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Trip Report Three weeks in Italy and Switzerland; when can we go back?

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DW, DS and I had the most amazing experience in Italy and Switzerland. There are people who have posted the most wonderful trip reports and from which I obtained a lot of my information. This posting is as much to thanks to all those people, as to try and help somebody else.

Trip Report: Italy and Switzerland 5 – 25 June 2011
• Background:
• Why did we do it?
The trip was actually for two reasons: in 2005, we visited Paris on a trip that I won with my employer and we extended and drove 3,500 km in nine days (!). Part of the drive was through Switzerland to Lake Maggiore, and we just knew we had to come back for a proper visit to Switzerland.

The second reason was an early 50th birthday present to me. We chose to go now, because my birthday is only in November, and we would have missed a lot due to the approaching winter and snow.

The trip itinerary started something like this: 4 days Dordogne, 4 days Switzerland, 4 days Tuscany, two days Venice, two days Rome and three days Amalfi Coast. You will see it is the typical ‘I -want -to –do- too- much- in- a- short- time’ itinerary.

After reading comments on TA, Fodors and ST, I decided to amend it to: three days Rome, three days Venice, seven days Tuscany and seven days Switzerland . We were on holiday after all! Looking back, this was absolutely the right choice to have made. We may have added a day or two in Rome and one in Venice, but the number of days were basically determined by availability of leave from our various places of employment. Okay, money available played a bigger part, but please keep that for yourself.

• Who went
Originally only my wife (DW) and I were planning to go, but my sister (DS), who loves Italy, was planning on going to France, but we talked her into joining us. She, being single, has travelled a bit before and her experience helped a lot.

• Planning
I started dreaming of this after our trip in 2005, but only really climbed into the planning part in about March last year. The most difficult thing for me to do was to decide where to stay. Rome for example, has something like 1200 hotels that have reviews on TA. How do you know you have made the right choices? I read loads and loads of reports, made bookings and cancelled them a few days later. Every time we went to the next destination, I held thumbs that I made the right choices. Glad to say that everything worked out fine and all four places were very good and we enjoyed staying there. I also had to look at flights, whether to pre-buy train tickets, where to eat; all of you know what goes into this.

Initially I read TA, Fodors and ST and thought I would learn enough from it to do my trip by just reading. However, everybody has specific needs and that I found out when I started posting. For e.g., before posting questions, I planned on taking a train from Venice to Chiusi and then pick up our rental. Somebody pointed out that I would be paying for train tickets and a day’s car rental, and that I should rather rent a vehicle in Venice and drive to Tuscany. I know it is obvious that I should have picked this up myself, but you tend to overlook the small things. My thanks to all the people taking the time to answer my questions on the various boards and giving me advice, I really appreciate that.

Most of my planning was finished three months before we left. All I did later was to purchase the train tickets and Swiss Passes. Maybe I did everything too early, because that left no pressure on me to do things last minute? But I like knowing that things are in place long before I go. Maybe one day I will do a trip where I decide where to go when my car leaves my yard.


• Airline
We booked with Lufthansa quite early. Must be honest, their prices were constantly the best and their website was the easiest to use in any case. Flights were in cattle class from Johannesburg – Frankfurt –Rome and the return leg Zurich – Frankfurt – Johannesburg. Is it my imagination, or does the airbus A380 have that little bit extra legroom? Anyways, our luggage arrived safely at all the destinations, the food was quite acceptable and we can really not complain about these two flights. It still is uncomfortable to sleep on an airplane. On the flight out, we had to walk almost the entire length of Frankfurt’s airport to get to the correct gate. Sign of things to come?

• Camera
DW and I bought a Canon Powershot SX 130 IS with 12 MP and a 12 x zoom capability. It can actually do up to 48 x zoom, but then you sacrifice MP of course. It was very easy to operate and has quite a number of interesting applications such as fish eye, portrait etc., and the price was right. We took along 16 GB in memory cards, used only about 10 and took 4233 photos. Some of these were more than amazing. DW has to take the credit for all the pictures, because she really did a good job. I recall many times where we had to wait for her to finish with specific angles before we could continue.

• Fears
Because we have not really planned and done a whole tour to Europe on our own, I was concerned about everything; from the flights to the car hire to the accommodation etc. No need to have worried, everything worked out extremely well. Those of you who do this frequently will probably have a giggle, but the first time is always the most difficult to do. So if you are scared, stop being so immediately and just do it! It was a breeze.

