lavish travel

Europe Trip Part 2 – Italy and Switzerland

In my previous post, I shared our travel experiences in Iceland. After a week in Iceland, we head to Rome, Italy.

If you fly into Rome in FCO Airport (Leonardo da Vinci–Fiumicino Airport), there is no need to rush to purchase the train ticket at the luggage collection area. You can follow the signs to the train station from the luggage collection area and you can purchase your ticket nearer to the train station itself. This is because there are usually queues to purchase the train tickets at the luggage collection area.

Italy Day 1 – Invisible Hand + Team Work

After reaching Roma Termini, we decided to use the local trains to our Airbnb instead of walking. This is because the side walks in Italy can be quite narrow and pushing huge luggage through crowds is challenging.

We only need to go from Termini to Cavour which is 1 station apart. In the span of around 2-3 mins, we lost a sling bag.

Let me break down on how it happened:

  1. my wife and the small luggage enter the train first
  2. before I am able to bring the big luggage up the train, a person swiftly enters before me and stands in between me and my wife
  3. as it is only 1 station, I didn’t ask the person to move away. Do take note that the person blocks my direct view on my wife
  4. another lady distracts my wife by asking a lot of questions in local language
  5. my wife looks at me twice as she cannot comprehend and I asked my wife to just ignore her
  6. we exit the train
  7. we only found about about the lost bag after we check-in to our Airbnb

We have 2 recycle bags where 1 has the sling bag and the other bag is just food. Both of the bags are covered with our coats to hide the contents. We are really amazed how they found out about the bag and stole it when my wife looks at me for only 2 brief moments. They also work in a group where a person distracts my wife and the other person blocks my view and also we suspect 2 people sitting beside my wife are accomplice where the bag is passed to them. However, luckily there are no important items inside and my GoPro which sits on top of the bag is not stolen.

Rome, Italy Accommodation – Airbnb

The place that we stayed is very near to Colosseum. When we reach the Airbnb, the host’s husband is already there waiting for us. He is very friendly and patient person. He explains and shows us everything one by one in the room and make sure we understand how all the keys works.

Rome, Italy Airbnb room Rome, Italy Airbnb toilet

Pros:

  • very friendly host
  • has free breakfast although it is just a bread and packet juice
  • near to Colosseum (10 minutes walk) and Trevi Fountain (15 minutes walk)
  • has a lot of places to eat nearby
  • near to Metro station (5 minutes walk to Cavour station)
  • clean room and bathroom
  • can put your luggage with them before check-in or after check-out if you inform them beforehand

Cons:

  • bad noise insulation
  • stairs only but luckily it’s only 1 floor up

If you are going to Rome, do check out their listing here.

Trevi Fountain, Pantheon, Colosseum

After checking in, we head to Trevi Fountain. As you can see from the photo below, there is a lot of people so we didn’t stay long here to try to get the perfect shot.

Trevi Fountain, Rome, Italy

After that, we go to Il Chianti which is very near to the Trevi Fountain.

Il Chianti

In Italy, most of the restaurants usually don’t serve dinner until 7pm. Therefore, most people would order an aperitif while waiting for dinner time.

Aperitif

At exactly 7pm, the waiter goes around to every table to take the orders.

Carbonara at Il Chianti
Carbonara spaghetti
Tagliatelle with truffle at Il Chianti
Tagliatelle with truffle

After our dinner, we head to Pantheon to take a photo of the exterior because it is closed as it is past 7pm.

Pantheon, Rome, Italy

We then walk to Two Sizes to try their tiramisu. The pistachio one is really yummy!

Two Sizes, Rome, Italy Two Sizes, Rome, Italy

After that, we burn the calories by walking to the Colosseum before calling it a day.

Colosseum at night

Italy Day 2 – Fast Forward to Venice

We have a very tight schedule in Rome and thus we have to zoom past a lot of things at both Colosseum and Vatican Museums. We opt for non-guided tours due to our tight schedule from Tiqets. There are 2 things to take note of when you purchase this or any other tour packages in Europe:

  1. use your real name
  2. be on time based on the slot that you have selected when you purchase the tickets

This is because if you fail to do any or both items above, the person in charge can deny your entry. Do also check if you need to exchange your e-ticket to a physical ticket like Vatican Museums.

