Sicily/Rome

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ContinentalDrifterIII
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Sicily/Rome

Post by ContinentalDrifterIII »

This will be my first trip to Italy. I was wondering if anyone has any tips on what to see and do.
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Post by chalksoperations »

I have been out to Sicily every year for about 2 weeks since 92 with my reserve unit. We fly out of Sigonella, which is about a 20 minute drive on the A19 from Catania. Catania is a neat place to be in the daytime, real old world Sicily like Palermo and Marsala. Avoid it at night on account that it basically shuts down and gets dark. You don't want to be there.

There are many really interesting places to go for a day trip. North of Catania along the shore is Taormina. It is a town built on a hillside, fantastic views of the Med. The original settlers had been chased out of every other village they were in so they built this place on the hill to make it harder to be kicked out. So many great walking views and shops. Take in a bite at many of the outdoor eateries with a view of the sea.

There are some great ruins over on the west side of the island at Agrigento, which is about a 1.5 hour drive from Catania. There are the catacombs up in Palermo which are great to see if you have the time as well.

There are great deals on gold in Medina, outside of Catania. If you are shopping around the countryside, before long you will notice the abundance items made in the form of chickens. Cookie jars, flour containers, etc. Story is that there was once a very powerful family who had a plot against them to have them killed. When the would be assasins entered the estate grounds, they frightened the chickens and they made such a racket that the killers left to avoid being noticed. When word got out of the plan, the family had the chicken canonized.


Remember, in Italy the term "Prego" is used for thank you, that meal was great, and a host of other things good.

One thing to keep in mind in Sicily. You are in a foreign country...one of the best places to experience this is in a restaurant. In Sicily, no meal comes quick. Please do not stop into a place with the mindset of getting a quick bite and leaving. This plainly just does not happen. If you have a good meal in Sicily, it should take you a good 2 hours or so. Take your time and enjoy it.

Enjoy the trip and "Prego"

ContinentalDrifterIII
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Post by ContinentalDrifterIII »

Thank you very much! That sounds amazing. I am very excited and I will take off my New Yorker hat for a couple weeks and just relax and go at the local's pace. A 2 hour lunch sounds perfect. We will be in Sicily for a week so I want to see as much as I can. I love the story about the chickens. I'll pass that along to my fellow travelers when we are there.

Ciao and Prego :D
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Post by FunkHouse9 »

I took a tour of the Vatican museums, Basilica and Sistine Chapel as well as a tour of the Roman Forum & Colosseum through Angel Tours. The tours are run by students and were pretty good. You only have to pay if you're satisfied with the tour (we were) and I believe they were cheaper than some of the others.

I was able to get in on a tour of the excavations below the Basilica at St. Peter's at the Vatican to what is said to be St. Peter's grave. You need to request a spot in advance by contacting the Vatican via email. It was pretty cool getting to go down there. Only a small number of people are allowed in there per day. It was cool because it's something most visitors to Rome don't get to do.
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Post by buffettbride »

Ohhhhhhh!!!! Paint me jealous!!!

Italy is very high on our list of "must dos."

From a good friend, I heard Florence is simply AMAZING.

Hubby's family is from a small town near Pescara on the Adriatic coast. :D
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Post by Down2TheC »

Been a while, but Catacombs were cool and we scrapped plans to have a second day at the Vatican. It would take a week to properly take that in.
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Post by ContinentalDrifterIII »

Great info everyone. I will look into the Angel tour and try to request a spot to go down and see the grave. Please keep your tips comin :D
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Post by ContinentalDrifterIII »

FunkHouse9 wrote:I took a tour of the Vatican museums, Basilica and Sistine Chapel as well as a tour of the Roman Forum & Colosseum through Angel Tours. The tours are run by students and were pretty good. You only have to pay if you're satisfied with the tour (we were) and I believe they were cheaper than some of the others.

I was able to get in on a tour of the excavations below the Basilica at St. Peter's at the Vatican to what is said to be St. Peter's grave. You need to request a spot in advance by contacting the Vatican via email. It was pretty cool getting to go down there. Only a small number of people are allowed in there per day. It was cool because it's something most visitors to Rome don't get to do.
Question, since my Italian is very limited, do the students speak english or only Italian?
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Post by That Darn Mermaid »

You'll be surprised by how many *students* speak English ... and maybe five other languages. It's quite humbling! Do try to at least cram some courtesy phrases for when you're speaking to older adults.

I, too, put in a vote for Tuscany if your itinerary allows. The scenary is breathtaking even if all you can do is train your way through it.

