Italy 2013 Guidebook
Favorite discoveries or tips:
We found that a guided tour to very historic sites was preferable to doing it on our own.
Sue in Lacey, WA USA 05/16/2013
In Sorrento there is a new outdoor public elevator that transports you from San Francesco down to the beaches west of Marina Piccola. You can walk between the beaches and the marina after you have taken the elevator down. Its 1 euro cost matches the bus that runs from Piazza Tasso to Marina Piccola.
Gary Jones in Georgetown, TX USA 05/15/2013
All of the extra information about sites, little details to look for in paintings, etc. - these were as good as a guide in many cases and so much more affordable!
Kathryn in Vancouver, BC Canada 05/12/2013
Allen Wiener in Potomac, MD USA 05/11/2013
My discovery is that your restaurant recommendations are seriously flawed. I realize the limitations of book based guides but you REALLY need to revamp this piece ..and hotels. My best meals in Italy came when I just followed my nose rather than your guidebook.
mike exner in franklin, TN USA 04/22/2013
Osteria Enoteca San Marco in Venice was a very good restaurant with a lot of locals. The barkeep was a tad snooty when asking if we had a reservation, we did not. They seared us anyway and it was fine after that. The rabbit and rosemary pasta was good as was the cocoa gnocchi with lamb ragout.
Barbara Kiszka in Plaistow, NH USA 04/17/2013
Download maps on the phone...made our lives easier! Often, map labeling is too small to see (especially at night).
Scott and Amy Schaefer in Buffalo, NY USA 04/07/2013
Thank you for recommending the Nicholas Inn in Rome. The location was great and the hosts, Melissa and Francois, were most helpful and available to answer our questions and make recommendations. We will definitely stay there next time we're in Rome.
Kathi Gaffaney in Huntington Beach, CA USA 01/24/2013
Update after Earthquakes near Bologna: Dear Editors,
I'm writing to update you on our new location. The earthquakes in Emilia (may 20 and 29, 2012) have forced us to move our association "Reading Retreats in Rural Italy" and our guest rooms from the Castle of Galeazza (Bologna) to a new location, Corte Eremo, five kilometers from Mantua. I'm not sure if we ever managed to be featured in one of your guides or on your website, but I know that my guests and I have written to you in the past, and I just wanted to make sure there wasn't an out-of-date request or review floating around, mentioning the castle, which is uninhabitable and unfortunately no longer our base.
The good news: We're very lucky to have found another impressive historic property to move into and start over. As of September 2012 we can host, as we have for 15 years, Reading Retreats, concerts, book presentations, art exhibitions, theme parties, and courses (art, language, music, and gardening). Guests come from around the world - alone, in couples, or small groups (maximum 10 people), and stay for two days to two weeks. We managed to save most of our library (over 6,000 books) and the entire contemporary art collection, featuring over 200 paintings and drawings. Each guest room is once again home to hundreds of books and original art. The books are organised by language and topic (with over 3,000 in English, 2,000 in Italian, and a remaining thousand or so in German, French, Spanish, Latin and Greek)
If you would be able to mention us in your next guidebook, we would really appreciate it. We're starting over, and need all the attention we can get. You'll see from our old website (reviews, press) and from Tripadvisor, that we have had quite a bit of very positive newspaper coverage (The Guardian, Sydney Morning Herald, Irish Times, La Stampa, New York Times) and extremely good reviews from happy guests, and I'm confident that will not change in the future. We no longer have frescoed rooms or a tower or turrets, but what we have lost in architectural "wow" factor, we have made up for with an amazing new location; rural, but only 5 kilometres from the city of Mantua (a Renaissance gem many people don't know about) and less than two km. from the bike trails along the lakes that lead into the city. It's a gorgeous, relatively unknown, unspoiled area.
If you're ever near Mantova, please come by! I'd be happy to show you around and introduce you to my new home.
Our old website was www.galeazza.com
and our new website is www.corteeremo.com
trip advisor reviews and photos: http://www.tripadvisor.it/Hotel_Review-g187801-d624120-Reviews-Castello_di_Galeazza-Bologna_Province_of_Bologna_Emilia_Romagna.html
Clark Lawrence in Curtatone di Mantova, Italy 01/21/2013
Please explain where the no. of the train is on the ticket. We took a wrong train on advice of a train employee and later found the info we needed on the ticker.
linda huetinck in alhambra, ca USA 01/14/2013
I want to extend an overall compliment to you on the Italy 2012 guide that we just used for a 2-week trip to Rome, Florence and Siena. It was our first trip to Italy. We are 60 somethings and fairly adventuresome. The overall philosophy of the guide, the suggestions, the walking tours and tips were terrific. We traveled in November and there were few crowds, and the Italian people were very gracious.
Lynn Hartmann in Rochester, MN USA 11/24/2012
We just got back from 3 beautiful weeks in Italy and we traveled all over from Amalfi to beautiful Venezia. We found the most amazing little Mom & Pop hotel called Open Gate in Praiano, Amalfi. The food was absolutely amazing. Even though we were out and about all day, we kept coming back at night for supper because it was so good!!
Tasha Weller in Sainte Anne des Plaines, QC Canada 10/31/2012
Rick's book is great. We went to Herculaneum instead of Pompeii, escellent suggestion. take the train. In Florence, if you drive, park at the train station parking garage..easy and central. buy the roma card in Rome,it is 30 Euros now, but worth it. No waiting in line and used the metro easily. We found we didn't need reservations to visit the Vatican Museum, there are lots of companies hawking tours for 45 Euros and you bypass the long lines and have a guide as well. Very easy. when ging to Capri, try to find a boat that takes you to Marina Piccolo. It is much less crowded.
Janet in Strange, AZ USA 10/29/2012
Discovery: cafe Rizzo is no longer in business, or at least that is what the shops around the address told us when we couldn't find it.
Tyler White in Kaysville , UT USA 10/28/2012
Discovery: Our hotel, Hotel Margaret, in Rome gave the name of Terravision in getting to and from Fiumicino fom Roma Termini. It is a bus service that charges 4 pp each way. Good'n cheap for a family of 5 getting to the airport. Book reservation online at http://www.terravision.eu/rome_fiumicino.html. They're not the only service at this price.
Tyler White in Kaysville, UT USA 10/28/2012
Check out the Hotel Paisiello Parioli just bejind the zoo, and the restaurant Berzitelle on Via Della Quatro. I think you will agree they should go in your Rome book. The hotel is in a great little neighborhood, and the restaurant is an authentic family run place amidst a lot of touristy junk.
Mikel Morrison in Seattle, WA USA 10/26/2012
The Rick Steves 2012 Italy Guidebook served us well. Thanks!
Hoke Kimball in Atlanta, GA USA 10/26/2012
Your book was so helpful. I wouldn't have tried going on our own without it. We had a few problems with getting on the right long distance buses and maybe you could cover that a little more.
Ruth Stark in Sun Cityy Center, FL USA 10/22/2012
This was our first self-planned tour to Europe, after 2 Rick Steves tours gave us the confidence to do so. We appreciated the book's note of the supermarket and food stores, because we like to get a bottle of wine and picnic for lunch. The book's guidance on use of the train system was excellent, although I recommend printing schedules from the Trenitalia website before departure or viewing it online before going to the station to purchase tickets. We traveled entirely by train, and it was a pleasure.
Joseph Terranova in Lancaster, NY USA 10/22/2012
I found a wonderful church in Rome, the Basilica dei S.S. Ambrogio e Carlo. Here's what it looks like on Wikipedia, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Santi_Ambrogio_e_Carlo Perhaps worth mentioning for a stop on the Dolce Vita Stroll on page 761 of the guidebook.
Also, there's a great Naples style pizza place in Florence called the Pizzeria Il Pizzaiuolo. See: http://www.visitflorence.com/eating-and-drinking-in-florence/il-pizzaiuolo.html
David Graham in Shell, Ecuador 10/20/2012
Hotel Barbieri, Altomonte, Calabria...without a doubt one of the best hotels and restaurants we have ever experienced.....
Marcia Sugumele in Chesterfield, VA USA 10/19/2012
We loved B&B Smart in Rome. We were working out of the 2011 guidebook and it was not in there -- maybe it made the 2012 edition?
Katie Baker in Laguna Beach, CA USA 10/15/2012
If you are shopping for leather products, Florence is the place...if you opt for non-designer goods check out the shops along the street from the Accademia entrance back towards the Duomo...there is a leather factory and great smallish shops that offer a wide variety of products (I always look for the "Made in Italy" stamp on the inside while I'm sniffing the leather!)
Betsy Santarpio in Moultonborough NH, NH USA 10/14/2012
Ostia Antica, near Fiumicino (Da Vinci) Airport; plan on staying for hours; buy the map for 2 euros (there is an English version)
Sean Fisher in Melrose, MA USA 10/03/2012
Naples pass was a winner
Judith Hitchings in OAKLAND, Ca USA 10/02/2012
Use the recommended guides to assure the most meaningful experience.
