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Fully Immersed in Trip Planning, Barely Coming Up for Air

I have to apologize over my lack of posts over the past few days, but I have been completely immersed in planning a last-minute trip to Turkey and Italy. My husband and I leave on Friday for two-and-a-half weeks and we can't wait. I have been glued to my computer and guidebooks and I think that the only communication I have had with people lately is to ask their opinions on various destinations and itineraries.

At first we were going to go to China, but then the Swine Flu quarantines made us change our minds. They're not just quarantining you if you have the illness, but if you sat near someone on the plane whom they suspect does. While this may be a good way to contain the germs, it isn't good news for travelers. There are so many things I worry about when traveling that I just couldn't add fear of a seven-day quarantine to my list. Luckily, Continental.com will let you cancel your flights penalty-free within 24 hours of when you make them. I really want to visit China one day in the not-so-distant future, but now didn't seem like the best time for us to go — not to mention that the weather is extremely hot and humid there now. The biggest downside is that I wasted two valuable days of trip planning!

So, how did we choose Turkey and Italy? Well, who doesn't want to run off to these beautiful countries… It was partly the weather, although both will be plenty hot. (If we wanted cool weather we could have chosen Australia or Argentina, but we don't.) And it was partly because my husband has never been to Italy and the one and only time I was there was in high school. Friends of mine who have been to Italy recently have raved about their experiences. We chose because last summer's trip to Greece really whet our appetites for Turkey (pun intended), a country which neither of us have ever visited. Also, a well-traveled friend of mine spent a week in Istanbul a few months ago and she told me it was absolutely amazing.

Devising an itinerary that includes Italy and Turkey has been more difficult than I thought it would be. For starters, I didn't know all that much about Turkey before last week, and I have found TurkeyTravelPlanner.com to be an invaluable resource. Created by travel writer Tom Brosnahan, the site delivers the winning combination of being informative, comprehensive and user-friendly.

The biggest challenge however has been figuring out the most convenient and least expensive way to get from Turkey to Italy. I figured that with all of those budget airlines I would have my choice of flights between various cities in the two countries. Well I don't — unless I want to take a 1,000-mile detour. Most of the budget airlines seem to be connecting the northern countries of Europe to the southern destinations so their denizens can get some sun. Since I didn't want a connecting flight through Germany, Holland or the UK, my choices were somewhat limited. Add that to the fact that my preferred method of searching for flights, Kayak.com, doesn't seem to include these smaller airlines. I have found AttitudeTravel.com to be a terrific resource. It explains which airlines go to which countries, including many I had never heard of before (I mean the airlines, not the countries). To make an already long story a little shorter, we are stopping in Vienna on the way to Italy and are quite happy about it.

So, where will we be in Turkey and Italy? We're flying from NYC to Istanbul. Then after a few days, we're flying to Cappodocia, in the middle of the country. Then, we're flying to Vienna. From there, we are most likely taking the train to Venice, and then to Florence and then to Rome, from where we'll fly back to NYC. Now that I have all of the flights set, I can relax and concentrate on hotels.

Do you have any advice for me? Which hotels I should choose? Which sights I shouldn't miss? Which restaurants I have to try? If so, please leave them in the comments below…

13 Responses to Fully Immersed in Trip Planning, Barely Coming Up for Air

  1. Bob Watson June 24, 2009 at 2:28 am #

    We went to Turkey in September last year, and as I mentioned in a Tweet stayed at the Boutique Hotel Tria which is in a great neighborhood behind the Blue Mosque. Great restaurants, not touristy, walk to mosques and main boulevard (where there are lots of prix fixe menu restaurants). Eat at one on the main street, the alley restaurants are nice, but people watching on the blvd is more fun. We met up with some friends who were staying on the main drag and they (staying at 2 other hotels) complained about noise and faulty a/c. Hotel Tria is affordable, quite and comfy with nice a/c in each room. We flew to Izmir and drove to Ephasis (don’t miss this this site if you can fit it in), then drove down to Marmaris where we joined a group of SoCal plein e=air painters for a cruise along the coast. Did not make it to Cappadocia which we would have liked to see, so will be interested in hearing abotu that in this blog. Have a great trip.