No matter what you do, you'll have a mind-blowing time!

Enjoy!

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Post by FunkHouse9 »

ContinentalDrifterIII wrote:
FunkHouse9 wrote:I took a tour of the Vatican museums, Basilica and Sistine Chapel as well as a tour of the Roman Forum & Colosseum through Angel Tours. The tours are run by students and were pretty good. You only have to pay if you're satisfied with the tour (we were) and I believe they were cheaper than some of the others.

I was able to get in on a tour of the excavations below the Basilica at St. Peter's at the Vatican to what is said to be St. Peter's grave. You need to request a spot in advance by contacting the Vatican via email. It was pretty cool getting to go down there. Only a small number of people are allowed in there per day. It was cool because it's something most visitors to Rome don't get to do.
Question, since my Italian is very limited, do the students speak english or only Italian?
I speak no Italian except what I picked up in a travel book I read on the plane. The students/guides for Angel Tours spoke English. I believe both guides I had were from England, so their English, although a bit annoying, was remarkably good. The Vatican tour guide spoke enough English to do the tour, but it wasn't great.
Most of the places we went in Rome had people who spoke enough English to communicate with those who didn't speak Italian.

A couple bits of advice. Count your change when they give it to you. I caught a couple of people trying to short change me and they tried to cover it with a language barrier. Every time, with some persistence, I got the correct money.

I felt safe everywhere I went and really didn't have any trouble, but I did catch a guy trying to slip my camera out of my pocket on the subway, so be aware of your valuables at all times anywhere you travel.
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Post by flipflopgirl »

Don't have any tips....never been! BUt i hope to some day! Have a wonderful time! Can't wait to see pictures!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! :D :D :D
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Post by OttoCal »

The Tour of the excavations below St. Peter's Basilica that funkhouse mentions is called the Scavi Tour, and it is fabulous.
You reqest your spoken language, the tours are very limited in size, and led by a Catholic student of archeology/ancient religion or some such. It is so cool to show your confirmation fax/e-mail and go past the Swiss Guards that are on the left of the basicilca entrance 8)
You don't get to take photos, and no backpacks allowed.

We also really enjoyed the Borghese Gallery, which is a lovely museum with fabulous Bernini Sculptures. We took a tour there, (also in English), led by an art history student, and she was so enthusiastic.

If you are there during football (soccer) season, Sunday is game day at Olympic Staduim. Either Roma or Lazio will play each week- they share home field- and that was really a fun outing.

Eat Gelato every day.

I am a fan of Rick Steves & DK/Eyewitness Guidebooks, especially the 'Top 10' city series. You need a combination of books, don't rely on just one, and research before you commit- they are expensive, and a bad one is not worth the weight it will take to carry it around.

Watch out for hustlers & gypsies on trains & in train stations and around major tourist sites. Never fall for the accented 'Do you speak English' line from scruffy looking folks, that just leads you down the wrong road. The metro is Rome is the easiest one I have ever been on. 2 lines, like a big X.

The Colosseum tour was dissapointing, better off w/ the info in Rick Steves. But a tour is a must for the Roman Forum/Palatine Hill, or you won't know what the heck is going on. We didn't take a tour and were so lost.

Pizza restaurants are for dinner, not lunch. Dinner & lunch are both later than us americans are typcially used to.

what time of year are you going? How many people in your group?

Here are some of my Rome Highlight photos:
http://picasaweb.google.com/lisa.everts/RomeHighlights
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Post by FunkHouse9 »

OttoCal wrote:The Tour of the excavations below St. Peter's Basilica that funkhouse mentions is called the Scavi Tour, and it is fabulous.
You reqest your spoken language, the tours are very limited in size, and led by a Catholic student of archeology/ancient religion or some such. It is so cool to show your confirmation fax/e-mail and go past the Swiss Guards that are on the left of the basicilca entrance 8)
You don't get to take photos, and no backpacks allowed.
Scavi Tour! I couldn't remember the name. If you're interested in it, here's the Vatican web page about it. You can email the dates you could do the tour to them and they will send you a confirmation if it is available. FYI, they pretty much tell you when you're going. So, make sure you specify the times you can do it.

http://www.vatican.va/roman_curia/insti ... 12_en.html
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Post by aeroparrot »

If you're going to Tuscany, I had heard there are a lot of tours that will take you to some of their vinyards. You'll get to spend overnight in the local castle, have a full Tuscan meal with wine, and I think you may be able to take a bottle of that wine home (I am assuming that the price for the bottle is included in the tour price but not sure).
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Post by ContinentalDrifterIII »

OttoCal wrote:The Tour of the excavations below St. Peter's Basilica that funkhouse mentions is called the Scavi Tour, and it is fabulous.
You reqest your spoken language, the tours are very limited in size, and led by a Catholic student of archeology/ancient religion or some such. It is so cool to show your confirmation fax/e-mail and go past the Swiss Guards that are on the left of the basicilca entrance 8)
You don't get to take photos, and no backpacks allowed.

