Author Topic: Trip Report - Our Grand Tour of Italy  (Read 483 times)

Offline jose34

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Trip Report - Our Grand Tour of Italy
« on: August 23, 2017, 03:07:38 PM »
 

  It seems everyone is going to Italy nowadays! Thanks to everyone on the DDF master threads of Rome, Venice and Florence for their help in planning this trip. It could not have happened with you everyone!



Trip Report - Italy with a night time stop in Greece

 

Planning:

We were thinking of going to Venice and once we were going to Venice we decided to incorporate the rest of Italy into our trip. Please note as opposed to a trip report I am writing more “notes” style, notes on specific things as opposed to a whole report. After the Bold on each part of Itinerary please notes below.

Flights from TLV – ATH (Athens, Greece) – FCO and Return FCO – TLV $334 pp on Alitalia around 2 months before. We could have done more direct with a stopover in Turkey for around the same price but we were not comfortable with that. We figured an 8 hours stop in Athens is better than a 2.5 hour stop in Turkey.

Trains: Booked with a mix of Trentilia and ItaloRail (got them on sale). Depending on season that is  depending how much you will pay. The earlier you book the better chance of getting a better price. I used seat61.com to help figure out where and how to buy tickets. Very helpful!

Hotels – booked with SPG points except Shabbos we used an Airbnb – paid around $150 a night for two nights – Friday and Motzei Shabbos subsidized with Barclay Card redeemable for travel points.

So Itinerary looked like this ( with trip report notes to each section):

Thursday / Friday/ Shabbos/ Sunday

TLV – ATH (8 hour night stopover)- FCO via Alitalia

Good flight. Question was what do in Airport for 8 hours at night.

I remembered from London- LHR they had a Sofitel hotel right near the airport and in Athens they did too. After we landed and cleared customs we went there for a bunch of hours and hung out in the lobby. Besides for asking us if we wanted drinks a few times which I politely declined the front lobby staff was very nice and totally did not mind that we stayed there. At one point a hotel employee saw I trying to connect to wifi and helped me out. I also needed to print my boarding passes for my next flight ( so that I was able to go past security to get to the lounges when they opened – since the Alitalia desks only opened at 4:00 AM for a 5:55 AM flight) the staff gladly did printed them out for me which I thought was going out of there way nice since all I was doing was using their hotel.

The lounges in ATH opened around 3:00 AM , and another one opened at 4:00 AM. We tried both out. The Skyserv Melina Merkouri Lounge was a little older but was quieter and had more private spaces, I tried this one out first and I would have stayed in it but I wanted to try Goldair Handling CIP Lounge out, just down the hall. This one had nicer bathrooms and a row of  desks to plug in your computer but the floor plan was wide opened and was not as comfy and private as the other one. The food selection was pretty much the same however  since there was hardly any kosher options so I didn’t look to closely.

ATH – FCO via Alitalia

Served basic snacks ( one of the two options has a O-U on it) and drinks.

Leonardo Express train from FCO to Termini (Rome Main Station)

Took 30 minutes 14 euro per person, it takes some time to walk from  the Terminal to the train station – like 10 minutes or so. Regular Inter Region Italian Train. There are other options like taking a inter-city train  to Termini also, I think you need to switch trains somewhere. PM for me details.

Rome Termini – Venezia Santa Lucia (Venice)

I originally intended to leave from Tiburtina since it was cheaper to get there from FCO ( 8 euro pp instead of 14 Euro), I guess I made a mistake while booking, luckily I realized my mistake as I was going over my travel plans.

Rome Termini Station ( and the rest of the main train stations in Italy) are very interesting places. They are kind of like a mini airport. The Rome one had four parts to it. One when you walk of the train you walk onto a platform  one of 16 ( i believe). When you walk closer to the station you on your way out you pass by a gate. Then either you can walk straight and go through the shops to the station exit or you can walk to right or left along side the end of the platforms or the last option you can walk upstairs to a big huge food court. This option is good if you have a long wait for a train. Upstairs on the far right end they also have a charging place to charge your phones. We also found it quiet but not to quiet.   