On top of that, it is important to wear decently to museums, chapel, cathedrals etc or the officer can deny your entry.

For Colosseum, if you are visiting it on the first Sunday of the month, you can enter for free. However, you’ll need to pick up the ticket at the ticket counter together with the public.

If you are staying in Rome/ Vatican City for a few days, you can also consider purchasing the Roma Pass, Omnia Card, or combination passes.

Colosseum

We walk the Colosseum for 1 round, take some pictures then take the train to Vatican Museums.

Colosseum, Rome, Italy Colosseum, Rome, Italy Colosseum, Rome, Italy Colosseum, Rome, Italy

Vatican Museums and Sistine Chapel

While the Colosseum is free on every first Sunday of the month, Vatican Museums is free on the last Sunday of the month. However, with free tickets do expect a huge crowd.

And if you are purchasing the tickets for Vatican Museums without any package, do get it with the skip-the-line option as the queue can get very long.

Vatican Museums, Vatican, Italy

The reason to use your real name for your tour tickets is because the person who checks your ticket can deny your entry where some places like Vatican Museums can be quite strict. I was unfortunate as I used my nickname (different from my passport except the family name) for my Vatican Museums’ ticket. When I contacted the customer service, they mentioned that the ticket is non-changeable and non-refundable but I can try to give my reasons to the person in charge. So when I was ready to change my e-ticket to a physical ticket and all set to give my reasons and head to the counter, the receptionist just see my e-ticket and gave me the tickets. God bless the officer in charge.

Vatican Museums, Vatican, Italy

A lot of the tourist attractions in Europe has really amazing sculptures and art on the ceiling so always take a look up:

Vatican Museums, Vatican, Italy Vatican Museums, Vatican, Italy

Gallery of Maps, Vatican Museums, Vatican, Italy
Gallery of Maps
Spiral staircase, Vatican Museums, Vatican, Italy
Spiral staircase from the top
Spiral staircase, Vatican Museums, Vatican, Italy
Spiral staircase from the bottom

There is no photo to showcase here from Sistine Chapel because photography is not allowed.

We finished Colosseum + Vatican Museums & Sistine Chapel within 3 hours including traveling. This is because we only have the morning to do the tours and our train to Venice is early afternoon.

Venice

Once you exit Stazione di Venezia Santa Lucia, you will see these counters and machine below:

You can exchange your e-ticket to a physical ticket at the counters or machines above. We got our ticket here for 3-days pass for 40 Euro each as we purchase at least 30 days before the date of use.

ACTV tickets in Venice

You will also find this information board nearby the counters of the vaporetto stops which you can take a photo of it so you can refer to it easily.

Station information in Venice

You should always validate your ticket at a ticket validator below before taking the vaporetto even if there is no barrier.

Ticket validator in Venice

Accommodation in Venice – Casa Favaretto Guest House

Casa Favaretto Guest House, VeniceCasa Favaretto Guest House, VeniceCasa Favaretto Guest House, Venice

Casa Favaretto Guest House, Venice
View from the room

Casa Favaretto Guest House, Venice Casa Favaretto Guest House, Venice

Pros

  • clean room
  • clean and big bathroom
  • got free breakfast (bread and drinks)
  • nice canal view
  • near to vaporetto stops

Cons

  • stairs only
  • no cooking
  • limited bathrooms
  • bad noise insulation

We got the room from Agoda which you can check it out here.

After checking in, we had our dinner at Tratoria-Pizzeria Sottoprova which is nearby to the accommodation. The staffs are really friendly and the pizza is big and tasty.

Tratoria-Pizzeria Sottoprova Tratoria-Pizzeria Sottoprova Tratoria-Pizzeria Sottoprova

Italy Day 3 – Gondola, Burano, St Mark’s Basilica, Doge’s Palace

We start the day with a private gondola ride. We tried to take it at Ponte San Polo as per this article but couldn’t find it. So end up we take it near Rialto Bridge.

