A Travellerspoint blog

Where We Stayed: La Casa Rossa Apartments, Verona

sunny 68 °F

This was a one-bedroom apartment in the historic center of Verona. It is one of two in the building owned by the same landlady.

We were in the garden-level apartment. It has an open floor plan with the living, kitchen, and dining areas in the same space. The bathroom is off to the side, so if someone wants to go from the bedroom to the bathroom, they don't have to go past whoever is sleeping on the sofa bed. Like the apartment in Milan, it is sized more like a "big-city" apartment in the United States, but it was enough room for us and more spacious than a hotel room.

The front windows of the garden-level apartment look right out on the sidewalk. There are shutters and one-way glass for privacy, though. We actually tested the one-way glass and it worked pretty well; someone would have to stand still and really peer in to see anything. The street is also pretty quiet, so we weren't bothered by privacy or traffic issues.

Anyone who read my earlier posts might remember that Verona was the stop where we had trouble with the washing machine. The landlady said she was going to have it checked out. If you're considering this apartment and are hoping to do laundry, be sure to follow up on that situation. It would also be helpful to have instructions for the washer in the apartment; although it had seemed fairly straightforward to me, I started second-guessing myself once I saw the washer wasn't working properly.

We noticed that the apartment seemed humid. Part of that might have been from the wet laundry in the apartment. Part of it might be because the apartment is at garden level. Also, precisely because we were at garden level, we closed the windows when we weren't in the apartment, which was good for security, but bad for letting in fresh air.

The landlady, Giaele, was helpful. She even brought in a few toys for my daughter to play with during our stay, which we really appreciated. She also has some books and pamphlets on area attractions in the apartment.

Overall, we were happy with the apartment, even with the laundry mishaps. In general, I think it is kid-friendly. However, I am not sure if the location is kid-friendly. There wasn't a good place for outdoor play nearby, and the walk to the supermarket is a bit far with a young kid. That said, this might be the situation throughout the historic center. If that's the case, families would need to decide for themselves if the proximity to attractions outweighs the drawbacks I mentioned.

Bathroom: shower stall
Blow dryer: yes
Breakfast: on our own. There is a café that sells pastries a couple of blocks away. There is a mini-market a few blocks away, but it seemed to be closed when we needed it; maybe we just had bad luck. There is a very nice PAM supermarket, but it is about a 15-minute walk away.
Elevator: no, but our apartment was at garden level, so it was just a few steps down from the entry
Internet: free wifi. It worked in the bedroom only. Sometimes I had difficulty getting online. This seemed to happen when my husband was already online, so maybe it was something about having 2 devices use the wifi.
Nearest playground: not sure. We did a good amount of walking, and while we did see a couple of green spaces, we never saw any playground equipment. We didn't see anything on the map, so we're guessing that there aren't any in the historic center of the city.
Recommend to families with young kids: yes, if the location works for you
Recommend to people without kids: yes
Website: https://sites.google.com/site/lacasarossavr/

Posted by amikulski 18:15 Archived in Italy Tagged children apartments italy Comments (0)

Where We Stayed: Grand Hotel Trento

rain 65 °F

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The Grand Hotel Trento is in a convenient location. A short walk through the park that is across the street gets you to the train station. You can reach the Duomo in 5-10 minutes on foot, and the Castello del Buonconsiglio and the funicular are about 10-15 minutes away in different directions.

When we checked in, we were pleasantly surprised to learn that we had received a free upgrade. We found ourselves in a suite with a large living area and bedroom area.

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We could separate the two areas by closing the door on one side and pulling the curtain on the other. This made it much easier for us because bedtime for my daughter didn't mean it was lights out for the rest of us. Plus, it was great to have the extra room to move around and keep our things.

We also had positive experiences with the staff. The housekeeper on our floor and our server at breakfast were friendly and really nice to my daughter. The front desk staff were always willing to give restaurant suggestions and point out locations to us on our maps.

Finally, I have to give bonus points for the cool floor in the lobby. My daughter even liked it.

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I realize that if we were to return to the Grand Hotel Trento, we may not be so lucky as to get a suite next time. Even so, I would stay there again.

