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Traveling with Family of 5 this June. Switzerland-Italy-Austria

Would love feedback on the following... Boys ages: 13, 11, 8. Youngest son has very low tolerance for "boredom" (read museums, churches, history...) Figure there will have to be lots of gelato/pizza bribery going on. Traveling this June (mid to late) •Arrive Europe, Saturday, June 18 (probably Zurich) around noon and immediately take scenic train ride to first night's destination (Lucerne? Lugano?) Should we get off in Lucerne and have a look around/maybe eat and then get back on train to go to Lugano for the night? •Sunday, June 19: Take train into Milan (daytrip) and drop eldest son off with his choir there (the rest of us would probably stay near Lake Como area for the night...) •Monday, June 20: Go to Milan after lunch and check into lodging. Attend son's concert in Milan that evening... stay in B&B or hotel near church where concert is. •Tuesday, June 21: in a.m. travel by train to Venice (stay in small hotel/b&b in venice... central w/ good price) Any trips for lodging/actitivies? •Wednesday, June 22: Stay 2nd night in Venice. Attend son's Boychoir concert there that evening. •Thursday, June 23: Depart Venice at around 8 am by train. Visit Florence (4 hours?) en route to Lucca. What would be best in 4 hours marrying my husband's desire to see the top art/architecture and my boys' lower tolerance for this type of stuff? I was thinking that I could take the boys to do something else while he checks out stuff he wants to see... suggestions? Depart for Lucca by 4 pm... ...

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• Friday, June 24: 2nd night in Lucca, bike ramparts, day trip to Pisa, attend son's concert in Lucca that evening •Saturday, June 25: travel to Rome (should we spend one night in hill town en route- say Orvieto or Civita or is it too much hassle?) •Sunday, June 26: Rome, High Mass at St. Peter's 5 pm... (considering staying at a hotel on outskirts w/ poolfor boys' sake... has 15 min. shuttle to old center) •Monday, June 27: Rome- tour, sightsee, EAT •Tuesday, June 28: Rome - same. Attend evening exchange concert with Roman choir. •Wednesday, June 29: Pick up eldest son from group and depart for Austria (not sure if we should take a train direct, drive, or fly... can't seem to find any cheap direct flights from Rome to Austria either Innsbruck or Vorarlburg). Does this sound like an o.k. itinerary? Any thoughts, tips, suggestions? Would love to hear from you. Thanks in advance for your recommendations.

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1986 posts

You are pretty much locked in to your son's choir schedule, however, i would spend the first night in Lucerne. There is quite a bit to see iin the trown, especially as it is your first (jet lag ) day. Kappel bridge, lion monument , nice old compact town to wander through. Food we had was pleasamt at a number of different places we tried. years ago there was a "hall of mirrors" fun house in the center of town which your boys (and dad) should enjoy if its still there. Also a glacier garden. Leave about midday the next day for Milan (i dont know the train schedules). you wont have much energy, but Lucerne is compact enough that when you start flaking out you can get back to your hotel

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13210 posts

Katie, if you are flying into Zürich to spend time in Switzerland, then going straight to Lugano doesn't make sense. Yes, it is in Switzerland, but it is a large city on a lake, and they speak Italian there. It "feels" more like Italy than Switzerland, but with Swiss prices! If you really want to include Switzerland in your itinerary, stay in Luzern or one of the nearby lakeside towns for 2 nights. One parent can accompany your son to Milan on a daytrip and return to your base. The other 2 boys and parent can spend the day visiting Luzern highlights and maybe go up Pilatus, where there is a Rodelbahn and ropes course, or on Rigi, which has great hiking with views over the lake. http://www.pilatus.ch/content-n136-sE.html www.rigi.ch You could also go up and over Rigi on your way to Milan (the cablecar and cogwheel train will bring you to Arth-Goldau, where you catch the train to Milan). For your 4 hours in Florence, why not visit the Duomo and climb up into the ceiling? This should satisfy your husband's desire to see architecture (especially if he reads Brunelleschi's Dome first), but also give the boys a bit of adventure and a physical challenge. The Duomo is an easy walk from the main train station and you can easily return to catch your train to Lucca.

