Italian Tid Bits

Bellissima Italia!

Italy is a top choice for many when deciding where to go for vacation.

If you are planning a visit to Italy this summer, and it is your first time, I’ve put together a few tips that will hopefully help to get you through it all a little easier.

Based on my own experience:

1- Pack light. The smaller your bag, the better. (Very challenging for me btw.)

  • A large suitcase can be difficult to cram into a shared transfer or taxi.
  • In Venice for example, it’s likely you will need to walk at least a few blocks to and from your hotel. The sidewalks are narrow and broken, not to mention the many steps you’ll encounter lugging your bag over canal bridges.

2-When ordering your cappuccino or coffee, pay at the register first, and then take your receipt to the counter where drinks are being made.

  • Note- “caffe” is espresso
  • “Caffe Americano” is like American drip coffee.
  • Be prepared to possibly squeeze in between the patrons lining the bar enjoying their beverage.

 

3-When choosing a restaurant, avoid menus that are printed in several languages. And steer clear of the gentleman trying to lure you into his ristorante. It’ll cost you a lot more than it’s worth.

4- Before you go, learn some useful phrases like;

  • “Dov’è La toilette?”

“Where is the bathroom?”

  • “Dov’è stazione centrale?”

“Where is the central station?”

  • “Una pasta piatto, per favore.”

“A dish of pasta please.”

  • “Scusi! Non capisco.”

“Excuse me, I don’t understand.”

  • “Il Conto, per favore.”

“The bill please.”

 

5-If traveling by train, depending on the train company in which you are traveling, you may need to validate your ticket before you board. A ticket stamp machine is available just before you enter the platform.

If the conductor sees that you do not have a validated ticket, you will receive a fine. The fine is about 50 Euro if you can pay with cash on the spot. But pay the fine, always carry ample cash. A fine can be costly if police get involved.

Trenitalia I know is one of them. The Leonardo Express running from Rome airport to the Roma Termini station can be tricky too. Make sure your ticket is taking you exactly where you need to go. You can be charged a fine there too.

 

6-Enjoy the amazing wine, but not too much. Respect the culture and the Italian people.

Living Like a Local in Bologna

In the spring of 2017, I enrolled in an Italian language course in Bologna. I grabbed my best gal pal, and we boarded a plane headed for the home of tortellini.

Since our stay marked off all thirty days in April, we rented an apartment on Via Guglielmo Marconi.

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We quickly settled in and ventured out.

A few blocks up took us to Via Ugo Bassi, where we found shops, outdoor cafes’, and Piazza Maggiore. The piazza is the main square in town, and also one of the oldest in Italy. Within Piazza Maggiore stands the Basilica San Petronio, one of the world’s oldest churches. Renaissance government buildings encase the square, and to the left is Piazza del Nettuno; the Fountain of Neptune. The fountain was once deemed scandalous for its naked subjects. We however, only saw scaffolding,  because in 2017, the fountain was under restoration.

 

While I made my way up Strada Maggiore or Strada Santo Sefano, each day for language class, my roomy shopped for groceries at Pam, or the impressive outdoor market on Ugo Bassi. She would pick up these amazing extra-large strawberries,  which were among other stunning produce.

All the while, chatting with the locals, via the Google Translate app!

Meanwhile, I’m gurgling on unknown words in the immersion style of foreign language school.

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During our free time we wandered the city, enjoying cappuccino, pastas and Paninis. We ate tortellini that we ranked absolutely better than anything we’d ever experienced before. The scrumptious bread seemed to melt in our mouths. The food was always exquisite.

 

 

Bologna is home to the world’s oldest university, founded in 1088. Students from all over the world come here to study each year.

 

Of course we did our share of vino tasting/drinking. It was part of every dinner and sometimes lunch. I honestly don’t believe you can get a bad glass of wine in Italy. Impossible. We signed on for a few wine tours in the Emilia-Romagna region and Tuscany too. We’ve got the swirl, swish, swallow routine down!

 

 

Bologna Centrale was a quick ten minute walk from our apartment, and from there, it was a short train ride to just about anywhere.

We spent a weekend in Verona, another in Genoa and Portofino. We even took a few days and went to Florence.

Bologna

 

We accomplished quite a lot in our thirty marked off days.

But for the record, learning to parli italiano (speak Italian), it’s still on my bucket list.