  2. jen laceda June 24, 2009 at 10:03 am #

    Oh my god, I am absolutely excited for you!!!!! I’ve not been to Turkey either, but form what I’ve heard, you can spend a whole month exploring the country and not finish. Anyway, as for Istanbul, you have to go to the Grand Bazaar (heard many good things about this, even though it’s absolutely touristy).
    Rome is a fave. I love this restaurant Maccheroni near the Piazza del Popolo–on one of the trident streets (ummm, not Babuino, not Corso…I think it’s Ripetto? I’ll check again).
    Where are you staying in Rome? Florence? Venice? Istanbul? i want to know, I want to know. I’m truly excited for you!! You are soooo going to have a fab time!!! P.S. We stayed near Termini station in Rome — not so good area. Reasonable price, but area not the greatest. Kinda dead at night.

  3. Audrey June 24, 2009 at 11:13 am #

    You can’t go wrong with Turkey and Italy – both are amazing countries. We visited Cappadocia in 2000 and have yet to see anything like it on the rest of our round-the-world journey. Make sure you find a hotel where your room is in the caves. Also, the tours to the nearby underground cities and more remote cave formations where people set up churches hundreds and lived hundreds of years ago are really worth the money and time (and I’m not a big tour person). If you have extra time, Ephesus on the coast is also incredible – probably some of the best ruins in the entire world.
    For a quick visit to Vienna: take a tram out to the vineyards and restaurants (called heurigers) on the outskirts of town for a hearty Austrian meal and wine (they have a lot of spritzers – white wine mixed with soda water). Walk through the Naschmarkt and pick up goodies for a picnic. The Albertina is my favorite museum – it’s small, but usually has some fantastic exhibitions. Also amazing is the Art History Museum but that it a bit overwhelming – you can only focus on certain sections without getting exhausted. Then, just walk around the streets near the Rathaus (Town Hall) and around Steven’s Church.
    And Italy…I could go on and on about my love of Italy. My husband and I got married in Tuscany; we find any excuse we can to return as often as possible. I’m not sure how much time you have in Florence, but consider taking side trips to Siena, San Gimignano or other small Tuscan towns. Try to book your museum tickets (eg, Uffizi) in advance for Florence.
    Sounds like you have a wonderful trip ahead of you!

  4. Amanda June 24, 2009 at 12:23 pm #

    I’ve never been to Turkey and don’t remember Venice that well, but I can recommend three gelato places in Italy. In Rome, visit Della Palma and Gioliti and in Florence go to Vivoli. All were excellent the last time I was there, which I admit was a while ago.

  5. Brian June 24, 2009 at 1:27 pm #

    For Istanbul, you can’t go wrong if you check out Istanbultrails.com (site of a friend on twitter)

  6. Annie June 24, 2009 at 1:44 pm #

    I studied in Rome a few years back and was absolutely addicted to this pizza outside Camp de Fiore (and it’s cheap too!) If you’re facing the Bruno statue it will be on the alley/street to your right. The melanzane / funghi pizza is to die for. Drinks or caffe in Trastevere is always fun and there’s a little square that has firethrowers and little jewelry sold at night. Jonathon’s Angels, near Piazza Navona is a very fun, quirky bar with live music and if you go – be sure not to miss the outrageous bathroom and frescos on the wall. I also found that the EUR district and the gardens of Villa Borghese are nice little off the beaten path excursions and Zodiaca hill offers an even better panorama of the city than the Janiculum, if you can find it. Have a wonderful trip!

