Switzerland and Italy Trip

Information below courtesy of the American Spouses of Brunssum Travel Information Guide – used with permission

Place:

Strasbourg,France1 night;Lake Lugano,Switzerlandfor 1 week;Verona,Italy3 nights.

Time:

Early July, weather was wonderful; mostly sunny, temperatures normally in mid-80s. One day of heavy rain in Lugano.

Directions:

Stayed one night inStrasbourg,Franceon way down. Estimate about 8 hour drive otherwise. FromBasel(borders ofFrance,GermanyandSwitzerland), take A2 all the way to Lugano.Consider taking theGotthardPassover the mountain south of Luzern instead of the 17 km tunnel along the way for a more scenic drive.It was a 10 ½ hour drive back home fromVerona,Italy, heading north on A22 to Garmish.

Accommodations:

Strasbourg:

Quality Inn and Suites:  We had a very nice room with a double bed and a sleeper sofa for the kids.

Lugano:

Apartment house “Aldesago Monte Bré Haus I+II (Utoring)”. The apartment buildings are situated high up in the heights of the bay of Lugano, on Monte bre.Incredible views of Lake Lugano. There is an outdoor heated swimming pool and cog train right by the apartment to take you down the slope and into town if you choose not to walk or drive.Apartment was older, however, very spacious and clean.Two private bedrooms, living-room dining area, full bath, two balconies, and fully equipped kitchen to include stove/oven, microwave, dishwasher and large refrigerator/freezer.

Verona:

Euro Motel, Croce Bianca Via Bresciana, 2. Every thing was nice about this hotel except the beds and pillows were not too comfortable, but tolerable if you bring some pillows from home!Otherwise we had a room with double bed and bunk beds for the kids and a wonderful breakfast included each morning. Hotel is convenient to reach, not far from the Verona-Nord exit.

Things to do:

LakeLugano, Switzerland:

Boat trips around the lake are available; however quite expensive. We ended up taking the boat across the lake to just Melide, where the Swiss Minatur (like the Maudrodam but ofSwitzerland) is located. Paddle boats are cheap, 8 franc for 30 minutes. There are swimming areas along the lake.Along the lake between Paradiso and Lugano, there was a trampoline/bungee setup the kids really enjoyed. At the bottom of the slope from our apartment along the lake was also a very nice park/children’s playground.Higher up the slope from our apartment were hiking trails to Monte Bre.

Take a day outing to Bellinzona andLocarno(north of Lugano 30 kms). Bellizona is a quaint village where there are three castle/fortresses of interest.We bought some local wine and pasta in a wine store in the center of town.There is a church worth visiting in the center of town as well. Not much to look at on the outside, but beautiful black and white marble décor on the inside. The castle on the very top is small and has an art museum and restaurant. We did not check out either and could have probably skipped the drive up the slope to see it.The castle down in the village was very nice, you could walk on top the long wall on one side and then back under the tunnel below the wall and go up the fortress’s tower for free.Locarnois the major city alongLake Maggiore.

On our rainy day we took an enjoyable drive south toComo,Italyand drove along the east side oflakeComo. We toured Villa Carolotta near Tremezzo; worth the visit.

Take the cog train toMountGeneroso. The first cog train leaves from the train station in Capalago (exit autobahn at Mendrisio, south of Lugano), at10:15 amand is best to go early. The train does not run in bad weather.We hiked to the bear caves and were given a private tour of the caves where students from theUniversityofMilanwere excavating the remains of bears that lived in the caves between 35,000 and 50,000 years ago. There are numerous hiking trails, make sure to walk up to thepeakofMonte Generoso. From this point you can see all three lakes -Lake Maggiore,LakeLuganoandLakeComoagainst the snow-peaked mountains. If you hike with little children, best to put them in a backpack, trails are not stroller friendly and paths are often alongside some steep drop offs.

Another day trip we took was to Luzern, Switzerland. This is an absolutely gorgeous area and town.This is backtracking our route, would recommend finding a place to stay for a night or two on the way to Lugano if possible.We tried this but hotels were very expensive.On the way we took the Furka pass (between Lugano and Luzern).We put our car on the train through the tunnel and then continued onto to the Grimmsel pass.Both the Furka and Grimmsel passes are well worth the experience.Incredible road construction!But bring some warm clothes along; every time we have been there it has been cold and rainy at the top! At Luzern we only had time to check out the Rodelbahn, the toboggan sled ride, but it was closed due to rain earlier in the day. But we had a nice ride up a small gondola and hike to the Rodelbahn taking the Hergiswil NW exit off of the autobahn.The gondola was operated from the top; you had to pick up a phone inside to let them know you wanted a ride. The Rodelbahn looked more for kids ages 6 and up, and looked more luring on the website but I think it would have been worth the try!
Italy:

After checking into our hotel in Verona, drove to Venice the first day, stopping in Vicenza along the way to purchase gas coupons at the military post.There are signs to CampEderle posted from the autobahn (second exit into Vicenza).Make sure to bring a copy of leave orders, we were able to buy 200 liters worth.Unused coupons can be sent back for a refund; make sure to get the address to send back any unused coupons. Need to bring orders to the MP station and then go to the PX to buy the coupons. 
Second day drove to Pisa, Lucca (nice town with wall built around the city) and Florence. Florence was very hectic and difficult to find parking but worth the visit.Don’t try without a city map! 
Last day we spent a relaxing morning and afternoon in downtown Verona.Lovely town, live shows are shown almost nightly (except the day we were there) at the coliseum in the center of town; arena di Verona. Verona is famous for being the scene of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet.Check out http://www.arena.it/ to make reservations for the arena before you leave home.

Restaurant tips/recommendations:

Did not eat out that much, as all the restaurants in Switzerland are expensive and we had our kitchen in our apartment.In Verona; however, we did eat one night in the Elephante Hotel, right up the road from our hotel.This was a very good gourmet-style Italian restaurant.Go early or make reservations ahead of time.Good spaghetti for the kids.

Websites you used or found helpful in planning this trip:

http://www.travelnow.com/index.jsp – booked hotel in Strasbourg

http://nl.myswitzerland.com/du/welcome.cfm – for things to do in Switzerland

http://www.interhome.ch – booked our apartment in Lugano

http://www.ticino-tourism.ch/control – for things to do in the Lugano area

http://www.pilatus.ch/ – things to do in Luzern

http://www.rodelbahn.ch/pages/startframe.htm – toboggan sled ride in Luzern

http://www.traveleurope.it/ – booked hotel in Verona

http://www.arena.it/ – Arena di Verona

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