 

 

Let’s Talk Firenze!

Truth, Venice is my favorite Italian city. However, Florence is a close second.

What do I love about Florence? Hmm…Where to start? I’ve been to the city of Renaissance several times, and each visit is a new pleasure!

 

1-Cappuccino and a croissant, at an outdoor café!

the one
Morning cappicciono and Croissant

2- The art of course,

Michelangelo’s famous sculpture of David is there. You can view it in the Galleria dell’Accademia. Or, a replica stands in the Piazza della Signoria. I’ve seen both, but you can only take a pic in the piazza.

Me and david
Me and the replica of David

I have to admit, I have a fondness for Michelangelo. He danced to his own tune.

From Piazza della Signoria, it is a short six minute walk to the Basilica of Santa Croce, where Michelangelo is buried.

 

3-Pitti Gola e Cantina

I can’t talk about Florence without mentioning Pitti Gola e Cantina! Located in Palazzo Pitti, this wine tasting room/café was designed for the love of wine. If you enjoy wine and food, I highly recommend the Wine Tasting Lunch, three course meal with four wines included. Everything is impeccable, including service. The cost is 35,00 euro per person, and totally worth it.

Pitti Gola is a small place however, a few tables are set for outdoor use, (in warm weather) and maybe five inside. I would seek reservations, they are not required, but I strongly suggest it.

While you’re in the palazzo, take a tour through Pitti Palace. You’ll see renaissance paintings and art, and hear stories about the influential Medici family.

4-The cathedral,

or Duomo can’t be missed! Literally!! This is a beautiful architectural marvel, and one of my favorites. Piazza del Duomo will be crowded, although this shouldn’t hinder you from getting some great shots.

Tickets are available to view the church’s interior, and also to climb its tower; the climb is challenging, but the view is well worth it, I’ve heard.

The duomo is also included with some “skip the line” tours.

And finally…

5-Ponte Vecchio

Florence’s oldest bridge, stretching across the Arno River, is the most popular place for shopping.

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Great restaurants, wine bars and even grocery stores are in this area. Expect a “packed house”, as they say.

 

 

Some Firenze Tips:

Arrive by plane or train

The streets in Florence are narrow and jammed with cars. The local drivers go wherever they feel they need to, to get through the mass.

I would recommend a hotel shuttle (if offered by your hotel) or shared transport, to your accommodation. A taxi is a good option, the line can get long, but it moves quickly. (At least at the train station.) A note here, do not accept help from a local offering to get you ahead in the line, unless you don’t mind paying several Euros for it.

Other than arrival, Firenze is very walk-able. Pick-up a map and enjoy exploring the city!

 

Protect your cash

We usually split money between us, and we also leave some behind locked in the safe in our room. Carry your wallet in your front pocket, or use a money belt. I use a small purse, one that I keep close to my body or even under a jacket. If I see the need for a backpack, I wear it in front instead of on my back. Pick pockets target the tourist crowds; be careful and aware of who’s around you.

 

Tip your tour guide 

Tips is their livelihood. If you choose not to tip, and there’s a chance to get even, they will! I’m speaking from personal experience.

 

 

Everything Europe!

Hey Everyone!

Welcome to The Traveling Laurel!

This is my first blog post, and I’m feeling very out of my element. I am a seasoned traveler but a travel writer-not.

Back in 2010 when my husband and I made our first trip to Europe, it was a little intimidating for me. I think for my hubby too. The Army assigned him to a post in Germany back in the 80’s, so… that was awhile ago.

Fast forward to 2018, we are so captivated with Europe; the vacation destination is always somewhere European. Lately, it’s more like “where in Italy are we going this year”?

Weather is weather, no matter the mood outside, goose bumps or sweat, we go when we can go!

Our itineraries usually include, a castle, cathedral or basilica, a roman archeological site, or it might be a palace built by a monarchy. Regardless of the architectural marvel, its construction was determined by a passionate people. Therefore, it never disappoints.

We may be feeling minuscule standing in front of the spectacular Duomo in Florence, or the gothic Old Town Square in Prague, but there’s always a history to hear and read about. Even the priceless art chronicles Europe’s past.

 

A short excursion for me in the spring, Milan and Lake Como, (work related) no complaints here! Later, with my best friend, who is also my husband, together we will discover Portugal.

I hope you’ll return for those details!

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