John Cohoon in Venice, FL USA 10/01/2012
Using the audio guides at Forum, Pantheon, Venice and Florence were very helpful ... an iPhone and iPad made it very easy
michael in Portland, OR USA 09/29/2012
2 Restaurants in Manarola: Aristede at bottom of hill (not on piazza) for breakfast & snacks, excellent. Restaurant overlooking harbor, just north of boat crane - unfortunately we did not get the name. Good range of pizza, pasta, appetizers, gelato - &, of course, wine + all other alcohol. Well priced, nice patio with complete view of sea - open straight thru day even! Stayed in a VRBO agriturismo near Buonconvento in Tuscany for a week - AWESOME! Was a bit scary to make that commitment sight unseen from the USA but it was outstanding: Podere Cunina - great website. Hill towns in Tuscany are such a treat - one more delightful than the next! Travelers need to be aware of time in relation to eating - we happened to be driving thru Volterra 4ish in the afternoon - NOTHING open, no food & no bathrooms. Also parking lots all followed a similar pattern: take ticket with you, pay at machine before returning to your car, then use receipt to get out of lot. We had a couple humourous incidents as we lost a ticket - but it all worked out.
LINDA HOOD in LEWIS CENTER, OH USA 09/26/2012
Bellagio Water Sports in Bellagio. Michele offer 2-4 hour guided or non-guided kayak tours. Easily the favorite part of our trip to the lakes region.
Jon Jordan in Concord, MA USA 09/17/2012
In Monterosso: Bar Bagni Alga (overlooking the beach next to the free beach, right below Casello restaurant; the sign on the bar says Caffe Mexico) has the best bellinis in town and maybe in all of the Cinque Terre. It became our routine to end the day at the bar, watching the sunset with drinks in hand. The bartender, Francesco, shared his recipe for the peach puree and the particular prosecco he uses, but we were too busy enjoying our bellinis to write anything down (or remember anything later).
Train tip: If your ticket requires validation and you forget to stick it in one of the machines before boarding, sign and date it by hand so the conductor knows you're not a fare cheat.
Marion in San Francisco, CA USA 08/13/2012
In Venice, we stayed at the Hotel Flora, and found it would be nice to have another recommended restaurant further down the Calle Larga XXII Marzo toward the Accademia Bridge. We found one that we thought was just perfect. It was Le Cafe, in the Campo Santo Stefano 2797. It has a large outdoor terrace in the square, which is a lively and scenic spot. The food was very good, the prices reasonable, and the service prompt and friendly. Best of all, there was no pane e coperto and no servizio.
Our trip was in August, and we had no trouble at all in getting lodging reservations in Venice, Florence, Siena, or Rome. But the Cinque Terre was another story. We needed rooms for my wife and I, our two daughters and their husbands, and our 2-month-old granddaughter. During the last few days of May, we contacted virtually every accommodation listed in the book for all of the five towns, and they were all booked up. On TripAdvisor.com I found a B&B in Corniglia called Le Terrazze, and it turned out to be ideal. We rented their 3-bedroom Apartment No. 1. It was spotlessly clean and comfortable, with great views from all the windows. But best of all, there was a washing machine we could use for our laundry! We couldn't have been happier. And the breakfast each morning on the outdoor terrace was really a treat.
In Florence we stayed at the recommended Hotel Loggiato dei Serviti, which was spectacular. But we couldn't find much in the way of recommended restaurants near the hotel. From the comments in the guestbook in the hotel lobby, we found one that was perfect. The Ristorante Accademia in Piazza San Marco was just a block and a half from our hotel (a huge asset after a busy day of touring Florence). Although it was really bustling, we were able to get a table right away without a reservation. It was one of the three best meals of our trip to Italy. Our waiter was one of the owners, and although he was busy every second, he really kept us entertained with his comments and menu suggestions (gave us a quiz on who could give the best Italian pronunciation of Michelangelo). We were having so much fun we stayed for desserts. All in all, it seemed like the perfect place for a Rick Steves recommendation. The restaurant is only half a block from the Accademia. The waiter told us that on a recent morning he was sweeping the sidewalk out front when two American girls walked up and asked, "Where is David?" With a twinkle in his eye and a thrilled look on his face, he replied, "IIIIII am David!!"
The book does a good job of warning about various scams. But we ran into another when we took the vaporetto to Murano. I had read the book's discussion of Murano a week or two before, but I didn't have time to review it right before we went, nor to study the map. When the vaporetto docked at the Colonna stop and most of the passengers disembarked, there were a couple of men there directing people to turn left and follow the sidewalk along the lagoon. I found a restroom directly ahead and started toward it, and one man was very insistent that I should turn left until he saw where I was headed. We walked on down the sidewalk they were indicating, along with all the other tourists, and what we came to was a glassblowing shop with a show in progress. The guys at the dock were very cleverly steering people directly into that one shop! We didn't bite; we left and found our way inland to the Via Fondamenta Vetrai, but no thanks to the "guides." But as near as I could tell, everyone else from the vaporetto stayed for the glassblowing show they were directing people to. By the way, I was surprised at what a large and impressive place Murano is, after it got such a brief mention in the book. I would say the book's description of the Glass Museum was right on target, but there was a hidden delight outside in the back--an enclosed garden with benches and a view of the beautiful 12th-Century Basilica dei Santi Maria e Donato. It was like a peaceful moment lost in time.
One more tip. With six adults and a baby, we managed to stay together fairly well. But in the Santa Maria Novella station in Florence, my son-in-law lagged behind to get water for the baby's formula and missed the train. He had a general idea of where we were going, but didn't know the name of the B&B, or even in which of the 5 towns in Cinque Terre it was located. We waited for him in La Spezia, and as luck would have it, he caught up with us, and we had a joyful reunion. But it sure would have been a wonderful idea to buy a cheap cell phone for each member of the party when we first arrived in Italy!
Charles Revier in Fort Collins, CO USA 08/05/2012
We loved the Campania ArteCard. We bought it at the Naples airport upon arrival (the three-day Tutta La Regione passes were 27 euros each), took the Curreri bus to Sorrento (not covered with the card), and started the passes the next day, since we were staying in Sorrento 4 nights. (I e-mailed the address on the ArteCard website from the US, and they got back to me right away with a recommendation of which card was right for us and where we could buy it.) It included Pompeii admission (10 euros), Herculaneum admission (10 euros), half-off at Paestum (so 5 euros off) and the Naples Archaeological museum (so 4 euros off), plus 3 days of public transportation from Sorrento (Circumvesuviana, Naples subway, train to/from Paestum). It was a great buy! The only negative: it's not easy to use. It doesn't work in the Circumvesuviana turnstiles (you must get them to let you through the handicap door), and it doesn't appear you can skip the line (we waited in a 20-min line at Pompeii), but it was a known entity everywhere we tried to use it (even with monolingual train station window clerks). There is no water that we could find at the un-airconditioned Naples Archaeological Museum, and we'd stored our bags in the mandatory lockers, so we were hot and parched at the end of our visit. (Wish we'd stashed a bottle of water in a pocket.) The only WC we found at Naples Centrale/Garibaldi cost 1 euro in exact change! We found the signage for entering the Colosseum and Palatine Hill in Rome hard to read; enter the Colosseum on the left if you have a ticket, and enter the Palatine Hill on the right if you have a ticket. (The book is right on the mark with buying Colosseum tickets. We bought ours at the Palatine Hill entrance (with its 15-min line), left there without entering, skipped the line to enter at the Colosseum, and then skipped the line the next day at the Palatine Hill!)
Kyla Gurganus in Ypsilanti, MI USA 08/02/2012
A new Bed and Breakfast in Levanto - absolutely clean, well kept, reasonable, right on the main road to the beach, Corsa Roma. Opened in Oct. 2011, husband, wife, daughter (speaks english) Aguriturismo A Due Passi Dal Mare, Corsa Roma 37, Levanto 19015 Phone 039 0187 809177 cell 3933896015737 www.a2passidalmare.com email: firstname.lastname@example.org Francesca Cella, husband Marizo and daughter Simone. They offer, private rooms with Car Park, Breakfast. Children 0-12 stay free with parents, dogs welcome, 80euro one night for a dbl, 100euro per night triple, 50euro for 1 person per night. Closed Jan/Feb. Rooms have own bathroom, larger shower, very clean. Private entry for guests. Excellent location, 5 minute walk to beach or train station.
Kathy in Lake Elsinore, CA USA 07/24/2012
Montecassino Abbey was truly a stop worth making whether you are in Rome or Naples
Kevin P. Quill in Virginia Beach, VA USA 07/23/2012
Yes, we found a beautiful, peaceful, very modern and lovely hotel outside of Levanto (you need a car). It is called L'Abetaia Hotel. The rooms were clean and modern; the grounds are beautiful and peaceful; the staff was very friendly, sweet and helpful; the breakfast was complete, fresh, delicious. They also run a restaurant on site, which has a long-standing reputation, but we did not end up eating there. Please check it out!
We also liked Corte 1321 b&b in Venice, near Rialto Bridge. Great location. Sweet, helpful staff. Mix of rooms, pretty small rooms, we had a huge but older room. Breakfasts were delicious in a beautiful little courtyard.
Kristyn Turaj in Raleigh, NC USA 07/23/2012
In Firenze, Santa Maria Novella Pharmacy sells real nice moisturizing cream!
