Subject: 10 days in Rome and Florence
Dear Ziners,

I am back from a 10 day holiday to Rome and Florence, and here you have a small report of the trip.

We flew direct Bilbao-Rome with Vueling, a low-cost spanish airline ( ). Fully recommendable, clean, on time and with proper magazines instead of the typical airline promotion things. By booking a bit in advance you can get amazing rates.

The only things I had booked were hotels, train from Rome to Florence and a concert at the Rome Auditorium on our last night. We took the Leonardo Express to and from Termini (on the return trip, if you buy your tickets just by the train, they cost 11 Euros instead of 9,5 ), and then a taxi from the station to the hotel. Taxis are not very expensive, and we didnīt have problems with none of the drivers (except the last one, who was trying to convince us to go with him to the airport and gave us an unexpected tour of ancient Rome ... and ended up not getting his extra money ...).

In Rome we stayed at the Hotel San Carlo , first in one of their standard rooms, and on our return on one of their superior rooms. The superior rooms are a bit better than the standard ones (these ones are very simple), and they are working in the annex in Via Belsiana, installing a lift and upgrading everything. I just hope their prices wonīt go up a lot, because they are really well located and they are very nice people. I had stayed previously there, but it was the first time for my mum, and she liked it.

In Florence we stayed at the Hotel Orto dei Medici, . Great place, lovely antique furniture, a good breakfast buffet with a terrasse. We had a very big room on the third floor, and we can really recommend it.

Both hotels were booked using their website. I saw that there was availability in , and before booking I checked their websites to see if there was some kind of offer (and there was in both cases).

We went on a day trip to Pisa and Lucca, and we skipped our plans for Bologna due to the heat.

As we had already been to Italy a few times, we opted for doing things a bit on a whim, although I had printed before opening times and access modes to quite a few places. I used a lot the official tourism sites, specially the Roma one (it is very good). I could find there the different exhibitions going on and the concerts, such as the Accademia de Santa Cecilia Mozart Festival and the Firenzestate. There were a few must : San Clemente, Domus Aurea and Centrale Montemartini in Rome, San Marco and Bargello in Florence.

EU citizens over 65 have free entry (or reduced) at most of the places, so our ticketing budget was reduced by half thanks to mum.

Unexpected and really enjoyed places (not necessarily in that order) : the rooftop terrace at La Rinascente in Florence, Ghirlandaioīs "Adoration of the Shepherds" in Santa Trinita, San Frediano in Lucca, Renzo Pianoīs Auditorium in Rome, the Baptistery mosaics in Florence, being completely alone in the Centrale Montemartini (almost nobody goes there), Fiesole roman theatre and the cafe at its square, watching the end of the Monza F1 at the restaurant in Florence, the tiny postcard shop in front of the "Tazza dīOro" where you can find the impossible ...

Pisa was fine, something that has to be seen at least once, but we liked much more Lucca. We walked around a lot, and it was very enjoyable.

Some of the restaurants in my list were still closed because we were between August and September, so we ended up in "old" favourites, such as Il Buco (great tagliolini al limone), LīInsalata Ricca, Gustoī in Rome or I Ghibellini in Florence. Otello alla Concordia got mixed reviews in our opinion. Good "melanzane ripiene", way too much and nothing special spaghetti con calamari at evening ...

Weather was a bit on the hot and humid side, with occasional rain downpours that managed to get us into the Babington Tea Rooms and enjoy a good Lapsang Souchong. We liked more the outside tables at Giolitti (mostly because of the politicians talking there about some interesting issues) than Gilli and Rivoire in Florence.

We loved the present exhibition at the Scuderie del Quirinale, "Passaggi in India. Ieri e oggi", with aquatints from the XVIIIth century and pictures of the same places nowadays in India. We were almost alone and could peruse the paintings and photographs at our pleasure. Two other interesting exhibitions were "Jian Guo Fang. The painter of the Forbidden City" in the Palazzo Venezia and another about the story of the italian army in the Vittoriano.

We liked the Accademia di Santa Cecilia Mozart concert, although the music was pretty standard ( The Magic Flute ouverture, a piano concert and the Praga concert), and it was very easy to get there using the M line from Termini to the Auditorium, running from 17:00 to 24:00 every 15 minutes.

Not a lot of shopping was done (weather was too hot to try winter clothing, and I find more original shoes at home in Spain). A couple of handbags, books and postcards, pecorino cheese and salami and funghi in the Florence market.

We skipped the Vatican completely, and mum maintains that you donīt need to visit it if you go to Rome for the first time. Maybe she is right, you always need another reason to go there again ...

Ah, and trains run on time :)

The trip didnīt come up so bad given that it was planned and organized barely a month before going, as soon as I knew my exact holiday dates. I donīt think we would have done something different, and I know that it helped a lot the fact that we have already been there and feel comfortable, but I think that I could use it as a template for someoneīs first time.

If you want more detailed information, just ask and Iīll try to answer as good as I can.

Kind regards, Covadonga Bilbao/Madrid - Spain