• Money
We used a facility at our bank (in South Africa) called a Travel Wallet (DS has a different bank and hers was called Travel Passport). It is essentially a Credit Card (MC), for which you buy Euros before you go and that is then the amount you can spend. It also has a fixed fee per cash withdrawal and you get about five free swipes (for e.g. if you pay your accommodation) per day. Worked out beautifully and we had no problems. Only drawback was that it did not give balances when withdrawing, so we had to that online whenever possible. Drawback is that you can only buy four currencies with it: Euro, Pound, Dollar and Yen. We were told that if we withdraw Swiss Francs we would also be charged a conversion fee of 2% on top of the withdrawal fee. Much to our surprise, we could draw SFr, but had a choice of doing the debit in € and it turned out that there is no conversion fee to be paid.

As backup, all three of us took our Credit cards along.

• Safety
The only places we really felt unsafe, was in the bigger cities where there were lots of people around. I think it was more a question of being scared of the unknown. I did carry my wallet in my pant pocket, but used a safety pin to close the pockets. It was a bit of a drag to open and close it, but it made me feel safe and I did not lose any money this way. DW and DS carried their handbags across their bodies and that also worked out well for them. Much ado about nothing, I hear you say? Rather safe than sorry, I say!

• Italians
Hats off to all the Italians who had something to do with our trip! Without exception, they were warm, gracious, spoke or understood English to a degree and never ever made us feel uncomfortable. I don’t speak broken Italian; I speak shattered Italian. Never once did anybody laugh at me or ignore me, all of them were kind and helped when I tried speaking. Next time I will have enough sense to upgrade to the broken version at least. I can understand why DS love going there: the people make the difference. Grazie mille to all of you.

I think that Italian women are the second most beautiful on earth (of course the South African women are first!), but their dress style and elegance certainly puts them ahead. I sometimes had to remind myself to stop staring at them and I received quite a few amused looks from DW. Or maybe I misinterpreted The Evil Eye! Oh, and how do they manage to walk with high heels where other women struggle with normal shoes?

Of course DW and DS think the same about Italian men. DS came looking for me four times in the AVIS office in Venice within two minutes while I was busy with the manager getting the paper work done; still can’t understand why – she was standing right outside the door and I could not get lost.

Swiss people
Again we were pleasantly surprised. Everybody was friendly, spoke reasonable to good English and was more than willing to help us. I did not even have to practice my high school German at all; their loss though. On the Monday after our arrival, we were sitting having an early supper at a hotel in Lauterbrunnen and the owner asked if one of his regulars could join us. He did, we got talking and he promptly invited us to supper the next evening, which ended up being one of the highlights of our trip. Thanks Ruedi!

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    I laughed out loud at your 'shattered' Italian. You are so right about the warmth and acceptance of the Italian people. Are you going to give us more details about your trip?

    I'm glad you had a positive experience with the Travel Wallet/Passport. They're good, aren't they?

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    So, I did the double posting thing!

    YvonneT, thanks for the kind words, I will do a bit more. The 'shattered' part I borrowed from Michael Holding (I think it was him), a West Indian cricket commentator.

    • Rome 5 – 8 June 2011
     Guided tours
    We took two guided tours in Rome: Angel Tours to the Forum and the Coliseum and Roman Candle Tours to the Vatican Museum. I am so glad we did, because otherwise the Forum would be just heaps of stones and ruins and I would recommend doing it.

    We were much impressed by Joanne of Angel Tours and her tour was very informative. I for one was never bored by what she told us and her knowledge of Roman history.

    Whilst the person from Roman Candle Tours was very knowledgeable, we had two problems with him/her: firstly, he/she let us stand for 40 minutes in the hot sun in front of the information boards on the Sixteen Chapel to explain Michelangelo’s prowess, while there were ones available in the shade and secondly, we could not come to close to him/her because of the smell of alcohol on his/her breath. But, as I said, he/she was very knowledgeable about the subject and we learned a lot.

     Travelling in Rome
    Walk, walk and walk!!! We really underestimated the amount of walking we had to do and we were tired every night. But it was worth every step we took.

    We also used the Metro extensively and only found it difficult on the first day, but maybe we were just tired.

    The bus schedule is not as easy to work out, but we bought a book on Rome that included the bus routes at one of the stands. DW sat for a while and promptly worked it out and we used it about five times on the last day.

