Getting ready to throw out all my notes that I made to possibly help other Hounds who may never have traveled to Italy. Without this site, there is no question that we would never have enjoyed some of the great restaurants we went to in Italy. Thanks again to all of you.
And so, some final random thoughts and comments that may or may not help some of you to save time, money and grief. Jim, I will continue to mention food along the way.
First in Venice, there are eateries at the airport. There is a new arrival building at the airport so many of the tour books are incorrect re getting to the Bus or Vaparrato to take you into Venice. My advice is to take the Vaparotto Shuttle - $5 per person? It will let you off at San Marco Square. It takes about 45 minutes on the water. Easy to bring bags on board - they will help you.
San Marco very crowded - lots of eateries in the area. Better bets to eat lie elsewhere. Staying in the area is convenient but loud. I say check out some less crowded areas to stay like in Castello or the Academy area - A real nice neighborhod feel to it. There is a beautiful Best Western in Castello on a quiet street - may be expensive?
Take the Vaparotto 1 and the 82 to see the entire city cheaply. Get a front seat or rear seat outside to do it right. There is no food on the Vaporetto. Vaporettos are expensive - A hidden cost to visiting Venice. Consider a daily or weekly pass to save $. Venice will be your most expensive city to vist - Some say its the most expensive in Europe. But, don't miss it - its worth it.
Don't miss that Rialto Market, if you are a Chowhound! It's incredible, if you love food. Great places to get a sandwich for a cheap lunch. Great pastries too. You can reduce your restaurant costs in Venice this way.
The train station in Venice is easy if you take the Vaparatto designed to get there fast - I believe it is the 52 - places to eat at the train station. Big station - Be prepared to carry luggage up several flights of stairs - there are free carts.
watch out for the Glass Blowing trips to Muranno. you can really get screwed. Go but if you are buying you best know the prices before you go. There are local stores selling much of the same stuff.
In Rome, take the 110 bus for $7.75 each for a great tour of the city - no food on the bus. The on-off option is about $13 each. You don't have to go to the train station to get this bus. Its at Piazza Venicia too. Buy tix before at the green ticket office up the block.
Many hotels do not like taking travelers checks - Banks charge you so be prepared to go to American Express to do it easiest way. There is no food at the AMEX office.
I have never eaten ham or salami of the caliber that I had in Italy. At one time, I thought Boar's Head provisions were great - forget it. Not even close Hounds. Italy has some of the best raw foods I have ever eaten. Food was the real surprise cost wise - you can do it on almst any reasonable budget - the food is the wildcard! Hotels? Very tough and be prepared to settle for less than you'd expect in our country for the same money. Just deal with it.
The train is a good option to take. Its reasonable but you have to buy certain tix in advance - Eurostar especially. Get all tix at local travel agencies - well worth the little extra or else its off to train stations to buy and taking valuable time from your vacation and searching for good eats.
Don't get first class on Europstar - Not necessary. On Regional and Intercity get at least a seat reservation and if possible first class. Eurostar has a dining car - others have no food but there is food in the stations.
You get to see all the farms when you travel via rail. Do not take the train from Siena to Rome! Take a bus. The train was a nightmare of people in the aisles, climbing the walls. etc. All rest of train trips were terrific.
The Fall is great time to go - lots of great foods. In Rome, any sections have portable air conditioning units because of strict building rules in the older sections - they cut holes in the windows and use portable units - not allowed to deface the exteriors with ductwork. Italy is vey hot in the summer according to the locals.
Without plane fare, with decent, not great hotel rooms, free breakfast at the hotels, light lunch and good dinner - I say you can do the trip via rail or bus for 2 people under $2800 and have great food and a great time.
That's it - My Italian trip and my report are now finished.
People in Rome are terrific. They are in a hurry like NY'ers, but if you stop them they will help you almost every single time.
Watch the traffic