Saturday, May 31, 2014

Some things I learned this trip

1. Speaking a little Italian is very helpful. Yes, most people in the tourist industry speak some English but on more than one occasion, I was able to communicate enough to get the help we needed from non-English speakers.

2. You will walk more than you can imagine. So wear comfortable shoes and eat a lot of gelato (you'll walk it off)!

3.  We will avoid US Airways if at all possible.

4.  Having a lot of time for connecting flights upon returning to the US is imperative if going through any east coast hub.  With our flight delay, we only had 2 hours and is was almost not enough.

5.  You can bring Duty Free items through US security (after customs) if the bag remains sealead and intact.

6.  I will make sure that the wifi is connecting to my device before the apartment greeter leaves.  In Venice, the wifi didn't work and management was not helpful by phone in resolving the problem.

APPS (iphone): 
1.  Skype (free) was super helpful.  I bought $4.99 credit to call non-skype lines and still have $2.00 left over.  With a good wifi signal, it's fantastic and easy to make calls home or locally.

2. Mangia: Italian Menu Decoder ($4.99): easy to use, comprehensive and extremely helpful.  We used it practically every time we ate out.

3. Eat Venice ($1.99): Elizabeth Mincilli's guide to eating well in Venice.  We dined at two places she recommended and enjoyed both.  With more time we would have used it more.

4.  Facebook (free): I uploaded pictures and quick posts during the trip to keep everyone back home updated.  I could do this quickly wherever free wifi was available. 

1.  The transportation pass was worth it and we definitely got our money's worth out of it.  But we did use taxis too and those were generally inexpensive for three people.

2.  Streetwise Rome map was great.  It's been our go-to map for four trips to Rome and will be with us next time, too.

3.  I researched restaurants before leaving home but we only ate at one of them (Armando al Pantheon).  Next time I will get the Eat Rome or Katie Parla Eats app to have recommended places in a handy guide.

4.  Trastevere is a great neighborhood but I wouldn't recommend it for first timers.  It's not as convenient to major tourist sights and transport links as other more central areas.  We like it because it feels different, in a good way, from eg. the Pantheon or Colosseum areas, and seems quieter and slower too.

5.  Bathrooms are scarce so don't leave that museum or restaurant without going first!

6.  The Vatican Museums official guided tour was very good.  But the St. Peter's Basilica part was not worth it (except for being able to skip the security line for the Basilica).

7.  The bathroom situation at St. Peter's Basilica is ridiculous.  You have to exit the "secured" area to use the limited facilities and if you want to go back into the Basilica, you have to wait in the long security lines again.  Not good!

1.  A car is a must if you want to explore this area.  But it takes longer than you expect to get anywhere.  You will get lost and that's OK!

2.  Autostrada tolls can be high but the small non-toll roads can be confusing, twisty, turny, and nausea inducing with beautiful views. So getting off the main highway is worth it!

3.  With just two nights, we didn't see much of this area.  If we go back to Tuscany, it would have to be for a minimum of 5 nights to do it any kind of justice.

1.  The Hertz people at the Piazzale Roma rental car return office were the rudest we have ever met.  Be prepared for major sour attitudes if you have to return your car there.

2.  If you're in Venice for 5 nights, get the 7 day vaporetto pass.  You'll get your money's worth!

     a. Always have a ticket when you ride the vaporetto.  We got checked several times.  One
        man ran away from the ticket checkers because he didn't have a pass.  It's an expensive fine.

    b.  Always swipe your ticket or pass before getting on the vaporetto.  Do it EVERY time!

    c.  Please take off your backpack on board.

    d. Please don't hog a seat with your luggage when the boat is crowded. 

3.  The museum pass was worth it for us.  We used it at the Doge's Palace, Correr Museum, Ca'Rezzonico, the Lace Museum on Burano, and the Glass Museum on Murano (not worth it without the pass due to extensive ongoing renovations). 

4.  The Secret Itineraries tour was very good.  But some of the the rooms are small and poorly ventilated.  I imagine it's hot in the summer time.

5.  Streetwise Venice was very helpful.  It was more helpful than Ulmon Venice (free app) and the paper maps we got at the apartment.  We didn't really get lost or totally turned around using it. 

6.  We loved staying in the apartment.  We prefer apartments over hotels.  But they don't come with support for questions about, for example, how to get to the airport for our flight home (I asked at a little hotel nearby).

7.  Don't book the top center seats at La Fenice.  It's a U shapped theatre and the seats on the side have awkward sight lines.  Next time, I'll look for seats in the U curve.  (I know this  probably makes no sense, sorry).

8.  The traghetto is a fun way to get across the Grand Canal.  We took it during off peak hours and the ?gondoliers? were very friendly and playful even (swiped my sunglasses off my head for a laugh).

9. We loved exploring Canareggio after our Row Venice tour and when we got off the vaporetto at Fondamenta Nove.  It seems a lot less touristy than many other areas we walked around in Venice.

10.  Row Venice was a fun experience.

11.  Burano is so stinking cute.  I would love to take every woman I know there!

12.  Shopping on Murano was fun and the prices so much better than on Venice.

13.  5 nights in Venice was nowhere near enough time there. I have a long list of things we want to do "next time."

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