Auto Grills

How to Plan a Trip to Italy – Part 12

Now you are in Italy and have a great small hotel. Where do you eat? I have posted on this before but to be complete in this series, we will post it again.

Italy is an easy place to find great local food. It is always fresh and usually organic. Italians love their country, their food and their wine. It shows when you eat in one of their restaurants. We have a few rules about food in Italy:

  • Do not eat at tourist places – they are usually close to the monuments tourists go to see. The food is not real Italian. You can find hamburgers, poorly prepared pasta and cheesy pizza.
  • Restorante are top of the line restaurants – They serve excellent food but are expensive.
  • Trottoria’s are local food for a moderate price – This is where we like to eat. They are everywhere and have fresh local food prepared correctly.
  • Pizzeria – These are restaurants that serve Pizza. You can have Restrorante and Pizzeria, Trattoria and Pizzeria or just Pizzeria.
  • Enotecca’s – these are wine bars that allow you to buy and sample different wines. You can usually eat small dishes as well. This is a great way to taste some of the local wines and determine which you like.
  • Breakfast is easy! Go to a local bar … that’s right a bar. They serve coffee (espresso or American or Cappuccino) and pastries. Cornetto is a croissant like pastry. The pastries are magnificent. Crispy and light. Normally you pick what you want and eat and then go to cash register and say what you had and pay. Some bars require you to pay in advance and take the ticket to the bar and order your food.

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Cornetti (multiple cornetto)

  • Gelateria – Italian ice cream. These places have a large number of types of ice cream. They are all made fresh and served soft. You can ask for a sample of several types and then choose what you want. You can get your gelato in a cone or a dish. Some places even make fresh waffle cones. Gelato is generally lower in calories, fat, cream, and sugar than other styles of ice cream.
  • Auto Grills – These are restaurants on the autostrada. They have surprisingly good food. You can get a panini, pasta, or sweet rolls. They also have tourist things like bags of pasta, candy and cookies.
  • Fruit & Vegetable stands/stores – Most large and small towns have these. Stop and buy some fruit to eat. Grapes, strawberries, peaches, apples or what ever is in season. Smell the fruit! You can actually smell fruit that is in season and ripe. Choose the most aromatic ones.

Choose wisely and enjoy the food. You don’t need to speak Italian. Just read the menu. Most items are listed the same as in nice Italian restaurants in the states. Point to what you want. Ordering the house wine is usually a treat in Italy. It is very good and inexpensive. It doesn’t come in a bottle but a litter or half litter pitcher.

Enjoy

George & Jo Anne

 

Categories: Auto Grills, Autostrada, Bars, cornetto, Enoteca, Europe, Food, Gelato, General Travel, Italy, Panini, Pastry, Ristorante, Trottoria, Wine | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

How to Plan a Trip to Italy – Part 11

Your big day has finally come. You are going to Italy! Get to the airport early. We like to stop at Vino Volo after we get through security. We have a flight of wine (4 different glasses with about an ounce of wine each or one regular glass of wine). We also order some appetizers to go with the wine. For us this is the official start of our vacation.

Vino Volo

Vino Volo

We board the airplane early to ensure we get overhead space. The flight from Philadelphia to Rome is always full. We normally took US Airlines but they merged with American and they are one airline under the American name now. The planes are all newly painted with the new American logos. The plane is an airbus A330-300 – wide body. The non-stop flight is American 718 going to Rome and 719 returning. The 718 flight leaves Philadelphia at 6:25 pm and arrives in Rome the next day at 9:10 am. Coming home we leave Rome at 11:55 am and arrive in Philadelphia at 3:45 pm the same day.

American Airlines

The overnight flight going is mostly in darkness. After the meal service they turn off the cabin lights and you can sleep. If you don’t sleep onboard, you can watch movies or play games on your personal monitor in the back of the seat in front of you. You can also read. The flight goes fast if you can catch 2-3 hours sleep. Before landing you see the sun rise over Europe and a small breakfast service is given. The return flight has a lunch service and a snack before landing in Philly. It is in sun-light all the way so you can easily stay awake. We watch 3 movies to pass the time.

