Subject: Italy (was: New California member)
VJ and other Ziners, We just returned from a 10-day trip to Italy. My husband and I took our four children, ages 22, 19, 16, and 13. While in Rome we stayed at The Hotel delle Muse This had come as a referral from another Ziner - it was wonderful! We had two rooms, each with a private patio and in-room bathroom, with breakfast included, for 200 Euro per night. This hotel is in the Villa Borghese area, which is a little out of the central part of the city. We used easy bus transportation daily to get to the major sites. We spent one day at the Villa Borghese Park, which is about 4 square miles. There is a zoo, rental of bikes, rental of boats on a small 'lake', and a few museums. If you have time, walk around the Trastavere part of Rome - it has the best restaurants, along with being the picturesque old quarters of Rome.

We next went to Florence by train - connecting to Pisa and Lucca before returning to Florence. (Considering the ages of your children, I would suggest an overnight in Lucca. My children really enjoyed this 'quaint' town.with good shopping!) While in Florence we stayed at the Fattoria di Maiano, an olive farm, which is a 15-20 minute bus ride to the Duomo in Florence. At the Fattoria, we had a two-bedroom, 2-bath apartment with a full, large kitchen, living room and dining area, and large entry hall. Up on a hill, the view of Florence and the surrounding Tuscan hillsides was magnificent. After full days of site-seeing in the heat of the city, it was so refreshing to retreat to the cooler Tuscan hillside. We had a few dinners in Fiesole, which is nearby the Fattoria. From Florence, we took a day trip to Venice. We had time to walk to San Marco square, eat lunch, and have a Gelato before boarding the train to return to Florence.

The personnel of both hotels speak English very well and can make arrangements for tours. In Florence they booked a reservation for the Academie (where the statue of David is) and the Uffuzi museum - we paid 3 Euro's for the reservation, but it was worth not standing in line.

Last, we had purchased 'Eyewitness Travel Guides' - one on Rome and one on Florence. These books were invaluable - included overview of city; sites, restaurants, museums, etc. of each area of the city; detailed street maps; and much more.

Grace Moniz Los Angeles, California