When in Rome….Where to Stay?

We’re fortunate that we don’t have a tight budget for our Italian adventure, but that doesn’t mean I want to splurge on hotels for no reason.  I’ve been particularly surprised by the higher-priced hotels in Rome — yes, there are cheaper options, but I have a specific area in mind and am looking for a certain something in the hotel we choose.

After a bit of research, we found that the Campo de Fiori/Pantheon/Piazza Navona area is the place to stay.  While we’ve found some very promising prospects, we have not found anything that makes us say “wow.”  Capturing the trade-offs with each option is key, and we will eventually make a decision.  Location is the main constraint in the search.  Since we plan to be out and about most of the time, I am less concerned with the actual room and amenities than I normally would be for a stay.

Residenza Canali

The nonrefundable rate for the lowest level room (standard double) is just under €100 per night.  However, we’re looking at either the double room with terrace or junior suite with terrace, since the price is still within our “budget.”  The nonrefundable rates for those rooms are €336 and €380, respectively (if we choose the “long stay” discount, it’s €378 and €427).

Honeymoon Suite, Residenza Canali, Rome, Italy

While the rooms aren’t anything special, the location is great: it’s located just steps away from Piazza Navona (where the annual Christmas Market will be set up!).  And since it’s not right on the square, we should be able to stay away from the crowds, if we desire.

Albergo Cesàri

Rooftop Terrace, Albergo Cesari, Rome, Italy

Again with this hotel, the location is a huge plus: it’s located off of Piazza della Rotonda on a less crowded side street.  It’s still in our preferred area.  The rooms are not upgraded and some of them are described as being “cozy and comfortable, “but the rooftop terrace is a major win, such as those at https://www.conservatories-near-me.co.uk/orangery/.” Also, breakfast is served on the terrace, and at 6 p.m., the bar opens up.

The cost is €378/386 total (depending on the type of room – I’m not sure what the difference is, though).  There are also more expensive rooms extra room, but that’s not something we need in Rome!

So do we choose the hotel with the private terrace, or the one with the shared rooftop terrace (and bar)?  And does it matter whether or not we have a terrace if it ends up raining the entire time?  I’m still debating whether one location is superior to the other (they are fairly close – only a 9 minute walk, according to Google Maps).

We’ll give it another month or so (and keep checking to make sure there’s availability) before booking, and maybe even later if we go with Residenza Canoli and opt for the nonrefundable rate.  However, it seems we can’t go wrong with either of these hotels!

Venice in November – Acqua Alta Risk?

Acqua Alta

We are visiting the end of November, which is at the height of the Acqua Alta (or high water) season.  A last-minute change in our trip plans this year and work schedule conflicts led to us scheduling our Italy trip later than we’d normally go.  Despite the weather risk, we are confident we’ll still have a great trip after doing some research.  Let me explain…

Acqua Alta

Graph created using data from City of Venice

The graph above is scary for a November Venice visitor.  Since 1872, one third of all Acqua Alta events (defined as tides 110 cm above sea level, effectively flooding 14% of the city, and most visibly, St. Mark’s Square) have occurred in the month of November.  Over time, due to subsidence and human modifications to the natural environment, the frequency of events has increased.  In recent history (since 1966), Acqua Alta events occur about 4 times each year.  What the graph and pictures don’t show you, however, is that Acqua Alta events are actually fairly short in duration.  A similar graph to the one above on the City of Venice website shows that Acqua Alta events occur predominately in the morning, between 8am and noon.  The actual time where flooding occurs is driven by the tide cycles.  As seen in the graph below, showing the tide cycles over 3 days, the peaks span at most 4 hours.  So, at worst, an aqua alta event will impact a morning.  It’s also important to remember that the Acqua Alta events are driven by astronomical reasons, not meteorological.  Just because the water is high, doesn’t mean it’s raining.

Venice Tide ChartThe final thing we uncovered in our research that made us comfortable visiting Venice in November is the amount of resources the city invests in preparing for Acqua Alta.  In addition to a dedicated monitoring and warning department, the city also erects elevated platforms along main streets to allow people to walk above the water.  The vaporetto water buses continue to operate and many hotels we looked at provide water boots for guests.

