Travel Diary: Tips for Your Next Trip

Linda Dini Jenkins from Travel the Write Way

Linda Dini Jenkins from Travel the Write Way

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Tips From Traveling Friends

I have a blogging friend whom I have never met, yet our thinking trains seem to often run along the same rails — and it happened again this week. I had planned to write a post about some items I’m adding to my travel closet stash, and Linda also wrote a post about the things that are on her travel must-have list.

Linda Dini Jenkins is a travel writer who blogs at Travel the Write Way. She offers tips about tourist destinations, and plans tours in Italy for small group travel. Here’s what she says about this week’s post.

“It’s trip planning season again. At least that’s what all my travel blog colleagues are writing about in their columns lately. This is the time of year, they say, when people start to plan for their annual holiday, especially if that holiday involves crossing oceans. To help potential travelers in their search, all kinds of lists are appearing to promote the top 10 beach destinations, the best European bargain spots, “undiscovered” this or that, and what you should or shouldn’t pack on said trip.” Continue reading

Eataly Chicago — a Foodie Fantasy Destination

Yes, I typed that right. EATALY — a very cute pun on Italy, but Eataly is more than just a cute name. It’s truly a foodie fantasy destination right here in Chicago.

Co-owned by Mario Batali and Joe Bastianich, the Chicago location is housed in the former ESPN Zone location near Michigan Avenue at Ohio and Wabash. The 63,000 sq. ft. food palace is the second Eataly location in the U.S. The only other U.S. outlet in New York opened in 2010, but media hype says that the next location will likely be in Philadelphia.The first Eataly opened in Turin, Italy, in 2007 and there are now Eataly locations in many major Italian cities.

Eataly Chicago is a foodie destination with 23 restaurants and food bars, one fine dining restaurant and lots of food products for sale. Upon opening on December 2, 2013, Eataly was overrun with locals and tourists, which resulted in its having to close for one day on December 9 in order to restock after its first week of business. We waited until the Sunday after Christmas to venture downtown to check out Eataly and I was not disappointed. It’s a foodie’s paradise. Continue reading

The Sunday Review: Italian Ways by Tim Parks

I’m an Anglophile recently masquerading as a Francophile. I have not been to Italy yet, but books about Italian culture are certainly on my radar, as we are planning a trip to Italy in the spring with travel writer Linda Dini Jenkins. When my husband bought me a book for my birthday by Tim Parks about rail travel in Italy, I was pretty happy.

europe, italy, tuscany, crete senesi, asciano area, nature train, historical diesel locomotive

Although I’ve never been to Italy, I’ve been a Frances Mayes stalker follower for many years. Her blog is a delight and most of my mind-photos of Italy come from her Bramasole books. I’ve previously talked about Frances here and I’ve referred to her many times over my years of blogging. I’ve also had guest bloggers share their wonderful experiences in Italy, including friends Debbie and Kathy. I’ve been putting together trips to Rome for relatives this week and I’ve been drinking a lot of Italian koolaid. I was ready for Italian Ways: On and Off the Rails from Milan to Palermo.

Click into the photo to read another point of view from an expatriate reviewer.

Click into the photo to read another point of view from an expatriate reviewer.

Although Mayes gave us some idea of the Italian sense of time and place,  Tim Parks’s almost sardonic take on Italy and its social structures came as kind of a culture shock to me. I should have know better; many of my blogging friends refer to issues with Italian trains, including Marisol at Traveling Solemates. We have our own issues here in Chicago with trains as well. I don’t know why I was surprised. Italian Ways: On and Off the Rails from Milan to Palermo is exactly what the reviewers say it is — a revealing look at the dynamic between tradition and innovation in modern Italy. Another reviewer describes Italian Ways in this way.

“For every moment that Italy annoys Tim Parks, there are two in which it delights him.”

That’s pretty much the premise of Italian Ways. Parks tells the stories of his train travel in Italy through vignettes of the rail system and of the people he meets along the way — and it’s funny and poignant.

In reading the Christian Science Monitor’s review of this book, I also clicked into their list of top ten travel books to read before you go to Italy. My goodness, I had forgotten about A Room with a View and Daisy Miller. Those are going to definitely be on my reading  list for this year, along with a few more visits with Woody Allen in To Rome With Love.

So — should you read Italian Ways? Yes, but be aware that as Andrew Martin of The Observer says, this is a “warts-and-all” look at Italy’s trains and culture. It’s not a love story to Italy like Frances Mayes has penned in Under the Tuscan Sun and its sequels. As a traveler, I want to know about the warts I might encounter while traveling, so for me, it was a great book! Thanks, Music Man, for an excellent birthday present.

