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Touring through Germany, Austria, Switzerland and Italy


Oct 28th, 2011, 10:15 PM
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Touring through Germany, Austria, Switzerland and Italy

Hi, my wife and I are planning a trip for late May, early June in 2012. We plan to fly into Munich, then hire a car and drive down through Austria, Switzerland, then through to Italy, down the to Cinque Terra, across to Padua, then back up to Lake Como and then fly home from Milan.

We are allowing three weeks travelling time.

Any tips or experiences on driving, weather conditions, places to see and stay, eat, etc, would be greatly appreciated.
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Oct 28th, 2011, 10:23 PM
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Ooops - not Luxembourg (refer tag), meant Liechtenstein!
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Oct 28th, 2011, 11:09 PM
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Hi curious_couple,

You'll probably find that there will be a huge fee to rent a car in one country and return it in another. And since Switzerland is really easy and fun to do by train, you won't need a car at all there (don't really need one for München & area either). Anyway, you may want to return your car before you hit Switzerland, then pick up another car in Italy.

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Oct 28th, 2011, 11:27 PM
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Change the order of your travel, going through Switzerland on the way back to Munich from Lake Como and the cross-border drop-off fee disappears.
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Oct 29th, 2011, 12:11 AM
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Well, then, there are other problems with having a car in Switzerland --

The prettiest villages and all of the mountaintops are car-free. If you stay there, a rental car will just sit in a paid parking lot (and they are the nicest places to stay imo).

Cities are not geared for motor transport; they developed in the centuries before. You'll find yourself navigating narrow, winding streets while dodging trams, busses, and pedestrians, while searching for (expensive) parking.

You can take a road trip practically anywhere, but having a train trip is getting to be a rare thing. Doing this will add a layer of fun & adventure to the trip. Plus, you'll have more opportunities to meet locals on the train than you would sealed up in your private bubble.

Plus of course, using a car deposits too much smog & dirt in the air. If you want to help preserve the beautiful scenery you came to see, you may want to just use the easy & fun & convenient train system.

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Oct 29th, 2011, 02:40 AM
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When people go to Italy, they always make sure to visit Rome and Tuscany. I think you should look up to those two places. It might be an option.
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Oct 29th, 2011, 05:09 AM
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As a veteran of numerous road trips - we love driving in europe (esp, even Switzerland - car still gives you more freedom than train) - I think you are trying to cover too much territory.

In 3 weeks we would typically have 2 anchor cities - perhaps Rome and Paris - picking up the car when leaving the first one and dropping it when arriving at the latter. (Yes, there is a fee for this but it usually is not huge in comparison to the cost of the whole trip - and train ares for 2 or more people. But realize you are paying a premium for your freedom - which I think is well worth it.)

In the 3 weeks we never do no more than 6 different hotels - sometimes keeping it to 5. And this assumes we have already visited the anchor cities and seen quite a few of the main sights. Picking a town and staying 3 or 4 nights allows you to do day trips to see other sights in the area. Moving every night or two - as it looks like you are planing by the number of places (unless you will do 1 stop in Austria and 1 in Switzerland and 1 in Italy) - really cuts down on your sightseeing time - unless you count all of the driving time as prime sightseeing.
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Oct 29th, 2011, 06:47 AM
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Whether 3 weeks is enough or not will depend on your itinerary.
Obviously, you cannot see all of Austria, Switzerland and Northern Italy in that time. Or even one of them.
While you already seem somewhat specific on what you want to see in Italy, you may want to go more into detail re. the parts of Austria and Switzerland.

Driving is no big deal. Everyone here uses the car for road trips of any length through the mountains. The roads are well-maintained, and since many have little practical use anymore, you will encounter more people to use them for fun than to actually go somewhere in a hurry. A possible exception would be (motor) bikers ;-)

When you rent from Munich, you will need to keep in mind:

1. the aforementioned drop off fee if you stick with your initial plan to leave from Milan
2. extra costs if you plan to use the motorways in Austria or Switzerland (so called "Vignettes", or stickers) plus costs for tunnels if applicable
3. extra costs for using Italian motorways (pay as you go, toll plaza system)
4. weather conditions if you plan to drive via mountain pass roads. The higher elevations still have a good chance of snow and ice at that time.
5. you have to buy extra equipment that is not compulsatory in Germany but in the other countries, e.g. hi-viz vests. Not much of costs, but you need to familiarize yourself with the respective laws.
6. extra costs for parking, and often the problem that the quaint cosy hotel in a beautiful village obviously forgot to build a garage back in 1850. So check each place if you can either park there or at least nearby. No fun to drag all your belongings at the end of a day half a mile over cobblestones to the hotel.

The accessibility of mountain villages is usually not a problem. Literally only a handful of them in Switzerland are car-free (meaning you park the car at a central big garage and take a train to the village). These few villages are usually also hit worst by tourism.

In Germany or Austria there are no car-free villages in that sense -- though many will ban or restrict non-local traffic in the very village center and have central parking lots at the villages' perimeters and you walk the last 1/4 mile.

The major reason to ban cars already decades ago in Switzerland had not been an early awakening of "green conscience" but the simple fact that those tiny places are usually at the end of a cul-de-sac in a valley, and could technically not handle car traffic any longer even back the 1960s, esp. during high season in winter.
If you have the flexibility of your own car you should ask yourself if you need to visit those places where everyone goes anyway.

Once you made up your mind what to visit and where to go besides Italy, you will probably find out that a mix of public transport and rental car(s) will give you the best value (and experience/convenience) for your money and time.
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Oct 29th, 2011, 08:48 AM
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Nothing wrong the the amount of time and the itinerary since the OP is essentially sticking to northern Italy. The itinerary represents a trip centered around the Alps.
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Oct 29th, 2011, 02:12 PM
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I would start and end this trip in Munich---and drive the entire trip. You can drive to Munich airport from Lago Como in a day via the beautiful Engadine valley---we have done it.
That will solve you car drop charge problem. Be sure to hit Salzburg on the way down.
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Oct 30th, 2011, 02:29 AM
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Thanks everyone, your comments, advice and ideas are greatly appreciated.
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Oct 31st, 2011, 09:14 AM
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I would definitely visit Genoa if possibly.
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Dec 16th, 2011, 03:30 PM
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We generally connected between cities via train. One expense usually forgotten is the $20+ a day most hotels charge for parking. Getting out and seeing the countryside is important but try taking train from one place to the next and then renting a car for the day or a couple days and get out on day trips. We did this around Dresden, Salzburg and Munich and it was always well worth it. National Geographic had a list of "Top 150 drives in the world" (you'll need to Google it) but they were always right on.
We did all this with a 2 year old and an 8 year old, so I'm jealous that it will just be the two of you.
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