Overseas Adventure Travel
Northern Italy: The Alps, Dolomites & Lombardy +
The Swiss Alps Pre-Trip Extension
June 12 through July 4, 2023



Click on the above link buttons that will take you directly to a particular page or area of the review; or you can just click through to the next page at the bottom of each page.
Page 1 – Lucerne, Switzerland
Page 2 – Lucern & Bern, Switzerland
Page 3 - Bern & Zermatt, Switzerland

Page 4 – Lecco, Italy (Includes Milan)
Page 5 -
Lecco & Tirano, Italy
Page 6 - Tirano & Sulzano, Italy
Page 7 - Sulzano & Trento, Italy
Page 8 - Trento & Bressanone, Italy
Page 9 -
Bressanone & Mogliano Veneto, Italy




Since we have enjoyed our Overseas Adventure Travel tours so much, we decided to look for another one for the summer of 2023.  I had been to Lake Como in 2012 after an Adriatic cruise and thoroughly loved the area.  This tour went to many small towns in northern Italy including Lake Como, as well as the Dolomite Mountains which looked very appealing.  A real plus was that OAT had a 7-day pre-trip extension to Switzerland.  I had done a driving tour in 2015 that included a beautiful part of Switzerland and I have wanted to see more of the gorgeous country.  Since Cathy hadn’t been to this part of the world, she was also very excited about the trip.  It would be even better than we had hoped for.


Day 1&2 – Fly to Zurich, Switzerland

We had a British Airways flight from Miami to Zurich with a connection at Heathrow.  When the flight was booked, we felt pretty good about the 2 hour and 50 minute layover at Heathrow.  In the week before the flight, there were strikes at Heathrow that were disrupting everything.  We became concerned.  Then there were issues with smoke from Canadian fires that were disrupting flights.  More concern.  A few days before the flight, the unions agreed to not strike since a settlement was imminent.  That was very comforting news.

I follow the timeliness of flights that we are going to be on in an app called Flightaware.  It shows when flights actually arrive and depart for several days, as well as the current schedule.  The flight to Heathrow arrived at Miami late almost every day and always left late.  Since we had a long layover, I felt we would be OK.  Before we arrived at the Miami check in counter, the flight was already showing that it was delayed.  The attendant at the counter told us we would be fine, since we didn’t have to go through immigration at Heathrow.  That was great news.

When the plane did arrive, it was interesting to see that there were two jetways going to it. 

The A380-800 is a two-level plane that holds 469 passengers.  It needed two jetways.  It is a huge plane.  That also meant that it needed a lot of time to get ready to accept new passengers.  We were already over an hour late getting on the plane.  We were on the top level in premium economy.  It was very nice to have extra space next to the window with a compartment where we could put stuff.  It also provided extra shoulder room. 

The plane finally left the gate an hour and 45 minutes late.  They made up a little time and we were an hour and a half late arriving.  When we got off the plane, we were surprised at how few people were in the terminal. We were able to speed through security and get to our connecting gate in the same terminal super-fast.  Since I have heard about the nightmares people have had getting through security at Heathrow, we were thrilled.  However, when we arrived at Zurich, we had a 45-minute wait to get through their security.  But that didn’t matter much since we were at our final destination.  OAT had a taxi driver waiting for us to take us to Lucerne.  It took a little less than an hour to get there and it was a treat to see the mountains along the way.  We were dropped off at the Hotel Wilden Mann. 

It was right in the center of town in a perfect location.  The 50-room hotel was started as a tavern with rooms in 1517.  It eventually added six other buildings, making it a rather interesting floor plan with different halls and stairway.  It is an interesting and attractive old world style building.

On one of the walls is a statue the person the Wilden Mann hotel was named for, the Wild Man.  This is a description I found of the wild man symbol.  “The Wilden Mann (Wild Man) is a symbol of Lucerne. A bearded giant with a crown of leaves, wielding an uprooted tree trunk in his upraised hand symbolizing untamed strength, and resistance to constraints and convention.”  The statue at the hotel has him subduing a sea monster rather than holding a tree, but you get the idea.

