Go Back  Fodor's Travel Talk Forums > Destinations > Europe
Reload this Page >

Lucky to be Luving Luzern,Lugano,Liguria,and Lucca---A trip report in 5 parts

Lucky to be Luving Luzern,Lugano,Liguria,and Lucca---A trip report in 5 parts

Oct 20th, 2001, 03:22 AM
Posts: n/a
Lucky to be Luving Luzern,Lugano,Liguria,and Lucca---A trip report in 5 parts


PREFACE: It was our 21st sojourn to Europe, but this one was really two separate trips. Susan had been planning for years to to enjoy Bella Italia with several of her High School friends from Indianapolis. So, after some help from the Navigator, the “ INDY-GO GIRLS” planned for about ten days in Roma, Firenze, and San Gimignano. The original group was to have been six girls but two of them canceled after the recent events. In hindsight, a travel group of four middle-aged women seemed to make more sense logistically. This report is not
about the ladies’ wonderful trip, but I will say that it worked well and they were very happy with their accommodations in Rome at the Cesari and in Florence at the Ritz. Also, they were very pleased with a private driver service I had arranged for them thru IITT in Florence. Do a search under “ Italy Independent Travel Team” to see their web site --a very good service.

Meanwhile, the Navigator was not about to stay home. We have often traveled in Europe in the spring and fall and the LURE of an October trip was too much to resist. I was evidently in an alliterative mood, in my more LUCID moments, and came up with this itinerary. I had spent some time on previous trips in each of these locations with the exception of Luzern. However, this time I would be on my own and have the time to see them in more depth. I booked a great
airfare thru Bestfares.com into Zurich and out of Munich and meshed my schedule to meet the lovely Susan in Lucca. I was tickled pink---an open-jaw itinerary on a wonderful airline with great connections via Atlanta, and all for less then $460--what a deal. I was ready and eager.
__________________________________________________ ______________________
Swissair had always been one of my avorites. I had assumed that they were owned by the Swiss govt. ,or at least subsidized, since they were such a vital link to Swiss tourism. Boy, was
I wrong. I was to leave on the 3rd and was shocked to learn on the 2nd that they had ceased all operations. The Navigator went into a frantic recovery mode trying to find a viable option. I searched every web site and burned up the phone lines in my futile efforts to save my trip. Finally, I decided to fly to Atlanta on departure day and get face to face with the other airline options and cajole my way into a viable solution. It was not easy, but it finally worked. After
talking with Delta, NW, United, and American I finally found my answer at Lufthansa. Perhaps it was just LUCK or heightened LUCIDITY but it all suddenly seemed to make great sense. Of course, LUFTHANSA fit my alliteration theme perfectly---Swissair never did fit. It cost me an extra $300 but I departed Atlanta at 1600 and arrived in Frankfurt at 0700. The connection to Zurich was to leave mid-morning but it was fully booked. The Navigator had to cool his
heels in the Frankfurt airport for NINE hours before the PM Zurich connection. It was not much fun, but I had salvaged my trip and ended up training to Luzern arriving about 1900. I checked into the DES ALPES HOTEL ,had two beers, and hit the sack. I had made it.
Hotel notes: The Des Alpes is your best 3 star option in Luzern. A perfect location at the end of the historic bridge in the heart of the historic area: www.desalpes-luzern.ch---about $100. The best 4 star choices are the Wilden Mann and the Des Balances--both about $180 to 200.

Oct 20th, 2001, 03:29 AM
Posts: n/a
PART THREE: LUZERN Let me add this one to my list of “ great medium-sized historic walking cities”. The others include Toledo, Evora, Salzburg, Siena, and Lucca. It was now Friday and the weather map showed my favorite symbol---a big “ H” sitting over Milano and covering most of Italy and CH. I had perfect weather for the next ten days, with a brief exception on the coast at Portofino 3 days later. It was perhaps the best overall weather I
have ever seen in southern Europe in October. I was ready to play like a tourist and booked the city walking tour at the tourist office. I highly recommend you consider this tour which
leaves daily at 0945 from the tourist office at the Bahnhof. It only costs about $12 and gives you a fabulous orientation to the sites and history of Luzern. There were only two of us in the group, so a nice lady from Adelaide and I had a personal tour from a fantastic docent. The PM saw me taking the obligatory boat ride to the small villages dotting the shore of Lake
Luzern. My trusty Canon was working overtime trying to capture the quaint ambiance of the region. Dinner was at a local haunt named Zur Lanterne--more than adequate local fare.