Yoonhee in Minneapolis, MN USA 07/22/2012
Monterosso - Ristorante La Barcaccia - Great food and reasonable; behind Hotel La Spiaggia Also Porto Roca - restuarant atop old town Monterosso; ate on the terrace. Lovely view and good food; very reasonable for such nice digs. Another Poggi Andrea recommendation...
dkm in Chicago, il USA 07/13/2012
The Amalfi Coast
Marianne Thompson in La Canada, Ca USA 07/11/2012
Our favorite discovery not in the book -- Cooking Classes in Rome with Chef Andrea Consoli. Rome beat us up and left us empty, but Chef Andrea rejuvenated us and left us wanting to come back. He is located in Trastevere. Classes are $69 per person, $20 more if you want the 4 wine pairings. Classes run from 4-6 hours depending on the menu. Food was the best we had in all of Italy ... and we made it! He is very hands-on, has everyone involved from the minor (cheese grating) to the more complicated (stuffing zucchini flowers). He does all the clean-up while we eat and then he joins us at the end to talk about the wine and our experience with him. It was not only our favorite experience in Rome, it was still in the top 3 after our 18 day trip in Italy.
Amy in Hartford, CT USA 07/09/2012
Loved the downloaded tours of the Uffizi, Academia, Renaisance Florence and the grand canal in Venice
Barbara O'Connell in Philadelphia, PA USA 07/08/2012
We are so glad Rick submitted new info on Cinque Terre. We just returned from there and it was the favorite part of our trip! It was better than he explained! It was clean and safe and at least 98% completed. All they need is a fresh coat of paint.
Karen in Cleveland , OH USA 07/01/2012
When you get the Florence card and want to take one of the buses, you have to stand up at the stop or the bus won't stop for you.
Bailey Johnson in Jacksonville, FL USA 06/29/2012
If you are visiting Umbria near the town of Orvieto, I would highly recommend staying at an Agriturismo call Locanda Rosati. It is located at Localita' Buonviaggio 22 in Orvieto. Only a 5 km drive to Orvieto. The owner of the converted farm house, Giampiero is a warm and friendly host and makes you feel welcome upon arrival. They have family style dining every night and provide ample portions of typical Umbrian food and wine. We met interesting people from all over Europe, the US and Canada at every meal. After having completed a 3 year military tour in Naples, this was my family's favorite place to stay in Europe.
Peter Plante in Napoli, Italy 06/24/2012
1) Tip - the misquitoes in Florence are huge. I would bring bug spray if you attract misquitoes. 2) Tip - Bellagio sits on a hill with a lot of rocky stairs to climb- wear comfortable shoes. 3) Day trip in Tuscany - Maurizio Bellini (www.mauriziobellini.com) offers private day tours to Tuscany. It was the most amazing day. He is very knowledgeble about the history, art, and wine of Tuscany. 4) Florence hotel - Il Giglio d'Oro guesthouse. Great location (on bus line out of the old city), very clean, friendly owners, great resturants nearby, and I felt like I was family.
AB in Murfreesboro, TN USA 06/22/2012
Vernazza was very crowded and there was so much construction, so I went on to La Spezia and stayed in the Mary Hotel. There is an elevator that goes from in front of the railroad station right down to Via Fiume. It serves the parking garage, and the hotel at 177 via Fiume is a few steps away. A single room costs 56.50 euros including tax and breakfast.
Renee Morcel in Oakland, CA USA 06/19/2012
I should be receiving a commission for promoting your guidebooks! My husband and I spent 3 weeks in Italy in April and referred to your books constantly. Many, many tips to share, but one of the best is the "secret" door from the Sistine Chapel to the Basilica. It was a beautiful passageway with stairs and art that saved us much time. Thank you! We followed your advice and made Sorrento our headquarters while exploring that area; good choice. We drove the Amalfi Coast ourselves and found it do-able and not as treacherous as described. We were able to stop at will and spend a full afternoon in Positano (a must), plus more inexpensive than hiring a driver. Casa Correale in Sorrento was somewhat of a disappointment, although set in a beautiful lemon grove in the middle of town. We did not get the room we had booked, instead we got a windowless room in the back of the building. The newly-built breakfast room is a 15x15 cold room; not enjoyable at all. An important tip: Although we took our Debit cards as recommended by Rick, we took cash with us and exchanged it as needed at Post Offices; much better rate than banks and fast and efficient service.
Martie DiGregorio in Brownsville, TX USA 06/12/2012
We took Rick's advice and hired Raffaele Monetti to drive us around the Amalfi Coast. A GREAT decision. Raffaele is very sweet, personable, professional, informative and funny and a very good driver, considering the crazy driving in that part of the world. lol. He took us to Positano, Amalfi town, and Ravello, where he made lunch reservations at a great restaurant with a beautiful view! We had spectacular weather that day too. Worth every euro plus the tip. We would defininitely use his services again. Also, Rick's advice to set up base in Sorrento and venture out for day trips to the other towns on the Amalfi Coast was spot on. Sorrento has a charm all it's own as well. Lots to see and do. Thanks, again Rick!!
Mark Richard in Bensalem, PA USA 06/04/2012
My husband and I enjoyed our most wonderful hotel at the Hotel Cinque Terre in Monterosso, Italy. The courtyard is filled with beutiful flowers and the cooing of doves. Gracious and helpful staff made the stay a joy from the moment we entered the lobby. The hotel is spotless, quiet, and convenient to the public beach (1 block) and excellent restaurants. It is also a good value: the most reasonable of seven we investigated. If a person wants hiking, boating, sunbathing, or inspiring scenery, it is all here. We enjoyed our hotel so much that we changed our itinery in order to stay longer!
Marilyn Pipoly in Durham, NC USA 05/31/2012
Please add cash only to your restaurant descriptions and hotels. We went to several recommendations and we were finding ourselves short on cash since only cash was accepted.
Lionel in Kennebunk, ME USA 05/30/2012
Enoteca Pino, seafood & very good tho' English translation of menu very strange unless one knows Italian! Via dell'Arco 50 yards away from Hotel Majetic. GREAT wine! Good prices.
Allie Taylor in Vancouver, BC Canada 05/26/2012
Rick Steves and staff: We just finished a two week tour of Northern Italy and your book was a super help.
We ate at several of the restaurants that you recommended and they were all great.
We did find one restaurant in Siena not in your book that we think you should check out and consider adding. We discovered it our first day there and ended up eating 5 of our 5 meals there. A pretty good endorsement I think
It is named il pomodorino and is located at: Via Camporegio, 13 Siena, Italy Phone: 0577.286811 www.ilpomodorino.it email: email@example.com
Its owned and run by business partners Simona Novacovici and Roger Falcone
After eating all of our meals there I can tell you why we recommend it: Location and views o Literally 20 feet away from the hotel Alma Domus recommended in your book o A half block down the street from San Domenico o Has a great view of the Old City if you sit outside Great food o They make wood oven pizza that is outstanding, o They have a wide choice of appetizers, o Delicious salads Reasonable prices o Pizza 6-11 euros o Salads 8-12 euros Great beer selection o The best and broadest list I saw of micro-brewed beer from all over Europe. Local favorite o We ate a Saturday night meal there and it was clearly a favorite of the locals. I always consider that a good endorsement. Ambiance o 50 seats inside in what I was told was the old basement stable of the house above. Very well renovated. Charming and cozy o 35 seats outside in an enclosed area that was heated at night. Great hosts o Over the course of 5 meals we got to know our host and hostess and found them both charming. Getting to know them and becoming friends was one of the highlights of our trip.
Rob & Barbara Stuart in Blacksburg, VA USA 05/26/2012
B&B Sant'Angelo 42, Orvieto. This comfortable B&B is in a recently renovated, beautiful ancient building. Even though it's been open for a couple of years, the interior looks freshly painted like it was renovated just yesterday. I loved everything about it except for the flight of stairs. The operator, Giulia Donato, is very friendly and efficient, and even helped us take our bags upstairs. I recommend this convenient B&B for a beautiful stay in Orvieto.
Mike Seat in Columbia, MO USA 05/16/2012
Absolutely! First off your guide book was extremely helpful for planning and actually doing our trip to Italy! See below for suggestion destinations.
Lindsey in Port Coquitlam, BC Canada 05/12/2012
Two suggestions: (1) We just returned from 6 weeks in Italy! We stayed in apartments throughout our visit - all wonderful. Check the www.vrbo.com website for excellent options. For those interested in more room/space than a hotel room can offer, at better or comparable cost, we recommend vrbo.com options. (2) We spent a week in Bologna. What a great place! The porticoes are beautiful - a perfect way to stay dry during several days of rainy weather and still see the sights. So many things are no-cost to see. There were no hordes of tourists. Superb food in so many different restaurants. Rick: you've got to add this place to your Italy guidebooks!
Charlie Gingo in Bennington, VT USA 05/05/2012
We chose tour driver/company Anthony Buonocore, (amalfitransfers.it) from your Italy Guide. He guided us on two tours full day tours and provided us with an excellent experience on both days. His knowledge and passion for his home town and region made the tours that much more personal and enjoyable.Our first day tour was to Paestum. The restaurant he chose, in a working buffalo mozzarella factory was just the best! Toured the workshop and tasted the freshest mozzarella ever. We highly recommend Anthony to provide you with most enjoyable and safest tours of the Amalfi Coast. Liz and Peter Greene May 3 , 2012
Liz and Peter Greene in Boston, NA USA 05/03/2012
We made online reservations for the Borghese Gallery, arrived ahead of time and thought the entry process itself anything but "slick". Even with a prepaid ticket you have to line up to get another ticket. Then in order to check your bag, a regular size purse, you have to already have the official ticket in hand. As there were two of us, we had divided these two tasks but to no avail saving time as we needed the tickets to check the bag. Then giant queue to get in while the earlier group was leaving. The stairs are a bit daunting as well. On leaving the gallery at 6:45 pm the gift shop had closed. But it is all worth it once you are admiring the Bernini sculptures and the Caravaggio paintings.
