2.5 Weeks in Italy and Switzerland: Planning Part 2 – Accommodations

After figuring out a basic travel itinerary, it was time to start looking at accommodations.  While traveling in Italy and Switzerland, we knew that we wanted to spend 4 nights in Rome, 3 nights in Florence, 2 nights in Venice, 7 nights in Wengen, 1 night in Bern, and with a 12 hour overnight layover – our last night in Dublin.

Since we would be traveling with my parents, we needed accommodations that would fit 6 people.  For this many people, apartments usually work better than hotels.  Even if you are only traveling with 4 people, often times, they are significantly less expensive than hotels and have more space.  Plus, you can cook some meals, and there is usually a door between you, your kids, and your parents.  We tend to only look at hotels if we can’t meet the minimum number of days, if the cleaning fee is prohibitive to a short stay, if the checkin hours are odd, or if we can’t find anything suitable.

From a logistical perspective, in Europe, we will often use Booking.com for both apartments and hotels.  Think of it as an all-in-one version of Expedia and Airbnb.

Rome, Italy

In Rome, we decided to stay near the Barberini Metro stop for convenient public transportation.  As it turns out, that metro stop had been closed for the past six months.  Apparently the escalator collapsed and they needed to do some “maintenance” repairs.  Yeah.  So much for convenience.  But, there are plenty of busses, so we made a shift to our plans and it ended up working out better than the metro would have.

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After doing a lot of research, we decided to stay at House Purificazione Holiday.  The location was great, the price reasonable, the floor plan spacious, and the apartment clean.  A big plus was the washing machine.  No dryer, but the drying rack and some hangers worked fine.  With the heat wave, it was really nice to wash our clothes every evening.

The main downside was the number of steps in the apartment and the quality of the elevator, though both are typical for Rome. With stairs between almost every room, it would be tricky for small kids, but it has plenty of character and makes you feel like you are staying in an ancient city.

Getting to and from the apartment, you have a choice of three very long flights of stairs or a tiny elevator with a spongy floor.  Every time we were on it, we wondered if the floor would hold.  The boys and I mostly did the stairs.  My parents tried the stairs once or twice, but then decided that the elevator really wasn’t all that bad after all.  In the US, these would be a lawsuit waiting to happen, but it Europe, it really is a lot more standard.

Overall, it is a reasonable option if you don’t mind not being in a high end place.  If you want to consider another area near the center of town, look at places near the Spanish Steps.  It is cute, near the Spagna metro station, and has a lot of bus options.

Florence, Italy

In Florence, we stayed at the Neruda Apartment, which was quite nice.  No elevator, but the location and quality of the apartment made up for it.  Very clean and spacious.  Again, we had a washing machine, which was a huge bonus.  Upon checking in, the owner told us it was a combo washer/dryer, but we never did figure out how to get the dryer to work.  But we were able to hang things up and they were mostly dry by morning.

While in this city, we traveled completely by foot.  Our apartment was less than half a mile from the train station, which is easy to walk.  Even better, the apartment was just a couple of blocks from the San Lorenzo market, which is great for leather purchases, and close to the Academia.

All in all, a really great apartment!  I would highly recommend staying here.

Venice, Italy

The apartments kept getting better and better.  We were extremely pleased with our Venice apartment: Ca San Luca.  I highly recommend trying to stay here if you are traveling with a group or a large family.  Beautiful, modern, spacious, and just a block from the Rialto Bridge water bus stop.

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This time we had 3 bedrooms, so there was no need for anyone to sleep on the couch.  Only 1.5 baths, but it wasn’t a big deal to share the shower.  The washing machine was another combo washer/dryer, so we had the apartment owner show us how to work it.  Success!  No more hang drying our clothes.

I can’t say enough about the location.  Take-away pizza and gelato could be easily found by the Rialto Bridge.  Shops and restaurants were numerous.  All the major sights were a short walk away.  And, once you know where it is in relation to the water bus stop at the Rialto Bridge, you are unlikely to get super lost in finding the apartment again.

