These are Megan’s tips for her week and half long trip in the fall to Lucerne and Lugano in Switzerland then onto Menaggio and Santa Margherita in Lake Como and finishing in Tuscany. She and her husband are in their 30s and from Chicago. Their goals were to relax and eat good food.
Where do you live when you’re not traveling? Chicago.
Who went on the trip? Megan and her husband, who are both in their 30s.
What was the Trip? A week and half long trip in the fall to Lucerne and Lugano in Switzerland then onto Menaggio and Santa Margherita in Lake Como, Tuscany then finishing in Rome
What were your interests/goals on the trip? Relax and eat good food.
Anything especially awesome or things you wished you’d done differently?
We stayed at the Grand Hotel National. Location was great – a little pricey and even though we booked a queen room they charged us for the extra person since my reservation only said 1 (I know this is common in Europe but it screwed us at a lot of hotels!) Really wish I’d known about it before!
The hotel restaurants and bars were expensive so would definitely venture out.
We ate at Grottino 1313, which was amazing. It was a little outside the main touristy part of the city, but the food was so so good and service was incredible – they save your table for the whole night. We also ate at STERN Luzern, which was also amazing. Definitely two non-touristy spots that were excellent.
We rented paddle boats which made us feel like we were being ‘active’ on the lake without having to do much. I’ve heard that the big boat tour that most people do can get really crowded. Also, there was a noticeable difference between being there on a weekday and a weekend, so I would avoid weekends if possible.
Train from Lucerne to Lugano is very expensive but beautiful views so a nice way to see a lot of Switzerland while you’re travelling. I think driving it could be pretty cool too but a little scary. We were told to book in advance but in hindsight I don’t think that was necessary.
We stayed at Hotel Splendide Royal, which was fine – location was very good, a short walk into the town area. It was a typical older European hotel.
Pizza is incredible here – it’s only 15 miles from Italy so definitely Italian food is the way to go.
The one thing I wish that we had done here (or in Lake Como) was to rent a motor boat. it’s surprisingly well priced despite most of Switzerland being so expensive! All you need is a driver’s license and they let you take it out onto the lake for an hour/afternoon etc – would recommend a bottle of wine and cheese -but book in advance once you get to the town. Avoid cabs in Switzerland at all costs!! It’s at least $20 to go 1 mile.
We took a bus from here to Lake Como – if you plan ahead and know the bus times (our hotel gave us the wrong time) then it is extremely easy. Pretty drive and very easy to get to Menaggio which is where we stayed in Lake Como.
We stayed at Grand Hotel Menaggio. Unless you want a small boutique hotel this is probably the best place to stay. It’s the only hotel with a pool and looks out over the lake. Location is great (any location is fine since it’s such a small town) – right next to the ferry which was very convenient. We went to Bellagio and Varenna just to check them out. I found Bellagio to be way too touristy/crowded. Varenna was very nice and comparable to Menaggio so I think it just depends on which side of the lake you’d prefer to be on. The other benefit of Varenna is I think it’s the only town with a main train station that takes you down into the rest of Italy (via Pisa). We took a ferry from Menaggio to Varenna the morning that we left which was easy and then the train to the coast.
We stayed at the Grand Hotel Miramare. It was expensive but worth it especially if you are looking for pool time/relaxation. If you’re planning to be a lot more active and not spend a lot of time at the hotel itself then you can probably do one of the smaller boutique hotels in the area. The hotel restaurant was excellent and so were the local hole in the wall spots we found. Can’t go wrong probably with any of the pastas here and the pesto in this region is the best thing we ate all trip. We ate at La Paranza – the pesto pasta with potatos and green beans was their signature and it makes me sad I can’t eat it every day:
We stayed at Castello de Nero, which was unbelievable. Everyone has their own small villa, the views and the pool are so nice and the food at both restaurants was incredible. It’s definitely a splurge but we planned to relax a lot of the time and so it was worth it. We didn’t want to leave but we went into the town and ate at La Gramola. A small restaurant that was one of the best meals of the trip. The bruschetta, truffle pasta and the meat special recommended by the waitress were all unreal:
We took the train from Santa Marg to Florence and then took a cab to the hotel – it was about $75. We preferred this over renting a car but we spoke to some people there who drove themselves. It’s nice to have a car when you’re there if you want to do wine tastings or explore more but we personally felt that the convenience of not renting/driving through downtown Florence was worth it!