We also really enjoyed the Borghese Gallery, which is a lovely museum with fabulous Bernini Sculptures. We took a tour there, (also in English), led by an art history student, and she was so enthusiastic.

If you are there during football (soccer) season, Sunday is game day at Olympic Staduim. Either Roma or Lazio will play each week- they share home field- and that was really a fun outing.

Eat Gelato every day.

I am a fan of Rick Steves & DK/Eyewitness Guidebooks, especially the 'Top 10' city series. You need a combination of books, don't rely on just one, and research before you commit- they are expensive, and a bad one is not worth the weight it will take to carry it around.

Watch out for hustlers & gypsies on trains & in train stations and around major tourist sites. Never fall for the accented 'Do you speak English' line from scruffy looking folks, that just leads you down the wrong road. The metro is Rome is the easiest one I have ever been on. 2 lines, like a big X.

The Colosseum tour was dissapointing, better off w/ the info in Rick Steves. But a tour is a must for the Roman Forum/Palatine Hill, or you won't know what the heck is going on. We didn't take a tour and were so lost.

Pizza restaurants are for dinner, not lunch. Dinner & lunch are both later than us americans are typcially used to.

what time of year are you going? How many people in your group?

Here are some of my Rome Highlight photos:
http://picasaweb.google.com/lisa.everts/RomeHighlights
Thanks for sharing your pictures! I am going in July with a group of 6. I have family there also so we will spend some time with them and try and get a local feel for the city. Unfortunatly I do not think we will be able to make it to or through Tuscany. :( I bought all of the Rick Steves books and have been reading up. Thanks for your tips! :D
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Post by OttoCal »

ContinentalDrifterIII wrote:
OttoCal wrote:The Tour of the excavations below St. Peter's Basilica that funkhouse mentions is called the Scavi Tour, and it is fabulous.
You reqest your spoken language, the tours are very limited in size, and led by a Catholic student of archeology/ancient religion or some such. It is so cool to show your confirmation fax/e-mail and go past the Swiss Guards that are on the left of the basicilca entrance 8)
You don't get to take photos, and no backpacks allowed.

We also really enjoyed the Borghese Gallery, which is a lovely museum with fabulous Bernini Sculptures. We took a tour there, (also in English), led by an art history student, and she was so enthusiastic.

If you are there during football (soccer) season, Sunday is game day at Olympic Staduim. Either Roma or Lazio will play each week- they share home field- and that was really a fun outing.

Eat Gelato every day.

I am a fan of Rick Steves & DK/Eyewitness Guidebooks, especially the 'Top 10' city series. You need a combination of books, don't rely on just one, and research before you commit- they are expensive, and a bad one is not worth the weight it will take to carry it around.

Watch out for hustlers & gypsies on trains & in train stations and around major tourist sites. Never fall for the accented 'Do you speak English' line from scruffy looking folks, that just leads you down the wrong road. The metro is Rome is the easiest one I have ever been on. 2 lines, like a big X.

The Colosseum tour was dissapointing, better off w/ the info in Rick Steves. But a tour is a must for the Roman Forum/Palatine Hill, or you won't know what the heck is going on. We didn't take a tour and were so lost.

Pizza restaurants are for dinner, not lunch. Dinner & lunch are both later than us americans are typcially used to.

what time of year are you going? How many people in your group?

Here are some of my Rome Highlight photos:
http://picasaweb.google.com/lisa.everts/RomeHighlights
Thanks for sharing your pictures! I am going in July with a group of 6. I have family there also so we will spend some time with them and try and get a local feel for the city. Unfortunatly I do not think we will be able to make it to or through Tuscany. :( I bought all of the Rick Steves books and have been reading up. Thanks for your tips! :D

You are going to have a great time.
Plan to go to Tuscany another time, they really are two trips, unless you are going for 3 weeks!!
Still haven't made it to Venice or the very South of Italy, so I have two trips to make in the future. Got some other places still on the list though :wink:

July will be HOT, but shorts will mark you for an american tourist. Check out some of those golf pants for guys- they are very lightweight. Especially if you will visit churches, no shorts allowed. Skorts make a nice piece for ladies. Plan to re-wear as much as you can, will be harder when it is so hot out, or bring some powdered laundry detergent and wash out a few things along the way.