  7. Chiqui June 24, 2009 at 2:25 pm #

    I toured Turkey with my sister in 1998. The landscape of Cappadocia is truly unique. I’ve never seen anything like it since. We toured on Insight Vacations so I won’t be able to recommend any hotels. If I return to Istanbul one day though, this is a hotel I’d like to stay. http://www.ibrahimpasha.com/ Do bring a long scarf with you in case you need to cover your legs or arms when you’re visiting any of the mosques. The mosques do provide scarfs for tourists but you never know who used it last. In Istanbul, you will most likely visit the Blue Mosque, Basilica of St. Sophia, the Grand Bazaar and Topkapi. What we enjoyed the most in Istanbul was the bay cruise. The sights of Istanbul from the water is breathtaking. Also, I’d recommend watching a bellydance show or a whirling dervish show. Have fun!

  8. Guy and Girl Travels June 24, 2009 at 2:31 pm #

    Hey!
    Have fun! We’re sooo jealous! We’ll live vicariously through your trip! LOL!
    Try Chianti Restaurant in Rome – right next to The Trevi Fountain. If you’re facing it – it’s to the right of Trevi Fountain. It has outside seating – but go at night for more romance! Pasta Carbonara is the best there (if that restaurant is still there)!
    We found Taxi’s difficult to find in Rome so we took the bus often! We paid for a pass, but they never actually even checked our passes! (This was in the summer of ’07) You’ll find taxis at the main train station in Rome (Termini station), and a few taxi signs here and there – but for us they were nearly impossible to find! But if your hotel is close to that train station then you’ll be in luck! Otherwise the bus was really easy to use and came every 15 – 20 minutes w/ many stops throughout the city, which was good but royally sucked in the heat of the summer!
    Also, if you’re going to the Vatican museum – do a tour! They get to go in first & the line if you’re touring on your own is crazy crazy crazy long! It’s worth the money for the tour! You can book it through Viator.com! That’s where we got ours! It was soooo worth it even though it’s pricey! Make sure you do the small group tour! http://www.viator.com/tours/Rome/Skip-the-Line-Vatican-Museums-Walking-Tour-including-Sistine-Chapel-Raphaels-Rooms-and-St-Peters/d511-3731VATICAN There’s the link for ya! Trust us – take a tour – that line was like 2 miles long!
    In Florence – we regret not going to Piazzale Michelangelo, which is a lookout point! It’s probably in one of your books! We learned about it after we got back from Eva Longoria – if you can believe it – (she and her husband had a pic there in US Weekly!) We regret not going there like you wouldn’t believe!
    Most importantly – get everywhere extra early to avoid the chaos! We would do this then go back and rest our feet for a few hours in our hotel in the heat of the afternoon! When we went on the Vatican tour we got there around 7:00am-ish and we were able to walk through St. Peter’s Basilica before we did the tour & it was so great being the only one’s there walking around, especially for Guy who painted Michelangelo’s La Pieta! Bad side was that our feet hurt like h e double hockey sticks because that tour is like over 5 miles long! So, no matter what type of shoes you wear – your feet will hurt! Take a break after the tour for lunch then go back and walk to the top of the Basilica or down to the grottoes! Or, bring food w/ you to munch on because we had a hard time finding a place to eat in that area, so we had to walk a while to find a restaurant!
    We loved walking from Trevi Fountain to the Pantheon! So romantic like in the streets of Florence plus there is really cute souvenir shops!
    Don’t do the river cruise in Rome! There are these huge walls that you can’t see over & it’s so filthy w/ bums & graffiti! Don’t waste your money on this like we did!
    Oh, and Girl to Girl – women dress amazing in Rome – so you gotta bring it and strut your stuff! LOL! But – you prob already knew that since you’ve been there! So, wear lots of cute dresses & dead sexy shoes at night!
    Lastly, we learned a valuable lesson from this trip! That is, go to the touristy places like the Vatican, Coliseum, Trevi Fountain, etc in the day and at night just to admire its beauty! We regretted not doing this when we were in Italy! But, at least we have an excuse to go back in the future! LOL!
    Have an amazing time & have safe travels! :)

  9. Amy @ The Q Family June 24, 2009 at 9:06 pm #

    Ok.. I don’t have any advice for you but I’m so bookmark this post and your subsequent post.
    Travel planning is half the fun so we will be ok without your posts for a bit while you are busy planning your trip. :)
    Enjoy and I can’t wait to hear all about it!

