Categories: Adriatic Sea, Bari, Beaches, Bread, Cheese, Eating, Eating Italian, Europe, Food, General Travel, GPS, Hotels, Italian, Italy, Italy BLOGs, Lemoncello, Limoncello, Puglia, Ristorante, Romance, sea, VLOG, Walking, Wine
Tags: Apulia, Bari, Food, Italian, Italian cuisine, Italian people, Italy, No Tour Touring, Puglia, Romance, Tourism, Travel, Travel and Tourism, Walkin, Wine
Big cities or small, Italy has interesting streets. I love walking the small streets as they wind through a city. Some are pedestrian only which means people and scooters, Scooters are everywhere in Italy. It is a way of life. As you walk along a small street, especially in a small town, you see other small streets off to the left or right. Some curve and disappear out of sight. Others are steep or turn into a set of stairs. You don’t have to be in Positano to find stairs. Italians love them. It is what keeps them in shape as they walk their cities (passeggiata).
It appeals to my sense of adventure to follow these small streets. I love to find out where they go. I also love just getting lost on my small adventures. Don’t worry, we have modern technology in our pockets that can GPS us back to our cars or hotels. I think getting lost is a primordial need we all have. Just give in an do it. You know you want to find out where that street goes to.
I have been in small towns where most of the streets are stairs. You climb and climb until you get to the top. There you usually find a church or a castle. No matter how small a town you are in, you will always find a bar. You can stop for a cafè, drink or sandwich. This is Italy. This is how life is lived. Enjoy it!
Along your adventure look at the doors, the windows and the laundry. It is colorful and photogenic. There is always a new surprise just around the next bend. Discover it.
Categories: Christmas Lights, Europe, General Travel, GPS, Italy, Mountain Towns, Passegiata, Romance, Small Towns, Smart Phones, Stairs, Traveling without a tour, Walking
Tags: Italian, Italian people, Italy, No Tour Touring, Positano, Romance, Tourism, Travel, Travel and Tourism
Italy is a place most people love. They may like the big cities, the smaller villages, the towns their ancestors came from, the museums, the food, the wine or the people. I love it all. Italy is a special place. This is why I BLOG about it.
For my wife, Jo Anne, and I; we don’t believe in tours. We enjoy getting out with the Italians and seeing and tasting the real Italy. We plan trips to big cities so that we see all the important things but the smaller villages are often a spontaneous choice. We may be driving on the autostrada and see an interesting town high on a cliff side. We get off, use our GPS to locate the town and go explore it. We usually stop at a bar first for a coffee and maybe a pastry. These small villages are not hard to navigate but many do have a lot of stairs. Remember where you parked your car or use one of the many apps to find it.
We also enjoy small European hotels but do pay for a private bath. These hotels are often run by a family that is friendly and helpful. We never stay at the large American resort hotels. They are expensive and the food is not real Italian. We try to eat where the Italians eat. We get local recommendations or find places on our walks. We never eat in touristy places. The food there is horrible. Most larger cities have discount tickets for the major museums and sites. If you are spending a few days, this can save you money but more importantly bypasses the long lines waiting to get in.
Lastly, explore your flight options to Italy carefully. Some flights with several stops appear to be very cheap. Each stop adds time to an already long trip and wears heavily on your body. Some of these flights go way out of your way adding double the flight time. One I saw was from Philadelphia to Rome. It went to Chicago and then to Moscow and finally back to Rome. Why?
Categories: Air Fares, Bars, City Passes, Coffee, Eating, Eating Italian, Europe, Flights, Food, General Travel, GPS, Italian, Italy, Mountain Towns, Planning a vacation, Regions of Italy, Romance, Small Towns, Stairs, Tour Groups, Travel Guides, Traveling without a tour
Tags: Food, Italian, Italian cuisine, Italian people, Italy, No Tour Touring, Romance, Tourism, Travel, Travel and Tourism, Travel Guides
We have already seen a lot of Rome but there is so much more to do and see. Put your walking shoes back on because we will be walking more today. As usual we start our tour at the Trevi Fountain. Today we are headed to Vatican City. We normally do not take tours but the Vatican is a good place to take a tour. You can sign up at your hotel. Then just walk or take the Metro to the Vatican and join your tour.
On our walk to the vatican we will first visit and cross the Bridge of Angels and then enter Castel di Angelo. GPS your way to the Bridge of Angels and the Castle of Angeles. You will see the Tiber River and the Bridge of Angels. As you cross the river look at each statue of an angel. The castle is directly on the other side of the bridge.