Rick Steves can be quite helpful, especially for getting around inexensively and like a local. As long as you can overlook his quirky style of prose. But if you have seen him on TV, you will soon see that he writes just like he speaks. :roll:

A fun game at the major tourist sites is to see how many guidebooks in different languages you can pick out. We all have the same ones in different languages! It is pretty funny to see Rome spelled out so many different ways.

Is the family in Sicily & extra tour time in Rome? Let me know if you want any extra Rome tips. Don't try to drive in Rome.It's just not possible. And driving in the rest of the country is only advised if you are an experienced stick-shift driver AND have good city/NJ/MASS or other crazy people locations driving skills. :P

And if you don't know the regional food specialties yet, try to figure out what belongs where. Carbonara is Roman, Pizza is everywhere but originates from Naples, etc.
Order gelato in multiples- like 2 or 3 flavor combinations, and always try the house special. It might be something fun like honey or pomegranate. You'll need some help translating some flavors. Know what at least one favorite is in advance, and build a combination around that. I'm partial to pistachio, and usally get a fruit and the house special.
Never eat at a restaurant that advertises it's menu in English or has a Maitre' d guy stading outside trying to reel you in. Struggle through the places that don't need to attract tourists for a better meal and a more authentic experience.

And a good way to minimize costs in general is to really plan for that 2 hour lunch at 1:00 at a nicer restaurant, then a dinner at a pizzeria later. They have less expensive lunch menus like some places do here.

Make sure you only order stuff like cappuchino or cafe americano at breakfast. Espresso / cafe otherwise, and watch how they drink it there. No sipping- just toss it back while standing at the bar then leave. It's an art form that you really have to see. I don't know how they do it when it is so hot, I have to wait a few minutes for it to cool down.

Check out the forums at Trip Advisor for more great tips too, that is a really nice bunch that posts on there.
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Post by ContinentalDrifterIII »

OttoCal wrote:
ContinentalDrifterIII wrote:
OttoCal wrote:The Tour of the excavations below St. Peter's Basilica that funkhouse mentions is called the Scavi Tour, and it is fabulous.
You reqest your spoken language, the tours are very limited in size, and led by a Catholic student of archeology/ancient religion or some such. It is so cool to show your confirmation fax/e-mail and go past the Swiss Guards that are on the left of the basicilca entrance 8)
You don't get to take photos, and no backpacks allowed.

We also really enjoyed the Borghese Gallery, which is a lovely museum with fabulous Bernini Sculptures. We took a tour there, (also in English), led by an art history student, and she was so enthusiastic.

If you are there during football (soccer) season, Sunday is game day at Olympic Staduim. Either Roma or Lazio will play each week- they share home field- and that was really a fun outing.

Eat Gelato every day.

I am a fan of Rick Steves & DK/Eyewitness Guidebooks, especially the 'Top 10' city series. You need a combination of books, don't rely on just one, and research before you commit- they are expensive, and a bad one is not worth the weight it will take to carry it around.

Watch out for hustlers & gypsies on trains & in train stations and around major tourist sites. Never fall for the accented 'Do you speak English' line from scruffy looking folks, that just leads you down the wrong road. The metro is Rome is the easiest one I have ever been on. 2 lines, like a big X.

The Colosseum tour was dissapointing, better off w/ the info in Rick Steves. But a tour is a must for the Roman Forum/Palatine Hill, or you won't know what the heck is going on. We didn't take a tour and were so lost.

Pizza restaurants are for dinner, not lunch. Dinner & lunch are both later than us americans are typcially used to.

what time of year are you going? How many people in your group?

Here are some of my Rome Highlight photos:
http://picasaweb.google.com/lisa.everts/RomeHighlights
Thanks for sharing your pictures! I am going in July with a group of 6. I have family there also so we will spend some time with them and try and get a local feel for the city. Unfortunatly I do not think we will be able to make it to or through Tuscany. :( I bought all of the Rick Steves books and have been reading up. Thanks for your tips! :D

You are going to have a great time.
Plan to go to Tuscany another time, they really are two trips, unless you are going for 3 weeks!!
Still haven't made it to Venice or the very South of Italy, so I have two trips to make in the future. Got some other places still on the list though :wink:

July will be HOT, but shorts will mark you for an american tourist. Check out some of those golf pants for guys- they are very lightweight. Especially if you will visit churches, no shorts allowed. Skorts make a nice piece for ladies. Plan to re-wear as much as you can, will be harder when it is so hot out, or bring some powdered laundry detergent and wash out a few things along the way.

