suggestions as well. I used the book in one store by showing them a picture of a fabric piece. My Italian vocabulary doesn't include many words to describe fabric, I found.

"City Secrets: Rome", edited by Robert Kahn. This is a compilation of several travelers' favorite places in Rome. I did not travel with this book but used it extensively in making my plans. I really liked the descriptions provided by the various travelers. It was like talking to a bunch of friends who were telling me all their best information.

"A Journey to Rome" and "Caffè Romani" by Danièle Ohnheiser. These books are simply wonderful. There are evocative watercolor sketches of places in Rome. "Journey" has quotes from Dickens, Shelley, Ruskin, Goethe, Stendhal and others. It is in both English and Italian. "Caffè" has watercolor sketches as well as photography. It is in Italian only. I used "Caffè" to get a feeling for Italian coffee bars I might enjoy visiting. It took a bit of getting used to thinking of coffee shops as bars! I did not travel with either book although they are probably small enough for some travelers.

"Michelin Green Guide". Great information with easy to follow maps. This book was perfect for me as it gave a good depth of information without being either fluffy or heavy.

DK Eyewitness Guides. I really like looking at the books in this series. I have some for places I probably will never travel to! The Guides I used in planning for this trip: Rome, Italy, and Venice and the Veneto.

I used the ATAC and Tuttocitti web sites for mapping. There are several great map sites on the internet but I found myself returning to these again and again. I especially liked having maps drawn out for me from Point A to Point B.

After much thinking, I decided to buy a GSM cell phone and SIM card from Telestial. I found that everything went well with the package I purchased. I activated the phone following Telestial's instructions. When I needed more time, I simply purchased a ricaricard at a tabacchi where ever I happened to be. The phone turned out to be a great help, as my dear friend Sara was planning her eldest daughter's wedding and we had many, many consultations concerning that event!

As I was traveling alone, I reserved some small group tours for myself while I was in Rome. I took a Wine Tour with 3 Millennia, and tours to the Ghetto, the Vatican and the Borghese Museum with Context:Rome. All these tours were excellent, informative and fun. The guides were native English speakers and enthusiastic about what they were doing. The groups were small (none had more than five other people), intimate and just right for this solo traveler.

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