Bridge and Castle
Inside the castle climb to the top and be rewarded with views of Rome and Saint Peters. As you leave the castle turn right onto Via della Conciliation into Piazza San Pietro. There are many shops and restaurants along this road. The cathedral is right in front of you. If you have tickets for Vatican City tour, Go there first and you can exit the Sistine Chapel into Saint Peters Cathedral. Getting to the Vatican City Tour Entrance is about a mile from the castle. GPS it or take a taxi. Inside the entrance is a ticket office where you can join a tour or buy a ticket and tour on your own. You will see many things here and the tour ends in the Sistine Chapel. You have a choice there to exit back the way you came or exit directly into Saint Peters Cathedral. Once in Saint Peters you can not go back. You will exit the church normally and be in Piazza San Pietro. The Castle of Angels is directly ahead on Via della Conciliation. Information on tours can be found here.
Saint Peters viewed from the Castle
From the Castle cross back over the bridge to go to Mouth of truth (Bocca della Verità). Set your GPS from the Castle to the Bocca della Verità. It is a about a mile and a half walk. It is outside a small church, Santa Maria in Comedian. The legend has it that if you place your hand in the mouth and it comes out OK, you tell the truth. If you lose your hand you are a liar. We saw many Italian women place their hands in and withdraw them successfully but most of the men would not do it.
Line waiting to place hand in the Mouth of Truth
As always GPS your walk on you smart phone, take a taxi or the Metro. Roman is easy to get around. Always have your hotel name and address programmed in your smart phone. You can show a taxi driver the name or use the address to GPS your way back.
Categories: Bocca della Verità, Castel Sant'Angelo, General Travel, GPS, Rome, Saint Peter's Basilica, Taxi, Traveling without a tour, Trevi Fountain, Vatican City
Tags: Italian, Italian people, Italy, No Tour Touring, Rome, Tourism, Travel, Travel and Tourism, Vatican
OK, you have decided to go to Italy, you have a date when you want to go and you know the region(s) of Italy you want to visit. What now? Now you have to gather information on those areas and what you want to see. The Internet and guide books are invaluable. Use sites like Trip Advisor to gather other people’s opinions but be aware that not everyone thinks like you or enjoys the same things as you do.
Now buy a guide-book in paperback or an eBook that will list the major attractions. We like DK’s Top 10 books.
They list the top ten things to see and then at each of the top ten places the top ten items to see in that place. The books are small so can easily be carried. Smartphones are important for GPS and finding places to eat near you. We love to walk and get lost and then turn on our GPS, set it to our hotel and put it in walk mode and walk back. What did we do before smartphones?
Read each recommended place to see and decide if this is something that you want to do. If it is written it down with its address. Then look at what is inside that you want to see. A good example is the Louvre in Paris. You can not possibly see everything. List those works of art you must see and where they are located. Then set a course to see each one.
Once you have all the places you want to see build a map where things are so you can hit several places located near each other at the same time. This will prevent walking back to an area you were in yesterday to see something else. Make note of recommended restaurants near major sites. Beware of tourists trap places as the cost is higher and food will not be as good.
Now you are ready to plan your hotel and Itinerary. Be excited! You are on your way to Italy. This part of planning is fun. Have a glass of wine and get into a romantic spirit.
George & Jo Anne
Categories: Europe, General Travel, GPS, Italy, Regions of Italy, Travel Guides, Traveling without a tour
Tags: Italian, Italy, No Tour Touring, Romance, Tourism, Travel, Travel and Tourism, Travel Guides
English: icon for smartphone (smart phone) related content (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
YES, YES, YES!!!! You really can survive very well without a large formal tour. Huge bus tours stop at restaurants that make food for a large number of people quickly. This is not the Italian way. They also can not get you into small mountain towns. The roads are to steep and narrow.
We are firm believers of not taking tours in Europe. Many people say to me that they need a tour for one or more of the following reasons:
- Hard to plan and I am not a planner – Planning today with the internet and smart phones is easy. GPS will prevent you from getting lost.
- I might miss something important – There are great guide books and Apps that will tell you about the top 10-20 things in a city. You can not miss anything important. They will also guide you through museums, castles and churches.
- I don’t speak the language – Large modern cities have many people that cater to tourists and can speak some English. When you speak, speak slowly and use basic English like you where talking to a child. Learn the basics like Hello, Good morning, please, thank you and how much is it.
- I might get lost – As we said use a GPS App on your smart phone to get you around. If you don’t have one, rent one.
- I am afraid to find my way around – This is pure fear … FIGHT IT! You can get around and you will find great things to see, great restaurants to eat at and meet very friendly people.
We help plan trips abroad without tours. There are so many forms of information on the internet today about travel. You have to be aware some are peoples opinions that are not the same as yours. This is true of formal tours as well. They may go to places you don’t care about. They most certainly will go to tourist places to eat (and get kick backs from these places) which are NOT the best food in these countries. Our rules are:
- Don’t eat at tourist restaurants or near tourist attractions. The food is for tourists not locals. Get out with the locals and go to their restaurants. You will be amazed at how good the food is.
