I'll start my review by saying I had extremely high expectations for our first trip to Italy with my family (husband ,2 kids ages 13 and 9). And, as it turned out, every part of our trip exceeded my expectations by far!!! Thanks to everyone here who gave advice/guidance. Thanks to you we were so well prepared for our 16 day trip to Rome, Tuscany, Florence, Torino and Cinque Terre. From knowing train schedules, to avoiding lines by advance bookings, to being prepared for the heat, to being aware of pick pockets, to helping choose 4 absolutely fantastic apartment rentals (separate reviews coming) and restaurants, to packing lightly (though as it turned out we had to buy another suitcase to carry home our new purchases, mostly my new clothes, lol), all the advice given here greatly added to the enjoyment of our adventure in Italy.
The first 3 days in Rome were spent visiting Piazza Navona, the Pantheon, Colosseum, Trevi Fountain, Borgese Gallery and taking a night tour on the 110 Trambus. We used the Roma Pass and we ate mostly in Piazza Navona (where our first apartment was, the Boccaccio rented from Rome Capital Apartments), particularly enjoying restaurants, Navona Notte and Blue Ice (for gelatos and crepes).
The next part of our journey started with a train ride to Florence, then Pontassieve, where a driver was waiting to take us to Villa Cafaggiolo (5 minute car ride). We met my cousin and her husband and 2 kids there. Villa Cafaggiolo was absolutely idyllic and gorgeous. The kids enjoyed the pool, horse stable and jumping arena, and we adults appreciated the beautifully furnished villa and spectacular Tuscan scenery. The villa had 4 bedrooms, two washrooms and a large outdoor eating area. We went on day trips to Sienna and Florence (which were awesome). The only problem we had was the mosquitos which were very bad. Other than that, this place was perfect and we had a wonderful, relaxing week. The kids did not want to leave (there were tears an begging to stay, lol)
After that we headed to Torino for a quick 1 day visit with my husband's aunt. Torino was a big surprise for me as I thought it was a somewhat unattractive industrial city, but actually it is very beautiful and great shopping as well.
The next part of our adventure was to Vernazza, Cinque Terre, my new most favorite place on earth! This place was simply magical. We had a great room with a window facing the harbor and and beach. We spent three lovely days lounging by the sea and eating at the quant seaside restaurants . The kids LOVED this place. It is charming beyond words. The accommodation was through Francamaria Rooms and it was perfect (2 bedrooms, sitting room, decent sized bathroom), not noisy at all at night. I dream about Vernazza now.
From Cinque Terre we took a train back to Rome for the last 3 days,
during which we hung out around Campo di Fiori, Trastevere and Piazza Navona as well as seeing numerous awe-inspiring churches in search of Caravaggios (my husband's favorite artist). We also spent one day visiting the Vatican Museum and St. Peter's Basilica. So amazing and mind boggling in their grandeur and artistry! A pleasant surprise was the lack of crowds! We stayed at another Rome Capital apartment, Miguel. which was beautiful, located beside the Tiber with a view of the Basilica (review coming).
Needless to say, we all fell in love with Italy! We were lucky as the weather was not too hot, mostly warm and balmy, we had no issues with pickpockets at all, had no bad meals anywhere and had excellent accommodations. Ironically, when we got home (Toronto) there was a message from my bank that there had been a fraudulent charge on my bank card while we were in italy. But the charge was perpetrated in Montreal!!! The bank took care of it, but how ironic, after worrying about bank card and petty theft in Italy, it actually occurred here in Canada!
Thanks again to all here especially the D.E's.Edited: 30 August 2010, 16:18