Tag Archives: travel

Caffé Greco, Rome, Italy

For a coffee experience extraordinaire, a visit to Caffe’ Greco, the oldest coffee bar in Rome is a an experience not to be missed. Founded in 1760, it was the favorite hangout for many famous British writers who wanted a place to sit and think. Now it is a bustling caffe’ filled with locals, tourists, and those who just want the experience.

Located on the famous Via Condotti, known for it’s designer boutiques, it’s a great place to take a break and enjoy a fantastic cappuccino and a dolce (sweet). Sitting down and enjoying a treat in a caffe’ or coffee bar will always cost you more. I prefer to relax and never give up an opportunity to people watch. Peruse the dessert bar as you enter. I recommend trying Italian style cheesecake. It’s light and fluffy and doesn’t leave you feeling stuffed like the big wedges of New York cheesecake.

The Tiramisu if one of the best I’ve enjoyed in Rome. A coffee drink and dessert will set you back about $20. But it’s worth the splurge. And you can say you savored a drink with the rich and famous.
Ladies, don’t forget to check out the doormen and guards at the glitzy boutiques. They’re worth the glance.

When you’ve finished you’re experience, head up just a few steps to the famous Spanish Steps.

And remember, act like a Roman at Caffe’ Greco. Don’t be shy about demanding service. And, should your coffee arrive cold, as it can on a busy day, demand another one and stress you want’ it fresh.

It never happens if you’re standing, but at times, it will if you are sitting. By the way, when you enter the website, enjoy the music and be sure to enter via the British flag. Otherwise, you won’t understand anything. I always prefer to sit in the Roma Salon.


Train Travel in Italy… Know your final destination!!!!

Well I did it again.

I didn’t pay attention. And we didn’t know we were on a local train. There are three things that are vital to know when traveling by train in Italy. First, know what kind of train it is: e.g. local, bullet, non-stop, etc. Second, know the final destination of your train. Your stop may not be on the boarding schedule. And, finally, know the NUMBER of your train. That way, you will be certain of the Bin in which your train will depart or arrive. For example, let’s say your traveling from Rome to Orvieta. The name of that little city will not be on the posted destinations. It will most likely be Florence. But if you know that and know the number of the train posted on your ticket, then you can easily find the bin number for your train. A BIN, by the way, is short for BINARIO, which is the Italian name for the track for departures and arrivals.

On a local train, they make no announcements and you must read the sign naming the town. In May four of us traveled from Lake Como to Lake Lugano in Switzerland. A quick 30 minute train ride. Did fine on the way to Switzerland. Easy to navigate. On the way back to Como, we went through customs and our train was local and crowded due to work traffic. Como was the second stop. Since we were chatting and not paying attention, we were almost to Milan when we realized our error. Fortunately, I speak Italian and someone helped us. We got off the train, trudged to the other side and found our way back to Como and our hotel. Not a huge deal. But for a first time traveler, if might have been a bit scary. If you pay attention, you’ll do better.

Also, please note there is no one to help you with your luggage. TRAVEL LIGHT.

Reader Report: A flirtation in Italy

The rain. The train. The young man from Naples.

Flirting is an artful game in Italy, where they’ve taken it to an art form. But beware. In the south of Italy, the men become bolder. Let me explain with the story of the young man from Naples.

After a day of picture-perfect sun, my friend Teri and I awoke the day of our departure from Florence to a gloomy, overcast sky with every promise of a downpour.

After six hours of sleep, we showered, rushed to the breakfast room, gulped our cereal, downed two cappuccinos, and walked quickly – well, as quickly as we could, lugging our heavy suitcases – to the train station.

The station exuded chaos. The departure board flipped through times and destinations with rapidity. At that moment, with 20 minutes to spare, we realized we didn’t know the train to Perugia’s final destination – a huge mistake I seldom made but one often made by tourists in Europe.

I asked anyone who would listen to help us. Finally, an elderly man mumbled something in heavy dialect about binario venti (20). Rushing, our suitcases flying behind us, we arrived at the bin only to have the conductor say we had the wrong train. OK. He wasn’t exactly friendly and forthcoming.

I asked, “Perugia?”

He said, “No.”

I asked, “Dov’e?”

He answered with a shoulder shrug, indicating he had no idea which bin, nor did he care.

Bin 20, the farthest from our point of entry into the station, was in the open. The rain began. I ran, once again asking anyone who would listen.

