|I'm sorry that I didn't take any pictures of the hotels.|
Hotel Diocleziano, Rome: We stayed at Hotel Diocleziano for four nights while we were in Rome. The experience was wonderful. The rooms were very clean and large (for a hotel in the city). The staff was amazing and always met us with a smile. When we first arrived, we had to dump our luggage off at the hotel and basically shove our reservation number at the man working the front desk because we had to catch our Scavi tour at the Vatican. No problem: they had our luggage in our rooms when we arrived back at the hotel. Whenever we had a question, they had an answer. Finally, the breakfast was very delicious and included a wide variety of foods, including fresh salami, cheeses, breads, croissants, fruits, yogurt, and cereal.
The location of the hotel was great for us as well. The hotel was located near Termini station, which was nice because it was a short walk to the Termini subway stop, which was on the blue and red lines. Furthermore, on our travel days, we just walked to the train station and thus did not have to waste time traveling to the train on those days. For us, it was worth it to stay a bit farther from the main attractions (Vatican City, ruins), but in the future I may consider staying closer to the Vatican just because we were there every day, so it would have been good to be near the action.
Hotel Colomba, Florence: This quaint hotel in Florence was cute and convenient. We stayed here for two nights. This hotel is run by an older couple who also kept everything very clean and tidy. They were very accommodating when we checked in late Christmas day. The breakfast was also tasty...especially the various coffee drinks we ordered! The hotel is situated about a block from the Duomo, so the location was wonderful. Florence is small, so it only took us about ten minutes to walk anywhere we wanted to walk. Again, the service was wonderful and everybody was extremely friendly. We had a great stay at Hotel Colomba.
A few restaurants really stuck out to us (in order of my favorites):
Trattoria Katti, Florence: Trattoria Katti was wonderful. We arrived in Florence on Christmas Day, exhausted from traveling most of the day and from staying up late the night before for midnight mass. Here I had one of the best pasta dishes of my life: a bolognese sauce on pasta that was so. delicious. When we arrived I saw a huge pot with the bolognese sauce inside of it bubbling away on the stove, so I had to order it. The sauce did not disappoint. Everybody else at my table loved their food as well. Katti also had a great house wine and we all enjoyed. Another great part of this restaurant was the atmosphere. Katti's niece served as our translator and made sure that everything was just how we wanted (hard sometimes when two people in the group don't like cheese). When my mom wanted "sweet" wine, they found some for her. One of the best parts was at the end of our dinner, Katti brought out a huge, fresh rack of ribs and started hacking it up in the kitchen with a cleaver for someone else who ordered it--that's how you know the food is made to order---when you see the proprietor bringing your raw meat out from the back. It was awesome.
Antica Birreria Peroni, Rome: This place was hilarious. We stopped here for a very late lunch on Saturday in Rome. By this time, anybody who knew any English in the restaurant was gone. Therefore, we had a fun experience of ordering by basically pointing to random things on the menu. When we got our food, hilarity often ensued (for example, when my dad ordered house red wine (in a glass, or so we thought) and a small pitcher of white wine came out and we thought that it was vinegar until someone worked up the nerve to taste it...also when my dad got eggplant and that is literally the only food he won't eat (but luckily he switched with David, who loves eggplant)). The food was great: I had spaghetti with a red sauce here. We also enjoyed the atmosphere. This is a must-see place that is a bit off the main streets but well worth the effort to find it.
Trattoria ZaZa, Florence: This restaurant seems to be starting quite a stir on TripAdvisor with some reviewers thinking that this was awesome and others thinking that it was a bomb. I thought that the food was good here, but in particular I really enjoyed my pasta with red meat sauce (another bolognese sauce, surprise, surprise). It was quite possibly one of my favorite dishes in Italy. The atmosphere was somewhat fun but if I remember, the service was not the best. I think that you have to get lucky with what your order here, because others in my group did not think that this place was all that great.