- Number 1 & 2 above – trips are not hard to plan. Buy a tour book at Amazon or Barnes & Noble. These books show top attractions and top things inside these attractions. You really can not miss anything important. With a map or a smart phone, you can layout where all of the attractions you want to see are. How far apart they are. You can plan what you can do each day. Next decide if you will walk, take a taxi or public transportation. Taxi drivers speak enough english to get by. Buses and Metros are easy to find and travel on. In big cities there usually is a metro stop near every major attraction. There are smart phone apps that determine where you are (GPS) and tell you where nearest metro stop is. They even guide you as you walk. Once at the metro they tell you what train to get on, which direction to go, how many stops to yours and the name of your stop. Once off the train they once again guide your walk to your attraction.
- Number 3 above – English is the universal language, French speak english in Italy, Japanese speak English throughout Europe. Most big cities have people who know enough English to help you. Attractions hire people who speak english as well. We like to learn some words in the country’s language we am visiting. They feel good when we try to speak their language.
- Number 4 & 5 above – You really can’t get lost with a good map or better yet a smart phone. Smart phones are getting cheaper each year. Plans for foreign use are cheaper than ever and at least one company is offering free foreign usage. You really need a data plan so you can use the internet. Many apps require communication with a server on the net. Map apps show you where you are and how to get to another destination like your hotel or the next attraction you want to visit. You never have to be afraid of getting around again.
- Be polite and kind to other people you encounter. You are their guests. They are NOT your servants. If you are friendly and nice most people will return the same to you.
- Exchange your money at banks not airports! Check rates they vary a lot. Use credit cards to get cash or purchase items. They charge a slightly higher exchange rate and most today do not charge extra foreign fees.
Most important is just relax and enjoy your adventure. Eat and enjoy the food, drink the wine, speak to the local people and see the sights. Take plenty of pictures and you will create a memory you will never forget. Most important be romantic, live like a European and enjoy yourself. You can do it!
George & Jo Anne
Categories: Cash, Europe, Exchange Rates, Food, General Travel, GPS, Money, Mountain Towns, Museums, Phones, Romance, Small Towns, Smart Phones, Tour Groups
Tags: Food, No Tour Touring, Romance, Tourism, Travel, Travel and Tourism
If you have a smart phone or are thinking of getting one and you are planning a trip to Europe, take it with you. We have an iPhone 6 Plus’ and call AT&T before going. AT&T offers reduced call costs in Europe, a data plan for Europe and texting for a fee and it costs only $30/month. The phones work fine. We have had no problems at all. If you are at a hotel with WiFi, you don’t need a data plan and can text other iPhones for free using the WiFi. Some apps that are useful are:
- Tom-Tom GPS – This is a great GPS program that doesn’t use Internet (unless you are looking up a place by name). We bought the Western Europe version for $50. We have had it since our iPhone 4s and we both share it for the one cost.
- Airline Apps – Most airlines have apps to check-in, check on flights and book new reservations. They also usually work with the iPhones Passport. You can show your phone at check-in and security instead of paper.
- My TSA – Is an app that has the latest TSA rules and regulations.
- Metro App – This is a handy app that allows you to download subway maps from many of the world’s cities
- Expedia, Orbitz, Trip Advisor, etc. – These apps give you access to hotels, cars and flights from anywhere in the world.
- GateGuru – Shows gates at many large airports and what stores and restaurants are nearby.
- Language Apps – These allow you to translate languages in either direction. This can be handy in a country that you don’t speak the language. There are also apps that allow you to take a picture from your camera or the Internet and translate the foreign text.
- Vino Volo – If your airport has a Vino Volo, it is a great place to start your vacation. Have a glass of wine and something to eat. The app gets you free membership which gives free sampling.
If you get lost just use your map app and plug-in your hotel address (get a card as you leave your hotel). Make sure you have it set to walk not drive (unless you are driving) and get instructions back to your hotel. You can use this to find museums, monuments and gardens as well or just an interesting restaurant.
The subway apps are fantastic. We used the Paris Metro App to find the nearest metro stop to where we were and then to plot a course on the metro to where we wanted to go. It tells you which direction to take train, how many stops to go, which trains to switch to and your final stop. The map app can then pick up from the metro stop to your destination.
Your smart phone becomes your European guide-book but so much more powerful than any book could be. Many apps offer a guided tour through a museum or monument. Make sure you bring your headphones.
What did we do before smart phones? Paper maps were so hard to use!
