Just Got Back – Italy and Switzerland

Venice

Helen Brixey – Leisure Training Manager

Email / Telephone Number

Helen.Brixey@altour.com / 812-206-5128

Where did you Just Get Back from?

Italy and Switzerland

When were you in there?

March 22 – April 3, 2017

Provide a 1-3 liner highlighting your experience!

This trip was particularly special because it combined exciting new places in Italy that I had not been to before with Switzerland, a country that now feels like I’m visiting an old friend.

Words to describe what you felt when you first arrived:

Years ago I had gotten a little taste of Italy whilst visiting on a cruise ship, but this time I was thrilled to dive into what is perhaps one of the most culture rich countries in the world. .

Where did you stay?

Rome – Baglioni Regina

Venice – Baglioni Luna

Milan – Baglioni Carlton

Zermatt – Grand Hotel Zermatterhof

Zurich – Radisson Blu Zurich Airport 

With whom would you recommend staying at these hotels?

Rome – Baglioni Regina

Located just steps from the beautiful Borghese Gardens on the picturesque Via Veneto, the Baglioni Regina is a good choice for those looking for comfortable accommodations combined with a great location. A short walk to the Barberini Metro Stop provides the visitor easy access to all parts of Rome. Via Veneto is one of Rome’s busiest streets so make sure to request a room on the high floors and facing the back of the hotel.

Venice – Baglioni Luna

Just a stone’s throw from St. Mark’s Square, the Baglioni Luna is the perfect hotel for guests of all ages. Featuring luxurious and spacious accommodations, the Baglioni Luna has its own water taxi dock, making access via a private transfer from the Santa Lucia Train Station or the Marco Polo International Airport both easy and enjoyable. Opposite the front door, guests will find a Gondola launch where they can hire their own private gondola and sit back and enjoy a trip through the many waterways of Venice. Keep in mind, the Gondoliers do not accept credit cards, so be sure to bring plenty of Euros, as rates start at €80 for a 30-minute ride.

Milan – Baglioni Carlton

For travelers looking for retail therapy, the Baglioni Carlton in Milan is the place to stay. Featuring comfortable rooms, a lovely breakfast area and a pretty outdoor terrace, perfect for enjoying aperitivo after a busy day of shopping. The Baglioni Carlton is located right around the corner from some of the top, high-end stores including Prada, Dolce&Gabanna, Chanel and more.

Zermatt – Grand Hotel Zermatterhof

I have been fortunate to have had the opportunity to stay at the Grand Hotel Zermatterhof on two previous occasions and this stay once again did not disappoint. This truly is one of the finest hotels in Switzerland and is the perfect choice for those guests wishing to be in the shadows of the imposing Matterhorn while enjoying luxurious, 5-star amenities including beautifully appointed guest rooms, a relaxing indoor pool and well equipped spa, and of course outstanding food and beverage outlets.

Zurich – Radisson Blu Zurich Airport

This is the perfect hotel for those arriving late or departing early from Zurich International Airport. Conveniently located within the airport complex, it’s easily accessible to all arrival and departure terminals, as well as the train station. A food court and plenty of shops in the retail complex offer a last chance to pick up Swiss chocolate or a TAG Heuer watch before leaving Zurich. Clean, very comfortable and quiet rooms, combined with friendly, attentive service make this a great choice.

Tempt us: Name the most special place you discovered on this trip

Arcadia – St. Mark’s Square, Venice

A family run business right in the heart of St. Mark’s Square in Venice, Arcadia offers a wonderful selection of hand-blown, authentic Murano glass, as well as a fine selection of ornate, hand-crafted Venetian masks. The friendly father-daughter team is happy to take the time to explain the glass-blowing process to you, answer questions and pack your purchases so they can be easily and safely transported home.

Walks of Italy

This tour company offers guided group tours, ranging from 10 – 15 people, in Italy’s most touristic cities. The incredibly knowledgeable guides help you get a real sense of the history behind the major attractions. Most, having lived and worked in their respective cities really gives you a local’s perspective of Italy.

The VIP Colosseum Underground Tour with Palatine Hill and the Roman Forum in Rome gives the visitor exclusive access to the arena floor as well as the third tier of the Colosseum; areas otherwise restricted to the general admission ticket holder. With a maximum group size of 12, there’s no better way to experience the magic and splendor of ancient Rome. The skip-the-line feature helps maximize one’s vacation time, and the audio headsets make it easy to hear all of the details that the guide shares with the group.