Patricia Sinnott in Atlanta, GA USA 04/10/2012
For a great private room in Corniglia try Il Girasole (Via Fieschi 93). Owners Stefano and Libia were helpful via e-mail prior to our arrival and spoke English well. Our double room was spacious, looked recently renovated, and very clean. Our room was at the top of a narrow staircase, which could be a problem for someone with a very large suitcase, but we were just fine with our big backpacks. Reserve at www.hostelworld.com.
Bar Pan Vin (Via Fieschi) in Corniglia offers inexpensive breakfast pastries and coffee, as well as great focaccia sandwiches. Friendly service!
La Gata Flora Pizzaria Focacceria (Via Fieschi) in Corniglia was a great place for farinata with pesto and pizza to go. Fast and friendly service!
Nessa Austria 04/10/2012
Yes! I was trying to find just the right place in Sorrento - centrally-located, reasonably-priced, attractive and quiet. After many hours of searching on-line, I found the perfect place on www.bbplanet.it: it is Villa La Contessina. I've often thought that I should share this "find" with others, because most people end up in a typical B&B or hotel. Although many of those may be fine, Villa La Contessina is special. The owners/hosts go above and beyond to help - they even drove us to our cooking class because it was up the hill and we didn't have a car. The rooms were immaculate and decorated in a typical Sorrentine fashion, including handpainted tiles on the floors. Perhaps most special was the private garden & terrace. There is no other place in Sorrento, to my knowledge, where you can have this type of private grove for relaxing right in the center of town. I think Rick Steves readers deserve to know about this charming place. I've hesitated sharing the info because I don't want to compete with so many others for a room next time I visit! However, it's just not an accommodation that most people will be able to find on their own, especially if they don't speak Italian.
Marybeth Janerich in Salt Lake City, UT USA 03/28/2012
Anthony in Milwauke, WI USA 02/12/2012
Genius Loci (www.geniuslociumbria.com) is soon to open for its 6th successful season. To celebrate we are offering an "early bird" discount on the Deluxe room rates for bookings made by Feb. 20. Book early and save.
Mary in Bevagna, Italy 02/05/2012
Rick Steves Italy 2011 page 906 Thank you Rick for recommending Carmello Monetti for our trip to Ravello. Our tour director had suggested another guide who was going to cost almost twice as much but we decided to call Carmello, especially since you had given his contact info it was so easy. You described him perfectly. Since our last name is Pantalione, we explained we wanted to visit the blood relic of St Pantelione. He made sure we were at the church 1/2 hour before the noon closing and he got the priest to unlock the altar gates and let us behind the altar for a close up look at the holy blood relic. This was an awesone experience for my husband and I. On the way there from Sorrento and on the way back we stopped and he showed us the beautiful sights of Positano and Amalfi. He is a kind, fun loving man who seems to love what he does and knows the history of the area and wants to share it. It was the best day of our 13 day trip and a lot of that was due to Carmello's wonderful personality. This was the first of your travel books that we used but I will never travel again without one. Michael and Therese Pantalione
therese pantalione in vineland, nj USA 01/11/2012
The best tip I have is to notify your credit card company that you will be out of the country. I did and the visa fraud unit was able to detect illegal activity. In Verona someone made a copy of my credit card and swiped at a best buy, etc in the states - visa quickly caught it and froze my account. Whicvh brings me to a second point always have a backup card and I would advise use cash instead of credit for small merchants purchases, etc.
jamie fields in detroit, mi USA 01/05/2012
When in Florence and needing tourist information, seek out Sonya C. We enlisted her help on three separate occasions and she was exceedingly helpful. She seems to primarily work at the TI located across the street from the Santa Maria Novella train station, but also works at the main TI in Florence. She goes above and beyond what I would expect of any TI agent. Trattoria la Burrasca and Nerbone in the Market were wonderful places to eat and enjoy their house wine.
Steve in San Jose, CA USA 01/01/2012
Be extremely careful when train pulls up in Naples. Pickpockets open the backpacks as you wait to board train after the doors open.
Jack Hay in White Plains, Md USA 12/22/2011
RS Italy mentions Salerno just as a place to change buses. This is a seriously underrated city. Big enough to be interesting but small enough to be manageable, with a very nice medieval center, interesting cathedral, good passegiatta scene and seaside promenade. Some very good restaurants (Il Cenacolo across from cathedral and Pinocchio on seafront recommended). Virtually no tourists. As a transportation hub, it's an ideal location to daytrip to Naples/Pompeii/Herculaneum, Paestum, or Amalfi. Not quite as picture-postcard pretty as Sorrento or Amalfi coast towns, but much better value and authentic Italian atmosphere as a base city for this region, in my opinion.
Phil in Washington, DC USA 12/20/2011
Podere Cunina, a beautiful agriturismo near Buonconvento and Montalcino in Tuscany. The apartments are lovely and it is only 30 minutes from Siena. Taste Tuscany near Buonconvento/Montalcino - Lesley Smith, the owner/tour guide, offers various personalized cooking classes, and wine/farm tours. We booked her for two days for a cooking class, and a Chianti wine tour.
Karen in Winnipeg, MB Canada 11/27/2011
San Gimignano was a great place, unlike the guidebook recommendation -- early November was our time to be there and the town, itself, was beautiful and the pace of business was slow and easy -- we shopped and ate and enjoyed ourselves
Judith DeJoy in Athens, GA USA 11/21/2011
Ravenna Guide Claudia Frasinetti was great. We hired her for a whole day tour of the main sights in Ravenna and she was fabulous and made everything very interesting, we learnt a lot.
Marina in Washington, DC USA 11/16/2011
With the RS guide book we had a wonderful 3weeks in Italy. We were 3 adults from South Africa-yes we do speak English!! And I was very lucky to find RS on the internet-it was like having our personal tour guide with us. The 3 times we did not follow his restaurant recommendations we got stuck in tourist traps! After we learned our lesson we used just the book! Parking directions was so good we did not get lost once. And hopefully also no fines in the post. I downloaded the book onto my Kindle and took that with me EVERYWHERE. Thank you so much also for the audio guides. We used them in Pompei,Rome,Venice,Florence and Tuscanny and it was good,full of humor and we could understand everything.W also used passes a few places and it was well worth it.
Jolanda Terhoeven in Pretoria, SOUTH AFRICA 11/07/2011
Roma Sparita Ristorante in Trastevere Rome for the most amazing cacio e pepe pasta.
John Osgood in New York, NY USA 11/01/2011
Ladies, watch your purse at the Termini in Rome -- handsome Italian men will brush up against you and politely exuse the inconvenience they cause while they try to unzip your purse. Luckily, the travel bag I used had a two-way zipper which I kept pulled to the front so he was unsuccessful.
Pat in Middletown, DE USA 10/31/2011
Massimo at Il Pirata delle Cinque Terre in Vernazza can make you a panini to take away if he's not too busy. (Best panini I've EVER had!) Try their hot chocolate...like sweet, wholesome, gooey melted chocolate (I'll have to show you the photo.)
Cortona - Best way to enjoy this town is to totally get yourself lost in the narrow alleyways where there are discoveries abound. It's small enough that getting lost is impossible. One recommendation: There is a great route that runs east from Piazza Girabaldi, past Convento delle Doverelle along the ancient wall, and eventually meeting Via Crucis di G. Severini which is an uphill ramp that leads you to Santa Margherita. Along this route are mosaics of Christ's life based on paintings (or reverse) by G. Severini. I'm not Christian, but I found them to be powerful, though they are nothing but simple and subtle. We circumnavigated the town clockwise, asking locals directions as we went along. That in itself was an unforgettable experience.
Firenze in mid October was wall-to-wall people with hundreds of tour groups. The Galileo Museum was a sanctuary from all the madness. We bought a panini at the Central Market in the morning and ate it at a small quite park south of the Arno, where we only saw a few locals, pigeons and a cat.
Kay Ishii in Renton, WA USA 10/30/2011
We had a guide in Sorrento, Italy that was excellent and I would recommend him to anyone visiting that region. He provided us with some very unique experiences and we had a wonderful time. He is rather pricey but we felt he was well worth it. His name is Gianluca d'Esposito, phone: 0039-339.5255774. He has a nice van that can accomodate up to 7 passengers and has intimate knowledge of Sorrento and the entire region. We had private tours of a buffalo mozzarella farm, a vineyard, wonderful meals at restaurants run by friends of his, and many fantastic sites along the Amalfi Coast and around Paestum. He came to our attention through my niece who studied architecture in Sorrento for 4 months earlier this year. Gianluca is just starting out in his private guide business and I hope you guys will look into him as a possible guide to recommend in your books. I know he has a website but I seem to have misplaced his address. Sorry. On other subjects, our meal at the Inn Bufalito was absolutely outstanding and we thank you for the recommendation. It made a perfect ending to our day after our visit to the buffalo mozzarella farm.
