October 31, 2014

Mapping My Month: November 2014

Wait - it's November?!?!

Believe it or not, the time for pumpkin pies, turkey legs, cranberry sauce, and gratitude is fast approaching!  It's time to put away the Halloween ghoul and goblin decorations and break out the autumn garlands and cornucopias.

October brought some highs and some lows.  We lost our new little kitty to some unknown ailment, which crushed me to the point of canceling attendance at an Oktoberfest celebration here in Richmond.  But we did manage to attend the State Fair of Virginia earlier this month, spend a windy weekend at Kilmarnock hunting for arrowheads and pretty shells, and experience the Central Virginia Celtic Festival and Highland Games this past weekend! 

I feel like a broken record by saying that this next month will be fairly quiet in terms of bigger travel plans.  We tend to live frugally, hoarding our money and vacation days for big trips abroad, and we'll be doing more low-key living through November (minus the anticipated bite into my wallet that buying Christmas gifts will bring!).  I plan to kick off November with a trip out to Charlottesville tomorrow to watch my sister's team play a rivalry rugby game against the University of Virginia and then walk the beautiful Grounds of the University reminiscing on my time there as an undergrad.  Later in the month, a dear friend will be returning from her 20-month Asia trip before she moves on to California.  We'll undoubtedly hit up a few breweries and catch up on all her travels!  (I'm anticipating a lot of travel envy after those conversations!)  By then we'll be nearly to Thanksgiving, which means we'll be "headin' to Pennsylvania and some homemade pumpkin pie!"  (Perry Como, anyone?)  We spend every other Thanksgiving in the heart of Amish country, and I'm excited about our first out-of-state trip since late August.  Beyond visiting with family, I'm wondering if we'll have time to sneak a visit to the Hershey Factory while we're there!

Before you know it, we'll be in the swing of the Christmas season. And in just a few weeks, we should be able to announce our 2015 international travel plans!  I can't wait!

How was your October?  Any big plans for November yet?
A photo posted by The Thrifty Gypsy's Travels (@thriftygypsy87) on

October 30, 2014

Throwback Thursday: Karuma Game Reserve, Uganda (2007)

Check out the horns on this bad boy!  I met him while on a safari excursion in Karuma Game Reserve, located near Murchison Falls National Park, in northern Uganda -- not too far from the border with Congo.  Of all the trips I've been on, my time in Uganda ranks near the top of the list!

Have you been to Uganda?  It's not called the Pearl of Africa for no reason - it's gorgeous!  Check out my post about it here.

October 28, 2014

A Country Mouse in the Big City

When it comes to every day living, the pastoral beauty of the Virginia countryside has my heart.  Quiet, unpainted roads, skies lit up by stars instead of light-bulbs, the steady thrumming of tractors, and more cows than people for neighbors - I wouldn't trade any of it, not even for the convenience of living near cafes, grocery stores, and movie theaters.  I choose to commute many miles and long hours to the office in order to enjoy the serenity of country living; it's a sacrifice, but one I'm willing to make.

But while the countryside has much to offer in terms of bucolic beauty, most cultural attractions and museums are found in the city, and so our travels primarily revolve around cities.  However, we throw in a dash of country sights here and there to give us a little bit of relaxation while on the road.  Here are just a few examples of how we've managed to put both cities and countrysides on our trips:

My five cent grin
Our trip to Italy had a heavy focus on city sights (Rome) due to the high number of attractions available to see: the Colosseum, the Pantheon, the Vatican, the museums, etc.  However, we made sure to spend time outside Italian cities, too, beginning our trip in the quiet modern town of Pompei just outside the ruins of Pompeii, spending a gloriously relaxing day on the coast outside Sorrento, and an invigorating morning hiking Mt Vesuvius!  This country mouse can better tackle a whirlwind tour of European cities with a few days spent recharging in the countryside first!

Our visits to Germany always highlight the best of both country and city, thanks in large part to the flexibility of having many friends and family members to visit while we're there!  From the tourist-packed town of Rothenburg, to the World-Cup frenzied streets of Stuttgart, to the alpine beauty of Neuschwanstein, we've seen a lot of Germany - but still not enough of it!  Munich, Berlin, Cologne, and Germany's North Sea coast are still on my bucket list.