Arriving in Italy you are tired and your body is confused. After all it is 3:10 am back in Philly. We rent a car and drive to our first destination. We will stop on the Autostrada for a Panini (sandwich). This helps adjust your body to the new time zone. It is VERY important to not nap during the day! If you do you will wake-up in the middle of the night and be starving. Force yourself to stay awake and tour. Find something interesting to do. Have dinner and don’t go to bed before 8 pm. You will crash and sleep like a baby. When you wake up the next day you will be fully on Italy time.

Returning is easier since it is in daylight all the way. You arrive at 3:45 pm and by the time you get home it is after 5 pm (11 pm Italy time). Have some dinner to help adjust the time zone and go to bed around 8 pm. You will again wake-up on the correct time zone.

Arriving in Italy you have your adrenaline going, you are excited to start your vacation. Italy is a safe country. Violent crime is very low (even in the big cities). There are pickpockets so beware of who is around you. George puts his wallet and phone in front pockets. Jo Anne puts her purse straps over her head. Don’t stress about it! You are here to enjoy yourself and be romantic.

Italian Flag

George & Jo Anne

 

Categories: Airplanes, Auto Grills, Autostrada, Europe, Flights, General Travel, Italy, Panini, Romance, Rome, Wine | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

How to Plan a Trip in Italy – Part 6

So we have our itinerary and know where we are staying, Know we need transportation while in Italy. We have a few choices:

  1. Tour – This is our least favorite and we never do this. Tours tend to be big, slow moving and they choose restaurants that give them a kick-back (not ones with great Italian food). Tours have had complaints for a long time. Some are giving Free Days where you are on your own to explore. They do handle the issues of language, getting lost and easy of touring but at an expense. In our opinion a great expense.
  2. Rental Car – This is our favorite to go to small towns and hilltop cities. In large cities we park for the duration of our stay and walk or take local transportation. Car rentals are easiest at the airport. You get your car and drive out and are on an autostrada quickly. In the south where we have our home, it is critical to have a car. It is the country and you need a car to get around. Italy’s roads are easy to navigate and GPS works great. You have a choice of American car rentals like Hertz, Avis and Budget as well as European (usually cheaper) like Eurocar. The Autostrada has great Auto Grille (rest Areas) with good bathrooms, great food and gifts. Take a break from driving and enjoy.
  3. Cruises – This is an option we do not like. Cruise tours are short and not enough time to really see a city. A few hours in Rome is not enough to see it. It certainly is not enough time to sit at a bar and experience Italian life. You go to Italy not just for the sites but to experience the Italian people and customs.
  4. Ferries – In beside areas like the Amalfi coast, take a ferry to visit other local towns. This is a fast and sonic way to travel an area. Ferries are usually not expensive.
  5. Train – An in between option is to take the train. Most airports have easy access to trains that take you into the nearby city. From any of Italy’s big cities you can board high-speed trains (Trenitalia) to any other big city in Europe. Trains are fast and efficient. Remember that your ticket must be validated before boarding the train unless you have an e-Ticket that says no validation necessary. Validation is sticking your ticket into a yellow validating machine at the end of tracks and getting it time stamped. From a large city you can transfer to local trains that go to almost all local towns. You can get to your destination or a nearby town easily.

Trains Italy

However you get around Italy, enjoy the ride. Look at Italy’s vast rugged countryside. The mountains are large and very rugged. Italy was formed by very violent volcano and earthquake events. It literally rose out of the sea. What was left is a very beautiful countryside. Italy is one of the most visited countries on Earth. Go and see why! Explore Italy and be romantic.

Tomorrow we ill look at booking your airfare and pricing.

George & Jo Anne

 

Categories: Auto Grills, Autostrada, Car Rentals, Cruises, Driving in Italy, Europe, Ferries, General Travel, Italy, Parking Garage, Romance, Small Towns, Trains | Tags: , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Where to Eat in Italy

French wines are usually made to accompany food.

