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Northern Italy Road Trip Part III

Author: Jim and Donna C.
Date of Trip: October 2010

Tuesday, October 19, 2010 — Another Donna Day! Clear and Cool

We were packed and ready to go by 0700. We went upstairs for breakfast in the hotel. six Euros each. Jim embarrassed the waitress who is also the night clerk. At breakfast she asked Jim for our room number. Jim said NO as he was married. She blushed and said no no, but we all had a good laugh.

Checking out we were asked to enter our comments on Trip Advisor. We said we would. The front desk person, who we think was the wife of the owner, gave us a bottle of house wine as a parting gift. Paid the bill, now for the luggage.

Jim dragged two bags up two flights of stairs to the main lobby. The hotel owner offered to help with the rest of the luggage. From the front lobby down the hall over a few more steps to the very small elevator. One at a time with luggage. Reminds us of the elevator in Paris last Christmas.

We got to the sidewalk and walked towards the news stand where our car will be brought to us. The driver showed up in about 10 minutes. We loaded up the gear, loaded up Lola pointing towards San Gimignano and off we went.

Traffic heading out of town was not nearly as bad as we had coming in. We hit the highway singing our song of the road onto the next town. Now our song of the road is shifting gears, going in and out of traffic as Donna dries laundry on the back of the front seat. Ah vagabonds up for another adventure.

We get to San Gimignano around 1030 parking just outside in a wide open lot. We walked to the front gate and entered into a medieval city. Touristy yes, but it was fun. We are suckers for these shops. We got Donna a nice silver ring, a nice runner for the buffet, a set of salad fork and spoons … you get the idea.

We stopped at the “best” gelato store in the commune. It was delicious. We had lunch on our way out of town, sitting on the sidewalk watching the people go by. We had a ball! We took lots of pictures walked the town, and headed out with full arms towards Sienna. We both decided we couldn’t pronounce San Gimignano, so we ended up calling it San Chimichanga — we had a good laugh.

On our way to Sienna, we spotted another “fortress” town, Monteriggioni. We left the main road and found the town. It was much smaller than San Gimignano but very picturesque. We were able to look over the hills to San Gimignano and gaze upon the hills of Tuscany. We left for Sienna.

Arriving in Sienna we looked for the Duomo or center of town and a place to park. Around and around we went not finding where we needed to go. Around 1700 we gave up and headed out of town towards Assisi. We decided to get someplace local to stay the night and reassess our goals.

Upon leaving town we tried to get a hotel, B&B, Agritourismo, something. Around and around we went, eventually ending up back in Sienna. Heck, we give up, heading out of town again towards Assisi.

About eight miles out of town, traveling on the Autostrada, we spotted a hotel from the road.  We took the exit and headed to the hotel. It was rated a four star which is normally above our price range but we decided to try it out. Luckily it was only 88 Euros for the night including breakfast so we took the place.

Going up to the room we had to get the desk clerk to help us figure out the elevator. When we opened the door to our room it wasn’t made up. Jim went down to the front desk but there was no one there. Eventually Jim wandered out back and the desk clerk was working on a gazebo.

We got a new room, but we questioned the four star rating, even the decor was from the 1980’s. We unpacked a bit, and went down stairs for dinner, finding the restaurant wasn’t open until 1900. We needed to wait a half hour so we enjoyed a free beverage in the lobby.

We had a decent meal at the restaurant. It was the quietest meal we have had on the trip. No music, no real conversation just silence. Ugh. Finishing our meal we returned to our room. Jim worked on the log for a while, and through the internet found a Agritourismo for us near Assisi. We called and made reservations and it was off to bed.

Wednesday October 20, 2010 — Cool and Sunny another Donna Day!

We woke to a rooster crowing outside and another sunny day. We showered and packed up, heading downstairs for breakfast. We had yogurt, rolls and coffee. Nicely done.