In addition to reading about Acqua Alta, we also took a look at the historic weather trends for late November.  Weatherbase.com is a great resource for pulling weather statistics by date.  For this trip, I built a quick Excel spreadsheet to summarize the temperature trends, chance of precipitation, and chance of “heavy rain”.  For our time period of interest, I obtained the following results:

Avg. Low Avg. High Any Precipitation “Rain”/”Heavy Rain”
40 51 17% 2%

We felt very comfortable with the results.  We can mitigate cold temperatures with warmer clothing, and a 2% chance of heavy precipitation doesn’t seem unreasonable compared to what we’d expect at any place anytime of the year.

After addressing the weather risk, we became extremely excited to visit in the off-season.  Visitors are often turned-off by the extreme crowds in Venice.  We last visited in early September, and although very crowded, we still enjoyed ourselves and found seclusion in the city late at night.  However, in late November, we are expecting solitude even in the daylight hours.  According to statistics from the Veneto Region government used to construct the graph below, November is nearly tied with December and January for the lowest nights spent by tourists in Venice per month.  Relative to when we last visited September, there will be almost as little as a third of the people visiting Venice.  Meanwhile, unlike more rural destinations or seasonal destinations, Venice will be completely open for business in November.  All of the hotel and restaurant options we’ve looked at are open.

Nights Spent in Veneto by Month

We were able to use online resources to effectively address our concerns about weather in Venice in November.  We are looking forward to a very romantic visit and an opportunity to see one of our favorite cities with far fewer crowds.

Food Run-Down: Cinque Terre, Italy 2009

Cinque Terre is a hidden gem on Italy’s Ligurian coast that is a must-see.  It’s becoming more and more popular, but the pedestrian-only towns with colorful buildings is still worth a trip.  If you try one dish in Cinque Terre, try the trofie al pesto – Cinque Terre is the birthplace of pesto and this dish highlights the flavors.  The homemade trofie pasta is mixed with pesto, green beans, and potatoes and goes great with a (cheap) glass of local wine.  If your visit is longer, take advantage of the fresh seafood, caught earlier that day.

Meal: Lunch at Taverno Del Capitano (Sept. 7, 2009)

  • What we ordered:
    (1) white wine (looks like a half liter)
    (2) mixed bruschetta (they all had tomatoes, and in addition we tried: capers, mozzarella, anchovies, and pesto)
    (3) pesto pizza
    (4) pesto lasagna

Taverna Del Capitano, Vernazza, Cinque Terre, Italy

  • Price: $$-$$$ – I don’t remember the exact prices, but somewhere in the neighborhood of €10 for the main dishes. 
  • Overall thoughts: this restaurant is situated at the edge of the harbor, so it was a perfect spot to take in Vernazza on our first afternoon.  Our waiter was very friendly and was encouraging me to practice my Italian (or my Spanish, if I felt more comfortable), which was a great was to be welcomed to the city.  It was here that I really fell in love with bruschetta – the tomatoes were fresh, juicy, and full of flavor, and I loved their creative pairings with other local foods. 

Meal: Happy Hour at Ananasso Bar in Vernazza (Sept. 7-9, 2009)

  • What we ordered:
    (1) bellini
    (2) prosecco
    (3) white wine
    (4) snacks (various – they were free)

Ananasso Bar, Vernazza, Cinque Terre, Italy

  • Price: $ – reasonably-priced drinks with a 5-star view.
  • Overall thoughts: one of my favorite spots from Cinque Terre – I still dream about this place!  We reflected on our day while enjoying a drink and watching the sun set into the water.  An added bonus was the snacks, which kept us from satisfied between lunch and dinner. 

Meal: Dinner at Trattoria Gianni Franzi (Sept. 7, 2009)

  • What we ordered:
    (1) anchovies cooked in lemon sauce
    (2) trofie al pesto (homemade Ligurian pasta with pesto)
    (3) spaghetti ai muscoli (spaghetti with mussels)
    (4) a bottle of the house white wine
    (5) local cheese (to finish the meal)

Trattoria Gianni Franzi, Vernazza, Cinque Terre, Italy

  • Price: again, I don’t remember and I didn’t write anything down.  I don’t think anything was too outrageous throughout Cinque Terre.  Probably a $$-$$$ price range.
  • Overall Thoughts: This meal was perfect as our first dinner.  We tried it all – anchovies, trofie al pesto, seafood pasta, wine from the region, and local cheeses.  The pesto was amazing – more Parmesan cheese than I typically taste, which was a huge plus for me.  I also loved the additions of potatoes and green beans, and of course the trofie pasta itself – once mixed up, the trofie is left with a thick coat of pesto.  This is the dish to try while in the Cinque Terre!

