Random Italy/Switerland questions

Old Mar 10th, 2010, 11:45 AM
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Random Italy/Switerland questions

As I count down to departure for my 3 week excursion to Italy (only 18 days to go!), I have a few specific questions I could use some help with:

1. I have about an hour and 15 minute wait in Milan's central rail station. Is there anything close by I could see in that time? Obviously, I am not talking about major attractions here (not enough time), but anything visually interesting within say a 5-7 block radius of the station.

2. Assuming I have good weather, I plan to take the hydrofoil over from Napoli to Sorrento (nice views, plus I have heard so many horror stories about the commuter rail line.) What is the best way to get from the main train station to the hydrofoil dock. Distance wise, walking looks fine, but it is hard to tell just from looking at a map what the neighbourhood/roads would be like. (I am traveling alone, with just one suitcase, which weighs less than 20 lbs)

3. While in Venice, I have one day with no real plans at all. I mostly intend to just wander about, avoiding the throngs of tourists as much as humanly possible. My basic plan is to just to highlight all the major tourist sites on a map and not come with 100 metres of any of them if it can be helped. If anyone has any suggestions of a particular area off the beaten track (to the extent such a thing exists in Venice), let me know please.

4. My trip starts in Switzerland. My understanding is that the primary language spoken in Zurich is German, of which I speak not a single word. Keeping in mind that all I need to do is clear immigration, buy a train ticket and get on said train, do I need to worry or should English plus the tiny little bit of Italian I speak be sufficient.

I am there are a few other things that have slipped my mind for the moment, but I will start with these. Thanks for any advice you can provide.
glenmd is offline  
Old Mar 10th, 2010, 12:06 PM
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1. no

2. taxi

3. See Burano

4. Yes [ add Bahnhof and Flughafen to your vocab]

Have fun !
bobthenavigator is offline  
Old Mar 10th, 2010, 12:13 PM
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Bob says Burano is worth a visit, and he's right. Add Torcello to the trip to Burano - ten minutes by ferry from Burano, and it's like a walk in the country. To quote my trip report:
Torcello boasts the oldest building in the lagoon, from aboout 550 AD, and at one time had a population of some 50,000, its own Bishop and Council, not unlike the Grand Council of Venice. The mosaics in the cathedral there are quite stunning, and the campanile is clouded with scaffolding, so work is being done. It is rather depopulated now, with residents numbering thirty souls, but with one of Venice’s more exclusive hotels, the Locanda Cipriani, which has housed QEII and other notables. Maybe security is easier there – half a dozen guys with shot guns could protect the entire establishment. It is pretty quiet there this time of year, and nothing is open. Which is nice – it seemed like a day in the country, walking around on un-paved ground, seeing fields where artichokes have been harvested. The guys restoring the Ponte Diavolo, the Devils Bridge, took the traghetto back to Burano for lunch – it’s only a five minute trip, and these men expect a glass of something to be served with lunch – they don’t do a thermos of tea and sandwiches.

The house numbering on Torcello follows the Venetian practice of sequential numbers, but not numbering every door. The highest number we sighted was 34, a coincidence as we live at No 34, in Melbourne.
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Old Mar 10th, 2010, 12:14 PM
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In Venice, get up very early and watch them set up the rialto fish market and the vegetable market. Try to get there before 07:00.

If you go to Burano then also go to Torcello.

Most of the crowds in/venice are centered around Piazza San Marco and even then mostly during 10 to around 4.

Just about everywhere else except the Rialto Bridge will be less crowded.
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Old Mar 10th, 2010, 12:31 PM
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I don't know if it can keep you busy for an hour, but the Milan station itself is pretty darn interesting. The exterior facing the piazza is stunning.
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Old Mar 10th, 2010, 12:53 PM
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1. Regarding Milano Centrale, I'm with toni gb: At least walk outside to the Piazza Duca d'Aosta and stare at the fascist architecture. Read up on it first to appreciate what you are seeing. (Click the "more about" tag):


2. Dunno.

3. I don't think such a tourist-uncontaminated area really exists any more in Venice, and Burano as far as I'm concerned in tourist-y central. Nothing but tourists and tourist tat, the lace-making craft now Chinese imports. Good for photo snaps, but a million have already been taken of the same color and canals. Torcello is fascinating, and worth the effort and what few tourists make it out there. Most of them have a real reason to be there -- they already know about the history of the place and want to see the magnificent mosaic. If you know the history and it has no appeal to you, take a trip out of town. 20 minutes to Padova. 45 to Treviso. You might find this article interesting:


4. Have to relate that once I saw a Swiss ticket seller in Muerren turn red in the face screaming after he had said once in English to a tourist "I don't speak English" and the tourist tried again with simpler English, provoking the screaming. It's no joke they prefer an orderly life there. I would write down what you need to communicate your ticket purchase needs in German (get a friend to help, even Babelfish) in case you get the wrong Swiss ticket seller on the wrong day.

Have fun!
zeppole is offline  
Old Mar 14th, 2010, 01:28 PM
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Thanks folks for the responses. Burano/Torcello sounds like a solid half-day plan (and getting out very early one morning is something I was already planning on); and I will have a look at the exterior of the train station in Milan (which honestly all I probably would have time for anyway, since I should probably try to get something to eat while at the station).

Perhaps I should rephrase my second question. Is there any reason why I shouldn't walk from the train station to the docks?
glenmd is offline  
Old Mar 14th, 2010, 03:42 PM
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On Number 4 only --

Everyone (for the most part) speaks English in Switzerland. Haven't met one Swiss person who didn't know at least 3 languages. Of course, there's always a first time, and it's always a nice idea to learn how to say in any language "Do you speak English?" rather than simply assume they do. Just for the sake of being polite.

So, for german, you'd say: Sprechen Sie Englisch?

Now, if they tell you "Nein!", then just memorize this line:
Ich möchte eine Fahrkarte wie nach [name of city, i.e. Mailand], bitte. (Translation: I would like a train ticket to Milan, please).

You may also want to know if they ask you back something like: einzel-oder zurück (that means single or return?), you can respond with one or the other, depending on whether you want a round trip ticket.

I had to use that many years ago at the Munich train station when the ticket taker completely lied and said "Nein!" when I asked in German if she spoke English (it was a different time period and this happened a lot back then). Fortunately, I had taken a semester of college German and was able to whip out the above phrase without hesitation. It worked. BTW, I knew she had lied because it had been a long line and I'd heard her speak English to someone up the line.
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