Julie Roehl in Toledo, OH USA 10/20/2011
Lee Bruning in Hayward, CA USA 10/10/2011
While in Venice, we bought a Chorus pass which allowed us to tour any one of 16 churches for 10 euros. This included the awesome Frari Church. For those who enjoy seeing great art in a church setting, this was an excellent value as most of the churches charge a 3 euro admission. We had the Italy guidebook and did not see this mentioned in it; perhaps you have it in the Venice guidebook.
Meg Ubel in St. Paul, MN USA 10/09/2011
As we did in 2007, I prefer using the shared shuttle transport from Da Vinci Rome airport to hotel. I have never waited more than 15 mins for a ride. The "booth" is located inside the terminal on the taxi level.
Jodi Sanders in Sun Valley, ID USA 10/06/2011
Your book was invaluable on our trip to Italy. Passing the long lines at the Vatican Museum we felt like we had a fast pass at Disneyland. Definitely make reservations at the sites recommended. Wear a money belt. We went with another couple and he had his passport stolen out of his snapped front shorts pocket. They ended up staying an extra night to get a temporary replacement. Learn a little of the language. The people are much friendlier when you try to communicate with them in their own language. And it's fun. When a gentleman behind me asked, "scusi, scende?" on the vaporetto in Venice and I knew he wanted to know if I was getting off at the next stop, I was thrilled to be able to say, "si", just like a real native! The only advice we didn't follow was to have some down time. We were so excited to see all the sights that we walked our tushes off. My feet were swollen most of the trip and for three days after we got back. Next trip, we plan to have more time just to breathe in the air of Italy. Gracie, Rick!
Terri in Buckley, WA USA 10/05/2011
We were stranded in Cortona late on a Sunday afternoon. Please warn your loyal readers that taxis are virtually unattainable on Sunday afternoon and to prearrange driver. Our hosts at our villa saved us by sending a driver. We stayed at a WONDERFUL place outside of Cortonna, LaMucchia Villa Suites, www.hometuscany.com...check it out.
Marianne Ferguson in Auburn, n USA 10/04/2011
Alma Civita in Civita di Bagnoregio. Run by Sandro and family, it opened just this summer. The food, cooked by Sandro's wife, Maria, is delicious. They also have two beautiful rooms for overnight guests.
Mo in Belleuve, WA USA 10/02/2011
Everything was wonderful! Followed your recommendations and out trip throughout Italy was amazing!
Kelly Moffa in Irvine, CA USA 10/01/2011
Believe it or not Rick Steves Travel Guide was my best discovery because it unlocked a world of great information that alloweed me to see everything that I wanted to in the short time that I was in Italy. The book is exceptional!
Laura Lee Crosetti in Putnam, CT USA 09/30/2011
La Morra (Barolo country). the Art Suites (a tiny B&B run by the owners of Rocche Costamagna winery) is fabulous, with incredibly helpful Allesandro and his staff. Also the Agriturismo Bortolino in Volta Mantovana (north of Mantua) and the Hotel Visconti (very near Malpensa airport) are excellent. Mantova
Jack in Philadelphia, PA USA 09/28/2011
Avignonesi Winery Tour with lunch at their pavilion-The Common Table. www.avignonesi.it/eng-tav-com.htm
Barbara James in Beaufort , SC USA 09/25/2011
Wine-dark house rester aunt in positano was fabulous, the owner was our waiter, shared a recipe with us, food was great, very reasonably priced, especially for positano, almost all outdoor seating, quiet little side street
Tony torra in Reading, Ma USA 09/25/2011
Great time in Rome,Florence, Hill Towns. Family with two teenagers. Guides spot on. May-June 2011
Cynthia Thomson in Tucson, AZ USA 09/15/2011
Monterosso in Cinque Terre and Lake Como (Varenna)
Liza in Syracuse, NY USA 09/05/2011
Amici degli Uffizi membership -- bought online, arrived with cards in hand and skipped to the front of the Uffizi and Accademia lines without needing reservations. Great value.
K in Rizzo, Va USA 08/23/2011
Inpiazzadellasignoria in Firenze was a great place to stay. Bargello Museum was the best find. Bernardo Osteria Risto in Pisa was fabulous. It is a newer place and not yet in your book.
Pat Geddes in Berthoud, CO USA 08/16/2011
We learned not to over tip. We met some locals on a street and started talking about tipping. They told us to make sure and thank the waiter and tell them what a great time we had. When we did that we ended up being treated to free lemoncello and lots of hugs and requests to return.
Angel in Katy, TX USA 07/27/2011
The restaurants and off the beaten path suggestions really made our trip memorable. Your podcast for the Colosseum brought the place to life. We were in Italy for 2 1/2 weeks in May and did not have to wait in line for anything...well maybe geleto.
Joe and Lila Klein in Richmond, MN USA 07/26/2011
We found it helpful to bring Shout and Chlorox wipes as we were traveling for two weeks and needed to keep our clothes free of stains and wipe down train trays and other areas. The only thing we DID NOT take from your packing suggestions was a hand towel and I cannot tell you how many times we wish we had it. In Italy, it would be good to know which churches had active liturgies or masses and which were just museums. We generally sought out a chuch for daily mass. I received your backpack as a Father's Day gift and it was invaluable on the trip -- lots of room, not too big and could be carried easily. Please note it is very difficult to buy bus tickets in Rome on Sunday as the tobacco stores and rairway stations are closed. We had to take cabs which actually turned out fine. We agree that taking cabs in Rome is well worth the investment and saving of time. When giving directions be more specific about what "down" or "up' means. Down could be underneath a building or down the street. We visited Italy for ten days after a business trip in Geneva. The special occassion was our 40th wedding anniversay. My wife's parents and oldest sister were born in Italy. she had been to Italy 20 years ago but this was my first trip. We are in our early 60's and traveled over 600 miles via trains. We did the trip on our own with your help. Thank you for a life-long memory.
John and Elyse O'Kane in Stone Mountain, GA USA 07/24/2011
Orvieto restaurant:hosteria nonna melia--great lemon pasta and atmosphere! Cortona:bar 500, great restaurant
Toey in Houston, Tx USA 07/22/2011
Rome was wonderful!! Hotel Gerber great! Cristina gniachi(guide) a delight!!!!
Debbie in Benton, Ky USA 07/20/2011
My husband & I discovered a new scam in Rome this morning. A man in a car called us from the sidewalk and wanted to know if we spoke English. He was well-dressed and asked if we knew how to get to the Vatican as he was lost. He had map in hand and said that he was a representative from Versace and was attending some function to do with fashion. He went on to say that he was from Paris and seemed very interested in hand-shaking. My husband gave him directions & he presented me with a handbag wrapped in plastic and insisted that it was worth 900 euros and I had to promise not to sell it. Then, the scam....he asked for gas money. He wanted 20 euros and refused the 5 euros my husband had offered. He kept insisting that we had more money. I gave him back his bag & my husband told him that he was a scam artist. We walked away & started going over what had happened. He didn't have a French accent, his car was not out of gas (my husband could see the gas gauge) & he switched his story from being a rep for Versace to L'Oreal. So annoying!
Deborah Casselman in Forest Hills, NY USA 07/20/2011
Hotel Verona in Rome - We are a family of four and all of the moderately priced hotels listed in the book with quad rooms available were booked. So we stayed at this hotel. Great location (near Santa Maria Maggiore church), quiet on the fifth floor, helpful staff, great breakfast and clean.
D Mitchell in Elk Grove, CA USA 07/12/2011
THIS WAS QUITE AN ADVENTURE FOR ME AS I AM A 68 YEAR OLD LADY WHO " BACK-PACKED" THRU ITALY. I USED YOUR BOOK EXCLUSIVLY, I FELT I COULD QUOTE IT ABOUT WORD FOR WORD BY THE TIME I LEFT. MY TRIP WAS FROM THE 17TH OF MAY TO JUNE 3RD. ROME, ORVIETO,ASSISI,VENICE,PADUA,VERONA,CINQUE TERRE,FLORENCE, SIENA AND BACK TO ROME. I MISSED RAVENNA DUE TO A REGIONAL TRAIN STRIKE IN ASSISI. THANK YOU...YOUR BOOK GAVE ME THE CONFIDENCE TO TAKE THIS AMAZING TRIP.
SANDI KELLY in SARASOTA, FL USA 07/10/2011
We used Cristina Giannicchime as was recommended through your guide book for tours in Rome. Not only was Cristina a amazing historian but was a delight of a person to spend time with. She toured our family of 5 through the Colosseum and Forum on one afternoon and through the Vatican the following morning. This was my 3rd visit to Rome but the first for my family. I had already been on tours of both places twice..thinking I would not get anything out of her tour, but she had a way of pointing out so many other interesting things the other tour guides never did, that it was like a whole new adventure. She was our best guide in out 3 week stay traveling throughout Italy!
Bobbi Koloany in Pittsburgh, PA USA 07/01/2011
Venice: For those who love Venice, we highly recommend Donna Leon's 20-novel mystery series starring police detective Guido Brunetti. You'll love them, and the descriptions of Venice are very precise and enticing. There's even a guidebook to Brunetti's Venice, with many walking tours. We were able cover a couple of them on our recent visit.