The usual price for a private gondola ride is 80 Euro. However, the gondolier will bring us to a longer route but with 100 Euro. Once we are set on the route and price, off we go.

Gondola ride in Venice

A lot of people say you must try to take the private gondola at least once for the experience. If you are not tight with a budget, go for it. But if you are traveling with a tight budget, I would say feel free to skip it or join those with groups for cheaper price.

Burano

After the gondola ride, we head to Burano which is famous for its colorful houses and lace work.

BuranoBuranoBurano

However, you can also find Murano’s glass products in Burano.

Burano

Church of Saint Martin Bishop, Burano
Church of Saint Martin Bishop

After taking lots of photos, we fill our stomach at Osteria Al Fureghin.

Osteria Al Fureghin

Osteria Al Fureghin

After our lunch, we head to St Mark’s Basilica.

St Mark’s Basilica

Visiting the St Mark’s Basilica is free. As things that come free, the queue is very long. Therefore, I purchase the skip-the-line tickets from Headout to save time. We were 30 minutes late based on the slot that we chose but the officer was kind enough to let us in.

St Mark's Basilica St Mark's Basilica St Mark's Basilica

St Mark's Campanile
St Mark’s Campanile

Next, we head on to Doge’s Palace where we bought the tickets via Tiqets.

Doge’s Palace

Doge's Palace Doge's Palace Doge's Palace Doge's Palace

After a full day of activities, we walk around Venice to see and to eat:

Gelateria Gallonetto I Tre Mercanti 6342 Alla Corte Ristorante 6342 Alla Corte Ristorante 6342 Alla Corte Ristorante 6342 Alla Corte Ristorante 6342 Alla Corte Ristorante

Depending on your schedule, you can consider purchasing the different Venice Passes.

The next morning, we took the morning train to Milan.

Italy Day 4 – Milan

We only have a short stay in Milan like Rome so we only have time to visit Duomo di Milano and Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II.

Duomo di Milano

For Duomo di Milano, we got our tickets from Get Your Guide which also includes access to the terraces. However, do take note that this is not a skip-the-line ticket but luckily the queue is not too long where we waited for only around 10-15 minutes. Please also take note that this ticket does not include the lift usage to go up the terraces. Therefore, please be prepared that you’ll be walking up the stairs which can be tiring or even challenging for some.

Duomo di MilanoDuomo di MilanoDuomo di Milano Duomo di Milano Duomo di Milano

Do take note there are tourist scams near the entrance of the Milan Cathedral. So while I was taking photos of my wife in front of the cathedral, a man just casually put some corns on her hand like the photo below:

Duomo di Milano

After taking the photos, he asked for 20 Euro and even mentioned that he has small change. Just nice that time I have a 5 Euro so I just give it to him to avoid any troubles. Although he insisted on 20 Euro, I told him he either takes it or leave it. And even though we can just quickly walk away from him, but kudos to him working under the rain and at least he didn’t steal like the group in Rome.

So here you go, a photo with pigeons that worth 5 Euro, haha.

Duomo di Milano

Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II

Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II

Just like Rome and Venice, there are Milan passes that you can consider as well.

Milan Accommodation – Airbnb

Airbnb in Milan Airbnb in Milan

Pros 

  • cozy room
  • friendly host
  • near to Metro station (around 5-10 minutes walk)
  • clean and private bathroom
  • free ‘breakfast’ (a tube of Oreo biscuits)

Cons

  • the road from the Metro station to the Airbnb can be quite touch to pull luggage as it’s quite rocky and bumpy
  • have a short flight of stairs to go down from the main door to the room

You can take a look at the listing here.

Italy Day 5 – Tirano to Switzerland via Bernina Express

The next morning, we took the 10.20am train from Milan to Tirano for the 2.24pm Bernina Express to Chur, Switzerland. As there is some free time when we reach Tirano, we eat at Margi Bar which is directly opposite to the Bernina Express train station.