Today was the much anticipated “ Golden roundtrip” to the top of the imposing Mt. Pilatus that dominates the space above Luzern. I opened my shades at dawn and saw the crystal clear skies and knew it would be a good day. I paid the $40 for the whole magilla and took the train to the village where the funicular departs to the summit. It takes about :40 for the cog vehicle to get you to the top, and the grade is as steep as 45 degrees at times. It is not for the faint of heart, but very scenic. The summit features great vistas, two hotels and several
walking paths for the hiking crowd--it was a magnificent vista made better with clear skies. The trip down was in a different direction using cable cars to a small village near Luzern and
then the local bus back home. The entire experience took about four hours and was worth it. I liked Luzern alot and suggest at least two days to enjoy it. It makes the perfect location to
start or end any itinerary using Zurich as your gateway---it is only 1:10 by the efficient Swiss rail system to the Zurich airport station, in the same building with the air departures. It works !

I trained to Lugano on Sunday morning and stumbled into a local food estival. This was my 4th visit to Lugano and I was only there for less than 24 hours. I like to use it to pick up car rentals at Swiss prices for some itineraires into Italy---lower prices and insurance options. This visit was non-eventful but I did enjoy a good value hotel--the 3 star Hotel Zurigo. The Lugano Dante and the Romantik Ticino are very nice 4 star choices in this cosmopolitan city. I do love
Lugano, but I was just passing thru this time. The good news was an upgrade by Autoeurope. I had booked a VW Golf but was given the mid-sized VW Passat wagon for the same price. It was a wonderful car at a good price. I hit the road south at 0930 enroute to the coast.
__________________________________________________ ______________________

Oct 20th, 2001, 03:34 AM
Posts: n/a
PART FOUR: THE LIGURIAN COAST I arrived in beautiful Santa Margherita[SML] shortly after noon and easily found my hotel---The HOTEL JOLANDA [www.hoteljolanda.it]. It was a very good choice, a nice 3 star at about $100 with wonderful public rooms and one of the best ristorantes in town. It is about 2 blocks from the heart of town. The other option in SML in this price range is the Albergo Fasce [ www.hotelfasce.it], but it is another 3 blocks from town and does not offer the same parking convenience. There are several good 4 star hotels in SML, but my picks would be either the ontinental or the Hotel Laurin. Both have good locations and are priced in the $160 to 200 range. All are hard to book during high season.

I explored the back road s of the Portofino peninsula in the PM and ended up at the fishing village of Camogli in time for cocktail hour. The light was good and the camera was busy. I had a wonderful dinner at the hotel that nite. Dinner is the only time that traveling alone really bothers me. However, the next nite I made onnection with a wonderful young couple,
Sara & Andrew Todd. She is a fellow Fodorite and we had made plans in advance to meet. We had a less than memorable dinner that nite, but the company was very pleasant. They had
hiked 3 of the 4 legs of the Cinque Terre earlier that day, having trained to Riomaggiore and walking as far as Vernazza. It was fun to see their obvious enjoyment of seeing the Ligurian
coast for the first time. I had spent most of the day at Portofino--an in- depth experience that met and exceeded my expectations---you should see the slides. A highlight was spending time
with some of the local senior men in Portofino. Every village has a local haunt where the older men gather and swap lies. In spite of the obvious language problems, we had a certain rapport that is hard to understand unless you are a guy over 60---a mutual respect based on maturity.

I took the old road south [ Via Aurelia] the next morning enroute to my next destination at Portovenere, meandering thru wonderful seaside resorts such as Sestri Levante. I arrived at my favorite Ligurian village in time for lunch. I had not been back here since 1993 and was looking forward to staying at the newest hotel in town--the GRAND HOTEL PORTOVENERE. I
had done some business with the hotel before and the General Manager is a delightful fellow named Paolo Monti. He took very good care of me---the view from room # 302 was to die for. It is a modern 4 star hotel with a perfect location---about $160 for a seaview double. There are several good hotels here, but this one is the best [ www.rphotels.com] [ [email protected]]
Paolo also runs a wonderful cooking school at the hotel--see www.cucina-italiana.com .

I love this place. There are several good locations to explore this coast and the Cinque Terre, but my choice is still Portovenere. If you are driving, and are not into really serious hiking,
then this is the best single village on the Ligurain coast. The ferry boats run hourly from here to all of the CT, and an all-day pass buys you the flexibility of hopping between villages at your own pace. That is just what I did the next day---it was perfect. I caught the 0900 boat running north and made friends with several younger couples from the Seattle area. They were
part of a group cruising on the abulous Windstar that anchored here for the day. We hit four of the 5 villages--having pesto in Vernazza and hitting market day in Monterosso. We did not return until about 1700--just in time for some vino on the deck of the GHP. What a day !
__________________________________________________ ______________________