Beautiful Rothenburg
Selfies at St Vitus Cathedral
We visited Prague in 2012 before flying to Germany, and this trip was entirely city-oriented.  But when you're walking fairy-tale streets and gaping at beautiful Gothic churches, getting stressed out by the confines of a city is the last thing on your mind!  We would dearly love to return to Prague and then venture out into the Czech countryside.

My whirlwind 48-hour trip to London in February was all city.  But I didn't mind one bit!  I fell in love with London - crazy and overwhelming as it can be at times! - and can't wait to return.  But like with Prague, I also yearn to see the English countryside and venture north and west to Scotland, Wales, and Ireland.  Last weekend we entered a raffle to win a trip to Ireland and the UK and when the results are announced on St. Patrick's Day, I'm hoping to hear our name called!

My "please don't send me back to the States tonight" look.

Having family ties to the Boston-area might make the city seem like an old hat to some, but for me it's anything but!  This city has attitude and historical sights in spades.  This past May we were able to walk the Freedom Trail, eat lunch at the historic Green Dragon Tavern, and reflect on our revolutionary roots at Bunker Hill.  Later we made an excursion outside the city down to Plimoth Plantation to learn more about the settlement of America in the 1600s.  While only a weekend trip, it was a perfect combination of city and country sights.

Visiting both cities and countryside on your travels not only gives you the best of both worlds, but provides you with a more well-rounded feel for the cultures with which you're interacting.  City-life is not the only facet of a society, and neither is country-living.  Experience them both and you'll come away with a deeper awareness of the culture and a more satisfying understanding of the country you're visiting.

My natural habitat is somewhere green, warm, and in the great outdoors!
Do you prefer visiting cities or countryside on your travels?  Or do you try to see the best of both?

Linking up with Bonnie Rose and Camila for #TravelTuesday!

October 25, 2014

Rome By Night

Whether under daylight or dusk, the Eternal City of Rome amazes and impresses, from evocative ruins to beautiful structures that have been in continuous use for nearly 2,000 years.  The light of day illuminates Rome as a living city, bustling with lively Italians and over-awed tourists, but Rome by night enchants and mesmerizes with the mystique of a city that has endured through countless kingdoms, empires, rulers, and brooded over innumerable generations' worth of secrets, sorrows, and strife that have occurred within her boundaries.  Here are a few of my favorite Rome By Night shots:

The Pantheon - incredible by day or night.

I love how the blurred lines of the buildings contrast with the clarity of the full moon in this picture.

The Vittorio Emannuel memorial glows brightly underneath the light of a full moon and clear skies.

The Colosseum stands just as proudly as it has since its construction nearly 2,000 years ago -- even if it's lost a few of its bricks and stones along the way!

Do you prefer the mystique of a city after dark compared to its daytime glory?  Have you ever visited Rome?


Linking up with Chasing the Donkey and other travel bloggers for the #SundayTraveler!

October 24, 2014

The Spanish Steps & Not-So-Free Roses in Rome

Those not already familiar with Audrey Hepburn's iconic movie Roman Holiday may not necessarily see the appeal or charm in the Spanish Steps of the Piazza di Spagna.  Admittedly, the steps are not as historic as, say, the Colosseum or as heralded as Michelangelo's Steps to the Capitoline hill.  However, for me a trip to Rome would not have been complete without channeling my inner Hepburn (or Danny as the dashing Gregory Peck!) at the Spanish Steps.

My Gregory Peck (just not at the
Spanish Steps)!
The Spanish Steps date to the eighteenth century, when funds from a French diplomat were expended to conveniently connect the Bourbon Spanish Embassy down the steep hill to the Palazzo Monaldeschi.  We found the Steps beautiful - even underneath a sea of humanity and with a backdrop of scaffolding!

Before we could even scope out a place to sit for a moment, pushy hands were thrusting roses in my face.  "Free gift!  Free gift for you!" was the man's insistent explanation.

"No thanks," I said firmly, holding my hands up with palms facing outward.

"No pay, no pay!  Roman tradition!  Good luck to give roses to pretty ladies!"

"We don't want it," Danny said firmly as we turned away.  The man grunted and muttered under his breath at us as he left to accost his next target.  Shortly thereafter we heard him repeat his statement, and when the lady took the rose, he began hounding her to pay for her "free gift," following her around the piazza until she finally handed back the rose.  This seems to be a pretty popular scam in Rome.

Despite the crowds and pushy "salesmen," it was refreshing to rest our achy feet while taking in the bustling ambiance.  Just don't dare to slip off your flip-flops or shoes unless you want a scolding from a policewoman!  We found it ironic that they would enforce a fashion code while blatantly ignoring the obnoxious ways of the scam artists all around us.

