Thursday, April 5, 2007

Italy Planning

Today it is about 2 months to go before we depart on a 2 week vacation to Italy. For many years my wife and I have been looking forward to travel to Europe and last year we took our first step in that direction by visiting London for 8 days. This year we double that to 16 days to Italy. The vacation will also serve as a celebration of our 25th wedding anniversary.

The fast few weeks we have been surfing the web for cheap plane tickets and for apartment in the various cities we will be staying. We decided against packaged tours and hotels, and opted for apartments after our experiences during our travels to London and Chicago last year. Doing your own thing instead of keeping to a tour schedule offers so much more freedom and apartments are mostly cheaper and comes with all the amenities like washing machines, which is important on a longish vacation like this. We want to take the minimum clothes, but still be able to wash it and dry it quickly.

So far our plane tickets have been booked, flying with Delta, and the frequent flying miles to be earned from the trip will put both of us over the requirement for a free ticket to South Africa, maybe at the end of the year. We have booked an apartment in Rome at about €50 a day cheaper than in a hotel, and in La Spezia we found a great apartment overlooking the city and the bay for $65 a day on eBay. That’s for the apartment, not per person. Last year we also got our London apartment on eBay and were very satisfied with the location, quality and cost of the flat. In Florence we were not so lucky. It is a very expensive city, but we found a good apartment, based on comments from people that stayed in the apartment before, for €120 a day. We may have an apartment in Venice, but after speaking to the landlady today there may be complications. Hopefully we will get a final answer over the weekend. Finding a reasonably priced apartment in Venice has been a real challenge. If this apartment deal falls through we will opt for a highly-rated, centrally located Bed and Breakfast establishment. The hotels for the first night in Naples and the last night in Rome have also been finalized. Just late last night I found a good hotel for €100 near Rome’s Termini, the central train station, but delayed the booking until the morning, but this morning when I returned to do the booking the price was hiked by €52. I must have just missed the cutoff of a special deal. Luckily I found another highly-rated hotel close to the Termini for €102 per night. This time I booked it immediately.

This long Easter weekend I will start with planning the days in more detail, putting more flash on the bones, so to speak. When to do what, which museums to visit, and also plan all the various train trips. One thing I can say at this stage is that Italy isn’t a cheap place to travel to, especially with the strong Euro against the weak US Dollar. Any money saved on this trip can help with a possible trip to South Africa over Christmas and the New Year.

The possible itinerary at moment looks like this:
Day1: Arrive in Rome; take a train to Naples and late afternoon visit the National Archeology Museum.
Day 2: Visit Pompeii in the morning and the afternoon return to Rome via train.
Day 3: Ancient Rome; The Roman Forum, Coliseum, and maybe the Capitoline museum
Day 4: The Vatican: Museums and St. Peter's basilica; Walk down to Castel San Angelo and Hadrian’s tomb. Maybe a trip through Rome on a open bus.
Day 5: Piazza Navona and definitely the Pantheon area, and other sightseeing.
Day 6: Visit to Galleria Borghese; Late afternoon travel to Florence by train.
Day 7: Visit the Duomo and Baptistry; Walk around and admire the architecture of Florence. Hopefully it will be a cloudless evening day to enjoy a sunset at Ponte Vecchio.
Day 8: Visit Galleria Uffizi & Galleria Del Academia and …
Day 9: Day trip to Siena with a small tour group or a trip to a wine farm.
Day 10: Early morning leave via train to Pisa; Quick stop over to the leaning tower and then on to La Spezia and the Gulf of Poets to take a vacation within a vacation and start the romantic portion of the trip.
Day 11: Explore the villages of Cinque Terra.
Day 12: Day trip to Genoa to explore the medieval center of Genoa, walk the carruggi, narrow alleys, or maybe a visit to the aquarium in the harbor.
Day 13: In the morning we will travel up the Liguria coast to Genoa, then on to Milano, through the Lombardia countryside (hopefully it will be a nice day with a view of the Italian Alps to the north), through the Veneto countryside to Venice. Arriving early afternoon we will have some time to walk around Venice and maybe visit the Ca’d ‘Oro or the Galleria Franchetti before dinner and a stroll along the canals.
Day 14: Visit San Marco Cathedral, the Doge Palace, and whatever else we can fit in. The evening we plan to take a gondola ride to end of our stay in Venice.
Day 15: Travel by train from Venice, thru Veneto, Emilia-Romagna, Tuscany, Umbria, into Lazio and Rome. Take a last swing through Rome in the afternoon and evening.
Day 16: Early morning take a train to Leonardo Da Vinci Airport and the flight home.
Day 17: Sleep late and try to get our breaths back the rest of the week.

I am going to do my best to update the blog as we travel, but I will not sacrifice any sightseeing time for blog updates. Luckily the apartment in Rome comes with a computer and Internet connection, so from there I might update the blog. However, I will keep a written diary as we go along.

Please…Any ideas, advice or tips are welcomed. Just leave a comment.

Tuesday, April 3, 2007

Showing the first signs of a personality

It is a bit more than 3 months since the birth of Marley Ray and a little personality is coming forth as can be seen in these pictures.

"I really don't like things on my head, but for once I will let you take my picture with a cap"

"Ah, It's so much better without the cap"

"This toy has become my favorite since I started with the dreadful issue of teething"

"You want me to do what? I have no idea what you're talking about!"

"Huh...really. Is the photo session over? Will I be a supermodel?"

"Now then, a girl never tells all her secrets. Got to leave something for you to wonder about."

"You will have to excuse me now. After all that playing and acting a girl's got to get her beauty sleep.'