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Tag-Archive for "Italy"

NH President in Milan, Italy Oct 22

P1070236I have been to Milan a couple of times before and I have stayed near Milan Central Station. This time I decided to stay closer to the city center and I booked NH President on an online hotel booking site. We took a taxi from Linate airport to the hotel as the airport is not that far from the city center. Check in was fast and we got a room even if we got there earlier than the official check in time. We got room 504 on the 5th floor and we were quite surprised when we walked into the room as it was quite big and it looked quite “fresh”.

P1070241The floors were in light wood, the walls were in pretty neutral but delicate colors and we had a view to the road Corso di Porta Vittoria. We were also quite pleased to see that our room had a balcony and when stepping out on it we could see over to the amazing Duomo. There were a bit of traffic on the road outside the hotel but we did not hear much of this when the door to the balcony was closed.

P1070247The king size bed was quite comfortable and contained a number of pillows with various shapes and firmness. Apart from that the room had a desk with a couple of chairs, a flat screen TV on the wall and a wardrobe (it would have been great with more hangers). In the wardrobe area there was also a small safe and a small fridge with various drinks – to give you an idea of the cost a Coke was 4.5€.  It was also impressive to see that there was a small coffee machine to brew your own coffee.

I think there must have been something wrong with the aircon in the room – we had it set to 25 degrees Celsius but it was still freezing in the room. But luckily the bed had a good enough duvet to keep us warm and being from Norway we are used to cold bedrooms.

The bathroom was also functional with sand colored tiles and a bathtub with a shower option in addition to the toilet and bide. The shower option in the bathtub worked for once as there was a glass wall to avoid splashing of water on the floor. There were also amenities like shampoo, conditioner, bath gel etc. 

It was great to see that the internet was included and login was with room number and surname. Breakfast was also included in our stay and it was not that memorable but it contained all that you need including bread, cereal, juice, coffee, fruit etc

The location of the hotel is very good in my opinion. It is only takes like 5 minutes to walk over to the Duomo so you are basically in the middle of town. All in all I was pretty happy with this hotel and I would not hesitate to recommend this to family and friends.

Gard – trip reports and pictures

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Good hotel for a ski vacation Feb 19

P1040934We stayed at Cristal Palace hotel in February 2014 during a short ski vacation there. It was tricky to pick a hotel in Madonna di Campiglio but in the end we chose Cristal Palace hotel as the reviews were pretty good, the hotel looked pretty new and the location seemed pretty good. I used to book the hotel room and we had to pay a total of 1168 € for 4 nights including breakfast and taxes.

P1040997We came to the hotel in the afternoon in a rented car from Verona and we managed to find the hotel without too much trouble…thanks to Google maps and Google street view. Check in was fast and we got some vague instructions on how to get to the garage at the hotel – we did manage to find it and we were able to squeeze in the rental car. There were lots and lots of snow so the roads were lined by walls of snow. There is a lift straight from the garage to the hotel floors which is great. The hotel didn’t look that big from the entrance but the hotel has about 7 stories.

P1050063We got room 602 on the top floor and we were quite pleased with the room at first glance. The room was fairly big and was dominated by lots of wooden panels and fabric “wallpaper” with matching pattern on the curtains. There was a big bed with one duvet which was comfortable enough but Nikki was not that happy with the pillow. There was a small desk with a chair, a small flat screen TV that was mounted on the wall and a wardrobe that had a few hangers – P1050070but it would have been great with even more hangers to hang up wet ski wear towards the end of the day. There was also a small safe and a small fridge. The room had a small balcony with a couple of chairs but we didn’t use it. The room had a high ceiling that made the room feel more spacious. The bathroom included a toilet, sink, bide, and large shower corner. It was all tiled with some sort of marble tiles and it was an inviting bathroom. There were some amenities – a shampoo and bath soap in one bottle, a bottle with some liquid soap in the shower itself and a box with sewing kit, shower cap etc.

The internet was also included and it was easy to get online using some of your social media details (e.g. Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram etc). The internet speed is not impressive but it did the job.