It was a big step up from the previous two places we have stayed at in Venice.  In 2005, we had a cockroach crawl across our breakfast table.  In 2015 we had cockroaches in our sink every morning.  In both places, the toilet seat would slide off the toilet every time you sat.  Both rooms had little light and dated furnishings.  If I would have had our 2019 apartment, I think I would have had a much better impression of Venice and considered staying longer with my parents!

Wengen, Switzerland

Wengen is best when you do a 1-week apartment rental.

The first time we visited, we had 2 nights in a tiny attic hotel room with a shared bath in Lauterbrunnen, did a hike that went through Wengen, and my love affair with this part of the world began.  Since then, we have been back numerous times, and I really hope that our 2019 trip wasn’t our last.  Here’s a picture of the attic room we stayed at in 2007:

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This time around, we stayed in Chalet Roossi.  This was the same building that we stayed at on our 2011 trip with my parents, but a different unit.  Both times were great, but the apartments were definitely different.  In 2011, we were in one of the upper units and the rooms felt a bit more spacious, the upper floor bedrooms had amazing views, but the living room balcony was a bit disappointing since the railing completely blocked the view when you were sitting.  Here’s the balcony from 2011:

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On the other hand, on our 2019 trip, we were on a lower floor.  The view from the dining/living room was quite good, and instead of a balcony, we had a deck that was accessed from both of the lower floor bedrooms.  It was much less private since it was closer to the street, but the spaciousness and the lack of a barrier made me like the deck a lot more than the balcony.  Both units had their pros and con and I would definitely stay in either.  Here’s the 2019 dining room with a side view.

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We booked this apartment on Interhome.com, a European site that focuses on 1-week apartment rentals. They have many options around town.

When we travel here with just the 4 of us, we usually try to find a 1 or 2 bedroom place that is reasonably centrally located. One of our favorites was right near the train station.  Here is a view from the balcony in 2014:

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As a contrast, we stayed in Chalet Rose years ago, when we just had James. The unit was an excellent choice for an athletic young family that wants a balcony with beautiful views, a good kitchen, and 1 bedroom plus a couch or crib. Note that it is a short, but STEEP walk down from the town.  In the morning, we would always sigh as we started our trek up the hill, but we still loved our stay.  Or, you can take the longer, but somewhat less steep path to town.  Here are a couple of pictures from then:

There is also a smaller studio unit for 2 people available in the same building.

Bern, Switzerland

Going from Wengen to Zurich Airport takes roughly 3 hours, and a minimum of 4 separate trains. Doing this ride in time for a morning trans-Atlantic flight is usually quite tight, hence, we often add a night somewhere along the way. While we could just stay in Zurich, we tend to prefer either Bern or Luzern, which are both just about an hour from Zurich, but more photogenic.

With only one night in Bern, we found that the Novotel in Bern to be a reasonable option.  Hotels in Switzerland are expensive, and with 6 people, you are going to need at least two rooms.  Apartments for one night are generally not possible in Switzerland.

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It was quite comfortable.  While it isn’t central, it is across the street from the Expo (convention center) tram stop, so given that you will get Bern Ticket on arrival, good on most local transportation, it is super easy to pop in and out of the hotel as you want.

Another plus of staying in Bern is that if there is rain, the covered walkways make it a very pleasant city to wander in any type of weather.

Dublin, Ireland

With a 12 hour overnight layover, we really didn’t have any expectation that we would have time to do much.

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In hopes that we would have time for a quick morning sightseeing excursion, we picked a hotel that was reasonably central, but on the airport side of the center, to avoid any problems with traffic.  With a very late arrival, we also had to find a place with a 24-hour check-in desk.  The Charles Stewart Guesthouse ended up being a great option.  It was a 20 minute taxi ride, had an option to have breakfast included, and had large, old-school rooms that made you feel you were in old Ireland.

As it turned out, we had even less time than we expected.  Our flight from Zurich was delayed – apparently the fuel truck decided to leak and the fire department had to come and get it cleaned up before they would give clearance for the plane to start its engines.  Sigh, but I guess better than ending up as a big fireball.

We did have time for a traditional Irish breakfast of bacon, sausage, beans, and poached eggs, but other than a 30-40 minute walk, there wasn’t time to see much more. Still, it was more fun than staying in a vanilla hotel next to the airport.

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