At any rate, we enjoyed our quick respite at the Spanish Steps.  Only a gelato cone could've possibly made the experience better, but an impending storm cloud hurried us back to the metro and on for more adventures in Rome!

What other tourist scams have you witnessed while traveling?  Have you visited the Spanish Steps?


Linking up with A Southern Gypsy for the #WeekendWanderlust!

October 23, 2014

Throwback Thursday: The Alamo (2011)

Oh, you know, just another day at the Alamo with John Wayne... and my hunky hubby and (then) newly-graduated brother-in-law!

October 21, 2014

Getting Lost in the Vatican Museum

Before you visit the Vatican Museum, you need a plan.  Whether it's a detailed battle plan or a simple list of "must see" items, walking into the Vatican Museum without some sort of plan will result in hours spent wandering aimlessly from room to room, wondering how anyone could possibly say they've "done" the Museum without spending an actual lifetime there!

When we visited the Museum in July, our plan consisted of nothing more than making sure we saw the Sistine Chapel.  But before you ever reach the Sistine Chapel,* you walk through nearly seven kilometers worth of galleries featuring some of the world's finest paintings, sculptures, ancient artifacts, mummies from Egypt, and jewelry - all spanning from ancient civilizations to modern creations.  Although we knew the Museum was extensive, I don't think it really sank in just how much so until we showed up after a morning in the Basilica.  In retrospect, I wish I had compiled a battle plan instead of a "let's just show up and see what's what" kind of plan!

Personal Favorites
The Raphael Rooms ~  Call me incredibly clueless, but I had no idea there was so much of Raphael at the Vatican Museum (obviously, I've forgotten all the art history I learned in high school).  I could've spent hours in the Raphael Rooms, mouth agape and completely engulfed in the School of Athens or the masterful Battle of Milvian Bridge (a Raphael design painted by Giulio Romano).  After seeing these paintings peer out at me through school textbooks and tv documentaries countless times, I couldn't believe they were right in front of me.

Here are a few of my favorite shots:

School of Athens
Battle of Milvian Bridge
Ceiling painting in the Room of Constantine

Gallery of Maps ~  What a hidden gem!  These 16th century frescoes by Ignazio Danti depict the entirety of the Italian peninsula.  We loved looking for familiar-sounding towns and cities of those we had just visited and those that still remain on our bucket list.

Sistine Chapel ~  By far, the Sistine Chapel was the apex of our Museum visit - and yet, it wasn't the experience I wanted.  Sadly, no photos are allowed (but many misbehaving tourists were snapping them anyway).  We spent at least 40 minutes in the Chapel, listening to our audio guide's explanation and descriptions of all the artwork.  Michelangelo's artistry draws people from all over the world, but unfortunately the hordes of tourists detract from the experience.  Instead of being able to quietly ponder on the Biblical stories and lessons behind the art, you are being bumped by tourists surreptitiously trying to sneak a picture.  Rather than hearing Gregorian chants or hymns, you are serenaded by a Museum employee telling you, "Silencio.  No photos," in at least three or four languages.  Perhaps you can experience a more reverent atmosphere in the off-season, but there was none to be had in July.

Other Notable Mentions
Caravaggio, Titian, Bellini.... yeah, they're all there.  I couldn't possibly cover all these masterpieces in one post.  (Future post, maybe?)  By all means, buy yourself a ticket to Rome and go marvel over these pieces in person yourself!!!

Planning Your Visit
Buy your tickets ahead of time, especially if you're planning to visit in the busy tourist season!  Although it will cost an additional 4 euros a ticket buying in advance, it translates into saving precious time when you can skip the long lines of people just waiting to buy their tickets!

This pup wants to know when you're coming to visit him!  Have you been to the Vatican Museum?  What were your favorite galleries?


