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» Hatrack River Forum » Active Forums » Books, Films, Food and Culture » Paris, Firenze, La Roma

   
Author Topic: Paris, Firenze, La Roma
RivalOfTheRose
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The wife and I are planning to visit Paris, Rome, and Florence over the summer.

Does any one have any travel tips or advice on where to stay or what to see?

Thank you!

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Queen of Men
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KOM and I have been to all of these places, albeit very briefly to Florence.

My #1 favorite thing in Rome: The Pope's Sunday service at the Vatican. Even if you're not Catholic, it's pretty cool to be able to say you've seen the Pope.

#2: Leather goods. Shoe shops on almost every street, ditto for purses and jackets. It doesn't matter if you only packed flip-flops, you'll have a new shoe wardrobe by the end of this trip.

1# in Paris: The Louvre. It's huge. Give yourself at least a day for this one.

#2: The pastries. Whether it's from a bakery or a sidewalk vendor, you don't have to spend much to be happy. A crepe with melted Nutella for 4€? Mais oui!

#1 in Florence: The Statue of David.

#2: Didn't spend enough time here to absorb more than the basics. Sorry.

Travel tips:

KOM and I have been to Europe a few times, and we've had our best luck booking our hotels with this website: http://www.kayak.com/

When booking a hotel, make sure it's within walking distance of a subway or train stop. Usually the hotel description will say if it is, but you may want to Google Map it (with postcode) to be sure.

The Metro is the best way to get around Paris, and the bus lines and trams are very good in Rome and Florence. If you're going to be in town for a few days, buy a weekly pass -- they're economical, unlimited, and make it easy to explore random parts of town at a moment's whim.

Of course, taking the Metro from de Gaulle to your hotel is difficult if you have a lot of luggage. Which is why I recommend reading this before you pack:
http://www.ricksteves.com/plan/tips/packlight.htm

If you're staying in any of these cities for a week or longer, you may be able to rent an apartment for a similar price to staying in a hotel. Just google something like "Paris apartment."

You can find more travel tips at http://www.ricksteves.com/ , including things like safety (there's a reason Roman women wedge their purses tight under the armpit) and transportation.

Finally, I would recommend that you obtain the newest edition of the guidebooks for these cities. I prefer Lonely Planet (their Encounter series is compact and nicely organized) or Rick Steves (great travel tips), but that's a matter of taste. The selection of English guidebooks in your local bookstore or library may often be better than the cheese populating souvenir stalls, so obtain and read your guidebooks ahead of time.

Oh, and since internet access may not always be dependable, I'd recommend printing out any information that you may need during your trip, such as the addresses you'll be sending postcards to. In Paris, you can print out stamps for your postcards at any post office. But in Rome (and possibly Florence), stamps come from the tabacchi (tobacco shop), not the post office.

Hope this helps!

[ December 21, 2010, 11:37 PM: Message edited by: Queen of Men ]

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dem
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We did 17 days in Italy a couple of years ago. Best vacation ever.

Stayed one week in a villa about 20 minutes south of Firenze (montespertoli) and it just happened to coincide with the area's wine festival. We did day trips to Cinque Terre, Venice, Pisa, Florence and Milan. Really liked Cinque Terra and Venice (which surprised me).

Stayed one week in a villa about an hour south of Rome (roccasecca). Absolutely loved Roccasecca. St. Thomas Aquinas was born in the ruins at the top of the mountain and each iteration of the city moves down the mountain. We actually got to explore the ruins (which were not public) because the guard couldn't believe people for the U.S. had come to Roccasecca. I think they are now open to the public. 2 Days in Rome, 1 day exploring the back country, drove the Almafi Coast (scary but beautiful) and Pompeii. Vatican tour is a must as is Colosseum.

3 days in the lake district for a wedding. Amazing area with the alps in the background and glass like lake.

Tips:
-Hard to find food when you want it. Eat whenever you get the chance.
-Cinque Terre...we parked at the top of Cinque Terre national park and walked down. A little scary (no lawyers in Italy I guess), but amazing.
-We rented a car and drove everywhere. No real problems.
-Pompeii is expensive and not really worth it to me
-Almafi coast is very tough to drive. Don't do it if you are afraid of heights. However, views are amazing.
-Just hold your camera out the car and click away. I had a SD card that held about 700 photos and went for volume. It is amazing how many good shots I have. My camera worked best without a flash (even in the churches that allowed them).
-Gelato (italian ice cream) is the greatest desert in the world. We (and the italians, apparently) ate some multiple times a day.
-Each region has there own distinct food (and don't really like you asking for the wrong thing...though not rude like Paris can be)
-Grappa = Italian moonshine (i loved it)

If you would like exact placed I stayed, would be happy to get them for you. We had 6 people staying and used villas with 3 bedrooms.

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Orincoro
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I spend several weeks a year in Paris. It's easy to get around in and to see lots of interesting things, but on the other hand I'm glad I never had to do the "I'm here for three days" math there. I'll just give you a few things that will save you some hassle and agitation when you're there. These are not the main features of the city, but they comprise a couple of the most common problems for tourists.

Regarding public areas, do not speak to or look at Gypsies or Africans who approach you. No matter what they say. They are interested in taking your money, and as much of it as they can. Typically there will be some scam involving a ring, or a necklace, or a confusing story about a phone or a car. Pay no attention. Don't allow anyone to put anything in your hand or to touch you. Common sense perhaps, but tourists find themselves overwhelmed by aggressive grifters in this city all the time. Typically you will find them at Sacre Cour, The Eiffel tower, and along the river banks, as well as perhaps on the island.