The three main times I traveled using the train I traveled in 3 different classes. Italo Rail – Smart, Trenitalia – 2nd class and Italo Rail Comfort. This trip was Italo Rail Smart. This was also the longest trip around 4 hours. The seats had Italian power outlets and were pretty comfortable, there was a 2-2 configuration. The bathrooms on the train were also pretty clean and some were handicap accessible and extra big.

We got into Venice at around 2 pm on Friday afternoon. It took us around 15 minutes to walk with suitcases from the Main Train station (called FERROVIA  in Italian) to near the Guglie bridge where were staying for Shabbos.

Air Bnb For Shabbos and Sunday

We stayed by:

It its literally a 2 minute walk from the Jewish Ghetto and right near the Guglie water boat stop. I loved the location and the apartment is a 2 bedroom apartment with small kitchen. It is on the fourth floor but has an elevator but the elevator is slow and we only used to bring our suitcases and other heavy stuff up. It is also not for tall people. I would highly recommend this place and can answer any questions about it.

 

Sunday - Murano / Burano

Made the mistake of not buying a 20 Euro ACTV ( water boat and regular bus) 24 hour ticket in advance and when I wanted to buy it Sunday morning the place near the Guglie Bridge only accepted cash. I wanted to pay with credit card. Ideally we should have just went back the main train station to buy (a 10 minute walk away) instead for some reason we walked all the way to the Rialto Bridge to buy tickets ( a 40 minute walk). Luckily our tickets were unlimited so from the Rialto Bridge we just went (on a water taxi) back to the Main Train Station ( 2 stops away) and switched boats. A word of caution it get confusing over there since there is A, B, C and D station. Different boats leave from different stations. From there we took the 4.2 which turns into the 4.1 ( stay on the same boat). I think it leaves from C. It takes around 30 Minutes. We ended up getting off by the second stop since everyone got off by the first stop. In hindsight that was a mistake since we wanted to go to Burano after and the bus number 12 only stops by Murano Faro – the second stop. In the end we took a 4.2 one stop to Murano Faro and then took the 12. The boat from  Murano to Burano is pretty long takes around 40 Minutes. It is direct with one stop. Burano is a nice small island with pretty colerful houses. The idea is really to get away from the tourists and to walk down the small blocks that have very light colors.

            Getting back we walked to small connected island by bridge to Mazzorbo, then took the 12 from there. The reason why this is a little trick is because getting on in Burano its packed. Getting on in Mazzorbo it is also packed but instead of being squished somewhere in the middle you are squished right near the edge of the boat and get a great view and nice cool breeze from the water.

            Getting back from Murano we took the express boat the 3 that goes from Murano directly back to the train station. It does not stop anywhere else but Murano, Train Station and Bus Station.

Train on Sunday Night from Venezia Santa Lucia to Venice Mestre to Four Points by Sheraton Hotel

Sunday night it was time to head out and use some SPG points! We were staying by the brand new Four Points by Sheraton for 4,000 SPG points. If it would have been a weekday we could have taken the Bus 24 H from P.Le Roma ( Venice Bus Station). Being that it was Sunday night we took a train for 1.50 Euro from Venice Santa Lucia to Venice Mestre and then took a bus. We were supposed to take a 34H, but in the end took the wrong bus…… But we got there.

When we got the hotel it seemed like there was no one else there (there were other people there in the end). The lobby was huge and smelled brand new. The check in staff was courteous and nice. The room was a standard hotel room. I think a bit small but it was brand new and had a very modern feel – so that made everything feel good. LED lights from the behind the panels on the wall. USB charging outlets near the beds. A normal digital display A/C Unit. It was possible that the bed linen was being used for the first time. Very good experience. Besides for being  out of Venice proper it’s a good place to spend a night.
 

Monday

Bus / Train to Venice Mestre from Hotel:

Train from: Venice Mestre to Florence

 This train tip we took the Trenitlia train. When we booked online together the system did not put us together rather a few seats apart. I tried calling them but in end due the language barrier nothing happened we sat facing each other rather than next to other.

Train From Florence to Pisa Central

We meant to books tickets to Florence SMN so were able to use the luggage storage facility but I made another mistake and booked a train to Firenze Rifredi –only realized that mistake one we disembarked from the train. Had to take our luggage with us to Pisa.

