Hotels

How I Plan a European Trip 2 – Tips

In this video I discuss some tips for getting lower airfares, car rentals and hotel prices. I also discuss what to watch out for on some popular discount sites. A trip to Europe can be very expensive but can also be very reasonable with some planning and work on a computer before you go.

Investigate all discount sites and make a list of costs. Pick the ones that offer what you want for the cheapest amount. Sit back and watch my YouTube video on some tips I use:

Ciao
– George

Categories: Air Fares, BLOG, Cruises, Europe, General Travel, Hotels, Planning a vacation, Traveling without a tour, VLOG, YouTube | 2 Comments

How I Plan a Trip to Europe

Planning a trip to Europe can be expensive and frustrating. In this video I give ideas for saving money, planning and creating a trip that will be fun and memorable. Don’t spend your time running around a city and traveling between cities. Enjoy life in Europe. Be a European while you are there. Make contact with locals, communicate, observe life around you. Enjoy the museums and sites but also savor the food and wine. Watch the Europeans around you. How do they live their lives?

The video below will help you plan a memorable and rewarding trip to Europe. Buon Viaggio…

Ciao,

George

Categories: Air Fares, Airplanes, Bars, BLOG, Cafè, cornetto, Eating, Espresso, Europe, Fish, Flights, Food, Gelato, General Travel, Hotels, Italian, Italy, Italy BLOGs, Itinerary, Metro Travel, Money, Mountain Towns, Museums, Panini, snow, The holidays in Europe, Tour Groups, Towns, Trains, Traveling without a tour, VLOG, Weather in Europe, Wine, YouTube | Leave a comment

How to significantly lower the cost of traveling to Italy

The two highest costs you will encounter are: 1) Airfare and 2) Hotel costs. These two items can be lowered with a little work on your part. Here is how:

Lowering Airfares:

Lowering the cost of hotels:

Let me know in the comments below if you have other tricks…

-George

Categories: Air Fares, Airplanes, B&Bs, Bars, Euro, Europe, General Travel, Hotels, Italy, Italy BLOGs, Money, Pastry, Planning a vacation, Renting a place in Europe, resorts, Small Towns, Towns, Traveling without a tour, Villas, VLOG, YouTube | Tags: , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Bari, Italy

Bari is a seaport city on the Adriatic Sea. It has a beautiful old town. As you enter Bari, it’s a large city. as you approach the old section, which is on the sea, you must park in lots at the edge of the old section and walk in. This area is pedestrian and Vespa only. The streets are narrow and wind around. It is easy to get lost but we used GPS on our phones to find our hotel.

Once we found the hotel, we were surprised to see it was closed until 4 pm. We had to walk our suitcases back out to the car. Then we explored and had some lunch. The city has a wonderful Piazza in the old section which comes to life at night. There are great restaurants here that can get very crowded.

After a good exploration, some lunch and some Limoncello, we retrieved out bags and headed for the hotel again. The owners of the hotel also owned a small restaurant across from the hotel. They gave us a plate of cheese and bread.

That evening we tried a restaurant in the Piazza and was rewarded with a great meal and a show of Italians parading by. This is what we love about Italy. Don’t rush! Don’t have a tight agenda! Visit a few places but get to know them well. Enjoy the local foods and wines. Observe the locals. Enjoy life more and be less stressed! This is Italy!

…Most of all be romantic!…

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– George

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: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Tuscany & Umbria Fun

In 2015 we took a week-long trip through some interesting cities of Tuscany and Umbria. This is a hilly area of Italy and the cities are hill towns with narrow streets and lots of stairs. It is Italy and the friendliness of the people and quality of the food and wine comes through.

The video below is an introduction to my Italian city videos.