Checking out, we spoke with the gentleman at the front desk. He recommended that we see Sienna but also that we take a roundabout course through the Tuscan countryside. He also made suggestions on what to see in Assisi. We packed the car and we’re off.

We took his advice and headed through the countryside. It was really beautiful. We stopped along the way taking a few pictures but mostly just enjoying the vast plowed fields and acres and acres of grape vines and olive trees. Even saw a small bunch of sun flowers left over from the summer!

We wound our way back toward Sienna and headed to the Soccer stadium as it has a lot of general parking for the city. To summarize a tedious and frustrating hour or so, this was public market day and there was no parking to be found. We gave up. Three tries, but no joy. Something we will leave to another visit. We actually saw Sienna, just not the tourist attractions.

We set Lola to the Agritourismo in Perugia near Assisi, and off we went. It took us a few false starts to find the place. Lola had us stopping at the beginning of the road, while the place was at the very end on top of a hill. We eventually made it but no one was around. It is a beautiful place overlooking Perugia and Assisi in the distance.

After playing with the local cat for a while, we decided to head to one of the recommended sites, Santa Maria Degli Angeli Assisi, the third largest “church” in the world.

We found it easily and hit an empty parking lot. Can this be? We parked and walked to the church, not really knowing what it was all about. We entered the church and it was very beautiful. In the middle of the big church was a complete little church, the church of St. Francis of Assisi. We stumbled on one of our goals.

We wandered around the church, saw the rock upon which St. Francis died along with his rope “belt” for his robe. Jim lit a candle for his dad as is his custom. After walking the church we went out to the Rose Garden, and to the book store, buying a couple of post cards and mementos.

Leaving the church we heard the nuns singing evening vespers. It was beautiful. We returned to the car after taking a couple more pictures of the outside of the church heading to our Agritourismo.

We found the place fairly easily this time as Jim had saved the location in Lola. An older gentleman was there who spoke only Italian and German. We made our arrangements for two nights at 80 Euros a night including breakfast. We were shown to our room, which was UPTSAIRS of course. Nice room overlooking the Tuscan valley and the town of Perugia.

We hauled our luggage up to the room. Unpacking a little, our little cat friend showed up. We played with her for a while. We had asked the owner what the cat’s name was. He said Gatolina, i.e. she didn’t really have a name just a small female cat. She was a cute tiger with gold eyes who did like petting and playing.

We were able to get a couple of suggestions for dinner as the owner gave us a couple of business cards. We programmed Lola for the recommended Pizzeria, the less expensive of the two options. Lola took us to an industrial site, so we rest and headed to the nicer restaurant.

Arriving at 1745, were told it wouldn’t open until 1930. We decided to try and find another place. After driving around for thirty minutes we headed back to the restaurant. We only had to wait a few minutes and were seated immediately. We had an excellent dinner of lamb and the same greens we enjoyed at the Agritourismo near the Cinque Terre. Finishing a great dinner we headed back to our room

Arriving in the dark, it was difficult to open the door to our room. We got in after a few false starts. It was really cold. We checked the radiators and they were off. We turned knobs but were afraid we were going to be without heat again. After about a half hour we found, much to our delight, that we did have heat.

We watched the BBC as Jim got the log caught up. Weather forecast for Rome is rain for Thursday and Friday. Rome is about 100 miles away. We will see Assisi tomorrow, then pack up our stuff, cleaning out the car getting ready to turn it in on Friday.

We are about at the end of our driving tour of Italy. Next stop will be our cruise back to the U.S. It has been fun but it will be great to sleep in, stay unpacked and have someone else make decisions on where to park!

So to bed at 2215.

Thursday, October 21, 2010 — cold and foggy

Last night was so cold, we found a quilt to add to our bed (sheet, comforter, bed spread, quilt). I slept with my head buried under all the covers to stay warm. We woke up to a cold morning. Looking out the window we could see the fog settling into the valley. We watched it roll up the hills until it reached us. It didn’t stay with us too long before it started rolling back down the hills…kind of like a tide.

