Subject: RE: Italy
Brenda Gonzalez wrote:

>I was very interested to read your post about Sorento Italy. My husband and I have plans to go to Italy in Sept and will be staying in Sorento for 1 week. Did you do any hostels or B&B? For a 1st time traveler do you think it unrealistic to try to travel by train and find lodging when we show up? Our tentative itinary is Arrive in Rome Sept 4 Find lodging threw 8th. Travel to Sorrento (time share gift from mom) until Sept 16. The from there no intinary, possible stops in Florence, Venice and then up to Germany and the Rhine fly home from Amsterdam on Sept 29. My husband is fluent in Spanish and does not think we will have a problem with Italian.

To answer your main question, I have always had reservations, but I have not heard of people unable to find a place to stay. The big risk is in finding a place in your budget. Travel agents don't get commission for placing people in them, but you might find time surfing the Internet to make reservations that way to be well spent--I have made some that way. In other words, I would personally want reservations, but that may be my idiosyncrasy (and that of my wife) and not reality.

We take trains exclusively save for an occasional bus where trains do not go. Consider one of the many ticket plans which a good travel agent like Sally Watkins, can provide you with. If more than two of you were traveling, I would suggest the kilometric pass, which you can buy in Italy, but I don't think it would work well with only two of you (you need to ride about 2000 miles, which is a lot in Italy).

Although you apparently don't need lodging in the Naples area, let me note the following. My wife, one of my daughters, my daughter's dog, and I stayed in the Naples area last May, and my wife and I will be returning to that area with my other daughter this coming May. We spent about 5 days out of 16 in that area. The rest of the time we based in Florence and Milan with a number of side trips. We stayed in Naples rather than one of the other places nearby because of the dog (Daughter was completing tour of military duty in Germany and we were helping her relocate back). Hotels in places like Sorrento did not accept dogs. Fortunately for my pocketbook, several Naples hotels did. The one we stayed in was a bit remote. It was adequate, but not more than that, so I won't recommend it. I am more interested in the place we have a reservation in this year, but I haven't been there yet.

The Naples area is somewhat of an under appreciated gem. As I have written before, my wife and I disagree about the city of Naples. I get a kick out of it and the food, though basic, is superb. Moreover, if you stay in the Merggilina (SP?) district, you will have access to the hovercrafts that take you to Ischia, Capri, and Sorrento and to the train that takes you to Pompeii, Herculaneum (SP?), and other places in the area. You can take a very inexpensive regional bus along the Amalfi coast with its breathtaking view. My wife and I have no disagreement about the Naples area as a whole.

In Florence, we stay at a 2* hotel, which is basically a B&B, the Nizza. It is midway between Santa Maria Novella station and the San Lorenzo market with a superb restaurant (not connected to the hotel) right downstairs. If you decide to go to Venice, consider staying in Padua and commuting in, a 20 minute train ride. We love the Igea there, again a moderately price place. In Milan, we enjoyed the Antares Rubens though it is a bit out of the way and the Mennini, which is located near the central station. Both are more upscale than B&Bs, however.

As far as Spanish is concerned, Southern Italy was once under Spanish rule, and documents from yesteryear in the museums look like a hybrid of Spanish and modern Italian. The impact of Spanish on regional dialect is even greater in Sicily, though I have not been there and do not speak Spanish (I am fumbling through courses in Italian).

I hope this is of value. If you are interested, I can email you pictures of the trip.

Ira H. Bernstein Professor, UT-Arlington