Meal: Lunch at Dau Tinola in Corniglia, Cinque Terre, Italy (Sept. 8, 2009)

  • What we ordered:
    (1) Prosciutto e melone – €11
    (2) Spaghetti ai frutti di mare – €11.50
    (3) Trenette al pesto – €11.50
    (4) Cinque Terre “La Polenza” vino (a bottle) – €17.50

Dau Tinola, Corniglia, Cinque Terre, Italy

  • Price: $$-$$$
  • Overall thoughts: probably the worst meal in Cinque Terre, but it could have been because our experience wasn’t that great (as opposed to the food).  I will say that the trofie suits the pesto sauce better than spaghetti/linguini.  The seafood pasta was still fantastic and included a larger variety of seafood than normal.  

Meal: Dinner at Gambero Rosso (Sept. 8, 2009)

  • What we ordered:
    (1) insalata caprese – €15
    (2) tegame di Vernazza (anchovies baked with potatoes and tomatoes) – €12
    (3) mussles cooked with wine and parsley – €12
    (4) vino della casa (1 liter) – €12
    (5) dessert (not sure what it was, but there is a picture below!)

Gambero Rosso, Vernazza, Cinque Terre, Italy

  • Price: $$-$$$ – this is getting boring, but it’s another very reasonably-priced dinner in Vernazza!
  • Overall thoughts: another restaurant underneath the umbrellas.  It seems you can’t go wrong with the restaurants around the harbor in Vernazza!  Ryan tried the fresh anchovies which are another local specialty to try while visiting (much different than the salty canned anchovies, although those are great, too!).  The crowds at the restaurant were lively, and we had fun people-watching while we enjoyed the meal. 

Meal: Lunch at Trattoria La Scogliera in Manarola, Cinque Terre, Italy (Sept. 9, 2009)

  • What we ordered:
    (1) linguini alle vongole veraci (fresh clams) – €7.80
    (2) ravioli al pesto Genovese – €7.80
    (3) formaggi misti (mixed cheese plate) – €6
    (4) Cinque Terre D.O.C. wine – €15

Trattoria La Scogliera, Manarola, Cinque Terre, Italy

  • Price: $$
  • Overall thoughts: Luckily this restaurant stayed open a bit later than others in the area (we didn’t make it to Manarola until a little before 2:00pm).  I stuck with one of my favorites: seafood pasta in a white wine sauce, which was an ideal lunch (light and fresh!).  Ryan wanted another round of pesto pasta, this time in the form of ravioli, which was very tasty (I still like the trofie pasta the best).  The outdoor seating allowed us to watch the busy walkway as people made their way down toward the marina. 

Meal: Dinner at La Torre (Sept. 9, 2009)

  • What we ordered:
    (1) spaghetti scoglio (“reef spaghetti” – served with crustaceans & red sauce) – €11
    (2) pesto lasagna – €10
    (3) two glasses of white wine – €5 each

Dinner Day 3, Vernazza, Cinque Terre, Italy

  • Price: $$
  • Overall thoughts: this is a great option if you want to sneak away from the main square in Vernazza.  It’s a bit of a climb, but the result is an intimate restaurant with outdoor seating.  I would suggest going for lunch or an earlier dinner to enjoy the views of the town and sea below.  The food was consistent with our other meals in Cinque Terre – fresh, reasonably-priced, and delicious local specialties (pesto and seafood). 

Cinque Terre, and especially Vernazza, is on the top of my recommendation list for Italy. The pedestrian-only towns, the friendly locals, the carefree tourists, the sparkling sea, and the fresh and delicious food are just a few reasons to make a stop here on your trip.  Don’t forget to try many of the local specialties – trofie al pesto, fresh seafood (including anchovies!), and local wine.  I can’t wait to visit again for another taste of the Ligurian cuisine!

From There to Here

As a non-journaling scrapbooker, I find that transition pages help me tell the story of a trip.  I don’t always remember to take pictures during the travel time and sometimes the trips are short or uneventful, but when I do, I’m always happy to include them as part of my scrapbook.  It’s a seamless transition from one city to the next and serves as an introduction to the following pages.

