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Family trip to Italy & Switzerland - Venice and Tuscany

Family trip to Italy & Switzerland - Venice and Tuscany

Old May 18th, 2016, 01:34 PM
  #1  
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Family trip to Italy & Switzerland - Venice and Tuscany

I need help! We are flying into Zurich on July 15th and staying with friends for three days. Then off to Venice and Tuscany for the remainder of the vacation. I have booked 2 nights in Venice on the 18th and 19th, and planned to spend 4 nights in a villa in Tuscany exploring the beautiful towns including Siena, possibly Pisa. We are flying home out of Milan, where I plan to book a room for the last night before flying home to NY on the 27th. Our daughters are 13 and 14. I am open to driving and taking the train - but would love advice on how best to do it and where to spend the remaining three or 4 nights. Rome? Lake Como or Lake Garda? All things I am considering. I don't want it too hectic. My husband and I have been to Italy (on our honeymoon) and I visited years before that, but this is the first time with our girls and I want them to enjoy it.
Would love some advice!
lindaoitaly16 is offline  
Old May 18th, 2016, 02:26 PM
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Maybe rent a car in Switzerland but renting one in Switzerland and returning it in Italy can result in very very high drop-off fees - rather take the train to Como and rent a car there and drive thru Italy and drop off in say Rome - your daughters will love seeing all the famous sights.

For info on trains check www.seat61.com (good info on discounted tickets); www.budgeteuropetravel.com and www.ricksteves.com.

Trains run about hourly or so Zurich to Como so no problem ever getting on them but you can book a seat and ticket at www.sbb.ch - Swiss Railways official site.

If going to Rome I'd either fly there from Zurich or go all the way by train though it is a long day.

so for those 3-4 days I'd say Rome or Venice with perhaps a day on Lake Garda by boat.

Lake Garda is close to Venice and would limit your train trips and Venice to me is the absolute highlight of Europe if not the world - fly back from Venice.
PalenQ is offline  
Old May 18th, 2016, 03:16 PM
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I would also use public transport in these countries. I took my family there and we had no problems using public transport. I think there was only one occasion we actually had to use a taxi.
It is actually so much cheaper then renting a vehicle. You have the car cost, the gas cost and you are always worried where to park safely. Less hassle and stress to use public transport.
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Old May 18th, 2016, 05:34 PM
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Perhaps I misunderstand your plans, but I only see two nights between the villa near Siena and the final night in Milan... the 24th and the 25th. If that's correct, you would have only one full day not impacted by travel. If it was my trip, I'd add another night to both Venice and Milan. Your plan only gives you one day in Venice, and another night in Milan would allow for a day trip to Lake Como by train and ferry.

In order to make the most of your time at the villa near Siena, you need a car. Pick it up as you're leaving Venice and return it in Milan. Perhaps at Linate Airport.
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Old May 19th, 2016, 09:27 AM
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I've driven thru rural Tuscany and found it fatiguing - narrow two lane roads with camper vans, lorries, cars,etc and constantly curving, etc - keep your daily distances lower than you may think.

I found a great time to drive was between noon and 3 when locals were all on siestas.

I've also used buses and trains and you can go everywhere with them and leave the driving to someone else.
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Old May 19th, 2016, 11:59 AM
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In contrast, we loved driving in Tuscany.

You can research bus and train routes, but I'd be surprised you could see/do very much in 3-4 days relying only on public trans. Train service in rural Tuscany is practically nonexistent and bus timetables are better suited to commuting workers and students.
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Old May 19th, 2016, 12:09 PM
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Are you planning to visit Florence? You can easily spend three nights there and then return a little early to Milan and see the sights there before departing.
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Old May 20th, 2016, 05:12 AM
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I think I have incorporated much of all of your input! Thank you so much. I am spending 3 nights in Switzerland, plan to book train travel to Venice. Added a night to my stay in Venice, now 3 nights. Plan to rent a car outside of Venice, drive to Tuscany. I have 4 nights booked in a villa in Certaldo. Plan to visit Siena, Pisa, Lucca (although there is a huge musical festival going on there at the time). Maybe I will get transport to and from Florence for a day trip? I realize there is so much, but maybe just the Uffizi this time. I will then spend two nights in Milan, perhaps with a day trip to Lake Como or Garda. I think Rome will have to wait for my next trip (I hope) if all goes well on this one.

How does that sound?
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Old May 20th, 2016, 06:59 AM
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Train service between Certaldo and Florence is frequent and runs late into the evening.

