Italy

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Italy

Postby cheesemonster » Sat Nov 25, 2006 5:19 pm

I'm going to Rome in January/Febraury and have decided that i may as well extend my stay and see a bit more of Italy since i've never been before.
I plan to visit the following places: Naples, Pompei, Siena, Florence, Pisa and Cinque Terre but may visit more or less depending on money.

Who has been before? What other places and things should i see/avoid?

Cheers in advance!
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Postby ghiribizzo » Sun Nov 26, 2006 12:12 am

Avoid the rip-off areas of Rome; watch your back... and pockets.
Near Rome, a must-see is Villa Adriana up in the hills at Tivoli.
Hadrian's Villa
The size of the site is astounding. Easy to do when you control most of Europe...
The Tivoli Gardens of Villa d'Este themselves are outstanding as is the water supply to feed the hundreds of fountains. Totally OTT.
Entry fee to either site is modest.

You could also head North to Barga and think you were in Largs. :roll:
Even an ex-Clydebank Church Bell nearly made it...
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Postby gap74 » Sun Nov 26, 2006 12:47 am

Ah, most jealous, I had a wee sojourn around part of Italy in 2004, and enjoyed it muchly.

I started off in Rome, a few days there, then headed up the Amalfi coast, finishing up in Naples, from where I flew back. In between, I managed Pompeii, Sorrento, Salerno, Amalfi, and Positano.

Rome is great, but much more touristy than I expected, something that may not be quite so bad at the time of year you're visiting. The crowds and endless ice-cream and souvenir stalls are a bit annoying after a while, but then I guess as tourists ourselves, we've a bit of a cheek complaining...

I only had about three days in Rome, so did the easy thing and took an open top bus tour from the bus terminal right outside the main railway station, Stazione Termini. Plug in your headphones for a taped English commentary, and enjoy the fact that you aren't the one doing the driving through the chaotic Roman traffic - it really is a free-for-all, almost every car is bashed and scooters continually dart out of nowhere! If you've more time, then it's a great city to walk in, you'll stumble across loads of markets and interesting stuff by accident, although watch yourself around the main station, it can be a bit dodgy like any major city at night.

Think I did most of the major sites, Colosseum, the Forum, Palatine Hill, Circus Maximus, the Vatican, etc. The first three are all adjacent and fairly easy to do in a day, the Vatican perhaps needs at least half a day to take everything in, you'll wander through miles of corridors and exquisitely painted rooms before you get to the Sistine Chapel!

The Amalfi coast is stunning, I got the train to Salerno then the bus to Positano, a rather terrifying drive along precipitous and winding clifftop roads, with unbelievably vertical lemon groves populating the slopes down to the Med below. You really have to wonder what anyone was thinking when they saw these places and though it would be a good idea to build towns and roads along such cliffs!

Pompeii - if you really think you'll be interested in Pompeii, then allow pretty much a full day for this, it's absolutely enormous. Think I got there about 11am, and by 6pm had only managed a cursory wander around 3/4 of it. Fascinating stuff, the level of preservation in some places is stunning - right down to street signs, shop counters and domestic wall decoration.

Finally, I hit Naples, not through any particular desire to be there, more that it was the easiest place to get to for a cheap Easyjet flight home! It's a curious place, Naples, certainly not a pretty city by any stretch of the imagination. The journey there by train took us through some hideous industrial blight, I remember thinking looking at it and thinking that I'd never consider Glasgow to be an ugly city again....

The city centre has a tang to it, a bit edgy and grubby and smelly but probably all the more interesting because of it, in this day of carefully manicured tourist traps. I ended up in a hotel next to a porn cinema of the same name (Casanova!) and above some sort of noisy workshop!

Anyways, here are a few pics from my travels there to give you a flavour...

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OK, starting off in Rome, in the bus station outside the railway terminal. An excellent destination if I do say so myself, was almost tempted to hop aboard there and then!

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The Trevi Fountain, and an idea of just how busy it can be in Rome, even on a dreich day such as this was.

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Probably much prettier by night, I'd say, but the crowds are still there, just out of sight in this shot!

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The Colosseum - don't think I'd been prepared for just quite how ruinous it was inside!

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The main road to the Colosseum, the via dei Fori Imperiali, was apparently carved through the Roman ruins by Mussolini. To either side of the road is an impressive array of ruins of forums and the Palatine, such as this, the Fori Imperiali itself.

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At the bottom of the via dei Fori Imperiali is the monument to Vittorio Emanuele, the first king of unified Italy. Despite it's classical looks, it's only around 110 years old.

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The Castel Sant'Angelo, originally built as Hadrian's mausoleum in the 2nd century AD, but since used as pretty much everything in between - fortress, prison, papal residence, museum....

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A random free church visit which turned out to be this sumptuous interior, I think this was the Basilica di Santa Maria Maggiore.

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Viewed from the ruins of Palatine Hill, the long grassy remains of the Circus Maximus, the largest of Rome's chariot-racing venues - not to mention the odd execution and wild animal fight!

