What t see, do in trip to Italy
May 12, 2009 7:46 AM   Subscribe

Sites regular and offbeat to see in Italy

Using AskMetafilter search has been helpful, but specifically, we are going for two weeks, in August (yes hot), to Venice, Florence, Rome, Amalfi, Naples...we are not going with a group or tour but have hotels and trains etc taken care of via agent. Looking for those places worth seeing that might not be among the usual, the ones we should and will see too. any suggestions?
ps: trip is to celebrate my 80th birthday (getting around no issue), and have a 16 year old daughter and a 21 year old son 9he wants to see the Vatican).
posted by Postroad to Travel & Transportation around Italy (17 answers total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
In Florence, an overlooked site is the Bargello museum, which mostly consists of sculptures. It's unbelievably inexpensive considering that, among other things, you'll be seeing some Michelangelos, Verrocchios, and Donatello's positively amazing Bronze David.
posted by Skot at 8:30 AM on May 12, 2009

The Naples underground tour is interesting. Napoli Sotterranea leads tours there. There is also a Napoli Underground site about it.
posted by charlesv at 8:36 AM on May 12, 2009

One of my favorite memories of Florence was sitting on top of a hill at dusk, with a bottle of wine and watching the sun go down over the city. You could see the river, the Duomo and the hills of Tuscany from there. Maybe another MeFite can give this place a name? There's a replica statue of David up there, I think.
posted by JuiceBoxHero at 8:44 AM on May 12, 2009 [1 favorite]

Oh, and one important tip especially for your 16 year old- visitors are required to have their shoulders covered before entering religious sites. Make sure you bring along a shirt/jacket/something to put on so they'll let you in!
posted by JuiceBoxHero at 8:48 AM on May 12, 2009

The Park of Monsters in Bomarzo is weird and off the beaten path. I'm not sure how much credence I put into the official story regarding its origins (some of the work is obviously much younger) but it's fun and goofy and will take you into the countryside.

There's also The Fiorenza in Florence, a fantastic restaurant that I had these amazing gnudi at and haven't found anyone else who can make them nearly as well. Just absolutely fantastic service, wine and food, one of the best meals of my life. Can't recommend them highly enough.

posted by klangklangston at 9:24 AM on May 12, 2009

If you're looking for offbeat, check out Santa Maria della Concezione dei Cappuccini in Rome. It's on the southern end of Via Veneto, by the Barberini metro stop.
posted by stopgap at 9:24 AM on May 12, 2009 [2 favorites]

I musta bjorked the links to the Park of Monsters and Bomarzo. Here they are again.
posted by klangklangston at 9:25 AM on May 12, 2009

JuiceBoxHero's Florentine hill is Piazzale Michelangelo.

Oh, and one important tip especially for your 16 year old- visitors are required to have their shoulders covered before entering religious sites.

And at Vatican, your knees as well else the funky colored Swiss guards won't let you in. Don't take a bulky backpack, either.

You don't say how you've split up your time between all the cities (or maybe you have yet to determine), but for Rome I'll suggest a day for Vatican (museums & basilica) and at least a day for Colosseum/Forums/rest of historical center if you're cramming things. Hit Trevi fountain at night when there's less people, ditto for the Spanish Steps.

I see someone's already mentioned the Cappucin Crypt. If you come across any mention of the Keyhole in your research, you can go ahead and scratch it off your list, as they've put up some sort of overhead covering that effectively ruins the view across the river to Vatican. Villa Torlonia, Mussolini's residence, is pretty nifty to wander around if a bit off the beaten track of the historical center.

If you want a break from the touristy stuff, you might take a wander along the banks of the Tiber, which the past few summers have been populated with bars & "beaches" with above ground pools. I imagine that they'll be doing it again, as I've seen some heavy clean-up/repairs lately (from the winter flood where the water level was almost hitting the undersides of the bridges).

August is hot, humid, and my favorite time of the year in Rome since a large number of residents go on hols. Speaking of everyone-on-hols, double check opening times of what you do decide to see, just to be on the safe side.

Drink lots of water (the water fountains throughout Rome, known as nasone, are safe to drink from & IMO beat the pants off bottled water) & don't forget that Rome is founded on 7 hills; take your time.

