I’m feeling refreshed and reinvigorated after returning from Italy and Switzerland last week with Jay and a few of our friends. Jay and I went to Rome on our own — taking a tour inside the Colosseum and the Roman Forum plus having our favorite pizza in the world at Baffetto.
We also ate our way through through the Testaccio neighborhood. If you go to Rome definitely take a food tour with Eating Italy Tours — it was a highlight. And I’ve recently had to follow a gluten free diet as a complication of my appendix rupture and they were so sweet and accommodating about it! Don’t worry if you go somewhere like Tuscany instead of Rome, they still have Tuscany Tours that show off all the food that Italy has to offer. You won’t miss out on the amazing food of Italy!
Then we were off for Geneva to meet up with our traveling friends Peter & Nicole and Nancy. We hopped in an SUV and drove an hour to Montreaux for the 50th annual Jazz Festival there.
The jazz festival was lots of fun with wonderful gourmet food, wine and lots of cool music. The town of Montreaux itself is really adorable with lots of shops and restaurants. Plus it’s right on a lake so the views are amazing. A note if you’re ever in Switzerland – it’s super expensive. Think 35 dollar cheeseburgers and 15 glasses of wine (and the pours are miniscule.)
Off to Lake Como from there with a 4 hour drive through the Swiss Alps. Such a cool experience to drive through nearly untouched mountainsides. We saw snow capped mountains and lots of animals on our twisty travel. Those roads are all over the place and obviously very high up. It was a bit unnerving at times but we made it through with good music and snacks!
We stayed in a small town called Varenna and absolutely loved it. It was so charming and picturesque. We were in love. We stayed at a villa called Casa Stacy and I highly recommend it. Not only did Stacy make sure we had everything we needed but she also hooked us up with some fun excursions. We went on a boat tour of the entire lake and had a private wine tasting that was amazing.
Then it was off to finish the trip in Milan where we got a full tour of the city and got to see The Last Supper thanks to Milan Day Tours. It’s so interesting to see ancient art up close. When I saw the Mona Lisa I was a bit underwhelmed because it’s so tiny. Not like you’d expect. But this piece by Leonardo di vinci is huge. It takes up an entire wall and I thought it was in very good shape. We learned all about the restoration and history. I’m glad we did that tour.
Trick to Make Air Travel More Bearable
Our travels throughout Italy and Switzerland went off without a hitch. Air travel is usually the biggest headache for me when I’m on vacation. But here’s the trick I promised — get Global Entry. It’s amazing how much time you save.
Global Entry gives you several benefits for 5 years and a $100 price tag. First you are eligible for TSA Precheck within the United States. That means you get to basically skip the line at security, keep your laptop in it’s bad and forego taking off your shoes and sweaters.
Then when you travel internationally there’s another perk – you get VIP treatment when you return home and go through customs.
We just had to scan our passports and fingerprints. We got a printed pass and brought it to the customs officer. It took us about 7 minutes to do this. So from the time we landed to the time we were in a taxi at JFK heading home — just 37 minutes went by. That is a far cry from the usual experience we have when coming home internationally.
Other than the cost — the other catch is that you have to go for an in person interview to get access to Global Entry. It’s a pain to carve out the time in your calendar – I totally get that. But I have to tell you – not having to wait in line and prolong an already long trip was key for me. I’ve been trying to mitigate stress in my life and this is definitely one way to do it while traveling.
If you go for Global Entry let me know how your experience is. I’m giving mine two thumbs up!