P1040994Breakfast was included and was served on the third floor. The breakfast area had big windows facing the center of Madonna di Campiglio and the view was breathtaking as the hotel is located on a hill above the city center. Breakfast was not bad at all with a selection of eggs, bacon and sausages but also some cereal, fruit, bread and of course lots of sweet pastries. And as you would expect in Italy – you can ask for coffee and they make it fresh for you. So I enjoyed some espresso, some espresso macchiato etc. We did not try the hotel restaurant at night but we did have a glass of wine there. I thought it was a bit much to charge 10€ for small glass of red wine.

P1050074On level 1 of the hotel there is a spa – it included a pool, a Jacuzzi but also a separate room with a sauna, steam room and showers. It was great to sit in the warm steam room and sauna after a day in the ski slopes so don’t forget to bring your swimwear. There were some rules about access to the sauna/steam room for kids but it didn’t seem like people paid much attention to the rules. 

P1050060The location of the hotel is not bad. Located on the hillside just north of the city center it gives you great view of the city and some of the ski areas. But it seemed like the only way of walking to the city center was to follow the main road and that can be a bit scary in the dark, with slippery roads and with the road being narrow due to all the snow. There is a hotel shuttle but it is not always convenient to wait for that to show up and it stops running at about 8 pm so you will have to walk back home at night. It only takes about 5 minutes to walk to Pradalago ski lift so it doesn’t take long to get to restaurants and the city center.

P1050082The service at the hotel was both good and bad. When we asked for info about where to rent skis we were told that the shuttle would take us to a place in the city center. The shuttle took a bit of time so I asked if the people in the reception could point out where the place was on the map but they did not seem willing to do this for some reason. We tried to call the reception one evening to ask if we could get an iron and ironing board sent to our room – it took quite a bit of time to explain this and in the end the answer was no. The room was a bit warm and we tried to adjust the temperature without success. One day the AC just said “Help” and there were some clicking sounds from the fuse box but it seemed like the hotel staff was able to fix it. But we were very happy with the service from the shuttle drivers and the personnel in the breakfast area.

Even if there are some things that can be improved we were overall pleased with Cristal Palace hotel. The room was large, bed was comfortable and the spa was great after a day in the slopes. The hotel is not far from the city center but you will have to walk along the main road which can be a bit dangerous in the dark. But all in all – we would probably stay at Cristal Palace hotel again if we return to Madonna di Campiglio.

Gard – trip reports and pictures

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Charming and good location: Hotel Berthod in Courmayeur Apr 10

My wife, Nikki, and I stayed at Hotel Berthod in Courmayeur for 4 nights in March 2013. I made the reservation online on the hotel’s homepage and I chose the hotel as it had a central location with easy access to both restaurants, the gondola to the ski area of Plan Checrouit and it had rooms available ;-)

P1020110We arrived by bus to Courmayeur and the Savda bus stopped at Piazzale Monte Bianco which is only about 100-200 meters from the hotel. We rolled our suitcases to the hotel and luckily there was not much snow on the road as it was uphill. Check in was fast in the tiny lobby of this charming hotel and we got room 212 on the second floor. The lobby, bar and restaurant area are filled with knick knacks  from the region…old skiing equipment, cow bells, maps of the area, photos of Mont Blanc (or Monte Bianco as it is known as in Italy) etc.

P1020103The house and room was fairly similar to the hotel we had in Verbier in Switzerland a couple of years back – not that strange, as it is located in the same region. The room was quite small and most of it was occupied by the king size bed. The bed was pretty old school and when I moved the mattress seemed to bounce for a lot longer than expected. The sleeping quality was pretty good but the pillows were like bricks and were not comfortable at all. There was a wooden floor (or maybe just laminate), the walls were painted light and the furniture was in dark wood. The small flat screen TV was placed on top of the wardrobe and it was not the ideal position for TV watching but I guess you don’t come to Courmayeur to watch TV Winking smile Most of the channels were in Italian but it was possible to change some shows to the original broadcast language.

