From B&B to 5 Stars all of Italy
Our first trip to Italy covered a lot of ground. We started out in Salerno, on the Amalfi Coast. We decided since we had limited time and that this was really going to be a get-our-feet-wet trip to see how much we would love Italy we decided the best way to get a feel for the country was by staying in Airbnb Accommodations. We are so glad we did.
After flying all night and taking the train from Rome to Salerno we were exhausted but knew we had to stay up. We had reservations at a lovely Airbnb listed Bed and Breakfast, Bouganvilla http://www.bouganvillesalerno.it/. Our host was Mara and we had touched base with her ahead of time to arrange an early check-in to drop off our luggage. She and her staff were not there yet but she recommended a great place for lunch close to her place. That was our first meal in Italy and it was an amazing pizza. After lunch we walked to Mara’s B&B. It was in a great location walking distance to everywhere. It was clean, she had snacks and drinks out for us to enjoy and also offered a help-yourself breakfast. Our room had a large bed, full bath and the plus of a small balcony.
We spent one night at Mara’s place and were so glad we chose it. Salerno is a fishing and port town thathad a lot of damage during WWII and really has never come back to it’s glory. Since it is not a tourist town many people do not speak English. But they are extremely friendly so we somehow managed to communicate. Mara was a great help in where to go and what to see and do. She also was amazing about communicating with us ahead of the trip. They have WIFI, too.
Just up the hill from her is place is Arechi Castle. This Medieval, hilltop fortress originally dates back to Roman and Byzantine times. It is worth the trip up there. We would recommend taking a taxi as the hike is quite steep and the roads are narrow.
Our second place was a lovely small hotel in the heart of Amalfi, Hotel
Albergo L’Antico Convitto http://www.lanticoconvitto.com/, where we spent two nights. Antonella who I communicated with, was amazing before and during our stay. She was friendly, available and very helpful. She made dinner reservations, suggestions of where to go and what to see, and arranged a driver for us to get to Sorrento. I can’t say enough about how wonderful she was.
The location really made this place special. It is a small boutique hotel, nothing overly fancy but very clean and comfortable! It also puts out an excellent breakfast buffet and serves the most amazing coffee. Be sure to go to the rooftop for wonderful views. They even have a garden up there.
One of the things I liked about this hotel was its location. Amalfi is surrounded by cliffs that go straight up, but the main town is at sea level, making it a very easy walk to the beach, stores, restaurants and public transportation.
Amalfi, is more laid back than say Positano, and when we return to Southern ItalyAlbergo L’Antico Convitto will be our home base.
We hired a driver to take us from Amalfi to Sorrento with a stops in Posatano and Pompeii. A personal driver is the way to go! We were able to enjoy the incredible views, he showed us all the great photo ops and we were not crowded in a bus. It is worth the money!
We arrived in Sorrento and fell in love with the city and its energy! We stayed at another Airbnb, B&B Belvedere (http://www.belvederesorrento.com/en/) and our host Alfonso was wonderful. We were on the third floor of a walk up but Alfonso had installed a pulley system which took our luggage up to the 3rd floor for us, all we had to do was walk.
The location is perfect, walking distance to everywhere in Sorrento. Sorrento is a walking city and you want to get out and see as much as you can on foot. Alfonso made us feel right at home, made dinner reservations at a friend’s restaurant, which was wonderful, and gave us tips of what to see and do.
The room was clean, ours had skylights which made it very nice. There was great WIFI and a verybasic help-yourself breakfast. Alfonso took us up to the roof to see the incredible view. A great spot for a coffee or glass of wine.
Our one night of pure pampering was in Rome. We met up with friends who had run the Rome Marathon and were staying at the Rome Cavalieri, Waldorf Astoria (https://romecavalieri.com/). OK name drop – Morgan Freeman was staying there while working on Ben Hur. It was absolutely a 5 star hotel!
We were so tired by this point, though, when we checked in the first thing I did was throw myself on the most comfortable bed in the world and immediately took a nap before meeting friends. The views here were limited to those who paid for the top floors, but the rooms were spacious and had everything you could possibly need. I am a real snob about linens in hotels. I think if you are staying in a hotel they should treat you to the best sheets and towels, and these were perfect - obviously that bed made an impression.