Train from Firenze Rifredi to Pisa

Regular Regional train can buy at station right before. Our train was packed. Trip took around a hour. Trip can take anywhere from 48 minutes to 1 hour and 20 minutes not sure what it is based off. It costs 8 euro a person.

Walk to Leaning Tower of Pisa and back to train station

When we got to Pisa we first checked in our bags, 5 Euro per suitcase the whole day.

Some things we noticed about Pisa: While it has tourists, it does not give a touristy feel. It is really a lower class European city. We felt uncomfortable there. Near the train stations there some Muslims in Muslim garb hanging around and selling stuff.  It is around a 20 minute walk if you don’t get lost. There are some good websites that tell how to walk but if you go there just to see the tower take a bus from the train station.

Pisa Central to Florence SMN:

Costs around 8 – 10 Euro, depending on exact spot you leave from in Pisa to exact spot your going to in Florence

Walk around Florence

We didn’t have so much time but right the near the train station is Tourist office. It’s a real official place. I felt I like I was wasting time by walking in there but we told them how long we have and they gave us a nice route to walk to see all the main sites including a free map. If we would have realized what it was we could have easily spent more than 2 hours in Florence.

Train From Florence SMN to Rome Termini

This trip we got the Italo Rail Comfort Seats. The configuration was 2-1. We got to the 2 Seats. The seats we very wide. For us it was only a 2 euro difference in price due to the sale Personally I would have just stuck with Smart those seats are pretty comfortable but it was sold out. For me, Italo Rail beats Trentilia any day of the week.

Taxi from Rome Termini to Sheraton Roma

Went out to the taxi stand outside the Train Station, ( Remember the taxi first in line takes you, you cant really pick and choose drivers… unless you wait for someone to come along and take the driver you don’t want) paid around  15 euro because of suitcases for the ride. Drive was quick and smooth passed by Coliseum which was nice.

It seems like Rome is one of the those cities you can really tour at night since everything is lit up.

Sheraton Roma

I can’t say I was not warned but the hotel was not the nicest. We were definitely able to see its age. The place was always full and there tons people there, the front desk people were a little helpful. When we walked in the place did not smell clean. The check in agent did not really speak English and was not so nice ( I think he was an exception though). I was told I got a SPG upgraded room but could not really tell the difference. In the room, it was hard to find outlets to plug in the electronics. The bathroom was ok, you can tell it was old like there was stained dust ( is such  a thing) on some of the lights. The bathtub was nice and clean. If your looking for place to stay then its “ok” but if you’re looking for more then that definitely not this hotel!

 

Tuesday

Bus 780 to Jewish Ghetto and Jewish Ghetto Tour

Had a tour scheduled for afternoon with Jewish Roma Tours. Was supposed to take a city bus from hotel waited 35 minutes but bus never showed up. We took a taxi instead for 13 Euro.

 

Yotavtah Resturant

Getting there: From Great Synagogue on the main street. Walk down two blocks make a right by the second street and walk two blocks. Look for a supermarket which around the corner from it. ( Random: Supermarket has ketchup with a Manchester Beis Din hechser)

One of the restaurants the Rabbi I asked recommend. Good Place. They only opened at 6:30 but let us look at the menu before. We got Scottish smoked salmon on bed of arugula and pizza with anchovies. For desert we got chocolate sdrufolone. It is pretty much a wrap with chocolate inside. When it was eaten the hot heavy chocolate oozed out. Full of chocolate afterwards. For chocolate lovers it was really good.

Wednesday


Tour of Coliseum and Arch of Titus

Getting There: From the hotel we walked to Train Station – EUR Magliana ( for some reason Google Maps does not have walking directions but the hotel did – they gave a map). Walk out of hotel parking made a left and follow the street around a small curve. It is like a 10 minute walk to get there.

 

BY EUR Magliana there are two train lines on the same platform. One on the left on and one on the right. Make sure to get on the right train since if you’re rushing you might get mixed up and get on the train heading in the wrong direction. From there it was a 15 Minute ride to the Colleseo. Right when we got out we able to see the Coliseum. Used to a DDF’s trick and went across the street the Forums to buy tickets. (Thanks!) The line was around 15 minutes. The line by the Coliseum was much longer.

