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Travel Tuesday Top 10: Things I’m Looking Forward to in Italy

by on May 14, 2013 · 51 comments

in Alitalia, Delta, Starwood, Top 10

Later this week, I am taking off for a trip to Italy that I’m pretty jazzed about. I’ve been to Rome a couple times before, but never outside the city. This time I’ll be making stops in Milan, Florence and Rome. I’ll be using one of my remaining Hyatt Visa free Suite nights and…oh, yea, also going to see Beyonce in concert! When in… Milan, right?

Although I don’t have too much time in each city, I plan on making the best of it and seeing and doing as much as possible. Here are the top ten things that I’m most excited about on our trip.  Got more suggestions for me? Leave them in the comments below!

Alitalia's new Magnifica Business Class

Alitalia’s new Magnifica business class.

1. Alitalia Business Class: Although I’ll be sad to say goodbye to Italy after a week, at least it will be in the comfort of Alitalia’s new Magnifica business class aboard one of the airline’s A330′s. The business class cabin is configured in a 1 x 2 x 1 layout, and I’m hoping to snag one of the solo seats along the fuselage. The seats are creamy white leather and have 15.4-inch entertainment screens. I flew Alitalia in their old business class last year and had a great experience, so I’m looking forward to a nice, relaxing flight back after a whirlwind trip.

2. Shopping Along Via Dei Condotti: Also near the Spanish Steps (and the hotel!) is Rome’s fanciest shopping street with flagship stores from some of Italy’s most famous brands including Gucci, Prada and Valentino. I love walking seeing the fashions in other countries, and who knows, maybe I’ll pick up something we’ll only be seeing next season in the States while I’m there…and using a credit card that doesn’t incur foreign transaction fees, of course!

The grand ballroom at the St. Regis Rome.

The grand ballroom at the St. Regis Rome.

3. St. Regis Rome: While in Rome I booked a standard room at the St. Regis Rome, but I already received confirmation that my Suite Night Awards cleared for my reservation, so I’m looking forward to luxuriating in style here. The hotel is one of the city’s top 5-star properties and has just 138 rooms and 23 suites. It’s also close to the Spanish Steps right in the heart of the city so I can make the most of my time there.

I can't wait to walk beneath the Pantheon's famous dome.

I can’t wait to walk beneath the Pantheon’s famous dome.

4. Museums and Monuments: While I might not have time to do a whole Vatican tour in Rome, I do plan to stop by some of the fascinating smaller museums that define this incredibly historically rich city. Top of my list is the Villa Borghese set in the midst a sprawling park near the top of the Spanish Steps to check out Bernini’s sculptures and Renaissance paintings by Titian. Also on my list are the Pantheon for a touch of ancient Rome and the Piazza Navona (more Bernini!).

The fast train from Rome to Florence should take me just 90 minutes.

The fast train from Rome to Florence should take me just 90 minutes.

5. Training Day: I fly so much that a mundane daily travel experience for most Italians like taking the train between Milan, Florence and Rome is actually exciting for me. I’m taking the Alta Velocita (high-speed) Trenitalia train from Rome to Florence, which should take about 90 minutes and I’m looking forward to the hustle and bustle of the train station followed by a relaxing morning espresso in the dining car.

Guest reception area at the St. Regis Florence.

Guest reception area at the St. Regis Florence.

6. St. Regis Florence: For our time in Florence we will be staying again at the St. Regis. Rooms were very difficult to find since we added in this leg of the trip at the last minute but I was able to book on points, although at 35,000 points. Regular rooms were over $1,000 a night and luckily my Starwood Suite Upgrade cleared, so I will have a Junior suite, which takes the sting out of using that many points. I’ve heard good things about Florence and the hotel, so I’m probably most excited about this hotel.

I'm hoping to check out the Last Supper while I'm in Milan.

I’m hoping to check out the Last Supper while I’m in Milan.