     Sights
    Coliseum: it slams you in the face when you walk out the Metro station and completely overwhelms you when you go inside. Awesome!
    Forum: without the guided tour it would really have been a bunch of stones and ruins, but the history behind it is so deep.
    Trevi Fountain: saw it only in the day and it was not that busy. Very good architecture but it was a bit spoiled by work being done close by. Yes, our coins are in there.
    Pantheon: very busy when we visited in the afternoon. I read a lot about it beforehand and expected a bit more, but nevertheless very impressive.
    Vatican and St Peter: Incredible! If I can go back to Rome, it will be to spend more time here. Walking into St. Peter and seeing all those incredible works of art done by masters and one not overshadowing the other was amazing. And then there was the Vatican Museum and the Sixtyn Chapel …
    Borghese Gallery: thought it would be easy to find, but apparently people from Rome also don’t know where it was. Got there 10 minutes late, but were allowed in. Funny enough, we enjoyed the bottom level more than the top. Those Bernini’s were absolutely amazing, and I can still see David’s determined look while swinging the slingshot. Next time I will use an audio guide at least.

     Food and drink
    We only had two dinners in Rome, and both of them were quite good. One was close to Termini called Da Vincenzo, and we really enjoyed the food and the wine there. DS had cannelloni that was divine.

    The other one in Trastevere, called Antica Tratoria. To be different, I had a piece of pork steak which was dry and I did not enjoy. DW and DS had pasta which they raved about.

     Roma pass
    Bought the three day Roma pass on the airport, thanks to RoninRome for advice on where to do so at the airport. We used it extensively in Rome, not only on the trains, but also on the buses and for free/reduced entrance to museums etc. It paid for itself by midday of our second day. You really can’t go without it.

     Train to Venice
    We pre-bought tickets from Rome to Venice (Mini) about a month in advance, because our schedule was quite a set one and we ended up saving about €110 by doing so. We went to Termini the night before we left to see if it would be difficult to understand the departure platforms, but it was very easy to understand. I used RoninRome’s website prior to leaving and it was of great help to us. The train departed about 40 minutes late because of a local strike, but we were not concerned because we had no connecting trains to catch.

    We noticed that after the train departed (delay included) there were lots of people walking from other carriages (or coaches) and then finding seats in ours. Soon as we got to Florence, people getting on were claiming their seat numbers and these people had to move. My assumption is that the coaches they were booked in originally were too full and they were looking for more comfortable seats.

    We also had to grin at the Japanese couple getting onto the train in Florence. They had quite big suitcases and were dashing to their seat, no matter who was in the way. Then the man lifted the big suitcase and tried to get it into the overhead storage which was way too small. After trying for two minutes (in which he was shoving around an Italian man sitting right below where he wanted to store it) he gave up and went to the front, again with no worries about other passengers. Believe it or not, he then tried storing his case above the very last seats even though the storage spaces were exactly the same size!

    DW helped a Korean couple who spoke only a few words of English not to get off at Mestre but to wait for Santa Lucia by looking at their ticket. She was promptly approached by an Italian woman with her ticket, asking her in Italian if she must get off there or at the next stop. DW, who could only say Buon Giorno and Ciao at stage, looked at the ticket and used sign language to tell her not to get off there. DS and I were of course laughing our backsides off.

    Second class was quite acceptable to us, but then the train was reasonably empty. It did fill up nicely in Florence, but we really still had comfortable seats even with four people sitting there. I do not know how much better first class is, but I would not, based on my two train trips, spend money on it. We do not have the luxury of trains like this in South Africa, so it was quite an enjoyable experience. It was amazing to go along at 300 kilometers per hour!

     Phones
    We bought an international Telkom phone card in South Africa before leaving. It worked very well in Italy and we could phone from our hotel rooms. Somehow we struggled using it in Switzerland.

    Because my mother was not well, we did take along a cell (mobile) phone and bought a WIND card at Termini station. It was activated almost immediately. This was quite useful, as my brother could keep us updated at anytime. Thanks to the Italian gentleman in Siena who helped me loading airtime bought online in his store. He did not speak a word of English, but we understood each other.

    We had to buy a different card in Switzerland (at the Post Office) which cost SFR 20 and gave us SFR 20 airtime. Costs per minute were also extremely low, and we have some airtime left.