Other recommended tours include The Complete Vatican Tour with Vatican Museums, Sistine Chapel and St. Peter’s Basilica, which immerses the visitor in this must-see attraction with no more than 15 people in the group, and of course offers “skip-the-line” access.

Explore Venice on foot as well as by gondola to learn the history of this city of islands and bridges with the Welcome to Venice: Walking Tour, St. Mark’s Basilica and Gondola Ride.

Tandem Paragliding with Fly Zermatt

This being my 5th trip to Switzerland in the past few years, I’d always been in awe of the tandem paragliders I’d often see them soaring high in the sky above me in places like Interlaken and Zermatt. Booking a tandem paragliding flight with Fly Zermatt was truly one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. Traveling via 3 cable cars from the center of Zermatt up to the Rothhorn at 10,173 feet, my pilot gave me all of the safety instructions and general information I needed to know before I took off on this great adventure. Securely tethered to my highly experienced pilot, it was a short run down the ski piste and I was airborne. No other experience on earth could possibly mimic what birds must feel like. Stunning views of the Matterhorn and the other impressive 4000+ meter peaks in the Alps, combined with a few, optional dare devil acrobatics towards the end of my flight; this was truly the most exciting 20 minute flight of my life. With a soft and very safe landing back on the ground, this is an experience that will live in my memory forever. Fly Zermatt offers a variety of tandem paragliding flights throughout the year. They’ll provide extra flight gear such as jumpsuits and hiking boots as well as sunglasses and gloves so you can save a little room in your suitcase. The icing on the cake is the opportunity to be able to re-live your memories through the optional GoPro video and still imagery available for purchase shortly after your return to Zermatt.

Milan Duomo Rooftop

For a unique experience, plan a visit to the rooftop of the Duomo (Cathedral) in Milan. Visitors can either take the stairs, or be whisked to the roof by the quick and convenient elevator. Admission tickets are sold independently of the Duomo ticket, and the ticket booth is located across the street from the back of the Duomo. Early evening is a lovely time of day to plan a visit but keep in mind that time may be limited if you venture out too close to closing time. You’ll be able to see the spires and sculptures up close and enjoy wonderful views of the city.

What’s the best time of year to go in your opinion?

Italy was most enjoyable in the springtime as many of the popular attractions were less crowded. Sunny, mild days in the mid-60s meant it was possible to get away with just a light jacket or sweater in the morning and evening.

In Switzerland, there isn’t a bad time of year to visit, it depends on the type of activities you’d like to engage in. Of course, if you want to ski, then winter is the best time, although one can ski even in the middle of the summer up in the high Alpine peaks of the Matterhorn Glacier Paradise.

Anything else to add?

Private Transfers in Rome and Venice

Visitors arriving into Rome Fiumicino Airport should consider booking a luxury private transfer with RomaSi. You’ll be met by a professional driver inside the arrivals area; I was met right at the arrival gate after I made my way out of the jet bridge. My professional driver escorted me to the correct immigration lanes for my passport type, accompanied me to the baggage carousel and helped retrieve my checked luggage. From there, it was a comfortable and pleasant drive to my hotel in Rome, made even nicer given the fact that all of the airport taxis were on strike that day and I didn’t have to deal with a packed train to the city center.

Most visitors to Venice will arrive by train at the Santa Lucia Train Station or Marco Polo International Airport. From there, one will need to make their way to their hotel, most likely by water. Why struggle with luggage, crowds and multiple stops on the Vaporettos (Public Water Bus) when you can book a private water taxi transfer. While pricey, it’s truly a worthwhile investment; transfers can be pre-booked and prepaid through Consorzio Motoscafi Venezia. The visitor will be whisked along the waterways of Venice to the destination of their choice, and in some cases, directly to the front door of their hotel.

Tax Free Shopping in Italy

When shopping in Italy, many stores offer tax free shopping through Global Blue which offers a rebate on the VAT tax on qualifying purchases. In most cases, the visitor can process their refund at the airport upon departure from Italy, or any other European Union country. If the visitor travels to Switzerland for example, which is not part of the European Union, it’s not possible to process the refund when flying out of a Swiss Airport, as was the case with my trip. However, I did take the train from Milan to Brig, Switzerland and during the 5+ minute station stop at Domodossola there is an Italian Customs Inspector on the platform who is available to stamp tax refund forms.

Venice Lagoon Venice at Sunset

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Duomo Milan