49 Replies Latest reply: Mar 3, 2012 3:04 PM by profchiara RSS

Like to use 240,000 points for five night plus air to Italy

jkostal Silver
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I was wondering if anyone had ideas on using these points for Italy.  I have stayed at the Grande Flora with my last package and it was wonderful.

I was told by  Marriott Adviser it is wiser to use just five nights plus air and just add extra nights at other cities for example. It uses less points.

I am also interested in Capri/Postiano coast. With no Marriott's there, can anyone suggest another hotel they would recommend? Would you also see Venice

or somewhere else?  I would spend a day in Florence/Tuscany as well. (total of 9 days) Thank you everyone!

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  • Re: Like to use 240,000 points for five night plus air to Italy
    profchiara Alumni Steward Silver 3 Reviews
    Currently Being Moderated

    Hi jkostal,

    If you're going to Capri, I'd suggest the Hotel Caesar Augustus in Anacapri - 1-2 nights at most, assuming you've spent 5 days at the Grand Flora.  Venice would be a near impossibility given your schedule, but Tuscany is not that far from Rome.  If it's your first time, Florence would probably be the best bet, though Siena is my favorite large Tuscan city.  Actually I would suggest that you skip Capri altogether (or take a day tour from Rome while you're at the Flora).  It's beautiful, but you'll get more out of the trip if you can spend a few days in Tuscany.  If you do that you can either drive to or take tours to hill towns like Chianti, Montepulciano, Cortona, and San Gimignano, as well as Siena. I've never stayed at the AC Firenze, but it is not in town, which is where you'd want to be. If you want to continue the fine style you've grown accustomed to at the Grand Flora, I'd suggest one of the following:

    Four Seasons Florence

    Westin Excelsior Florence

    The St. Regis or

    Hotel Helvetia and Bristol

     

    I hope this helps!  When it comes closer to the time, I can provide you with some tips on sightseeing and dining.

    ProfChiara

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    • Re: Like to use 240,000 points for five night plus air to Italy
      shoeman1000 Platinum 4 Reviews
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      profchiara

       

      please do not ever leave this site.  some day I will be planning a trip to Italy and will need your sage advise.  Your sensibility and adventurous nature both contribute to an awesome  guide to the region.  When I think of how many times I have been to Europe and haven't seen a thing, it saddens me.  But, there will be another time and I will go prepared to see  the area through Profchiara's eyes!

       

      sheman

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      • Re: Like to use 240,000 points for five night plus air to Italy
        profchiara Alumni Steward Silver 3 Reviews
        Currently Being Moderated

        You bet I would!  As long as Marriott pays my way .  The tours I led based in Pienza were the best I have ever lived in Europe since everything was paid for. I took the Colby/Bates/Bowdoin groups on two tours to Tuscany and Umbria in 2002  (As opposed to scrimping for per diems or eating at train stations, fortunately mostly a thing of the past.)  Since my writing and teaching coincide very well, the cultural aspects of being in the places where things happened has always been essential to me.  So I spend a fair amount of time in libraries and archives, mostly in France, but when I write for a text, it's everything from Mesopotamia to 1600.  I did pretty much all the places I'd never been but wanted to see historically last year on sabbatical, except, of course, Mesopotamia (Iraq).

         

        I honestly cannot imagine going to a place without 'feeling it' and getting the sense of its culture and history directly from places and people rather than just from libraries or museums.  A colleague in medieval Islamic history told me he only went to the pyramids of Giza (after many trips to Cairo) because of a strike and because his wife had been nagging him to do so.  I simply can't imagine.

         

        Anyway, you guys work up the tour, and I'll lead it, joints withstanding.  I am most expert in France and Italy, but could also do medieval Andalusia (a fascinating period of Spanish history), ancient Egypt and Israel.  Even though I'm off to Istanbul Monday, Turkish history (and language) still challenges me.  And most trips to Germany would need to deal with modern history.  I've taught it, but don't know it well enough.

         

        I know you're all joking, but it was cool to lead tours ten years ago.  Fortunately CBB set up all the administrative stuff and local tours, so I gave some lectures and added local anecdotes and schmoozed with the people.

