Subject: Tuscany
Hello Vera! My wife and I are making our second trip to Italy in May, starting with our first-ever visit to Rome. After much research on the Travelzine and other travel web sites, we decided on the Hotel Smeraldo, near the Campo de Fiori - try this website: http://www.hotelsmeraldoroma.com It appears to be a very simple, very clean, and excellently located small hotel with very reasonable rates (I think we're paying something like 220,000L/night for a double with bath). Our first Italy adventure was a three week trip in May and June 2000. We're hardly seasoned travelers of Europe as this was our first trip outside of North America. However, we did spend about two weeks in Florence and the rest of Tuscany, so I may be able to offer some help or recommendations. Here are some off-the-top-of-my-head suggestions. Please feel free to email if you would like more info or have specific questions. - Most of the hill towns are wonderful and live up to the PR. - Definitely look into the agrotourismos, farms with B&B or inn- type accomodations. We spent four or five days at the Villa di Sotto in Villa a Sesta, near Castelnuovo Beardenga, in the Chianti Classico area. It was a hightlight of the trip. - Driving the small highways in Tuscany was not difficult. You will eventually get used to the local drivers coming at you around curves -- in YOUR lane! We decided that anyone who stayed in their lane around a curve must be a tourist. Seriously, it was no problem. - If you're looking for a hotel in Florence, I'd heartily recommend the Morandi alla Crochetta (sp?). Wonderful, wonderful, wonderful... They book-up fast, so the sooner you contact them the better. - Most importantly, eat the food, have at least one gelato every day, drink the wine (oh my, the wine!!!), and talk to the locals. You WILL NOT want to go home. Ciao for now. -Mark Mitchell (a.k.a. Marco)