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Italy for the younger crowd without being grudgy
Wonderful place to visit. Quiet, laid back and not touristy (at least where we stayed). The hiking is great and I hate hiking. Just a word of advice though. If you are doing the hike from Manarola to Corneglia, make sure you take the bus up at the Corneglia train station. The stairs are a killer! It took us 15 straight minutes of hiking up steps and I ended up injuring my knee. So pay the 1 euro and save yourself for the Corneglia/Vernazza hike.
We stayed in a "mini-apartment" booked through Mar Mar. It was great. It had a small bedroom with a dinning room, kitchenette and bathroom. We had fabulous views from our windows and access to a private seaside terrace on the roof. It was also only 85 euros a night...hard to beat. Riomaggiore is also a great town to stay in. It's quieter than the more touristy Vernazza and has great grocery stores and bar/caffes to eat at.
In Riomaggiore, there is a great little bar (more of a caffe) where you can get great food and scenery. The best was the gnocchi with pesto which was at the time only 5 euros, a total steal for such great food. The trofie with pesto was also great. Next to the Bar is a Gelato place that sells some tasty cookies and chocolates and really good gelato. Also they make crepes (nutella, ham and cheese, lemon and sugar) which are to die for!
Stayed at the Little Italy B&B in Rome. It's run by the same guy (Rene) who runs the Chaplin Hostel. It was a great place to stay, cheap but clean and efficient. We were in a good location for touring (between Termini and the Colesseum). Free breakfast in the morning was perfect for a day of traveling and Rene saved us a bundle with his helpful tips and insights.
Great site but go early in the morning. We went early Sunday morning and it was perfect timing. Hardly anyone was there (no tour groups) so we had great pictures that were tourist-free. We came back in the afternoon and the piazza was swarming with tour groups, you couldn't even see the steps up to the Pantheon it was so crowded.
Make sure you have some sort of guide when walking through this. Otherwise, nothing makes sense since nothing is labeled.
You can save a bundle (and time) by buying your ticket for the Colleseum at Palatine Hill. It was only 11 euros for both and we were able to skip the long lines at the Colleseum. I enjoyed Palatine HIll, you can actually go up and touch the ruins, sit in them, etc.
Not too impressed with the tower itself. The Duormo and surrounding buildings are magnificent though. Beware though since it is VERY crowded and very touristy, lots of vendors selling junk and illegal vendors shoving belts and sunglasses in your face, then running from the police.
Most books tell you to take the Pisa Centrale train stop and walk for 30 minutes. Take the Pisa S. Rossore exit instead. It's much closer (5 minutes) and it's the stop that most of the university students take so you won't look out of the ordinary.
Lucca is a great little Tuscan town east of Pisa. It was probably one of my favorite destinations. The old city is surrounded by ramparts which you can walk on. Rent a bike and ride around the city. It's fun and relaxing. Also if you are looking for unique gift on the south side of Via Vitt. Veneto there is a little shop that embroiders towels, robes and hats while you wait. They are very cute, cheap and a great personalized gift.