Saturday, June 14, 2008

She acts all tough but...

Exactly one week from today I will be sitting at O'Hare waiting on the first leg of my fabulous Italian getaway.

Why am I so freaked out?

I took the girls to the library yesterday and picked up a bunch of travel books to try and do some research into public transport and hotels.

When I get to Malpensa Airport in Milan, I need to find my way to Stazione Centrale and find a place to stash my luggage while I see the sights for the day. Then I need to get back to the station and catch a train to Venice where my cousin is meeting up with me.

I tried to make reservations to see The Last Supper, but there aren't any slots left for the day I'll be in Milan. I did find a few guided tours that say they stop there, so I guess I'm going to try that out.

I will have a cell phone my cousin sent me that will work over there, so I won't be completely on my own, but...

I'm kind of lost as far as finding my way.

A book can only tell you so much. I know how to read a map, but how will I know one piazza from another?

After a few days with my cousin in Venice and maybe Florence/Tuscany, I will on my own once again in Rome.

I'm thinking of doing budget hotels while I have a travel companion, and maybe splurging in Rome. Then I feel guilty for spending so much money on myself.

I need to be talked off the ledge.

Who's been to Italy and can give me some real life advice?


Earth Muffin said...

I haven't been to Italy, but I do want to say that you shouldn't feel guilty splurging on yourself during your stay in Rome. It's not as if you travel out of the country once a month!

I would feel every bit as lost as you do right now. I'm sure it will be wonderful once you're there.

Some Guy said...

Ditto what Earth Muffin said about splurging. Put that out of your mind. Everything is going to be expensive anyway, so its best to just focus on enjoying the trip.

I've been to Florence and Rome, but not Milan or Venice. In Florence, most of the main sights like the Cathedral, Uffizi, Ponte Vecchio, Michelangelo's David, etc. are not too far from each other. Easily walkable. I don't know how long you'll be there, but I'd recommend going up to San Miniato al Monte at some point . There are great views overlooking central Florence and one of the best It. Renaissance cathedrals in my opinion. If you have a few days, you might consider side trips (via bus) to either San Gimignano or Fiesole.

I wasn't in Rome as long. Things seemed more spread out there. They do have a decent subway. There's tons to see, so you just have to prioritize. There's the Vatican stuff, the Coliseum and Forum ruins, tons of important baroque churches, Spanish Steps, fountains, Pantheon, etc. Google stuff and see if it interests you.

If you'd rather avoid the more touristy stuff, the best thing is to just start wandering or get off the train at random places.

SkylersDad said...

Make sure you just relax and have fun, and try not to jump any sharks...

Urban Cowgirl said...

I've been to Italy so I can offer some advice. First, we had a few books we used while we were there but we had one we absolutely relied on and it became our Italy bible: Italy (EYEWITNESS TRAVEL GUIDE) (Turtleback)by DK Publishing (Author). The maps in this book are wonderful and accurate! The historical facts, tourist tips, and general layout of the book are wonderful! I really suggest getting a copy of this book. Also, make sure you have an Italian phrase book with you. This will help you as you try to talk with people about such things as "Where can I store my luggage?" or "which way to _____?" Plus, we found the more we tried to speak in Italian, the more helpful people were in answering our questions. When you eat, eat off the beaten path - this is particularly good advice for Rome - if you eat along the main tourist pathways you will get totally hosed in price and food quality. And, if you eat any place with the option of serving yourself (kind-of like cafeteria style) do NOT allow them to talk you into serving you at a table because it will cost a lot of extra money. When you're bumming around by yourself, keep your money in a very safe location on your body (like under your clothing and against your chest/front torso). Pick pockets are everywhere! Do not carry your passport around with you, either. The hotel will have a safe, operated and monitored by the hotel staff at the front desk, to keep it and any other valuables in (I kept my wedding/engagment rings in their safes). When you're getting on the train be certain which platform you need to be standing on. They make it pretty clear on the train arrival/departure boards but just double check so your not on the wrong platform and you get on the right train. The Eyewitness Italy guide is a great resource and you may find that it helpful to you on your self-guided tour through the cities you're visiting. We certainly did. Here's the final bits of advice I can give you: 1) try not to act too American (don't request ice in your pop, expect to pay for water with your meals vs. get it for free, etc) and try to blend in, you'll get treated much better - 2) take a gazillion pictures! They're digital and you'll be so glad you have so many pictures to choose from when showing family/friends and for printing! - 3) Have fun! Eat the food! Enjoy the culture! It's an amazing country and you'll have an amazing time! - 4) Be safe!
I hope you enjoy your trip. Good luck. :-)

Iheartfashion said...

I guess I'm too late to give advice, but...I've had great luck renting apartments in Italy that I found on craigslist. It's usually a bit cheaper than hotels, and you get more space + a kitchen, so you don't have to eat $100 pizza for every meal (not that the pizza isn't great, but the exchange rate is the worst I've ever experienced.)

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