Breakfast wasn’t until 2000, so we had a leisurely time getting ready for the day. We were greeted this morning by the Gatolina. We were the only ones down stairs (I think there’s only one other couple here). We were seated and given coffee, juice, fruit stuffed croissants, bread with meats, cheeses and jams and ended with yogurt. Good breakfast.

We already had our stuff ready to go for the day, so we off we went. We set Lola for Assisi and had no problems finding it. We found a parking lot at the top of the town with plenty of parking spots. The fog was still in the valley, but we seem to be above the fog line.

Ahead, there is a castle on the hill side. Donna got some pictures of the castle and then we headed into town. Our first stop, barely into town, was at the Cathedral of San Rufino, the patron saint for the Assisi.

The cathedral was beautiful on the interior. Just outside the door is a lion eating the head off a Christian martyr, reminding worshippers of the courage of early Christians. Inside was a baptismal font where Saint Francis and Saint Clair were both baptized. There are glass panels on the floor where you can see the foundations from the 9th century church that once stood there.

Many buildings are made with pink limestone…very light and pretty. It is easy to visualize medieval times in Assisi. Much of the architecture is still here with narrow streets. We watched a delivery truck come through the streets, stop, folded in his mirrors and continued through one of the city’s gates.

Our next stop was the Basilica of St. Clare (Basilica di Santa Chiara). The church, outside, is simple with large buttresses on one side. The buttresses and an expansion was added just after Clair’s death. Her tomb is below the Basilica.

We made a short stop at a pastry shop to have a pastry. When I was done, I looked down to find that I had powdered sugar all over! I had it all down the front of me (in a black shirt) and all over my camera. Jim had a good laughed as I tried to get as much off as I could.

We have been checking out many shops along our route. We bought a “pin cushion” and Christmas ball that were crocheted and needle work. Lots of needle work around.

Assisi, I’m sure, has a breathtaking view of Umbria, but it is still covered in light fog. Seems that the fog is reluctant to leave the valleys. Walking around town we could see parts of the original walls and gates of the city, dating back to the 1200’s.

We came upon a little church in the “middle” of town that was rather different with tall columns across the front of it. Apparently it was once the Temple of Minerva, built by the Romans. Now the church of Santa Maria Sopra is built on top of the ruins. Going inside, one of the original walls can still be seen along with drains in the floor where the blood of sacrificed animals once drained.

Since we started at the top of the town, everything has been going downhill. Should be fun on the way back up. On the way to the Basilica of St Francis, Jim stopped for a rest at a fountain that was built around 1237 and used to be the center of town. There are frescos throughout the city on the sides and fronts of various buildings…way cool. We walked a bit further and then decided to stop for lunch since it was 1300.

After lunch we found a little shop that claims to have the best olive oil in Italy. We went in to check it out and ended up buying a couple bottles of olive oil and a balsamic vinegar. We had him ship it home. It cost us as much to ship it as it did to buy it, but we don’t have to deal with getting it home or dragging it around on the ship. BTW it arrived safely at home as promised.

We finally made our way to the Basilica of St. Francis. It was rather simple outside, at least compared to some basilicas we’ve seen. Apparently, however, it is considered one of the artistic and religious highlights of Europe.

Inside it was filled everywhere with beautiful frescos. Every nook and cranny was filled with frescos. We sat and admired many of them. We checked out the three levels — the upper basilica, the lower basilica and the saint’s tomb. We couldn’t take pictures, so we bought a few post cards from the book store.

We saw four of the many churches in Assisi, that was enough. We contemplated walking back up to the car, but it was a long haul up steep roads. We decided to catch the bus up the hill instead. It took us some time to find the bus. We waited about 20 minutes and, for two Euros each, hit the top of town in no time.

