By Ilona Kauremszky

Q: This spring relatives from Italy will be visiting us. San Francisco is one of the city's they wish to visit. It'll be my first trip there. Where can I get more info?

A: First off, don't be surprised if your relatives break into the old song, "I Left My Heart In San Francisco" because this coastal city which has the famous trolley cars moving up the steep inclines somehow leaves visitors with a soft spot and dare I say a bit of nostalgia.

Just be mindful of the currency exchange. On my last count, $1-dollar American cost $1.55 Canadian. A traveller I know recently commented on the city's high prices. Since you'll be in San Francisco soon, be sure to drop by the city's newly renovated information centre located at 900 Market Street, on the lower level of Hallidie Plaza. The hours are 9:00 am to 5:00 pm, Monday through Friday and 9:00 am to 3:00 pm on weekends.

You're also in luck as far as the Italian language because the staff is multilingual and can provide assistance in 13 languages.

So, if your cousin wants to visit the infamous Alcatraz prison where tours are conducted daily, they can ask away. A plethora of free publications is also available here. One magazine called "Chaperon," includes maps, tourist information and travellers' tips. According to an official at the San Francisco Convention & Visitors Bureau (SFCVB), the San Francisco CityPass, which is a booklet containing prepaid admission tickets, is "selling like crazy." Six attractions plus seven days unlimited use of the Muni public transportation are included for a cost of $33.75 (US).

If you wish to visit Alcatraz, you must purchase your CityPass in advance through the Blue & Gold Fleet Bay Cruise. Their phone number is (415)705-5555. There is a $2.25 convenience fee for this service. For more tourism-related information, the SFCVB has a toll free phone number available across North America. Contact: 1-888-782-9673.


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All text & photos 2004.