Climbing Monte Generoso in Switzerland

 

We have a view of Monte Generoso from our bedroom window and have wanted to hike it for years.  Finally, this last weekend we made the climb. Mount Generoso offers breathtaking views of both Switzerland and Italy.

We did a bit of research before climbing the mountain. There are a few options to get you to the top.  You can take a train from Riva San Vitale to the top.  Four a Family of Four it will cost you 108 Chf.  to ride the train up and back.

Monte Generoso has a Swiss and Italian side. There are many different hikes leading you to the top, which you can find here.  We decided to hike with our kids and opted for a shorter (4 hour) hike from the Bella Vista parking lot. 

You have a few options to arrive at the Bella Vista Station. You can take the train from Riva San Vitale, hike from Mendriso, or drive to the Bella Vista station. We decided to drive to the station as we knew a 4 hour hike would be long enough for our family. Fair warning, the drive up is a bit narrow and windy and parts.

From the station you can park in the parking lot and begin the hike. It is about 2 hours to the top. Part of the path follows along the train tracks,  so if you were to get tired you could always hop on the train.

The last few kilometers to the top of the mountain are fairly steep but offer beautiful views of the Swiss and Italian valleys below.

Once you arrive to the top you can see Lake Lugano below. On top there is a famous building designed by Mario Botta “Fiore di pietra” (Stone Flower). You can enjoy a self serve restaurant or a sit down restaurant with 360 degree views below. The building is quite fascinating in itself.  You can also access the roof for even more incredible views.

A climb to the top of Monte Generoso will not disappoint. We throughly enjoyed this hike and the views it had to offer. The hike down takes about half the time, which makes it a little under a 4 hour hike roundtrip from the Bella Vista parking lot.

Snorkeling with Dolphins & Turtles

We were very excited to try out our new underwater action camera while vacationing in Maui. What an incredible experience we had.

Before we left on the boat, our youngest was talking about seeing Dolphins. I told her there was a good chance we would not be seeing any Dolphins and was totally proven wrong. About 1o minutes into our boat ride we ran across a pod of dolphins. Honestly, it was one of the most amazing experiences. There seemed to be a hundred dolphins swimming right along our boat. The boat captain slowed the boat and let us sit right next to the dolphins. We put our camera into the water even though we could not see what we were filming.  To our surprise, when we got home and watched the video you could actually hear the dolphins communicating with each other, which you can see in a shorter video here. 

From the boat we could see dolphins jumping out of the water and one even came out and twirled.  It was amazing, a once in a life time for sure.

What an incredible experience to witness these beautiful animals in the wild.  To top it off, later while snorkeling we had a turtle swim right up next to us and breathe, that was amazing too. We hope you enjoy our video on our YouTube channel.

Lido di Locarno

Locarno Lido

We were excited to be a guest blogger for Simple Family Travel.  We met Kristin, at Simple Family Travel, through Instagram. Don’t you love Instagram for that? We have been able to connect with other families who share our love for travel.

Simple Family Travel asked us to write a guest post on our favorite swimming pool in Switzerland. Below is our guest post where we share one of our favorite places to swim in Switzerland.

 

Lido di Locarno

One of our favorite places to swim as a family is the Lido di Locarno. The Lido is absolutely stunning and set right on Lake Maggiore. Not only is the location ideal, the lido has so much to offer:  pools, the lake, waterslides, restaurants, giant inflatable place structures, beach front access, a gym, a spa, and so much more.

They offer chairs and umbrellas for rent but during the busy season most are rented before noon. There are a few big trees throughout the lido that offer an ample amount of shade.

 

The Lido Locarno is open daily from 8.30am till 9pm.

Prices vary depending on what you do:

Adults start from 13 CHF and children (aged 4-15) start from 7 CHF. They offer a family pass for 2 Adults and 2 Kids starting at 37 CHF. If  you add on the waterslides the prices increase.

There are many options for parking around the Lido, which makes it quite convenient. If taking public transportation, the number 2 bus from the Locarno main train station will have you at the Lido in 13 minutes.