Oct 20th, 2001, 03:43 AM
Posts: n/a
PART FIVE: LUCCA AND THE DOLOMITES It was less than two hours to Lucca , and I was scheduled to pick up Susan at 1300 at the train station. The other girls had gone back to Rome for departure and Susan trained from Florence to Lucca to meet me. It all worked, even though the train was an hour late. We drove to our hotel, actually more of a B&B, just outside
the walls of Lucca. It was a former residence called the VILLA ROMANTICA , now a 3 star hotel with only 6 rooms[ www.villaromantica.it]. Doubles are about $80 but breakfast is extra, so it is really about $100. This is a great location for anyone with a car since there is very restrictive parking within the walls of Lucca. It is a :15 walk into the center of town. I called a local cyberspace friend, Luisa Raeffelli, and we made plans for dinner that nite. I had planned to eat at the well known Il Giglio, but she suggested the Buca San Antonio and it proved to be an excellent choice. Meanwhile, we walked our legs off exploring the delights of Lucca. I like this city. It has a different feel than most of Tuscany--a certain class to it. The
people dress a bit better, and the the town is not buried in tourists. It deserves at least a half day of your time enroute from Florence to either Pisa or the CT. Of course, you can easily spend 4 days in this region if you plan to explore the Garfagnana region to the north, Pisa to the south, or the Luccan Villas that dot the entire area. One highlight is to rent bikes and ride the ramparts atop the walls around the entire city. I did manage an hour’s walk at dawn.
The next day we did drive to Collodi and then north to the medieval hilltop village of Barga.
Of course, we did stop at the ancient “ Devils Bridge” as we returned to Lucca.

The next day we hit the road north to our destination in the spectacular Dolomites, the Tyrolean village of Castelrotto. We had stayed in the region before but always at Ortisei in
the Val Gardena---only a :20 drive from Castelrotto. This place must be a Disney creation. The perfect “ sud-tirol” village in this part of Italy that was annexed from Austria after WW I. All of the town names and signs are in both German and Italian, but the ethnicity is more Germanic. It is one of my favorite areas in south Europe, and the weather was cooperating.
We had reservations at the lovely 4 star in the heart of town, the POST HOTEL LAMM. It is a very nice 4 star , but not as famous as the Cavallino d’ Oro next door. Either is a good choice but expect to pay about $150. You can see more at www.castelrotto.com. The
highlight of this area is a trip by cable car up the high plateau known as Alpe Suisi. You will also want to drive to the Sella pass for some of the best the jagged Dolomite peaks. It is a toss up in my mind whether to stay in Ortisei or Castelrotto, but be sure to visit both. Both are no more than :20 off the autostrada between the Brenner Pass and Verona, near Bolzano. This is
a spectacular destination for any trip to northern Italy---do not miss it.

Our last day was spent driving to Munich for our departure--it is less than four hours from the Munich airport . We stayed in the town of Freising near the airport at the Marriott. It was about a :15 drive to the airport and they have a shuttle service that will allow you to drop
your car the day before. We checked in first, and then did just that. The flights home were not eventful, but I was impressed with the overall service by Lufthansa. We are still recovering.
I was up at 0300 this morning and started this report. I hope it makes some sense and will hopefully help your future travels. It was another wonderful adventure in Europe for us.
Oct 20th, 2001, 04:16 AM
Posts: n/a
BOB - Excellent report as usual!!!! I love ALL the details you give.
You think you had problems w/Swiss Air. How would you have liked to have flown from Florence to Zurich on Oct. 2nd expecting to make a connection to Boston 3hrs. later. Then when your flight should have been getting ready for boarding, hearing an announcement that ALL Swiss Air flights are no longer in operation. The airline has gone bankrupt, and there is nothing Swiss Air can do to help you. There was absolute pandamonium (sp?) at that terminal. Luggage & people from incoming, outgoing, & transitting flights were all over the place. We didn't find our luggage until 9PM (arrived in Zurich around 1 - flt. to Boston was supposed to be at 3:30). However, we did have a wonderful day in Zurich the next day, and then the day after that Swiss Air was up & running again. It's too bad b/c they are a great airline and they were doing the best they could the day they closed up shop.
Thanks for your recommendation - we stayed in Portovenere (also at the Grand) and we thoroughly enjoyed it.
Good luck with the jet lag. We've been home a couple of weeks and are finally sleeping until 5:30AM (big deal!).
Oct 20th, 2001, 04:18 AM
travel nut
Posts: n/a
Mille grazie Bob, We may change our plans for next May based on your comments on the Dolomites.
Oct 20th, 2001, 04:47 AM
Posts: n/a
Thanks for a detailed and entertaining report Bob and welcome back!!

I too am one of those sad at the demise of Swissair -- hopefully something will emerge from the ashes.
Oct 20th, 2001, 05:12 AM
Posts: n/a
Bob --
Your trip reports are dangerous!! Here I thought my trips for the next two years were well chosen and nicely set . . . now I have to start all over again! A charming dilemma. Thanks!!