Cost:  16€ a person, plus an additional 4€ per ticket if you purchase online in advance; audio guides were 7€ per person
Time Needed:  ~1 hour if only visiting for the Chapel; at least 3+ hours otherwise
Accessibility:  Currently, the Museum is not immediately near a Metro line.  We took Line A to the Ottaviano - "San Pietro" station and walked south on Via Ottaviano for 2 blocks, then a right onto Via Germanico for 2 blocks, at which point the walls of the Vatican are directly in front of you.  Follow the wall to the right (eventually turning onto Via Vaticano - as if that isn't a clear indication of where you're going!), and it will bring you to the Museum entrance.  It was about a 10-15 minute walk.
Tips:  Unless you're planning on queuing up at least 30 minutes before the doors open at 9am, do yourself a favor and buy your tickets online before you ever leave home.  You can reserve a specific entry time (we were able to enter the museum before our allotted time) and having that ticket will allow you to bypass the excessively long lines!  We chose to rent an audio guide, which was very helpful for the artifacts that piqued our interest.  Just like with visiting the Basilica, you will have to go through metal detectors and other security so make sure you don't accidentally bring any prohibited items with you.

* There were signs indicating how to bypass or cut through various galleries in order to get to the Sistine Chapel faster.  This would be very helpful for visitors on a strict time schedule or those who have no interest in anything but the Chapel.

Linking up with Bonnie & other travel bloggers for #TravelTuesday!

October 19, 2014

Brainstorming the Next Destination

So the travel itch has been activated!  Not that it's ever inactive, but after EuroTrip2014, our wallets needed a wee bit of a recovery period.  But within the last few weeks, we've started casually mentioning various destinations and time-frames for our next European adventure.  Let the brainstorming phase begin!

As always, a trip to Europe will include an extended stay in Germany for quality time with friends and family in Bayern and Baden-W├╝rttemberg.  So that part of our itinerary is always constant; Germany is our European home, and a trip to Europe without time in Germany would be inconceivable!  But we'd like to visit at least one new country or city before we head to our Bavarian home base.  We've narrowed it down to three choices:

Athens.  Dubrovnik.  Barcelona.

Picking just one place is so difficult!  Greece has been on my bucket list for many reasons: the Parthenon, the coastline, the delectable food, the list goes on!  But.... Croatia has been mesmerizing me with its stunning coastlines, and as an occasional viewer of Game of Thrones, I have to admit that part of the reason I want to visit Dubrovnik is to imagine that I'm walking through King's Landing.  And what's not to love about Barcelona?  I'd love to see the work in progress at the Basilica of the Sagrada Familia, hoping it will be finished in my lifetime for a second visit to view it in its completed glory!  And a day spent on the Mediterranean would be lovely, even if the water weren't warm enough for a dip.

So how to choose?
Specific dates purposefully left blank

Well, before we come up with a definitive destination and timeline for a visit, we start by researching flight prices.  Yes, our decision is always weighed by two factors: interest in the actual place and prices of tickets for tentative dates of our trip.  Transatlantic flights are expensive!  If you don't do your research or aren't patient enough to compare websites, you might have to sell your firstborn just to fly to the old country.  Although I use the internet to find ticket prices, I'm old school in that I like to write my findings down on paper or on my whiteboard for comparison purposes.  I use at least three or four different flight search engines to narrow it down to the best deal, even if I only save a couple bucks from one site to the other!

Here's a shot of my good ol' fashioned whiteboard (and my excitedly sloppy handwriting!).  As you can see, I've compared the prices listed on Orbitz and Kayak for all three of our possible destinations:  Washington Dulles International (IAD) to Athens/Dubrovnik/Barcelona, from there to Frankfurt (FRA), and there back to IAD.  As of my search tonight between Orbitz, Kayak, Skyscanner, StudentUniverse, Priceline, Opodo, and Swoodoo, the tickets for Athens are by far the cheapest option.  So that makes it the "winner," right?  Well, since we won't be able to book our tickets for another few weeks (roughly 6 months from departure) at the earliest, and the prices could change before we're ready to buy, the jury is still out on this trip.  But so far Athens is the winner by a large margin!

So what's a girl to do while waiting for the days to fly by until mid-November?  Work hard, save some money, and keep researching flight deals.  If we find an absolute steal, we may throw back a glass of wine and buy the tickets on a whim.

And unfortunately, with how unpredictable life can be (civil unrest, infectious disease, personal injuries, etc), we aren't even 100% sure that in a few weeks we'll decide that a May Europe trip will be feasible.  Even after buying the tickets, plenty of things could change before departure to jeopardize the trip.  We'll be scrutinizing our finances heavily in the next few weeks and evaluating our long term goals (children, buying a house, etc) to come to a decision.  But no matter the outcome, I'm happy we're at least considering another international trip for next year.  These boots were made for walking, and they're itching for a few more steps!