         

        Now that we seem back on track with travel, I'm not going anywhere if I can help it.
        ProfC

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        • Re: Like to use 240,000 points for five night plus air to Italy
          shoeman1000 Platinum 4 Reviews
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          • Re: Like to use 240,000 points for five night plus air to Italy
            profchiara Alumni Steward Silver 3 Reviews
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            I do want to clarify something I said (joints withstanding).  I meant my arthritis.

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            • Re: Like to use 240,000 points for five night plus air to Italy
              shoeman1000 Platinum 4 Reviews
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              thank God!   I thought you were talking of the cannibus type......

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              • Re: Like to use 240,000 points for five night plus air to Italy
                profchiara Alumni Steward Silver 3 Reviews
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                Alas, I'm not that sort of professor.  Never been able to smoke ANYTHING in my life because my parents wore out my lungs with 3 packs a day by both of them.  Just bad genetics for the joints, which has decreased my mobility.  But I don't judge .

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                • Re: Like to use 240,000 points for five night plus air to Italy
                  shoeman1000 Platinum 4 Reviews
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                  then wine it is!  That is another area where you can act as guide.  I know nothing about wine. 

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                  • Re: Like to use 240,000 points for five night plus air to Italy
                    profchiara Alumni Steward Silver 3 Reviews
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                    Oh yes, I know EVERYTHING about wine.  You want a tour to Burgundy?  I know the cellars of Beaune not to mention the champagne houses in Reims and Epernay.  And while I have not been personally to estates in Bordeaux or Sauternes, I most assuredly have sampled their wines.  During my tours of Tuscany/Umbria, we had free wine tastings (organized by the tour) both near Pienza and at Montalcino and Montepulciano. 

                     

                    So here's the deal.  Marriott provides my airfare and hotel stays, I lead the tour and do all commentary and itinerary, and all of you drum up enough support so that Marriott will go for it.  What say you all?  I can do a really good job -- although I only led the two tours, I have taken many, plus I have been teaching if you include grad school for 30 years (and I don't do nonsense courses).

                    ProfC

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            • Re: Like to use 240,000 points for five night plus air to Italy
              nuhusker Platinum 2 Reviews
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              I thought you might have been talking about a beer joint until I saw all this talk about wine.  No decent beer joint serves wine.

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              • Re: Like to use 240,000 points for five night plus air to Italy
                profchiara Alumni Steward Silver 3 Reviews
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                Hi Nuhusker,

                Beer is not a problem in France.  They have Irlandais pubs in almost every city.  I'm not a beer person myself, though I drink it sometimes when in England, where the wine, unless imported, is undrinkable.  Sorry, Arkwright and other UK friends! But am I wrong in thinking many of you take day or two day trips to France to get wine? Last time I took the high speed ferry a lot of Englishmen seemed to be hauling wine back home.

                ProfChiara

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            • Re: Like to use 240,000 points for five night plus air to Italy
              eb5147 Alumni Steward Platinum 7 Reviews
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              ProfC

              "I meant my arthritis."

               

              You gave me my laugh for the day.   (I can't figure out how to change the font size, either.)

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            • Re: Like to use 240,000 points for five night plus air to Italy
              eb5147 Alumni Steward Platinum 7 Reviews
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              ProfC,

               

              Eucalyptus Essential Oil

              Properties: Anti inflammatory, anti spasmodic, decongestant, deodorant, anti septic, anti bacterial, stimulating

              Health Benefits: Respiratory problems, wounds, muscle pain, mental exhaustion, dental care, skin care, diabetes, fever, intestinal germs

               

              Oils can be used for a lot of things if you're allowed to carry them with you.

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              • Re: Like to use 240,000 points for five night plus air to Italy
                profchiara Alumni Steward Silver 3 Reviews
                Currently Being Moderated

                Thanks for the suggestion!  I think I have bath oils that have eucalyptus in them so I will have to try to insure some kind of supply while abroad without violating the 3+3+3 requirement for carry-ons.

