Sunday, February 28, 2010

Prego!



It’s been over a week since my trip to Italy, so here are some thoughts. It was truly a great experience! We saw a lot of ancient landmarks and renaissance art. But, most importantly “we ate and we were satisfied.”

Transportation

The adventure started like most in Israel, with a sherut driver that was out of his mind. He changed where I needed to meet him three times and yelled, more than I’ve ever heard anyone before, at EVERY patron. Since Jeff and I were the first pickup, we got the full experience. Most of the ride consisted of this weird interaction where he’s complaining about his life, his job, and the customers, and you are not sure whether to respond or not…

Accommodations

We decided to save some money and stay in a hostel, which did come by recommendation of a friend. BUT, you really do get what you pay for! This place was one of the sketchiest I’ve ever been. They do not have sign, so we had to look for the addresse and get buzzed into a random apartment building. Then, we enter the lobby, and some strange guy is sitting behind a small counter in a cramped room with fluorescent lighting. Next, he tells us we have to pay in cash, because the credit card machine is broken. But wait…the plot thickens. Once Jeff returns from withdrawing enough money from an ATM on a dimly light corner at 1AM, the guy tells us that our room is not in the same building. So we take our stuff, venture back out in the dark, cold, rainy night, to a building around the corner that is under construction. We walk up the first flight of stairs and the guy gives us not one, but FOUR keys, for the various locks we we’ll need to open in order to access our room. We finally get into this room and it is the size of our two beds. There was literally no walking room. Of course, we try to turn on the heater, but it blows cold air and sounds like it was going to explode. The nice part was we never had a problem with the shared bathroom down the hallway. Bottom Line: Although this place perfectly served its purpose for us (a roof over our heads with something on which to sleep), we’ve decided that we DO NOT recommend the Freedom Traveller Hostel.

Nonetheless, we had a phenomenal adventure…

Highlights

  • Firenze
    • Piazza Michelangelo
    • Piazza Del Duomo & San Giovanni
    • Michelangelo’s David Statue @ Galleria dell’Accademia (cost a few Eruos, but totally worth it).
    • The Great Synagogue
  • Roma
    • All the great antiquity
    • Coliseum (no need to wait on the long line and pay a lot of money to go inside)
    • Republica
    • Piazza Nuvona
    • Pantheon
    • Fontana di Trevi
    • The Great Synagogue (not as nice as the one in Florence) and Jewish Museum
    • We went to Sinagoga Di Castro (an authentic Italian shul) on Shabbat. They were not especially friendly, but I did receive an aliya.
    • Galleria Borghese and Borghese Park - wonderful Renaissance art, which was the original decoration for the villa. The park is a great place to walk around in nice weather. It is similar to Central Park in NYC. The Borghese Estate was definitely a trip favorite!
    • Basilica S. Pietro – Free and amazing (don’t be turned away by the appearance of a long line, it moves quickly). We chose not to go to the Vatican Museum and Sistine Chapel when we found out that we would have to stand on line for two hours, pay 15 Euros, and not really see too much (except, of course, the Michelangelo works in the chapel. Next time…)

Must Eats!

Our most important mission on this trip was finding the best places to eat. In fact, the most complicated and logistical decision we made was finding the perfect place to get gelato and have a crepe.

  • Firenze
    • Osteria Belle Donne – hole in the wall restaurant with real Tuscan food and feel. Delicious Fettuccini al pesto!

o Tira…Baralla (Via della Scala, 28/r) – BEST local pizza and wine, all for 8 Euros.

  • Roma

o La Famiglia (Via Gaeta, 66) – amazing pizza and atmosphere (cloth napkins and free bread), for just 5 euros.

o Melograno (Piazza di Trevi, 101 – next to Trevi Fountain) – BEST gelato we had (I recommend the Nutella flavor)!

o Bar Senato (Corso Rinascimento, 67) – our FAVORITE - best deal and amazing food – you get fresh brochette, pasta or pizza of your choice (great four cheese gnocchi!), and specialty Italian coffee, all for 7 euros.

· The size of portions is just right here! They really know how to eat!

· While we understand that all the food is good in this country and everyone will come back with their recommendations, these were our favorite eateries and suggest that you visit them the next time you are in Italy. But, more importantly, as this was a major part of our experience, we encourage you to find your favorites as well. Bon App├ętit!

Other Thoughts

· Both cities are very walkable and have fine public transportation. There is no need to do the tour buses. In fact, you can often find free walking tours.

· ITALY, as we know, HAS GREAT FASHION! In a very un-Adi instance, I purchased two dress shirts and three pairs of pants. BUT…here’s the best part…I got all this stylish Italian clothing for just 25 Euros. You can’t even do that in the States!

· Never eat at the places that distribute the flyers with the deals. It’s a scam, because they all sell terrible food.

· Finally, although Rome is a large city with more to do, I would have liked to spend more time in Florence. I think it is prettier and less expensive, with fewer people. But, alas, that just gives me a good excuse to keep traveling and return to Italy.

And, in order to make sure the trip came full circle, while we were checking in at the airport, really in the middle of the process, the clerk turns off the overhead light and just left the counter! Rest assured, we got home safely.

Now it is Purim and Israel is going crazy. Last Wednesday I went with some friends to the shuk to buy costumes at a vintage store, last night/this morning I was in Florentie, Tel Aviv (more of a Halloween scene like in the Village, and tonight is round 2 with festivities in Jerusalem.

Hag Purim Sameach!

~Adi

Befuddlements

· Why do they force you to buy “mineral water” at restaurants in Europe…

· We stayed in a terrible hostel. BUT, it did have a bidet. Yet, after five days, I still have no idea how to use it.

· They love the motorized scooter (aka Vespa) here (see album for details)!

· Why do they put the street signs on the buildings, so you can only see it once you’ve turned the corner? It makes navigating while walking very difficult, I can only imagine what it’s like to drive.

· I’m not sure who stands around more, Roman or Israeli police (see the Lee Collection in the album).

· Sometimes when I travel I feel like I’m a spoiled tourist coming from NYC and Israel. After you’ve lived in the best city in the world and seen archeological sites from biblical times, there’s very little that blows your mind. Nevertheless, I love adventures…

P.S. I decided not to pass on too much reading this time. But, I think this one is valuable: Rules to Eat By.

AYS