How do you decide your next destination and plan the whats, whens, and hows of your trip?

Linking up with other travel bloggers for the #SundayTraveler!

October 17, 2014

Creating an Itinerary for Campania & Rome

Has it really been three months since we were in Europe?  Day-to-day routines, work, family -- life in general has a habit of spinning by at a dizzying speed (except when it's Monday and you're wondering how in the world it's not yet beer-thirty on Friday!). 

I've been musing over the Italian portion of our itinerary in Europe trip this past summer.  As anticipated, it was nonstop sightseeing action, balanced to the point of maximizing the number of sites we could visit without exhausting or crippling us.  Here's what we ended up with and a rough estimate of costs (all prices are per person except for lodging):

A whole row to ourselves!
Day 0 (July 3rd):
Washington D.C.
We arranged for my brother-in-law to drive us from Richmond to Washington Dulles International Airport to catch a 10:30pm flight to Naples via Brussels.  Europe, here we come!
$1,500 a ticket
165€ for 3 nights in Pompei at Hotel Vittoria
360,75€ for 5 nights in Rome at Hotel Andreotti

Day 1:
Brussels - Naples - Pompei
After a brief layover in Brussels, we flew to Naples, caught the transfer bus from the airport to Napoli Centrale station, and took the Circumvesuviana train line to Pompei.  We checked into the charming Hotel Vittoria, ate dinner, and passed out!
4€ - snack and beverage in Brussels
3€ - transfer bus to Napoli Centrale
2,90€ - Circumvesuviana train line to Pompeii Scavi
20€ - appetizer, dinner, and drinks at Hostaria Plinio

Day 2:
Pompeii Ruins
We woke up at the crack of dawn (translation: 10am), scarfed down our free breakfast at the hotel, and spent the rest of the day exploring the ancient city of Pompeii.
11€ - entry fee to ruins
12€ - one slice of pizza & drink for lunch
20€ - dinner and drinks at the Coffee House
Day 3:
Taking the Circumvesuviana train from Pompeii to Sorrento was easy, albeit crowded.  We wandered down to the water for a quick lunch then up to the cliffs and out to Punta del Capo and the Baths of Queen Joan.  We swam in crystal-clear waters, soaked up some rays on the rocky coastline, and marveled at the beauty of the Campanian coast.
8€ - roundtrip Circumvesuviana tickets
8€ - panini & Coke lunch
20€ - appetizer, dinner, and drinks at Hostaria Plinio

Day 4:
Mt Vesuvius - Naples - Rome
We woke up early to take the 9am excursion to Mt Vesuvius... only to be told the first bus didn't leave until 10.  We spent several hours from Vesuvius, then rushed back to Pompeii to catch the Circumvesuviana to Naples, and then the train from there to Rome.  Exhausted and hungry, we arrived in Rome around 7pm and enjoyed a meal at Ristorante Babbos that evening.
22€ - Mt Vesuvius transportation and tickets
5€ - crappy train station food
2,90€ - train from Pompeii to Naples
19€ - Naples to Rome tickets 
23€ - dinner and drinks at Ristorante Babbos

Day 5:
The "Caesar Shuffle" - Ancient Rome
Our first full day in Rome was spent doing the "Caesar Shuffle" around the ancient Roman monuments and ruins: the Colosseum, Arch of Constantine, and the Roman Forum were all on the list.  Thanks to the Roma Pass, we were able to bypass queues and get to the action faster!
36€ - Roma Pass
5€ - panini and bottle of water from street vendor
21€ - dinner and drinks at Steak House Ristorante & Pizzeria

Day 6:
St. Peter's Basilica - Vatican Museum - Germany TROUNCING Brazil
Utilizing our unlimited 3-day access to the Metro, we headed north to visit the Vatican for the day.  We caught stunning views of St Peter's Square from the Basilica and watched the antics of other tourists with amused annoyance before heading over to the Vatican Museum to gawk over Michelangelo's Sistine Chapel.  Later we walked along the Tiber to scout the next day's path before returning to our hotel to watch Germany spank Brazil in the semi-finals of the World Cup!
35€ - reserved entrance to the Vatican Museum with a rented audio guide
5€ - entrance to climb the dome of St Peter's
8€ - exorbitantly priced street food near the Vatican
5€ - delicious gyro from a Termini station stand for a light dinner