We had a nice sized room, which was also in the old-world style.  The parquet floors were a nice touch as was the artwork loveseat. 


There was ample storage space in the 3 closets.


We had a large bathroom.  The only issue was that there were no handrails to step into or out of the deep tub.  It was also slippery, so we had to be very careful.


The best feature of the room was the balcony.  We had a nice view of the street in front of the hotel, and we could see the river just down the street.  With the hotel not having air conditioning, the large doors were quite effective at cooling the room when open.  But it also meant that we could hear people celebrating on the balcony of the bar across the street at times.


When we walked around the hotel later it appeared that we had the only balcony on that side of the hotel.  We felt most special to have it.  In talking with others in our group, it sounded like their rooms were also special in different ways.

After I put my stuff away, I left to see if I could find a restaurant for a quick light lunch.  We arrived at the hotel after 2:00 PM and we were hungry.  As I walked out of the hotel there was a statue in front of the very popular bar I could see from our room.  The statue would make it easy to find our hotel in the future.


Less than a block away, I got the first view of the partially dammed river with beautiful buildings along it.  I was liking Lucerne.

There was a restaurant right on the river that seemed like a perfect place for our first meal in Switzerland.  It was the Wirtshaus Taube Restaurant.  The same one that we would be going back to that evening with the group.  I went back to get Cathy.  We found a nice table close to the river.  The views from it were so nice and gave us a preview of the beautiful city we were visiting.




We didn’t want a full meal, so we both ordered a bratwurst and roesti plate.  It was a much larger meal than we had expected.  We should have split one meal.  Roesti is a Swiss specialty that we would see at most restaurants.  It is pretty much hash browns drenched in butter.  Pretty tasty!

After lunch, we did a little exploring close by. I wanted to see the Spreuer Bridge, also referred to as the Dance of the Dead Bridge, because of the gruesome paintings under the roof.  We could see it from our table at lunch, so I knew it was close by.  We passed by one of many lovely statues in the city and quickly found the entrance to the bridge. 


There are two covered wooden bridges in the city.  The other one, the Chapel Bridge is the city’s landmark.  The original Spreuer. bridge was constructed in the 13th century.  The bridge was destroyed by a flood in 1566 and rebuilt.  It is still in great shape after 457 years.


A unique feature of both bridges are the triangular paintings in the bridge pediments.  These were painted in the early 1600’s.  45 of the original 67 paintings are still in existence.  Most of this bridge’s paintings include scenes with death in them, normally represented by skeletons.  The paintings were intended to show that there is no place where death isn’t present.  They are unique.  I will include a few examples.


From the other side of the bridge, we could see the other side of the dam. 

From that side of the river, we could look up and see a grand castle type building.  We would have to find out about it later.

We went back to the hotel to go on a short orientation tour of the area with our Trip Experience Leader, Damiano.  He said we could just call him Damien.  He had only been with OAT for a couple years.  He actually lived in Italy and had been a local guide before being promoted to the Switzerland pre-trip extension. 

He was a nice guy and like all OAT leaders, very anxious to help in any way possible.  He knew lots of history and was able to keep us well informed about the places we would visit.  Although he could speak Italian, French and English, he didn’t speak German, the predominant language in the part of Switzerland we were visiting.  He was very effective using the Google Translate app and was able to deal with any language issues.

We started our walk going the opposite way from the Spreuer Bridge.  We crossed over a metal bridge that was between the two wooden bridges, so we were able to get a nice view of the Chapel Bridge and Water Tower.  Originally being built in 1365, it is the oldest wooden covered bridge in Europe and the world’s oldest truss bridge.  The bridge was destroyed by fire in 1993 and rebuilt.  The water tower next to it is 30 years older and was used as a prison, torture chamber, municipal archive and local treasury.  They still have functions in it.



