How to plan a dream trip: Tour Guides, Timing, and Transportation.
To start at the beginning of this travel planning story click here.
Get an Eagles’ Eye view of the cities!
It’s helpful to know in your mind where things are located.
Using Google Earth I could “see” where my B&Bs and the tourist sites were located and Google Maps helped to plot our path. On my Word document I listed each site in the order to visit, according to the hours of operation and whether it closed for lunch. The big unknown was knowing how long it would take to walk or travel from site to site, and where you’d need the W/C or be hungry for lunch. I did like the maps plotting the restaurants in the Rick Steves’ guide to refer to when hunger hit. I penned in on the maps any highly recommended suggestions that I discovered online. BEFORE you go, preview the restaurant listings and narrow them down (eliminate the ones outside of your price range or interest) to save you from wading through them all when you’re hungry and just want to find a place nearby to eat!!!
In Rome, the public transportation was so easy to use. We bought (and I highly recommend) the Roma Pass. With it we were able to hop aboard any bus, or Metro, and it included entrance fees to your choice of two sites – and a shorter line at the Colosseum! You will use the Metro or a bus for short trips just to save your feet and not have to pay each time. In Rome we used the buses running up and down the Via Nazionale between our B&B and Ancient Rome. The signs at the bus stopswere easy to understand. One could see the name of the stop and where the bus was going, if it was headed toward Termini or the opposite direction toward Largo Argentina. We also used buses to get to and from Priscilla Catacombs where we ventured away from the tourist area and saw real Roman neighborhoods from the window of the bus.
The Campania Artecard for 27 euros was of great value also. We purchased it at the Naples Train station and used it for the Metro ride in Naples, the entrance fee to the Naples Archeological Museum, the train to Sorrento, a bus ride in Sorrento, the bus to Positano, the train back to Pompeii, the Pompeii Scavai entrance fee, the train to Paestum, maybe even the entrance fees at Paestum, and the train back to Naples!
Rick Steves’ said that having a guide can be beneficial and yet they receive the greatest amount of negative feedback and
complaints regarding tour guides. I spent a lot of time researching the different tour companies and private guides for Rome, Florence, and Venice. I am a strong believer that a good tour guide can make a city come alive and one learns so much more. The negative was the
cost and the scheduling – having to be in a certain place at a certain time. I kind of like to keep flexible. In the end, we really didn’t have any extra money and used Rick Steves’ guidebooks and downloaded his audio tours. From home, I did reserve and pay for the Scavi tour at the Vatican, and a timed entry to the Vatican Museums (again, no line!), a timed reservation for the Accademia in Florence, a reservation for Florence’s Uffizi, a timed entrance to the Brancacci Chapel in Florence, the Secret Itinerary Tour at the Doges’ Palace in Venice, and a timed entry to the Scrovegni Chapel in Padova.
For Ephesus, I searched for a guide on the internet and made a reservation for an all day private guide and driver to meet us and another couple which I met on Cruise Critic at the Port. The small group was better for seeing the sights and getting around faster and cheaper than the large motorcoach tours that the cruise line sells.
The trip was all planned, the money saved, the wardrobe chosen and already practiced-packed, a house/cat sitter arranged – and I could hardly believe that my hope…my dream… was now – a reality!
Was it going to live up to all I hoped?