We were let off right at the parking lot. We tried to find the road that led up to the castle, but didn’t have any luck. We’ve seen all we really want to see, so we headed back to our Agritourismo. When we got there, we cleaned out the car and tried to pack as much of our stuff up as we can. The car looks well lived in. Think we got it all. Tomorrow we turn the car back in at Rome…our final destination before starting our cruise.

We have been having difficulty figuring out how to get heat in the room. We’ve been fiddling with the radiators with no success. We went out for dinner. Drove around for some time, making our way through what must have been a college area. We finally found a pizzeria and had a couple calzones. When we got back to the room, we had heat. Must be on a timer or something?

Friday, October 22, 2010 – foggy

We woke up fairly early and made sure we had everything together to leave. Around 0800 we made our way down for breakfast. The doors were still locked up. So, we packed the car up. Lots of cars in the parking lot. There was only one when we checked in the day before, now there’s nine. Guess this is a popular place. We played with the cat for awhile and then were let in around 0830 for breakfast.

After breakfast, we hit the road for Rome. Rome is about two hours away. We will probably have to pay for an extra day on the car since we won’t be there by 1000, oh well. We decided not to worry about it. Uneventful trip to Rome.

When we got close to Rome we stopped for gas and a cappuccino. A stop for cappuccino or gelato usually means a potty stop. We found Europcar at the air port and turned the car in. They never looked at the car. We were asked if it was full and if we had any damage to it. The guy signed off, didn’t charge us for the extra day, and we were done. We did receive a charge on our credit card about a month later for the extra day.

We got a shuttle to the airport and got a taxi from there to the Marriott (63 Euros). Jim thinks he may have gotten scammed by the cabby. The cabby said Jim gave him a 10 and a 20 Euro note instead of a fifty and a twenty. Jim took back the 10 and gave him a fifty. They are close in color. Jim checked his wallet and couldn’t account for a 50 Euro note. Oh well live and learn.

We checked into the Marriott (using free nights left over from Jim’s work) and collapsed on the bed. It didn’t take us long to spread out and fill the room with our stuff. We had shipped our formal clothes for the cruise before we left. Glad to see the luggage here when we got here. We had lunch here at the hotel…expensive.

We rested for a short time and then took the shuttle into town. We were let out by the Vatican. Jim spotted a castle on the map, so we made our way to it. Good size castle, but Donna was unwilling to pay eight Euros each to go inside. We’ve been in enough castles. We made our way to the Spanish Steps…about two miles. We rested on the steps for a while and took lots of pictures, playing with exposures.

Around 1900 we started making our way back to the pickup point for the bus. We were looking for dinner along the way. We found a place to get a bite to eat. We picked up some calendars to send to the kids for Christmas. When we got to the pickup place, many others were there too. There’s only 30 seats on the bus, hope we get on or it’s another hour before the bus is back. We made it on.

Back at the room fell into bed right away. We set the alarm for 0600 and put in for a wakeup call because we have a tour in the morning.

Saturday, October 23, 2010 — overcast, warm (sort of)

Up at 0600 and got ready to go. Pickup is at 0800. We decided to eat in the room as we have a couple of oranges left over and some fiber bars. Needed a light breakfast.

Dressed and ready to go, hit the lobby at 0745. The driver was just coming up the stairs. We were the only ones in the car to St. Peters. We arrived about 0810 and waited a bit for our tour guide. She arrived about 0820.

Her name was Barbara and was raised in Poland, now living in Italy with her husband who is a school teacher for the Polish embassy. While we were waiting, three or four Cardinals walked by. There must be something going on today. Later we found out they were meeting to discuss Pakistan.

We said goodbye to our driver and Barbara took us in tow heading to St. Peters. We were the only ones so we went flying. Barbara gave us a overview of the Vatican and the role of the Pontiff, etc. We skipped all the lines to the ticket booth, where Barbara bought our Vatican tickets. We then went though security and entered St. Peters.

