January 7, 2016, 10:51 PM
First trip to Europe. Help!!
My wife and I are making or first trip to Europe. I did my best to try and spread our itinerary out as best we could based on our time frame available. I am in my early 30’s and my wife is in her late 20’s. We are very big into food and wine. We enjoy high end restaurants but also love small hole in the wall restaurants. We truly will try any type of food and anything you put on a plate. My wife is part owner of a wine company here in the states so clearly wine is a passion of ours. The 20th I will be celebrating my 34th birthday as well. The only different thing for us on this trip will be that my wife will be in her 5th month of pregnancy. We still want to experience the culture, party with the locals, etc. I would love if you could help me out a bit and give me some guidance on what we should do in your city in the allotted time frame, where we should eat (places the locals actually eat, not some tourist trap) and how to get around. Are the hotels we are staying at nice? Should I change those? I am going to pre-buy a eurail pass. I am unfamiliar with that though. Will I only need it for the 3 day pass min that I can buy online? Will I need it for your cities metro lines? Or is that just purchased separately? Any guidance would be greatly appreciated.
Friday April 15th - fly out of LAX @ 8:00am
Hotel: Palm Gallery Hotel
Saturday April 16th - arrive in Rome @ 10:55am
Sunday April 17th - Rome
Monday April 18th - Rome
Tuesday April 19th - Rome
Hotel: San Gallo Palace
Wednesday April 20th - morning train to Florence
Thursday April 21st - Florence
Friday April 22nd - Florence
Hotel: Santa Marina
Saturday April 23rd - morning train to Venice
Sunday April 24th - Venice (Overnight train departs at 7:20pm)
Overnight train to Paris
Hotel: Idol Hotel by Elegancia
Monday April 25th – Arrive in Paris @ 9:55am
Tuesday April 26th - Paris
Wednesday April 27th - Paris
Thursday April 28th - Paris
Friday April 29th - Fly out of CDG @ 10:05am to go home
January 8, 2016, 04:15 PM
Ciao Spkemo and welcome to the forum! Congrats on the upcoming baby, too!
First trip to Europe is the most exciting, I think I think you've done a good job of spacing out enough days in each place to get a good feel for each city. With Rome, Florence, Venice and Paris included, it will give you a good taste of what is here, each different and a good place to start to get a taste of Italy and Europe... then you can come back once the baby is born and spend more time where you loved it best!
For example: you have to come back and enjoy all the various wine countries, in Italy and France!! Spend more time in Tuscany and not just Chianti - in the wine region of Montalcino and Montepulciano, as a start. I definitely think that is best left for when there is no pregnancy at the time ;-)
As far as Florence goes: the San Gallo Palace is a very nice 4 star hotel. The only thing I would say about it is that it is outside of the historical center, and with your wife being 5 months pregnant by then, I think it would be nicer to stay within the center to reduce the walking a bit. Keep in mind that you'll be doing lots of walking every single day for the two weeks, more than you're used to back in LA. We also went to Vienna when I was 5 months pregnant, and while I was able to walk a lot, it was also nice to go back to the hotel mid afternoon and rest a bit before heading back out for dinner.
Take a look at Hotel de la Ville, another 4 start hotel but very central on Via Tornabuoni:
or Hotel Principe, not as central as the one above but small, family run and also 4 star:
With almost 3 full days in Florence, I suggest you take a look at the 2 and 3 day itineraries on this page: http://www.visitflorence.com/itineraries-in-florence/
to get a sense of the top places to see. You'll spend most of your time between Piazza del Duomo, Piazza della Signoria, Piazza Santa Maria Novella and Piazza Santa Croce.
As far as the Eurail Pass - I am not sure you need it as it would cover travel between the cities but not within - you will need to cover city buses and metro lines separately. So you're talking about train travel between Rome and Florence, Florence and Venice and Venice and Paris. If you look at cost of each leg of train travel (check both www.trenitalia.com and www.italotreno.it for all tickets, since you also travel from Venice to Paris), it might be less than buying 2 Eurorail passes. Checking tickets online now might also mean finding a special offer, so tickets would be less than bought on the spot here. Italo travels from secondary train stations but quality and service is quite high, compared to same class fare on Trenitalia (trenitalia is the State company that has been partially privatized, while Italo is fully private and a more recent player competing with Trenitalia).
As far as eating in Florence -- the area between Via Tornabuoni and Piazza Santa Maria Novella has a lot of small trattoria that offer great food, so if you do change hotels, you will have easier access to those ;-)
Don't hesitate to post any further questions you might have! Enjoy the planning
January 8, 2016, 06:06 PM
Would you pre-purchase all train tickets ahead of time or just buy when you arrive at the station? I'm going to buy the overnight ticket ahead of time just in case. Just not sure if these trains typically sell out from Rome to Florence and Florence to Venice.
January 8, 2016, 06:45 PM
I would most definitely buy the overnight tickets ahead of time -- and the other ones, too, if you want to take fast trains. Those trains do require assigned seating and even though they don't often sell out (there are many trains throughout the day), you might not find 2 seats right next to each other if you buy the day of. Also, there are online sales for fast trains - sometimes depending on the day of the week. So if you check now and don't see discounted rates, you can wait and check back in a month or so. I actually think you might not be able to buy tickets for the fast trains yet - it seems they limit how far in advance some tickets can be purchased, for some reason.
January 10, 2016, 05:47 AM
Looking for restaurants
I personally enjoy trolling the area near via San Nicolò for the restaurants, though it can still be a bit "touristy" there are still some fun little places with authentic dishes and lots of locals.
You can also try La Beppa Fioraia: http://www.labeppafioraia.it/
It serves classical dishes in a fun atmosphere.