Bella Italia

The land of romance and pasta provides great opportunities to see history, art, and natural beauty--and don't forget the shopping!


Bella Italia

Member Rating 0 out of 5 by rkaleal on December 9, 2005

While in Italy, I had a chance to see many different parts of the country, and the country has something for everyone. If one desires to see beautiful art, the Vatican or Roman Museums are a required stop. History buffs will also enjoy the country as there are numerous history rich areas, including Pompeii, the Vatican, ancient Rome--you get my drift. Cuisine is tasty as well, but be prepared to pay more than you would in the United States. Overall, Italy is a great destination for people of all ages and interests.${QuickSuggestions}

Have euros! There is nothing worse than trying to pay USD for your lunch and looking like the stupid American!

Hire A Guide: At most of the historical sites, I would recommend hiring a guide to show you everything there is to see. This will make sure you will see what is important and not miss the top features. Hiring a tour guide also can provide you with additional benefits: At the Vatican, many tour guides can wisk you to the front of the line, thus you avoid waiting hours to enter. But here is a quick caveat on the tour guides: Some of them are illegal! As crazy as this may sound, there are organizations which operate illegal tours - this usually means they will charge you for the tour and then no show. Make sure you ask to see their license from the Italian Government. Licensed tour guides are very knowledgeable about the areas they guide you though and well worth the cost.

Know what your prices include: A 10-euro lunch might sound pricey if you're in a rush (10 euro = approx $13), but remember to ask what it includes. Normally, restaurant owners will create "package" meals which include your dish, as well as a drink and the bread/water fee, as well as the tip. Yes! In Italy, there is a charge in most dining establishments for "bread/water".

Plan Ahead: As there is so much to see, DO NOT wait until arrival to plan your vacation. Figure out what you want to see before you even leave the U.S.

Pay the Premium Price: Hotels in good locations can get pricey, but it can be worth it. In Rome, my hotel was cheaper because it was on the outskirts of the city. It seemed to be a deal, but once we realized we couldn't walk into Rome at our leisure, it became apparent this wasn't that good of a bargain!

${BestWay} I would suggest renting a car. Cars in Italy are LHD, just like in the U.S., so there should be no issue there. If you plan to see the country from North to South, either book Eurostar tickets or fly from South to North. It could be a long haul from Sorrento to Milan!

The Isle of Capri

Member Rating 4 out of 5 by rkaleal on December 9, 2005

Capri, off the coast of Sorrento in southern Italy, is a great day-trip destination. There are plenty of historical things to see, as well as numerous shops, including big names like Zegna, Fendi, Prada, etc.

Make sure you head to the top of the island via the chairlift! Although this is a little bit scary, the views once you reach the top are unmatched and worth all the fear you experience during the chair-lift section. Know that the shops tend to close around lunchtime, so plan accordingly. After enjoying your meal, instead of heading directly to the shops, take a stroll around the island. There are plenty of beautiful villas and breathtaking views to occupy you while the Gucci shopkeeper is taking a break!

Other fun notes: Look out for famous people! Numerous famous people have homes on the island, so keep your eyes peeled! Also, Capri is a favorite location for shooting movies! Watch for this as well.


Musei Vaticani

Member Rating 5 out of 5 by rkaleal on December 12, 2005

Regardless of what religion you are, you MUST visit the Vatican City and the Vatican Museum. The architecture is amazing, and you will have a chance to see some of the works of the world's best artists: Michelangelo, Bernini, etc. St. Peter's Cathedral is beautiful as well, and the dome is breathtaking. St. Peter's Square is also awe-inspiring. Tickets are required, but they are reasonably priced. You will want to arrive very early in the morning (7-ish) to get in line outside the Vatican walls or you will be in for a long wait outside. Remember to dress appropriately--women cover the shoulders and knees and men should be in long pants. Also know that the Vatican can close up shop at any point during the day, another reason to show up early.

Even as a non-religious person, I found this excursion well worth my time. There is a lot of secular history within the walls of the Vatican City as well. Be prepared to be moved by the art and the atmosphere of the place itself.