7. The Last Supper: Of course in a land known for its cuisine, one of the most famous works of art is Leonardo da Vinci’s “Last Supper,” which I hope to drop by the monastery of Santa Maria delle Grazie in Milan to see. It’s a great stop for a quick dose of art history since it’s a quick visit and is one of those things that makes you say, “Wow, I’m really here in Italy!”

I can't wait to dine on delicacies like fresh Roman pasta.

I can’t wait to dine on delicacies like fresh Roman pasta.

8. Carbo-loading: Speaking of supper, after all that sightseeing (and shopping!) I’m going to need some sustenance and I am looking forward to Rome’s particular mix of high-end dining and neighborhood trattorias. For the high-end I hear that Filippo La Mantia for gourmet tasting menus and Quinizi e Gabrieli for incredible seafood are the way to go, while Le Mani in Pasta and Felice draw neighborhood regulars and visitors alike thanks to hearty, classic Roman dishes.

The Uffizi is one of Florence’s most famous museums.

The Uffizi is one of Florence’s most famous museums.

9. I Musei di Firenze: Even though it’s much smaller than Rome, Florence is chock-full of art and must have the most per capita museums of any city I’ve ever visited. Although my time there is short, I might try to dash over to the Accademia to see Michelangelo’s David or take a lightening tour of the Uffizi to see Botticelli’s famous paintings, though the quieter Bargello Museum with some sculptures by Donatello could be more my speed, and if it’s nice out, I might just stroll through the gardens at the Pitti Palace.

Lie flat seats in Deltas new Business Elite cabin.

Lie flat seats in Delta’s Business Elite cabin.

10. Flying Delta’s BusinessElite Cabin: I was able to use Delta SkyMiles to book last-minute business-class award tickets for my friends and myself at 100,000 SkyMiles and $30 roundtrip each per person roundtrip. I’ll be flying a renovated 767-300 with lie-flat BusinessElite beds, so I hope to get some good sleep across the pond. Although I know a lot of people groan at the thought of having to fly a US carrier internationally, the seats themselves are comparable to some the best business class products out there including Cathay’s new business class since they are in a reverse herringbone configuration and lie flat to a completely horizontal 180 degrees with around 80 inches of pitch, so I’m looking forward to getting a good night’s sleep (since I might skip the dinner!).

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  • Delta Dan

    Sounds like fun!

  • FlyingDoctorWu

    I highly recommend Bistecca Fiorentina if you’re a meat eater.. yum!

  • Pointsandtravel

    Don’t forget to check out the best Gelato in Rome: Gelateria del Teatro ai Coronari

  • http://www.facebook.com/prayergeek David Esquiliano

    Benvenuto in Italia… If you have time for an impromptu DO, I’m in… Unfortunately I can’t attend any of the DOs or FTUs or any other travel event in America, so it would be nice having something going on here…

  • Cathy

    Don’t forget you must make a reservation for the Villa Borghese. Everyone has a timed ticket and they only let you in for 2 hours. It’s in a tricky location so make sure you have good directions!

  • lamonster

    I don’t think delta has the reverse herringbone on the 767-300. They should have the same seat they have on the 767-400, also fully flat and in a 1-2-1 setup, but closer in style to the Swiss Air business class seat

  • julianna

    The Boboli Gardens behind the Pitti Palace are great, it’s worth the time! Also the oldest stationary store, Cartoleria Vannucchi, still does the marbled paper with local flowers. Gorgeous and makes great, packable gifts.

  • Rene

    We’ll be in Rome and Florence next month so I’m looking forward to reading your reports.

  • Shanghai9

    Lines are long and crowds are fierce in Florence, so I strongly recommend booking in advance (for an early time slot) if you want to enter any museum. For a delicious veg meal, head over to Brec near Santa Croce (12 Euro set lunch). My favorite thing to do in Milan is to climb the stairs to the top of the Duomo for the sunset. You can see the Alps on a clear day. Second favorite thing is aperitivo – happy hour where drinks are full price but buffet is free. If it’s nice out, Living near the arch in Sempione park has an excellent spread and outdoor seats (get the Aperol spritz!). Best gelato in town is Gelateria Solferino (much better than Grom). For baked or friend calzones-like pastries, go to Panzerotti Luini behind the Rinascente at the Duomo. Lines form quickly for lunch, so go before noon.