Ron in DeWitt, MI USA 06/30/2011
Not sure if I have missed the info in the book, but here is the only one thing that i would like to add in the book: I used Book for italy and the first thing i got stuck was to figure out where the street names are . Unlike US, they have street names on the building walla on the corners.I feel this should be added.
Gaurav Agarwal in Tyngsboro, MA USA 06/28/2011
OUr experience with Cristina was absolutely fantastic. We brought a group of 19 to Italy and Cris provided our private tours for three days in Rome. Her knowledge was exceptional and her interaction with our group waswonderful. We highly recommend Cris to anyone traveling in Italy! Your recommendation of Cris as well as other guides that we used on our recent trip to Europe incuding Athens, Ephesus, Istanbul and Sicily were also fantiasic experiences with the guides recommended in your books.
William Myers in Jacksonville, FL USA 06/28/2011
We stayed in an apartment in Rome and loved it (6 nights.) It would be helpful if the guide book offered some apartment rental web sites. We liked sleepinitaly and friendlyrentals. Their sites were easy to use. Flipkey was too hard to search.
Lynette Taylor in Brooksville, FL USA 06/24/2011
Any Grom gelateria is worth going out of the way to find. Many if not most Italians consider it be best in the country, and with good reason. It strikes me as the Ben & Jerry's of Italy. :-)
Michael in Seattle, WA USA 06/22/2011
Driverinrome tours for the Amalfi coast, Florence and Rome were outstanding. The guides/drivers were exceptionally friendly, informative, cooperative and a real joy to travel with. Outstanding!!!
Joe Jahraus in Broken Arrow, OK USA 06/16/2011
I would like to recommend Lulu Rooms & Apartments (Vernazza, Italy). website: http://www.lulurooms-vernazza.com phone number: 338 8223202 email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Joel Pepin in Edmonton, Ab Canada 06/09/2011
Ciobar hot chocolate.......yum! Vivaldi concerts by Interpreti Veneziani at Chiesa di San Vidal (near Accademia Bridge).
Liz Santos in Seattle, WA USA 06/06/2011
Suggested Guidebook Adds:
Bologna: centro, main piazza, and San Lucca basilica outside of town.
The Adriatic Coast: Senegallia on the coast with a brief detour into contemporary hills above the Adriatic just to get a brief feel for the easterners of Italy.
More about both in a moment.
A word about the kind of tourist I am: Like everyone I have the goal of having a great trip. Attaining two objectives results in a great trip for me.
One is to experience the wonders of another country; this is what Rick's guidebooks are particularly good at mapping me to.
My second objective is to see how the bulk of a country's people really live and work and shop and consume in various regions; this latter part attracts me to all the humdrum things that may bore others. I want to know about their super markets, chain stores, their appliance brands, fast foods, their packaged foods as well as their fresh foods, their cars and scooters, their bulk wines pulled out of aluminum tanks, as well as their good bottled vintages, their new boats (not just their quaint old ones), their books in their popular bookstores, their industries, their agriculture, etc.
In short, I don't just want to know about Italy's beauty and history and ruins and best cuisines. I want to know about how Italians live today (both well and poorly) and about their politics and bureaucracies and about the trials and tribulations and joys of daily life. I like going to the post office once a trip just to see just how slow an Italian post office can be. What Italians endure at the post office reveals an enormous amount about them.
Guilty pleasure 1: I can get a huge kick in Italy just walking around a parking lot and looking at the bewildering array of brands and types of cars, scooters, and bicycles I find. I love these toys in America and I love them even more in Italy.
I am also fascinated by what foods Italians embrace pre-packaged (lots more than, say, 15 years ago) and which they still want fresh. I want to know whether Italians try all the crazy home espresso makers in Marco Polo, or if a lot of them still use a little Bialetti? Do they all drink espresso they buy at the local store, or do they order it on line and delivered from Guglielmo Bar 5 Star down south in Calabria, or where ever? What do they eat at home, versus what do they eat at restaurants? How do the various regions of the country interact and influence each other, resent or like each other? Do they have north-south and east-west tensions, like the USA does? Or are they more homogeneous, or less? Heck, I even want to see their tacky new developments, and their now aging and increasingly shabby strip retail developments from the last 20 years around their autostradas.
Another guilty pleasure: I am fascinated by road side food in Italy. Even Autogrills on the autostradas fascinate me, because I can see so many Italians acting as they do when travelling. How different they are from Americans on the road in America in some ways, how similar in others!
But of course I like the non chain joints better and the more idiosyncratic the better. I stopped at a road side place called Cafe Sandy on the E78 somewhere near Civitta Paganico, descending between Greve di Chianti, Tuscany, to Grosetto in route to an off guidebook beach town called San Marinella, south of Civittavechia. The Cafe Sandy is sublime in a great dives kind of way. It is idiosyncratic even for Italy. You walk in buy a salami sandwich and a drink, then go out and sit under a thatched roof covered patio in a woodsy road side setting that is so peaceful that even peripatetic Italian businessmen simply sit and relax and seem to enter the Italian equivalent of a zen state. It is stunning to see these Italians who will soon be riding bumpers and passing in curving tunnels at a 140 kilometers per hour blissfully relaxing in the middle of no where.
Guilty pleasure number three: I make a mental inventory of all the different kinds of bathroom fixtures in every country I visit. I am firmly convinced that the form languages of toilets, bidets (or their absense) and sink fixtures are the rosetta stones of most cultures.
I am endlessly curious about even the most trivial things in any country I visit, and, so, from the moment I land, to the moment I take off, I am never bored. Frankly, in between the trivia, I take in the sites.
Sometimes I even long to be bored, but I just can't be. I am mildly ashamed that I cannot go to a foreign country and relax (well, Villa Barone in Panzano di Chianti Tuscany relaxed me, but that was a rare exception).
In fact, as I've already alluded, the most boring places to other travellers can be treasure troves of the fascinating minutia of modern life in Italy that I thrive on discovering.
Still, I know most others are not seeking Post Docs in Italian Cultural Trivial Pursuit, as I am, so my recommended places to go, for Rick to add to the guidebook, are places that I think others would find to be Steves-grade offerings, places I am kind of surprised Rick has not included, though wise as he and his staff are, they likely have their reasons.
Next, one more bit of prologue (there is more prologue here than logue) before discussing the adds; this is a remark about how we used the guide book differently this trip.
Two previous trips have involved sticking closely to the guide book itineraries. This 3-week trip we felt comfortable enough in Italy to alternate between three days on the guide book and three days off the guide book, then repeat.
Off the guide book, we did Bologna/Modena/Maranello one stretch, and the Adriatic coast between Foggia and Rimini, another stretch.
Alternating was good. Three days on the guide book filled us with Steves-grade sites, food and rest. Three days off confronted us with Italy unfiltered and with hits and misses and a sense of unchartered discovery--which brings a sense of self-empowerment, as well as both good and bad discoveries. After three days off, it felt good to go three days back on the guidebook knowing we would be in good hands and get our bearings again. Then back off for more unfiltered discovery. Since my wife spoke some Italian, going off guide book was mostly a joy. If you don't have anyone that speaks the language, stay on the guide book. While it is true that Italy is a country you can get by in without speaking the language (they adroitly and compassionately move you on better than some countries do when you know the language), all you do off guidebook and without language is just get by, and that's not enough fun for the cost of such a trip IMHO.
Next, a remark about experiencing places off the guidebook: We found the regions outside Rick's guidebook of Italy to be largely untravelled by Americans in late April/early May. We found these parts of Italy not to be very tourist friendly in the sense of being used to tourists and catering to them. All of the areas the guide books take one to appear to us to be in regions, or in destinations of Italy, where Italy wants tourism, be it through the front door, or Rick's backdoor.
As with any country, Italy has other areas where a lot of work is being done and a lot of heavy lifting goes on and where things just aren't very glamorous, or they are places where Italians themselves go to vacation, and where they just seem to want to go to get away from all of the foreign tourists that much of Italy has had to cater to since WWII in order to make ends meet. I have lived in San Francisco and Santa Barbara and coastal Oregon, so I am sympathetic to locals' fatigue and love/hate relationship with tourits. But these sorts of places--these tourist destinations for Italians-are among the places I want to see in order to understand Italy as a culture and country, and not just as a series of wondrous sites (which is okay too, if that's what you like).
In these off-the-guidebook regions, the people vary widely in their degree of friendliness and in their levels of acceptance of outsiders, just as they do back home in the states. You get treated differently in Disneyland than in Appalachia. If I want to get to know Italy the way I want to know Italy, I have to go to these sometimes unwelcoming areas. And I have to be as nice and polite as possible, and smile, be careful, and expect some occassional cold shoulders, rip-offs, infrequent scorn, even some possibly threatening behavior, and press on. But what I always learn is that Italians are like people everywhere, only more so. :-)
I always find some helpful cheerful Italians, it just may take a few more unpleasant encounters before I do in some of the off-guidebook locations.
Now back to my recommendations of Bologna and the Adriatic coast.
Why do I recommend Bologna? Because...
It has a thriving centro and the main piazza is one of the great public spaces in Italy, if you understand its history and architecture, and if you are willing to accept a little less pretty-ness and more brawniness.