 

Our trip was several weeks long but the first week was in Tuscany/Umbria and the rest was at our home in southern Campania. We flew into the Rome airport, Fiumicino, and rented a car.  Our itinerary was:

  1. Perugia – Chocolates – See are YouTube Video below
  2. Assisi – Home of Saint Francis – See are YouTube Video below
  3. Cortona – Home of Under the Tuscan Sun – See are YouTube Video below
  4. Montepulciano – The famous wine city – See are YouTube Video below
  5. Siena – Home of the famous Horse Race Il Palio – YouTube video coming soon
  6. San Gimignano – My favorite city anywhere – YouTube video coming soon
  7. Florence – Home of Italian art – See are YouTube Video below

There are so many more cities in this area worth seeing but we were limited to a week and wanted to spend time in Florence.

Perugia

This is home to the famous Italian chocolate Perugina. It is owned by Nestle now but in Italy it is made the original way with not as much sugar. The American version is sold with much more sugar. This small town has an old city center with very narrow streets that barely fit a car. See the video below for how narrow these streets actually are. As in most Italian towns, life takes place outside. Piazzas are places to sit at a bar or restaurant outside and enjoy and observe life around you.

Assisi

Assisi is a small hill town in Umbria that was home to Saint Francis and the Franciscan Monks. It is above all else an Italian city. The food and wine are great. Eating is done outside in piazzas and narrow streets. In our video we caught an Italian wedding as we were seated outside at a restaurant. You never know what will happen next but it will be fun and interesting.

Cortona

OK, we all know Cortona from the book and movie, Under the Tuscan Sun. Frances Mayes made this small town popular to tourists from all over the world. The city is high on a hill in Tuscany overlooking Lake Trasimeno. Frances Mayes has her real home here as well as Bramasole, the home used in the movie. Walk with us through this wonderful city in our YouTube video.

Montepulciano

Montepulciano is a famous Italian red wine city (by the same name). Here you can walk a wonderful hill-top city and drink this and other great Tuscan wines. We stayed at a great hotel outside the city called Borgo San Pietro Hotel Cortona. You can see this city and the hotel in the YouTube video.

Siena

This video will be available on YouTube on Monday January 30th. This is a larger city with a great old center that has a huge piazza that is used twice a year (on July 2 and August 16)  run a famous Italian horse race, il palio. People crowd into the center of the piazza and horses race around them. Mud flies and everyone has a fun time. Outside race times the piazza is a place to meet friends and family and sit and relax in the sun. The border of this piazza is loaded with bars and restaurants. The food is good but they are very touristy which means high prices.

San Gimignano

This video will be available on YouTube on a Monday two weeks after the above Siena video. San Gimignano is by far my favorite city anywhere. It is a walled hill city with two main gates. It has been preserved in time from its medieval beginnings. You will notice The famous town homes that help protect families from invaders. In medieval times there were 72 of these homes measuring as tall as 70 meters (230 feet). Today there are only 14 surviving towers. Tourists have found this city and with tourists came tourists stores like Gucci but it is a great town to walk. Get off the main two streets and see the real town.

Florence

Florence was the center of the renaissance and brought art, style, architecture and culture to medieval Italy. Books have been written about Florence. It is a very large city and one of Italy’s main cities. You come here for food, wine, views and art. In our YouTube video we walk around Florence and show you great museums like the Uffizi. Florence has something for everyone. Spend some time here and get to know the city and the people.

Enjoy your travels and enjoy your life…

– George

Categories: Architecture, Assisi, Bars, Cortona, Duomo, Eating, Eating Italian, Enoteca, Europe, Florence, Food, Gelato, General Travel, Hotels, Il Palio, Italian, Italy, Italy BLOGs, Lakes of Italy, Montepulciano, Mountain Towns, Perugia, Perugina Chocolate, Ristorante, Romance, Saint Francis, Saint Peter's Basilica, San Gimignano, Siena, Towns, Traveling without a tour, Tuscany, Uffizi, Umbria, Under the Tuscan Sun, VLOG, Walking, Wine | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

How to Plan a Trip in Italy – Part 4

Where to stay is a big decision. There are many types of places to stay in Italy:

  1. American Hotels – These are large chain hotels with larger rooms (smaller compared to rooms in America) and usually the most expensive option.
  2. Italian Hotels – These are smaller hotels with smaller rooms at a very reasonable prices. Breakfast is often included with the room charge. You can get a private bath in your room or share a bath in the hall. We prefer private baths. Be sure you have this if you also prefer it.
  3. B&B’s – Like anywhere in the world these provide rooms and meals. The price is expensive and usually between the price of the large hotels and the smaller Italian hotels.
  4. Agriturismo – These are nice small family owned hotels that are part of a farm or ranch. The food is locally grown (usually on their property), organic and delicious. Rooms are modern and comfortable. You can usually also contract for lunch and lunch & dinner as well.
  5. House or Apartment Rental – These can be the largest and best priced depending on the area especially if you are traveling with other couples. In Paris we were four people and rented someone’s apartment. It was large, comfortable with two bedrooms and two baths. The price was cheaper than two hotel rooms.

Once you decide on what type of place you prefer, investigate options in the cities you will visit. Use sites like TripAdvisor to get other people’s opinions of the property. Remember that their opinions can be very different from yours. We never worry about negative reviews that say small rooms. We expect small rooms in Italy.

TripAdvisor

Be sure to investigate where your hotel/rental choice is located compared to the sites you want to see. Try to get centrally located hotels (these can be the most expensive but will save time going and coming to the sites).

Booking your hotel with airfares on discount sites like Orbitz can get you a discount on the hotel. Check multiple sites and compare prices. Look at pictures posted of your choice and determine if it is the right choice for you. Booking hotels on discount sites usually charge your card when you book not when you arrive. Hotels in Italian are Albergo or just Hotel (the H is always silent in Italian).

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If breakfast is not included do not pay extra for it. Breakfast in Italy is very cheap. You find a bar near your hotel (they are everywhere). At Italian bars you can get Caffè (espresso), Cappuccino, Coffee Americano (an espresso in a larger cup with more water) and mastery choices. A Caffè and cornetto will cost you between 2 and 4 Euros ($2.20 to $4.40). Italian croissants are called cornetto. They come plain, filled with chocolate or jelly and filled with cream. Pastries in Italy are not as sweet as in America. They are delicious.

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Tomorrow we will look at car rentals for your trip if you plan to drive.

George & Jo Anne

 

Categories: Agriturismo, Air Fares, Bars, Coffee, cornetto, Espresso, Europe, Food, Hotels, Italy, Pastry, The holidays in Europe, Traveling without a tour | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

Positano Pictorial

There is no place better to leave your heart than Positano. Positano is a small city of steps, lots of steps (about a million) and two roads:

  1. The Amalfi Coast Road – which skirts around the town, and
  2. A one way (down) road – which is the only road in town. It starts up high at the Amalfi Coast Road and winds down through the center of town and ends at the Amalfi Coast Road where it  leaves Positano.

Positano has a population of only about 4,000 people. There are no trains here so you will need a car or bus to get here. There are busses from Sorrento going East and Salerno going West. You can fly into Naples to the north-west or Salerno to the East.

The land here is steep mountains starting at the sea and continuing up. It is amazing that a city was built on these steep hills. You can take steps up and down everywhere. From the top to the beach is about a thousand steps. You can also walk the one-way road up or down. It is steep but very walkable. You will pass hotels, restaurants, great little shops and bars.

There is a local bus that is inexpensive. It starts on the one-way road in the center and goes out to the Amalfi Coast Road. It turns left and climbs up the hill to the top of Positano. It then turns left onto the beginning of the one-way road and continues back down to the center.

There are many ferries that leave from the big beach to Naples, Capri, Sorrento, Amalfi, Salerno and many really small cities in between.

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First view of Positano from Amalfi Coast Road

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The 104 steps up to our rental

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A porter carrying 100 lbs of luggage up the 104 stairs

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View of sea & city from our rental

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The big beach

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Duomo on the big beach

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Looking back up the one-way road

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Lovers lane – a walkway between the big & small beaches

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The small beach

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From our rental looking up at the Amalfi Coast Road

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Beautiful views everywhere

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Ancient tower to light a fire and warn of Pirates

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Bump on roof filled with sand to keep summers cool and winters warm

Positano is very romantic. A must stop for all our romantic readers. You can find great food, gelato and wine. The hotels and B&Bs have great views. Enjoy!

