Hotels And Costs
7 nights Rome, Hotel due Tori $1,450
2 nights Ravenna, M Club Deluxe B&B $203
1 night Ferrara, Hotel Annunziata $123
4 nights Venice, Hotel Principe $1,483
3 nights Verenna, Hotel Olivado $575
1 night Filisur, Hotel Schontal $153
1 night Zurich, Hotel St. Josef $220
The Time And The Season
We originally planned a trip to Switzerland in August of 2014. At the last minute we had to cancel. Swiss Air let us rebook, but we paid a penalty of $400 each, and travel had to be completed by April 25th of 2015. That’s how we became April travelers. Because of the season, we decided to spend most of our time in Italy, and fly home from Zurich. We especially wanted clear weather on the day we traveled over the Bernina route, and with some cloud monitoring, and a little last minute jiggling of destinations, we got our wish.
I am 70 and DH is 67. We live in a retirement community in Southern California. I am usually the trip planner and researcher, and DH is the guy who notices what is going on around us, keeps us safe, negotiates most things for us, makes things happen, and gets us out of the problems I get us into.
We had been to Europe 3 times in recent years, but this was our first European venture totally without a tour group. No more wake-up calls, no compromising on what sights we wanted to see, no eating at communal tables, no getting stuck for days on a bus with the guy who had a nasty chest cough. It was also the first time I didn’t come home sick. Thanks to some really wonderful encouragement from you people on Fodor's, this trip was fantastic.
I bought two different menu guides for Italy, and downloaded the most popular apps for eating in Rome, but on the ground we didn’t use them. What worked best for both of us was Fred Plotkin’s heavy book, The Gourmet Traveler. Because we were traveling light, we couldn’t take the book with us. I cut out sections pertaining to each of our destinations and we read the pages on the train while approaching each new place. We didn’t look for specific restaurants, but we did look for specific ingredients in each place. The plan to eat by region was a great success. On previous trips DH had not been impressed by Italian food. This time I was determined that he would enjoy eating. Now he raves about antipasti, Bolognese, Carbonara, and most Italian meat dishes, and I was surprised how good the plump sardines we found in Venice were. Our average dinners were usually under $40 dollars for the two of us. I ordered a glass of Prosecco whenever I could. Breakfast was included at our hotels. For lunch we found great sandwiches. It is easy to get overloaded on bread in Italy, and I much preferred the fresh whole grain breads in Switzerland. Obviously we aren’t foodies, or wine coinsures, but we did once live in the California wine country, so we are not unaware of good wine. Unfortunately wine disrupts our sleep cycles and as we have gotten more senior the lack of sleep has become problematic. We think that we ate really well, never missing out on something we wanted to try, and not settling for anything we didn’t want. We saw many American tourists in restaurants eating bowls of bland looking, pale heavy pasta, but thanks to Mr. Plotkin, it was easy to be adventurous.
Trains & Luggage
It took us a couple of train rides to become fully at ease with boarding and stowing our bags. Each train was just a little bit different in configuration. Some trains had more stairs than others, some had more space for over-head luggage, and some had good storage behind the seats. All of these particulars were important because we both have some minor mobility issues. DH has a bad back, and I need a hand rail to climb stairs. With the exception of the Circumvesuviana train to Pompeii, none of the trains were crowded. Usually we could put our bags on an empty seat nearby. Uncrowded trains were one of the many bonuses of April travel.
My suitcase is a very small, trim hard-body. I also used a cross-body purse. In addition to his small suitcase, DH had a fairly heavy backpack. When he had the occasional backache I was able to put on his pack without feeling burdened. I liked using his pack because it enabled my hands to be free so that I could more easily grasp the hand rail on whatever transportation we used. Somehow I managed never to whack any passengers when turning around. The only problem I had was trying not to strangle myself with a neck scarf, a purse strap, glasses on a chain, and now and then the straps of the backpack.
We are converts to traveling with small suitcases. The big stations have escalators as well as staircases. In some of the large train stations the entrances to the escalators are narrowed with vertical metal posts. To ride the escalator you have to walk between the posts to get on. It IS possible to get a giant suitcase on an escalator, but it sure takes some finagling, and I saw a lot of people struggling with bulky, heavy bags.
For this trip we bought 2 21" soft sided expandable 4 wheel suitcases. We took a long, long time choosing them, but we wouldn't buy them again. They glide beautifully on the smooth floors of airports, but, despite what salespeople say, you can't easily slide them beside you or in front of you on the uneven aisle of a train, or over the carpet in your hotel, or over cobblestones. By the time we got to Ferrara I found a Mailbox Etc. store and sent my 4 wheeler on an expensive airplane trip back to California. DH bought me little Manderina Duck hard-body with 2 wheels. It isn’t with me right now, so I can’t measure it, but I think it is about 8 inches wide and 19 or 20 inches tall. It even came with a slipcover to keep it from getting scratched. He found it on sale in a window in one of the beautiful shops in Ravenna. That suitcase became my little blue baby, super lightweight, small, and sleek. I took care of it as if it were a jewel. The Eagle Creek Packing Cubes and Portfolios all transferred well from my old suitcase to the new one. We did laundry once on the trip, and I washed the small things myself as needed. On one occasion DH sent his slacks out to be dry cleaned. It was nice to find them all clean and waiting for him in our room. We had more than enough to wear for 18 nights, and when we got home we only had one load to launder. That is the best we have ever done in all of our years of travel. Apparently there is nothing like a little train travel to help a person learn to lighten the load.
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Hotels And Costs