Day 7:
National Museum of Rome - Spanish Steps - Castel Sant'Angelo - Passeggiatiata to the (closed) Trevi Fountain
For our final day with the Roma Pass, we rambled all over Rome, starting with the Discus Thrower at the National Museum of Rome, zipping off to the Castel Sant'Angelo for the best view of Rome's skyline, and finally popping over to the Spanish Steps to pose a la Audrey Hepburn before we experienced a fast-moving thunderstorm and almost witnessed a bad scooter and pedestrian crash.  We ate dinner just around the corner from the Trevi Fountain (if we'd known how close it was to the fountain, we would've looked for less touristy food elsewhere) and then shed a disappointed tear or two over the fountain since it was closed for renovations.
7€ - entrance to Castel Sant'Angelo (30% off with Roma Pass)
6€ - street food for lunch
22€ - dinner at Osteria Allegro Pachino 

Day 8:
Pantheon - Mouth of Truth - Piazza Navona - Best Gelato OF MY LIFE - Circus Maximus
Our final day in Rome was spent visiting random sites and revisiting a few favorites.  It was also the first (and only) time we had gelato during our entire time in Italy!  (It's blasphemy, I know!)  Beyond a small donation at the church of Santa Maria in Cosmedin, which houses the Bocca della Verita (Mouth of Truth), our only expenses were food and a one-way metro trip from the Colosseum to the hotel. 
1,50€ - one Metro trip
1€ - donation to Santa Maria in Cosmedin
4€ - gelato at Tre Scalini Cafe
6€ - cafe lunch near Trevi Fountain
21€ - dinner and drinks at the Steak House (again)  

Day 9:
Rome - Stuttgart
After a quick breakfast at our hotel, we took the Leonardo Express train from Termini to Fiumincino Airport for our flight to Germany.
11€ - Leonardo Express train
70€ - flight to Stuttgart

I confess that I didn't actually budget when it came to our time in Italy.  We had a certain amount of cash in hand that we'd saved up, but otherwise we didn't have a specific limit in mind per day.  Seeing it broken down actually amazes me that we spent such a relatively small amount - for Italy, that is! - and that we managed to see so much in such a short time!

Have you ever broken down the costs of a trip and been surprised (in a good or bad way) or been amazed at how much you packed into your itinerary?


Linking up with other travel bloggers for #WeekendWanderlust!

* Approximate.  I may have overstated or understated some of the sit-down meals as I have misplaced the receipts I kept.  I also may have forgotten a snack or two purchased along the way.

October 16, 2014

Throwback Thursday: Rothenburg o.d. Tauber (2012)

This fairytale town located on Germany's Romantische Strasse is iconic for its preserved medieval walls, which still encircle the entire town.  Danny especially enjoys the Mittelalterliches Kriminalmuseum or the Medieval Crime Museum located in town!

October 14, 2014

Where to eat in Pompeii

Whether you're planning to visit Pompeii on a day-trip or book a hotel to stay longer, at some point during your visit, you'll probably need to grab at least one meal.  During the two and a half days we spent in Pompeii, we tried out two restaurants, a cafe, and some street food.  While most of the eatery choices in close proximity to the ruins are very touristy, some are better than others, and even good restaurants near the ruins may appear deserted for dinner since most tourists visit Pompeii only for the day.  Here are our recommendations, ratings, and caveats of available eateries in Pompeii (the ancient ruins) and Pompei (the modern town):

Hostaria Plinio

For warm Italian service and delicious Italian cuisine, Hostaria Plinio will take care of your needs while in Pompei.  From their crunchy bruschetta to rich lasagna, our taste buds couldn't get enough of their generous servings.  On our first evening, we sampled their spaghetti alla carbonara and lasagna dishes, pairing them with half liters of chilled Peroni.  What a meal.  It was our first meal in Italy and set the bar high for the remainder of the trip.  We returned to Hostaria Plinio on our third (and last) night in Pompeii, this time ordering pizza and spaghetti con carne.  The pizza was bigger than the plate, and the spaghetti portions were also substantial.  We waddled our way back to the hotel, completely sated.

This place appeared to be family-run and operated, and while our young server couldn't speak a lick of English (nor we a bit of Italian!), food is a universal language and communication proved to be no problem.  On both our visits we ate in their beautifully appointed garden and enjoyed service that resembled the hospitality extended to friends more than a business taking care of patrons.  Does it get any better than that?

