Mountaintop to sea level: Girovaga’s 2018 Euro-trip

4 May
4 May 2018.
When the weather is miserable travel planning can be a great escape. At any given time, I have three or four European itineraries rattling around in my head and usually one of them has moved beyond theoretical and into reality. This year our theme is Mountaintops, Lakes, and Seashore. We will visit 4 mountain areas, 2 lakes, and the Ligurian sea. Purtroppo, we won’t be going until late summer.
I’ve spent a fair amount of energy in planning, securing lodging, researching hikes, and just yesterday I started making train reservations so as to get the super economy fares where possible. (I love every minute of the pre-trip tasks.)
Here’s what we have planned.
Having learned our lessons last year during The Grand Tour, we are not going to hop all over the continent. Our modus operandi now is longer stays in fewer places. This trip we will confine ourselves to Northern Italy and Switzerland with a tiny stop in Austria.
In a nutshell, here is our route: Milano – Ortisei – Innsbruck – Pontresina – Lauterbrunnen – Stresa – Camogli – Lausanne over the course of seven weeks. No cars, no planes, just trains. 
Milano is a city we’ve visited many times and while there are not any major sites we plan to see, it will be a buffer between a long Transatlantic flight and our train-plus-taxi to Ortisei, a journey of about four hours. We like Milano and have a favorite hotel there, the Hotel Berna. Alas, the Berna’s prices are sky-high due to a Gran Prix event so we will be staying across the street at the oft-recommended-to-me Hotel Garda. Nothing fancy, but (I am told) comfortable. We’ll recover from jet lag, buy SIMs for our phones, enjoy browsing, and perhaps take in a special art installation. After Milan, there will be no large cities this trip.

The last time we spent the night in Milano was in December 2015. Expect it to be much warmer when we arrive end-of-August.

Ortisei is, of course, our favorite place in Italy. This will be our seventh year there and eighth visit overall. Can’t wait to see our hosts Justine & Siegfried, visit our favorite shops and restaurants, and hike to the rifugi all over the Val Gardena. We will stay in the apartment we occupied in 2016 and 2017 and use this opportunity to update and add to our book, “Walking in Italy’s Val Gardena.”  We are planning to add a couple hikes to the book as certainly we will try something new in addition to repeating the hikes and riding the lifts we love.

One of my favorite views in the Alpe di Siusi. We will surely hike here and update our book.

I was in Innsbruck in 1972 but Ric has never been. I remember it being quite lovely and it makes for a convenient break in the otherwise long journey by train to Pontresina in Switzerland. Just passing two nights here.
Pontresina is near St. Moritz and is purported to be a good base for easy-hiking so we will spend a week. We’ve found a darling apartment overlooking the route of the Glacier Express and a lively river. Can’t lose with lodging overlooking a train line in Switzerland.
From Pontresina, we head to Lauterbrunnen via the famous Glacier Express. The Lauterbrunnen Valley and the Jungfrau Region offers an incredible combination of transportation and easy-hiking. It is, so far, our favorite area in Switzerland. This will be our fifth visit. It vies with Ortisei for favorite mountain locale, but the food is better in Italy.

On the hike from Männlichen to Kleine Scheidigg, above the Lauterbrunnen Valley. There was snow at high elevation in October.

If Disney wanted to invent a new attraction, they could not accomplish anything more fantastic than the Swiss have already done in the Jungfrau Region. Train to 11,333 feet? Check! Thirty-minute gondola ride in complete silence through a stunning landscape? Check! Behind-the-scenes at a James Bond’s mountaintop location with a revolving restaurant? Check! Seventy-two waterfalls in 9 kilometers? Check! We have a favorite apartment here, too, and fall brings reasonable rates, pleasant weather, and fewer tourists.

This is the view from “our” apartment in Lauterbrunnen: Staubach Falls and  a small herd of cows as well.

Then we are back in Italy, stopping at Stresa on Lago Maggiore for three nights followed by Camogli, Italy, for six nights. Stresa makes a nice place to break up a long transfer (with several changes-of-trains) to Liguria. Stresa has been on my list for years and promises not only some light mountain hiking but lakeside strolls and island hopping.
Camogli is our seaside destination. We have not been to Liguria since 2014 and our previous four visits we always stayed in the Cinque Terre. I am hoping Camogli will be a little less frenetic and allow us to experience a different part of Liguria. I am so looking forward to Ligurian cuisine! Alici marinate (marinated anchovies) are the best in Liguria most likely because they are caught nearby and fresh as can be, marinated with local lemons. Then there is pesto pasta, focaccia, and almost anything they do with a fish.
Finally, we will wrap up with a week in Lausanne, Switzerland. Several trains are required for this transfer, which is a bit kludgy, but we like a train day. Since we pack light, it’s not too difficult. Lausanne is featured in so many books and movies — especially stories of intrigue — that it has been on my list for years. We look forward to exploring Lake Geneva, the vineyards, castles, etc. It should be a rather low-key end to a long trip. We will fly out of Geneva, a mere hour by train from Lausanne.
Have you been to any of these places? What are your insights? Favorite restaurants, sights, hikes, or tours?