P1020104The wardrobe had a few hangers and there was a small fridge under the desk next to it. The small fridge only contained two bottles of water and I assumed that this was complimentary as there was nothing else in the fridge but I was charged for these bottles when checking out. I guess we should have read the info or noticed when we did not get water bottle refills every day. There was also a small safe in the room located over the heating radiator – I’m not sure it is the ideal position but things in the safe did not seem to get over heated. There was little space to hang used ski clothing but we did notice a drying room in the basement when we arrived.

P1020106The bathroom was tiled in light tiles on the walls and terracotta color on the floor. The amenities included soap, shampoo and even body scrub (the body scrub is recommended). The bathroom included toilet, bide, sink and a shower corner. The shower corner was small but the water pressure was good and the water temperature was stable when showering. The mechanical fan was started every time the light was turned on and was on the noisy side but I guess it helped a bit. The room got stuffy so it was great to be able to open the windows during the day.
When I tried to connect to the wifi the first time I was prompted for a username and password and I thought I had to pay for it. But it turned out that it was for free and you just have to ask for the login details in the reception. The net was pretty slow compared to what I’m used to but it did the job.

P1020162Breakfast was served in the “lounge” on the ground floor and had an amazing view to the skiing area at Plan Checrouit and the mountains around Courmayeur. I think the hotel was full when we were there but on most days we were alone at breakfast. The breakfast included some cereal, croissants, bread, boil your own egg, some fruit, excellent freshly squeezed orange juice, fresh coffee, yogurt, cakes etc. Remember to read the sign – don’t take too much and end up wasting food.

P1020158The location of the hotel was excellent for us. It only takes like 3 minutes to walk to the main street of Courmayeur – the pedestrian street Via Roma. There were many restaurants around the hotel and it only took a few minutes to walk to them. It was about 600 meters to walk to the main gondola that takes you from Courmayeur to Plan Checrouit. The service at the hotel was excellent. The young woman that was in the lobby most of the time spoke English, French and Italian (maybe more?) and made recommendations as to where to rent skiis, how to get to the thermal baths at Pre’-saint-didier etc. I guess it is a family run hotel and from time to time it felt like we were walking into a home as it seemed like they were waiting up for us to come back to the hotel.

The room was a bit outdated but did the job. The main thing for us was that the hotel had a good location for getting to the gondola and for eating out at night. In addition to that we got a good and friendly service.

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Gard – trip reports and pictures 

The best countries for food Mar 06

food_heaven_Mercato_CentraleTrying out the local food is a part of the travel experience and it is a part of getting to know the culture of a country. Lonely Planet has made this list of countries that are worth a visit just for their food. I’m not surprised to see Italy, Thailand and India on the list Winking smile We have been to several trips to e.g. Italy and it is always easy to find a good restaurant to eat at – feel free to check out this trip report from Bologna – a place well known for the food. Located nearby you will find towns that produce stuff like Parmigiano Reggiano (parmesan cheese), parma ham and balsamic vinegar (or Aceto Balsamico Tradizionale di Modena)

Gard – trip reports and pictures

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My trip report from Bologna in Italy Nov 02

Hi all

Nikki and I went to Bologna in Italy this summer. We first spent a few days in the city itself and stayed at Hotel Touring (see the hotel review here) in the city center. After that we changed hotel to Savhotel located just a bit out of the city center and we rented a car and we had some road trips to places like Ferrara, Ravenna and Modena. I have now posted the trip report with photos, videos, maps etc. on this page. I hope that it can be of some use to others that are going to Bologna and the surrounding area.

If you want to have an idea about eating out in Bologna you can also check out this section of the trip report . As you will see, there are lots of good restaurants and LOTS of good food to be eaten in this city. I have also made this interactive Bologna Google map that shows the location of the restaurants and attractions that we went to.
Well, there it is…hope that you guys will enjoy it. As always, let me know if you see something that needs to be corrected or fixed in the trip report. Feel free to get in touch if you have any questions or comments and I’ll do my best to answer.

