Postcards from Italy
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Trip Inspiration: Venice to Zermatt in Ten Days

If you’ve been to Italy a few times and already visited the A-list destinations like Florence, Venice, and Rome—or if you are looking forward to your first jaunt but want to steer clear of the tour bus set—we have some delightfully quirky itineraries up our sleeve that offer all the photo ops, great food and wine, and cultural treasures for which the Bel Paese is known, with the added perk of fewer crowds, as well as that elusive sense of discovery that is sometime hard to come by in our heavily-traveled world.

DSC_0221(Photo by CIU Travel via Flickr)

Here is the first of our Trip Inspiration series, meant to inspire your sense of curiosity and adventure, or simply to highlight the fact that Italy (and Switzerland) offer much more than the blockbuster sights. Check back in the future for more Trip Inspiration travelogues and photos to bookmark for future holidays!

IMG_9797Photo by CIU Travel via Flickr)

Venice


This culture-meets-nature itinerary begins in Venice, a convenient jumping-off point due to its international airport and wow factor...always a great way to begin a trip, and especially fitting for this honeymoon getaway.

The itinerary only includes one night in Venice, so first-time visitors can opt for a guided highlights tour to get a quick look at the city’s headliners. Veteran Venice aficionados can instead skirt the crowds of St. Mark’s Square and instead take a deep dive into the Floating City’s quieter neighborhoods (the Jewish Ghetto is a favorite), and cruise the city’s traditional bacaro wine bars to taste cicchetti (Venetian tapas) washed down with an ombra, or small glass of local wine.

Selva di Val Gardena


After regrouping in the sumptuous setting of Venice, it’s time to head to the Dolomites. You’ll need to have a car to explore this stunning alpine stretch, and can either use a private driver to take on the mountain roads or rent a car from Venice to have for the remainder of our trip (N.B. renting a car in Venice is a real hassle with long lines and a confusing setup with offices located a long walk from the cars. On this itinerary, you’ll only need the car for the long transfers so it may be well worth it to pay someone else to do the driving). En route from Venice to the Dolomites, the delightful town of Valdobbiadene is a perfect stop to split up the drive. Take time to sample some of the local Prosecco or settle in for lunch at Osteria Senz’Oste.

IMG_9752(Photo by CIU Travel via Flickr)

Spend the next two nights in the beautiful town of Selva, thick with excellent restaurants and spas and surrounded by a variety of trails for hiking (the lunar landscape of the Puez hike is particularly breathtaking) and mountain biking in the summer, and runs for skiing in the winter.

IMG_3014(Photo by CIU Travel via Flickr)

Lake Como


IMG_9907(Photo by CIU Travel via Flickr)

From the dramatic scenery of the Dolomites, it’s time to move on to the romantic shores of Lake Como, ringed with charming historic towns and lavish villas and gardens. Bellagio is perhaps the most famous and fashionable town on the lake, but those looking for a quiet, authentic feel can opt to stay in Varenna. Directly across the lake from Bellagio, the Grand Hotel Tremezzo is one of our favorite historic boltholes if you want to splurge on five-star luxury.

IMG_9908(Photo by CIU Travel via Flickr)

We suggest spending three nights on Lake Como to settle in and catch your breath after your time in the Dolomites. Spend a day taking a private boat tour of the lake to visit highlights like Villa Balbianello, Villa Melzi, and Villa Carlotta and stop for lunch on island of Comacina. Other experiences and excursions on and near the lake include a cooking class at Cucina del Lago to learn how to prepare true bruschetta, homemade pasta, and tiramisù; an adventure into the Plesio mountains behind the jewel-like village of Menaggio for a hike to the Rifugio Menaggio to take in the spectacular views over the lake or a meal at Locanda La Volpe; and a trip into the chic lakeshore city of Como to take in its walled historic center, dine, and shop.

DSC_0238(Photo by CIU Travel via Flickr)

Interlaken


Now that you’ve experienced how Italy does picturesque lakes, it’s time to see how it’s done across the border in Switzerland. Spend the next three nights in Interlaken set between Lake Brienz and Lake Thun (Brienzersee and Thunersee), the perfect base for adventures in and around the Jungfrau region. Named for the majestic Jungfrau peak and famous for its hiking, skiing, and dazzling scenery, this area is easily accessed via the panoramic Jungfraubahn, an alpine railway that sets off from Interlaken and connects in Kleine Scheidegg to reach the Jungfraujoch station, the highest in Europe.

In addition to spectacular hiking trails (Grindelwald is a popular town for hitting the trails), Interlaken is a paradise for enthusiasts of outdoor sports in general. Spend the day canyoning in Grimsel canyon, paragliding over Lauterbrunnen from Mürren, or even sky diving over the valley. Those who want to take it a little easier can instead soak cares away at the indulgent spa at the Victoria Jungfrau Grand Hotel or catch the gondola up to the Schilthorn peak for a panoramic meal at the revolving restaurant Piz Gloria.

GOPR5317(Photo by CIU Travel via Flickr)

Zermatt


End your adventures in Zermatt, a postcard-perfect resort town thick with shops and restaurants and with a pedestrian-only center. You can relax in town for your final day, or take the funicular up to Trockener Steg to hike the Matterhorn Glacier Trail, known for its sweeping views of the Matterhorn along the route and over Zermatt from the Schwarzsee gondola station at the trail’s end. Die-hard skiers can get off at the Trockener Steg station on the border of Italy and Switzerland and ski into Italy, even in the height of summer.

DSC_0297(Photo by CIU Travel via Flickr)

Related posts:
Three Great Fall Destinations in Italy
So You Want to Hike in Italy...
Switzerland by Rail: The Glacier Express and Bernina Express

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