The location is amazing.  Honesty, every visitor we take to the lido is in awe when walking in.  The views are stunning on Lake Maggiore. There is fun for all age levels—from a baby pool to water-slides, beach volleyball to a lap pool.  When we visit we stay all day long. The kids come home happy and exhausted. Perfect win.

 

The Lido is open year round.  They have a giant indoor pool which connects to the  waterslides. In the summer months the lake and the outdoor pool is availabe also.  The diving pool has 2 diving boards and 3 platforms (5, 7.5 and 10 meter platforms)
We find the Lido di Locarno to be the perfect family friendly swimming pool.

Thank you to Simple Family Travel for having us be a guest blogger.

A little about the family behind Simple Family Travel. Kristin and her family live in Switzerland, although she is originally from Austraila. She came to Switzerland 16 years ago as an Au Pair, fell in love with a Swiss, and never left. Go follow their family adventures over at Simple Family Travel.  Their family motto is “Less stuff, more life” and they share tips and insights on keeping life simple, in travel and daily life.

Round-trip tickets from Europe to San Francisco for under $200

If you are flexible with your holiday planning and destinations you can find some amazing airline deals. Recently my brother introduced us to an email service that emails you incredible airline deals. Sometimes the fares are mistake fares but more than often they are 24-hour promotions.

We had no intentions in flying to the United States this year but when we received an email for flights from Europe to San Franciso for $195 round trip, it was too good to pass up.  The website with the incredible deals is called Scott’s cheap flights.   For a minimal subscription fee, you can receive weekly deals throughout the world.

 

We also like to use  Skyscanner as it allows you to search any date going to every location, which is convenient.  But if you are up for anything and willing to be flexible, we can highly recommend checking out  Scott’s cheap flights. 

 

Airlines usually offer a limited amount of seats at discount prices and they get snatched up fast.  Some are last minute deals and you need to be flexible with the dates.

Top 3 favorite beaches in Tuscany

 

 

Most people do not think of the beach when they think of Tuscany.  The thought of rolling green hills, vineyards, and quaint villages come to mind.  If you have yet to discover the beaches in Tuscany,  I would highly recommend a getaway on the Tuscan beaches.

 

The beaches along the Tuscan coast spread for miles from Marina di Carrara to Forte dei Marmi and down past Viareggio. We spent our last holiday in Viareggio and really enjoyed the beaches.

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Most of the beaches along the Tuscan coast are private, although there are public beaches sprinkled throughout. Viareggio has a nice sized public beach, along with La Lecciona Lido, and also a small public beach in Forte dei Marmi. If you are looking for a public beach, you can find them but the private beaches have much more to offer.

 

Many of the private beaches have swimming pools, restaurants and bars.  You can rent an umbrella and chairs for the day, usually 2 or 3 chairs per umbrella. For a family of 5 we usually need to rent 2 umbrellas, most ranging from 30 to 70 Euros a day.  Some of the private beaches offer discounts for families, just ask.  If you are staying at a local hotel, the hotel may be able to negotiate a better rate for you.

 

In Viareggio I can recommend the private lido Nuova Italia. Their pool is pristine and a great place to cool off after an afternoon on the beach.  The only downside to Nuova Italia is they do not have a restaurant but it’s not a problem to leave and return. Once you rent your umbrella, it is yours for the rest of the day.

 

The Tuscan coastline is amazing, there are so many choices of beautiful beaches along the coast.  Our top 3 picks for the beach and cities to stay in:  Forte dei Marmi, Viareggio, and Camaiore.

Have you been to the Tuscan coast? Drop us a line and let us know where you stay when you visit.

Vera Pizza in Naples

Pizza Napoletana style

Is it worth all the fuss? I’d have to say….. yes. Naples is the birthplace of Pizza. Literally, you can eat your way through Naples. Besides garbage, the streets are scattered with pizzerias everywhere.

If you want good pizza, look for the Vera Pizza Napolentana sign. Making Pizza is an art in Italy. Years back the Verace Pizza Napoletana was started to help regulate the making of pizza. There are plenty of great places in Naples without the Vera stamp of approval, but you can’t go wrong eating somewhere with it.