25 Responses to “Mountaintop to sea level: Girovaga’s 2018 Euro-trip”

  1. Janet Sims May 27, 2018 at 13:28 #

    Hi Laurel, just getting up speed on your blogs since we corresponded last month. We’ve been to several of these places, but Camogli was one of our favorites. We didn’t spend enough time there and would love to return. We’ve also stayed in Bonassola. You can walk to Levanto from there through a (presumably former train) tunnel.


    • Laurel May 27, 2018 at 15:51 #

      How nice to hear from you, Janet. I have heard about the trail from Bonassola to Levanto and hope to try it. Once again, I doubt we will have enough time for everything on my list!


  2. Lori Veloski May 8, 2018 at 15:05 #

    Hi Laurel! Thank you for sharing. I will look forward to hearing how it goes. I am planning a trip that is 2 years out and was planning on going to some of the same places you are. We are going to: Milan, Camogli, Tuscany, Asolo, Piran, Plitvice, Ljublijana, Kobarid, Ortisei, Lake Como or Maggiore, back to Milan to fly home. In 5 weeks. We will rent a car. Thoughts? We would rather do fewer places and longer stops too but don’t know how to tweak it. We have been to Amalfi, Rome, Florence and Venice so we were trying to see some different places. It was interesting to me that you are going to Camogli. I haven’t heard much mentioned about it and found it when I was studying where to go on this trip. What are you going to do there? I know there are some hikes but not sure what else.


    • Laurel May 8, 2018 at 15:26 #

      Hi Lori. Wow, that is a big itinerary for 5 weeks. I would encourage you to cut it down. You’ll barely have 3 nights per location on average plus all the transit times. Can you fly into Milan and out of Slovenia so you do not have to backtrack? You do not, IMO, need a car in Ortisei nor at the lake of your choice (Maggiore or Como), nor in Camogli. Need for a car in Tuscany is dependent on exactly where in Tuscany you are going.

      I have no info on Slovenia nor Plitvice, but I chose Camogli because we love Liguria but are sick of crowds in the Cinque Terre. Plus we have been on day trips to Santa Margherita Ligure and Portofino (the latter is lovely but too shi shi) and have read that Camogli is a bit more isolated and charming. Hiking is what we are all about on this trip and we also hope to hit some other small Ligurian towns like Bonassola and Moneglia. Check out the blog for info on Liguria. They are a great resource!


  3. Christine May 6, 2018 at 09:31 #

    Laurel, I like your style of traveling…trains and long stays! We love Lausanne. I’m sure you already have plans to visit Château de Chillon and getting there is half the fun. One year we took the boat, but more recently we trained to Montreaux and then walked along the beautiful lakeside promenade to Château de Chillon. For a quick visit to France, take the ferry from Lausanne to Evian. We enjoyed wandering around this little French town, shopping in a Farmers market, checking out the famous waters, eating a Moroccan lunch, peeking in the cute stores and finally enjoying a French dinner with Alsatian wine on a pretty terrace (at French prices, not Swiss!). Back in the Lausanne, our favorite lakeside restaurant is Le Vieil Ouchy. Be sure to reread Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein before going. She wrote it while staying on Lake Geneva.


    • Laurel May 6, 2018 at 14:57 #

      Great advice, thank you! I had not thought of going to Evian but that appeals to us so we might just do so! And I like the idea of re-reading “Frankenstein.”


  4. Ken May 5, 2018 at 21:46 #

    Laurel, I wasn’t aware you had a “new” Blog, but was told about it by another forum member. Your trip sounds wonderful and I heartily agree with your plans to stay longer in each place and savour the visit, instead of rushing about from place-to-place. To answer your question, I’ve been to some of the places on your list – Cinque Terre, Stresa, Lausanne and of course the Lauterbrunnen Valley. I’d have to give some thought to “insights” and will send you a PM on the forum if I think of any.


    • Laurel May 6, 2018 at 08:47 #

      Hi Ken! Nice to hear from you! If you were signed up to receive GoodDayRome you should have automatically received Girovaga when I changed the name. Anyway, I look forward to any insights you come up with!


