A Travellerspoint blog

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)

In Fair Verona, Where We Lay Our Scene/Laundry

We woke up Monday morning with plenty of clothes that needed washing, a sketchy washer, and last night's laundry still wet and taking up most of the real estate on the clothes hanger in the apartment. We needed a laundromat, but our Google searches weren't turning up much. Our landlady pointed us to one, but it was something of a long walk and the washers themselves were frustrating because they didn't always want to accept the 2-Euro coins they said they accepted. We got everything washed and dried, though, which is better than where we'd have been if we had relied on the apartment machine.

We spent much of our afternoon walking through Verona. It did rain, but just for a few minutes. We looked around the market at Piazza delle Erbe,

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visited the courtyard at "Juliet's House" (my quotation marks, because even if Capulets lived there, it's not known whether there was a real-life Juliet behind the legends),

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and checked out the Arena.

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My daughter got tired fast, but we stopped to rest at benches whenever we saw them. The seats at the Arena and a gelato stop helped out, too.

We went to bed to the sound of singing in the streets. Apparently Verona's soccer team did well enough to move up a division, so people were celebrating.

Our original plan had been to make a day trip to Venice while we were in Verona. We had decided to wait to buy the train tickets because we were unsure about whether our daughter would be up for a day-long trip to a place with lots of walking and perhaps few places to sit and rest. We finally decided against Venice because the walking in Verona had been difficult for her, and the difficulty would only be amplified in a new city where it is notoriously easy to get lost and where there would not be a hotel where we could take breaks. I'm a little sad to miss Venice, but I think it was the right choice, because we very easily could have been miserable there.

We spent our last full day in the city of Verona. We were interested in seeing views of the city from the Castell de San Pietro, but it was a long walk to the bottom of the bluff where it was located. We then learned that no buses go up to the top; we would have to climb a long series of steps. I was skeptical that we could do it, because my daughter had already asked for a couple of breaks on the walk over. We agreed to try, though, and my husband successfully turned it into a game: "let's see how many steps we can climb." We made it to the top and picnicked to some nice views.

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After making our way up and down those stairs, we felt like we had earned dessert, so we stopped for some gelato. Then we made out way to the Piazza Bra and took a ride on the City Train, an open-air bus (something like an oversized golf cart) made to look like a train.

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We had seen it around town, and our daughter is a big fan of trains, so we decided to give it a try. It was a very bumpy ride through the cobblestone streets! There was taped commentary in 4 languages including English, but I didn't learn a whole lot. It might work best for people who haven't already oriented themselves to the city... or for families with young kids. Our daughter loved it, bumps and all!

Tomorrow we leave Verona for San Gimignano. Send us some dry vibes--for the weather and the laundry from 2 days ago that is still hanging in the apartment!

Posted by amikulski 14:19 Archived in Italy Tagged children italy Comments (0)

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