  • Kelsey

    Try out Gelateria Giolitti (near the Pantheon) in Rome – they have the most amazing champagne gelato :)

  • Jane

    Make a reservation before you leave for the Borghese Museum. When we were there, no reservations were available. We should have done that before we left. In Florence, take a cooking lesson. We took ours here: http://www.intavola.org/ Done in three groups, lots of wine and it was fun. In Florence take a train to either Pisa or Lucca (medieval walled city). Have fun!

  • Chris

    If you love to eat I recommend: Rome – Roscioli (http://www.salumeriaroscioli.com) and Florence – Il Latini (http://www.illatini.com). Not fine dining establishments but great rustic Italian cooking. Enjoy!

  • Kathy

    In cities where your time is tight, I’d recommend Rome in Limo. Not actual limos, but great drivers/guides and service. They’ll prearrange tickets, tour guides, etc. They also have a new golf cart tour service in Rome.Tour of vatican-hot, crowded, overrated. If anyone qualifies, STA Travel has an international student ID card that will give discounts at museums. They also have a card for teachers. You can still get it in time and it is self laminating.

  • http://twitter.com/rockyrockwell2 Rocky Rockwell

    Haha, I’ll be in Rome and Florence later this week too. I’ll be flying in on Ethiopian Airlines Dreamliner–lets just say it’s nothing to blog about. Maybe I’ll bump into you on the train to Florence, I’m really looking forward to that ride. We don’t have enough trains at home…enjoy your trip–ciao!

  • Ethan

    You might have to book a tour in order to see The Last Supper. Tickets usually are gone weeks in advance because the tours buy them up. I lucked out when I visited with no tours running on Easter Monday and got a ticket last minute.

  • HollyDee

    Nice website!! Your website was just mentioned on a popular talk show that I taped. So I’ve been dying to go to Italy myself for at least 10 years and Alitalia’s Business Class looks amazing. I’m curious though, but how many air miles are you using to upgrade to BC? I was checking pricing on their website but business class is a fortune. Basically I can purchase 3 to 4 round trip economy seats for the cost of (1) Business Class seat. I almost passed out. :)

  • http://www.worldwildtravel.com/ Thomas Dembie

    Great list! I’ll be there in a couple of months. Looking forward to eating some amazing food! Not looking forward to multiple stops to get there. That’s life with Aeroplan if you don’t book super early :).

  • hc

    You should really venture out more. Although the cities are amazing, it’s always been the countryside and villages that I’ve found magical in Italy. Why not Tuscany.. the Amalfi coast.. the lake region.. etc etc? Oh.. and the food….. much better than in Rome.

  • Dina

    You must see David in Florence! The pictures do not do it justice.

  • http://twitter.com/JGfromOC Jason Gerdon

    Nice! Excited to see your review of Alitalia’s new Magnifica product. I’ll be doing my own Italy adventure in a couple weeks to Puglia and Rome flying nonstop from LAX to FCO on Alitalia in their 777 J product. And I snagged 3A both ways. Buon Viaggio! :)

  • vortix

    He is likely redeeming miles outright for a business class seat.

  • thepointsguy

    Im using 100,000 Delta SkyMiles for a business class roundtrip award (plus ~$50 in taxes). Quickest way to get miles is through credit card bonuses listed on my top deals page thepointsguy.com/top-deals

    Read through the beginners guide too for a good understanding how how this game is played!

  • http://saverocity.com/ Matt from Saverocity

    Hey Brian,

    I am doing this trip next month! I look forward to your report before then so I can hone in on things.

    Something to note- the Last Supper in Milan requires tickets purchased in advance for a 15 min viewing window- the touts buy these all up in advance (at $7 each) then resell them either stand alone $50 or as part of a tour $80-100. Even if there are no tickets available now there are a couple of sources that will release them 72hrs before your scheduled arrival/viewing. I used Amex Plat Concierge to find these companies.