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31510 posts

Katie, If this is your first trip to Europe, I'd highly recommend pre-reading the Guidebook Europe Through The Back Door before you get too far in your planning. Regarding your proposed Itinerary: > Sat. Jun. 18 - IMHO you won't have the energy to tour Lucerne after a trans-atlantic flight and jet lag. Lucerne is a wonderful city, but needs more time than a "look around" (your boys would probably enjoy the Museum of Transport but in my experience you'd need at least 4-hours for that). Under the circumstances, I'd take the train from Zurich Flughafen (airport) to Lugano (time 2H:59M, two changes at Zurich HB and Arth-Goldau). It won't necessarily be a "scenic train" though. If the schedules are the same as the current ones, you'll likely be able to board the 13:47 departure, arriving Lugano at 16:46). I'd suggest a Taxi from the station (which is above the town) to your Hotel. By that time, I suspect you'll be ready for a rest! > Sun. Jun. 19 - Take train from Lugano to Milano (~1H:02M if you choose a direct train). For Lago di Como, I'd suggest staying in Varenna. You'll need to change trains at Milano Centrale. Trip is one hour. > Mon. Jun. 20 - Which Church is the Choir performing at? I don't recall any B&B's in Milan, so a Hotel might be the best choice. Check the Italy Guidebook for listings of good Hotels, restaurants, etc. > Tue. Jun. 21 - train from Milano Centrale to Venezia S.L. (time 2H:35M). I'm not sure about "central w/good price". Venice tends to be "pricey" and if you want to be close to Piazza San Marco (central), it probably won't be cheap. Again, the Italy Guidebook has listings of various lodgings in Venice. > Wed. Jun. 22 - enjoy Venice! continued....

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Part 2.... > Thu. Jun. 23 - your husband won't have a lot of time to see or do much in Florence. If he wants to visit the Uffizi OR Accademia, reservations would be highly advisable. The Guidebook has the details. Keep in mind that you'll be hauling your luggage with you. I can't recall if there are Lockers provided at Firenze S.M.N. (the main station)? > Fri. Jun. 24 - Enjoy Lucca! > Sat. Jun. 25 - I wouldn't bother with one night in a "hill town". You've already got a few one-night stops, which tend to be somewhat tiring. Civita is definitely out of the question, as it's a bit of an effort to get there from Orvieto. Also, (and perhaps more importantly), there's so much to see and do in Rome that I feel the time would be better spent there. > Sun. Jun. 26 - I'm not sure about a Hotel on the outskirts? I prefer the ambience of Rome, but with the boys a pool might be nice. > Mon. Jun. 27 - With five people, be sure you have a substantial food budget, as getting the "full meal deal" (Antipasti, Primi, Secondi, Dolci) in Italy tends to add up quickly! > Tue. Jun. 28 - If you're planning to visit the Colosseum, buying a combo ticket on Palatine Hill is good method. I'd highly recommend the "official" Guided tour inside the Colosseum (rather than an Audioguide). They provide Headphones so that everyone in the group can hear the Guide. > Wed. Jun. 29 - For travel to Austria, a budget flight is one possibility. Air Berlin & GermanWings may have flights (seasonal?) from FCO to either Vienna or Salzburg. I'd probably still use the train though. Travel time to Innsbruck is as short as 7H:47M, with one change in Bologna. Were you planning to only visit Innsbruck? continued....

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Part 3.... I'm assuming you're using open-jaw flights, and flying home from Austria? I also have three boys who were once at those same ages. Unfortunately, I never had the opportunity to take them to Europe. As long as they're flexible and realize that Europe is not the same as at home, they'll probably have a great time. Be sure to wear Money Belts, especially in Rome and Milan! Good luck with your planning!

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1357 posts

I'd cut out any one-night stays that you can. Some are unavoidable with the performance schedule, understandably. You're going to be tired with all that moving around, and you'll have to wrangle a bunch of tired, cranky boys on top of that. Daily gelato stops are a must. We've found that our kids (and we adults, too) need a break around 3ish, so that's a good time to find some gelato and a place to sit for a bit. But there do need to be trade-offs: you can't go to some of these cities and not go to the museums there. Yes, you'll probably go through them much quicker with the boys, but it needs to be done. I'm hoping you have a good bit of time in Austria. I'd highly suggest getting an apartment and staying in one place for a bit. You'll find that accommodations for 5 are hard to come by and expensive. You can rent an apartment in rural Austria (and there's plenty to do in rural Austria) with more space, a kitchen, and a washer/dryer for about half of what you'll pay for a hotel in Italy. I'd also suggest getting a copy of Cynthia Harriman's "Take Your Kids to Europe". She doesn't put a new one out every year, so if there's one in your library, that'll probably work. It's got lots of useful info about traveling in Europe with kids, including kid things to do in Italy and links for finding accomodations.

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7205 posts

I would most certainly spend my first full day and night in Lucerne. The medieval town center is beautiful and you don't need an itinerary or x number of hours to devote to any museum. The town center is very walkable, and you will be in Lucerne on a Saturday when the flea market is set up along the banks of the river. The flea market is absolutely fascinating. We have a very old church stained glass panel hanging in our den that we purchased from the Lucerne Flea Market 10 years ago. It's a fascinating place and you will very much enjoy it.

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28082 posts

Its a shame that you won't be in Switzerland long enough to enjoy it; and that the boys won't be able to enjoy Sommerrodelbahns and compare them... that would get them over jetlag...

