| Rome, Florence and Pisa
This is a report of an 8-days trip by train to
Italy in May 2005. We spent a few days in Rome, then some days in Florence and Pisa,
driving by car from Munich to Bozen, then travelling by train between
Bozen, Rome and Florence. Rome and Florence are impressive due to all historical sights and the culinary offering.
Italy is very expensive place to spend a holiday. We paid 110
Euro/night in a two star hotel in Rome and the same for a three star
hotel in Florence. Food in Italian restaurants was quite expensive too.
Entry tickets, ice-creams, cafes and pubs were also expensive.
Clothes and fashion stuff were instead good value.
/ Exchange rate
1 Euro = US $1.30 (in May 2005)
Prepaid GSM cards are cheap in Italy and allow huge savings compared to
GSM roaming. Calls within Italy are in the 15 Euro cents/minute range.
To buy a prepaid GSM card you will need a Codice Fiscale, sort of an identity
code which contains data about your name, sex, date and place of birth.
Recharging can be done at any Tabacchi
store, in variable increments.
In Rome we found several Internet cafes around Termini station. The one
I used was fast and good value at 2 Euro/hour. In Florence prices were
higher; there I used the Internet Train Internet cafes.
While we were in Italy, at the end of May 2005, temperatures ranged
between 23░C to 30░C. It got quite hot during the day, and it
was in fact uncomfortably hot in Rome and Florence. It only rained a
little bit in a couple of evenings in Rome.
By the way, even if 23-30░C may not sound that high, spending the
whole day outdoors under the sun, pushing a baby buggy, can be quite
exhausting. I can only imagine that in July and August, when the
temperatures are even higher, it gets really tough in Rome.
None needed for Italy
/ Entry requirements
As Italy is a member of the Schengen treaty, there are no border
controls at the borders to Austria and France. EU citizens need no VISA
for entering Italy.
We were warned about pickpockets, but didn't experience any problems.
Some of our friends has their purse stolen, so it makes sense to be
careful and not give pickpockets too many chances.
30.11.02: Munich ->
B&B Psenner Waltraud, Lorenz
B÷hler Str. 16, Bozen. 48 Euro (24 Euro per person) for an
apartment in kind of a large, converted farm house. Room has big toilet
and bedroom with TV (no phone).
Weather: sunny and warm in Bozen,
26░C during the day.
We leave Unterhaching by car at 4:25pm and manage to reach Bozen at
6:45pm. That's 2h 20min for 276 km - quite a good time. Despite the
Friday afternoon there is no traffic on the motorway. There are some
speed limits in the motorway south of Munich, but 50km from Munich,
finally there are no more speed limits and I accellerate to 160-170
km/h. In Austria I drive slower, as there is a speed limit on the
motorway there. In Italy between the Brenner pass and Bozen, the
motorway is full of narrow curves so that it's not really feasible to
drive fast there.
It's good that the drive takes only 2h 20 min., as the baby starts
complaining after two hours. Babys don't like to be fastened for a long
time to a baby seat.
Around 7:30pm we have a dinner in the Nussbaumer restaurant, which has
recently (2-3 years ago if I'm not mistaken) been converted to a
Mexican restaurant. Shirley has a tuna salad, while I have a pizza (the
pizza is so-so).
Around 9:30pm we start looking for the B&B. It is actually quite
easy to find it, because it is near the hospital. The room is ok, but
the location is quite out of town and tomorrow we need to catch the
train to Rome at 9:17am, which means that this evening we have to go
We still don't have a reservation for a hotel or B&B in Rome,
because all places which are bookable through the major travel portals
in the Internet (expedia, hrs.de etc.) are in the 100+ Euro/night
range. It appears that there is also cheaper accomodation in Rome (lots
of B&B for instance) and there is a hotel reservation counter in
Rome Termini train station, so it should not be a problem finding
something tomorrow. By the way, the "cheaper" hotels bookable through
the travel portals (those below 150 Euro) are all quite out of town;
downtown you find only hotels above 150 Euro/night.
