European Holiday Synopsis (Italia and Espana)

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So, my wife and I just returned from a 3-week holiday, visiting Italy and Spain. 10-nights in Italy, 9-nights in Spain.
If anyone is interested, here's what we found...

This was our itinerary:

Milan: 1 night
Tuscany (Lugliano, Cinque Tera, Florence): 5 nights
Rome: 4 nights

Seville: 3 nights
Granada: 2 nights
Barcelona: 4 nights

In a nutshell:

POSITIVES: the food, the wine and the history. It was almost impossible to find a bad meal, even harder to find bad vino. The casa (house) wine at most places was sensational. The bread was so good, when fresh - it only lasts a day. I'm usually un-adventurous when it comes to food, but over here I tried pretty much everything. My favourite meal was wild boar macaroni (real macaroni, thick strips of pasta). Pasta, break and smallgoods were all amazing... pizza, most of the time, was great also.

The history is just f*cking insane, particularly the architecture.
From the old, medieval cities of Lucca and Florence - to the beautiful, seaside Cinque Tera and of course the grand daddy of them all - Rome. Getting a cab from Roma Triburtina station to our Airbnb accom was nuts... the size of these buildings, crazy. The Pantheon, The Roman Forum, The Colosseum and the most amazing of them all... St. Peter's Bascillica inside the Vatican. Wow. Our guided tour of the Colosseum and the Forum were also highlights.

NEGATIVES: the people, and the tourists - most likely related. I have a passable low-level of Italian that I can speak, and was always polite, opening with the Italian equivalent of "hello, I am sorry but my Italian is very bad". Generally speaking, the Italians were not interested in engaging us, which was disappointing. With the amount of "touristas" around, maybe they felt we were "just another bloody tourista", crushing theur way of life... I get that, but perhaps biting the hand that feeds you is not the best idea... outside of tourism, your country ain't exactly rocking financially. The bigger the city, the more arrogant the people, with Roma taking the cake.

And I hate to say it... but the coffee is over-rated. I'm a short black drinker myself, and I enjoy good coffee. I found it over there, sure, but generally speaking Melbourne's standards are better than that found in Italy. Disappointing.

Florence/Firenze was over-rated. Other than the amazingly beautiful Duomo Cathedral, the rest of it is just awash with grey-haired tourists. If you want to see a beautiful, old medieval city - check out Lucca... 45mins west.

BEER/BIRRA: traditionally speaking you're going to find Peroni or Morretti on tap everywhere, and I do mean everywhere. It's on tap at pretty much every restaurant, no matter the size, which is great (as opposed to bottled beer). Italy does have a burgeoning craft beer scene though, which I was very happy to explore - and they are making some good beers. Tried craft beer in Milan, Lucca (Tuscany) and a few places that specialised in Rome. Two particular places in the Roman neighbourhood of Trastevere were amazing: Bir & Fud and the joint over the road, who's name escapes me. They're probably just 3-5 years behind Australia with the craft beer scene... perfect opportunity for someone to go over there and make a killing with either a bar, craft brew shop or brewery.

POSITIVES: The people here actually give a shit, for the most part. Whilst I have next to no Spanish language at my disposal, the locals were much more accommodating than their Italian counterparts. Sevilla/Seville was probably our favourite. Beautifully preserved, cobble-stone, narrow streets in the old part of town. The food was simple, but excellent - for the most part, again, the wine was top-notch and faultless. Generally we also found Spain to be quite a bit cheaper than Italy.

La Sagrada de Familia. F*ck me... wow. The most amazing building we encountered on our trip - make sure you see inside if you get the chance to go. My wife cried, I was speechless for over an hour (and if you know me, that's a big deal).

In Granda, you get free tapas... and beers are generally 1-2EUR for a pot/midi. Not bad, eh? 10-15EUR and you've had 10-15 dishes and 10-15 beers! Great value in the party town that is Granada.

NEGATIVES: service can be slow. One waiter told us that unemployment was at around 25%... here's an idea, hire some more bloody staff! Most places had one waiter manically running around trying to serve everyone - anyway, first world problem, really. Spain also appears to be a lot more "relaxed", and by that comment occupying the "negative" section - this means that things were not that well organised... which made some sight seeing and planning quite difficult.
Coffee is generally ordinary, not really worth talking about it here - breakfast in total was hard work.

BEER/CERVEZA: this almost belongs in the 'negatives' field. You've got either Cruz Campo (generally down south), or Estrella and some other generally bland and boring lagers up north. After 3-weeks of primarily drinking lager, I was a little over it. The Spanish craft beer scene is almost non-existent. It's there, but it's only budding - maybe another 3-5 years behind Italy. Thankfully the wine was good!

Despite a rewarding trip, finally getting to see 2 countries that we've wanted to experience for some time, it feels good to be home.
Dredging up an old thread here.

Spiesy, I'm off to Italy in about a month and plan on going to Rome for 2-3 nights. Just a couple of questions-

The tour of the roman ruins- was it worth it or is it something you would be better off doing yourself? I have had a look at a few and it seems you still need to pay your way into the joints.

Airbnb- I just came across this yesterday and looks like the way to go for accommodation. Would you recommend it? Any issues or things to look out for when choosing a place?
Droopy Brew said:
Airbnb- I just came across this yesterday and looks like the way to go for accommodation. Would you recommend it? Any issues or things to look out for when choosing a place?
The wife and I have stayed in Airbnb's in Barcelona and Berlin and had very good experiences. Often the places are more in the suburbs instead of the hotel districts so you get more of a flavour of the place (IMHO). We got one bedders or studios all to ourselves.
Buy the roma pass / card to get free transport and entry to 2 "selected" sites. Any more and it's reduced price. We used the automatic swipe at the busy places to avoid the line up regardless of what was cheaper, eg the Colosseum's a swipe for sure.

EDIT - Vatican.... Can't wipe There. Don't line up. Book online! so your can just walk past the massive line and find the pre paid lane inside. I have never seen a bigger line in my life.

My wife and I did our own thing in Rome no tour guides but stayed at a few good hotels with helpful, interested staff that had lots of tips. I can assure you we missed quite a bit but we did it our way and there is plenty of information in English.

Sometimes there are free lance tourist guides that do personalised tours for a couple of Euros. I found them perfect. Your welcome even encouraged, to dictate direction of the tour great when you find something that interests you a want to take a different path.
Nothing worst than being in a group of 20 and forced to keep the questions to a minimum so the guide finish on time.
We did this at Sagunto 20mins out of Barcelona for 20 Euro's and it was an incredible experience to know what happened in that fort ( won't spoil it). I think he was with us for over 2 and bit hours.

Romes busy as hell and I personally was glad to be back in country Italy after 3 days but there is so much history in the city it can't be missed.

P.S the large famous fountain Fontana Di Trevi was busier than a Metallica mosh pit in the 80's. Cool fountain but go real early.
Thanks mate. Yes The Colosseum is a must do for me and I will probably get on a tour for that one so I can access the arena floor and the underground chambers.
The Vatican I will probably give a miss. The fountain is actually under construction/renovation until September.
My wife and I used AirBnB to travel across France and Spain a couple of years ago. Couldn't recommend it enough. It's a great way to find english speaking owners if you don't speak their language and great to enjoy a hearty breakfast with them and their families. I enjoyed this as much as seeing the sights.

Agree with Mattwa, the places you can stay are much better and less populated with tourists.

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