Postcards from Italy
THE BLOG OF CIU TRAVEL

Travel Tips for Switzerland

The month of August begins with National Swiss Day, when the normally reserved citizens of this beautiful Alpine country celebrate with light shows, fireworks, and a bun marked with the Swiss cross called August-Weggen. The people of Switzerland may be understated, but the country's landscape is among Europe's most spectacular, with soaring peaks, crystalline lakes, and lush forests forming an alluringly picturesque backdrop to the country's pristine villages and vibrant cities.

lugano-cr-ciutravel(Photo by CIU Travel via Flickr)

If you are planning to discover the charms of Switzerland for the first time, there are a few tips that will help you enjoy the best of the country with confidence, from pretty Aarberg to cosmopolitan Zurich.

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Palermo: Italy's Cultural Capital 2018

Each year, the Italian Ministry of Cultural Heritage and Activities and Tourism appoints a panel of seven experts to select the next Italian Cultural Capital, a small city highlighted for 12 months to promote its cultural heritage and artistic treasures through special events, itineraries, and services. Cultural Capitals in past years have included Mantua, Pistoia and Matera; for 2018, the spotlight has turned on one of the most fascinating cities on the island of Sicily, a bustling metropolis with a richly variegated history that is reflected in everything from its architecture to its cuisine: Palermo.

P7310310(Photo by Patrik Tschudin via Flickr)

Many cities in Italy have long histories of successive conquests and rulers, but Palermo is unique in that every new wave over the millennia has left a lasting mark. The original Phoenician colony's strategic military and trading position attracted invaders beginning with the Carthaginians and moving through the Greeks, Romans, Arabs, Normans, Swabians, and French and Spanish Bourbons. Each impacted the city's art and architecture, language, and cuisine, leaving behind a historic center that is a fascinating patchwork of styles and a local cultural that is uniquely multiethnic. Famous for everything from its Byzantine mosaics to its modern streetfood, Palermo is an unforgettable city to explore and discover, layer by layer.
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Italy's Classic Cocktails: Negroni and Spritz

With the seemingly endless list of holidays celebrating iconic Italian foods—think pasta, pizza,tiramisù, and even Nutella —it's easy to lose track, which is why we were caught a bit off-guard by the news that Negroni Week was celebrated recently! The Negroni is one of Italy's most iconic cocktails, which, after spending decades beloved domestically but relatively unknown outside of Italy, has exploded onto the international cocktail scene along with another Italian favorite, the Spritz.

NEGRONI & SPRITZ Full

We love these two aperitivo classics, so much so that our Instagram handle is @NegroniandSpritz, and will be raising a glass and cooling off this July 4th weekend with a Negroni and Spritz. Cin cin! Read More…

Where to Find the Most Photogenic Views in Italy

As much as we lament the modern obsession with sharing every moment of vacation on social media and the growing importance of a destination's “Instagrammability”, the truth is that travel has been image-driven for centuries. From the time of the Grand Tour—perhaps the first moment in Western history when a voyage was considered a pastime undertaken for pleasure rather than a hardship fraught with risk—travelers have been tucking sketchpads and watercolors in their trunks to capture informal “snapshots” of Roman ruins, Renaissance palazzi, and, of course, pastoral views.

Florence twilight.(Photo by Concierge in Umbria via Flickr)

The explosion of leisure travel in the mid-20th century coincided with the advent of the compact camera, and generations of Americans were forced to sit through album page after album page of rather blurry black-and-white—and, later, color—photos (or, worse, slides) of the world's most famous monuments. This was followed by digital photography, giving travelers the ability to curate their hundreds of shots and only print the best. Finally, we have arrived at smartphones, letting us not only curate, but also filter, edit, and instantly share our dreamy images.

rome-panorama-cr-ciutravel(Photo by Concierge in Umbria via Flickr)

All this to say that today's avid Instagrammers and their quest for the perfect shot are part of historic and close rapport between travel and image-making, just the latest phase of a long evolution. So, snap away! Whether you have an old-school reflex or the latest iPhone, here are some prime locations to capture the most iconic views in Italy for yourself and, of course, your loyal “followers”!

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Switzerland by Rail: The Glacier Express and Bernina Express

One of the biggest draws in Switzerland is, of course, its unparalleled scenery. Soaring mountain peaks, lush expanses of Alpine meadow, placid crystalline lakes, rushing streams of icy water, bucolic rural farms and quaint mountain towns straight out of a Currier and Ives Christmas card...no matter where you look, the views are gasp-worthy.

bernina-express-cr-ciutravel(Photo by CIU Travel via Flickr)

There are a number of ways to tour Switzerland's panoramic countryside, each with its pros and cons. The country has an impeccable network of roads, and driving tours are the most popular and straightforward way to get around. The downside is that many of the most spectacular vistas are from rather remote, impervious wilderness that is difficult—if not impossible—to reach by car. Almost more formidable than their highway system are Switzerland's hiking trails, setting out from virtually any town or city in the country and in just minutes heading steeply uphill to the most sweeping overlooks across the Swiss landscape. But even the most approachable mountain trails require a certain level of fitness, and not everyone wants to be (or can be) that physically active on holiday.

There is a third way to explore Switzerland's most remote mountain passes that combines the convenience of the road with the exclusivity of the trail: the train. There are a number of scenic train routes that offer timeless charm, comfortable transport, and memorable views—perfect for combining a transfer from one location to another with a bit of adventure and unique panoramas. Here are our favorites:

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