Buon viaggio
posted by romakimmy at 9:59 AM on May 12, 2009

The place JuiceBoxHero refers to is Piazzale Michelangelo (link to google street view).

Overlooked places in Italy (although, not unknown) off the top of my head: Mantua, Perugia, Urbino, Bologna, Turin among the major cities, the ancient Basilica di San Galgano (a couple hours, south of Siena), the hamlet of Bagno Vignoni (yes, that was a warm thermal water swimming pool. No, you can't dip in it. Yes, there are spas nearby), also south of Siena. (disclaimer: I'm partial to Tuscany having lived here most of my life).

Small towns and villages deserving a visit are simply too many to mention and likely exceed your schedule. Just central Italy might include the Chianti region, Assisi, Siena, Spello, Viterbo, Orvieto, a few places in the lake area north of Rome, Spoleto, Chiusi, Pienza, Montepulciano... might be a nice idea to include one or two as daytrips from major cities. Sicily is absolutely overlooked and huge. I'd avoid it in august for climate reasons, though.
posted by _dario at 10:02 AM on May 12, 2009

South of the Amalfi Coast and a bit off your itinerary, but on my list of places-to-see-if-I-ever-get-to-Italy is Paestum, with its ruins of a 6th-century BC Greek colony.
posted by steef at 10:27 AM on May 12, 2009

La Specola, the natural history museum in Florence, consists of 34 rooms of taxidermy, including the Medici's pet hippopotamus, and a collection of gruesome cutaway anatomical waxes. I found it a creepy and awesome retreat from the Uffizi-Accademia-Pitti grind.
posted by ecmendenhall at 10:56 AM on May 12, 2009

Seconding Paestum
posted by hardcode at 11:47 AM on May 12, 2009

Since you are going to both Naples and Amalfi, you may find yourself near Sorrento. The next town north is called Sant Angello. There is road running through the town called Corso Marion Crawford (named for the author who died there). On that road there is a corner that overlooks the Bay of Naples and offers an enchanting view of the cliffs of Sorrento. As you face Sorrento, there is an entryway on your right that leads to a beautiful but treacherous stone ramp that goes in and out of the cliff side until you finally are at sea level. There's a place to buy drinks and a beach down there. Then when you're done, there is an elevator you can take back up the cliff for 30 pence.
posted by soelo at 12:06 PM on May 12, 2009 [2 favorites]

Just thought of two places in Rome. The first is called the Area Sacra dell'Argentina but it doesn't seem to be in a lot of guidebooks. It's at the corner of Corso Vittorio Emanuele II and Via de Torre Argentina near a big bus stop. It's a bunch of ruins that are 20 or 30 feet below street level and a bunch of stray cats live there.

The second was the Bioparc Roma, the Rome Zoo. I never saw this in a guidebook, I had to search for it. It's not near any metro stops, either. But as zoos go, it was nice and shady. There was a dog park right outside the grounds near the hyena enclosure, so the dogs there could hear and smell them.
posted by soelo at 12:19 PM on May 12, 2009

I asked almost this exact same question about Florence and Rome a year or so back and someone else posted that they had asked a similar question earlier as well!
posted by twins named Lugubrious and Salubrious at 4:22 PM on May 12, 2009

Also, I've never been a big fan of tour groups and such, but the Vatican and the Coliseum are almost impossible without one. You'll literally waste three quarters of a day waiting in line to get in.

We ended up joining a group selling tours to people standing in line. Sounds sketchy, but it was totally legit and we were able to jump the lines, seeing the Coliseum that day and the Vatican the next. They had pretty decent guides too, so we had a good walkthrough.

I don't remember who they were but you'll probably run into them when you go there.
posted by twins named Lugubrious and Salubrious at 4:40 PM on May 12, 2009

In regards to what twins said, I avoided the lines for the Vatican museums by showing up there about a half hour before they stopped letting people in, which was around 3pm that day. There was no one in line at all when I got there, and the only crowded part was the Sistine Chapel. This worked for me because I did not need to spend more than two hours there and if there had been a big line, I would have went back later in the trip. So if you're in the same boat, it's a good time to go.
posted by soelo at 3:00 PM on May 13, 2009

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