Day Tripping – Rome to Florence

View of Duomo from San Miniato
View of Duomo from San Miniato al Monte, Florence, 2012

There are many day trips to nearby towns and cities that you can take from Rome.  Florence, Frascati, Tivoli, and Ostia Antica are among some of my favorites.  Taking the high speed Frecciarossa (Red Arrow) or Frecciargento (Silver Arrow) from Roma Termini Station to Firenze located just under 300 km to the northwest from downtown Rome, takes 90 minutes.  Italy’s high speed trains are a great way to travel, comfortable and ultra modern,   maximizing your time.

Among Florence’s many treasures are Michelangelo’s David, Brunelleschi’s Duomo, and Masaccio’s frescoes of Adam and Eve. Depending on how much time and energy you have it is possible to see all three.  I recommend buying tickets to the Galleria dell’Accademia (David) and the church of Santa Maria del Carmine (Adam and Eve frescoes) in advance to avoid long lines and wasting valuable time.

View of San Miniato From Boboli Gardens, Florence, 2013
View of San Miniato al Monte From Boboli Gardens, Florence, 2013

One of my favorite itineraries for a day in Florence includes arriving at Santa Maria Novella Station and taking a taxi up to San Miniato al Monte for an incredible view of the city. From the basilica walk the short distance to Piazzale Michaelangelo for another incredible view of the Tuscan valley.  From the piazzale look for the stair case at the northwest corner and wind your way down the footpath past the Giardino delle Rose, a hidden gem, to the old city gate at Piazzetta San Miniato.  From this point you can wander toward Ponte alle Grazie and cross the bridge from the oltrarno, “beyond the Arno”, quarter of the city into the historic center of the city toward Santa Crocce.   This is about a two and one half hour walk of incredible vista’s which allows you to avoid large crowds and plenty of time to visit some of the major attractions.  As you wander this particularly beautiful corner of Firenze stop to enjoy a caffe, browse some of the incredible shops, and take as many pictures as you can. You will remember this city for the rest of your life!!

Room with a View, Friends on Their Terrace, Florence, 2013
Room with a View, Friends on Their Terrace, Florence, 2013

Modern Italian History – Royal Family, House of Savoy

Coat_of_arms_of_the_King_of_Italy_(1890)

The House of Savoy (Casa di Savoia) formed in the early 11th century, through gradual expansion, grew from ruling a small county in the Savoy Region to eventually rule the unified Kingdom of Italy (1860-1946).  Ruling for 85 years the four most recent monarchs include Victor Emmanuel IIUmberto IVictor Emmanuel III, and Umberto II. The last monarch ruled for a few weeks before being overthrown by a Constitutional Referendum, and a new republic and government was then proclaimed.  Both Victor Emmanuel II and Umberto I are buried in the Pantheon.  Today’s descendants are a lively cast of characters who occasionally appear in the papers.

Renting a Car in Italy – Some Practical Advice

Tivoli, 2009Tivoli, 2009

If your plans have you headed to Italy for more than two weeks I would recommend that you consider renting a car and take advantage of a few driving adventures.  A wonderful article in the travel section of the New York TImes, that I often recommend, about the ins and outs of renting cars abroad is included in this post.

One of the best pieces of advice I can give is to book your rental car through the country website for the rental company of choice.  For example go to hertz.it vs. hertz.com.  Most large companies with international locations will allow you to choose the language you wish use on the site making it very easy.  You will often save 30% simply by doing this. The second piece of advice – know which credit card you will be using prior to booking and have a full understanding of the coverage your bank provides on rental cars outside of the U.S.   Note the related article about IDP’s below.  I have never been asked for anything other than my US drivers license.

Lastly enjoy the experience – driving through the hills of Tuscany or along the Amalfi Coast is a memory that you will keep for life and well worth the effort.

Day Tripping – Rome to Tivoli

Villa d'este Fall 2013Large Fountain, Villa d’Este, Tivoli, 2012

There are many day trips to nearby towns and cities that you can take from Rome.  Florence, Frascati, Tivoli, and Ostia Antica are among some of my favorites.  Taking the train from Roma Termini Station to Tivoli, located about 30 km to the northeast from downtown Rome, takes about 45 minutes. As the train pulls out of the station and moves into the country you see parts of the city you normally wouldn’t experience and finally as you climb the gently curving hills toward Tivoli you can look forward to beautiful vistas including some waterfalls.

Among Tivoli’s many treasures are Villa d’Este and Villa Adriana (Hadrian’s Villa).  Both exceptional in what they have to offer.  If you have to choose, Villa d’Este, would be my choice for the exquisite fountains, vistas, and greenery. (NOTE: Villa d’Este and Villa Adriana are closed on Mondays)

Upon arriving at the Tivoli Train station walk downhill on  Viale Giuseppe Mazzini.  When you arrive at the traffic circle, round the circle to your right, and stop at Il Ciocco for an espresso. From the back of the bar you can look down upon Villa Gregoriana.  From here you can follow the signs to Villa d’Este and enjoy your walk up into this ancient town.

One of the Things I Miss Most About Italy

View of Rome from Spanish StepsThe daily migration of the clouds across the city provided endless reasons to look upward.   I still dream about the jumble of colors in Rome, the the juxtaposition of the tiled roofs, faded golds, rusts, pinks of the buildings and the vibrant blue, gray, yellow, and white of the ever changing skies.

Amalfi Coast – Positano

Positano Harbor, Amalfi Coast, 2013 View of Positano Harbor from Hotel Poseidon, Amalfi Coast, 2013

Of all the places in Italy that I have had the good fortune to visit the Amalfi Coast is the one place that I most often think about.  There are not enough adjectives to describe the beauty of the convergence of the sea and the coastline. Easily reached by car via the Autostrada Del Sole “Motorway of the Sun” (A1) or taking the train from Rome to Naples and then taking a bus or taxi to the Amalfi Coast.  If you drive you will definitely put a few notches on your drivers license as the combination of switchback roads and deathwish motorcyclists is something you have to experience for yourself.

Beyond the seaside towns of Sorrento, Positano,  Ravello and Amalfi there are several other destinations I would recommend – Capri and Paestum being two of my favorites.

Positano, Amalfi Coast, 2013Positano, Amalfi Coast, 2013

The best way to enjoy this part of Italy is by boat and there are many options from water taxis to private charters.   I highly recommend considering renting a boat and spending the day with Barbara and Antonio local residents and two of the most charming people you could hope to meet.   They are both very knowledgable about the history of the area and by boat can take you to some of the most spectacular grottos, coves, waterfalls, out of the way restaurants, and islands in the area.  Barbara Tours Positano (Boat Charters)

Boating from Positano to Capri
Boating from Positano to Capri with Barbara and Antonio, Amalfi Coast, 2011