Price range: $$
   Appetizers: 4-5 euros
   Pasta dishes: 7-10 euros
   Meat dishes: 10-15 euros
   Pizza:  8-10 euros
   Alcohol:  3-4 euros (per glass or half liter)
Service: 5 out of 5
Bang for your Buck Value: 5 out of 5
Location:  Less than a 10 minute walk from the main entrance to the Pompeii ruins (14 Via Plinio).

The Coffee House (Lucullo's Garden Bar)

Located in the same building as the Hostaria Plinio, we visited the Coffee House* on our second night in Pompei.  After studying the menu posted on their garden wall, we finally went in and took a seat near a bubbling fountain.  Although there was only one other family seated, it took nearly ten minutes before we were noticed and menus provided.  The offered fare varied from paninis and pizza, to pasta and meat dishes.  Having spent a long hot day under the sun in Sorrento, we settled upon a panini and an alfredo dish, paired with Peroni and a white wine purportedly grown on the slopes of Mt Vesuvius.  We had no complaints with the food, but it was nothing special.  The service was slow even by Italian standards.  Danny ordered a second beer after his meal and twenty minutes later had still not received it, even though the waitress was standing in the doorway between the garden and restaurant, clearly not busy.  When we were ready to ask for our bill (il conto, per favore), the waitress finally remembered to bring the beer, extending our dinner by another twenty minutes when we were desperately craving our pillows.  Since Hostaria Plinio provided a better experience, both in terms of the food and the service, we would suggest giving the Coffee House a pass.

Price Range: $$
Service: 2 out of 5
Bang for your Buck Value: 3 out of 5
Location:  Less than a 10 minute walk from the main entrance to the Pompeii ruins before you reach Hostaria Plinio (14 Via Plinio).

*We committed a travel blogger faux pas and failed to note the exact name of the restaurant.  The Google street view from August 2012 indicates signs with "Lucullo's Wine Bar" but the TripAdvisor for a restaurant at that address is for the Coffee House.  

Not a picture of the actual cafe :)
Pompeii Scavi Cafe

When it comes to soothing growling stomachs while within the walls of the Pompeii ruins, you have only one choice: the Pompeii Scavi Cafe.  Since there is no re-entry into the ruins once you've left, if your time in Pompeii coincides with mealtime, you either must pack a lunch or spend your euros here.  Like most eateries that have a monopoly control over their locale, the food is passable and the prices are steep for what you get.  We indulged in two rather large pizza slices (three if you count the one that met an untimely end), a Coke and a few beers for only a little less than a sit-down meal at Hostaria Plinio.  Survey the contents of the deli window, pay for your choice, then present your receipt to receive your food.  This cafe is adequate for your needs but nothing more.

Price Range:  $$
Service:  2.5 out of 5
Bang for your Buck Value:  2.5 out of 5
Location: Located just north of the Roman Forum within the ancient ruins.  Convenient for a snack or light meal without leaving the site.

Bar Bouvette Misteri Di Vorro Luig

If you're desperate enough to eat here, you may as well just buy a bag of chips and wait for a real restaurant.  We grabbed a slice of pizza and a panini from this street cafe attached to the train station after returning late from our excursion to Mt Vesuvius to catch a train to Naples and on to Rome.  The pizza consisted of one pepperoni piece and a few crumbs of cheese on a half-baked, doughy mess; not even hunger was a suitable sauce.  Granted, our pizza came from the hot plate deli case, so perhaps they have better fare when you actually sit down in the restaurant area, but I don't know that I'd give them another chance.  I will say that the employees were very pleasant and engaging, but beyond that our experience could not validate a recommendation.

Price Range: $
Service: 3 out of 5
Bang for your Buck Value: 0 out of 5
Location: As you exit the station, it's to your right within the same building complex as the station.

While admittedly there are few solid restaurant choices near the Pompeii ruins. we would highly recommend the Hostaria Plinio establishment both for excellent service and delicious foods.  And speaking of food... here are a few drool-inducing pictures from there!

Massive pizza from Hostaria Plinio

Spaghetti con carne, also from Hostaria Plinio
Peronis at the Coffee House
Alfredo at the Coffee House
Panini from Coffee House


Have you visited the modern town of Pompei or the ruins at Pompeii?  Any restaurant recommendations or caveats?

Linking up with Bonnie Rose and other travel bloggers for #TravelTuesday!

All places were visited between July 4 and July 7, 2014.  All opinions are my own, and we received no compensation or incentive for these reviews.