 

A Visit to the Romance Hotel Rome

I am honored today to welcome a new guest blogger to the Got My Reservations family — my friend Debbie. Debbie and her husband are avid and intrepid travelers and have lots to share about the places they’ve seen. In this post, she introduces us to a small boutique hotel in Rome that you may want to put on your Rome Pinterest board, as I did.

We were in the mood for visiting Italy.  The excuse we used was our niece was studying in Rome. However, do you really need an “excuse” to visit Italy?  We don’t think so.

So, since the niece was in Rome, we had to spend some major time there.  We (there were 4 of us – myself, husband, brother and Mom), decided a week in Rome would be nice.  Then, take the train to Florence for 5 days.  Now, when to go and where to stay?

We went to Italy in November, after high season, when rates are lower and tourists are fewer.  In addition, we were able to schedule the trip so we left on a Wednesday afternoon arriving in Rome on Thursday morning, obtaining cheaper airfare and skipping a night in the hotel.  We returned from Florence 12 days later, on a Monday.  We were in Italy over the U.S. Thanksgiving holiday,  meaning we only had to use 6 days of vacation time, always a consideration.

One of our main criteria in travel lodging is location. We want to be able to walk as much as possible to see the sights or be able to take public transportation.  We are fine with a 3 star hotel – you will receive a clean, serviceable room with in-room bathroom, good location and service, and a decent breakfast for a reasonable price.

The hotel we found and enjoyed in Rome was the Romance Hotel Rome, located about 4 blocks from the Colosseum in a quiet, safe neighborhood with good restaurants and cafes.  Breakfast was included, along with free Wi-Fi.  The photos on their website looked good and it was “quaint”.  The hotel has only 13 rooms. It was also close to a taxi stop, bus stop and the metro stop is by the Colosseum, so it “ticked all the boxes” we require.

The four of us arrived at the hotel at approximately 10AM.  This was after driving around the hotel twice, as none of us saw the hotel entrance.  The entrance is located at street level with minimal signage.

You enter through the gates and go directly downstairs to the reception area.   The reception area is directly ahead and there is a sitting area off to the side which has a pc available to all guests.

The desk clerk was very kind and helped us to check in and stored our luggage, as the rooms were not ready.  As we were waiting, they offered us drinks, so of course we had to have our first cappuccinos.

We are very “loose” travelers.  We have a list of places we want to see, but no timing in particular (other than making sure we know which museums are closed on which days).  After obtaining a local map from the clerk and talking with him, we decided on a walking tour of the neighborhood.  We did our tour, had lunch and came back to check into the hotel around 4pm.

We went up to our rooms.  This hotel is so small  you must take the elevator if your room is not on the main floor.  Don’t worry; there are stairs in case of an emergency, but they are not easy to access.  The elevator is typical Italian – a cozy squeeze for the 4 of us.  Good thing we are family!

The rooms are small, but then again, you are in the middle of Rome.  We did upgrade our rooms, so we were on the back side of the hotel, rather than street side.  This was a good idea, as it was warm and we had our windows open (there is no air conditioning after the end of October).  The lighting was “OK’, but not great.  It was rather typical for a hotel.  The room had a sitting area and a bed area, each with a window.  The rooms were pretty quiet, but you are in the middle of the city, which means the garbage trucks work during the night 😉

Breakfast was a selection of fresh fruit, pastries, cold cereals, cheeses and meats.  And, of course, the wonderful selection of coffee drinks, made to order by the nice hostess who ran the breakfast room.  The breakfast room is very tiny – in fact, some people took their breakfast and ate it in the sitting area near the reception area, in order to have a bit more room.

We liked the hotel and the staff was extremely knowledgeable and friendly, willing to help in any way.  We would stay here again and recommend this hotel to anyone contemplating staying in Rome.

When not traveling, Debbie works as a glass artist in the Chicagoland northwest suburbs. You can see her beautiful work on her web site, Debbie Watson Glass.

 

Linky Love: Renting Italian Villas

This isn’t my year to do Italy, but I’m already thinking about next summer. My blogging friend Linda Dini Jenkins has written a wonderful post about renting villas in Italy for your next vacation.

Last summer we traveled with our friends Mark and Kathy in England and are looking forward to traveling with them again. For Christmas, they gave us Linda’s book, Up at the Villa: Travels with My Husband. For me, travel memoirs are like peanut M & Ms; I just can’t put them down until I’m all finished. Linda’s lovely book was no exception and I devoured it in one sitting. Ever since I saw Enchanted April for the first time, I have always wanted to rent a villa in Italy with friends. Apparently I’m not the only one, as Linda’s interview with Mario Scalzi proves.

If you are interested in traveling in Italy or just reading about it from your arm chair, I encourage you to link up with Linda. She’s a great writer with practical travel advice. Viva the Villa Experience!

This post contains Amazon Affiliate links, but I wouldn’t tell you to buy or read something if I didn’t believe in it. I’m just keeping it real.

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