Ryan and I traveled by train from each city to the next on our first overseas trip together.  Each leg took about 6 hours and the journeys began early in the morning (all before 7).  Like us, you may be spending quite a bit of time traveling from city to city, so why not memorialize it?  The saddness of the goodbye, the anticipation of the next city, and the excitement upon finally arriving are all priceless memories to keep in your scrapbook.

As I mentioned above, if I have the pictures, I like to use the travel between cities as a transition from one section of my scrapbook to the next.  These are some of the easiest pages for me to create; I keep them fairly simple since they are just my “in between” pages.  Below I’ve included my transportation pages from our Italy and France trip in 2009.  Please excuse my first attempt at scanning my pages (unfortunately the machine cut off a bit from the bottom) and enjoy!

1. Arrivederci Venice, Ciao Cinque Terre.  The titles on each side were the most time consuming part of the page.  I used my Cricut machine to cut out the squares (both the blue outer squares and the tan inner squares), so that saved me from doing too much manual labor.  The early morning shot of the Grand Canal is one of my favorites from Venice – I’m glad we took a few minutes to snap some pictures and say goodbye to our first stop in Italy. Venice to Vernazza, Italy, Scrapbook

2. Leaving Vernazza & Arriving Nice.  This page was the easiest of the three.  A simple border around each picture was enough because I chose detailed vellum paper as the background for each side (although it’s hard to tell in the scanned pages).  I love the juxtaposition of peaceful and slow Vernazza with the high-tech train station in Nice.  It was a whole different world, located on a different part of the Mediterranean Sea.Vernazza to Nice, Italy, France, Scrapbook

3. The high-speed train from Nice to Paris.  I like to use anything other than pictures when possible to mix up the pages.  I try to save all tickets, receipts, business cards, etc. in case they work with a scrapbooking page (or help me remember something when I’m wrapping up my journal).  I love this spread because the paper I found was perfect – the background for the Nice side is a map of France and the background of the Paris side has a repeating pattern of the Eiffel Tower and a fleur-de-lis.  However, my favorite part is the repeating “Paris” title.

Nice to Paris, France, Scrapbook

Next time you’re traveling in between stops on your trip, don’t forget to take some pictures and save tickets or other memorabilia to document the transitions.  Not only is it fun to memorialize your last and first moments of a city, but the pages serve as the perfect segue to the next destination!

Travel in the New Year

I am always thinking of our next trip.  I don’t let it interfere with the planning or enjoyment of my upcoming trip, but I want to have something to look forward to after our travels for the year are over.

For Ryan and I, 2013 is going to be the year for a little Germany (Munich) and a lot of Austria (Hallstatt, Salzburg, and Vienna).  Or, at least, it was going to be.  It’s a long and complicated story, but essentially, we had an idea of this trip in mind.  Not long after that, my dad mentions that my uncle is planning a similar trip for the exact same time frame we were planning on going.  While we hadn’t decided whether we wanted to join that group (it would have been 10-15 people), the thought of meeting up and spending some time together seems like a great idea. 

Well, yesterday I found out that my uncle’s (and therefore, my dad’s) trip to Germany and Austria is likely going to be delayed to 2014.  So now what?  We find ourselves just coming back from London less than about a month ago and without a trip to plan in 2013.  Luckily, Ryan and I stay ahead of the game and we had already started to think about  a potential trip for 2014 which, much to my delight, will now be moved up to 2013:  Croatia and Northern Italy.  

Within a few hours of my dad letting us know that the trip had been moved, we were already researching Croatia to see where we want to spend our time.  No decisions have been made, but there are so many different possibilities that I’m wondering if it will just be a Croatia trip (no Italy).  Some of the top contenders are: Dubrovnik, Split, Rovinj, Motovun, Hvar, Vis, and Korcula.  

At this point, we are going to try to make a stop in Venice and then spend the rest of the time in Croatia.  However, more research needs to be done prior to committing to any place, so for now, I’ll just share some pictures of Dubrovnik, Hvar, and Rovinj, all from Wikitravel

Croatia has so much to offer.  Our research thus far has only scratched the surface, so I can’t wait to learn more about the potential stops on our trip!