And as for these places, I'll just tell you how I like to enjoy them. The Eiffel tower is *only* enjoyable very early in the morning, or very late at night. At other times it is so crowded as to be virtually impenetrable, at least during tourist season. Same for Sacre Cour, though that's not as bad. If you visit, do it after dinner or first thing, and wake up early.

One of my favorite things in Paris is to go to La Defense, the big (like BIG) commercial center. There isn't *that* much to do over there, but it's impressive in scale and design, and there are some good outlet shops if you want to buy discount clothing, which is not the norm in Paris.

As is always the case, trying to do too much will guarantee you have a crappy time. Before you go, look up a couple of restaurants that are highly recommended in the city, and go ahead and call to make reservations for the nights you know you will be in town. If they don't speak English (unlikely), ask your hotel to call for you. That way, there's no arguing over "I'm tired, I wanna eat, but my friend told me I have to eat in a restaurant that has x and I can't find x or I was thinking of y and y is not something I am familiar with... blah blah blah." No shame in booking your restaurant plans before you arrive in town. That way you are sure where you're gonna eat, and you can save the inevitable grumpy dinner by hopping in a taxi or on the metro and going straight to your destination without having to loiter outside 10 restaurants with indecision. Granted, if you are a seasoned traveler, you are better at picking a place to eat, but if you're the typical tourist, you will walk around all evening looking, then choose somewhere really overpriced and crappy and hate yourself. Just do the research in advance and you'll feel better.

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Mucus
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Spent five days in Rome last year, could have spent much more. For me, Rome is one of the top cities in the world when it comes to having both interesting ancient sites and interesting modern sites to visit.

The public transit isn't terribly well-run but adequate for the main places I wanted to visit. There's a Roma Pass that gives you access to something like three days of unlimited transit, access to two museums/sites, and reduced tickets to sites after that. I found it worth it just to skip the huge tourist lines to the Coloseeum just to buy tickets.

The Vatican tour is definitely worth a look, but the highlight for me was the Vatican Museum. Lots of nice loot and swag, plus the building itself is quite notable. Probably worth a day to itself if you're also into those kinds of things.

Spent a lot of time walking around the city, checking out museums, tourist sites, and what not. If you come across the Park of the Seven Acqueducts, lower your expectations, although it can be a nice walk if you have excess time.

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RivalOfTheRose
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Thanks for the tips guys! I greatly appreciate them, and will put them to good use.
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King of Men
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Point to note: It is actually possible to get kicked out of churches in Rome if they don't think you're appropriately dressed. Long sleeves, no shorts.
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kmbboots
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If you can make a reservation for the museums (I am thinking specifically of the Uffizi but there could be others) you will avoid standing in long lines.
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Mucus
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quote:
Originally posted by King of Men:
Point to note: It is actually possible to get kicked out of churches in Rome if they don't think you're appropriately dressed. Long sleeves, no shorts.

Worth emphasizing. There was a couple ahead of me after taking this shot that got refused entry to St. Peters for a sleeveless dress.
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Queen of Men
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I'd also like to add these two things:

1. When in a museum, spend the few extra Euros and rent an audioguide if possible. Sometimes, it will contain the only English descriptions available. Or check the attraction's website to see if they offer English tours. Also, because the audioguides for part of Versailles are held on (ancient) iPods, they'll want to hold your passport as collateral.

2. Safety concerns are different than in America (if that's where you're writing from). Due to strict gun control laws, muggings are rare in Europe but pick-pockets are common, especially in crowded tourist areas. Some people use money-pouches worn under the shirt, but you should never access these in public (for daily needs, keep small change in a pocket). Personally, I keep a small wallet in my front pocket just as I do at home, and have never had any problem with it. If it doesn't fit in my pocket, I leave it buried in the suitcase (or backpack - pack light!) in my hotel room.

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Queen of Men
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quote:
Originally posted by King of Men:
Point to note: It is actually possible to get kicked out of churches in Rome if they don't think you're appropriately dressed. Long sleeves, no shorts.

Yeah, KOM's talking about me. I was kicked out of one cathedral for wearing a spaghetti-strapped dress and almost kicked out of another for telling KOM something too loudly.

By the way, Rick Steves suggests that if your uncovered shoulders keep you from exploring some church, you can quickly cover up with a cheap tee shirt from a nearby souvenir stall.

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Tammy
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quote:
Originally posted by Queen of Men:
quote:
Originally posted by King of Men:
Point to note: It is actually possible to get kicked out of churches in Rome if they don't think you're appropriately dressed. Long sleeves, no shorts.

Yeah, KOM's talking about me. I was kicked out of one cathedral for wearing a spaghetti-strapped dress and almost kicked out of another for telling KOM something too loudly.

By the way, Rick Steves suggests that if your uncovered shoulders keep you from exploring some church, you can quickly cover up with a cheap tee shirt from a nearby souvenir stall.

Or just buy a beautiful scarf to wrap around your shoulders.
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Queen of Men
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quote:
Originally posted by Mucus:

The public transit isn't terribly well-run but adequate for the main places I wanted to visit. There's a Roma Pass that gives you access to something like three days of unlimited transit, access to two museums/sites, and reduced tickets to sites after that. I found it worth it just to skip the huge tourist lines to the Coloseeum just to buy tickets.

Little known tip: A combo pass for the Forum, Coloseum, and Palatine Hill is sold at the last two attractions. The line at Palatine Hill is much shorter.

Also, without luggage, I was able to walk from Termini Station (on one side of Rome proper) to the Vatican (on the other) in less than an hour. So don't always feel like you have to board an ultra-crowded bus. Rome is actually scaled for pedestrians, not cars.

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