                Cheers, ProfC

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      • Re: Like to use 240,000 points for five night plus air to Italy
        jerrycoin Alumni Steward Platinum 60 Reviews
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        Shoeman,

         

        You may have seen more than you think.  It's like being lost in a place you enjoy and have never been.  At least YOU know what you don't enjoy.

         

        You mention about wine that you no nothing.  I feel that at least I know what I don't like, I can smell it and it is "Foxie".

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        • Re: Like to use 240,000 points for five night plus air to Italy
          shoeman1000 Platinum 4 Reviews
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          so now we just have to get Marriott to promote a contest of sorts with the winner receiving a 2 week trip to Europe, all expenses paid, and then rig it so the good Professor wins.  Then we all book the same itinerary and we are on our way.  Excited just thinking of it!

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          • Re: Like to use 240,000 points for five night plus air to Italy
            jerrycoin Alumni Steward Platinum 60 Reviews
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            I won't go unless we have SS, Jasper, NU, and Razorback, among others go!  Don't forget Newhilton.

             

            Like Ricky Nelson sang, "Sounds like a Garden Party"!  Man, I miss that guy, along with Dean Martin (Rio Lobo).

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            • Re: Like to use 240,000 points for five night plus air to Italy
              shoeman1000 Platinum 4 Reviews
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              the more the merrier.  I think we would all get along famously and have a ball. 

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              • Re: Like to use 240,000 points for five night plus air to Italy
                profchiara Alumni Steward Silver 3 Reviews
                Currently Being Moderated

                Actually, it's not complicated based on my CBB tour leadership.  They pay for the people who lead the tour and give talks, and there is a good discounted rate based on number of people who want to go.  If you get close to 30, that pays for buses to hill towns, my airfare/hotel, and all of you would get discounted rates.  At least that's the way it worked when I did the Tuscan/Umbrian tours (BTW, Assisi is one of my favorite places on earth and why I took my Marriott name).

                 

                Jerry, surely you can taste champagne these days!  After all, (although I do not approve), most tastevins spit it out after tasting most wines.

                 

                Dom Pérignon rules! And the more the merrier! And if we got to Montepulciano there is a wonderful extremely elderly man (if he is still alive he is over 100) who rules over the main wine sales there.  My Chinese local tour guide warned all women, especially blonde women, that you would get kissed.  Sure enough!  But we also got some damned good tastings.  Since most of the women in the group wanted to shop (As a huge sports fan, I'm not of that sort, as you may have guessed), I hung out with the husbands who wanted to taste wines.  We all had a fine time and then met up with the wives.  Photos you take in Tuscan hill towns can become, thanks to Shutterfly and other merchandisers, can become amazing wall decor.  I have to live in my apartment till I die because otherwise all my wall decor (my photographs enlarged by Shutterfly) will put me deep into debt if I try and remove it from the walls.

                 

                But Shoeman and others, you are right, the more the merrier.  It is the only way it works!

                ProfC

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      • Re: Like to use 240,000 points for five night plus air to Italy
        tryt53 Alumni Steward Platinum 5 Reviews
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        shoeman,

        I agree!

         

        profchiara,

        I think we are about 3 years out from our hopefully 400,000 point 3-week European vacation, so, for selfish personal reasons, I need to chain you to this site forever.  We all want to tap your broad knowledge (NO! I didn't just call you a broad.  I know better, and know you are an elegant educated professor ) so we can all get the benefit of your experience of both the travel, and sensibility of economics.  Many of us are like you have have said you are, in that we have a thirst to travel but a limited pocketbook to go with that thirst!  Thank you for ALL you do, for all of us!

        (For each location tag, you will be guided through a 3-step process to add (1) a city and a state or a city and a country, (2) a Marriott brand, and (3) a Marriott hotel.)