To be part of the Vera Pizza Napoletana the pizzeria needs to fulfill a few requirements:

1. Wood Burning Oven around 800 degrees Fahrenheit
2. Fresh natural ingredients from certain Regions in Italy, mozzarella, tomatoes, olive oil,     basil.
3. Knead the dough by hand. The requirements go a little more into detail but that is the basic. Pizza is simple in Naples.

We read about Il Pizzaiolo del Presidente being one of the best pizzerias in Naples. So, of course, it was on our list to visit. They changed their name after Bill Clinton visited.  (Pictured above the pizza boxes). Marinara pizza (tomato sauce, oregano, garlic, no cheese) was only 1 Euro, for a whole pizza. The Marinara was simple but delicious.

Another pizzeria with raving with reviews from pizza lovers is Di Matteo Pizzeria (off of Via dei Tribunali ).  We had to find out for ourselves……and yes, it was worth the time searching through the streets to find.  Marinara and Margherita pizzas were priced the same as Il Presidente, 1 and 3 Euros.

If I am going to be a food critic here I’d say the marinara at Il Presidente was a little better but really the differences were so minimal. They were both great.

Whatever the case, we are big fans of Vera Pizza Napolentana.  Do you have a favorite pizza place in Naples?  We would love to hear from you.

Frederiksborg Castle

IMG_20170430_142410_432 The Frederiksborg Castle is just a short 45-minute drive from Copenhagen and well worth it. Since we were staying in Copenhagen we decided to rent a car and make the drive. There are easy connections with the train but we wanted to continue on up to Kronborg to visit the castle that inspired Shakespeare’s play, Hamlet. 

I would recommend the self-guided audio tour. To be honest, we really did not know much about the history of Denmark, but the guided tour through the castle gave us quite the insight. A ticket to view the castle is 75 DKK, about 12 USD, which includes the guided tour.

Inside the castle, there was an absolutely breathtaking church. The intricate designs throughout the ceilings and walls were breathtaking.

The Frederiksborg Castle is furnished throughout and gives you a look into Denmark’s fascinating history. The Castle suffered a horrible fire in 1859 but was restored and furnished with original furniture and art from that time period. It was a chilly day when we visited and I was happily surprised that parts of the castles were heated.

The castle features artwork throughout and the Museum of National History of Denmark has many originals on display. Just off the wing of the church was a huge room of art all done by Carl Bloch.  An artist who’s work I was familiar with.

The entrance into the castle gardens is free and well worth the walk behind the castle to see.  Spring had barely arrived when we visited so I can imagine in the summer the garden is stunning. They have a small cafe open in the summer months where you can sit and take in the views.

 

 

 

How to fly in Europe for under $50 Roundtrip

 

Since we just returned from vacation, I would like to explain how we picked our destination. We frequently let prices dictate where we travel.  About 3 months ago we sat down and searched Skyscanner for our vacations this year.

We like to search  Skyscanner for ideas.  It is our favorite discount airline search engine.  Skyscanner has a great set up allowing you to search any date going to every location.  Often we find ourselves flying to random places because the deal is too good to pass up.

You can even download the Skyscanner app for up to date flights at your fingertips.

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If we plan at least a few months in advance we get the best deals, flying mid week also helps. Airlines usually offer a limited amount of seats at discount prices and they get taken fast, so plan ahead. Last minute deals are there but you have to be flexible with the dates.

Air Berlin, Ryan Air, and Easy Jet, are a few of the discount airlines we have flown on. With discount airlines there are some restrictions.  If you want to check a bag, you pay extra. If you want to book with a credit card, you pay, etc.

We were able to book out 5 holidays this year, each holiday for under $100 round-trip for the flight.  What a deal! (Milan to London>Copenhagen>Lisbon>Barcelona>Athens)

When you are a family of 5, vacations can really add up, but with Skyscanner we feel like we are able to find amazing deals and travel economically. Last year, we flew to Bucharest round-trip for 5 people and paid only $20 round-trip a person. We love being able to travel all over Europe for incredible prices

Here are a few examples of other trips we took just because we couldn’t pass up on the amazing prices…..