It is very large and very beautiful. We took the elevator to the dome and walked around the middle level. We discover that what looks like paintings are actually mosaics, beautiful and very large. We passed up taking the stairs to the very top as it is a narrow climb up over 300 stairs and mainly provides an view of Rome. We are here to see the Vatican!

After looking around the dome and down onto the main floor of the basilica we exited onto the top and walked on the roof over to the edge behind the statues on the top of the front of the basilica. The statues are twenty feet tall. Beautifully carved – on the front that is. The backs are not detailed at all. We were told the backs can’t be seen from below so why bother. What a riot!

We got to see the tombs of the Popes. They’re all there along with the bones of St. Peter. We couldn’t actually see the bones, you had to have a previous reservation, but we could see the wall they were behind.

We then met up with another small group and had two other couples join us during our visit to the Vatican Museums. Apparently the Vatican Museums are the largest in Italy. There are over 60 thousand pieces! We were in the VIP line, but still had to wait for some time.

We finally got in…crowded!!! Barbara showed us the most important pieces. I’d have to go through my camera to name what we saw. We saw some historical sculpture pieces, beautiful large tapestries, many paintings from Raphael. There were four rooms that were totally covered with Raphael paintings. There was so much to see, it was overwhelming, and we were moving through it all so fast. We also got to see another one of Michelangelo’s pietas. We have seen three of the four. This one was behind glass.

You could really see that the Popes thought a lot about themselves. One Pope liked a floor in a thermal bath so much, he requested it to be taken apart, moved to the Vatican and put back together…it took 42 years to complete. Can you imagine?

Our last museum was the Sistine Chapel. We were left on our own for 10 minutes to admire Michelangelo’s work. The Sistine Chapel was his first fresco work. He kept telling the Pope that he was a sculpture not a painter. However, the Pope of the time forced Michelangelo to paint the Sistine Chapel. It is fabulous! It isn’t as big as we thought it would be, but it is grand never the less.

We left the chapel when we were supposed to, but we didn’t see our guide. We continued down all the stairs and to the outside (felt good to be out of the mobs). We waited there for some time to see if our group immerged; they finally did. We then finished up our tour by going inside the basilica. The entire thing is decorated with mosaics and the floor is all mosaic marble.

We had five hours of an intense tour. Jim and I were both hungry, tired and sore. We never stopped. We said good bye to our group and to Barbara. We then went into the Vatican’s post office to buy a stamp from the Vatican. We also picked up some post cards of the Sistine Chapel since we weren’t allowed to take pictures.

We then crossed the square and found a place to eat. We found a nice little restaurant where we could get a salad. Yeah, salad! We both had one along with a piece of cake and a coke. We dragged ourselves to the meeting place for the hotel shuttle. The shuttle wasn’t going to be there for another 45 minutes, so we had a gelato. Jim says any excuse. OK, on the shuttle, back to the hotel.

We had time to get our laundry done. We want to have all clean clothes before we get on the ship. We loaded up a suite case with our clothes and headed for the Laundromat. It was closed. What kind of Laundromat closes before 1700?

The shop owner next door told us that it wouldn’t be open again until Monday. We dragged our clothes back to the room. I threw them all in the bathtub, along with some detergent, and stomped around trying to clean them, much like the old fashioned way of making wine. We had a lot of laundry and it took a couple of hours to get it all done.

Jim had set up the clothes line outside (we have a small balcony) and we were hanging what we could outside, in the closet and all over the bathroom. Think we got it all. We then went back up near the Laundromat to a restaurant we saw. We both had a grilled pork chop. We’re getting pasta-ed out. Next to us was a couple from the states with who we had a nice visit. Back to the room and collapse for the night.

Sunday, October 23, 2010 – partly cloudy

Some of our clothes were still damp this morning. We thought of putting them out on the veranda, but the weather forecast was calling for rain later in the afternoon. Since it was unpredictable, we kept everything hung in the bathroom. We decided to eat breakfast in the hotel. It was expensive at 12 Euros each, but we were both hungry and didn’t want to wait till we got into town.