        • Re: Like to use 240,000 points for five night plus air to Italy
          profchiara Alumni Steward Silver 3 Reviews
          Currently Being Moderated

          Hi and thank you Tryt53,

          It's my pleasure (and I'm not politically correct, so call me whatever you like ).  Even for people who think they never have a chance to travel outside the US but want to, my story can help. I was the first in my family to go to college and started at age 24 (and worked as a secretary all thru college, grad school and my first 6 yrs of teaching) to make it happen.  Two things made it all possible: I went to a great public high school that made me read and write all the time, and I learned early on the value of loyalty programs, even if they sometimes cost me more.  I hadn't even been to Canada until I was 22, and I only went to Europe for the first time during my dissertation research when I lived in Paris for two years starting at age 34.

           

          Now that I'm more comfortable and adventurous(!), I maximize points and miles every way I can afford to.  Besides using my Marriott VISA Platinum Premier and American Express Delta reserve cards, I always do most of my shopping in online malls that give me either Skymiles or Marriott points, I go for any promotion that looks like it won't cost me more than it's worth (I got 50,000 Skymiles in the fall for a Skymall promotion -- and bought all my Christmas gifts in the process).

           

          So for those of you who haven't yet taken that wonderful trip or trips, the world is beckoning you! And I'm sure Jerry will back me up that it's an almost entirely friendly world at least if you make a little effort 'to do in Rome as the Romans do.' 

           

          I'll be delighted to continue to offer any advice people would like about most places in Europe and the Middle East.  I have only been to Asia and Africa technically (the eastern part of Asian Turkey and Egypt) and never been to Latin America or Oceania.  I do have to use my points and miles for places I study and write about, so that will continue to be the case.

           

          Thanks again for so many nice words,

          ProfChiara

           

          PS It is a wonderful world, and I am so privileged that thanks to education I've gotten to see and spend time in large parts of it.  I'll never get to Hawaii, the Caribbean, etc., but we've got nice, if somewhat rocky, beaches here in Maine.  History is my passion and to see the places I had always studied but only seen in books has not only made me a better teacher but I hope a better person.

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          • Re: Like to use 240,000 points for five night plus air to Italy
            Alumni Steward Platinum 8 Reviews
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            So well said Professor.  Being a person who travels is a good thing to emulate

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          • Re: Like to use 240,000 points for five night plus air to Italy
            dblanz Gold 2 Reviews
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            Hello Professor, I have been following this discussion with interest. I am considering a trip to Italy. I am a member of Marriott's Vacation Club, which is now offering tours. They have several trip available to Italy. They use Collette Travel which picks the hotels, local transportation, arranges basic tours,  and provides some meals. I see that you know about all of this stuff. Do you know of Collette Travel? I want to be sure before I spend 9,000 to 15,000 Marriott Vacation Club points, that I have a tour group that will place us in quality hotels and provide a memorable experience.

             

            If you can tell me anything about them, I would appreciate it.

             

            It sounds from other members of the group that you might be able to arrange a tour. I sure would be interested. I possess 1.1 million Marriott Reward points, so I can travel.

            Take care.

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            • Re: Like to use 240,000 points for five night plus air to Italy
              profchiara Alumni Steward Silver 3 Reviews
              Currently Being Moderated

              Hi dblanz,

              I would love to, but most of them were joking. Actually I have three courses to teach this coming semester and a book due in the summer .  I've certainly heard of Collette Tours, but except for day excursions I have never gone on a fully guided tour (except the one I was asked to lead for my college).

               

              But can you give me more details?  I am en route to Istanbul for a week, but if you tell me what cities you'd be seeing, how long, whether there's a central hotel, etc., I'd be happy to give my humble opinion.

               

              What you want to avoid, of course, is the 'if it's Tuesday it must be Belgium phenomenon."  What I liked about the tour I got to lead (but it may be an exception since it was arranged through a group that specializes in alumni tours) is that it was based in the hill town of Pienza so people didn't constantly have to load their baggage onto buses and spend half their travel time on buses getting to the next destination.  Also you want to consider how much time you have compared to how much of Italy you'll see. If they have you going from Venice to Milan to Tuscany to Rome to Sicily or some such thing in seven days, forget about it. 