A young man stopped me. Actually, he more than stopped me. He was a young, buff, handsome, dark-eyed, dark-haired (with curls) Italian Adonis, dressed in designer jeans and a muscle-revealing T-shirt. He approached me, and in a thick dialect asked if I needed help. I think that’s what he asked. Who knows? He extended his hand. I shook it. He didn’t let go. I tugged it away.

“Scusa, bisogni di aiutare?”

“Si, yes I need help.”

I asked in my finest Italian where I could find the train to Perugia.
The young man smiled broadly and pointed to the number above him. It was binario 16. I grinned, grateful to stop my marathon run, and whipped out my umbrella. My hair had gone flat, and the mist drizzled down my face, obliterating my makeup.

“Mi chiamo Vincenzo.” He put his hand out again. I shook it again. Now, I speak Italian well. But Vincenzo’s accent was difficult.

I felt hands on my shoulder. Soon the happy Italian was touching me and saying over and over, “Bella, bellissima.” Flattered but nervous, I told him in no uncertain terms, “Non mi tocca.” But he continued to touch me. My new friend announced he was Napoletano. It explained a lot. The men of that region feel quite free to admire, touch, and stroke.

The train approached the bin with a groan, and before I could object, he’d whisked my luggage onto the train and stacked it over my seat. I smiled. He smiled. Big mistake to smile at men from Naples, by the way.

“Gianettaaaaaaaa?” I heard this wail from outside the train. There stood my friend, Teri, in the rain, glaring at me, yet looking slightly bemused.

I hated to be further obligated to this hunk, but asked him if he’d help my friend, which he did. He proceeded to nudge my friend out of her seat and eased himself down next to me. Teri angrily pointed out that was her seat. She stood her ground until he moved.

Plopping down, Teri turned to me and said, “It’s always drama with you in Italy, isn’t it?”

The Napolitano continued to stare. He leaned across the aisle and touched my arm. Was “non mi tocca” the correct Italian to stop his touching? I tell him again, “Io sono vecchia. Ho figli piu giovanne da te,” a rather butchered version of “I am old and have kids younger than you.” Mannagia. He wandered across the aisle from time to time to tell me I was beautiful. I’d repeat my mantra and he’d respond, “Non c’e problema.”

Might not be a problem for him, but it was for me. I pretended to sleep, needed to use the facilities, didn’t want to be stalked. My bladder won in the end. I sauntered casually to the infinitesimally tiny bathroom, the train rocking and rolling. But guess who was waiting outside? Waiting, with his soulful brown eyes, fringed with long, dark, sooty lashes?

I smiled, said nothing, and returned to my seat. He continued to stare. By that time, Teri was a bit nervous about getting our luggage off the rack, and about being stalked. She begged me to pretend to make a phone call to my husband. I did so. Made kissing sounds, saying over and over, “Ti amo, ti amo.” Telling my husband how much I loved him did not deter my new admirer.

As we approached Perugia, I sucked in a breath and asked Mr. Big Brown Eyes if he would help us with our luggage. He immediately retrieved the two bags like they weighed two ounces and waited by the door with us until the train came to a stop. Hopping off, he hefted our bags and extended his hand to assist us. We gingerly made it down the awkward steps and thanked him.

I let him touch me one more time as he gazed into my eyes. (Honestly, if this had happened in the good old US of A, I would’ve assumed he’d just been released from an institution for the insane. And maybe he had. No, I didn’t want to go there.)

“Grazie, Vincenzo.”

He answered me with a soft “Ciao, bellissima lady.” I hate when they say lady.

I turned and walked away.

My girlfriend walked at Mach speed, concerned he’d follow.

I tried to reassure her. “Not to worry. This is normal Southern Italian hospitality. I had my ego stroked, we didn’t have to heft our bags for this leg of the trip, and we’re in Perugia.”

For two hours, instead of feeling like a senior citizen … and with the thought tucked into the back of my mind that this 25-year-old Italiano ragazzo was probably, despite his gorgeous face and build, a bit nuts, I basked in the thought that my new hot Italian pants, and perhaps my face, were thought young enough to be pursued on that one day.

Janet Simcic lives in Orange. Reader Report is a feature of the Orange County Register is which readers contribute their travel stories. Readers are not paid for the stories. Editing for content is minimal. The story and opinions are solely those of the reader and do not necessarily reflect the Register’s policies or positions.