From the metal bridge, we could see so many beautiful buildings, many with ornate decorations.





We would see even more, as we continued the walk nearby.  Just a gorgeous city to stroll through.






They did have and unusual statue on a corner of one building.

On another one, the family tree of the owners fully covered the side of their building.

We were thoroughly enjoying Lucerne.  Close to our hotel was the main building of the Wirtshaus Taube Restaurant we went to for lunch. 

We met up with the rest of our group for our pre-trip extension at the hotel.  Everyone had arrived in our group of ten.  There was a get aquainted meeting where we all introduced ourselves and Damian gave us a recap of the schedule for the week.  He also put up our schedule for the next day that we were able to take a photo of to be on time.

We were on our own for dinner that night.  Damien recommended that we all go to Wirtshaus Taube Restaurant, and everyone thought it was a great idea.  It was also nice to be able to go back to the tables along the river rather than inside the restaurant. 

I wanted to see the illuminated Spreuer Bridge.  It was supposed to be a good photo opp.  Unfortunately, sunset was at 9:30 PM, so I had to wait to go out.  Even though it wasn’t totally dark, the illuminated paintings did look better than in the daytime.



Since we had been traveling since the previous day, we were exhausted and ready for bed.  It had been a great starting day for our vacation.


Day 3 – Lucerne, Switzerland

After a good night’s sleep, we were ready for a day exploring Lucerne.  We first looked forward to seeing what the hotel’s breakfast buffet had for us.  It was a very nice room with several tables filled with lots of delicious food items.  As we would find at most of the hotels, they had many more items than we could ever try in one meal.  The fruits, cheeses and breads were especially good.  They also had meats, fish, eggs and vegetables.  It was a very good buffet breakfast.



Before our 9:30 tour, we walked around the area a bit.  The building just across from our hotel was quite unusual looking and a photo opp for many tourists.  It was a very old pharmacy.  The interior was quite charming.


We met our guide for the city tour, Prisca.  She was an outstanding guide.  We learned so much about Lucerne and the places we visited from her.  She was the first of many outstanding guides we would have over the three-week trip.

Our first stop was at the Franciscan Church that was originally erected in the 13th century.  I tried to see the interior the previous day, but it was closed, so I was pleased that we were getting to see it.  There were nice fountains on the grounds.


With the exterior being rather plain, we were not expecting the interior to be so beautiful.  I should know better by now than to judge a church by its exterior.  I have been surprised many times.  As we got closer to the altar, the beauty of the church kept our heads looking all around.



The two main chapels had such beautifully decorated ceilings.  This was a gorgeous church.


The ornate wooden pulpit and organ were masterpieces.  So beautiful.


We were unable to get to the very front of the church, since there was a gate, but I could take photos through the gate of the choir area.


We thoroughly enjoyed seeing this church and were so glad that Prisca had brought us there.  She then took us to the Needle Dam we had admired the previous day.  She explained how the boards or needles can be added or removed to change the water flow.  It was built in 1860, with renovations made over the years.  She showed us the structure underwater that can be pulled up to extend the dam.  Rather a clever way to control the flow.  It would be interesting to see them changing the dam.


As we continued our walk, we had a good view of the four towers on city wall above the city.  I would have liked to walk the wall and go up into a tower, but we just didn’t have the time.  It would take about 3 hours.  Had we arrived a day early, I could have done it.


As we continued our walk we passed by the Chapel Bridge.  From there we could see the white castle on the hill we had seen the previous day, the Gutsch Hotel.  Now with the sun shining on it, it looked even more enticing.  Damien said that we would have the option to visit it later if we wanted to.  That was a no brainer.  I couldn’t wait to see it.


Prisca took us back to the area we had seen the previous day. She told us about the history and meaning of some of the things we were seeing.  It is such a beautiful city.





In one of the buildings we passed by there was an interesting fresco on the home’s wall we could see through their window.