Tirano Margi Bar, Tirano Margi Bar, Tirano

When we the panoramic train arrives, we board the train and off we go on a 4-hours scenery train ride to Switzerland.

Bernina Express, from Tirano to Switzerland

You will find a brochure on the tray table in front of you which tells you the point of interests along the journey.

Bernina Express, from Tirano to Switzerland

The views along the journey is really spectacular and it feels like you are progressing from spring to winter as the views change from greenery to snow.

Bernina Express, from Tirano to Switzerland Bernina Express, from Tirano to Switzerland Bernina Express, from Tirano to Switzerland Bernina Express, from Tirano to Switzerland

Switzerland Day 1 – a relaxing night

After reaching Switzerland in Chur, we take the train to Zurich which is another 1 and a half hour train ride.

Zurich Accommodation – Gasthaus 210

Gasthaus 210 Gasthaus 210

Pros

  • near to train station (around 5-10 minutes walk)
  • clean room
  • has a McDonald’s directly opposite
  • has a Aldi store nearby
  • the ground floor itself is a convenience store
  • clean private bathroom

Cons

  • bad noise insulation
  • cannot cook
  • stairs only

You can take a look at their listing in Agoda.

After checking in, we go to the Aldi store and found a pork-flavored instant noodles. Usually in Europe, it is always these 4 flavors – chicken, prawn, beef, and vegetarian.

Asia Green Garden instant noodle

We have a simple dinner before calling it a day.

Asia Green Garden instant noodle
Best dinner in Switzerland, haha

Switzerland Day 2 – Mt Titlis, Brunni Engelberg, and Lucerne

The next day, we take the morning train to Engelberg via Lucerne. Then we take the free bus to the TITLIS Valley Station. You can also walk around 10 minutes from the Engelberg train station to TITLIS Valley Station. We then exchange our e-tickets via Get Your Guide to physical tickets at the station.

Mount Titlis

You will first take a normal gondola to Trübsee. Here you can do a lot of activities in the summer and winter which you can read about it here. But the park is not open during our visit so we continue on to Stand.

At Stand, you will change to TITLIS Rotair which is the world’s first revolving aerial cableway. The journey from Stand to TITLIS Mountain Station takes around 5 minutes and it will complete a 360 degree rotation from start to finish. Therefore, no matter where you stand, you can see the complete 360° view in the cable car.

Mount Titlis Mount Titlis

There are 5 levels in Mount Titlis.

Mount Titlis

For Ice Flyer, you can purchase the tickets at the counter for CHF 12. From the station building, walk past the panorama terrace and it will be on your right which is the starting point for both the Ice Flyer and TITLIS Cliff Walk.

After a fun Ice Flyer ride and a freezing cold TITLIS Cliff Walk, we head over to Brunni Engelberg by taking the free bus.

Brunni Engelberg

The only reason that we go to Brunni Engelberg is because we want to do the toboggan ride. This is because during our visit to Switzerland, most of the activities that are opened for summer is closed. But at the same time the activities for winter is not open yet. Therefore, based on our itinerary, this is the only place that is available and most convenient for us to do the ride in Switzerland. However, the entrance price is not cheap even after getting our Eurail discount.

Brunni Engelberg

insert toboggan video

After doing 2 toboggan runs, we head back to Zurich but on the way back, we stop by Lucerne.

Lucerne

The only place we go to is the Chapel Bridge and trying out cheese fondue at a nearby restaurant as most people will ask you to try it when in Switzerland. We didn’t go to the Lion Monument cause we didn’t want to walk there and it’s getting dark. But it is around 15 minutes walk away from Chapel Bridge.

Chapel Bridge, Lucerne, SwitzerlandDinner at Lucerne

Chapel Bridge, Lucerne, Switzerland
Chapel Bridge at night

Switzerland Day 3 – Grindelwald First part 1

The next day, we take the train from Zurich to Grindelwald via Interlaken Ost.