($24) RT Basel to Alicante
($55) RT Zurich to Portugal
($40) RT Milan to Paris
($47) RT Zurich to Spain

Honestly, how do you beat airline deals like these?  So there you go, people ask how we are able to travel so much. Thanks to Skyscanner we can easily find deals to travel around Europe. Where are you off to next?

Villa del Balbianello

If you are visiting Northern Italy, I can highly recommend visiting Villa del Balbianello on Lake Como. Lake Como is less than an hour outside of  Milan.  Just a short drive from the city of Como in Lenno you will find Villa del Balbianello.

The Villa is protected under FAI, which is a non-profit organization that protects the Italian culture. 

If you join this organization, you are not only helping protect their culture but you can benefit from many discounts on FAI properties.  As a family we have joined and enjoyed visiting many historical properties. 

 

James Bond or Star Wars fans may find this Villa even more exciting to visit.  The Villa has been used in many movies. Before our first visit we watched a few clips from films, which got our kids even more excited for the visit.  

You can reach the Villa by hiking in or taking a boat.  If you choose to take a boat you can catch a charted boat from Lido di Lenno.  There are a few small boat docks with boats to take you to and from. You can also charter boats from other towns on Lake Como. The boats will drop you off near the museum and you can walk up a short distance to the entrance.  


The Villa is built right on the lake front with absolutely stunning views. Pictured above is where the boat will drop you off .

If you choose to walk in, I recommend parking by the Lido di Lenno and hiking in on the path. It is about a 20 minute walk (2.5 km) with breathtaking views.
Once you arrive at the Villa you can pay your entrance fee. You have 2 option, see only the gardens or take a tour of the home.
To view the gardens the entrance fee is 3 euros
A tour of the Villa is 10 euros for Adults and 5 euros for ages 4-14
I recommend the tour as the artifacts collected by the owner are fascinating.

A visit to Villa del Balbianello will not disappoint.  If you are planning a visit it is important to know the Villa is only open from March to November and closed on Mondays and Wednesdays.

Visting Prague

Prague is a gorgeous city and has quickly become a destination for many travelers.  For me, it was easy to see why so many people fall in love with Prague.  From their red roof tops, vibrant night life, to their culture and amazing architecture, it is a top pick for me.

Prague has a modern airport, Ruzyne Airport, but unfortunately there are no train lines connected to the airport. You can take a taxi or bus, (around 30mins to 1 hour) to the the city center.  Since Prague is a popular destination you can find many flights.
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If you decide to take a train, there are 2 train stations in Prague. The main station, Praha Hlavni Nadrazi, is only 5 minutes from Vaclavske namesti, one of Prague’s 2 main squares.  The other station is Prague Holešovice.  Personally, I have not arrived in Prague by train but have had friends who have used the RailCard  while traveling through Europe.  They have found the train to be a convenient connection to Prague.
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Since we live in Switzerland we chose to drive to Prague (6 1/2 hour drive) from Northern Swizterland.  Remember when driving through Europe many countries have toll roads or toll vignettes. The Czech Republic has a Vignette you must purchase to drive on the roads. You can buy it at any gas station before entering into the Czech. For a 10 day pass it will run you around 250 CZK which is about $15.
We chose to stay in the city center, near the National Theater. We parked our car in a parking garage for the duration of our stay, and walked our way through Prague.  When searching for a place to stay, I found the prices more than reasonable, we paid 2000 CZK ($120/night). In the city center for an apartment for a family of 5, this was a great steal.
Prague’s Old Town Square (Staroměstské náměstí
If you get up early to beat the crowds you might be able to find the square empty, like pictured above.  Unlike the wee hours of the morning, the Old Town Square is bustling during the day & night. The quaint cafes, street artist, merchants, architecture all made this my favorite place to hang out in Prague. 
 
A boat ride on the river and walk to the Prague Castle is a great way to experience the city.  I would also recommend checking out the Loreta Church, Strahov Monastery, Vaclavske namesti and Old Royal Palace.  Since we were traveling as a family we didn’t get to experience the night life Prague has to offer but have heard it’s fantastic, from theaters to dancing and more.
My last piece of advice, make sure you try out the local cuisine. I found their dishes to be quite tasty and particularly enjoyed the salty pancakes. Give them a try!