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Frommer's EasyGuide to Rome, Florence and Venice 2017

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There’s no better introduction to Italy than the classic itinerary of Rome, Florence and Venice. But it’s not dummy-proof, which is why we enlisted three of the world’s most knowledgeable Italy experts to pen this guide. Melanie Renzulli, who lives in Rome, has been writing about travel for 15 years. She is presently the founder and editor of the travel blog "Italofile". Stephen Keeling is an Oxford graduate who won a much-coveted journalistic prize in 2008 for his Frommer's Guide to Tuscany and Umbria. Stephen Brewer has been writing travel guides for over three decades, usually focusing on Italy. All three have teamed to prepare this revised and up-to-date guide to Italy's classic "three".

This book, updated yearly, is light-to-carry and set in large, easy-to-read fonts. It contains:
- Many informative maps in addition to a large fold-out map of considerable value.
- Exact prices so there are never any ugly surprises.
- Handy sample itineraries so you can make the most of your vacation time.
- Opinionated reviews and insider advice on how to avoid the crowds and find the most authentic restaurants, shops, nightlife venues and hotels in all price ranges
- Detailed side-trips to Pompeii, Tuscany and the Veneto

This is the fourth edition of Frommer's Easy Guide to Rome, Florence and Venice, and we look forward to many more. Buon Viaggi!

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1 THE BEST OF ROME, FLORENCE & VENICE

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The Best of Rome, florence & venice

By Donald Strachan

Italy is a country that needs no fanfare to introduce it. The mere name conjures up vivid images: The noble ruins of Ancient Rome, the paintings and palaces of Florence, the secret canals and mazelike layout of Venice. For centuries, visitors have headed to Italy looking for their own slice of the good life, and these three cities supply the highpoint of any trip around the country.

Nowhere in the world is the impact of the Renaissance seen more fully than in its birthplace, Florence, the repository of artistic works left by Masaccio, Botticelli, Leonardo, Michelangelo, and many others. The entire Mediterranean (and more) was once ruled from Rome, a city mythically founded by twins Romulus and Remus in 753 b.c. Its fortunes have fallen, a little, but it remains timeless. There’s no place with more artistic monuments—not even Venice, an impossible floating city that was shaped by its merchants and centuries of trade with the Byzantine world farther east.

 

2 SUGGESTED ITINERARIES

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Suggested Itineraries

By Donald Strachan

Italy is so vast and treasure-filled that it’s hard to resist the temptation to pack too much into too short a time. It’s a dauntingly diverse destination, and you can’t even skim the surface in 1 or 2 weeks—so relax, don’t try. If you’re a first-time visitor with little touring time on your hands, we suggest you max out on the classic trio: Rome, Florence, and Venice could be packed into 1 very busy week, better yet in 2.

How can you accomplish that? Well, in addition to offering some of mainland Europe’s best-maintained highways (called autostrade), Italy also has one of the fastest and most efficient high-speed rail networks in the world. Rome and Milan are the key hubs of this 21st-century transportation empire—for example, from Rome’s Termini station, Florence can be reached in only 91 minutes. In fact, if you’re city-hopping, you need never rent a car. Upgrades to the rail network mean that key routes are served by comfortable, fast trains; the key connections include the Venice–Florence–Rome line. You only require a rental car for rural detours.

 

3 ITALY IN CONTEXT

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Italy in Context

By Donald Strachan

As with any destination, a little background reading can help you to understand more. Many Italy stereotypes are accurate—children are feted wherever they go, food and soccer are treated like religion, the north–south divide is real, and bureaucracy is part of daily life. Some are wide of the mark—not every Italian you meet will be open and effusive. Occasionally, they do taciturn pretty well, too.

The most important thing to remember is that, for a place with so much history—3 millennia and counting—Italy has only a short history as a country. Only in 2011 did it celebrate its 150th birthday. Prior to 1861, the map of this peninsula was in constant flux. War, alliance, invasion, and disputed successions caused that map to change color as often as a chameleon crossing a field of wildflowers. Republics, mini-monarchies, client states, Papal States and city-states, as well as Islamic emirates, colonies, dukedoms, and Christian theocracies, roll on and off the pages of Italian history with regularity. In some regions, you’ll hear languages and dialects other than Italian. It’s part of an identity that is often more regional than it is national.