Gard – trip reports and pictures

Review of Hotel Touring in Bologna in Italy Aug 12

Hotel_Touring_Bologna_entranceWe stayed at Hotel Touring in Bologna from July 21st to July 26th 2010. We chose this hotel as it was located near the city center and we wanted to explore the city by foot. I booked the hotel online and went for a gold room costing 119 € per night. We arrived late at night at the hotel – the city is only about 15-20 minute taxi ride from the airport. Check in was fast and we got room 333. The tiny lift was not big enough for us and our two large suitcases so I sent my wife together with the suitcases in the lift and went for the staircase myself. The room had a small corridor leading into the room and on the left hand side was a bathroom. The room itself had light wooden floor and was painted in light colors with some yellow/gold wall paper behind the bed. The room was not very large so fitting our two suitcases in there was a bit of a puzzle. The wardrobe area included a tiny TV with a few channels (but only 1 English speaking channel), a few hangers, shelves and also a safe large enough for our laptops and a tiny fridge with a small selection of drinks – the fridge was not very good as it could hardly keep the drinks cold.

Hotel_Touring_Bologna_bedThe bed only included a thin blanket as duvet so finding the right temperature at night was a bit tricky – the aircon only included two buttons saying “Too warm” and “Too cold” so it was easy at least. The bed itself must be one of the most uncomfortable beds that I have had in a hotel as it was way too hard for my liking. There was also a tiny desk and a chair and there were sockets on each side of the bed so charging phones etc was a breeze. The bathroom seemed quite new and it was tiled in light tiles – the room included a toilet, bide, sink and for once just a shower – I think bathtubs should have been left out of hotel rooms as I hardly use them. The shower was quite large and featured a sliding door to enter it. There was a large rainforest showerhead but the only problem was that the drain didn’t seem able to keep up with the shower – the shower would very quickly turn into a footbath. Maybe it is a genius way of getting people to use less water when showering. There were not that many amenities but there were shampoo, soap and shower cap at least.

Hotel_Touring_Bologna_room_terraceOne of the first things we noticed when we came into the room was the pleasant and sweet scent – there were sticks in a small bottle on the desk and I guess it is a signature of the hotel as they had the same in the reception etc. When we woke up the next day we also noticed that we had gotten a room with an enormous balcony. The balcony included two chairs and a table, one sun bed and one reclining chair. In the afternoon we had sun on the entire balcony – but I’m not sure that it was a great idea to put cast iron chairs in the sun on the balcony. When sitting down on one in the afternoon I felt like I got branded as they were so hot. If you don’t get a room with a large balcony you can head for the rooftop garden on the 5th floor. From here you get an amazing view of Bologna in pretty much every direction. I think you can also get drinks served there in the afternoon if you don’t want to walk out of the hotel to find a place for you aperetivo.

Hotel_Touring_Bologna_deskThe breakfast at the hotel was served in the vaulted rooms in the basement – the breakfast was simple but included the basics of cereal, bread, fruit, juice etc and if you ask nicely you can even get a proper espresso or cappuccino. If you want to iron something they have an iron and ironing board located in the room next to the breakfast room – just ask and they will set it up for you.
The location of the hotel is great – located more or less next to Basilica of San Domenico and it took us only a few minutes to walk to Piazza Galvani and from there to Piazza Maggiore (it is only 600 meters to walk Piazza Maggiore). If you like your high-end shopping you’ll be glad to know that the hotel is also close to Via Farini which includes stores like Hermes, Louis Vuitton etc. We had our aperetivo a couple of times at Caffé San Domenico located on the Via Giuseppe Garibaldi and I can recommend the Aperol Spritz ;-)

Hotel_Touring_Bologna_wardrobe_TVIt seems like Hotel Touring has gotten on the list of “Most charming hotels” and they seem confident with their product. When I checked out I even got a little note saying “Remember to post your review on TripAdvisor” – ah, the power of the internet. But there are a few things that could have been improved. When we checked in I think I asked about the Wi-Fi and I was told it was 10 € pr day. The next day I tried to use the PC in the reception and I needed a password and the girl that was working said that as I was staying in a gold room the Wi-Fi was free and I got a username and password. It would have been great to get this when checking in.
I have already mentioned the other things – the shower drain was not very good and the bed was soo hard that I had problem sleeping.

