Italy!
Gawd.... it was soooo hot when I was there!  I have to return to Italy one day; because my time there was limited, and I just didn't get the chance to absorb the place like I would have liked.  In Rome, I discovered that if you are thirsty, it is totally safe to refill your water bottle at any of fountains scattered throughout the city!  The water is clean and it goes down like milk.  They have Gelato, not icecream; and in Venice, I actually saw a taxi-boat pull up to someone's door to pick them up!

I got lots of stories and advice, so keep scrolling down! 


O
ur first stop in Italy was Venice...
Venice was so neat!!  There are no cars, just small roads, alleyways, and water canals.  One must prepare to get lost whilst walking in this old city; but if you keep your bearings by using a landmark (a high tower or the main canal), you should find your way easily enough.  I made sure I had a street map for every place; but Contiki provides you with one regardless.


Do you see the water taxi stand in the pic above?  And you've got a public transport boat, rather then a bus!
This city is ancient, unique, and simply magestic.  I definitely recommend this place!
Here I am takin' a cruise on a gondola.  However, the smile was for the yummy gondolier!!  Woo hoo!
If you are wanting to visit Vatican City or any other churches, you have to make sure that your shoulders and knees are covered.  Also, there are no such things as line-ups in Italy, so don't be too alarmed when someone butts infront of you.  In the majority of restaurants and such, you place your order with one person at the cash; they give you a ticket, and you take your ticket to another person who prepares your order.  And, if you are travelling on public transportation anywhere in Europe, get a day pass!   That way you won't pay a fortune for everytime you get lost...  *wink*
Here are a few more shots of Venice...   (keep scrolling down to see pics (and tips) of Rome and Florence)
Our second stop was Rome...  Check out these ruins!
The Coliseum
Titus Arch
Pantheon
Back
I really hope I don't offend anyone from Italy that may come across my pages, but I was warned about pick-pockets - especially the little kids!  Two from our group were "picked", I know one of the guys got his wallet back; not sure of the other.

I was told that one strategy for debauchery is that *gypsies* will throw what looks like a child at you (usually a doll), so that you automatically catch it, then your pockets get looted whilst your arms are otherwise occupied!!  So don't catch anything that is thrown at you!  Many back-packers keep their packs strapped in front of them, rather then on their backs.

Keep in mind that being a "tourist" puts anyone at risk among the seedy occupants of any city - but don't let these warnings give you a bad impression... the place was great!
Other stuff: 

I noticed that they didn't have salad-dressing... they use vinegar and oil; and for Europe in general - you "pay to pee". 

There are people who have made careers at being bathroom attendants.  They work all day to keep the public toilets clean.  You leave them a 20 pence before or after your business.

IMPORTANT: In Italy, the toilets usually don't have a seat!!  I found this a bit uncomfortable, but I managed.  And even though there are bathroom attendants, make sure you use the toilet brush that is provided as well!  One lady chased my friend down the hallway of a museum yelling "kaka" to her... arrghh!
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