    We’re starting in Milan and taking the train down to Rome for the Cavalieri on our last Axon7

  • Elio

    As said, next time you won’t be missing the Amalfi coast!
    Enjoy your trip here in Italy.

  • Vishal

    While in Florence, try to dine at Buca San Giovanni. Their “raviolis with saffron potato cream” will be one of the best things you’ve ever eaten. Guaranteed.

  • mike

    I agree. Apparently Delta is only installing the reverse herringbone in their A330 fleet and only a few of the aircraft have been retrofitted.

  • Becky

    At the bottom of the Spanish Steps, stop by Museo- Atelier Canova Tadolini for some delicious pasta e cacio e pepe. Canova was a sculptor so it’s also a mini museum with some carvings to admire while eating. Borghese museum is an absolute must see. Also the Peggy Guggenheim museum in Venice is a great excuse to be across the grand canal.

  • Dee

    When we were in Florence a couple of years ago, we needed timed tickets purchased ahead of time for the art museums. If you have time, swing through the market to shop for leather goods. We had the best tagliatelle with wild boar ragu ever at a little counter in the market.

    Have a great trip!

  • hillrider

    You’re doing way too much. Italy is best savored; with this short amount of time, stick to no more than 2 cities. Keep Firenze for next time and take the nonstop high-speed train (Italo) to Rome–you will enjoy the on board product very much!

  • GD

    BUCA LAPI for the Florentine Steak!

  • Junodee

    We stayed at the Four Seasons in Florence and they booked our tix to see David, etc. I would think the St. Regis would have the same service. Call and ask them. And I second the advice to spend some time in Tuscany. Slow, lazy days visiting small villages, wandering the streets, having great meals an the best wine of your life…

  • miffSC

    Agree! David in Florence!( *Get tickets ahead of time online – you’ll walk right in with no wait) Visit the Bridge that spans the river… and buy something gold. Beautiful gold jewelry in Florence!
    Gelato in Rome – and, yes, shopping along the designer street not too far from the Spanish Steps….

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1817524 Daniel Rudov

    For Galleria Borghese:

    If you walk in the Spagna subway stop (stage right of the Spanish Steps) you can take a cool passage up to the southern end of Villa Borghese. There are even some displays along the way to check out. You’ll exit by a grocery store (grab a cheap snack), then you can walk up the stairs into the park.

    Since you’re coming out on the south side, you’ll have a great excuse to walk up through the park on your way to Villa Borghese. You can either take the direct route up Viale del Museo Borghese or walk around for a little bit. Once you’re inside, make sure you check out the detail on all the Bernini sculptures they have there.

  • NinaK

    I saw your shoutout on Wendy Williams! Sounds like a great trip. I recommend Za Za in Piazza del Mercato Centrale in Florence. It was one of the best meals I had there. Enjoy!

  • http://mreverydaydollar.com/ Mr. Everyday Dollar

    What is the expert opinion on using points (and sign-up bonuses) for a round-trip cattle class ticket to Italy, from Chicago (ORD), assuming one is starting from zero.

    Target Skymiles? Avios? Amex? UR?

  • http://twitter.com/jamucsb Jamison

    be careful and don’t get scammed by gypsies ;)

  • http://twitter.com/ThePatterGuy The Patter Guy

    Recommendations
    Bistecca Fiorentina while there take a trip to the old city of Siena (definately worth the trip (45 minutes to an hour) and have some pici pasta (thick spaghetti) that is a specialty in the city. Also the David is worth the trip but there is a second David (smaller) in a park overlooking the city of Florence that offers amazing views of Firenza.
    Advice
    I am planning on taking 6 of us to Italy next summer and going into rome or naples and flying out of paris or amsterdam. I have over 300k Amex rewards and over 125k each in AA, Delta, and United. Coach is fine but any advice on which program (AA, Delta or United) to convert my amex into so that I can actually get the tickets?
    Much appreciated

  • Donn

    Your killing me, Very excited for you. I love the comments from all those who have been there. Makes me want to go back there soon.