     Accommodation
    We stayed in Best Western Hotel Canada and we were very happy with it. It is away from all the sights, but the price was right and there was a Metro stop literally within 100 meters from our hotel, so that presented no real problem. Good breakfast and the staff were very attentive. Drinks at the hotel’s bar were very cheap and in the afternoons they had proper snacks as well.

     Clothes and shoes
    We did pack too much clothes, especially DW (please do not tell her!). Some of the pieces of clothing we only wore once. I actually did the carry-on thing for the first two weeks, but I had to pack some warm clothes for Switzerland, so we did need an additional suitcase. If I washed my clothes every second night, I might have packed even less clothing.

    I took two pair of comfortable shoes, which doubled as (reasonably) formal footwear for going to restaurants: one pair of CAT’s and one pair of Sketchers. They were very comfortable and supported my feet very well and I never had a problem with sore feet. Of course I wore it in before we went and it worked very well. DW and DS also made sure that they took comfortable shoe wear with and also had no issues to speak of; DS had a small blister under one of her toes from one pair of sandals, but nothing that preventative Elastoplasts could not fix.

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    Okay, time for Venice!

    • Venice 8 – 11 June 2011
     Accommodation
    We stayed in Ca’Angeli and were very happy with that as well. Good breakfast with fresh fruit every day and fresh bread as well. Comfortable beds and pillows. DW and DS really loved it. The bathroom was a bit small, but quite modern.

     Food and drink
    Had some cichettis at Cantine del Vinogia Shiavi in Dorsudoro and they were delightful! Went very well with a plastic cup of Prosecco – we took the take away version.

    On our first evening, we walked past a place in San Polo called Il Segillo de Mauro e Mimo that had huge toasted slices of bread with the most wonderful toppings. We sat down ordered it with a glass of white wine and found it to be very enjoyable. Our enjoyment turned into shock when we paid the bill - €75 for the three of us! Our own fault; we did not ask the price beforehand.

    The second day we had a late lunch at Bar Sport in Burano. I had squid, while the ladies had sole. My squid was very enjoyable, but their fish was dry. Enjoyed the drinks, though!

    For our last evening, we asked Ambra at Ca’Angeli for a recommendation and she gave us the name of Birraria la Corte in San Polo square. We walked through the square in the morning and we had some doubts since it was not busy at all. What a nice surprise when our food arrived! DW and I had the best pizza ever and DS again had some kind of seafood pasta which was delicious. It seemed to be a place frequented by locals, as it filled up very quickly after 20h00 and all arrivals were locals.

     Venice Pass and the Vaporettos
    Easy to buy it: when coming from the station at Santa Lucia, it was to the far right. No queues at all. We used it about 10 times, so for us it was worth it. The vaporettos are frequent, but can be quite full at times. Also used the traghetto once; we were fortunate to be able to sit because it felt wobbly just boarding it.

     What did we do
    The Doges Palace: Very interesting, but you have to do with the audio guide at least like we did, or even a guided tour.
    San Marco: Lots of repair works going on all around and it was a bit of a letdown, we did not enjoy it. There were four orchestras playing on the two days we were there.
    Burano: Loved it!
    Vivaldi Concerto by Interpreti Veneziane: We are not classical music lovers, but we wanted to do this. These guys were very, very good and they seem to love the music they played. We enjoyed it thoroughly.
    Walking: we did a lot of walking all over Venice and stopped at almost every shop in every calle we walked in. We did take a map, but rarely used it. It was wonderful to walk and then suddenly see cars, knowing that this must be Piazzala Roma, or ending up the Grand Canal or San Marco or Rialto. We enjoyed it so much that we did not get to visit most of the other ‘must sees’! Oh well, we have no option but to go back!

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    • Tuscany 11 – 18 June 2011
     Car Hire
    Picked up the car at AVIS in Piazzala Roma where we were helped by an attractive young Italian man. DS was smitten and we even photographed him. We reserved a petrol VW Golf 1.6, but were upgraded to the diesel version. Quite happy about that, because it was so light on fuel you can’t believe!

    Coming from South Africa (driving on the wrong side of the road), I was stressed about driving. I was proven correct: within 20 meters I almost ran over a distinguished looking gentleman trying the cross over at a pedestrian crossing and then promptly got lost temporarily disoriented in the parking area behind Piazzala Roma!

    But all went well, and I do not think we exceeded the speed limit or drove into a ZTL once. Again I must thank the warnings given on the various boards on the latter; otherwise I most certainly would not have been on the lookout for these signs.