Bologna, as I had it explained to me by an Italian acquaintance that lives there, is the central commercial hub of Italy, the town that throughout history has been the fulcrum between north and south in Italy, as well as east and west. It is the town that one had to control to control all of Italy, not just half of it. It is a pinch point in distribution in all directions. It is the interface and point between the Mediterranean culture of the south and whatever you want to call Italy from Rome on north.
Long ago, I am told, the Pope built an enormous palace/fortress that forms one side of the main piazza. It was a place the Pope came to, when he wanted to get out of Rome, and occassionally when he had to get out of Rome. This structure seems one of the most under-visited structures of apparently great historical significance in all of Italy IMHO.
Barely off the other side of the main piazza, a local showed me a building that is supposedly the original stock market building of Bologna that supposedly started operating around 1200 AD (stock market is a very loose modern term for referring to the medieval equivalent of a place where merchants, traders and craftsmen concentrated to work out deals with bidding.) My acquaintance, whose scholarship I cannot vouch for, said it was probably one of the oldest such facilities, maybe the oldest, of its kind in Italy. I leave it to Rick and his tireless assistants to verify, or refute this claim. :-)
The main piazza is imposing, rather than beautiful, but it is really imposing. And on one side of the main piazza is a small monument of several hundred, maybe several thousand tiny, black and white photos of members of the Italian Resistance movement in WWII that were rounded up and slaughtered on that spot by Nazis evacuating the city, as the Allied army prepared to enter the city but a few blocks away. It is one of the most moving, and little known monuments I have seen in all of Europe. It is so stark and yet so human.
Bologna seems to me the Chicago of Italy--a city of big shoulders--a place were all regions and forces of north and south and east and west converge to "get things done." It feels like a tough town, but a town with great character persisting to this day. A doctor I met there said Bologna probably has Italy's best hospitals and most advanced medical services and research. Bologna's universities are reputedly exceptional. There was a political rally and one day the military was securing the main piazza. Another day there was none. I had the best ice cream I have had in Italy just off the main piazza. Good restaurants were every where, the acquaintance said, and his wife proved to be a fabulous cook, too. If you love visiting great commercial cities with important scientific, commercial, historical and geopolitical significance, as I do, and if you care as much about understanding cities that join a country together, as much as you care about understanding the more famous cities that have ruled a country, then Bologna, the great joiner of Italy, merits a night and a day. And Bolognese cooking matters.
And outside Bologna is its main basilica: San Lucca. It is an amazing building. It is the most beautifully sited, and most unique basilica architecturally that I have seen in Italy, outside of those in Venice built on pilings and man made islands. This one is cited on a hill top overlooking Bologna but a goodly distance away.
Unlike the great basilicas from Rome north, which are tour de force amalgamations of gothic, byzantine, and Italian Renaissance attributes, San Lucca's architecture refers back to a more purely Greco-Roman tradition. It is on a hilltop outside of town, not in town; this alone makes it quite distinct from most of the great basilicas associated with major Italian cities. It uses strictly Roman arches. Elegance and purity of form language and massing, plus monochromatic use of color characterize it, rather than the amalgams of ornate complexity and contradiction found at so many other great basilicas of Italy. San Lucca also has an amazing approach road that is flanked on one side by a seemingly endless wall of Romanesque arches that continue a long, long way up to finally join the basilica. Each arch reputedly represents a person that has fought and died in long-ago wars defending the basilica and Bologna. The combination of this wall of arches, the unusually greco-roman basilica architecture, and the impressive view from the hilltop, made this one of my most memorable visits to a church of any kind in Italy. Frankly, it is hard to believe it exists in Italy until you actually see it. And though I cannot prove it, I believe its uniqueness of siting, and architecture and its wall, hint at the profoundness of the difference between Bologna and the great city states of Italy that it has long acted as the articulating geopolitical joint among.
Bologna seems Italy's Chicago. Italy's city with Big Shoulders between the coasts. Italy's geostrategic, industrial and commercial and transportation center.
Bologna isn't all prettied up, but it is all Italian and I suspect that to truly understand the corporate oligarchy that now seems to operate the nominally republican apparatus of Italy, one would do well to understand Bologna. Bologna isn't full of American tourists in April/May, and probably never is. American car and motorcycle magazine journalists probably go frequently, because Ducati motorcycles are made in Bologna and Ferrari is in Maranello on the outskirts of nearby Modena. American businessmen that import machinery from Bologna probably go. But Bologna seems off the American tourist radar.
Bologna is a living, breathing, Italian commercial center with a lot of history and a formidable main piazza.
Bologna ought to be in the guidebook.
Now about the Adriatic. I can see why Rick does not include it. If you are looking for the kind of beauty that impressionists moved to Italy to paint, it is not on the Adriatic. The beach town hotels are mostly built since the 60s-70s and could be located most anywhere in the USA. An inn keeper in Sorrento tactfully dissed the Adriatic, saying, well, its sort of the Miami Beach of Italy, then shook his head. And down along the coast line that is pretty much as it is, especially a place like Rimini.
But here is the thing: the Florida (and SoCal) coast analogy holds in more ways than Miami. There are also lesser beach towns, sleepier beach towns, still kind of 70s aging and a bit beach town tacky, but all the same they are important aspects of contemporary Italy, and places where persons from Rome, and other major Italian cities go when the beastly heat of Italian summer arrives (and persons that go to Rome and Florence in summer need their heads examined).
The point is that 60s and 70s beach towns filtered through a contemporary Italian spin and then connected with ancient centros in their midst are a great, weird, idiosyncratic slice of Italy. Not for everyone, maybe, but if you really want to get to know Italy, you've got to go to the Adriatic. For one thing Italy, skinny as it is, really does have an east coast and west coast difference. The Adriatic coast faces the Balkans and the culture of the Adriatic coast seems much more Balkan, in good ways and in bad, than those stylin' west coast slickies. :-)
The Adriatic is not achingly, exquisitely beautiful as a Positano/Sorrento region, or the Italian Riviera, are. But it is so, so, so Italian once you get into it. If you really like Italy, as opposed to just liking Italy's most beautiful sites, then the Adriatic is a must visit. But it doesn't take a lot of days to soak up what there is to absorb.
I loved how agricultural the Adriatic is from Foggia north to Rimini. Beautiful, beautiful agriculture. It is pretty thinly populated for Italy, also. And the towns up on the hills inland are, umm, shall we say, provincial. In most of the towns, when you stop for directions, you are viewed almost as an alien from another planet, much as you might be in Appalachia, or southwestern Oregon. And I liked discovering this aspect of Italy. It is not that the people are terribly unfriendly, or anti-American. They just don't see many outsiders and don't seem to want to see many outsiders and have almost forgotten there are outsiders. And yet they too are decisively Italian in the un-federated, non-nation state sense of the term.
We stayed in Senegallia well south of Rimini. On entry, it was a very tacky beach town out of season. And when we got to the beach front property, it included lots of concrete modern hotels and so on, but the place really grew on me. And what was so fun was that in the midst of all this Italian old modern, and post modern, and strip mall development, etc, was this terrific little centro buried inside of all of it. Our hotel was on the beach and was one of the most eccentrically aging old modern, Felliniesque concrete hotels with circular turrets you will ever see. Utterly bizarre "space age" modernist bathrooms now aging and looking like a Dwell retro study of a borderline acceptable mid century modern designer's work. The single floor semicircular room we had had three different elevations of flooring! Totally funky. I just loved it as I love the mid century modern revival in the states too, alienating warts and all of the style. And the hotel is just as quirky as any hotel in Sorrento. The front desk is up a flight of stairs. The dining room is glassed in with a 60-70s vintage chandelier and yet a great, great little breakfast spread with homemade rolls and bread was had. The place was a hoot and the manager was friendly and fascinated by Americans coming to Senegallia of all places. His trade is mostly Romans and Florentines and mostly from June to September.
Would I give up my Rick Steves 2011 guidebook? Are you flippin' crazy? :-)
I want the best of Italy through the backdoor that Rick offers "and" the unfiltered contemporary Italy in all its uneven, juxtaposed, surprising, unsettling, enchanting, infuriating wonder.
Sorry I took so long, but travel lifted me out of my culture and routines and let me think and feel a little and so I shared it.
D.C. Wilson in Bandon, OR USA 06/02/2011
1. A friend advised us to take several wash cloths on our recent trip to Italy as they are not available at hotels. I suggest the same. 2. The trains are safe, clean and not expensive! Buy your tickets as you travel at the train station. We traveled form Rome to Venice, to Varnazza, and back to Rome with no issues. BE SURE TO STAMP YOUR TICKETS (VALIDATE) IN THE YELLOW BOXES AT THE STATION OR YOU WILL BE FINED (UP TO 100 EUROS IN ROME). 3. I planned a 10 day Intenary (hour by hour) using Rick Steves' Guidebook on Italy. I could not have had such a wonderful and fact filled trip without it! (As he states, you'll get out of it what you put into the planning). 4. Take a taxi to the Tower in Pisa (6 euros) to and back to the train station - no hassles or pickpockets! 5. We shipped several packages back without any problems (one was worth $675).