Started listing to Rick Steve’s when we were online waiting to buy tickets. This worked out really nicely since we weren’t bored waiting online and it seems like it was meant to be done. Rick Steve’s was entertaining with good sound effects and funny humor and really enjoyed him.

Should have but I didn’t download Rick Steve’s for the Roman  Forums.

Walk around Rome:

Used Rick Steve for “Walking Tour of Rome”. Printed out Maps beforehand. Getting to Rick Steve’s starting point from Coliseum is a little complicated. Alternatively, it might be closer if you start it after being in the Jewish Ghetto. The audio tour was amazing. Really Interesting and Informative. The other alternative is just to walk around Rome but with you this you get so much more out of it. It is about a mile long and you see most of the main fountains and sights he explains each one and their purpose. The directions are included in the audio but we printed out a map and it helped us a few times. Would highly recommend even more then paid tours of Rome! Also RS finishes the tour  right by the Spanish Steps which is right by the Spagna train station. Got on the train and switched by Termini and was back to Magliana Train Station in under a half hour!

These audio tours especially by Rick Steve’s are a great alternative to a tour guide. How many tours can you take, this is way different then a tour guide. 

Thursday

Time to Head home

Hotel shuttle to Airport

Was nice got a private ride to airport for 7 euro a person from hotel airport shuttle service. Wasn’t really a private ride just first car was full, so they added a second one for us and there was no one else in it.

FCO Airport

Nice airport. Everyone talks about an old airport. I thought it was little nicer and different than some airports.

Airport is split up into Europe flights and non Europe flights. When leaving Europe need to clear customs on way out. There was very long line for this. This when you get passport stamped. (at least when coming from ATH).

Ran around the airport to find lounges. First around D gates (before customs) - upstairs. Was nice a little older but you were able to pour your own drinks  ( I’m not joking! The other two in Priority Pass lounges in FCO they had a bar tender and you could not just pour the Coke or Sprite that you wanted.) when we checked in to the lounge they told us about the other lounge but its good we went to this lounge  The second one right down the hall was bigger but not as good food ( kosher and non kosher). The only kosher things the in the lounge were drinks and tea – I think. The third lounge was totally out our way but we went anyways. After clearing customs we walked and took a small train  to the 3rd Lounge. Then we walked some more, down some stairs and we got to it. Not worth it. They had some fruit and a bar tender  ( if I wanted Coke), no Coke to go. On the way back to the gates we had to pass through security again since in order to take the train the other way  we had to become arriving passengers and pretend like we were transferring . I wonder if there is a better way to do it. We did make to our gate in time.

 

FCO- TLV Alitalia

Was surprised they served full meals on board a 3 hour flight but they did. Unfornatley when I booked my flight there was no option for kosher meals and I thought they would just give out snacks, so I didn’t bother to mention before I flew to any Alitalia personnel about the kosher thing. However after asking a business class  steward ( we sat right behind a 6 six person business class section) then managed to track down one kosher meal  (we needed two but at least we got one). I personally like airline meals and this one was good the main was a cold pita with meat and mixed vegetables inside. Good flight and friendly stewards.

 

 
« Last Edit: September 06, 2017, 08:21:14 AM by AsherO »

Offline mochjas

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Re: Trip Report - Our Grand Tour of Italy
« Reply #1 on: August 23, 2017, 03:37:14 PM »
POIDH

Offline ckmk47

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Re: Trip Report - Our Grand Tour of Italy
« Reply #2 on: August 23, 2017, 04:01:42 PM »
Clear instructions for things and I like that you compared the different train options.


Offline jose34

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Re: Trip Report - Our Grand Tour of Italy
« Reply #3 on: August 23, 2017, 04:21:25 PM »
Thanks  ;D, That is on one of the reasons I wrote it. There were a lot of trip reports out written but actual place to place directions were not so clear. I also went to some new places that people did not really talk about. If you ( or anyone) has any questions I'll be happy to answer them.

Offline Z56

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Re: Trip Report - Our Grand Tour of Italy
« Reply #4 on: August 23, 2017, 04:22:08 PM »
Excellent trip review 😉
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Offline AtallD

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Re: Trip Report - Our Grand Tour of Italy
« Reply #5 on: September 08, 2017, 12:40:09 PM »
Nice! Thanks for writing this up!