               

              Italy is very people friendly, and the further south, the more so.  So with your points if there are properties in areas you want to see, why not do it on your own and focus on three to four cities or regions at most (in at least 10-14 days for best experience)?  While the local trains don't compare to the great trains of France, Trenitalia is high speed.  Is this a first trip to Italy? If so, I'd recommend (in either order) starting in Venice (at least 3 days), Tuscany (3-4 days traveling around) and at least 3 in Rome.  Sicily would be pretty much a vacation in itself unless you combined it with Rome or Naples only.

               

              Hope this helps! Let me know if I can answer further questions.

              Best, ProfChiara

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              • Re: Like to use 240,000 points for five night plus air to Italy
                razorbackfan Alumni Steward Platinum 23 Reviews
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                Professor,

                 

                I wasn't joking, but I can't speak for the others. 

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                • Re: Like to use 240,000 points for five night plus air to Italy
                  profchiara Alumni Steward Silver 3 Reviews
                  Currently Being Moderated

                  Hi,

                  You're all so nice!  Someday I would be happy to lead a tour for Insiders if Marriott decided to do something like that.  Unfortunately nowadays I have to teach and grade and write, seemingly all the time except for my trips during breaks.  I'm in Istanbul now, which is great, although the weather, believe it or not, is the same as in Maine.

                  Cheers, ProfC

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                  • Re: Like to use 240,000 points for five night plus air to Italy
                    shoeman1000 Platinum 4 Reviews
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                    prof

                     

                    safe travels.  are you sure you are not a spy???  traveling the world protecting the USA?? 

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                    • Re: Like to use 240,000 points for five night plus air to Italy
                      profchiara Alumni Steward Silver 3 Reviews
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                      You found me out, Shoeman!  Been a Company woman for some time  (who better than an innocuous history professor?) and this morning spent time with two Saudis and one Turk .I did indeed - I was on a tour, led by a Turkish woman, with a Saudi couple.  At one point as the four of us walked down toward the Chora Church (best mosaics outside of Ravenna, Italy), the Saudi woman linked her arm through mine, then the Turkish tour guide through mine so there were the four of us as part of the Odd Squad having a fine old time.

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                    • Re: Like to use 240,000 points for five night plus air to Italy
                      profchiara Alumni Steward Silver 3 Reviews
                      Currently Being Moderated

                      You found me out, Shoeman!  Been a Company woman for some time  (who better than an innocuous history professor?) and this morning spent time with two Saudis and one Turk .I did indeed - I was on a tour, led by a Turkish woman, with a Saudi couple.  At one point as the four of us walked down toward the Chora Church (best mosaics outside of Ravenna, Italy), the Saudi woman linked her arm through mine, then the Turkish tour guide through mine so there were the four of us as part of the Odd Squad having a fine old time.

                      (For each location tag, you will be guided through a 3-step process to add (1) a city and a state or a city and a country, (2) a Marriott brand, and (3) a Marriott hotel.)

                      • Re: Like to use 240,000 points for five night plus air to Italy
                        shoeman1000 Platinum 4 Reviews
                        Currently Being Moderated

                        great story 007!

                         

                        be safe.

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                        • Re: Like to use 240,000 points for five night plus air to Italy
                          profchiara Alumni Steward Silver 3 Reviews
                          Currently Being Moderated

                          Hey Shoeman,

                          It's very safe in Istanbul.  The only problem is that especially if you're a woman alone the vendors try to kidnap you into their rug shops to get you to buy something (all the while feeding you apple tea, coffee, or whatever you'd like).  I learned that the first time when my politeness cost me dearly.  Now when they speak to me in English I always vigorously shake my head no and say no, Hayir (Hah-yur).  They're harmless except for your credit cards.  Most Turks are very, very friendly and many have relatives in the US and/or have traveled there in the past.  My driver from the airport has a brother in San Francisco, and invariably Turks (at least in the tourist or restaurant industry) seem to have been to NYC, Los Angeles, and Florida.  One of the most amusing parts of the Odd Squad this morning is that the Saudi man really wanted to see Denver.  I was at a loss since I haven 't been there (I have been to Colorado Springs -- no doubt adding to your suspicions).  Interestingly, most Turks do not speak Arabic so they only know enough for going to the mosque.  So the Saudi husband had to interpret the Turkish guide's English for his wife, who only spoke a few words. But we all got along beautifully.  The Turkish guide was only a week on the job and obviously having the time of her life, having just moved to Istanbul to live with her sister.