Larry Linemann in Lexington, SC USA 06/01/2011
David Gelateria Via Marziale, 19 Sorrento, Italy 081 807 3649 Gelateriadavid@yahoo.it
Teresa Curran in Louisville, KY USA 05/31/2011
Rome: Francesa Carusa. Cannot praise her highly enough. We are history buffs on our 4 th trip to Rome. We went to Ostia Antica and learned so much from her while having a great time. If you like to see art in situ, don't miss the Church of Saint Prassede which Rick mentions in the paragraph about Santa Maria Maggiore. Saint Prassede is much smaller and easier to appreciate. Orvieta: We were so glad we stayed here ( at highly recommended Hotel Duomo) rather than in Civita. We loved seeing the Duomo, which is wonderful, in the evening as well as during the day. Enjoyed the drive to Civeta (not always well signed - we got lost regularly, and aren't sure if that was in spite of, or because of, the GPS.the regular route seemed more than scenic and winding enough. We we followed the directions to go to Lubriano first, but felt that proved to be unnecessary, as the best view of Civita is the one you get as you approach on foot. Rick's tip for parking under the bridge was great. Ravenna: Loved Basilica di San Vitale and Basilica di Sant'Apollinare Nuovo best, but everything was well worth seeing and we were so glad we came. binoculars helpful some places. Stayed at M Club Delux B&B which is highly recommend. Would have liked warning that there is a steep flight of stairs to get into the hotel, and there is not always someone around to carry the bags. Venice: Loved Novecento Hotel. Rooms were beautiful, service excellent, and location perfect for quiet rooms still so centrally located it was easy to get everywhere. While Rick is of course correct that Venice is walkable, locations are closer as the row flies than when you are walking up and down bridges in the heat. We ended up buying a vaparetto pass as we were doing a number of day trips and it didn't make sense to keep retracing our steps to get to the railway station, and were we glad we did. We hopped on and off the vaparetto, and saved our energy to explore the neighborhood we arrived in. We still got lost often. The first day we had to be in Ferrara by noon, so set off before 8. We let 2 vaporettos for Line 1 go by before we realized they were much more frequent than Line 2. We had no problem buying tickets at the station as per Rick's advice. Loved Scuola Dalmata di San Giorgio which I found much more accessible than Scuola San Rocco. Also enjoyed the Frari where Rick's audio tour was a big bonus. Went to the Jewish cemetery on the Lido which is unlike any I've ever seen elsewhere with big family mausoleums, and someone named Napoleon after the Emperor who liberated the Jews from ghettos. It is just past the ferry dock. If you walk on the side of the street opposite the water, you will see a locked gate in a brick wall, and this was where residents directed me when I asked for help. Turn back in the direction you came about a quarter of a block to the nearest street that runs away from the water. You will see a flower stand for the Catholic cemetery. walk past it to an arch and you will see a gate with a bell you can ring. I went Sunday morning when it was open anyway and locals were visiting their family graves. I was reading the Garden of the Finzi-Continis, great background for a trip to the area. Padua: Do not miss the Scrovegni Chapel when in the Venice area. We also enjoyed the Pinoteca and the original chapel in the Basilica of St. Anthony.
Marcia Zalev in Toronto, ON Canada 05/29/2011
Mary Weisse email@example.com
Mary Weisse in Rapid River, MI USA 05/28/2011
Art Crawford 208-939-3354 firstname.lastname@example.org
Art Crawford in Eagle, Id USA 05/18/2011
I would strongly recommend to your readers to keep an accurate account of all ATM purchases and receipts. It may help to figure out there statements when they get home in case they were charged incorrectly.
Penney Haas in Belleville, IL USA 05/17/2011
I would like to recommend "Poggio della Volara" near Orvieto in the commune of Montecchio as an addition to your list of places to stay in the book and would also suggest to remove the "Agriturismo Pomonte" as it does not fit the hospitality that one would expect after following your guide book. My family and I have always used your guide book and we are more than happy to blindly use your suggestions therefore surprises such as the Agr Pomonte does not deem fit to be a part of your book.
Elizabeth George in CLES, TN Italy 05/15/2011
I'm only about five days into a 20 day trip... but I wanted to share already. I've got one correction listed below and one thing to share: In regards to the colosseum - Rick mentions that the Roma Pass lets you bypass the line... and for awhile that was all I read... later on he shares that you actually have to stand in line to get in and then you can move to the left to bypass the actual buying of tickets. So my comment is to read all the sections about the site you are going to see don't just skim! :-) oh... and stop and read signs! (that is how I saw with a Roma Pass you can stay left and avoid 100+ people standing in line to buy their tickets
Mitch McCann in Killeen, TX USA 05/09/2011
Yes. We recently returned from Italy and went to Cinque Terre, among other destinations. We found the phrase book particularly helpful.
Nena Montgomery in Redwood City, CA USA 04/27/2011
La Laterna in Sestri Levante, Maybe the best ristorante that we ate at in Italy.
Everett Kincer in San Mateo, CA USA 04/18/2011
Where is info on Sicily?
Nancy desmond in Evanston, il USA 04/09/2011
Forget trying to get a Vat refund unless you depart from of a major airport. We traveled on train between Italy, Austria and Switzerland. After wasting much too much time visiting three offices in Venice where I was told I could get a Vat tax cash refund and then trying in Austria, no one at any of the government offices or the officials at any of the train stations were interested in stamping my refund form. Customs Officials seem to be non-existent at the borders when you travel by train to the countries we visited. I finally stopped by the Swiss Customs Office at the Zurich before we flew home. The customs official told me that since Switzerland was not an EU country he could not stamp the form, but he told me that he hears the same type of complaint that I voiced from travelers every day who shopped in Italy and were unsuccessful in getting their tax form stamped.
Gary Klein in Georgetown, Tx USA 04/06/2011
Albergo Barbara (hotel in Vernazza) should be removed from the list of recommended hotels.
J.Fritz in Olympia, WA USA 04/04/2011
Recently returned from a trip to the Amalfi Coast and took in Pompeii and Erculano. Skip the tour guides anduse Rick's tour of Pompeii. It is detailed enough for a good understanding of how the people lived and the disaster that wiped them from the map. Same for Erculano.
Tony Ambrose in Louisville, KY USA 04/03/2011
My wife and I just returned from a land trip to Italy. We found a great private tour company, A&R Tours at www.tourroma.com. We used them in Rome, Naples and Pompeii, but they do additional areas as well. We are in our late 50's and had a great time with Adrienne and Renato. They tailored the tours to what we wanted to see, took us to great and reasonably priced restaurants and were fun to be with.
They seem like just the kind of guides that your books recommend. We would highly recommend that you check them out and add them. Your description of Naples made it sound very scary, but with Renato (who is from Naples) as our guide, it was wonderful. Renato and Adrienne really took care of us for our four days in Naples.
Chris Kemp in St. Paul, MN USA 03/18/2011
Relais Genius Loci Country Inn is gearing up for its 5th successful season. Come see for yourself what the hype is all about. Enjoy the very essence of Umbria in its authentic charm and while enjoying luxury and charm. Contact us today.
Mary Thomas Tacconi in Bevagna, PG Italy 03/07/2011
Venice - Hotel Ala. What a beautiful place and location! I stay there for a week at the end of July every year. The "special offer" rate is half of what I am willing to spend!
Robert Violette in Bordentown, NJ USA 03/01/2011
To get a 25% discount on using the vaparetto for unlimited use on the prices posted in Rick Steves book for 12/24/36/48/72 hours + 7 day pass go to www.veniceconnected.com and purchase the ticket online more than 7 days prior to using. You receive a PNR number that is converted into a ticket at different locations mentioned on the website.
anne tam in honolulu, hi USA 02/20/2011
Sorrento...wine bar The Garden on Corso Italia...run by very nice couple
Pete Hall in Haddonfield, NJ USA 02/20/2011
Sibillini Mountain Park in Eastern Umbria. This unspoiled, sparsely populated (for Italy!) area has a lot to attract outdoor enthusiasts: hiking, white water rafting, mountain biking, horseback riding, caving, as well as the history and lifestyle we go to Italy for. We stayed in a delightful agriturismo Fonte Antica (www.fonteantica.it) at Campi. The farm has been in the family for 600 years, the farmhouse is a mere 300 years old. The rooms are huge and furnished with massive antiques, but bathrooms are modern. The food, mostly produced on the property, is simply prepared and simply delicious. We were there in October, and topped off our dinner with chestnuts roasted on the open fire in the dining room. The "ancient spring" for which the farm is named is contained by marble slabs salvaged from a Roman temple. Local town Norcia is the birthplace of Saint Benedict and well provided with small family run restaurants and shops selling the local food specialities: lentils, wild boar, truffles and porcini mushrooms.
marian exall in bellingham, WA USA 02/07/2011
I loved having the free downloaded audio guides for the major sites when I was in Rome, Florence, and Venice! Rick's directions and maps were easy to follow and fun to listen too. Unlike some of the boring audio guides that you can pay for there. I had the 2010 Ital guide and I can not say more good things about it! I fell in LOVE with Italy and Rick's tips helped me save tons of time and money. Especially when it came to knowing the reservations needed for certain museums and sites. I would have never known without the guide and since I only had 2 days in each city it was important I stay on track. Thanks Rick for helping me discover Italy!
Marcy in Los Angeles, CA USA 02/03/2011
We have a new suggestion for Riomaggiore. Agostino has a wonderful apartment right on the water! Cleanest place & best view of anywhere we stayed in 3 weeks. 80/night. Great! www.la-scogliera.it/Inglese/index-english.htm
Laura in San Diego, CA USA 01/23/2011