A word of warning: be very careful to confirm your bookings - by phone is best.
I wanted to have everything arranged for the short time we were in Italy, near the end of our trip. Not speaking Italian, and not knowing if English is spoken much, it was the one leg of our trip that I decided to plan very carefully. N. was very nervous about Italy too, and I guess some of it rubbed off.
We were going to fly from Aberdeen to Pisa (via Dublin). The Ryanair flights were amazingly cheap nearly four months before, I could hardly believe my luck, just a few pounds.
The plan: We'd fly in to Pisa, stay one night there, see the tower in the morning and then take the train down to Naples for two nights. Bus or train to Siena for two nights, bus to Florence and two nights there, train to Rome and there one night, then overnight on the Riviera Night Train to Nice.
I really wanted to find accommodation with local character if I could. But not too expensive.
I booked a hotel between the Leaning Tower and railway station so we could walk between the three.
I booked a hotel in Naples within walking distance of the railway station (so we could easily get out to Pompeii).
Likewise Siena and Florence, both also with walking distance of cathedrals and other inner-city landmarks.
Rome was tricky. All the hotels centrally located seemed so expensive. I finally got one that looked like a boring international could-be-any-city-in-the-world tower, but at least it was on the bus route.
The above arrangements took me the better part of 20 hours. Loading pages without broadband seemed to take forever. I found that there's no need to book your train journeys too far in advance as there are usually plenty of seats, but don't leave it until the same day as the queues can be tiresome - best to do it the day before.
On our arrivals, two of the five hotels had no record of my booking. Unfortunately both were fully booked (a coincidence? I don't think so). However I carried copies of the transaction printouts and alternative arrangements were made for us, mostly with good grace.
I also booked a small, cheap villa in Province, France. There was also an unexpected hiccup concerning this too, but one that turned out to be very much to our advantage, as the saga will reveal!
And the Youth Hostel network in the UK - we had fun and games with that too! And that is also part of the story to follow.
Next: The Big O.E really begins! The long flight to the other side of the world.