Switzerland and Italy - April 28 - May 14, 2015
We took another vacation without the RV. This was Lawson's first trip to Europe and only Kay's second - the first being when she was a youth. This was also Lawson's first experience using a tour group. We chose Trafalgar because it had a tour that covered a large portion of Italy and hit all the major tourist attractions. The tour length of 14 days fit our schedule. We took advantage of all the add-on optional experiences they offered, so we were active from 6 AM til 10 PM every day. But, using a tour like Trafalgar is the only way to fit so much into so little time. Our tour director was excellent and provided all the information you could expect as we traveled the country. We stayed in very nice hotels and the food all through our tour was excellent. We also met many nice folks from all parts of the world.
Prior to our Italy tour, we flew into Zurich, Switzerland, and rode the train to Chur. After a night in Chur, we rode the Bernenia Express - a scenic train through the Swiss Alps. It was a wonderful experience. We ended our train ride in Torino, Italy. After a night in Milan, we rode the 150 mph high speed Italian train from Milan to Rome to meet up with our tour group at our Rome hotel.
Except for our misfortune at the end of the trip, this was a great vacation and well worth the time and effort.
[Tuesday/Wednesday, Apr 28/29] We left Houston at about 11:30 AM on Wednesday. It was a good flight to Dullas Airport in D.C., and we changed planes and arrived in Zurich at 7:45 am on their Wednesday morning. At the airport train station, we bought our train tickets to Chur and rode the train from the airport to Zurich HD station. Then changed to the train to Chur. It was beautiful ride through Swiss countryside, along the shore of Lake Zurich. We arrived in Chur a little before noon and checked into our hotel. We ate lunch at a restaurant near the train station. We walked around after lunch and saw many historic churches and the beautiful town and surrounding mountains.
We came back to the hotel and rested for about two hours then we went out to eat dinner. We ate a half-chicken plate at the restaurant near our hotel. We then called it a day.
Hotel: Romantik Hotel Stern, Chur, Switzerland.
< Chur, Switzerland
Click on the small photos to enlarge them.
[Thursday, Apr 30] We had a great breakfast in the hotel (we were sent to the wrong room and started eating a rail tour groups food :-). The standard breakfast was just as good though.
We walked about 1/2 mile to the train station and boarded the Bernenia Express for a fantastic ride through the Swiss Alps. It had snowed in the mountains the night before and was a winter wonderland. Fantastic ride. At the end of the Bernenia Express in Turino, Italy, we ate our first Italian food (spaghetti) before we boarded a Trenitia train to Milan. We arrived at a chaotic Milan Centro Station at 6 pm. We walked the 3 blocks to our hotel (Andreola Central Hotel) and checked in. At about 8 pm we walked down the street to the Kashmere Indian Food restaurant and ate supper.
< Bernenia Express
< Train from Tirano to Milan
[Friday, May 1] Today is May 1st. We ate a great breakfast at the hotel in Milan and walked to the train station and boarded the Trenitia Frecciarossa high speed train to Roma Central Station. We went as fast as 150 mph on the train. Upon arriving, we walked the one block to the UNA Hotel Roma and met Tour Director Rachel at the door. She gave us our tour information and we went to our room. After that we walked down the street to a small Pizzeria and ate some pizza and came back to the hotel and rested.
From here on, I am using the itinerary information from Trafalgar (shown in green color)to outline our daily activities. As a general rule, our days began at 6 AM with the alarm, breakfast at 7 AM and leaving on our daily activities at 8 AM. Most of the time, we were kept busy until 9 or 9:30 PM, since we signed up for all the "Optional Experiences"(OE).
Una Hotel Rome
At 5:30 pm we boarded the bus for an orientation drive to see St. Peter's Basilica and other sights - a great introduction to this beautiful city. Then we attended a Welcome Reception at El Terme Del Colosseo for dinner and musicians. Then on the bus and back to the hotel.
[Saturday, May 2] Your included sightseeing tour with a Local Specialist begins at the Vatican Museums. Experience a Cultural Insight in the Vatican when you ascend the smooth and stepless spiral staircase designed by famous architect Donato Bramante. Admire Michelangelo's magnificent frescoed ceiling in the Sistine Chapel and then visit St. Peter's Basilica to see his famous Pieta. Your tour continues in ancient Rome. See the Circus Maximus, where chariot races were held. Visit the impressive Colosseum.