The lobby is well furnished and very comfortably set up with conversation areas. The hotel was situated at the top one of Rome's hills, away from everywhere, so you needed to get a taxi to go anywhere.
They have all the spa facilities you could possibly need, swimming pool, lovely bars and restaurants. It claims one of the best brunches in all of Rome – but it is costly. WIFI was best when you were in the lobby.
After our luxurious night in Rome we were met by our driver who took us to Florence, where we and our friends had an AirBnB villa in a great location, two blocks from the river and near everything in Florence. It was perfect! We were able to tour the Tuscan Countryside with our personal tour guide. Definitely the way to go if there is a group of you! If you split the cost it is reasonable and we had two delightful days visiting 4 towns and a winery.
When we weren’t touring we spent some days exploring all of Florence. Our place rocked because of the location. It had plenty of room for everyone. A great kitchen but totally disorganized, which meant it was an ordeal to get what we needed when we wanted to cook and stay in. The dining room had a great table that comfortably sat all 7 of us and the communal living areas, living room and den were comfortable.
Some of the bedrooms were extremely interesting in the shapes of the room, the height of the ceilings or door jams and the way they flowed into each other with spiral staircases. One bedroom was literally a converted linen closet or maid quarters. One of the masters had a round bed. It all worked but was not your typical home.
After five days of Florence and Tuscany we said good bye to our friends and hopped on a train to Venice. I was the one that was so-so about going, but Mike insisted we couldn’t come to Italy without visiting Venice. When we arrived it was grey and cold and dreary, she was not winning me over. We headed to our hotel, which had promised us an early check in, Hotel San Samuele http://hotelsansamuele.com/, and no one was there. Luckily someone at a nearby restaurant beckoned us in and we warmed up and ate while we waited for someone to arrive at our hotel.
The hotel was OK. I must say the photographer who took the pictures for their website should be commended for his creativity. Rooms are very small, the layout is confusing as to where you can go and can’t, and the hosts were luke warm.
We dropped off our luggage and spent as much time as we could away from our hotel, taking in as much of Venice as we could. As the sun broke through, and then started to set, I began to warm up to Venice, by evening I was in love. She is like an aging Hollywood star, as the day goes on she becomes more beautiful in the filtered light and best in the twinkling lights.
I would recommend Venice, if for nothing more than the magical night life. I would not however recommend this hotel! The price was right, but price is not everything.
Our daughter-in-law who studied in Italy convinced us we should make a stop in Bologna, which we did on our way back to Rome. We spent one night in an Airbnb, and our host, Claudia, was accommodating and nice. The room was large and clean with a bathroom, laundry room and eating area on the same floor. The only complaint we had was the smell of cigarettes, but that was the faultof the previous guests and we were able to open the windows and air it out.
Again, we did not spend much time in the room. The bed was fine and Claudia did supply a great amount of literature about the area, but there was really no place to sit and relax. Not a problem. We had one night in Bologna and wanted to eat, drink and see all we could. The shopping here is surprisingly amazing, the architecture I loved with all the porticos. The main park was alive with music, entertainers, and people of every age, from small children to grandparents and young people, who openly smelled of pot. It was like no place we had seen in Italy.
Back on the train and headed to Rome for the end of our trip. We rented an AirBnB room, https://www.airbnb.com/rooms/3909020, in the Trastevere area of Rome. Our host was Paul and it was FANTASTIC! Paul is from England and his mom was visiting and he was the absolute best host. He had a passion that he shared for the art and history of the area.
Paul’s flat was in the perfect location. We had chosen this area because it got the best reviews from foodies. It was within walking distance to everything, and boy did we do a lot of walking! It was also close to rapid transit if you didn’t want to walk. We saw everything we wanted from here and ate the most incredible food.
The last night Paul, recommended we go to the restaurant on the ground level of his apartment building, so he yelled out the window and made the reservations and it was one of the best times we had. We were treated like family to some of the best food and wine.
When we return to Rome we will be contacting Paul! We stayed at Santa Maria Trastevere, across from the church. Paul has three properties that he rents. You can rent a single room or several so he can accommodate up to 7 people in one location.