Oct 20th, 2001, 07:14 AM
Posts: n/a
Great Report Bob.
We've stayed in Ortisei at the Hotel Angelo Engel in the past and liked it very much. Going back next summer. Do you recommend our staying in Castelrotto instead of Ortisei next time?
I had trouble reading your report because I had to scroll the margins until I went to "Post a Reply" where the margins were not a problem.
Thanks again.
Oct 20th, 2001, 07:22 AM
Posts: n/a
Hello Jim, We too have stayed at the Anglo-Engel--always a good choice. If you have done Ortisei then I do suggest you stay in Castelrotto. It is smaller and very charming. Take the exit at Ponte Gardena for best access. The best 3 star in town is at www.hotelwolf.it
We would stay there next time and save about $40/nite.
Oct 20th, 2001, 07:46 AM
Posts: n/a
Delighted by your deliciously detailed, delectable digest! (my feeble attempt ) It brought back great memories for me of our '97 sail along the Ligurian coast on the Wind Surf. When we anchored in Portevenere, I instantly fell in love. What a charming, utterly photogenic, perfectly positioned town to settle into and explore the delights of this
beautiful area. Thanks for leading us all so well to the very best of Italy and personally, for bringing the memories back!
I consider my "Italy with Bob the Nav" file priceless.
Oct 20th, 2001, 11:54 AM
Luving it
Posts: n/a
Thanks Bob---I needed that.
Oct 20th, 2001, 02:10 PM
Posts: n/a
Bob, great report! We plan to go to Luzern next spring and also want to do the Golden Roundtrip. Since you change transportation modes so many times, are the signs easy to follow? I'm afraid we might have trouble changing from one thing to the other. Could you enlighten me on this? Thanks so much.
Oct 21st, 2001, 01:05 AM
Posts: n/a
Bob, when in italian riviera area we would't have a car. We are very interested in seeing CT, is it easy enough to get there from Portovenere if staying there and not worry about staying in CT say, for a late dinner? Is Portovenere as special as CT to stay at? Thanks a lot!
Oct 21st, 2001, 12:19 PM
Posts: n/a
To Sana: As much as I love Portovenere it is not the place to stay without a car. I would stay in Monterosso or Levanto and use the trains.

To Betty: Most of it is easy and obvious. You take the train to Aplnachstad and the funicular is right there---follow the crowd. You take cable cars down to Kriens at the end. The only hard part is a 5 minute walk to the local bus stop in Kriens. Just be sure you find the right stop for bus #1, which takes you back to the bahnhof.
Good luck--pray for good weather.
Oct 21st, 2001, 12:49 PM
Posts: n/a

Thanks! Did you happen upon San Allesio
Church in your wanderings in or around Lucca? It's one of my ancesteral homes
I have yet to discover. So I was especially delighted to hear about your journey to Lucca and the North. I'll look forward to a trip in the near future and will have to add the Dolomites. Thanks!

Oct 21st, 2001, 03:43 PM
the golden girl
Posts: n/a
Hey Bob--If you only had 10 days for a trip to north Italy in May where would you go? I am 36 and will be alone.
Oct 21st, 2001, 06:09 PM
Posts: n/a
Thanks for the trip report Bob. I will savour it over a glass of wine!

Maribel mentioned previous travel posts, that I have been unable to find. Can I prevail upon you to send previous trip reports to me at "[email protected]"?

Many thanks in anticipation ... Ger
Oct 22nd, 2001, 03:14 AM
Posts: n/a
As usual, great report! Thanks for sharing the info on accomodations (and price). Did you see any places to stay in the center of Lucca that looked good?

I like your suggestion of visiting both Ortisei and Castelrotto when visiting the Alpe de Suisi area. When we stayed in Castelrotto, the hotel provided a FREE unlimited bus pass for the SAD buses that leave to Ortisei and the Alpe de Suisi. So, even if you don't have a car, or don't want to drive, you can easily move from one area to the next. Also there's a bus pass for 3,000 lira ($1.50) that allows you unlimited bus rides between Ortisei, Santa Christina and Selva (the other Val Gardena towns).
Oct 22nd, 2001, 03:51 AM
Posts: n/a
What a useful report. Thank you. I especially like your information on hotels--both those you do and don't stay in. I, too, always try to note additional hotels everywhere we go so that I can help friends who have different incomes than we (some higher, some lower) find something suitable in their price range. Glad to hear that you liked des Alpes in Luzern. We've been there several times and I've always wanted to try it. We also enjoyed the Buca San Antonio in Lucca. Went to the city especially for the opportunity to have goat at that restaurant and was not disappointed. I was also delighted to get your information on boat trips among the CT villages. In all the posts I've read on this site about the CT, this was the first I've read about boats which would be my preferred way to go from place to place.

Thread Tools
Search this Thread

Contact Us - Archive - Advertising - Cookie Policy -


All times are GMT -8. The time now is 08:38 PM.