If the traffic to Pisa and Lucca sounds daunting, you could go by train. Overall travel times wouldn't be any longer by train. If you drive, make sure you know how to find parking without violating the ZTL. If you want to climb the Leaning Tower, you need timed reservations.

Although a day trip to Lake Como on a nice weather day would be fun, don't underestimate all there is to see in Milan. If you want to view the Last Supper, you need timed reservations. Your kids would likely enjoy walking on the roof of the Duomo.
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Old May 20th, 2016, 07:25 AM
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Here is some what I feel is important info for you.

If you take the train from Zurich to Venice the fastest timing is a little over 7 hours. Since I do not know the exact ages of the children I estimated and the cost is going to be at least 500 Swiss Francs.

YOU can easily check prices and timings by going to the SwissRail site: www.sbb.ch/en

Now, if you wanted a cheaper and much faster trip consider flying. Using www.skyscanner.com and again estimating the childrens' ages I found non-stops ZRH-Venice Marco Polo in the $400 range (for all four of you). That flight takes a little over an hour but yes you do have to add time for check-in and security on the Zurich end and Immigration in Venice.

The ZRH airport is easy to reach by rail from downtown.

If it were me and I wanted to explore more than just S iena in Tuscany I would strongly consider a rental car for that portion ONLY. I have found driving in Tuscany quite easy, even on the expressways.
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Old May 20th, 2016, 09:45 AM
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If you have a Swiss Pass use it to go to Domodossola and then book on www.trenitalia.com a discounted ticket - would be way less than 500 CHF.
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Old May 20th, 2016, 10:07 AM
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If you have a SwissPass IS the operative term here, Pal. What they would do better with is one of those Swiss passes which allows the two children to travel for free but I believe they have to be 15 or younger.

HOWEVER, why would anyone buy a pass for only ONE train trip? I cannot imagine it would be cheaper than paying the 2nd Class fare but I could be wrong.

This does not negate the fact that the trip on the train is still going to take SEVEN hours so I guess it all depend son what matters the most to these people.
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Old May 20th, 2016, 10:54 AM
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I did not look to see how many train trips the OP was taking - writing in general and yes no pass for one trip.

But folks regularly say www.sbb.ch has discounted tickets Zurich to Venice, etc. I don't know but check.

BTW the OP said kids are 13 or 14 yrs old.

I would suggest flying too - you can still see the Alps - from above!
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Old May 20th, 2016, 10:54 AM
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J62
 
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I've been to Italy with teenagers before - my key takeaways. (common themes)

- they will get church/historical building / piazza / museum fatigue within the 1st days, if not hours. Don't insist on dragging them to every possible sight on a "how to see this city in 2 days" tour. Allow ample time ( and I mean a lot of time) just to slow down.

- know when to call it a day - there is no need to see that next famous site. It'll be there when they return as adults.

- July will be hot. Plan on pool/beach time somewhere on the trip. This is vacation, and vacations are for fun

- they will get car fatigue after your first road trip. On your 4 days in Tuscany consider spending a full 1-2 days doing nothing but relaxing by the pool, chatting w/ friends online. I mean nothing. One or both of the parents could do a morning trip to a nearby winery if you are comfortable with them staying at the villa alone.

- have them make a list of things THEY want to do in each location (without your input), and positively affirm their list & see what you can fit in. It may be dress shopping in Milan, or a day at the beach (can do at/near Venice), or trying every gelato flavor in town, or watercolor painting sunflowers. This is their trip as much as yours.
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Old May 20th, 2016, 12:24 PM
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I think what your kids - and you - will enjoy is very dependent on the people and personalities involved.

In planning time, consider how you have spent vacation time in the past. Do you all like museums, art, people-watching, or sitting by a pool? My kids (who are 17 and 20yo now) would have hated sitting by a pool, and really enjoy art museums, but dislike most sculpture; none of us are into shopping. They both prefer time in cities to time in the countryside (partly because we live in an area where we regularly do a lot of outdoorsy stuff on the weekends). So ask your kids what sounds appealing to them.

I also have had little luck in getting either kid, when travelling with us, in doing their own research. I enjoy that research, so I will develop a list and review it with the family, preferably at a computer, so we can pull up info, pictures and reviews, and narrow down the options.
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Old May 20th, 2016, 01:36 PM
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J62 says it all! Plan to spend a lot on gelato!
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