Hotel Casali, Via Amendola 95, Rome.
110 Euro for a clean and spacious room with three beds, private toilet,
TV and phone. The street below is noisy, but the window isolates well.
Overpriced (see below).
Weather: sunny with a spotless sky in
Bozen, 18░ already at 9am
We manage to get up at 7:30am and are at the train station in Bozen at
9am, in time for the Eurostar train to Rome. Scheduled arrival is
3:35pm in Roma Termini. The train leaves on time at 9:17am.
The first disappointment comes as we see that the wagons don't have
separate compartments - just a big compartment with many seats. And
this in the 1st class of the train. The wagon is almost totally empty,
but in the Trento station two guys board the train and sit right next
to us. Obviously they
have a reservation for these seats, but why sit cramped in a tight
space when the entire wagon is empty ?
After some time we check with the conductor and then move to a set of
four empty seats, which will remain empty until Rome. By the way, the
2nd class has smaller seats and is more crowded.
At 12pm we go to the train restaurant, where the food is not too great
and quite expensive. We have some noodles with tomato sauce, 1/2 litre
mineral water for 21 Euro. Never mind - we'll skip the train restaurant
The train arrives punctually at 2pm in Florence, then accellerates to
over 200 km/h between Florence and Rome. At some point the train stops
for about 15 minutes, which means that we won't arrive in Rome at
3:35pm as originally scheduled. The weather is still sunny and warm.
By the way, the Eurostar train has A/C and 220V AC plugs next to every
seat, so it is possible to work with the notebook computer.
Unfortunately there is no WLAN and no way to connect to the Internet.
The train arrives at 4pm in Rome (Termini station), 25 minutes late.
After that our search for a place to spend the night starts. We first
call a couple of places in the LP guide, but they are all full. Then we
go to the hotel reservation counter in the train station (opposite
platform 21), where the guy tells us that the cheapest hotel is a steep
130 Euro/night, unless we are willing to stay out of Rome. More phone
calls follow, to places listed in the LP guide. Those below 120
Euro/night are all full - unbelievable, it's as if the whole world
decided to come to Rome today.
In the meantime I walk into a road parallel to Termini station with
many hotels and pensions (Via Amendola). The first four or five
pensions I ask are all full, but finally I find a two star hotel, where
the guy tells us we can have a double for 120 Euro/night, but tomorrow
we have to change rooms. After some more searching I finally find a
cheaper place (90 Euro for a double). When I ask if they have a baby
bed, they say 'ah, but then you need a triple room... and the triple
room will be more expensive (110 Euro)'. So I get back to Shirley
who has been waiting all the time in the train station with the baby,
guarding the luggage.
Since we are tired, we start looking for a place to sit down, from
where to make the phone calls. After some looking we notice the
Autogrill restaurant on the first floor. When we go up with the lift,
the guy says 'trolleys are not allowed', and no he won't let us sit
down and have something. So we walk down again and finally find a place
to sit down. We order two soft drinks and call several more pensions.
They are invariably all either fully booked, have rooms with no
bathroom attached, rooms only tomorrow or only for one or two days. At
5:30pm we are reaching saturation level, and I suggest to do an
Internet search for B&Bs in Rome. The bill for the two soft drinks
is an expensive 7.30 Euro.
After some looking I find an Internet cafe in the telecommunications
office in the train station. So I purchase a telephone card for 5 Euro
which allows one hour of web surfing. The problem is that the user
interface of the computers *sucks* heavily - the mouse key is almost
broken, there is no way to open more than one browser window and the
browser seems to be an ancient one, as it fails to open the www.hrs.de
hotel reservation site. To top it all, the connection speed is
painfully slow. But what can you expect from "Telecom Italia" ?