Grindelwald Accommodation – Eiger Lodge

Eiger Lodge, Grindelwald, SwitzerlandEiger Lodge, Grindelwald, Switzerland Eiger Lodge, Grindelwald, Switzerland Eiger Lodge, Grindelwald, Switzerland Eiger Lodge, Grindelwald, Switzerland Breakfast at Eiger Lodge, Grindelwald, Switzerland Breakfast at Eiger Lodge, Grindelwald, Switzerland Breakfast at Eiger Lodge, Grindelwald, Switzerland Breakfast at Eiger Lodge, Grindelwald, Switzerland Breakfast at Eiger Lodge, Grindelwald, Switzerland Free bus ride ticket from Breakfast at Eiger Lodge, Grindelwald, Switzerland

Pros

  • near to Grindelwald Terminal station (around 5 minutes walk)
  • clean room
  • plenty of bathrooms
  • has a Coop store in Grindelwald terminal
  • breakfast is provided
  • has a game room (pool is free, darts is not, not sure about the foosball)
  • you will get a visitor’s card where you can take the bus to Grindelwald First for free
  • has a ski room to store your ski equipment

Cons

  • cannot cook
  • bad noise insulation

We highly recommend this place which you can take a look at Agoda.

Grindelwald First

We take the train from Grindelwald Terminal to Grindelwald which is 1 station away. After that, we walk around 15-20 minutes to Grindelwald First. Along the way, you will see Eiger+. We tried the drumstick at the Coop here as breakfast.

Eiger+Drumstick at Coop Eiger+ Grindelwald, Switzerland

After eating, we head to Grindelwald First. As you can see from the photo below, the weather is not good and it started snowing.

Grindelwald First, Switzerland Grindelwald First, Switzerland

Although the board above says the mountain cart and Trottibike are available, but the screen below shows that only Trottibike is available. If there are discrepancies, the screen inside the building is the more accurate one.

Grindelwald First, Switzerland

The timetable of Grindelwald First:

Grindelwald First, Switzerland

As we have bought the Adventure Package (used to have 4 activities option but now there’s only up to 2 activities option), we wouldn’t want to do the Trottibike 4 times to get back our money’s worth.

We went to the ticketing counter to ask if they can refund us or let us reschedule but because we bought it online, we have to call the main office. So I made the call and the staff in the call asked me to send in an email. After sending in the email and waited for around 15 minutes, there’s no reply. So I go to the ticketing counter again to ask but they say the staffs could be busy as a lot of people are asking for refund/ reschedule.

After I send a gentle reminder email, we head to Barry’s Restaurant for lunch.

Barry's Restaurant, Grindelwald, Switzerland Barry's Restaurant, Grindelwald, Switzerland Barry's Restaurant, Grindelwald, Switzerland

After our lunch, there’s no reply so I called the main office again. This time another staff that picked up the phone told me they will give us an exception to reschedule due to the bad weather. However, we will need purchase the tickets first and they will refund us.

Switzerland Day 4 – Grindelwald First part 2 and Jungfraujoch

The next morning, we head to Grindelwald First again and the photo below tells the story. It’s even worse as none of the activities are open due to the bad weather. As we do not want to waste our money on train tickets, we checked with the ticketing counter if there are any ways to check the status of the activities online. Turns out you can go to their website and click on the individual activities to check the status:

  1. First Glider
  2. First Flyer
  3. First Mountain Cart
  4. Trottibike Scooter

Grindelwald First, Switzerland

After that, we send another email to ask for another reschedule before heading to Jungfraujoch.

Jungfraujoch

We got the tickets directly from the official website where you’ll get Eurail discount. There are several ways to reach Jungfraujoch depending on your departure location and date/time of visit which you can read here.

First, we take the Eiger Express tricable car to Eigergletscher. Then, we take the Jungfrau railway train to Jungfraujoch.