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Right next door to the Colosseum, the wealth of remains that make up the Forum - this is the Basilica of Maxentius, started around AD306. This is what is stunning about looking around these places, in AD306, us Scots were all still living in mud huts and drystone hillforts and the like, whilst in Rome they were knocking out stuff whose scale is still impressive today!

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A closer shot with random bloke to show just what the scale of these 1,700 year old buildings were!

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Looking to the right of the Basilica of Maxentius, the Colosseum is in the background, with the Arch of Titus just in front of it - this was built in AD81 to celebrate the sacking of Jerusalem.

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The Pantheon, originally built around AD 119-128. Despite much abuse and re-use over the years, after becoming a Christian church in the 7th century, it's still a formidable sight, especially when the rain is pelting in the 30ft hole in the middle of the dome, as it was on the day I visited!

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The 16th century dome of St Peter's in the Vatican City, as designed by Michelangelo. I read much about queues to get into the Vatican, but walked in without delay myself, don't know if that was common or not though!

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The Sistine Chapel. Takes hours of walking through the not uninteresting other parts of the Vatican before you get here. Photography is not permitted. Oops!

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Heading along the Amalfi coast, I think this is Amalfi itself, where we were llucky enough to catch a wedding in the main church! Pity about the scaffolding!

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Positano, possibly the prettiest of the Amalfi towns. The effect was somewhat spoiled, though, when I passed a small shop with a rack of newspapers outside, one of which was the Daily Record. Is there no escape...?

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Although I got the bus there, it's worthwhile getting the boat back for the fantastic sea views of the towns. Again, this is leaving Positano.

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On to Pompeii. The area outside the main entrance is a tacky tourist minefield of souvenir stalls and stray dogs. This is the Forum, with Vesuvius in the background.

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Typical street scene. With this level of preservation, it's fascinatingly easy to imagine how it might have looked in its heyday, and on the fateful day in AD79 when the volcano erupted.

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More of the same.

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It's really diffficult to get across the scale of the site, but it really is a full town, of which this is only a tiny fraction.

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And its astonishing to find that even shop signs and graffiti still survive, albeit behind faded, scratched perspex. Funding the preservation and display of the ruins is a bit of a headache for the Italian authorites...

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Especially interesting is wandering around many of the houses and finding things such as wall decoration perfectly intact. Unfortunately, the nature of the site means that there aren't much in the way of facilities, so many of the quiter rooms and houses you'll find get used as toilets...

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The infamous body casts, although there aren't as many of these as you might think.

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This being HG, I can't not stick up some of the paintings from the brothel....!

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And some more...

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And again....!

Anyways, fantastic country, hope you have a good trip!

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Postby Toby Dammit » Sun Nov 26, 2006 12:48 am

Sounds like a great journey. To be honest about Pisa, besides the Cathedral, Baptistry and tower there's not a lot else to see there, though the detail on these buildings inside and out is staggering enough.

When in Siena, avoid the restaurants in the Piazza del Campo if you're having anything more than a coffee. I had the worst pizza I've ever eaten in my life there (as a Bankie, that's saying something). If you're hungry, eat further away from the Cathedral/Piazza area.

Napoli is really a city of two halves, seperated by the Castel dell'Ovo. Napoli Centrale area in the east can feel extremely dodgy, in a way few places in Europe can, and the other side in Mergellina is much more relaxed, in fact it's from here you get the boat to awfy pan loafy Capri. If you've made it to Naples you'll be crazy not to pop over there for the day, because it's jaw droppingly beautiful, with it's surreal coloured sea and vertiginous cliffs. No wonder two Roman emperors went mental there. Capri tip - take your own food, as ice cream excepted, you are talking CRAZY prices. In Napoli itself, the ancient quarter Spacca Napoli is a must see. I ate the best sea food I've ever had in my life at Da Pietro, which is an ultra rustic looking joint tucked between some very swanky looking restaurants in front of the Castel dell'Ovo. It was so delicious I had the main course twice over, and downed two bottles of the house red, which came chilled with no lable, as Pietro made it himself. Near Mergellina station, I had the second best pizza (and it was invented in this city) I've ever eaten at Da Pasqualino.

Pompeii is vast, and I doubt you'll see everything you want to in just a day, though it may be less exhausting in the winter, I've only been there in Spring, even then the heat and dust were draining. Needs more than one "go". One of these places in Italy wich seems to be permanently besieged by vast hords of bored Italian school kids with little red rucksacks being chased round by in giagantic gaggles by harrased teachers.

Florence in the winter is a more romantic looking place than in the summer, with the mists hanging round the surrounding mountains, and it's slighty less busy. Still mobbed though. My fave place in the city is the Capella Brancacci, with Masaccio's staggering frescos. Arguably the first modern works of art ever painted.

If you're going as far North as the Cinque Terre, it really is worth having a look at some of the other towns in the Levantine Riviera. My own fave town is just a couple of stops on the train from Genova before the start of the Cinque Terre trail, Sestri Levante.