< The Vatican
< The Colosseum
(OE): Backstreets, Piazzas and Fountains of Rome
With our Local Specialist, you'll discover the many delights that Rome has to offer by wandering through the labyrinth of narrow backstreets and beautiful squares. Developed over many centuries, they've created an amazing legacy for us today. The Pantheon and the Trevi Fountain (under restoration) are just two of the fine monuments en route.
< Trevi Fountain
< Piazza Colonna
< Sant'Ignazio di Loyala
< The Pantheon
(OE): Roman Evening With Dinner
Spend a light-hearted evening with us in Rome. Relax and enjoy typical Italian cuisine with drinks and music. Afterwards, we'll drive along the Via Veneto, a location made famous by the film 'La Dolce Vita', and which will give you a glimpse into how the Romans enjoy their city.
[Sunday, May 3] ROME - POMPEII - SORRENTO
Hotel Corallo Sorrento
We depart from Rome on the bus after breakfast, going south to Sorrento. Your Local Specialist tells you all about the devastation caused by the eruption of Vesuvius in AD 79 during your walking tour of Pompeii. Arrive later at your hotel in Sorrento where you dine tonight.
(OE): Experience The Scenic Amalfi Coast
Come with us for a drive along the famous Amalfi Coast. You'll have a chance to visit the exclusive artists' paradise of Positano, which is magnificently positioned on the Mediterranean coast.
< Positano on the Amalfi Coast
(OE): Traditional Neapolitan Evening
A scenic drive takes you through the Sorrentino countryside to an 18th century Olive Oil mill. You'll enjoy a guided visit of the gardens, mill and wine cellar, followed by a simple meal of traditional pizza and wine. And there'll also be the chance to see how mozzarella and pizza are made.
[Monday, May 4] ISLE OF CAPRI EXCURSION
Witness the intricate art of inlaid woodwork, a Cultural Insight for which Sorrento is famous. Later, embark on an included excursion by ferry to the Isle of Capri. Visit Capri Town and other sights during your tour with a Local Specialist.
(OE): Experience The Isle Of Capri
Experience Capri's spectacular cliffs, famous turquoise waters and white grotto the best way: by boat. In Capri town, enjoy a lemon granita, a specialty of the island.
< The Isle of Capri
(OE): Neapolitan Dinner And Dance
Join us for an evening of Neapolitan specialities at one of our favourite family-run restaurants. While you’re wined and dined, local artists – including performers who’ll demonstrate the famous Tarantella dance – will take centre stage.
[Tuesday, May 5] SORRENTO - ASSISI
Cenacola Hotel Assisi
On our way from Sorrento to Assisi, we take a rest stop at the Commonwealth War Cemetery at Cassino. Assisi is a mystical town perched on the slopes of Mount Subasio overlooking the peaceful Umbrian landscape. Under the protection of St. Francis this city is still enclosed by medieval ramparts. Your Local Specialist takes you on a walking tour, which includes a visit to the Basilica of St. Francis, famous for its frescoes depicting the life of this much-loved saint.
< Commonwealth War Cemetery at Cassino.
< Italian countryside.
At this point, we departed from our tour group after touring the Basilica to join our friends from Assisi for dinner. Lawson worked for some years when at Texas Instruments, with Mario, who worked at the Rieti, Italy TI plant. Mario and his wife Marina invited us to visit with them for a authentic Italian dinner and a private tour of Assisi and their historic home that was built 1600 years ago. It was a wonderful evening that we will always remember and cherish. This was the high point of our Italian vacation!
< Mario & Marina show us Assisi
After saying Goodbye to Mario and Marina at our hotel, we checked into our room and fell asleep quickly after another long but wonderful day in Assisi, Italy.
[Wednesday, May 6] ASSISI - VENICE (2 NIGHTS)
Grande Albergo Ausonia & Hungaria Hotel Venice
Today, enjoy the glorious countryside and historic architecture of the Emilia Romagna region. The area is also renowned for its cuisine such as Tortellini, Mortadella and Parmesan cheese, which you could sample during your lunch stop in Ferrara. Arrive later in Venice, Queen of the Adriatic.