George & Jo Anne
Categories: Car Rentals, Driving in Italy, Europe, General Travel, GPS, Hotels, Metro Travel, Museums, Phones, Smart Phones
Tags: Food, No Tour Touring, Romance, Smart Phones, Tourism, Travel, Travel and Tourism, Travel Guides
Castelnuovo Cilento is another ancient mountain town for people to run to during pirate raids. Today it is another sleepy small town. GPS works well to here. We use the Tom-Tom app on an iPhone. It has a church and a castle. There are small streets where the residents live. There are two basic ways up to this mountain town. One is from the SP430 highway and the other is from Velina, very close to our home. Both roads are narrow and have switch-backs. The views are incredible.
Once up in the town you proceed to the end and turn left. This road widens and takes you to a large parking lot at the castle.
There is a good restaurant at the castle and next to the church. This town can be visited in an hour or two. Walk around the castle and look out at the views. You can sea mountains and the sea from up here. Then start at the church and walk through the narrow streets. There aren’t many so you won’t get lost. These little towns never see tourists but this is the real southern Italy. Enjoy it!
Tomorrow we will visit Casal Velino Marina, the seaside town that was part of Casal Velino (yesterday’s BLOG).
George & Jo Anne
Categories: Campania, Casal Velino Marina, Castelnuovo Cilento, Cilento, Driving in Italy, Europe, General Travel, GPS, Italy, Mountain Towns, Small Towns, Southern Italy, Velina
Tags: Campania, Castelnuovo Cilento, Italian people, Italy, No Tour Touring, Tourism, Travel, Travel and Tourism
Cortona is a beautiful city on a hill. Frances Mayes made it very popular with her book (later a movie) Under the Tuscan Sun. Like all the small hill towns we will talk about, it has narrow streets, stairs and small piazzas. We stayed outside Cortona in a beautiful hotel on a huge piece of property called Borgo San Pietro Hotel. GPS doesn’t work getting here. We ended up at a Etruscan ruin. On the way back towards Cortona we saw a sign for the hotel. It led us onto a dirt road (barely passable by one car) and to the gate onto the hotel property. As we arrived in a large parking area, a hotel person met us and took our suitcases to our room.
Cortona is another place where you park on the edge of town and walk in. Parking is easy here. The church in the movie had a fountain near it and a Christmas Tree. The actual piazza has no fountain and is smaller than it seemed in the movie but the steps to the church in the movie were real (see picture at end).
We found an outdoor cafe/bar to have a snack and some Prosecco. As we sat there, we heard band music coming from behind us. soon a very large marching band was there dressed in medieval customs with flag throwers.
Walking around Cortona is fun. The narrow streets take you back to another time. This is a place to be on your own and not in a tour. You can wonder where you like. You can shop, stop for a drink or have a meal where and when you like.
Church from movie
Tomorrow we are off to Montepulciano and its famous wines.
George & Jo Anne
Categories: Cortona, Driving in Italy, Europe, General Travel, GPS, Italy, Mountain Towns, Parking Garage, Small Towns, Tuscany, Under the Tuscan Sun, Wine
Tags: Food, Italian, Italian cuisine, Italian people, Italy, No Tour Touring, Romance, Tourism, Travel, Travel and Tourism, Tuscany, Under the Tuscan Sun, Wine
We are back from nearly a month in Italy. We spent a week Plus in Tuscany and two weeks plus at our home in Campania. In Campania we visited several old mountain and beach towns. Some we had already been too and others were new.
Let’s start in Tuscany. Our first stop was Perugia. This is chocolate town in Italy. It is the home of Perugina chocolates. The town is ancient with very small roads that barely permit a car to pass. We used GPS to navigate to our hotel, Fortuna. Getting into the old section was easy but we were on a one way street an a giant cylinder blocked are way.
After some difficulty we discovered a button that calls the hotel on the wall. After identifying ourselves, the cylinder was lowered so we could drive very carefully down this small narrow street. After unloading the luggage and checking in, we had to move the car to a parking lot. We chose to go to a lot outside the old city. The trip back and lowering the cylinder was easy. Next we turned onto an even narrower street. From here we had to make an impossible left turn on a street that we had to move the mirrors in to fit. At this point we were ready for some wine! Lots of wine …
We got the car down to the parking area and took several sets of underground escalators back up to the old city. Like many Italian towns there was a large and small piazza. The small one had an incredible view out over the hills of Tuscany.
Perugia is a series of very small roads (paths) off each Piazza.
Finally after touring Perugia and eating some chocolate we found an outdoor cafe in the piazza for some much need wine.
You are calm and feel good in Perugia (other than the initial driving). We had excellent free wifi at our hotel and a wonderful breakfast.
You are part of an ancient medieval scene. Enjoy … Tomorrow we will take you to Assisi.
George & Jo Anne
Categories: Assisi, Cafè, Campania, General Travel, GPS, Italy, Perugia, Perugina Chocolate, Sweets, Tuscany, Wine
Tags: Italian people, Italy, No Tour Touring, Perugia, Romance, Tourism, Travel, Travel and Tourism, Tuscany, Wine