Hotel Touring is a charming hotel with a good location in the Bologna city center. The staff was helpful and smiling at all times. The room seemed to be fairly recently refurbished and even if it was a bit on the tiny side we still enjoyed our stay there and the balcony that we had was amazing. But the bed was the real drawback for me but I guess it all depends on what kind of bed you like. All in all, if you can handle a hard bed this is not a bad hotel for checking out the city center of Bologna.


View from the rooftop terrace



Review of Savhotel in Bologna Aug 10

Savhotel_Bologna_entranceWe stayed at Savhotel in Bologna from July 26th to July 30th 2010 after we had stayed at Hotel Touring in the center of Bologna first. The reason for choosing Savhotel was that it was a bit in the outskirts which made it easier for us when we wanted to drive out of Bologna to explore some of Emilia-Romagna. At the same time the rate was low, it is a fairly new hotel and close enough to the city center so that we could enjoy restaurant in Bologna at night. After we picked up a rental car at the Marconi airport in Bologna we had a bit of problem finding Savhotel_Bologna_deskthe hotel as the street of the hotel was not in our GPS. But we figured it out by putting in one of the streets nearby (Via della Liberazione) and after that we just followed the signs. Savhotel seems to be a very new hotel located just north of the ring road of Bologna – the area around the hotel seems to be a mixture of flats, new office buildings etc. We got room 303 and the room was quite inviting when we first entered the room. The room was setup with a modern design but it was not that big. The floor was laid down with dark wood and the walls had light wall paper.

Savhotel_Bologna_bedThe centerpiece of the room was a king-size bed that was firm but far better than the mattress at the Hotel Touring that we had stayed at the previous nights (see separate review). On each side of the bed there were cubes that acted as both as a small table and lighting as they were illuminated from within. The reading light on each side could have been better as it was not very bright and rather flimsy. There was also a desk facing the window with a good light over it and a plug for the laptop – excellent setup.

Savhotel_Bologna_TVThere was a tiny flat screen TV in the room that has a good selection of channels and both CNN and BBC – but I would have liked to see a bit larger TV. The wardrobe area included hangers, shelves, a small fridge with some sodas/beers/snacks and a safe that was large enough for storing the laptop. The bathroom was tiled in light tiles and included a toilet, bide, sink andSavhotel_Bologna_bathroom bathtub which included the showering option. There were not that many amenities but as long as there is some shampoo I’m happy. The shower option in the bathtub worked out pretty good as a glass wall acted as a shield preventing splashing everywhere. The ventilation in the room was not that great so after we had taken a shower the humidity would pour down from the walls and mirror. The bathroom was separated from the room by a frosted glass door.

Savhotel_Bologna_breakfast_selectionThe breakfast area was right next to the reception and it included a decent breakfast. There was small selection of cereal, some buns, some options of mortadella ham, cheese and salami to put on the bread, ricotta, nutella and also some cakes, fruits and even egg and bacon. As usual, we had to ask to get a proper espresso but that was brought to our table with a smile. The parking facility at the hotel wasSavhotel_Bologna_wardrobe excellent – there was a parking area in the basement and we could take the lift straight to our floor. They also kept the bicycles in the parking area and we could borrow these free of charge – the only annoying thing was the form that I had to fill out every time I picked up the bikes. The bikes also came with large locks and according to one of the guys in the reception it was important to use the locks when parking in Bologna as bike thefts are not uncommon. The bikes were in great condition.

As mentioned, the hotel is located just north of the city center and it was easy to bike into town. There was a bike lane leading towards the city center and from there we just biked in the streets. Getting into Piazza Maggiore didn’t take more than about 10 minutes biking at a slow pace (it is 2,5 km/1,5 miles to Piazza Maggiore).