I call some more places, which invariably are all full. Finally we find
one place, but it's 80 Euro for a place somewhere in town without own
bathroom. So we get back to the hotel reservation counter at the
station, where I ask what a hotel a bit out of Rome's centre would
cost. Now surprisingly the price is down to 115 Euro, for a double in a
hotel, about 15 min. by bus from Termini station. When I ask if it
would be possible to add a baby bed, the guy replies that then the room
would cost much more (200 Euro). Alternatively there is a hotel in
Ciampino (next to the airport for 80 Euro). Great... Since it's already
6:30pm and we all got enough I suggest to go to the hotel for 110 Euro.
I first check if the room is still available, then walk there with
Shirley. At 7pm, three hours after we arrived in Rome, we finally have
Around 7:40pm we walk out of the hotel and start walking towards the
colosseum, which we reach around 8:20pm, after several stops. At 9pm we
have a dinner in a restaurant - again this place is overpriced. It's 26
Euro for two spaghetti and a bottle of mineral water (and the portions
are small). It seems that the big problem in Rome are not the
pickpockets, it's the Romans themselves who do their best to squeeze
cash out of the tourists.
We're back in the hotel at 10pm. I then check briefly my emails in an
Internet cafe (Via Amendola). Very fast connection and only 2 Euro/hour
(50 cents/15 minutes).
I'm starting to think that I will limit the stay in Rome to three full
days and leave on Wednesday for Florence. Three days should be enough
to see most important things in Rome.
Weather: sunny almost the whole day,
except for a very thin clouds layer for a couple of hours and an
overcast sky around 6pm. It gets quite warm and my skin gets red due to
the strong sun.
We get up around 9am, then have a brief breakfast in a nearby cafe
(food is so-so). By the time we are ready for sightseeing, it's already
It appears that the room in the Casali hotel is not that bad. The
bathroom has recently been renovated and even has a hair dryer. The
shower is fine.
In any case at 11:10am we take the underground to the Barberini
station, from where we walk down the Tritone street to the Trevi
fountain, which we reach at 11:35am. Needless to say, the fountain is
full of people. I can imagine it must be very tempting to get into
those clear waters in the summer when it is hot.
By the time we leave the Trevi fountain and start walking towards
Piazza di Spagna it is almost 12pm. We reach Piazza di Spagna 40
minutes later because we stop in a shop buying something, then make a
couple of shorter stops either taking photos or checking the map.
Piazza di Spagna is again full of tourists and looks less impressive
than in the pictures. The Trinita dei Monti church is undergoing a
restauration and the front facade is fully covered by planks. From the
church there is a nice view; the church itself is not too impressive.
Around 1:10pm we leave Piazza di Spagna and start walking towards
Piazza del Popolo. It's actually lunch time and we spot a Chinese
restaurant in Via dei Greci, so we have lunch there. The food is ok and
quite a deal cheaper than the food we had yesterday.
By the time we leave the restaurant it's already 2:45pm. We reach
Piazza del Popolo, a very nice square with an Egyptian obelisk (by the
way, lots of Egyptian obelisks in squares in Rome). We spend 15 minutes
in Piazza del Popolo. The next place to see is the Pantheon which is
about 2km from there. We are tired and wouldn't mind taking a taxi, but
then end up walking.
We walk along Via del Corso towards the Pantheon, making a stop at the
St. Ambrogio e Carlo church. While I'm inside and am setting up camera
and tripod to take some photos (composition, exposure parameters etc.)
the priest of the church walks to me and starts talking to me. To my
surprise he doesn't complain that I'm desecrating the church by taking
pictures. No, the guy tells me to follow him and leads me to a couple
of spots from where you can take good photos. Very surprising - maybe
this priest is a photography fan too.
We then continue walking, passing by Palazzo whose name I don't know
and Palazzo Chigi around 4pm. After some more walking, an ice-cream
stop etc. we are at the Pantheon at 4:45pm, where we spend 20 minutes.
Then we walk to the nearby St. Maria della Minerva church, where we
stay until 5:30pm. Beautiful church by the way (the interior -
externally the church is so-so).