  • Mike

    I’m going this July flying out Boston. Cost me 180K UR points which I transferred to United for 3 roundtrip economy tickets. Each ticket was 60K United points and $100 in taxes.

  • Big Boy Travel

    you better book your time slot for the Last Supper early, they sell out far ahead of time. It and climbing to the to the top of the Duomo to check out the spired roof are the only things worth doing in Milan unless you are into really high end shopping. Beyonce in concert in a foreign country sounds interesting though.
    Avoid Naples as it is a dump but try you can do Capri and Pompeii in one day trip from Rome via the local train to Naples.
    Our favorite city in Italy is Verranza straight South of Milan on the coast in Cinque Terre. We stayed in a private apartment over the main sqaure with an ocean balcony. Can inbox their contact info if you wish

  • studd

    Avoid Naples? sure its a dump, but then again so is Milan…. at least in naples to fix it up all they need is a broom and a good power washer, milan needs a bulldozer and tons of eviction notices to get rid of the mean selfish people who live in the city. I would take the theives, crooks and spirited lively people of naples over the cold fish of the north any day.

  • studd

    oh an dont forget the jews either, or the nigerians, or the …. sound like the racist…u are….

  • studd

    you can also take train italia or italo… sometimes train italia is cheaper….

  • studd

    Dump Florence for Bologna is actually nicer for non-Museum visitors, the center is actually nicer, there are less museums, more nightlife, sexy-student body of 100,000 that party all night/everynight, better non-touristic restaurants/gelato but it is a real working city, expensive lodging and no chain hotels in city lots of visitors but few tourists. For gay nighlife check out http://www.cassero.it/ poorly updated but party every other Saturday and special days: boys one week girls next. Bologna is the HQ of the italian gay rights group ArciGay, Bologna is a biz city but traditionally run by the communist party. Best tourist office in italy, speak fluent english and very professional see BolognaWelcome
    Bologna is best compromise of cold ugly Milano and warm but inefficient south.

  • Big Boy Travel

    having lived in Italy I and going both cities more times than I can count, I wouldn’t have Naples or Milan very high on a to do list while visiting Italy. There are at least 12-20 amazing cities in Italy that are head a shoulders a more enjoyable use of time.
    As I mentioned in my post I do love some of the day trips around Naples even though I don’t like the city itself. I quickly got sick of dealing the waste high garbage piled on the sidewalk in Naples whenever the Mafia decided they weren’t picking up the garbage.
    I will concede the point that Milan is worse than Naples as the people
    are a little stuck up with is par the course for a fashion city.

  • Big Boy Travel

    what cities are you flying to/from that you got that good of a deal? I’m sitting on a couple hundred thousand points and this deal sounds great.

  • studd

    yea we both agree a trip planned to italy that includes milan and even naples misses nicer but less known locations. the problem being that the chain hotels that this blog talks about have very small footprint in italy. oh, and get ready for the service lapses. amazing that you could pay 1k euro a night for a suite and get showers and internet at major chains that dont work right. these chains like spg cannot loose their affiliates and operating in italy is just too difficult to do directly. as they as those of us who have lived in italy say “dolce vita my ass” with that garbage “problem” in naples the worst example of this. again its an amazingly, beautiful country, the people can be really helpful (when they want) and they are sexy but it is a mess and often things are run very 3rd world style.

  • http://mreverydaydollar.com/ Mr. Everyday Dollar

    Awesome! Thanks for the information, looks like I need to up my UR spend.

  • RDMWorldTravel

    Corny but cool factor…. St Regis in Rome has fully functional 100+ Year old elevator

  • Pingback: Florence Eating and Shopping Guide and Il Latini and La Giostra Reviews | The Points Guy

  • troyhouse

    I will be in Rome next week, and would appreciate some restaurant recommendations, not too expensive, and serving vegetarian food.

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