We decided to try the public transportation to get into town today. It cost the same as taking the hotel shuttle, but it stops much closer to where we want to be. We first walked up one block, turned and went another block. Caught the FM3 train. When we got off the train we caught Line A on the subway to the main terminal where we switched to Line B. We rode that until we got to the Coliseum. We didn’t even get lost, yeah for us!

Some sort of local festival was going on. The street around the coliseum was closed off to traffic and all sorts of things were going on. There were people doing tricks on roller blades, some foosball tournaments, I think they were go carts on display and then we watched a couple of games of which we weren’t familiar.  One looked like four people playing tennis with tambourines.

Another was a line wound around a disk, the player rolls the disk (like bowling), trying to keep the disk between 2 lines. All sorts of stuff was going on. Turns out this was a festival celebrating ancient games — Roman?

Jim wanted me to see the Roman Forum. This was the epicenter of the Roman Empire. I was surprised at how small it was. We stopped at the spot where Julius Caesar was killed in the forum. It was all very interesting.

Several temple areas were visible along the walk including the area where the vestal virgins kept the Roman fire burning. As long as the fire burned, Rome would stay in power. We ended at the Senate (small building). It is hard to believe that so much of the Roman Power was issued from this small building.

Jim has tried on three other occasions to find the Mamertine Prison.  This is where Peter was held for his beliefs in Jesus. This time we found it. It was in a small, unobtrusive building just outside the forum.

Entering the museum we could see the hole in the floor where Peter (and other prisoners) were lowered into a cell. We could see in the cell where Peter was chained. We could also see where water could come up…the water that Peter used to baptize the prison guards.

We then were led into a couple different rooms for some video presentations. You could tell that the concept of video and audio in a museum is relatively a new idea here. Kind of hokey, but you still get the idea. Seeing where Peter was kept prisoner was really cool.

We then made our way to the Trevi Fountain. There weren’t as many people here as in the spring of last year. It was nice to be able to see it and get some good pictures. We did stop on the way to the fountain to get a little bite to eat. We both had toast (ham & cheese sandwich).

We found the Metro near the fountain and made our way back to the hotel. Once again, we didn’t get lost…no problem. However, we were the last ones to enter our subway car when a woman with a baby nudged Jim in the back. He had his hand up and brought it down quickly to hit her hand out of his pocket. Not that there was anything in the pocket, but that’s the first time (we’re aware of) that either of us have been targeted to be pick pocketed. She was not a happy camper.

Walking back to the hotel we stopped at the restaurant that we ate at the night before. We were the only ones there for most of the time. We both had a plate of pasta, our last ones, before leaving Italy. Made our way back to the hotel, got most of our things packed up and ready to go for tomorrow morning when we check out and head for the cruise ship. We don’t get picked up until 1130, so we won’t have to rush around too much in the morning. Thank you Jim.

Monday, October 25, 2010 — rain, overcast

Well, it never did rain yesterday, but we did get some last night and it’s still drizzly this morning. We got up and finished packing. We went downstairs and had an omelet (yum) for breakfast. After breakfast we brought down some of our bags and asked for help with the rest. We then checked out and waited for our ride.

Jim had set up for a Mercedes E class to pick us up. It’s a service that Boeing uses, so he was sure that we could count on them. About 1115 our driver showed up. We loaded up the car and headed for the Port, Civitavecchia. It’s about 1 hour 45 minutes away.

The remainder of our trip is a cruise from Rome to Fort Lauderdale, Florida on board the m/s Westerdam.  These adventures are detailed in another journal.

Summary for Italy —

Driving through Italy has been an experience. Jim has discovered some rules — the half fender rule. If you are a half fender ahead of the other car, you have the right away. Disregard scooters altogether, they have a totally different set of rules. Bicycles are the unpredictable force on the road — never could figure them out.