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It's a tiny town, but for food, ice cream, atmosphere and sheer tranquility it's one of my fave places on the planet, one of these parts of the world where you don't have to do anything, just be. Even in winter the climate can be amzingly warm

Some great panoramas of the region here:

http://vrm.vrway.com/projects/italian_r ... vante.html

When going into any little bar in Italy, it's worth noting the amazing amount of often quite obscure single malt whiskies they have on offer - the Italians drink more Scotch whisky than anybody else on Earth. You'll find bottles of stuff in the most obscure cafe there that you'de be hard pushed to buy in a speciality whisky shop in London or Edinburgh. Yet another of that nation's pleasant surprises.

One last thing, Italy isn't very English language friendly, I'm afraid, but a few simple phrases go a long way.
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Postby cheesemonster » Sun Nov 26, 2006 12:54 am

great pics!
::): @ labia - that's a must visit surely!
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Postby cheesemonster » Sun Nov 26, 2006 1:00 am

Positano and Sestri Levante look beautiful
Argh, far too many places to cram into my trip and not enough money to stay longer!
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Postby Toby Dammit » Sun Nov 26, 2006 1:40 am

Aye well, you're "Naples, Pompei, Siena, Florence, Pisa and Cinque Terre" tour is rich enough to be going on with as it is! In Roma, my fave Restaurant is Giggetto, I always make a meal there a part of my trip. It's in a building bits of which are 2 thousand years old and the food is... so good you'll form a taste memory of it for the rest of your life, and like so many food experiences in Italy it's incredibly cheap, even with bottles of wine.

http://www.giggettoalporticodottavia.it/

For boozing in Roma, avoid the packed touristy center Piazzi at night, and dive into the Trastevere district instead. It's packed with fab little bars and was the late great Segio Leone's hangout of choice.
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Postby duck » Sun Nov 26, 2006 12:02 pm

When you're in Rome, take the train a few miles out to the coast to Ostia which used to be Rome's port. Incredibly fascinating place. It's the ruins of practically a whole town and you can wander along the streets, sit in the old public, very public ,lavvies, stand at a bar and look at the old drink adverts etc etc. Some buildings that remain still with their upper floors. To quote the guidebook
" It is to Ostia we turn when seeking the evidence that Rome has not been able to preserve: the pattern of urbanisation and the methods of building, both monumental and modest, which made up the varied fabric of city life. In fact, the surviving archaeological remains of Ostia represent about the nearest we come to a typical example of a Roman town."
If I remember correctly I think it's only about twenty minutres or so from Rome. You take the metro from Piramide and get off at Ostia-Antica.
Have a look at http://www.ostia-antica.org
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Postby gap74 » Sun Nov 26, 2006 1:02 pm

I meant to say that if you don't feel up to the gargantuan Pompeii, then nearby Herculaneum is no less impressive in the level of preservation (some would say more so!), but a bit more manageable size-wise. Might also be a bit quieter than Pompeii.

Have a looky here:

http://www.roman-empire.net/articles/article-011.html

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Postby cheesemonster » Sun Nov 26, 2006 2:54 pm

duck wrote:When you're in Rome, take the train a few miles out to the coast to Ostia

How long would you suggest i spend in Ostia?
Would half a day suffice or a full day?
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Postby duck » Sun Nov 26, 2006 3:03 pm

Cheesemonster
You could easily spend the whole day but in saying that we went early in the morning then had a great lunch right on the seafront and it remains in my memory as one of the greatest days ever!
Hope you enjoy it as much
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Postby McShad » Sun Nov 26, 2006 6:25 pm

If I give you some part numbers, could you pick up some parts for my poorly italian made bike? Would probably be faster than their UK parts service
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Postby woodie20 » Mon Nov 27, 2006 1:11 pm

pisa is shit, unless your desperate to see the tower, which is really not that impressive (compared to the campanile in venice etc).
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Postby woodie20 » Mon Nov 27, 2006 1:15 pm

but do go to the colluseum in rome, its amazing, and although queues seem massive don't take up the offers from tour guides saying they'll get u in faster, the queues actually move quite fast, plus you get to hear americans say the funniest things...

american woman "why didnt they finish it?"

her slightly more intelligent husband "they did, but its very old and parts of it have fallen down"

woman "so why don't they just rebuild it?"
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Postby cheesemonster » Mon Nov 27, 2006 2:06 pm

woodie20 wrote:pisa is shit, unless your desperate to see the tower, which is really not that impressive (compared to the campanile in venice etc).

Nobody i've spoken to has said anything remotely nice about Pisa!
So i am amending my travel plans based this advice. I now don't think i'll be travelling as far north as Pisa and Florence. I'm thinking of visiting these places instead:

Sorano, Sovana & Pitigliano:
http://www.archeologia.beniculturali.it ... _notte.jpg
http://www.escursionigep.it/galleria_fo ... CF0027.jpg
http://www.escursionigep.it/galleria_fo ... CF0028.jpg
http://www.escursionigep.it/galleria_fo ... CF0033.jpg

Orbetello, porto ecole & porto s.stefano:
http://www.vacanzaromana.it/public/orbetello1.jpg
http://www.ansedoniaonline.it/ita/foto/aereo2.jpg
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