Sunday, September 7, 2003

Trading creature comforts for any semblance of cred

Florence is gone. Well, not literally, of course. Let me back up.

I have been a busy little beaver this week in Canberra, oh yes. My entire holiday is now sorted.

Now, let me explain something about myself. I sleep lightly. I cannot sleep on planes, or in hostel dorms. I need a room of my own.

I have spent chunks of the week on the internet trying to secure accommodation in Rome. Paris and Venice were easy – Rome, horrendous. Hostels, convents, monasteries – the first ten budget-accommodation providers I contacted were all booked out.

The concept of arriving after 30 hours without sleep at the Termini station in Rome and beginning doorknocking hostels was not looking good – especially if I eventually landed in a dorm and continued not to sleep.

The cheapest price for (not available) single rooms at a hostel was at least 54 euros. At this point my mother stepped in and hit the last-minute hotel booking sites.

As a result I have gone a bit over budget to pay a princely 69 euros a night in Rome for four nights. It seems a fair bit (about $110 Australian), until I consider what I’m getting: a 200 euro a night room in a four star hotel, with breakfast, a cardinal’s throw from the Vatican.

I can think of no better environment in which to shower, take an evening stroll around the city, and then sleep off the jet lag.

I love my luck.

Nuns in Venice
Now, in this flurry of activity, I was e-mailing convents and monasteries (the new thing in budget travel) like mad. I could only find one convent with a listed e-mail in Venice – the highly recommended Instituto Artigianelli. I composed an e-mail in both fractured and re-glued phrase book Italian and English and sent it off.

The sisters of Instituto Artigianelli replied (in charming English) within eight hours, confirming the availability of guest room one, single bed with bath and breakfast, at 52 euros a night.

Paris – Hostel/Hotel
I’ve found a place where I can get a private room within budget off the Place de Clichy, and rather belatedly hand out with “real” backpackers for four nights or so.

The big chop
So, with only seven nights in Italy, and four in Paris, I decided to drop Florence from my itinerary for the time being – prioritise three adequate, if short, stays, over running around like a mad thing.

I’m going to be tired, I’m going to want to indulge myself and take things at my own pace, I’m going to want to arrive in Cambridge well-rested. Florence can be the hub of a later trip in and around northern Italy. It’s still a must, but if I leave it, it can have adequate time.

I’m now so excited, I can hardly sleep.

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