Drowning in a Sea of Travel Guides for Rome

Finding a good travel guide can be a daunting task, particularly when you're planning on visiting a popular destination like London, Paris or Rome. Frommers, Fodor's, Rick Steve's, Insight Guides, AAA, Knopf, Michelin, Eyewitness Guides, Moon, Let's Go, Lonely Planet, Time Out, Baedeker... the list goes on and on. It's hard to make heads or tails from one guide to another.

Well, when it comes to Rome, I've gone through a few... having visited Rome close to ten times in the past 12-13 years, it's good to stay on top of what's new in town, new museums, etc. With so many to choose from, how do you know where to start? To begin with, I'm not a fan of Frommer's or Fodor's. Yes, they serve their purpose but, for me, I like to see some pictures. Show me what I'll be looking at - give me some visual perspective. Both guides typically fall short although I like their online presence. For my money, there are two that I have found particularly useful for Rome.

If you can find one - and you can find used ones on Amazon.com - one of the best guides out there is published by the Touring Club Italiano. Now, there may be current ones but the one I have is this older version. Well-written, good information, concise and it often lists places that most guides overlook. I really like this one. Of course, if you read Italian, you can pick up an Italian version but I know that only so many people have this luxury. If you're in Rome, check out the local Feltrinelli or Arnoldo Mondadori and you might find some Italian guides translated in English that will be worth your while. You never know...

Ever since buying my first Time Out guide for a trip to Buenos Aires, I've been nothing but impressed by Time Out's informative guides. Good insight on neighborhoods, hotels in all classes, restaurants and much more. They just work well and the one for Rome is no different. Recently published version also include Time Out Rome: Eating & Drinking Guide (wish I had a copy of this handy) and the Time Out Shortlist Rome. If the Eating & Drinking Guide is anything like the Cheap Eats in London guide, I would imagine it is priceless.

What are some of your favorites? Are you partial to funky little guides like the Wallpaper City Guide to Rome, big standards like the Eyewitness Guide to Rome or specialized guides like The Civilized Shopper's Guide to Rome? (my wife has this one... it's a great little pocket guide)


Travel Plans... what travel plans?

It's no secret that some consider me a bit crazy... yes, crazy in a variety of ways (sure, I'm kind of quirky) but definitely crazy for my family. I love my wife and my big boy and have found that as a new dad, my train of thinking has changed a bit, as well. Part of that has been the desire to protect them and ensure that I take care of their well-being. Of course, that can be manifested in a variety of ways. The most recent way had to do with our forthcoming trip to Argentina... or should I say, our recently cancelled trip to Argentina.

Now, wait a minute... didn't I recently cancel a trip to Rome to go to Argentina? Yes, I sure did. So, here's the crazy part... I've canceled our trip to Argentina to go to... well, Rome!? The reason, for me, is simple. The political situation in Argentina is starting to grow a bit dicey for me.
I might find it tolerable if I was traveling with just my wife but bringing a baby into the picture changes things.

You may have seen recent new stories about the 21 day protests that took place when Cristina Kirchner's government decided to increase taxes on various agricultural products. 21 days of largely peaceful protests across Argentina but protests and blockades that nonetheless led to food shortages in many markets in cities like Buenos Aires. Food shortages... OK, not good with a baby. Now, as I mentioned, the protests were largely peaceful, save for the ones attended by a certain Luis D'Elia who has become a kind of a two-fisted mouthpiece for the government. D'Elia is seen as a thug and the fact that he has been showing up and disrupting protests is not good. This was particularly the case the day after he was captured by the media punching a demonstrator during a rally. One day after breaking up a protest, there he was, standing next to Kirchner during a speech in which she denounced the protests taking place.

On April 2nd, the farmers decided to take a bit of a cooling off period for 30 days - a time when they could work with the government to negotiate some kind of a resolution. To date, the government has mostly thumbed their nose at the farmers and has now started suppressing free speech, going after the media (even government-friendly papers) and even confiscating truckloads of cattle from farmers. It seems like some of Argentina's ugly history is starting to resurface. Pity that a country with so so much going for it, with so many resources and wonderful people always gets stuck with terrible governments (albeit voted in by the people).

If you ask me, what's to say that the whole issue won't start back up? I'm not an alarmist but I'd rather go somewhere where I don't have to carry anxiety about the well-being of my family. Call me a chicken little... whatever... I'd just as soon not have to think about it and just head back to Italy. Yes, I'll have to suck it up and sell a kidney to pay for everything with Euros but, at the end of the day, I'll pick security and peace of mind over lower prices. Argentina will always be there and we will go back... just not in the coming months. Besides, while Italy has its own set of issues, it doesn't have this set of issues.

For us, it's back to Rome. In the meantime, read A Texan in Argentina's blog for more insight on the current situation...


Laying Our Heads in Greece

In no way is our trip to Greece around the corner... far from it. Still, I can't help but thinking about the trip and longing for a few days on a Greek Island. That being said, while our trip is far away, our hotels are all in place. Here are the hotels we picked and why...

Our first night in Greece will be spent at the Athens Gate, just around the corner from Plaka, in the shadow of the Acropolis and next to the Temple of Zeus. Simply put, great location, "reasonable" rates for what you get and it's in line with our style and taste.

Following our flight to Santorini, rather than heading straight for the caldera to stay somewhere like Oia or Imerovigli, we'll be staying at the beach at the Bellonias Villas in Kamari Beach. Located right on the black sand beach, Bellonias Villas receives great reviews and looks right up our alley - relaxing and spacious. We really wanted to be on the beach for the majority of our time in Santorini. We can always visit the caldera but, when we look at what is important to us, sitting by a pool and enjoying beachtime ranks high with us.

Now granted, you can't visit Santorini and not spend at least some time on the caldera so we decided to spend one night at the Golden Sunset Villas. Everything we've read said that Oia was the place to be - quaintest town on the caldera and the best sunsets. So, we picked the Golden Sunset Villas due to the nice rooms, the owner's reputation and it's privileged position in Oia. If we feel like more time in the water, we can always take the stairs down to Ammoudi beach.

A 6:40 AM flight pretty much guarantees a strong yearning to stay by the airport. So, to make it easier on ourselves, we'll be staying at the Sofitel Athens Airport. Not cheap but worth the price. We'll also have easy access to a train that can take us straight into Athens for the evening.