 

4 ROME

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Rome

By Melanie Renzulli

Once it ruled the Western World, and even the partial, scattered ruins of that awesome empire are today among the most overpowering sights on earth. To walk the Roman Forum, to view the Colosseum, the Pantheon, and the Appian Way—these are among the most memorable, instructive, and humbling experiences in all of travel.

Equally thrilling are the sights of Christian Rome, which speak to the long and complex domination by this city of one of the world’s major religions. Yet it’s important to remember that Rome is not just a place of the past, but one that lives and breathes and buzzes with Vespas in the here and now.

As a visitor to Rome, you will be constantly reminded of this extraordinary history. Take the time to get away from the tourist masses to explore the intimate piazzas and lesser basilicas in the backstreets of Trastevere and the centro storico. Indulge in gastronomic pursuits and stuff your days with caffès, pizza, wine, and gelato. Have a picnic in Villa Borghese, take a vigorous walk along the Gianicolo, or nap in the grass against a fallen granite column at the Baths of Caracalla. Rome is so compact that without even planning too much, you’ll end up enjoying both its monuments and its simpler pleasures.

 

5 DAY TRIPS FROM ROME

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Day Trips from Rome

By Melanie Renzulli

If you only have 3 days or so, you will probably want to spend them in Rome itself. But if you are here for a week—or on your second visit to Rome—head out of the city to see some of the ruins, old towns, and ancient villas that lie beyond, for a true all-around Roman experience.

Ostia Antica

24km (15 miles) SW of Rome

The ruins of Rome’s ancient port are a must-see for anyone who can’t make it to Pompeii. It’s an easier daytrip than Pompeii, on a similar theme: the chance to wander around the preserved ruins of an ancient Roman settlement that has been barely touched since its abandonment.

Ostia, at the mouth of the Tiber, was the port of Rome, serving as the gateway for riches from the far corners of the Empire. Founded in the 4th century b.c., it became a major port and naval base under two later emperors, Claudius and Trajan. A prosperous city developed, full of temples, baths, theaters, and patrician homes.

 

6 FLORENCE

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Florence

By Donald Strachan

Botticelli, Michelangelo, and da Vinci all left their mark on Florence, the city that was the cradle of the Renaissance. With Brunelleschi’s iconic dome as a backdrop, travelers follow the River Arno to the Uffizi Gallery (Florence’s foremost art museum) and soak in centuries of great painting. They wander across the Ponte Vecchio, Florence’s iconic bridge, taking in the tangle of Oltrarno’s medieval streets, then sample seasonal Tuscan cooking in a Left Bank trattoria. This is how to uncover the art of fine living in this masterpiece of a city.

Michelangelo’s “David” stands tall (literally) behind the doors of the Accademia, and nearby are the delicate paintings of Fra’ Angelico in the convent of San Marco. Works by Donatello, Masaccio, Pontormo, and Ghiberti fill the city’s churches and museums. Once home to the Medici, the Palazzo Pitti is stuffed with Raphaels and Titians backed by the fountains of the Boboli Garden.

But Florence isn’t just about art. Florentines love to shop, too. Italy’s leather capital strains at the seams with handmade gloves, belts, bags, and shoes sold from workshops, family-run boutiques, and high-end stores, as well as at tourist-oriented San Lorenzo Market. You can also splurge on designer wear from fashion houses along Via de’ Tornabuoni—this city is the home of Gucci, Pucci, and Ferragamo.

 

7 DAY TRIPS FROM FLORENCE

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Day Trips from Florence

By Donald Strachan

Florence is the capital of the region of Tuscany and the hub of its transport network. It is within easy day-trip reach of several of the region’s top sights, meaning you do not have to switch your accommodation base to see the highlights of central Italy.

Siena

70km (43 miles) S of Florence

Siena is a uniquely preserved medieval city. Viewed from the summit of the Palazzo Pubblico’s tower, its sea of roof tiles and red brick blends into a labyrinth of steep, twisting stone alleys. This cityscape hides dozens of Gothic palaces and pastry shops galore, longstanding neighborhood rivalries, and painted altarpieces of unsurpassed elegance.

Founded as a Roman colony by Emperor Augustus (see p. 25), the city enjoyed its heyday in the 13th and 14th centuries; in 1270, Sienese merchants established the Council of Nine, an oligarchy that ruled over Siena’s greatest republican era, when civic projects and artistic prowess reached their heights. Artists like Duccio di Buoninsegna, Simone Martini, and the Lorenzetti brothers invented a distinctive Sienese art, a highly developed Gothic style that was an artistic foil to the emerging Florentine Renaissance. Then in 1348, a plague known as the “Black Death” hit the city, killing perhaps three-quarters of its 100,000 population, destroying the social fabric and devastating the economy. Siena never recovered, and much of it has barely changed since.