French wines are usually made to accompany food. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

People that have been to Italy often ask us what is the difference between the types of restaurants in Italy? It can be confusing so we give you this guide.

Italy has fantastic food everywhere. We even stopped at an “Auto Grill” on the autostrada (highway) and had a great espresso and pastry. Other times we will get a Panini at the Auto Grill. Not like our turnpike rest areas. In Italy there are several common types of places to eat and a few others in certain areas.

Types of Restaurants in Italy:

  1. Bar – A place to eat or drink. In the morning you go here for coffee and pastry, at lunch you go for sandwiches (Panini). In the evening you go for a drink and a snack. Many bars also serve gelato. Bars are cheapest if you stand and eat. Sitting at a table costs more but allows you to relax and observe Italy and its great people.
  2. Tratteria – these are small private owned eating cafes with great food at reasonable costs. Lunch and dinner are great. Usually Italian favorites as well as local dishes are served. The atmosphere is simple but comfortable. A version of these are Pizzeria Trattoria. These include pizzas along other dishes. Some have outside and inside seating available.
  3. Ristorante – These are for lunch or dinner and are nice but expensive. The atmosphere is classic and the food is great. You can also find Pizzeria Ristorante’s. The wine lists are more extensive and the atmosphere is more formal.
  4. Osteria  – These are places that usually serve wine and simple food with limited menus.
  5. Enotecca – Small wine bars that allow tasting local wines (for a charge) and serve small dishes or sandwiches or Tapas like foods. These are a great way to get to know local wines.
  6. Rotisserie – Small restaurants that specialize in roasting meats on a spit.
  7. Agritourism – Usually a farm-based establishment with a B&B type hotel and food grown or raised on their farm. They sometimes have stores to buy products and take home. One near our home in Italy has a vegetable and fruit market as well.

Pizza is everywhere! You can have it in Trattoria’s or Ristorante’s. The bread in Italy is great. It is crusty on the outside but soft or airy inside. Always stay away from touristy places serving hamburgers and hot dogs. The food won’t be good and prices will be high. Enjoy your trip, taste Italy’s great food & wines. Sit back and smile as you watch the Italians strolling with family at lunch time or in the evening. Lunch usually ranges from 12 noon to 3 pm (shorter in the north) and dinner from 6 pm (for tourists) to 11 pm. The south of Italy eats much later than the north. The south also serves more fish than the north. If you happen to be in the north of Italy in the fall, DO NOT MISS the truffles.

Remember Italy is the land of romance. Sit back and enjoy yourself. Stay away from the American Fast Food places. You are in Italy enjoy its great foods and wines. Save the fast food for when you get home. Do NOT go into eating establishments in Italy and be in a hurry! Use a bar if you have to eat fast. Good food takes time to prepare and serve properly.

George & Jo

Categories: Agriturismo, Auto Grills, Autostrada, B&Bs, Bars, Bread, Cooking, Enoteca, Fast Food, Food, Gelato, General Travel, Italian Facts, Italy, Pastry, Pizza, Ristorante, Romance, Truffles, Wine | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Drive to Rome and Home

At the end of each of our trips to Italy, we drive to Rome Fiumicino Airport the day before our flight. This allows us to get rid of the car and have a good night sleep in a hotel at the airport. The drive from Velina to Rome is about 4 hours.

As we leave Velina, we drive north past the train station to the entrance of the SP 430 highway. This takes us north-west to Agropoli and then onto the A 3 Autostrada at Battipaglia. There is a spot on the SP 430 that is damaged and we have to detour onto a mountain road. It is just past one of the tunnels.

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This rout passes Paestum and follows the Mediterranean coast. Once on the A 3 we head north-west to Salerno. At this point we leave the sea behind and head inland to the mountains. Soon we are passing Vesuvius. This is a very daunting volcano. You feel small and helpless near this huge volcano. Soon we are at the A 1 Autostrada (Italy’s main Highway). We are just north of Naples heading North-West to Rome. Along this stretch we usually stop at one of the many Auto Grills. They have bathrooms, gas, food and tourist items. As in most bars in Italy, you pay first and then with your ticket in hand get your food.