We then walk to Piazza Navona, which we reach at 5:45pm. The square
looks interesting, but the sky is overcast, it's full of people and the
main church is undergoing renovation. We spend less than 10 minutes
there, then try to get back to the hotel.
It takes over an hour to get back to the hotel, as we initially try to
get a bus, but bus tickets are not sold anywhere in the area. Then we
finally walk to a taxi stand in Corso Vittorio Emanuele (largo
Argentina). There it's a long wait until we get a taxi, as there are
few taxis. According to the taxi driver, on weekends there are just
4000 instead of 6000 taxis in Rome. The taxi ride is 9.50 Euro + tip.
At 8pm we are out again, having first a small dinner in the cafe near
the hotel, then taking the underground to Colosseo, where I take some
photos. We are back in the hotel around 10:15pm. By the way, *very*
long queue of people in the evening at the train station waiting for a
Weather: overcast in the morning at
10am; by the time we reach the Vatican city it's sunny again and also
quite warm. In the evening it is overcast again and it briefly rains.
We get up at 9am and manage to leave the hotel at 10:20am. After a
brief breakfast in the nearby bar, we take the underground to Ottaviano
station, which is the closest station to the Vatican city. Arriving
there at 11:30am, we slowly stroll along Ottaviano road towards the
Vatican, arriving there a bit before 12pm. Today is Monday and it
appears that it is market day, as there are some market stalls
(clothes) along the road.
St. Peter's church and the square is absolutely great and by itself
worth the trip to Rome. By the way, when walking to the columns (around
11:50am) we notice a huge queue - the people are all queueing up for
the Vatican museum. The queue must be at least 500m long.
To get into St. Peter's church you have to pass through a security
checkpoint with scanners.
After some photo shooting we enter into St. Peter's church around
12:30pm. Before we had to leave the baby buggy in a place below and now
we are carrying the baby ourselves. Since it is impossible to walk
a long time around with the baby, my wife waits for me outside
while I am inside taking some photos. By the way, tripods are not
allowed in the church (for that you need a special permit).
It takes an hour to explore completely the St. Peter church - the
church is really huge. I meet Shirley again at 1:30pm, and in the
meantime Alissia is doing her midday sleep. The next thing to see would
the the cupola, but there is a long queue also there. So we get to a
cafe just outside the columnade and have some lunch.
At 2:40pm we are on our way to the Vatican museums. Now the queue has
disappeared - I'm glad we didn't try to visit the Vatican museums
before. It takes only 10 minutes to get into the museums now. Entry is
a steep 12 Euro/person.
The museums are kind of nice, but not too impressive. Lots of statues
from Roman times, lots of renessaince stuff. We skip the Egyptian
section, as my guess is that if you have seen the Egyptian museum in
Cairo, you don't need to visit the Egyptian section of the Vatican
museum. The Sistine chapel should be the highlight, but actually it is
just another room full of frescoes (and full of tourists). By the way,
very tiring to go through the Vatican museum with the baby, as it is
very crowded, hot, you can't sit down anywhere and you have to carry
the baby buggy up and down the staircases. And to be honest, there is a
lack of great, jaw-dropping sights.
At 4:15pm we are out of the museums and I still want to see the cupola
(which closes at 5pm). Since there is no way to get up there with a
baby, Shirley waits down, while I go up. This time the queue is much
smaller and after 20 minutes, I finally have the ticket and proceed to
the elevator. Once on top you have to walk through a maze of narrow and
winding staircases until you finally reach the top. Nice views from the
I'm down again at 5:10pm. Since we are both quite tired, we get back to
the hotel after stopping for an ice-cream (again quite high prices, 15
Euro for two, but everything in Rome is overpriced). We spend the
evening not doing much. Dinner in a Chinese restaurant (relatively good
value at 18 Euro for two). In the evening it rains briefly.