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You guys are awesome! Thanks so much. You've given me lots to think about. I have the first edition paperback of Europe Through the Backdoor from back in my college days when I studied in Spain and found it at REI prior to my trip. It is dogearred and well loved. I have wanted to visit EVERY destination in there! This is my second trip to Italy and I am very bummed that I still won't be visiting Civita or the Cinque Terre... next time, next time! (If my husband could only get one more week off!) Regarding itinerary, first, Zurich is best price which is why we're flying in and out of there plus it's convenient to the far western part of Austria where we will be visiting on the tail end of our trip... I would like to rent car but husband finds driving in unknown territory too taxing (but I will pass on your comments!) We have friends and family in Austria in Tirol and near Lake Constance so we'll probably be doing a lot of mountain activities there so not quite as important on the front end although it's always great for us flatlanders. Would love to get to Varenna the first night and stay there for two nights but I don't think it's realistic...2.5 hours to Lugano, 1 hour bus to Menaggio, boat to Varenna... 4-5 hours after a 10 hour flight... I guess if we got in early (there is a 9 am arrival) we could do it. Just to throw another kink in there... how involved is the Zurich to St. Moritz (overnight) then down to Varenna route? Is it worth the additional time? How long for that route? How does the scenery compare to the Zurich to Milan route? Thanks again... I love hearing from other travel junkies!

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13210 posts

Funny you should mention the Bernina Pass route. I thought of suggesting that, but it seemed like you were more interested in "lake time" than "alp time". It would be a great route. We wanted to go that way on our own trip last summer (flying into Zürich to go to Italy) but it didn't work out with our schedule. Maybe it will for you1 It is an easy route; you can see the route and travel times on the Swiss website at www.rail.ch or SBB.ch. I tried to check but it was slow loading just now. You might look at going to Pontresina instead of St. Moritz-I recall it is slightly shorter, and would likely be less expensive for accommodations. As I recall, Zürich to Pontresina was under 3 hours. From there to Varenna you have just the one change at Tirano.

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Pilatus in Luzern does sound fun... I bet the boys would love that... I will look into the other route as well. Lucerne looks gorgeous but holy cow is it expensive!! Another idea is to hit the Bernina Pass on our way back out of Italy enroute to the Tirol... I have to look at a bigger map to see if and how that might be doable. I am finding the Swiss train website is NOT user friendly. I can't find a simple map of the routes! I am now considering trying to get our choir son to Milan with the choir instead of flying over with us. Then we don't have to worry about dropping him off on the second day. We'd be free to relax in Lucerne and the next day go to Varenna for the night and on the third head into Milan.

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13210 posts

You are so right! Luzern is expensive. Have a look at hotels in nearby Hergiswil, on the lake, for something less expensive. I found something there for our 2007 trip, but them we ended up staying up on Rigi instead (at Rigi Kaltbad). Rigi is lovely and tere are some reasonably priced hotels up there. It would be fun for you if your kids are into hiking, but much harder to get to Pilatus from there, and that is what they would probably really enjoy.

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199 posts

Katie, Luzern is expensive but worth it. Pilatus is a lot of fun. Skip Pisa, it's a waste of time. It's too crowded and the food is terrible.

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13210 posts

A suggestion for Milan-for your pre-concert dinner, save money and get a great picnic dinner at Princi bakery on via Speronari, on a side street near the Duomo. Their foccacia sandwiches are fantastic, and the bread itself is so good we had it for dinner, then breakfast and lunch the following day. It's a fun place to visit and the line moves very quickly. We were in Milan for one night for a performance at La Scala, and decided to save time and money by going the picnic route for dinner. It turned out to be one of our favorite meals of the trip (and we always dined very well). Dinner for the four of us totalled 23 euro, and that INCLUDED the bottle of wine and some broccoli salad I bought at the deli across the street. The sales clerk there opened and re-corked the wine, and tossed in cups, forks, and napkins along with the salad, all for 7 euro. The sandwiches were 4 euro each. I still dream of that wonderful foccacia. P.S. I sent you a PM about an apartment in Lucca. I see now that your dates for the trip will have you departing Lucca on a Saturday, which is good. Many apartment owners like to rent from Saturday to Saturday, or if for a shorter time period, then for dates that will allow them to get back on the Saturday schedule. So a Saturday departure makes it more likely the owner will consider a 2-night rental.

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813 posts

My tips and suggestions from personal experience and currently having an 8 yo boy. Fly in, then get to your first night's destination as quickly as possible, you won't want to train hop the first day. Skip Pisa, it's an armpit. If you want to see the leaning tower, head straight to it, then spend the rest of the day at the beach. DO NOT drive from Rome to Austria, my neighbor just did, took them 10 hours (traffic!). Try Ryan Airlines or take the train, then the family can play cards, games, and eat without worrying about potty stops, etc. Lastly, look at kinderhotels.com it's a fantastic chain of hotels just for families. Your kids are not too old to enjoy them. They are mostly in Austria. Driving in Switzerland and Austria are fine in my opinion, but driving in Italy is not for everyone.