(OE): Discover The Magic Of Venice
Join us for a scenic cruise by private water taxi along Venice's Grand Canal. You'll admire the magnificent palazzos, as well as catching a glimpse of the Rialto Bridge and St. Mark's Square. Later on, you'll glide gracefully on a gondola along Venice's dreamy, narrow waterways.
< The Grand Canal of Venice.
< Gondola ride through Venice.
[Thursday, May 7] VENICE ORIENTATION AND FREE TIME
Your cruise by private launch to St. Mark's Square is magical! View the Bridge of Sighs, the beautiful Doge's Palace and the Basilica. Gain a Cultural Insight into the ancient art of glassblowing at a traditional workshop on Giudecca Island.
< St. Mark's Basilica.
< Glassblowing on Giudecca Island.
(OE): Majestic Venice
Explore the hidden maze of streets which make up this unique city as your Local Specialist gives you a fascinating insight into Venice's past and present. You'll visit the majestic basilica of St Mark, where you'll have a chance to view some of the prized trophies looted by the Venetians in their rise to power.
< Exploring Venice.
(OE): Lagoon Discovery Cruise With Food And Drinks
Come with us on a private boat trip to the lagoon in Venice and you'll see the island of Murano, where the renowned glassblowers live. You'll enjoy lunch or dinner with drinks at the nearby "Island of the Fishermen", Burano, which is famous for its multi-coloured houses and a photographer's paradise.
< The Island of Burano.
[Friday, May 8] VENICE - VERONA - MILAN - LAKE MAGGIORE (2 NIGHTS)
Hotel Simplon - Zacchera Hotels Baveno
This morning travel to Verona, the home of Shakespeare's star-crossed lovers, to admire the Roman arena and Juliet's balcony. Cross the plains of Lombardy to Milan for a walking tour of this fashionable city with your Local Specialist. See the Duomo, La Scala Opera house and the famous Galleria. Dine tonight at your hotel.
(OE): Treasures Of Milan
Join our Local Specialist at the impressive Castello Sforza museum, where you'll see the 'Pieta of Rondanini' by Michelangelo, among other great works. Your tour finishes with a visit to the world renowned 'La Scala' opera house and museum. .
(OE): Discover The Borromean Islands
We've organised a private launch to take you to the beautiful islands of Lake Maggiore. Here you'll see the Isola Madre, the Isola dei Pescatori, and on the Isola Bella we visit the magnificent palace of the Borromean Princes.
< Along Lake Maggiore.
< Isola Bella.
[Saturday, May 9] LAKE COMO EXCURSION
Travel to the beautiful Lake Como with free time to explore or simply soak up the scenery. This evening, take a private boat to an island on Lake Maggiore for a special Be My Guest dinner experience.
< Giardini Botanici dell'Isola Madre.
(OE): Villas Of Lake Como And Como Town
Enjoy views of elegant villas and gardens as you cruise along Lake Como, one of the most beautiful spots in the Italian Lake District. Our Local Specialist will show you the sights - and their favourite spots - as you explore the old parts of Como.
< Como Town.
[Sunday, May 10] LAKE MAGGIORE - PISA - FLORENCE (2 NIGHTS)
Hotel Adler Cavalieri Florence
Cross the Plains of Lombardy, the forested Apennine Mountains, and pass by Genoa to Pisa. View the extraordinary Leaning Tower before arriving in Florence, birthplace of the Renaissance. Tonight, you might like to sample some local Tuscan cuisine.
< Overlooking Recco, Liguria. < Carrara, Tuscany.
< The Leaning Tower of Pisa.
(OE): Visit Michelangelo's David
Enjoy an insight into the world of artistic genius Michelangelo and his masterpiece, David. You'll get VIP entry to the Academy of Fine Arts, where you'll learn all about the artist's life and his world-famous sculpture.
< Galleria dell'Academia in Florence.
< Tuscan cuisine in Florence.
