Subject: Re: Itinerary for Italy in January
Hi Katie and other Ziners,

You really have an ambitious trip planned. Some of it I can't comment on but on other parts I do have some suggestions. With only two days in Paris I would definitely call Notre Dame a must see. The nearby Sainte-Chappel is also great. A visit to the Louvre is also probably a must see, but there is so much there I would suggest a guided tour of the highlights. I am not familiar with the ones offered by the museum. However, I can highly recommend the one offered by Cityrama. I took this and felt it was an excellent introduction. The web address is www.graylineparis.com This can also give you an idea of possible other ways to make the most of your two days. I really enjoyed the night bus tour of the city.

In Italy I have not been to Turin. However you end up reaching Milan, a half day will be very confusing without a tour. The city offers a bus tour, but again I do not know the particulars. I have been very pleased with a tour I have taken twice. You can research this tour by going to the website of Hello Milano www.hellomilano.com On the right side of the screen you will see a flashing sign for A Friend in Milan. Henry Neuteboom offers several tours. I have taken the highlights tour once alone and once with a friend. We both thought it was excellent. It lasts three hours and did cost E150. We felt it was well worth the cost. He will meet you at the train station if that is what you want and help you take your luggage to the left luggge area for storage. (I have stored my luggage in many towns in Italy; it is very safe.) If you are interested in seeing Da Vinci's Last Supper, he will arrange tickets for this if the church is open, and his explanation is very interesting.

I have never driven in Italy so I can't comment on those plans. Nor am I familiar with the hotel your agent recommended in Florence. You will need to be able to park your car somewhere since driving in the city would be a chore and you cannot get some places. Be sure the hotel you use has a recommendation for parking. I have stayed at the Hotel Casci twice. It is very reasonable and a block from the Duomo. www.hotelcasci.com I don't know what their recommendation is for parking. Also I will stay there again. Check out TripAdvisor for recommendations.

The Tuscan countryside is lovely as is Siena. San Gimignano is also worth a visit. Be prepared for hills in both of these cities. In San Gimignano use the restrooms in a cafe or restaurant you stop at unless you are intereted in the adventure of paying for an opening in the floor.

In Rome, of course, you will not want a car. You can certainly take the train from Rome to Naples, and from there to both Sorrento and Pompeii. To go to either of these two cities you must take the Circumvesuviana Railway. You find this in the Naples Central Station, one level down from the main tracks. It is very much like a commuter railway and does not use rail passes. You can do Pompeii in half a day once you arrive there. You can hire a guide inside the park I believe. Or the audio guide is very interesting and very thorough. You can even press one button and hear Vesuvius erupting and another to hear Pliny the Younger's description of it.

Sorrento is indeed a pleasant place to stay. Many hotels there might be closed at this time of year so be sure you know. I have been there in November and stayed at, I believe, the Eden. They upgraded my room at that time of year.

Do not try to drive the Amalfi drive yourself. There are 1200 or so curves between Sorrento and Salerno. You may be able to arrange a drive down the coast from your hotel. I have also taken the public bus from Sorrento to Amalfi, and last time I hired a private driver whom I can highly recommend, Sorrento Limo. The website is www.sorrentolimo.com You will see there his regular services or you can contact him by email. The owner Gennaro Ruocco is very personable.

I am not familiar with the hotel your agent mentioned in Rome. As it is near the train station, I would ask how near and what side of the station. The good hotels by the station are generally--as you look at a map-- to the left of the station a couple of blocks or to the front past the Piazza della Republica. There may well be some good hotels on the othr side of the station. I don't know, but I have stayed a few blocks away in the directions I mentioned. As a lone female or even with one other, I would not walk around too close to the station at night. It can be a bit unsavory. I have, however, taken a bus from there and walked around the Piazza above because of the lighted fountain.

I fear I have babbled on quite a lot. I hope I have given you some help and not more confusion. I have been to Rome nine times and eight times to Milan, Venice, Florence and Naples/Sorrento. If you have any other questions I can help you with, please let me know.

Sincerely, Joan in Rockford