  5. graciamc May 5, 2018 at 18:01 #

    A restaurant we liked in Milan was Parma & Co. It was near the Sforza castle, in the neighborhood we stayed in last fall. Have fun!


    • Laurel May 5, 2018 at 18:19 #

      Thanks, Gracia! We may just check it out!


  6. Kathy May 5, 2018 at 15:10 #

    Sounds like a wonderful itinerary, Laurel! Some of my favorite places. I want to go too!! I can’t wait to hear about your trip!

    We decided to travel in the U.S. this year and return to Europe next Spring. My bucket list for our next trip includes Amsterdam (visit to Keukenhof when the tulips are in bloom), visit some WWII sites, and Paris and some surrounding areas. I agree with your philosophy of “longer stays at fewer places.” It makes for a much more enjoyable vacation. Happy travels!


    • Laurel May 5, 2018 at 15:13 #

      Thank you Kathy! We never seem to go in the spring (since we moved back) but it is a thought given so many things are different in spring! The tulips will be amazing and I am always interested in WWII sites. Really would like to go to Normandy and Brittany as well as the Channel Islands.


  7. S Bravenec May 5, 2018 at 09:37 #

    What fun! I look forward to hearing about your adventures, and sounds like Ric will have plenty of trains. We’ve been to Ortisei, but then, you know all about that! It is a wonderful place, and we are still considering a winter trip to that area to ski… have a great time!


    • Laurel May 5, 2018 at 09:44 #

      I keep thinking about how great our winter trips were! If you go maybe we can join you.


  8. nigewelly May 5, 2018 at 03:41 #

    Carol and would like to recommend the small town of Seefeld in Tirol up the cliff from Innsbruck. Perhaps we’ve never really discovered the right bits of Innsbruck but we’ve never really cared for the place despite passing through several times…

    Seefeld is a bit of a tourist resort – especially in the winter – but it is small, with plenty of walking in the area, mountains, meadows and forests. Seefeld is on the jointly worked OBB-DB train line between Innsbruck, Mittenwald, Ga-P, and Munich. We particularly like walking down the hill from Seefeld following the train line on a well maintained path through the woods and grabbing a train back up the hill from one of the request stops. You have to press the button in the shelter with enough time for the driver to get the message to stop the train. It is single line.

    This all sounds like a wonderful trip. We are thinking about Stresa in a couple of months too.


    • Laurel May 5, 2018 at 08:26 #

      Great tips, Nigel! Thanks! Innsbruck holds a bit of nostalgia for me as it was considered quite a hot spot back in the early 1970s. Mostly it is a convenient stop on the way to eastern Switzerland, but we will enjoy our two nights there and look into your ideas.


  9. marilyneb May 4, 2018 at 23:28 #

    This sounds idyllic and I look forward to seeing your blog updates. I’ve been to Milano in late August and it was *hot* (Rome was hotter) but delightfully quiet. I’d love to see it round Christmas.


    • Laurel May 5, 2018 at 08:25 #

      Thank you! I am a bit worried about the heat, but it is only for a couple of days, then we will be in the glorious mountains!

      Liked by 1 person

  10. Grier May 4, 2018 at 18:50 #

    Your trip sounds wonderful, an appealing mix of new places and old favorites. I’ve just been to Milan to see The Last Supper which was worthwhile to me. I look forward to reading your blog posts!


    • Laurel May 5, 2018 at 08:24 #

      Hi Grier! We saw the Last Supper on our very first visit to Italy in 2010. I agree: well worth the stop in Milan! I will try to blog regularly while we travel.


  11. Maarja May 4, 2018 at 17:30 #

    This sounds fabulous Laurel. Keep in touch as we will be in Provence well into the fall and the house we just bought has a train station four minutes walk away! We are planning on some train travel too and Italy is on our list!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Laurel May 4, 2018 at 17:32 #

      Wouldn’t it be fun to hook up? Liguria is not far from Provence….


  12. Marcia Kakiuchi May 4, 2018 at 16:34 #

    I have been to any of these places! What I look forward to is your posts about the strudel you have at your various hiking stops. I’m not convinced marinated anchovies will EVER be on my list! But to each his own. We found we loved the trains in Europe after being in Prague, Vienna and Budapest this year.

    Sounds like a wonderful itinerary!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Laurel May 4, 2018 at 16:36 #

      Thanks Marcia! I am glad you guys came over to the train-lovers side! Only way to go, IMO. We’ll see how much strudel we eat. I guess in the name of book research sacrifices must be made!



  1. Bits and pieces from our 2018 trip | Girovaga - November 15, 2018

    […] to pause them so I can use the laptop. We have been home for a month and are still talking about our trip to Italy and Switzerland while planning for another adventure in the […]


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