    Embarrassingly, I must admit to doing damage to our rental; both in parking lots and both at less than 2 km/h! First one in the parking in front of the COOP in Pienza, where I reversed into a big pot put there as a warning to a little wall that extended about a meter or so into the parking area. Did make a mental note when stopping, promptly forgot about it as I carried our days provisions (it included beer) to it.

    The second one was in the AVIS parking at the Florence airport where they have silly little pillars right in front of the parking bays. Must have hit that at 0, 5 km/h because I never felt a thing. Oh well!

     Accommodation
    We stayed in La Cretaiole, an Agriturismo about 5 km outside of Pienza on the way to San Quirico d’Orcia. Very good choice. The accommodation was quite acceptable and comfortable, but nothing spectacular. What makes this place special, are the owners, the Moricciani family and the spectacular views. Included in the price were four ‘freebies’ that we could pick from and others that they arrange at cost price with certain businesses/people. Isabella, who looked after us, spoke very good English and helped us a lot. She also prepared two huge folders that are in each room, covering just about everything you can think of. It ranged from advice on where to eat, to various self drive routes that you can do with perfect directions and even GPS co-ordinates.

    We are so glad we booked here!

     Food and drink
    We never had a bad bottle of beer or glass of wine to drink, nor did we have bad food in the week we were there.
    13 Gobbi in Montefalinico: A recommendation by our hosts. Excellent dishes from the tagliatelli we had, which was mixed in a bowl of pecorino at the table , to the cinghiale and beef we had, to the best ‘dolce’ I have ever had: tiramisu with strawberries. Sadly DW had one of the worst ones you could have. Second best meal of the trip.
    La Bucca della Fatte in Pienza: Went there twice. First night was perfect from pici with chingiale sauce for me and very good pastas for the girls, perfect steak for me and excellent ‘dolce’ for us all. DS raved about her dolce and I had a taste: it promptly overtook 13 Gobbi’s as the best I ever tasted. Best meal of the trip.

    Went back the following night and had a great Steak Florentine (boy but it was huge) which we shared and was very good: had a very nice taste. Of course this time we all took the desert DS had the previous time, which we discovered was called millefoglie (sp?). Yummie!

    Sette de Vino: real Tuscan food shared among friends as it was explained. No pizzas or pastas. Very interesting and tasty. Excellent crostinis and bean soup. Let the owner tell you what to have.

    Latte de Luna: to us it was the let down of the trip. Because of all the rave reviews, we left it for our last night as a farewell dinner. DW and DS wanted the pasta with truffles which both felt were not what they expected; it smelled great but did not taste good. I had pici and ragu which was great. For mains DS and I had roast suckling pig and DW had duck. To us it was great but not special. Maybe our expectations were too high.

     What did we do
    Visiting the hilltop towns: Pienza was our favorite, with Montalcino second, but all of them were great to visit. Spent hours just walking around and visiting the shops, having coffee and just having fun. We actually made a decision that since we are on vacation, we were not going to get up early and try and do or see everything. Maybe we should have, because we did not get to do all the visits we planned and I do not know if we would be able to do this again. All three of us loved Tuscany very much and looking at the pictures just brings back those memories.
    La Foce: Whilst it was beautiful, we were underwhelmed. I think we expected a huge garden and it was a lot smaller. DS visited Tivoli on a previous trip and this could not compare. There is obviously a lot of history behind this, which does make it a different experience.
    Siena: Spent most of a day there. It has a special feeling. We had very expensive drinks on Il Campo, but it was a very laid back experience.
    Factory mall in Val de Chiana: Being outvoted, I had to take the ladies there, but it turned out to be a very nice experience. Being a factory outlet, there was a lot of great clothes to be bought at excellent prices.

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    • Switzerland 18 – 25 June 2011
     Train from Italy
    Pre-booked our trips from Florence – Milan and Milan – Domodossola at very nice rates because our itinerary was fixed. No problem with the train from Florence, we actually arrived about two minutes too early, so getting the connecting train was no problem. It was not too difficult to find the connecting train – it is indeed to the far right as you walk from the train to the station itself, thanks Hambagahle.