At Rome we head West around the loop on the A 90 that circles Rome and onto the A 91 to the airport. Fiumicino is near the sea again. We typically stay at the Hilton Garden Inn near the airport. You can drop your luggage at the hotel, check-in and gas up the car. Then drop it off at the airport and catch a shuttle bus to long-term parking and the Hilton Garden Inn. Now we relax with a drink and wait for dinner at 7:30 pm.

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Soon it’s dinner time and the food is pretty good here. The free WiFi allows you to catch up with your Facebook and emails. The next morning we have breakfast and take the shuttle back to the airport.  Soon we are onboard and leaving our beloved Italy behind.

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Nine and a half hours later we are landing in Philadelphia. The trip was awesome, the people friendly and warm and the food & wine the best. Until our next trip!

George & Jo Anne

 

Categories: Agropoli, Auto Grills, Autostrada, Bars, Driving in Italy, Europe, Flights, General Travel, Italy, Naples, Paestum, Rome, Velina, Vesuvius, WiFi, Wine | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Airfares

Do you fly non-stop or do you try to save a little on a stop or two? We get airfare deals in email all the time. Most are scams. You see the sucker price and say to yourself, “WOW what a great price to Italy!” Then you click on the price and all the listed airfares are higher. You have been suckered! We fly non stop Philadelphia to Rome. Many flights with stops have extremely long layovers. The last thing we want to do after an 8 to 10 hour flight is wait in some airport for another 8 hours to catch a connecting flight.

Our non stop gets us to Rome and then we have a 4.5 hour drive to our home in Italy. Yes we could fly into Naples or Salerno and be much closer but again we are sitting in an airport for longer than the drive time. Besides getting off the plane and renting a car starts your adventure. Driving and looking at the sea and mountains is exhilarating. We can see many small towns on the mountain sides around us.

We usually stop at an Auto Grille on the Autostrada to get something to eat and stretch our legs. All in all, the time goes by quickly and we are in Italy. Soon we are taking the exit for our all town and our anticipation heightens.

George & Jo Anne

 

Categories: Air Fares, Auto Grills, Autostrada, Car Rentals, Driving in Italy, Europe, Flights, General Travel, Italy, Southern Italy | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

The Autostrada’s of Italy

The Italian Autostrada is much like the German Autobahn. They are high-speed roads with at least 2 lanes but many have 3 lanes each way. There are tolls on these roads. Toll plazas can be at exits/entrances or across the entire highway. The main north-south highways are labeled A plus a one or two digit number. Connector highways that can go in any direction are labeled E and have two or three digit number. These roads are easy to navigate. A few driving rules exist:

  1. Never hog the left lane! Use it to pass and then move back into the middle lane. If a car is approaching from the rear, move over. I can not stress this enough. Italians roads have speed limits by lane. The left is the highest, the middle a little less and the right lane is for slow-moving vehicles.
  2. Use your turn signal to indicate lane change.
  3. Lane lines are just a suggestion in Italy! You will see cars driving on them and right next to you. This is normale (normal)!
  4. Use your GPS device or smart phone to get directions and distances. We use the Tom-Tom App on our iPhones.
  5. Auto Grills are rest areas on these highways. They have good food, restrooms and all kinds of tourist junk. Take a break from driving, stretch your legs, eat something and have a cafè.

The main Autostrada’s are:

  • A1 – Milan to Naples
  • A2 – Old Rome to Naples but now it is part of A1
  • A3 – Naples south to ferry to Siciliy
  • A4 – Turin to Trieste
  • A5 – Turin to Monte Bianco
  • A6 – Turin to Savona
  • A7 – Milan to Genoa
  • A8 – Milan to Varese
  • A9 – Lainate to Chiasso
  • A10 – Genoa to Ventimiglia

The list goes on and on. See a complete list on Wikipedia.

Get out and rent a car and see the real Italy.

George & Jo Anne

 

Categories: Auto Grills, Autostrada, Car Rentals, Driving in Italy, Europe, Italy | Tags: , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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