 

8 VENICE

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Venice

By Stephen Keeling

Nothing in the world quite looks like Venice. This vast, floating city of grand palazzi, elegant bridges, gondolas, and canals is a magnificent spectacle, truly magical when approached by sea for the first time, when its golden domes and soaring bell towers seem to rise straight from the sea. While it can sometimes appear that Venice is little more than an open-air museum where tourists always outnumber locals—by a large margin—it is still surprisingly easy to lose the crowds. Indeed, the best way to enjoy Venice is to simply get lost in its labyrinth of narrow, enchanting streets, stumbling upon a quiet campo (square), market stall, or cafe far off the beaten track, where even the humblest medieval church might might contain masterful work by Tiepolo, Titian, or Tintoretto.

The origins of Venice are as muddy as parts of the lagoon it now occupies, but most histories begin with the arrival of refugees from Attila the Hun’s invasion of Italy in 453 a.d. The mudflats were gradually built over and linked together, channels and streams eventually becoming canals. By the 11th century, Venice had emerged as a major independent trading city, and a seaborne empire (which included Crete, Corfu, and Cyprus) was held together by a huge navy and commercial fleet by the 13th century. Though embroiled with wars against rival Italian city Genoa and the Turks for much of the ensuing centuries, these were golden years for Venice, when booming trade with the Far East funded much of its grand architecture and art. Although it remained an outwardly rich city, by the 1700s the good times were over, and in 1797 Napoleon dissolved the Venetian Republic. You’ll gain a sense of some of this history touring Piazza San Marco, and St. Mark’s Basilica, or by visiting the Accademia, one of Italy’s great art galleries, but only when you wander the back calli (streets), will you encounter the true, living, breathing side of Venice, still redolent of those glory days.

 

9 DAY TRIPS FROM VENICE

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Day Trips from Venice

By Stephen Keeling

If you only have 3 days or so, you will probably want to spend them in the center of Venice. However, if you are here for a week—or on your second visit to the city—head over to the mainland to see some of the old towns that lie within the historic Veneto region.

Padua

40km (25 miles) W of Venice

Tucked away within the ancient heart of Padua lies one of the greatest artistic treasures in all Italy, the precious Giotto frescoes of the Cappella degli Scrovegni. Although the city itself is not especially attractive (it was largely rebuilt after bombing during World War II), don’t be put off by the urban sprawl that now surrounds it; central Padua is refreshingly bereft of tourist crowds, a workaday Veneto town with a large student population and a small but intriguing ensemble of historic sights.

Like much of the region, Padua prospered in the Middle Ages, and Italy’s second oldest university was founded here in 1222. Its fortunes grew further when St. Antony of Padua died in the city in 1231, making it a place of pilgrimage ever since. In the 14th century, the da Carrara family presided over the city’s golden age, but in 1405 Padua was conquered and absorbed by Venice, losing its independence. With the fall of the Venetian Republic in 1797, the city was ruled by Napoleon and then became part of the Austrian Empire in 1814. Finally annexed to Italy in 1866, the city boomed again after World War II, becoming the industrial dynamo of northeast Italy.

 

10 PLANNING YOUR TRIP

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Planning Your Trip

By Donald Strachan

This chapter provides a variety of planning tools, including information on how to get there, how to get around, and the inside track on local resources. If you do your homework on special events, pick the right place for the right season, and pack for the climate, preparing for a trip to Italy should be pleasant and uncomplicated. See also “When to Go,” p. 37.

Getting There

By Plane

If you’re flying across an ocean, you’ll most likely land at Rome’s Leonardo da Vinci–Fiumicino Airport (FCO; www.adr.it/fiumicino), 40km (25 miles) from the center. Rome’s much smaller Ciampino Airport (CIA; www.adr.it/ciampino) serves low-cost airlines connecting to European cities and other destinations in Italy. For information on getting to central Rome from its airports, see p. 40.

Carriers within Europe fly direct to several smaller Italian cities. Among the most convenient are Venice’s Marco Polo Airport (VCE; www.veniceairport.it), Bologna’s Marconi Airport (BLQ; www.bologna-airport.it), and Pisa’s Galileo Galilei Airport (PSA; www.pisa-airport.com).

 

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