    What we assumed to be a direct train, changed somewhere without our knowledge. We (and by that I mean everybody) had to change to a different train in Domo, taking us at almost snail’s pace to Brig. It was a bit of a mess at Brig, as we walked down the stairs to go to the next platform, we ran into passengers coming from the opposite direction to board the train to Milan on the stairs. Because of this, we missed the connection to Spiez that we wanted to take, but no problem, 30 minutes later there was another train going that way. I don’t know what happened to people who pre-booked and reserved a seat to Bern and Luzern and who missed that connection.

     Swiss Saver Pass
    When planning the trip, I got hooked up in which pass to buy. I started doing maths, then got lazy and decided that we should buy 8 day Swiss Saver Passes. We used it extensively; from boats to trains to buses to cog wheels at discount prices to entrance at museums. Never had any problems, never had to stand at a booth to buy tickets, and never missed a connection because we did not have tickets.

     Accommodation
    We stayed at the Staubbach Hotel in Lauterbrunnen for a full week. It has the most stunning views down the Lauterbrunnen valley with the snow capped mountains of the Jungfrau Region in the background. The rooms we had were adequate, and were cleaned every morning, but our beds were a bit hard. Breakfast was very much the same every morning, but was always well prepared and very filling. They had coffee/tea available in the lounge for most of the day for free. The big difference here was the staff, which all went out of their way to assist us at the breakfast table with advice on where to go. They followed that through with friendliness throughout the day and were always willing to assist us in whatever we wanted. Oh and they even had free internet in the TV room, which we used sparingly – we were on holiday after all.

    It is really hard to believe this is only a two star hotel.

     Food and drink
    Swiss food is not as good as Italian, but the helpings are generous and you will not leave hungry.
    Hotel Oberland, Lauterbrunnen: Good food at good prices. We had supper there twice. It has heaters outside for when it is cold.
    Weidstubli, Camping Jungfrau, Lauterbrunnen: Had supper there one evening and it was very good, although DS was not happy with her fish. Also bought take out pizzas one evening and it was very reasonable.
    Pizzeria de Sina, Wengen: I ordered grilled chicken and received burnt chicken! DS and DW were happy with their meals. Mine was the worst of the entire trip.
    COOP Bern: Surprisingly good food for surprisingly low prices!

     Phone
    Used our Nokia E71 with a card bought at the Post Office in LB. Worked very well for us.

     Trains in Switzerland
    We only used trains (and other public transport) inSwitzerland and did not rent a car. It was perfect for us, because it covers the Jungfrau Region extensively and also runs frequently.

    The trains were very easy to use and easy to find the schedules of trains on the platforms. Second class is more than adequate and I honestly would not buy first class tickets. With the exception of our very last train (Bern – Zurich) all the trains were spot on time, both in leaving and arriving.

     What did we do
    Schynige Platte: It takes the cog train about an hour to get there because it is very slow, but it is worth it. A must do.
    Schilthorn: We had a very clear day and temperature was about 3 degrees Celsius. Amazing views all around. We also had hot chocolate and gluhwein in the restaurant. Worth it!
    Boat: Took a trip on one of the boats from Interlaken Ost to Brienz and had some sandwiches on the trip there. Quite enjoyable, but I will not do it more than once.
    Ballenberg: Had an enjoyable two hours and a bit there and it was interesting to see what houses looked like in the various areas of Switzerland and how people built houses and lived years ago. As tourists, we started getting bored at that stage, but if you are a Swiss citizen, I am sure you will never get bored here.
    Walks: Okay we only did two walks, instead of the five we planned, shame on us! The Panorama walk has absolutely amazing views across the valley and we had a clear day, although we had a brief rain shower halfway through it. The walk between Stechelberg and Lauterbrunnen is in the valley and is flat, but it has its own charm walking through the valley with cliffs on both sides and also seeing farms on the way. I think we missed a beat in not doing more of these.
    Kleine Scheidegg: Went up there on our second day, expecting Jungfrau to be sogged in and did not take enough warm clothes. Turned out to be a clear day all around. Still enjoyed the Jungfrau right in your face; absolutely beautiful.
    Jungfraujoch: When I woke up early on the day we were supposed to leave, everything looked clear and DW and I decided to take the plunge and go. Sadly, by the time we got to Kleine Scheidegg, the mountain tops started closing and when we got there, it was completely sogged in. The wind was blowing ferociously outside, so we did not spend too much time there. However, we did throw snowballs at each other – it is something we are not used to at all. Also visited the Ice Palace and thought it was great! We will have to come back for this.
    Trummelbach Falls: Amazing spectacle that sadly does not allow for good photos. It is like indoor waterfalls and was absolutely worth the visit.
    Towns: we visited just about all the towns in the Lauterbrunnen valley and walked around sightseeing and shopping. We also spent most of a day in Bern, which is a totally different experience. It is a typical city and for the first time I actually felt underdressed wearing Bermudas and short socks. It also felt old-worldly walking down a city street and going into shops all along it; we are so used to malls and shopping complexes.