George & Jo Anne

 

 

Categories: Amalfi Coast, Bars, Beaches, Campania, Duomo, Europe, Ferries, Gelato, General Travel, Hotels, Italy, Naples, Positano, Ristorante, Romance, Salerno, Small Towns, Sorrento, Southern Italy, Trains, Wine | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

What do We do First in a New City?

Europe - Satellite image - PlanetObserver

Europe – Satellite image – PlanetObserver (Photo credit: PlanetObserver)

When visiting a new city in Italy, we first walk the town to get to know it. We look for small interesting bars for breakfast. Yes breakfast is at a bar in Italy. You get your coffee and something sweet (cornetto – a croissant like sweet roll). Some Hotels include breakfast and even have American breakfasts as well. We like to eat like Italians when in Italy. Bars are also a great stop for lunch (panini) or gelato or an afternoon drink.

cornetto1 cornetto2

We also scout out interesting restaurants for lunch or dinner. In Italy we look for trattorias or pizzerias since the food is excellent and the price is usually lower than a restaurante. If we have rented a place with a kitchen, we enjoy cooking a meal once or twice. So we also look for small grocery stores that have fresh vegetables, cheese, bread and fruits. Cooking pasta with fresh vegetables in Italy is easy, fun and very healthy.

pasta vegetables

Next we look for interesting stores to visit on our walks. These usually have interesting owners that can give you a better prospective on the city. Some cities like Milan and Naples have a large Galleria (mall like) with shops. These are sometimes two streets covered with a glass roof and closed to traffic. Lastly we seek out major tourist attractions that we want to see while in the city. We also find the nearest public transportation in case of rain.

Galleria

Which ever country and city you travel to, get to know the city, meet the people, enjoy their food and wine. Let yourself relax, loose the stress and be an Italian for a short while. Your body will thank you and you will have beautiful memories.

Italy is a country of beautiful designs and romance. Think of the ancient architecture of Rome or the modern Ferrari or the fashion of Milan. Italians love to design beautiful things. If you are in a large city like Rome, the old section is walkable. In small cities you can easily walk around and get to know it quickly.

fashion milan Ferrari

Dolce far niente!

George & Jo Anne

Categories: Bars, cornetto, Eating Italian, Europe, Food, Gelato, Hotels, Italian Facts, Milan, Naples, Panini, Pastry, Ristorante, Romance, Rome, Trottoria, Wine | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

What Type of Hotel to Stay at in Europe

Palace Hotel in Sinaia, Romania, 1971

Palace Hotel in Sinaia, Romania, 1971 (Photo credit: Rob Ketcherside)

Are you a big resort type of traveler or a small local hotel or maybe an agriturismo out in the country or a villa with many bedrooms and baths. We all have favorite places and types of places we like. We enjoy a local hotel. We are tired of big American hotels that don’t offer much. We prefer a family run small hotel with a private bath. The bath is one luxury we insist on. Jo Anne says “Camping is a hotel with one bathroom”. It is hard and expensive to get more than one bath unless you rent a villa. The villa is another great idea especially if you are traveling with one or more other couples. You each get a bedroom and possibly a bathroom. Kitchens allow you to partake in the local foods and cook a meal. The small hotels and villas allow you to interface with the locals better. Get to know the people, the food and the wine in each area you visit.

The other option we like is to rent someone’s home. In places like Paris and Positano we rented a home. In Paris it was a two bedroom and two bath apartment. We shared it with George’s sister and her husband. In Positano we rented a one bedroom and two bathroom home up on the hill. There were 113 steps to reach this place from the road but the views of the sea were spectacular.

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Paris Apartment

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View from balcony in Positano

George & Jo Anne

 

Categories: Europe, General Travel, Hotels, Paris, Positano, Romance, Traveling without a tour | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Smartphone Apps on Vacation

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: , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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