Subject: Honeymoon in Italy
Regarding a honeymoon trip to Italy, just for your information, in August many things close for summer vacation, including restaurants, shops, etc., and sometimes for a few weeks. Aug. 15 is THE summer holiday, and you will usually not find anything at all open on that day, including museums and other sites. Around the 15th is when it is most crowded in Italy, as that is when lots of Italians travel too.

You don't need a car in the cities - in fact, you're much better off without it, because it can be very confusing driving in Italian cities (city streets are not grid-like as they are in North America, and most of the streets are one-way), not to mention you are not allowed to drive into the downtown area of many cities (like Rome and Florence). Also, parking can be difficult and expensive. And Romans are very aggressive drivers. Renting a car is a good idea if you want to drive around the Tuscan countryside. There are so many beautiful little towns in Tuscany, and with a car you're free to visit any number of them.

Trains in Italy in August will be packed solid, so make sure you make a seat reservation (and you might find when you get on the train that you have to kick someone out of your seat!).

As for San Gimignano, personally I think it's a lovely little town (if you ignore all the tourists there), but then I haven't been there in a few years. What I used to enjoy there were the shops - not the tourist shops, but the shops that sold locally produced products, such as wild boar sausages, cheese, pasta and the like. Each area of Italy produces its own local food products, including pasta (sometimes made with different ingredients incorporated, such as spinach, or tomatoes, or even - what's it called? octopus ink! That's the black pasta), and it's fun to try them, or even bring some home to give as gifts.

As for any other must-see places, in my opinion the Amalfi Drive (also called the Amalfi Coast) is the most beautiful part of all of Italy, albeit very touristy, especially in August (when you will find not only all the foreign tourists, but all the Italian tourists as well). But it's just so gorgeous! (It's located on the peninsula south of Naples, starting from Sorrento).

You're right, hotel ratings are NOT the same in Italy as they are in North America. A 3-star hotel in Italy usually would be at the most a 2-star in the U.S.

One word of warning about reserving hotels in Italy: if you send them a fax, and they have no room, you will most likely never receive a reply from them, so don't bother following it up.

Laurie Mexico City (formerly of Rome)