Rick Steves can be quite helpful, especially for getting around inexensively and like a local. As long as you can overlook his quirky style of prose. But if you have seen him on TV, you will soon see that he writes just like he speaks. :roll:

A fun game at the major tourist sites is to see how many guidebooks in different languages you can pick out. We all have the same ones in different languages! It is pretty funny to see Rome spelled out so many different ways.

Is the family in Sicily & extra tour time in Rome? Let me know if you want any extra Rome tips. Don't try to drive in Rome.It's just not possible. And driving in the rest of the country is only advised if you are an experienced stick-shift driver AND have good city/NJ/MASS or other crazy people locations driving skills. :P

And if you don't know the regional food specialties yet, try to figure out what belongs where. Carbonara is Roman, Pizza is everywhere but originates from Naples, etc.
Order gelato in multiples- like 2 or 3 flavor combinations, and always try the house special. It might be something fun like honey or pomegranate. You'll need some help translating some flavors. Know what at least one favorite is in advance, and build a combination around that. I'm partial to pistachio, and usally get a fruit and the house special.
Never eat at a restaurant that advertises it's menu in English or has a Maitre' d guy stading outside trying to reel you in. Struggle through the places that don't need to attract tourists for a better meal and a more authentic experience.

And a good way to minimize costs in general is to really plan for that 2 hour lunch at 1:00 at a nicer restaurant, then a dinner at a pizzeria later. They have less expensive lunch menus like some places do here.

Make sure you only order stuff like cappuchino or cafe americano at breakfast. Espresso / cafe otherwise, and watch how they drink it there. No sipping- just toss it back while standing at the bar then leave. It's an art form that you really have to see. I don't know how they do it when it is so hot, I have to wait a few minutes for it to cool down.

Check out the forums at Trip Advisor for more great tips too, that is a really nice bunch that posts on there.
Thanks again! I am starting to think about Tuscany. Do you think it is possible to do a day trip there by train from Rome? Or would we be too rushed. Also I am not sure how much this would cost. I will be in Rome for 5 days so any tips you have are appreciated. :D
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OttoCal
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Post by OttoCal »

A day trip to Florence is possible, but pretty much anywhere else just gets too complicated. But you really would want to get out into the country or smaller towns for the Tuscany flavor, and that is just hard to do on a day trip with limited travel time.

We were going to try to do the opposite on our first trip to Italy- Tuscany for 1 week. We wanted to take a day trip to Rome. It would have been 3 + hours each way and then we would have pretty limited time in Rome so we skipped it, and got a chance to go to Rome on a separate trip another time.

There is plenty to do in Rome to keep you busy for more than 5 days. You'll be pretty tuckered out, so if you can keep a little bit of looseness in your schedule that is probably a good thing. Or maybe have a day where your groups splits up a bit.
From Rome we did a day trip to Pompeii & Naples, which was a full day, but very interesting.

If you do go to Florence, check the closed days there, nothing worse than showing up and not having the market open on the day you go! Also, you would need to pre-book tix to the Accademia (David) and Uffizzi (big museum). Lines are outrageous. So that would take away some of your traveling flexibilitiy if you go there.
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Post by FunkHouse9 »

My advice is to enjoy Rome. Tuscany is very pretty and Florence is great. But, if you only have 5 days in Rome, spend it in Rome. It is such an amazing place and there is so much to do and see. Don't cut it short. You could fill 15 days there. Make a list/itinerary of things you want to do in Rome and go with that. You won't regret it. I spent the whole time going full speed and still didn't get to do everything I wanted to do.

If you really want to go through Tuscany or to Florence, save it for another trip. And don't waste your time going to Piza.

If you're planning on going to Vatican City while in Rome, that could be a day right there. If you do go there, I do suggest a tour. There is so much to see that a tour will really give you hilights and help you understand what you're looking at.
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karat
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Post by karat »

Have a fantastic time!!! My family is from the other side of the Adriatic! On the Dalmatia Coast of Croatia, Italy is a must stop the day I get to go over....Had an opportunity this September, but cannot swing it with work :( would have had a few days in Venice.
~ Karat
(I am a Travel Agent)

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