Eiger Express, SwitzerlandJungfraubahn, Switzerland

Map of Jungfraujoch, Switzerland Jungfraujoch, Top of Europe, Switzerland Jungfraujoch, Switzerland Jungfraujoch, Switzerland Jungfraujoch, Switzerland

Switzerland Day 5 – Grindelwald First finale and Zermatt

The day where there is bright sun when we woke up is the day we know the activities at Grindelwald First is opened. Although only 2 out of 4 activities are opened, we are grateful enough for it. Guess 3rd time’s the charm is true. And on the way to Grindelwald First, there is a reply from them saying they will give an exception to us where they will refund to us minus 20 CHF for processing fee after we purchase the new tickets.

As the weather is still unpredictable, we can only buy the cable car ticket at the ticketing counter and purchase the activity’s ticket at the individual activity counter.

Grindelwald First, Switzerland

There are 3 stations along the way to the top which are:

  1. Bort – Trottibike
  2. Schreckfeld – First Glider and mountain cart
  3. First – First Flyer

Grindelwald First, Switzerland Grindelwald First, Switzerland Grindelwald First, Switzerland

Insert glider video

We also braved through the strong wind to do the First Cliff Walk before having our quick lunch and then scootering down to Grindelwald.

Grindelwald First, SwitzerlandGrindelwald First, SwitzerlandGrindelwald First, Switzerland

Although my wife initially think it’s not worth to pay CHF 21 for a scooter ride, she loves it a lot after we zoom down the mountain. However, do check the brake of your Trottibike before starting the journey and go on a speed that you are comfortable with.

Here’s a short clip of me going down the hill:

insert video

After the fun activities at Grindelwald First, we pack our bags to Zermatt.

Zermatt

I planned to reach Zermatt earlier but as we have to make space for Grindelwald First, we arrived later in Zermatt and check in straight to our room.

Zermatt Accommodation – Le Mazot Bed & Breakfast

Le Mazot Bed & Breakfast, SwitzerlandLe Mazot Bed & Breakfast, Switzerland Le Mazot Bed & Breakfast, Switzerland Le Mazot Bed & Breakfast, Switzerland

Pros

  • big clean room with private bathroom
  • has a balcony
  • near to town
  • near to station (around 10 minutes walk)

Cons

  • has smoking smell in the room
  • cannot cook
  • stairs only

It’s one of the best accommodation that we like in Europe. However, I can’t seem to find the listing in Agoda anymore but here’s a website on their contact info.

Switzerland Day 6 – Matterhorn Paradise

We got our tickets to the Matterhorn Paradise via Get Your Guide. However, as it has been snowing the night before and still snowing when we went to the ticket counter, the activity is cancelled. But we got our refund easily through Get Your Guide. Without any other activities in our itinerary, we explore the Zermatt town.

Zermatt town, Switzerland fuchs, bread of the legends in Zermatt, Switzerland

Switzerland Day 7 – finally sunny day

The final day before we leave Zermatt, the snow stopped and the sun comes out bright and shine. At least we get to see the Matterhorn before we leave Zermatt and Switzerland.

Zermatt, Switzerland Matterhorn, Zermatt, Switzerland

Although we want to go for the Matterhorn Paradise, but because we have reserved seats for the train to Paris, we will have to skip it.

Takeaways from Frugalavish:

  • most of the accommodations in Europe have bad sound insulation so if you are a light sleeper, bring along your ear plugs
  • there are a lot of passes for the different places (Rome, Venice, Milan, Switzerland), do a simple research and calculation to see if it fits your itinerary and if it’s worth the price
  • Eurail is slightly cheaper for my case but it is very convenient. And the travel benefits can save up a lot as well. However, do take note some rides will require reservation especially cross country ones
  • when purchasing tickets, always check if they have discounts for travel passes and Eurail
  • most trains have free toilet to use while train stations usually charge for toilets
  • always validate your transport tickets
  • SBB mobile app is really easy and convenient to use for train travel in Switzerland
  • for tourist attractions in Switzerland, I would recommend to purchase on the spot instead of online although you might have to wait in queue
  • always be alert on your surroundings to avoid items being stolen or scammed

Please feel free to share your travel experience to Italy and Switzerland in the comment section below. Do visit my next blog post on France + UK + Singapore here.

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