                           

                          BTW, if there are any investors out there, Turkey's the way to go.  While the EU is stumbling if not crumbling, the Turkish economy is growing at a high rate.

                           

                          Tomorrow is a Bosphorus cruise which may turn out to be in snow, believe it or not.

                          Cheers, ProfC

                          (For each location tag, you will be guided through a 3-step process to add (1) a city and a state or a city and a country, (2) a Marriott brand, and (3) a Marriott hotel.)

                  • Re: Like to use 240,000 points for five night plus air to Italy
                    tryt53 Alumni Steward Platinum 5 Reviews
                    Currently Being Moderated

                    I think Marriott sponsored tours, that customers could purchase would be a neat idea!  We'll have to add that to ideas.  They already have airfare and hotel vacations getaways, why not tours that stay at several Marriott locations as a part of a scheduled tour?  Seems like a big money-maker for Marriott, along with publicity!

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    • Re: Like to use 240,000 points for five night plus air to Italy
      razorbackfan Alumni Steward Platinum 23 Reviews
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      ProfChiara,

       

      Would you ever consider leading an Insider's tour to Italy?  I think you would make a perfect guide.

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    • Re: Like to use 240,000 points for five night plus air to Italy
      pluto77 Alumni Steward Gold 25 Reviews
      Currently Being Moderated

      Dear Profchiara and Jkostal,

      Jkostal, I agree with Profchiara that probably Florence in Tuscany would be a good city to visit on your 9 day trip.  Plenty of wonderful history, art and architecture there, along with a beautiful countryside to explore.  A trip down to Sorrento (lovely town) for a few nights, including a visit to Positano, the Amalfi Coast and a two night stay on Capri, plus a stop to visit Pompeii on the way back to Rome would make for a really stellar vacation all by itself, but I think would be hard to do timewise on your upcoming trip. 

       

      I will also be visiting Italy in a few months (May-June).  3 days in Venice, 4 days in Florence, 5 nights in Rome (the Rome thing is also a Marriott 240k points - airfare and Grand Flora deal).  For Venice, we couldn't get Marriott's Boscolo Venezia on points, plus the Marriott agent couldn't guarantee a room to accomodate 3 persons, so we are opting for an apartment through booking.com.  I hope that's not a mistake.  We haven't secured lodging in Florence yet...we will meet my sister and brother-in-law there.  He is looking into renting a villa for the 5 of us.  No Marriott in Florence (why not, Marriott?).  I've already been to Pisa, but my daughter hasn't, so don't know if we'll spend any of our precious time there or not.  My one and only prior visit to Florence was way too short.  Profchiara, if/whenever you have some time, I too would love some suggestions on the region, dining, tours, sightseeing, etc. 

       

      Thanks so much!

      (For each location tag, you will be guided through a 3-step process to add (1) a city and a state or a city and a country, (2) a Marriott brand, and (3) a Marriott hotel.)

    • Re: Like to use 240,000 points for five night plus air to Italy
      pluto77 Alumni Steward Gold 25 Reviews
      Currently Being Moderated

      Dear Profchiara and Jkostal,

      Jkostal, I agree with Profchiara that probably Florence in Tuscany would be a good city to visit on your 9 day trip.  Plenty of wonderful history, art and architecture there, along with a beautiful countryside to explore.  A trip down to Sorrento (lovely town) for a few nights, including a visit to Positano, the Amalfi Coast and a two night stay on Capri, plus a stop to visit Pompeii on the way back to Rome would make for a really stellar vacation all by itself, but I think would be hard to do timewise on your upcoming trip. 

