Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Finding Hotels in Italy and Touristy Things to Do

Okay, so I'm still working on writing up my little Italy travel articles to include some info about the hotels in Italy, but, I've been a bit pre-occupied (that seems to be my mantra lately - always catching up but the in box never empties)...anyway...

My friends over at CheaperThanHotels.co.uk have inspired me to write this little post about hotels in Italy. After all, I just spent a week in November traveling in Italy so *now* I'm an expert :)

I have a travel agent to thank for booking my hotels in Italy and have to admit, t
he accommodations were pretty good. But, if I had to do it over again and put some more planning into the trip to Italy, I could have easily booked the hotels on my own. Thank goodness for the Internet!

Venice
First stop in Italy was Venice. I loved Venice. Our hotel was on the water and because it's a city of canals, I'm guessing most of the hotels in Venice are on the water.

Venice is extremely tourist-friendly and I recommend this being the first stop in the first-time-Italy-traveler's visit. Venice seems to ease travelers into the Italian culture with friendly people and easy to get around walkways and waterways. Be warned, expect to get lost in Venice, it seems a bit confusing but a tip I read in "Rick Steves' Italy 2008" advised to get lost and follow the signs posted on the walls and sure enough, found the hotel and where we wanted to go each time.

I loved Piazza San Marco and all the pigeons (although they scared me a bit), St Mark's Basilica (pictured above right) and Rialto Bridge. The morning fish market was fun, looking at the fresh catches and fresh produce. Took the vaporetto (think of it as a water bus) at night (I highly recommend buying a 24 or 48-hour vaporetto pass) which was incredible. Took it to Piazza San Marco and walked back to the hotel. It was a lovely walk allowing us to get a taste of the nightlife and see how the locals live.

We stayed at Hotel Santa Chiara, one of many three-star hotels in Venice. My bed looked like a sofa and the shower was small but the room was comfortable. Besides, when traveling to Italy, it's what happens outside the hotel which counts (unless of course, you're with a significant other, but I wouldn't know...)

Rome
Next was Florence, but that's another post for another day. So, I'll fast forward to Rome where we stayed at one of the select four-star hotels in Rome called Park Hotel Dei Massimi.

I definitely needed more time in Rome to explore the ruins and delve into the history. Did get to toss a coin into the Trevi Fountain (pictured) so guess that means I'll be returning to Rome someday. Also saw the famous Spanish Steps, Pantheon the Colosseum (pictured above left) by a full moon (yup, that was pretty cool).

Did spend a significant amount of time at the Vatican and was lucky enough to see the Pope. As I've written before, not sure what the Pope said but am pretty sure I was blessed! Took a tour underneath St. Peter's Basilica which was VERY cool. Got to see some of the Pope coffins, cool in a creepy way.

Although the hotel was four-star, I think I could have done better in choosing one of the many hotels in Rome closer to the city center. We had to catch a taxi from the metro to reach our hotel and when traveling on a budget, taxis usually aren't cool - they cut into the budget.

Milan
Heard fab things, especially about hotels in Milan, but didn't make. Did meet a couple of twenty-something gals who looked European (very fashion-forward) but who were from Chicago. They were taking the rail to Milan after Florence.

It's a city I'll have to see on my next trip to Italy. I mean, it has the Leonard Da Vinci National Museum of Science and Technology, the Duomo, one of the largest Cathedrals in the world and loads of fashion. Though I'm fashionably-challenged, think I'd enjoy Milan and imagine the Internet makes it easy to find hotels in Milan.

Hotels in Italy
There are loads of tourist-friendly hotels in Venice, Rome and Milan to choose from. In Venice, I'd recommend the Hotel Santa Chiara, it's close to the train station and bus drop off. As for hotels in Rome, if I was going to spend all my time at the Vatican, then the Park Hotel Dei Massimi is ideal but for a future visit, I'd find something either closer to the train station or city center. And finding hotels in Milan? I'd make sure it's near the city center or near a train stop to easily get around.

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