Savhotel_Bologna_breakfast_areaLet’s talk about some of the things that can be improved at the hotel. It was great with the free Wi-Fi but it was annoying that we had to call the reception to get a cryptic username and password and it also expired in the middle of our stay and I had to call the reception again to get a new username and password. The Wi-Fi signal was quite weak and I was not able to pick up a signal with my iPhone 3G in the room (but my wife got a signal with her 3GS). When we checked in, our clothes had been in and out of our suitcases and were in desperate need for some ironing. But the room did not include this and when we called the front desk we were told that we were not allowed to have an iron in the room and they did not have a room where we could do the ironing. So the only option was sending the clothing to the laundry service for ironing – this is something that I think the hotel has to rethink.

We were a bit surprised to find that the hotel is quite “noisy”. As it is a pretty new hotel I thought there would be better sound insulation between the rooms and hall. But we could hear the TV from the next room and it was easy to hear the cleaning personnel doing their job in the morning. Another thing that was a bit noisy was the aircon. When it was running it was not a problem but when starting and stopping it made a bit of noise.

If you have a car this hotel is a great option to use as a base for exploring the region as it makes it easier when it comes to driving (as driving in the city center seems to be a nightmare) and it is still close enough to the center to make it possible to enjoy restaurants there at night. The rate was 62€ for the room and that is not bad when it included taxes, breakfast for 2, free Wi-Fi, free parking inside, bikes that we could use etc. But if you are just in Bologna to check out the city center I would recommend finding a hotel within the ring road and in a more charming neighborhood.

The best coffee in Rome Mar 22

The Norwegian travel magazine Reiser & Ferie (Travel & Vacation) has posted an article about the best coffee shops in Rome and that brought back memories to my trips to Rome (see my Rome trip report from 2005 on It seems like Italians like their coffee strong and sweet – each morning we would see people come into coffee shops to buy their “breakfast”: a cup of espresso with lots of sugar in it. Anyway, we got to try out some of the coffee shops in Rome and they do make a very good espresso. And on Tazza d’Oro we got a great combination of espresso, crushed ice and whipped cream (granita di caffé con panna). Anyway, here is the list of the best coffee shops according to Reiser & Ferie:

  1. Sant ‘Eustachio
  2. Museo Atelier Canova Tadolini
  3. Caffe Greco
  4. Caffé-Bar di Marzio
  5. Canova Restaurant
  6. Ciampini
  7. Ciuri Ciuri
  8. La Caffetteria
  9. Universale Caffé
  10. Tazza d’Oro

Which coffee shops have you visited in Rome and which is your favourite?

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A “private” tour of the Sistine Chapel Jan 27

A few years back we visited Rome (see the trip report with photos) and as many others we went for a tour at the Vatican museum and at the end we got to visit the Sistine Chapel. It was a bit of a surreal experience as it was so crowded and the guards were busy chasing people that were talking or taking photos. But now it seems like it is possible to go for tours after regular opening hours. Companies like Italy with us, Context , Rome in limo and Viator can all offer tours according to the Norwegian paper VG. But seeing Michelangelo’s masterpiece after hours does not come for free of course – you have to be prepared to pay about 300€ per person for the touring service. So if you have the money you can now enjoy the view of this beautiful chapel more or less in peace.

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Walk the streets with Google Street View Nov 05

As some of you have noticed, I’m a bit of a fan of Google…and one of the greatest tools is Google maps which I have used to map out cities that I have been to (see an example in my Rome Google map). In connection with the Google maps there is also another great tool called Google Street View. Some cities around the world have been photographed on street level and this allows the user to walk virtually through the cities – this means that you can e.g. check out the area around the hotel that you are about to book, or “walk” to the restaurant that you are thinking about visiting etc.  If you are wondering which cities that have been mapped please check out this Wikipedia page. So how about walking past Collosseum in Rome to get an idea of how it looks :-) Just zoom in on the city and drag the little orange map into the street that you want to take a closer look at and then start by moving around by clicking on the arrows that run along the street. Here is my Rome trip report in case you need some more background information: