What’s Wrong with the World

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Florence and Rome


I am slowly recovering from my Summer vacation: a week in Florence followed by two weeks in Rome, plus day trips to Pisa, Siena, Tarquinia, Tivoli, and Naples, all on my own, with no help from professional tour operators.

I now consider myself something of an expert on getting around via Trenitalia, on exchanging dollars for euros at decent rates, on minimizing museum and local transportation costs through judicious use of the Firenze, Roma & Campania Arte cards, on eating decently but cheaply, and, in general, on many of the practical problems that arise when travelling in Italy. In fact, I'm overflowing with up-to-the-minute travellers' advice on this fascinating but frustrating, beautiful but ugly, friendly but forbidding country.

If you've already been there, good on you. If you haven't been but you're thinking about it - let's talk. Leave a comment, or e-mail me.

If you haven't been but you *aren't* thinking about it - well, then, you should be. Italy is surely the greatest treasure trove of the remains of Western Culture in existence. See it while you still can.

Comments (14)

Sorry, all - even though I've successfully done it before, I can no longer figure out how to embed an image in my posts, here.

If you copy, paste & enter http://www.flickr.com/photos/vinteuil/6056932974/ you'll come up with a photo of me at Villa Adriana.



Great picture...but I was curious about some of the other pics in your photostream. Is that a t-shirt of the Turkish flag you are wearing with the Italian cat? And are there only two Italian pics? How about uploading some more!

Welcome back.

Dear Steve

I'm thinking of going to Rome on pilgramage in October, do you have any advice on where to stay? (I do not plan to spend alot of money but neither am I traveling on a shoestring budget Also do you have any idea as how much a return train ticket from Rome to Lanciarno would cost? (visiting San Giovani Rotundo sadly is out of the question)

My wife and I want to go to Florence and Rome someday. We are afraid we might never be able to afford it. I made similar trips to Greece a couple of times when I was younger. It didn't cost much but that was when dollars bought many drachmas and I slept on the beach a couple of times to save money.

Jack - yes, I do have advice on where to stay in Rome. If you're genuinely interested, please e-mail me.

So far as I can determine, there's no such place as "Lanciarno."

Jeff - well spotted. That's a very durable Turkish flag t-shirt that my mother bought for me while we were vacationing there a few years ago.

It's very kind of you to ask to see some more of our 500+ Italy photos.

Steve, I have been asking, begging and pleading with the Lord for years to enable me and my family to go to Italy. During the last 6 years, I have watched numerous sets of my acquaintances go: people who have ties neither to Christianity, nor to Italian blood, just for example. But as far as human foresight can determine, I won't be able to go until the last of the kids are done with college: at least 15 MORE years. Please don't rub it in any harder (sob!)

Actually, I am glad you had a great trip. I will look forward to picking your brains when I win the lottery and can go.

Tony - it can be done for about $150 per day per person, including flights and hotels, so long as you're not too picky about where you're eating. Not as cheap as one might wish, but not so expensive that one needs to win the lottery first ;^)

I'll be going to Italy in a year; I've been learning Italian for about 2 years now to prepare. We'll probably spend a few days in Rome and then explore the countryside. I have not a drop of Italian blood in me though.


$150 per day per person doesn't sound too bad. Don't be surprised if I solicit your advice in a year or so. I hope spring/early summer of 2013 will work for us.

Sorry, 150 per person per day means over $1000 per day for us. I cannot sink 10 grand into vacations like that. And what about getting there? The Michael Phelps method is out. I'll have to wait for the far, far future.

Matt - here's one *must-know* that I hope will come in handy: don't even think about trying to exchange dollars for Euros anywhere but in Rome.

While we were there, exchange offices near the Roma Termini train station consistently offered a fairly decent rate: about €67 for $100, service charges included - i.e., $1.49 per Euro - only about a 5% markup over the official exchange rate.

By contrast, exchange offices in Florence and Naples (especially those located in the train stations) might charitably be described as ventures in organized crime. You're lucky to escape from one of these hell-holes short of a 35% markup (Firenze S.M.N. Station) (it was an emergency), or even 60% (Napoli Centrale Train Station) (another emergency).

In Florence I had a sad encounter with an African lady, even more naive than me, who had made the terrible mistake of exchanging about $1000 US for Euros at the train station. If only I had been there earlier, I could have told her to take the train to Rome, exchange her money there, blow €100 on a night on the town, and come back richer the next morning.

Bear in mind that very, very few museums, art galleries, or other tourist sites in Italy accept credit cards, and that many will insist on exact change - so you need to have plenty of small-denomination Euros on you at all times. Preferably buttoned up in a secure location, 'cause gypsies and other pick-pockets are everywhere (I lost €10, plus, to add insult to injury, my guide to the church, in the midst of a tour of the Basilica of San Lorenzo in Florence!)

Steve P. - with any luck, the Euro will have collapsed by 2013, which ought to make things cheaper. Fingers crossed.

Tony - well, yes, 6+ kids can complicate things (though there are lots of discounts available for those under 12).

But surely there are aunts & uncles available who would be happy to look after the little ones while you & the wife take a well deserved Grand Tour?

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