We saw some delicious looking fruit that was difficult to resist, but we did.

As we crossed the bridge, we could see our next destination, the Jesuit Church.  A beautiful building.  Looking back across the bridge was the Rathaus or town hall.


When we entered the church, we were blown away by so much beauty. 



Prisca told us that the pink marble we were seeing was actually marbleized wood.  The church couldn’t afford to buy all that marble, so they used a fake product that looks just like marble.  We never would have known it wasn’t the real thing.


After leaving the church we crossed over the river through the Chapel Bridge.  The bridge was destroyed by fire in 1993.  As with the Spreuer Bridge, this bridge had paintings in its pediments that were made in the early 1600’s.  Prior to the fire, 147 of the original 158 paintings were still in existence.  110 of them were directly affected by the fire.  Two-thirds of them either burned or were severely damaged.  Fortunately, some of the paintings had been removed from the bridge and were in the archives when the fire struck.  The bridge still has some of the originals that survived, plus they have some of the burned ones to show how they were damaged. 



The reason we had crossed the bridge was to take a short cruise on Lake Lucerne.  On the way we passed by a beautiful colorful statue, as well as brightly painted buildings.



Another building was quite attractive, but it had an unusual statue of a child on top of it.


We had a nice boat for the tour with plenty of seating protected from the sun.  We had a beautiful touring day with temperatures in the 60’s, but the sun was still pretty hot.


As we pulled away from port, we had nice views of the city of Lucerne.

We could also see Mount Pilatus across the lake.  We would be going to the top of it the next day.  We were crossing our fingers that the great weather would hold up.  The forecast had chances of rain and clouds.  That would spoil a trip up a mountain.

As we were enjoying our cruise, we saw an unusual looking catamaran.  It was kind of different but looked very nice.

The scenery during the cruise was most enjoyable.  There were some beautiful estates around the lake, as well as beaches and views up to the snow covered mountains.



As we were coming back into port, we had a nice view of the elegant Palace Hotel and the uniquely shaped Culture and Concert Center with the huge, cantilevered roof.


We got back to the dock just before 1:00 PM.  We had the rest of the afternoon free if wanted that, but Damien had offered to take anyone who wanted to up to the Gutsch Hotel at 3:00 PM.  That meant that we would have only a couple hours to have lunch, visit the places we wanted to see and get back to the hotel.  We grabbed a sandwich at a nice bakery that Damien took us to and sat close by enjoying it.  We then headed to our first destination, the Lion Statue.  It commemorates the killing of hundreds of Swiss Guards in Paris in 1792. The lion’s expression shows the pain of the sword in his back and for the loss of the lives.


The reflection pool in front of the statue was being worked on, which took away from some of the beauty, but the statue itself is a magnificent one.

Right next to the statue is the Glacier Garden.  20,000 years ago, Lucerne was covered by glaciers.  This place was discovered in 1873 and turned into an attraction.  We knew we wouldn’t have enough time to see everything that there is in the park, but we did want to see some of the highlights.

The main attraction for us was the glacial potholes, also called the giant’s cauldron.  Quite a fascinating geologic formation.  There were exhibits around the area telling about how there were palm trees in the same area long ago.



We left that area and came to a mirrored maze section that was cut into the sandstone mountains surrounding the park.  We thought it would be fun to try to get through the maze.  It has been a long time since I had done one of these and I should have known better.  Walking around with your hands stretched out trying to avoid crashing into mirrors isn’t as fun as when I was a kid.

We next went into an attraction called the Felsenwelt.  Once again it was cut into the mountainside and very dark inside.  There were stories projected on the ground and walls telling about the different periods of geology through laser animations projected onto the walls.  It was interesting, but due to our time constraints we couldn’t stay in there long enough to take everything in. 