       

      I will also be visiting Italy in a few months (May-June).  3 days in Venice, 4 days in Florence, 5 nights in Rome (the Rome thing is also a Marriott 240k points - airfare and Grand Flora deal).  For Venice, we couldn't get Marriott's Boscolo Venezia on points, plus the Marriott agent couldn't guarantee a room to accomodate 3 persons, so we are opting for an apartment through booking.com.  I hope that's not a mistake.  We haven't secured lodging in Florence yet...we will meet my sister and brother-in-law there.  He is looking into renting a villa for the 5 of us.  No Marriott in Florence (why not, Marriott?).  I've already been to Pisa, but my daughter hasn't, so don't know if we'll spend any of our precious time there or not.  My one and only prior visit to Florence was way too short.  Profchiara, if/whenever you have some time, I too would love some suggestions on the region, dining, tours, sightseeing, etc. 

       

      Thanks so much!

      (For each location tag, you will be guided through a 3-step process to add (1) a city and a state or a city and a country, (2) a Marriott brand, and (3) a Marriott hotel.)

      • Re: Like to use 240,000 points for five night plus air to Italy
        profchiara Alumni Steward Silver 3 Reviews
        Currently Being Moderated

        Hi Lorifleenor,

        I'm out of date on Florence, since I have been there many times but have been spending recent trips to Italy in Venice and Rome.  I think the key is don't stay near the train station (worse accommodations in most cases than near the train station in Rome) and don't eat near the Arno, with the exception I'll mention below.  On either side of the Ponte Vecchio most restaurants will charge you an arm and a leg for some not very good food.  Get into the heart of the city.  One exception was when I wanted to eat really early by Italian standards shortly after arriving (around 6:30pm) and was wandering under the Arno bridge and happened upon an exceptional restaurant that had a whole group of women already eating and obviously having a great time.  So I went in and sat by myself under a copy of the Mona Lisa. Listening attentively to all the sounds, Italian and English, I gathered quickly that they were a Canadian and American group of women who'd been taking their first tour of Italy together and they'd found this treasure of a restaurant (the name of which I don't remember) -- where they ate most nights.  One of the middle aged women also had a funny crush on one of the waiters and didn't attempt to hide it. Finally they invited me to join them.  I bought a bottle of vin santo with cantucci for all of us, including the proprietor and ALL the waiters to share.  (Vin santo, 'holy wine,' tastes a bit like sherry, but you don't drink it -- you only dip your cantucci in it so that it makes the wine a little sweeter and the cantucci a lot better.)  I had been planning to get back to my hotel shortly after eating but ended up with them till midnight.  Then the proprietor gave each one of us a whole bottle of the house red wine!  If it's still there, you go from the Duomo toward the Ponte Vecchio, then turn left before crossing the bridge.  It's not far from there.

         

        All of the churches in Florence are virtual art museums, but as I suggested elsewhere, it's really cool to sit through mass in the Duomo, whatever your religion.  I've been to the Uffizi, but make sure you get a ticket ahead or it's too much of a hassle.  The Duomo museum behind the cathedral is a little treasure.  My favorite convent/museum is San Marco, which has Fra Angelico's frescoes all over the walls. You can also see where the original Renaissance man, Cosimi de Medici, spent the last years of his life, and also the cell of the infamous hellfire and brimstone preacher, Savonarola. In Santa Croce (other end of town), it's fun to see the tombs of Galileo, Machiavelli and others in a church as well as a large Jewish star on the top front of the church facade (there's one of the Duomo too).

         

        Dante's house is also a must see if you're a fan -- plus there are a lot of good restaurants on that particular street.

         

        As for Venice, as I mentioned before I stayed at the Metropole, booked on expedia, and it was great.  My favorite restaurant was found by chance by wandering back from the hotel.  You often can only go in one direction and have to cross little bridges.  I was really hungry, so sat down at the first place I saw (L'Osteria Oliva Nera), which looked nondescript but had the freshest and best food and most attentive waiter ever -- plus a free bottle of extra virgin olive oil on leaving.

         

        In Venice, get a 3 day or weeklong vaporetto pass.  It will save you time and money, and just riding the vaporetti is a joy in itself.

         

        Better stop there...