[Monday, May 11] FLORENCE SIGHTSEEING AND FREE TIME
Your Local Specialist brings the city's rich history to life during your walking tour. View the Duomo and Ponte Vecchio and visit Piazza della Signoria. Enjoy spectacular panoramic views of Florence from Piazzale Michelangelo. Spend free time exploring or shop for high quality leather and gold.
< Newspaper headlines.
< Duomo of Santa Maria del Flore with dome by Brunelleschi.
(OE): Tuscan Hills Dinner At Villa Machiavelli
A scenic drive into the Chianti hills, past vineyards and sunflower fields, brings us to a delightful hamlet overlooked by an imposing castle. Our destination is the ancient stone house of Machiavelli, where the great political theorist wrote his immortal work, 'The Prince'. After a welcome drink and visit of the villa and its wine-cellars, we enjoy the best of Tuscan cuisine accompanied by great music and drinks, including of course, Chianti from the Villa’s own vines. This is the essence of all great things Tuscan, past and present, condensed into one memorable evening!
< Machiavelli dinner.
[Tuesday, May 12] FLORENCE - SIENA - ROME
Sheraton Parco De Medici Rome Hotel Rome
Today is the last day of our Trafalgar tour. We ate breakfast and boarded the bus for our trip from Florence to Rome. Rachel took us to a overlook of Florence that was very impressive. We took photos as seen here.
< Overlooking Florence.
At the end of this scenic stop is where our Italy tour took a detour from the rest of our group. Kay went to the bus to use the bathroom that is adjacent to the back stairwell and accidentally stepped backwards on the stairs and fell onto the parking lot, breaking her right arm about one inch above her wrist. As our group gathered, Rachel called an ambulance and Kay and I took a ride to a Florence hospital. We spent the next 7 hours there as they X-Rayed and set her arm in a plaster cast that came up above her elbow. We took a taxi from the hospital to the Florence train station and then took a Trenitia Frecciarossa 1000 high speed train to Roma Central Station. By now, since we had already riden one of these high speed trains from Milan to Rome, we were pretty comfortable using the trains. We took a taxi from the Rome station to the Sheraton Hotel near the airport, where our tour group was spending the last night. As we entered the hotel around 9 PM, we met some of the group that were just returning from the Farewell Dinner.
< Florence hospital.
[Wednesday, May 13] We ate breakfast in the hotel at 6 AM and rode the Trafalgar bus to the airport Terminal 3, where we were to catch our 9:30 AM Swiss International Airlines flight to Zurich. As we went to check in, they told us that Kay couldn't fly with the plaster cast, unless it was split so her arm could expand. They gave us the name of the hospital that could do it, Ospedale GB Grassi in Lido di Ostia section of Rome. We decided to check into a Hilton Hotel that was adjacent to the airport and take a taxi to the hospital. At the hospital, we met a surgeon, Dr. Alessandro Zeri, who was very helpful and consulted us on the best approach for dealing with her arm on the return flight to the US. He suggested we replace the hard cast with a hard splint and a sling to hold it. He called a vendor for the needed items and he come to the hospital and the doctor fitted her with it. (BTW, he didn't make us fill out any paperwork and didn't charge us anything!) We returned to the hotel by taxi and spent the night.
< Almost ready to leave Italy.
[Thursday, May 14] The day before, we changed our flight back to Houston to skip Zurich and return from Rome. Since Swiss Inter. was a part of Lufthansa group, and we were told that United didn't have personnel in the termanal, we set up to return via United's partner, Lufthansa. We boarded the flight from Rome to Frankfort without incident and after a short layover in Frankfort to change planes, we boarded our enormous A-380 to Houston IAH. We arrived in Houston at about 1:35 PM and got back home about 5:00 PM.
< The end of our journey.
We met with Richmond Bone and Joint doctors Friday and was told that arm surgery would be required. It was done on May 19th.
This draws to a close our vacation to Switzerland and Italy. We hope you enjoyed the photos and brief descriptions of our activities. God willing, join us again soon for another travel adventure.
Goodbye for now,
Lawson & Kay
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ, just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love, having predestined us to adoption as sons by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will, to the praise of the glory of His grace, by which He made us accepted in the Beloved.(Eph. 1:3-6 NKJV)