Breakfast: The complimentary buffet was good and included eggs, meats, cheeses, fruits, yogurts, pastries, and beverages. The offerings were mostly the same every day, but the variety of items was enough that you didn't necessarily have to eat the same things every day. I especially liked the super-thick hot chocolate. We saw a family using a highchair at breakfast, so they are available.
Bathroom: shower-tub combo
Blow dryer: yes
Elevator: yes
Internet: available for a fee. Instead of using it, we relied on a cell phone we were using that was a wireless hot spot.
Nearest playground: in the park across the street.

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Recommend to families with young kids: definitely
Recommend to people without kids: definitely
Website: https://www.grandhoteltrento.com/en-home.html

Posted by amikulski 18:14 Archived in Italy Tagged children hotels italy Comments (0)

Where We Stayed: Levante Apartment, Milan

Let me start off by saying Milan is an expensive city. After scanning some hotel listings, I started looking at short-term apartment rentals, thinking that I might be able to find something at a price comparable to a hotel. This was the case for the Levante Apartment where we stayed.

The Levante Apartment is across the street from the Centrale train station and about a five-minute walk from where the Airport Shuttle Bus drops off. The location was especially convenient for us, given that we were coming in on that bus and leaving town from Centrale. There are also metro stations nearby at Centrale and Caiazzo. We used the latter station, which was a 7-to-10 minute walk away.

The 1-bedroom apartment is small by US standards for smaller cities, but it is similar in size to an apartment you might find in a large city like New York. Perhaps even more important is that it is more spacious than a typical European hotel room. The bedroom is generously sized. The living area is a bit smaller, but is quite doable, especially if you close up the sofa bed each morning. The kitchen and bathroom are small, but they suited our needs fine. The bedroom and bathroom are on opposite sides of the living room, which meant tiptoeing between the two rooms when my daughter was sleeping. We had no problems, but it might be difficult if a light sleeper is in the living room.

Sofa beds have a reputation for not being very comfortable for grown-ups, but the one in this apartment seemed pretty good. I didn't spend the night in it, but I would lie down in it for bedtime stories, and it seemed pretty comfortable. It didn't have a bar in the middle that poked my back.

I had been worried about train noise when I booked the apartment, but we never heard a single train. The apartment faced the back of the building, so that probably helped the situation. We heard street noise when the windows were open, but it wasn't any more than what you'd expect in a big city. We just closed the windows at night and had no problem at all.

Tomaso, the landlord, was very reliable and helpful. He also has a binder in the apartment with lots of useful information, from a guide to the TV channels to a neighborhood map and restaurant recommendations.

In all, I thought that the Levante apartment was a great alternative to a hotel in Milan.

Bathroom: shower stall
Breakfast: on our own. There is a café down the street where we bought some pastries to go. There is also a mini-market a few blocks away. Even though it called itself a "mini" market, we still found everything we needed for breakfast, sandwiches, and snacks there.
Blow dryer: yes
Crib: Tomaso offered us the use of one, so there is one available. I don't know if it's a traditional crib or a pack-and-play.
Elevator: there is a small elevator in the building. The maximum capacity is 2 adults, and if you have lots of bags with you at check-in or check-out, you might be more comfortable going in the elevator one person at a time. The stairs are an option, but not a very attractive one, as the apartment is on the seventh floor.
Internet: free wifi. We didn't have any problems with it.
Nearest playground: a couple of blocks away on via Mauro Macchi.
Recommend for families with young kids: definitely
Recommend for people without kids: definitely
Website:http://www.homeaway.com/vacation-rental/p978943

Posted by amikulski 18:24 Archived in Italy Tagged children apartments italy Comments (0)

To Milan and home again

sunny 70 °F

On Sunday morning, we checked out of the agriturismo and drove to Milan. Along the way, we stopped in Pisa and took a few goofy tourist shots of the Leaning Tower.

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Our hotel for the last night was convenient to the airport. That meant that it was far from the city center, but close to the shores of Lake Maggiore. The hotel receptionist told us which lake towns were nearby, so we chose the closest one and set off. Within a few minutes, we were stuck in traffic. The cars were backed up even further in the other direction, so turning around didn't make sense. Finally, it hit us. This was Sunday afternoon, so everybody was leaving the lake to get back to the city. As Michigan natives who have seen weekend lake traffic, we probably should have figured that out sooner.

We did eventually make it to our destination, the town of Arona. We walked around a lakeside park.