  10. George June 24, 2009 at 11:29 pm #

    Some things of the top of my head for Italy:
    Don’t eat the pizza near the tourist sites!
    We enjoyed the double decker bus tour in Rome, easy way to hit all tourist sites in one scoop if time is short.
    In Rome we stayed at the magnificent Hilton Cavalieri with Hilton points. They moved it up to top category, beware. The Hilton at the airport is below par but can’t beat the location for early flights out.
    Colliseum….Colliseum…Gladiators…Must do:-)
    Of all, Florence was the most romantic…liked it even more than Venice…Last time I was there the water stunk:-( You will likely find Venice overrated, but at least you will be there:-)
    I enjoy your tweets!
    Enjoy!
    Being from Greece, I am kind of disappointed you are skipping Greece!
    You can follow me @FlyerTalkerinA2

  11. Chris H. June 25, 2009 at 3:24 am #

    I just got back from Turkey. My wife and I lived in Ankara for two years. I don’t even know where to start in telling you what to see there. Everywhere I turned, there was history. Even little villages…dots on maps…would have ancient ruins that are never talked about in guide books. It’s such an interesting place to wander.
    Personally, I think Ankara is underrated as a destination. Istanbul, of course, is amazing, but Ankara has a rawer edge to it…it hasn’t been taken over by the tourism industry. It feels more…Turkish, I suppose. Istanbul is very cosmopolitan. Ankara is very…Turkish…:)
    As far has hotels, if you are looking for one in Istanbul, the best I can recommend is the Hanedan hotel, about two blocks from the Haghia Sophia. Incredible place…friendly people, cozy, wonderful roof top view, nice, clean rooms, good prices!
    Cappadocia is amazing…although very hot this time of year. Really, though, there aren’t a lot of places in Turkey that I wouldn’t call amazing for one reason or another. If you are in Cappadocia, you might want to take a side trip to Konya…it’s supposed to be spectacular, though I didn’t make it there myself.
    Anyway…enjoy!

  12. Hillary H. June 25, 2009 at 1:54 pm #

    Hello there…have a wonderful trip! Traveled for a month in Italy over the winter, so spent a lot of time eating (added bonus of getting out of the rain and cold!) While my insight is very limited compared to more frequent travelers or of those who live there, I was very lucky to have 10 days in Venice, where I found my splurge restaurant: Ristorante Riviera on the Giudecca Canal in the Dorsoduro. The food was just fabulous, and they were so very welcoming to me and my little dog (ended up eating there four times!) Their Antipasto di Mare was one of the best dishes I ate during my trip. My dog got his own pasta, rice, and water served to him on a silver platter. Riviera also has a terrace overlooking the Canal, which in warmer weather must be so nice!
    http://www.ristoranteriviera.it/eng/locale.htm

  13. Trina Mezzacappa June 25, 2009 at 3:34 pm #

    If you stop by Vienna on your trip, I can give you a list of some places to check out… my boyfriend is Austrian, so he made this list because he knows better than I do!
    Restaurants: Mr Lee (asian varaiety) burgring, Plachutta (austrian) Grinzinger Hauptstrasse, Haas Haus ( Stepahnsplatz, center), Cafe Sacher ( Inner city @ Hotelk Sacher and Albertina Museum) or go to the Grinzing district for traditional austrian ‘heuriger’
    (I do have to say, you MUST try a Sacher torte from Cafe Sacher, they are delish)
    Clubs: Passage (babenberger strasse ecke Burgring) It’s a “dress to impress” or no entry kind of place.. and is expensive!, Volksgarten Club (same thing but in summer, it’s a little more low key), Flex (Viennas most infamous clubs. It’s a place to go for music., voted twice as europes best DJ club by DJmag), he also said that for more clubs and events, to check out clubinfo.at because Vienna has something like over 200 different clubs with different themes.
    Bars: for student places (cheap) head to the so called, ‘bermuda triangle’ around schwedenplatz. There is a congregation of around 30 bars, not clubs.
    Hope some of that is useful! =)

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