We came to a dead end with a staircase.  I assumed that we must have gone further underground and needed to go up the stairs to exit back to ground level.  Bad assumption!   Every time we came to the top of the concrete staircase, there was another one to climb.  I should have kept count of how many there were to warn others about them.  As we slowly climbed out of the last staircase, we realized that we were on the of a mountain.  OMG, did that mean we would have to climb back down the stairs?  There was a scenic viewing area, but at that point, it didn’t look that scenic to my weary eyes.  I didn’t even take photos up there.  What was most welcoming was that there was an elevator!  We were thrilled.  It took us back down close to the dead end where the stairs began.  We could have saved a lot of steps.  I will say there were no arrows on the floor to direct us to where we should go or to an exit.  It would have helped a lot.

There were several other attractions I would have liked to see at Glacier Gardens, but we just didn’t have the time.  Knowing what I know now, we should have come to Lucerne a day earlier.  There is a lot to see and do in this beautiful city. 

While watching YouTube videos about Lucerne, we saw some that showed an attraction called the Bourbaki Panorama. We could see the large round building from the Glacier Garden, so we knew it was close by.  This painting/diorama type exhibit is a 367 foot by 33 foot painting in a large round room providing a 360-degree experience.  It is quite impressive.  It commemorates the 87,000 soldiers of the French Bourbaki army who fled to and were interned in Switzerland to escape from the Prussians after their defeat.  The local citizens and Red Cross provided aid to the troops.  The artist who painted it, along with 10 assistants, in 1881, was a Red Cross worker who witnessed all the events in person. 





We were so glad that we had enough time to be able to see the panorama.  Most people have never even heard about it, so once again it paid to research a city before visiting it.

We were able to walk back to the hotel in time to meet up with Damien and those who wanted to go up to the hotel.  Damien reminded everyone to bring their Lucerne Card since we would be able to take a funicular up to the hotel for free if we had it.  We received this card when we checked into the hotel.  It had also given us discounts at the Glacier Garden and Panorama.  On the way to the funicular, one of our group members, Alex, pointed out a building that had large metal ants climbing on it.  He had spent a couple extra days in Lucerne before the tour and had previously seen it.  If he hadn’t said anything, I wouldn’t have noticed it.


When we arrived at the top, we walked over to see the views of the city.   There was an interesting metal angel statue and a giant red heart.  We had to have a group photo in front of the heart.  We had a different view of the hotel too.



We then took lots of photos down into Lucerne.  Quite a view!


We then went into the hotel to check it out and to have a drink in their bar. 


As Damien had told us, the views from the bar were even better.  This was a great place for a break.


We also had a great view of the wall and four tall towers lined up in a row one behind the other.

When we left the hotel, I was able to get decent photo of funicular tracks going down the mountain.

On the way back, I took a photo of the University of Lucerne building.  I had never seen 21 dormer windows on one roof.

When we got back to the hotel, we had a controversial topic session with Hanspeter Mazenaur, a local consultant.  He is also a candidate to be a member of parliament.  He discussed Switzerland’s decision during the Paris Treaty of 1815 to always stay neutral.  It was an interesting topic and he discussed the plusses and minuses as well as how difficult a position it is to maintain. 

On the way to our included dinner, we were delayed by a protest march.  Thousands of people were peacefully marching down the street we needed to cross.  The protest was mainly about women’s rights and equality.  Various other protesters joined in with their issues and signs.  This was a coordinated protest in many Swiss towns.  The next day Damien told us that 300,000 people were involved throughout Switzerland.



We went to a restaurant named Ente.  The first course was a creamy tomato soup or salad.  The main courses were pork steak with home-made herb butter with French fries and fresh vegetables; and




While at dinner, Damien mentioned that there would be a show going on nearby after dinner.  When we left the restaurant, we walked over to the open-air theater.  The cast members were standing nearby ready for their entrance.  They were quite a sight.


They then walked to the entrance to enter the theater.  We listened to the performance for a bit, but with it being in German, we didn’t stay long.

It had been a very full day and we thoroughly enjoyed Lucerne.



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