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    You came a long way, and you had a great trip. Thanks so much for sharing it. It always brings back great memories when I read about trips to Italy and Switzerland.

    Sorry you didn't like La Foce better. I guess I love it because we have actually stayed on that property three times, so we've gotten to know the people and the garden, and the history.
    You might wish to read "The War in The Val d;Orcia" written by Iris Origo, about her and her husband's activities during WWII, and how they restored a huge part of the valley and the villa, and created the gardens.

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    Duvies, I enjoyed reading your report. We spent two weeks and covered Venice, Lake Garda (Malchesine), Dolomites, Lake Como and Bernese Oberland. We had rainy weather pretty much the whole time in Lake Como and Switzerland (starting July 17). It was tricky trying to cover things especially in Switzerland. We stayed up in Wengen. Similar to your experience when we left Wengen it was clear skies but by the time we reached Jungfraujoch it was cloudy and we didnt see much but it was nice seeing the mountain up close. We enjoyed Murren but our favorite was Grindenwald and the cable car up to First (we hit clear skies) for part of the day.

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    Sorry for only responding now, but I got a bit busy over the last few days.

    Taconictraveler, like any trip report, mine was subjective (shall I say sadly?), but that was the way all three of us felt. You are so right: we probably should have read her book before we went, that may have changed our perception. DW has actually twice mentioned that we should try and obtain it since we got back, but we never got to it.

    LDT, we had an awesome time! Funny that I could never understand why people would say they suffered from withdrawal symptoms after they returned home. I can now relate to that!

    Mnag, we also went up to First, but it was sogged in so we could not do the hike to Bachalpsee. We did rent Trottis at Bort and rode it down to Grindelwald, which DW and I enjoyed immensely. DS was a source of (silent) laughter, because she just could not ride this thing down and had to push it all the way to the station. She did come around later to see the funny side of it, though, but she was very touchy for a while and no reference to this subject was allowed.

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    It is too bad that when you went to Pizza Sina you didn't just walk next door to the Hotel Schonegg. It is owned by the same people, but the food is much, much better.

    If your food was burnt, you should have mentioned this to Suzanna and she would have fixed it for you.

    Pippy

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    Hi Pippy,

    I should have, I know, but it was busy and I let it go. Did not know the owners were the same as Schonegg, which we considered but thought it was a bit expensive. In retrospect .....

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    Very nice report Duvies, full of fact and info and a nice retelling style.
    We loved travelling to Europe too when we lived in East Africa (I was born and lived there intil my teens and Europe was so close to get to), and Switzerland and Italy are amongst our favourite countries. We've loved Schilthorn, Lago Maggiore, Lugano, Venice, Rome and other areas such as Grindelwald, Lenzeheide and all around Zurich. So some places for you to consider for your next trip ! :)

    I like the humorous angle to some of your stories and it speaks to your great travel attitude.
    Playing with snow was also a fun moment whenever we had the chance to while on holiday, and Switzerland was the first time I ever saw or touched any as a kid. Now living in Canada, I've more of it than I know what to do with !

    Thanks again.

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    Hi Mathieu,

    thank you very much for your post. I think it was MaiTai Tom (must be the best trip report writer), who said that attitude is everything and we kind of adopted his slogan. It worked, because we tried seeing the funny side of everything. DS of course lost it a bit with the Trotti experience though.

    Funny thing, about three weeks after our return to South Africa, it snowed in many places around the city I live in but not in it!

    Thanks for the tips on some other places. I am almost too scared to start investigating.

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    We stayed 4 nights in Venice recently and ate dinner 3 of those at Birraria la Corte in Campo San Polo. The cheap wine and great atmosphere at night was the main reason. The food was also very good. In Lauterbrunnen, we stayed 5 nights at the Hotel Oberland and ate dinner there every night on the front patio. I was wondering if we missed out on any other restaurants in town, but it sounds like we didn't.

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