Some impressions of the day:
==> In and around St Peter there is a dearth of places where to sit
down and relax for a minute. And if you sit down somewhere some local
Italian will tell you to go away.
==> Romans, especially in tourist locations, are unfriendly and
treat tourists like cattle.
==> It was very hot and steamy when we visited the Vatican museums.
No A/C. That was in May, when it still was kind of fresh outside. Can
you imagine the situation in July/August when it is really hot in Rome ?
Hotel Casali. The toilet actually
sucks, because the light will switch off automatically after a couple
of minutes. During a shower typically you will find yourself three
times in full darkness, and have to get out of the shower cabin
completely wet, looking for the switch in the darkness. You might even
get electrocuted, as the light switch is next to an open AC power
Weather: sunny and almost spotless
blue sky the whole day, except for a couple of clouds which float
around every now and then. It is hot and the sun is very strong; quite
tiring to push a baby buggy in the midday heat across "rough terrain"
(ancient streets made with huge, uneven stones).
We get up at 9am and are basically ready for sightseeing around 11am,
after a breakfast in the same nearby bar where we went yesterday. We
take the underground and manage to reach the Colosseum around 11:30am.
The sun is already very strong and it's full of tourists. I briefly
check the Colosseum queue and see that it's quite long. Since there are
also lots of staircases (and we would have to carry the baby buggy up
and down), I decide to skip the interior of the Colosseum (the ticket
the way would have been 12 Euro per person). Time is
also an issue as it is already 11:30am and I'd like to finish the
sightseeing by 5pm today.
By the way, sightseeing with a baby can be very tiring, when you have
to push the baby buggy across rough roads and up and down staircases.
The heat and the strong sun don't help either.
We start walking towards the Foro Romano and run very soon into the
entry to the Palatino. After some thinking we skip also that, because
there are so many staircases. We're not really in the mode to carry up
and down the baby buggy. So we simply walk through the Foro romano
At about 1:30pm we are in Campidoglio square and start thinking about
how to find a restaurant. Just for a change it will be a Chinese
restaurant, and not an Italian one, because communication is much
easier for my wife, prices are much lower, the service is much better.
Also, my wife can order some food for the baby and explain exactly to
the waitress what she wants. In an Italian restaurant instead we would
have to feed the baby with some heated glass bottle food.
After some asking, we manage to find a Chinese restaurant in a
sidestreet near Largo Torre Argentina. By the time we leave the
restaurant and resume the sightseeing it is almost 3pm. This time we
walk along Via Arenula towards the Tiber, then turn left towards Piazza
della Bocca della VeritÓ, which we reach at 3:40pm (by the way,
if you have no baby with you and don't make so many stops you should
easily be able to cover the distances in a shorter time).
From Bocca della VeritÓ we walk back along the Tiber, then cross
it passing through the Tiber island. On the island we have an icecream,
then walk to Trastevere. Trastevere, at least the part we see, looks
quite "trendy" and fashionable. We don't really see any run down
neighbourhoods. We walk towards the church of St. Maria in Trastevere
(nice interior), which we reach at 5pm. We spend one hour in the square
at the fountain, relaxing a bit and listening to the music band (there
is a band playing opposite the church). At 6pm we finally walk back
towards the hotel. We pass by Piazza Farnese and Campo dei Fiori,
before reaching the taxi stand in Largo Torre Argentina. There we fetch
a taxi back to the Hotel (8 Euro).
In the evening I check the train schedules (there is a fast Eurostar
train every half an hour to Florence, at least in the morning) and buy
two first class train tickets (84 Euro for two tickets). Then I book a
hotel in Florence through the Internet (hrs.de). Since I want to be in
town, I book Hotel River for 110 Euro/night, a three star establishment
along the river. There is also a three star hotel for 80 Euro per
night, but it is 4km out of town and I'm pretty sure the taxi will cost
at least 15 Euro one way, so that the taxi fees should eat up the room
rate saving. By the way, the hotel (as everything else in Italy) is
Copyright (c) 2005