Pedestrians will move out of the way – eventually. We think we determined the unwritten rule for crossing a street. If eye contact is made between the pedestrian and the driver, the driver has the right of way. If the pedestrian ignores the driver, the driver must do all they can to avoid making the pedestrian either a hood ornament or mirror accessory.

When being passed, Italian drivers cut in very quickly. Also, road rage appears to be nonexistent.  If someone makes a mistake there may be a few hand gestures, but it is quickly forgotten and life goes on so to speak. Stay to the right ,except when passing, and go with the flow. You shouldn’t have major problems.

We saw a lot of Northern Italy. A lot of side roads, thanks to Lola. Some of the roads were very narrow and windy. We’ve been through the mountains, the Tuscan country side, villages, towns and cities. It’s a beautiful country.

There is a lot of graffiti. Every town/city seemed to have graffiti, such a shame. They don’t seem to do be able to do anything about it. However, the cities have street sweepers constantly going up and down the streets so they are very clean.

We never did really figure out the official / regular “dinner time”. Sometimes we were too early and other times we were too late. Finding in some towns that many restaurants close early on Mondays. So many rules to remember. Mostly we had luck finding something open starting around 1930 or 2000.

There are two different price lists for many cafes and restaurants. One is for when you drink at the counter or eat inside. The other is almost double the price if you eat/drink outside. They have to pay for that outside space, so it gets passed on to the consumer. We didn’t notice this until our guide for our Venice Walk pointed it out for us.

All in all, we had a blast.

References

As promised a few references we used for planning and executing our trip:

Travel Guides, Supplies and Safety:
U.S. Department of State Travel Enrollment: http://travel.state.gov/travel/tips/registration/registration_4789.html
Guide books and travel items, Rick Steves out of Edmonds, Washington. http://www.ricksteves.com/about/travelcenter.htm
Travel Supplies: http://www.magellans.com/
Pickpockets and travel safety: http://www.bobarno.com/thwarting.htm
Travel tips: http://www.independenttraveler.com/

Tours & Tour Guides
Private tour of Venice: http://www.theveniceexperience.com/
Walking & education tours (Florence Docent): http://www.contexttravel.com/
Site seeing guides (Used in Lisbon on the cruise portion): http://www.ourexplorer.com/
Vatican Tour: http://www.vaticantoursinc.com/

Hotel
Hotel, activity review & booking forward: http://www.tripadvisor.com/
Hotel, B&B & Agritourismo reservation site (Used in Europe) : http://www.booking.com/
Hotel booking and review (used from U.S.): http://www.orbitz.com/
Agritourismo locator (Italy): http://www.holidayfarm.net/en/welcome.htm

Airline, Auto and Transfer
Air Travel: http://www.britishairways.com/
Find the best seat on the airplane : http://www.seatguru.com/
International Driver’s License: http://www.aaa.com/
Car rental: https://www.autoeurope.com/
Heathrow — Gatwick Transfer Service: http://heathrow-transport.com/
Seattle Shuttle: http://www.shuttleexpress.com/
Rome transfer to Civitavecchia: http://www.limousineuara.com/en

Insurance, Cell phone, etc.
Travel Insurance : http://www.accessamerica.com/
SIM Card for Cell Phone : http://www.cellularabroad.com/
Luggage Forwarding: http://www.luggageforward.com/
Car rental Insurance information: http://europeforvisitors.com/europe/articles/rental_car_insurance.htm

Driving in Italy and weather:
Driving in Italy: http://www.bella-toscana.com/traffic_violations_italy.htm
More driving tips: http://www.slowtrav.com/italy/driving/
Italian Autostrada information: http://www.autostrade.it/en/index.html
Italy maps and distances: http://goitaly.about.com/library/bl_distances-italy.htm
Italy Weather: http://www.weatherbase.com/

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