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Then we looked for a place to have dinner. My husband and I were celebrating our wedding anniversary, so we had been hoping to find a nice restaurant with lake views. We walked along the main street a bit, but there were no lakeside restaurants. There were very few restaurants to begin with, just a couple of outdoor food stands and bars with limited menus. We did find a place a few blocks away from the lake, though, and the traffic had thinned out by the time we had finished and set out for the hotel.

We woke up early the next morning to give ourselves plenty of time to eat breakfast, return the rental car, and get through security. We bought some snacks for the plane with our leftover Euro coins. We even had a celebrity sighting: Marky Ramone!

The flight home went smoothly, especially because we weren't worried about sleeping. My daughter slept for about an hour and watched kiddie movies the rest of the time. The ride home from Newark also went well, but we were getting pretty tired. We pulled into town, ate dinner, and went to bed. It was only 8 PM in Pennsylvania, but to us it felt like 2 AM Italian time.

Thanks for reading! Next I will review where we stayed and ate.

Posted by amikulski 19:22 Archived in Italy Tagged lakes children italy airplane Comments (0)

Under the Tuscan Sun, Wind, and Rain

70 °F

After checking out of Verona, we picked up a rental car at the airport to drive to San Gimignano. Because we hadn't been able to spend a day on Lake Garda like we had originally planned, we decided to take a detour and stop at Sirmione, a town on the southern shore of the lake. The historic center of the town is on an island in the lake. It is walled, and only cars belonging to residents or hotel guests of the center are allowed to cross the narrow bridge into the center.

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Like most people, we parked outside and walked in. We only had a short time there, but we were able to see some of the town and walk along the lakeshore.

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We spotted ducks (including ducklings!), geese, and fish, which was fun for my daughter.

The rest of the ride was more mountainous than we expected, which also meant lots of driving through tunnels. My daughter was awake for most of the ride, so we made a game out of counting the tunnels and reached 31.

Later that afternoon, we reached the agriturismo where we were staying in the hills outside San Gimignano. It was beautiful! I spent the whole time that we were in and around there feeling like I was in an Olive Garden commercial.

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The walled town of San Gimignano was nearby, either by a short drive or a long walk. We were tired, so we opted to drive in for dinner. We quickly learned that parking was in short supply, especially in the lot near the main entrance to the town walls. We also learned that the parking spaces there were much tighter than in the States, but my husband successfully got us into one. It was tough enough for us in an Alfa Romeo Guilietta (which is intermediate-sized, according to the rental company), so I wasn't sure how bigger cars were doing it.

We had set aside Thursday for the city of Florence and a visit with a distant cousin who lives out there. Parking in the center of the city is both limited and restricted, so we asked around and figured out a place where we could park the car and take the tram into the city center. We encountered a similar parking situation: a full lot with tight spaces. Luckily, there was somebody leaving just as we were looking for a spot, otherwise we would have had to follow the lead of some other people who had parked in "spots" along the side of the lot.

It was great to have the chance to visit my cousin because we had never met before. I think she and my daughter became friends for life! My cousin walked us all over the center of Florence as well. We saw Piazza Santa Novella,

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the Duomo,

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Ponte Vecchio,

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Piazzale delgi Uffizi,

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and Piazza della Signoria.

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My daughter (and I) also rode the carousel in Piazza della Repubblica.

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Thankfully, Saturday went better. We started off with an activity that wasn't so kid-friendly: touring the vineyards at our agriturismo. We brought her because kids are welcome on the tour, but she was understandably pretty bored. She got through it, though, and then was well behaved for the wine tasting lunch afterwards. She didn't taste any wines herself, of course, but she ate with us. The staff even made her pasta in tomato sauce as an alternative to the more grown-up rebollita (vegetable stew) they served. The adults also enjoyed the food and wine. We even got to taste grappa, which once again reminded me of Hemingway.

After lunch, it was back to our room to nap and wait out the rain. It still was raining pretty hard when we were ready to go, so we drove to San Gimignano. The advantage to the bad weather was that the town had fewer people in the streets than usual (because it's so scenic, it's very popular). The rain let up, so we were able to walk around and take pictures before dinner and gelato.

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Today we leave San Gimignano for Milan. We're a little sad to be on the way home.

Posted by amikulski 10:43 Archived in Italy Tagged children italy Comments (0)

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