tips for Italy, part 3

In October 2002, I had a series of email exchanges with Lori Shodis of Cambell, California, who, after reading my experience in Rome on Rick Steves' Graffiti Wall, decided to write me to get tips for her trip to Italy in November 2002. I thought I'd post my replies here because other travelers may find them useful. Below is my reply to her third email (her comments are in bold italics):

Hi Lori:

OK, I've posted details from my trip online:


Here are pictures of our room in Hotel Aberdeen:

hotel room
Room 32, Hotel Aberdeen
Shiny and clean bathroom

At 11:41 PM -0500 10/21/02, Shodiss, Lori wrote:

I have read and heard to bring a roll with us, what is the latest on Toilet paper in Italy I am assuming they do have it right? What is the reason we need to bring it?

You'll see half of a toilet paper roll peeking out from underneath the sink.... Rest assured; there will be toilet paper everywhere you go, unless the janitor got lazy the day you visit. I'm not sure why we are advised to bring TP with us. Perhaps it's for travelers who are staying at one-star hotels. As long as you stay away from youth hostels you should be OK.

Self serve sounds great for Roma!!

There were self-service machines at all the stations we went to, actually. We were just too chicken to try it 'till Roma, our third and last train station. :)

Charles said The Last Supper wasn't worth it but I will take your advise as I really would like to see it if we can, hopefully I can get a reservation for Sunday afternoon or Monday. I did read about the limit on people in at one time but that's ok.

The Last Supper is closed on Monday, so I guess your only option is Sunday afternoon....

Question - do they have the English speaking guided tour all day or was it just at 9:30 am? I think it would be worth the extra euros as well.

I'm not sure. I don't think it's available all the time; we just happened to reserve our time when the tour was mandatory. When you call the reservation line, ask the operator and I'm sure he/she will be happy to assist you.

Shopping, what woman doesn't like shopping? HAHA I have heard that Milano and Firenze are the shopping places! I do intend to shop for leather, jewlery, etc..

You got it. I bought several men and women's wallets in Firenze, while my friend only bought one. By the time we arrived in Milano and she was frantically trying to locate a souvenir for her father, she said regretfully that she should've bought one back in Firenze. My advice to you and your boyfriend (and this came from my mother to me when I traveled to Paris last year): If you see something you really like, just get it. Don't tell yourself "I'll come back tomorrow to get it." Chances are you'll forget, or someone else will snatch it up. When you're traveling, just buy stuff that catches your eye. It's not like you can take an airplane back to Italy in a heartbeat if you change your mind later....

I will jot down this dept. store and look for that but I also like the little shops sometimes you can bargin and get better deals and they can be more personable..hopefully ;)

Yes indeed! In Florence, I successfully bargained 2 men's wallets from 106 euros down to 95 euros at a leather store on the south shore of the Arno River, and was very pleased at myself (Rosso Fiorentino, Via Guicciardini 124r). Mileage may vary from store to store, however. When I tried the same trick at another store an hour later, my bargaining price was promptly rejected, although the saleslady said I could pay 140 euros instead of 156 if I were to pay by cash. Papini, the second store, had customers coming in and out the door all the time (it's right along the river), so I guess they weren't afraid of not having any business. However, it has very good quality and many more varieties than Rosso Fiorentino. Papini is located at Lungarno Archibusieri, n. 10-12r.

You know I have been told by others that Florence has more to see too. We have to stay 3 nights in Venice as we have a deal with the Hotel Paganelli for one night free so maybe what we can do is stay an extra day in Florence and then go to Venice for three days, besides it's still warmer in Florence as it's further South.

Sounds good to me. If you'll be going to Murano, a three-day stay in Venice is ideal.

We are definitely seeing Michelangelo's DAVID how can we miss that ;)

We showed up at the Accademia for our 8:15 a.m. reservation (took about 15 minutes to get in; the Italian museums in general aren't very efficient), and there were only 10 people around David. It was very nice and we got to see him up close, even though it is also under restoration right now and there is a barrier wall around it. We returned to the same spot barely half an hour later, and the statue was already surrounded by tour groups.

Do listen to Rick's advice about making reservations for Florence museums. That tip came in handy, even though many fellow travelers also had reservations and we had to stand in line for about 10 minutes at the Accademia and Uffizi because we got there right before it opened. The Bargello, on the other hand, had no line at all.

I will remember Yellow validation machines thanks for that tip.

Make sure there is a readout on the display, then shove the ticket in there, and the machine will punch it automatically. We were bewildered at our first machine; it turns out it wasn't connected (hence nothing on the display). A friendly Italian man helped us at the second machine, and we happily got on our way.

Oh, one more word about the trains: When you read the departure display on the wall, the trains are listed by their final destination, not where you're going. For example, if you're going to Florence, most likely the train will be listed as going to Milan or Rome or another big stop, because Florence is not the final point for any EuroStar Italia trains. The good thing is that there are relatively few EuroStar Italia departures, so just find one that says "ES" that's departing at the time of your train AND going in the right direction. When in doubt, ask other people standing on the platform. I did this several times and was helped in each occasion (sometimes by other travelers like myself, not locals!).

I do appreciate it and yes I would love to see your list of restaurants etc... when you finish it of course TX!

You'll see my restaurant list at the bottom of my overview page.

Sounds like you enjoy shopping yourself... do you mind me asking what kinds of things did you bring back? Lots of leather, jewlery etc...? I am really getting excited!

I bought leather wallets, writing stationary, personal seal and wax, and a quilted jacket in Florence. Didn't do too much damage in Rome. In Milan I bought a pair of leather gloves (should've bought them in Florence, duh), a wool coat, a sweater, and a purse. I also looked for those Zoppini modular charms that are very popular here, but perhaps it's already gone out of fashion back in Italy, because we searched in all three cities, yet very few stores carried them.

Jeannie :)

part 1 | part 2 | part 3 | part 4