        ProfChiara

        (For each location tag, you will be guided through a 3-step process to add (1) a city and a state or a city and a country, (2) a Marriott brand, and (3) a Marriott hotel.)

        • Re: Like to use 240,000 points for five night plus air to Italy
          pluto77 Alumni Steward Gold 25 Reviews
          Currently Being Moderated

          Oh thank you for your generous response.  I enjoyed your story about the restaurant by the Arno, and we will take your advice to steer clear of dining on the Arno.  My brother-in-law, an Aussie, is extremely passionate about Italian cooking and quite accomplished in the discipline.  I'll bet he would be able to sniff out for us the good restaurant you mention (in the past, I have literally walked miles and miles with this man to find just the right dining experience in Paris;  one (my sister for sure!) might say he's a bit overboard on the matter, but he is always right on the money.  We do dine well when he takes charge of the matter. 

           

          Thanks for the advice on the Uffizi advance ticket purchase.  I'll take it.  I think the same also goes for visiting Michaelangelo's David if I remember correctly.  I sat through a lovely mass once at the Pisa Cathedral - I totally agree with you.  Thank you for the additional Florence tidbits you mention.  I have also taken note of some of the Tuscan towns you've mentioned in previous posts (Siena, Montepulciano, Chianti) and will research them as well. 

           

          Too bad the impassioned brother-in-law won't be with us in Venice.  I would love to impress him with the restaurant you mention, but will enjoy it without him.  Will definitely get the Vaporetto pass.  Also, I think the last (and only) time my mom and I visited Venice (1 day only - imagine that madness) the gondolas were 80 euro.  We declined because of the price, which I have deeply regretted.  I recently read (maybe from you?) that the price was regulated.  When I did the research, I found that it is indeed regulated, and is 80 euro per boat ride, and that a boat can fit up to 6 people, which helps soften the price.  So do you know, is it 80 euro per person, or per ride (multiple persons)?  It just wasn't clear to me.

           

          Thanks again for sharing your knowledge.  Hope you are enjoying Turkey.  I would love to visit that Mosque (the one with the 4 spires and some blue and gold, right?) someday.  Ya, Turkey seems very cool.

          (For each location tag, you will be guided through a 3-step process to add (1) a city and a state or a city and a country, (2) a Marriott brand, and (3) a Marriott hotel.)

          • Re: Like to use 240,000 points for five night plus air to Italy
            profchiara Alumni Steward Silver 3 Reviews
            Currently Being Moderated

            Glad to be of some help -- as you can tell, I love telling stories!

             

            I've never been on a gondola because I always travel alone (by choice) and could not justify the expense. If you can get more people, it would be worth it.  I'm not sure if they're regulated or not, but I find the vaporetto exhilarating.  There's another good restaurant right where the vaporetto leaves Fondamente Nuove (something like Albagio -- I don't have my 'real' computer with me) for Murano.  BTW, you will find signs in Murano these days saying REAL MURANO GLASS.  Chinese knockoffs have been appearing, but fortunately in a small island, they've gotten that under control quickly.

             

            You're thinking of the early 17th C. Blue Mosque (a block from where I'm staying), which was the first mosque in the world to have 6 minarets (apparently two new ones now have 6 as well).  But the inside is unbelievable with the domed vaults in  blue Iznik tile, which is what gives it the impression of being blue all over.  Tourists only have to take their shoes off there, not wear head scarves unless you're Muslim.  Interestingly since Turkey is a secular country  (even though 99% of its people are Muslim) you'll find women wearing everything from miniskirts and mostly no scarves (at least in Istanbul) to the occasional (but rare burqa) as well as everything in between.  I went back to Hagia Sophia Museum too yesterday, which is glorious, although not as much so as when it was built in the 6th C. (that's a block the other way).  There are also numerous churches and synagogues, often very old. The Chora Church yesterday was magnificent.

            Cheers, ProfChiara

             

            PS - Off for the Asian side with a Bosphorus cruise.

            (For each location tag, you will be guided through a 3-step process to add (1) a city and a state or a city and a country, (2) a Marriott brand, and (3) a Marriott hotel.)

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