Finally, remember that there is NO flash photography, so make sure you know how to turn your flash off. And in the Sistine Chapel there is no photography at all--if caught, the Swiss Guard will take your film.
Vatican
Vatican City
Rome, Italy

Pompeii

Member Rating 5 out of 5 by rkaleal on December 12, 2005

If you have ever studied history, you have heard of Pompeii. Next to Mt. Vesuvius, this site was buried under meters of ash when the volcano erupted, killing the Roman residents and preserving their remains.

At the site you will see the remains of this Roman resort town. There are buildings, including homes and shops, as well as religious sites and even art--frescoes are preserved and so are mosaics on the ground. It is an amazing feeling to WALK IN history.

You will have to pay a fee to enter, and I suggest hiring a guide. It will help you understand what you are seeing. There is lots of walking involved, and the walking is on cobblestone/brink roads, so wear comfortable shoes.

I enjoyed visiting Pompeii because I love history. Also, because the ash did such a good job at preserving the artwork, buildings, and yes, even the people, it provided me with an experience a museum could never provide.

It's a MUST-SEE.
Ancient City of Pompeii (Pompeii Scavi)
Pompeii
Naples, Italy

Ancient Rome

Member Rating 4 out of 5 by rkaleal on December 12, 2005

From just above the ruins you can see it all: the former senate building, the gate to Rome, and even the Colosseum. The best way to see the area is by walking around, and I would suggest hiring a tour guide. But here is a quick caveat: beware when hiring tour guides, as many are ILLEGAL! My friends and I experienced many of these illegal guides trying to sell us their services.

Also, you will want to wear comfortable walking shoes. I had come directly from the Vatican and was in my dress shoes. That made for a long walk around the site. Furthermore, it is my experience that a half-day will do at these sites. As interesting as they are, if you devote an entire day, you will likely get bored.

Amalfi Coast

Member Rating 5 out of 5 by rkaleal on December 12, 2005

This was one of my favorite destinations in all of Italy. After what seems like HOURS traveling the most curvaceous roads in Italy, and watching the scenery change from good, to better, to beautiful, you arrive. There is a nice beach area to play volleyball, sunbathe, or swim if you desire.

The people in Amalfi are very generous and welcoming as well. I was there with a group, and we played a concert at the Duomo, and what seemed to be the ENTIRE town showed up to watch us. Afterwards, the mayor let us use his office to change out of our uniforms, and took the time to personally meet each of us (there were around 250 of us there). Furthermore, the people at the different restaurants were friendly and were helpful as we tried to pick out a place to eat.

While in Amalfi, a great way to see the region is by boat tour. We went on one of these, and we got great views of the area and explanation of local history. Definitely worth the money.

I could talk about how beautiful the area is, but you should just look at the pictures: a picture is really worth a thousand words.

Amalfi is worth the drive and a great sight to see. Remember that it can get hot there, and the only way to guarantee air-conditioning is to book a five-star hotel.

Orvieto

Member Rating 4 out of 5 by rkaleal on December 12, 2005

Orvieto is a charming community which earns most of its income from wine in the Umbria region of Italy. This town has pleanty of history, a beautiful cathedral, and the BEST gelato in Italy. There is a gelato shop across from the cathedral which has the best in the town. STOP THERE!!!!

The people here are also very friendly, and the food is delicious as well. We also had a nice experience shopping for wine and other local items, and they were priced reasonably. Although I did not taste any, everyone who did said the wine was delicious.
Orvieto Sights & Attractions
Throughout Orvieto
Orvieto, Italy

Gypsies, Tramps, and Thieves

Member Rating 0 out of 5 by rkaleal on December 12, 2005

Although this may sound cliched, beware of gypsies while in Rome. We had experiences were they tried to rob us. Common tactics include distracting you with a baby while they pick your pocket, or pushing something into your stomach while they steal your money. In some cases they can be aggressive. My friend's grandparents, who are native Italians, have had to fight the gypsies off with an umbrella.

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