Report Cards

This item appears on page 4 of the September 2010 issue.

NEWS FROM Florence…

• In Florence I recommend a stay at Hotel Accademia (Via Faenza 7; fax 055 219 771 or e-mail Located right near the Medici Chapel, San Lorenzo Church and the San Lorenzo market, it’s three blocks from the Duomo.

Do ask them the easy way to walk to the hotel by Santa Maria Novella. Since it is so close to the train station, a taxi driver doesn’t make much money and will be disgruntled.

This place offers an English-speaking staff, quiet upstairs rooms and a full breakfast. I stayed seven nights, May 18-24, 2010. For one person, the rate with cash was €90 (near $116) per night.

• Right downstairs is a wonderful restaurant, Trattoria Antellesi. After a day of walking in Florence, it was wonderful to have dinner so close to the hotel. It’s open in the evening at 7 p.m. I loved the outdoor seating and watching the action along the street.

For two courses, a pitcher of wine, water, bread and three biscotti, the cost was €20.

— Arleen Shippey, Ukiah, CA


• We are vegans (no meat, no dairy), so finding restaurants in Italy that offer vegan fare (besides pasta with tomato sauce) is difficult.

In Rome, Tidiro (Via del Mattonato 42, Trastevere, 00100 Rome; phone 065810626) was a real find. An American owns it, so the language is no problem. There is a fixed-price (€15, or near $18), four-course set menu that changes daily, depending upon what is available in the market.

We ate there twice in May ’10, and each day’s meal was very creative and delicious. Even if you are not vegan or vegetarian, it represents a real change of pace from the standard Italian fare. Wine and homemade beer are available.

• We stayed in the Campidoglio apartment offered by Chris Larkman (phone 0044 20 8543 2283,, who has a classified ad in ITN’s The MART. It costs £770 (near $1,209) for a week’s stay in the one-bedroom apartment — another great find.

The apartment is smack-dab in the middle of the Centro Storico. Turn right out of the apartment, walk five minutes and you’re at the Roman Forum; five minutes further and you’re at the Colosseum. Turn left out of the apartment, walk 15 to 20 minutes and you’re at the Vatican. The location could not be more central to everything a visitor might want.

The apartment has a lot of space, modern fixtures and modern appliances (including washer/dryer!). This was much better and cheaper than a small hotel room. Located in the back of an apartment building on a quiet street, it has a small patio where it was great to relax after a long day of pounding Rome’s pavements.

Chris requires payment in cash up front, which is a bit of a hassle because he’s in London. After paying, he mailed us the keys; this was great because we could arrive at our own pace and didn’t have to rendezvous with an agent (he has a local agent, just in case). When we returned home, we merely mailed the keys back to him.

— Jamie Osborne, Kailua, HI


• For 17 college students and two faculty members, I arranged a customized, 10-day tour of literary sites on Ireland’s west coast in May ’10 with JN Executive Travel (Enfield, Killick House, Kilcock, Co. Kildare, Ireland; phone 00353 1628 4008, fax 1628 4009,

It was led by the owner and operator, John Nolan, and the cost was $2,000 each, including breakfast, three dinners and all fees. Airfare was not included.

The great itinerary, the trip’s flexibility, the clean coach bus, having free bottled water, and our farewell dinner: everything was perfect.

One example of the fantastic service — I asked Mr. Nolan if he could arrange a little music for the group’s final night. The dinner at the hotel turned into a true Irish Celtic dance party when a jazz ensemble of four musicians arrived with 15 musical instruments!

• Our group stayed at the three-star Tralee Townhouse Hotel (High St., Tralee, Co. Kerry, Ireland; phone +353 066 718 1111, for three nights.

The small hotel’s furnishings are a bit tired, but that’s its only drawback. The breakfast was big and delicious, and the rooms each had blow dryer, iron and TV. (€29.50 per person, double, low season to €40, high.)

The hotel is located in the heart of town, steps from a church and a nice traditional pub called Sean Og’s.

• In Galway we spent six nights at the four-star Forster Court Hotel (Forster St., Galway, Ireland; phone +353 91 564111, www.forster, mere steps from the town square.

The desk staff was very friendly. The rooms, recently remodeled, had tiled bathrooms, crushed-velvet chairs and flat-screen TVs. Daily newspapers. Breakfast was full Irish, cooked to order. (From €59 [near $77] twin.)

— Jennifer M. Eisenlau, Boulder, CO