Author Topic: Mech's Rome & Venice Trip Report March 2015  (Read 10065 times)

Offline Mech

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Mech's Rome & Venice Trip Report March 2015
« on: March 19, 2015, 08:44:22 PM »
This is my first trip report! Here it goes!
This trip report is more on the style of being detailed because I want to make it easier for anyone else planning an itinerary like this and get ideas from me. So for all you that don't like this style, rather like short and to the point, sorry.
Firstly, I want to thank everyone here on DDF that helped me plan this trip, especially D93, Emkay, Yehoshua and @Yehuda. Thanx a million!
This trip was planned about 2 weeks before we went. We went back to Israel for my brothers Bar Mitzvah (on Purim)  and had a return ticket (on Turkish) a week and a half after Purim which was part of my return ticket from a year ago. Just to make this a little more simple - I live in Yerushalayim but came back to the states in December to have a baby. So this was the return ticket that I was supposed to take back to America at the end of the Zman.
For the time after Purim till our return home, my wife and I weren't interested in staying in Israel. And to make things even harder, our apartment was being rented out so we couldn't stay there. So we decided to go to Europe, which I've never been to before and I've been dying to go to Italy. So even though my wife was just there last January, when we were engaged, she was more than happy to go back.
We booked a round trip ticket on Alitalia for $327 per person plus $29 for my baby, which I paid for by selling $850 worth of UA and AA vouchers I received from them this year. Our route was TLV-FCO-VCE-FCO-TLV.
Wednesday 3/11
We left TLV-FCO at 5:50 am for a 23 hr 50 minute stopover in Rome. We had a full schedule planned for the day. My great uncle drove us to Ben Gurion, as he always does. I've never taken a Monit or tender/ sherut ever!! Got a row with an empty middle seat and my baby slept the whole plane ride! As a matter of fact on every single one of our flights (7 actually), we got an empty middle seat, besides the 2 long haul to and from Israel, where we got a bassinet.
The food on the plane was really nothing. We arrived early at 8:15am.
Now originally I booked the Roma Sheraton Golf Parco de' Medici Hotel for 7,000 starpoints but switched a day before my trip to the Sheraton Roma Hotel & Conference Center on the day that this hotel switched from a category 3 to a 2, totaling 4,000 starpoints. So right there I saved 3,000!! This hotel has a shuttle that goes directly from the airport to the hotel for 7 per person (which I never got charged for!) that only goes 3 times a day. But b"h we made the 9:15am one. We had the entire 50 person coach bus to ourselves!!
We got to the hotel at 9:45am and being a SPG Gold member, got upgraded and was able to check in super early!! Also took the gift of 250 starpoints. The hotel and room is a regular American style hotel. The outside looks like a dump but inside is a very nice Sheraron style hotel. (Sorry no pics). We were very comfortable. We rested up a bit cause we barely slept that night.
At 11:30am we left the hotel to go to the city. The train station is about an 8 minute walk from the hotel and another 10 minute ride to the city. A one ride pass costs 1.50. The train system was pretty easy to use. We got off at the Colosseum. The Colosseum is directly outside of the Metro.
(no that lady is not posing for my picture )
I was carrying my baby in a baby carrier and was very happy I did that. It would have been a pain to go with a stroller for many reasons - foot traffic, the cobble stone streets, not that many stairs but enough periodically for it to be annoying with a stroller. The only down side of the carrier is the we had to hold the diaper bag, which ended up carrying everything else that we were holding or bought.... Additionally, we ended up listening to the DDF advice and not do the hop on hop off bus. We walked everything instead. Good choice! Also, we didn't do any tours the whole trip. My wife was just there last year and did the Jewish Rome Tour and I'm not such a history guy. I was just interested in sightseeing. My wife filled me in on some history here and there.
I bought tickets to the Colosseum before online at www.italy-tickets.com for 36 for both of us, including entrance to the Roman Forums and the Palatine. I'm so happy I did that because the line to buy tickets by the Colosseum was out the door. There would have been no way we would have done it if we would have had to wait in line. In the Colosseum we used the Rick Steves audio tour on my iPhone. Thanx Yehoshua for that!  We were there for about an hour and fifteen minutes. 
We saw this on a wall in the Colosseum!

Outside the Colosseum, there were a bunch of Bangledashians (Indian looking guy) selling selfie sticks. The first guy that came over to us took it out of my hands in the middle of us talking cause the police we looking for illegal street peddlers. It's was really funny watching them running around trying to hide from the police. We ended up buying one from a guy who wanted 15 for it and my wife got him down to 10. That probably was the best money we spent on the trip. We love it! We were there for an hour and a half then walked to the  Arch of Constantine, Arch of Titus, The Roman Forums and Piazza Venezia.
On the way I saw this old hunched lady with a cup in her hands obviously collecting. She was entirely covered and hunched so much you couldn't see her face. She looked so familiar! Then I remembered that I saw a clip on YouTube a while ago about a lady who is a young 20 something year old girl who dresses up as this old lady collecting money raking it in. Check this out. It's over 5 yrs old. http://youtu.be/T2T9e3zoI_0
We then headed to the Jewish ghetto for the highlight of the day: Ba Ghetto!!!

Mozarella Sticks (Balls). AMAZING!!!! 10/10

Fried Red Rice Ball. Interesting 6/10

Salmon Pasta. Pretty good. 8/10
We also got the Avi Pizza, which was white pizza, with no tomatoe sauce with lots of cheese and tomatoes. Really good. 9/10 (dunno where the picture went)
Our bill was less than 40.
After we recharged our phones we went to the Shul. We weren't allowed in because they said it was closed until Mincha which was still in 1 1/2 hrs. Nu Nu. After, we went to get some Gelato!! Yum yum. I was a little disappointed that it wasn't Cholov Yisroel but the Pareve was still very good!We then made our way (with a few shopping stops) to the Trevi Fountain. All the fountains were off and gates were surrounding the fountain for construction. Bummer. After that we finally found the Spanish Steps. It's a beautiful area with all the fancy stores. I found a really cool women's shoe store nearby.
We were very tired, so we headed back to the hotel via the train. We got back to the hotel at 8:15 and felt satisfied that we saw most of what we wanted to (besides the Vatican). We were so tired that we fell asleep in our clothes.
Thursday 3/12
Our flight the next morning was at 8:25am from FCO to VCE. We took the 7am shuttle from the hotel and besides one other person, the entire coach bus was empty again. In the airport, since we had a baby/ stroller, we got to cut the check in, security and boarding lines.  And literally everywhere we went, we got comments about our bambino! Seems like babies are rare in Italy
That's it for Rome! Up next is Venice!!

Online yls2011

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Re: Mech's Rome & Venice Trip Report March 2015
« Reply #1 on: March 19, 2015, 09:07:31 PM »
Nice! Makes me miss Ba"Ghetto...

Offline @Yehuda

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Re: Mech's Rome & Venice Trip Report March 2015
« Reply #2 on: March 19, 2015, 09:10:32 PM »
Awesome! Glad you had a good time and oh - the memories!! Trevi Fountain was under construction last year, too. Can't believe they're still working on it. Sheesh.
1.5 hours just inside the Colosseum? I feel like we were in and out in under 1/2 hour. Did we miss something? lol

Offline Chapshnell

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Re: Mech's Rome & Venice Trip Report March 2015
« Reply #3 on: March 19, 2015, 09:11:29 PM »
read my TR, you shouldve taken a tour. ba'ghetto is awesome

Offline Mech

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Mech's Rome & Venice Trip Report March 2015
« Reply #4 on: March 19, 2015, 09:19:29 PM »
1.5 hours just inside the Colosseum? I feel like we were in and out in under 1/2 hour. Did we miss something? lol
Thanx! Well we did the Rick Steves tour which took a while. Plus pictures, the baby... Ya know what it's like....
read my TR, you shouldve taken a tour.
I didn't really have much time to read TR's before I went but I sure will read it now. The only thing I really wanted take a tour of was the Vatican.

Offline Chapshnell

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Re: Mech's Rome & Venice Trip Report March 2015
« Reply #5 on: March 19, 2015, 09:20:10 PM »
sorry, that was directed at yehuda

Offline @Yehuda

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Re: Mech's Rome & Venice Trip Report March 2015
« Reply #6 on: March 19, 2015, 09:22:19 PM »
sorry, that was directed at yehuda
I took of tour of the Colosseum (a bad one IMO), but it still was just a half hour in the actual building.

Offline D93

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Re: Mech's Rome & Venice Trip Report March 2015
« Reply #7 on: March 19, 2015, 09:57:31 PM »
Awesome stuff Mech! I can't agree with you more about not liking tours, rather doing everything yourself!
Really happy everything worked out for you! Looking forward for part 2!

Offline Yaalili

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Re: Mech's Rome & Venice Trip Report March 2015
« Reply #8 on: March 19, 2015, 09:59:36 PM »
Great thanks, planning VCE and FCO for summer hopefully.

Offline Yaalili

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Re: Mech's Rome & Venice Trip Report March 2015
« Reply #9 on: March 19, 2015, 10:01:46 PM »
Awesome stuff Mech! I can't agree with you more about not liking tours, rather doing everything yourself!

+1, bus tours can sometime be good, but walking history tours forget it. The one notable bus tour I did was in Cape Town, which I thought was really good, and all the locals were recommending it too. They have it in a very organized way.

Offline Mech

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Re: Mech's Rome & Venice Trip Report March 2015
« Reply #10 on: March 19, 2015, 11:22:53 PM »

Awesome stuff Mech! I can't agree with you more about not liking tours, rather doing everything yourself!
Really happy everything worked out for you! Looking forward for part 2!
Thanx!! Working on part 2. I didn't realize how much time writing them up takes. I can't believe you did your whole TR on the plane!

Offline Chapshnell

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Re: Mech's Rome & Venice Trip Report March 2015
« Reply #11 on: March 19, 2015, 11:37:38 PM »
I write my TR's like a diary... Every night I would write the days happenings... This way I remember every detail..

Offline Mech

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Re: Mech's Rome & Venice Trip Report March 2015
« Reply #12 on: March 19, 2015, 11:44:01 PM »

I write my TR's like a diary... Every night I would write the days happenings... This way I remember every detail..
I love that style! I actually did that on a bachurim trip I did to Israel with 4 other guys when I was still learning in America. We went on a 3 week trip. Every night, no matter what time, I would sit down and write every single detail of that day on actual paper!! I didn't end up finishing the whole thing. Did about 75%. I still have it and looked at it a little while ago!! It's so amazing to look back at good memories! The truth is without that I probably wouldn't remember most of that trip.
I would have loved to do that here to but as you will see further on, I fell asleep most nights with my clothes on
#newbornbaby

Offline E-MAN

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Re: Mech's Rome & Venice Trip Report March 2015
« Reply #13 on: March 20, 2015, 02:10:31 PM »
Great TR! Brings back some good memories

Offline Mech

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Re: Mech's Rome & Venice Trip Report March 2015
« Reply #14 on: March 20, 2015, 04:46:48 PM »
Venice
Thursday 3/12
We landed at 9:15am and took the boat bus to Venice. We bought a round trip ticket for 27. A one way is 15. We stayed at the Carnival Palace Hotel. It's about a 4 minute walk from the bus stop (guglie- pronounced goo-lia). The boat stop is a minute walk from Gam Gam. So about an 5 minute walk from the hotel to Gam Gam. We got to the hotel at 11:15 and they let us check in early. First they put us on the third floor in a big king room. We then asked them if we can switch rooms to a lower floor because I didn't want to shlep the stroller all the way up on shabbos. The rooms are beautiful! The bathroom is nice size and has a light that changes colors in the shower. (the last picture of our stroller)When the shower is on you can see the colors in the water! Pretty cool!
The hotel is a bit pricey but definitely worth the money. I also got partially sponsored by my aunt. It comes with a free breakfast, which nothing is kosher besides the fruit and jelly. There were a bunch of Jews in the hotel for the weekend. I even met someone by the #ddsjrslm that was also going to Venice for shabbos and stayed in the same hotel as us!! We ended hanging a bit together over the weekend!
The weather was sunny at a a high of 61F. A sweatshirt was enough for me.
At about 1 pm we headed out in the direction of San Marco square. We first made a stop in the Jewish Ghetto. I bumped into one of the Chabad bachurim whose a good friend of mine!  He is there along with 5 other bachurim doing a smicha program and helps out making a minyan during the week. They are also the waiters in Gam Gam on shabbos. We then continued along the scenic aka "shopping" route. Stopped off in the Borsalino store. No luck in getting anything cheaper than those bandits in Bencraft. It took us about an hour to get to San Marco. At the square we just chilled and walked around, looked at more shops and get swarmed with birds.
Not much to do there besides that. Unless, you wanna get a gondola ride. We didn't do it. I couldn't get myself to spend 80 on it. I did find someone to do it for 60 but then it was very windy and didn't want to keep my baby out so long. On the way back we got so lost. And to make things even worse both of our phones died. So I had to memorize Google maps before to get back to the hotel.
Supper was at Gam Gam at 8:15.

Chicken Soup with a Matzah Ball. Tasted like water.

We split a steak and meat spaghetti. Both were pretty good. Steak- 7/10. Spaghetti- 8/10.

Fried Artichoke. I didn't like them but my wife liked the batter.
Hit the sack at 11 and once again zonked out and fell asleep in our clothes. This was becoming a habit already.
Friday 3/13
Davened Shachris at Chabad at 9:30!! Now that's the way you do it on vacation. Bought some bakery items from the pizza shop. We're very good. I also brought cheese, a loaf of bread and a sandwich maker. Made ourselves some grilled cheese for lunch later.
At 11:30 we headed to Murano. It's about a 20 minutes boat ride, for 7 to the island. Murano is the Capitol for glass making and blowing. We made a little mistake by coming at 12 pm because that's when the glass factory employees take a lunch break until 2. So we walked around the islands, ate lunch and shopped until 2. We then headed to the CAM factory. It's located right near the first boat stop in Murano. A young guy about 25 escorted us to the back where they make the glass. It was pretty cool to watch them shape a glob of glass. After about 20 minutes the guy, who seemed to be In our face, told us to go with him to the showroom. We wanted to stay longer but he said no! Whatever. We went with him, and wow! What a showroom!! Totally stunning! He didn't let us take any pictures. He was following us around everywhere and it really felt like he was breathing down our backs, hoping we would buy something. Too bad for him. But it was worth it to see jaw dropping glass art!
At around 2:45 pm we then returned to Venice to get some late lunch in the pizza shop. Wasn't too bad. Friday night in the Chabad Shul was packed. All sorts of people. My Chabad bachurim friend made sure to get me into the first shift with a seat that I could put my stroller next to us. There were a bunch of chasidish Israeli bachurim singing the whole time. It was very leibedik! The food was a regular Friday night meal. Nothing to write home about. Dips, salmon, chicken on the bone, meat with rice. Hit the sack at 10:45 looking forward to an 11 hr night as Shachris was at 10am.
Shabbos 3/14
Shabbos in Venice is beyond chilled. The late Minyanim, heimishe atmosphere and of course free food,  make Venice arguably the number one place in Europe to go for shabbos. It is not a place you can get bored of. Mrs Mech was just there last year and we both made up that we beezras hashem will be back for another shabbos before next Pesach (when we move back to America).
There is a very interesting minhag in Venice. Anyone who gets an Aliyah, has to be mekabel to learn one thing of Chassidus - eg. One Perek of Tanya, a mamer from the rebbe.... So I got an Aliyah and was mekabel a perek of Tanya!!! Any mekor for that??
My Chabad bachur friend got us the same seats as the night before, for the first shift. The whole shabbos he kept on shtelling us with shnapps and the good red wines, bringing us extra food dishes and making sure we were taken care of!! I felt bad for the people that had tried getting to the first shift but had to wait, while I didn't have to do a thing to get my seats. Lunch was basic. Dips, salmon, cholent and kugel. I brought my own cold cuts. The meal ended at around 3:15. We went on a walk and found a beautiful place to sit at the edge of the ghetto, overlooking the big waters. Mincha and Shalosh Seudos took place in the Shul. Havdallah took a while. Outside in the ghetto square, we all wrapped our arm over each other's shoulders and sang hartzige songs!! An amazing way to let shabbos go!!
We decided that being that our flight the next morning was 7:50 am, we would pack right after shabbos then go out afterwards. The only thing that was open was Gam Gam. The pizza store only opens in the summer on motzai shabbos. Gam Gam was packed and the service was a little slow. And they kept on mixing up everyone's orders. I ordered a meat lasagna and my wife ordered the spaghetti salmon. Both were pretty good. We were thinking about going to the casino but want to get a few hours of sleep before our next day and a half of traveling.
Sunday 3/15
We checked out at 6:05 am and walked to the boat sop for the 6:18 am boat back to the airport. Sunrise from our boat. We made it to the airport at 6:40 am. Plenty of time till our flight. We checked in our bags till Tlv and was going to check in our stroller by the gate and have that go as well to Tlv. We only had a 2 hr stopover in Rome and didn't want to take out our stroller. (I put it in a transport bag and was a pain to reassemble). There was a plus and a minus in checking it to Tlv. The plus was that in Rome, we found a luggage cart that had a bay seat that was perfect for us. I was so pumped when I saw it I literally was jumping!! I've never seen this in an airport before. It's brilliant. Every airport should have it. It would be so much easier just checking ur stroller in with the rest of you bags and using this in the airport. The minus about it is the worst part of our trip. When we got to Tlv our stroller was no where to be found. I filed a claim and have harassed Alitalia and anyone I possibly can, to even tell me where it is. They have no idea. It's been 6 days already and they still have no clue. So far I've opened a delayed baggage claim with Chase  (I bought the tickets with my Sapphire Preferred) and hoping to get up to $100 a day for five days on "basic necessities". And if they can't find it, open a lost bag claim with Alitalia (probably won't get anything) and Chase. I'm wondering if I can also get reimbursed for purchase protection from Amex (platinum), which is the card I used to buy the stroller...??
It really was a shame that they had to screw up at the last possible second of our trip. We took 4 flights with them and everything was perfect until now. But I hope I'll make some money off of this
My uncle picked us up and we stayed at his house until 10:30 and we headed right back to the airport for our flights back to the states.  Still no stroller. We flew Turkish. Arrived in Istanbul at 3:15 am and headed to the Prime Class lounge thanks to Priority Pass. There we 2 huge couches that we snug up in for 2 solid hours of sleep. At 5:30 we woke up and wanted to go to the Turkish Lounge which only opened at 5am. Got in with my United Lounge Club Card. Wow! What a lounge! It's freakin huge and gorgeous. Tons of food station, with gourmet chefs making personal paninis, eggs, waffles, the like.... Virtual golf, movie room, pool table, kids playground, showers, massage, Xbox..... The list is endless. We only ended up chilling there for 45 minutes before we had to board. Heres a few pics. For anyone who wants to see what this is all about https://youtu.be/ClOqV_i9mRE.
This marks the end of my first trip report and first trip to Europe. We are hoping to make another Europe or Asia vacation in the summer. Maybe Spain or Bangkok.... Gotta start planning!!!