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Report 1729: Family, Food and Wine (Part 2) Abruzzo Re-Re-Visited and Switzerland

By avvocato from NJ, USA, Spring 2009

Trip Description: A trip to Abruzzo's Adriatic coast in April 2009 to visit family. My third trip to Bel Abruzzo; my wife's first. Then a continuation to Winterthur, Switzerland (also to visit her family) with day trips to the Appenzell Alps & Konstanz, Germany in May 2009. Our first trip to Switzerland.

Destinations: Countries - Italy, Germany, Switzerland; Regions/Cities - Abruzzo

Categories: Family/Friends; Hotels/B&Bs; Sightseeing; Independent Travel; 2 People

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Page 1 of 11: Torna al’Italia

photo by Fred De Stephanis

Fred and Nuan at Brecciarola on the A25

My wife and I wait patiently at the Philadelphia Airport on Saturday 25 April 2009 for flight US 718 direct to Rome.

We were able to get a very good price on US Air from PHL to FCO of $470.30 each for an open jaw round trip. We were planning to spend five days in Italy and 10 days in Switzerland. We would complete our “open jaw” by taking a train to Winterthur, Switzerland and then depart Zurich on 10 May 2009 directly back to Philadelphia.

The Italian portion of the trip was to introduce my wife (on her first trip to Italy) to cousins in Italy as well as meet some cousins I did not know about on my last trip in 2004. Call the trip, Family Food and Wine (Part 2). Part 1 is reported in Trip Report 574: Abruzzo - Family, Food and Wine. The initial part of this trip is not really Slow Travel.

The purpose of the Swiss portion of the trip is to visit my wife’s niece who lives in Winterthur, Switzerland with her husband and their new daughter Miya born on 24 March 2009. This will be our first trip to Switzerland.

Pre-travel planning was interesting. The low price for the tickets was achieved using Expedia. I was also able to book a three star hotel in Montesilvano, Pescara Province using Expedia for four nights for a total of $232.80 for a double. Payment for the hotel was made in advance and no money or credit card transactions were necessary at the hotel at check-in or check-out. My review of the hotel (Hotel Duca degli Abruzzi) is review #2627.

I also rented a car in advance using Auto Europe. I planned to pick up at Fiumincino and drop off at Pescara Airport D’Abruzzo. The all inclusive stated rate was $306.24 for the five days. The car was to be a Lancia Y 2-door with a/c or similar economy. The agency used by Auto Europe was EuropCar.

I must admit that for a person who likes to plan ahead and in great detail I did not get that opportunity here. One critical factor was that my wife (not a US Citizen) needed a Schengen visa for the trip. I was able to apply and receive the visa (for both legs of the trip) at the Italian Consulate in Philly. Switzerland in December of 2008 became a full participant in the Schengen visa convention. The visa took three visits to the Consulate before it was approved due to minor inconsistencies in the application and backup travel documents. I also had to educate the Visa Application section that Switzerland was now 100% Schengen so that Italy could issue the visa for the entirety of the trip.

The flight leaves PHL without drama. The overnight flight starts with the dinner and then we both try with varying degrees of success to sleep or rest on the remainder of the flight scheduled to land in Rome at 8:45am. We wake up early and I give my wife lessons in the Italian language - the ten words or phrases you should know to be polite. By the time we land my wife is “fluent” with Ciao, Buon Giorno, Buona Sera, Grazie, Prego, Mi Dispiace, Come Stai/Sta, Per Favore, Piacere, Scusa/i.

After a brief breakfast, Flight 718 lands more or less on time. After we clear immigration (long and chaotic lines), pick up our bags and clear Customs, we stop to get some euro at an airport ATM. This required another long line and about 30 minutes. Then it is off to find the rental car location. I read Slow Travel’s information on car rentals at the Rome Airport. My advice to other travelers is to read that advice carefully. Finding the rental location took some time even half expecting the signage and other problems. EuropCar upgrades me to a Lancia LYS Musa (diesel), which certainly help with our luggage situation. By the time I leave the parking garage the time is 12:40pm nearly four hours after landing.

Getting out of the airport property is fairly easy, but once on the Autostrada, I am a little unsure if I took the proper exits to the GRA, Grande Raccordo Anulare. The road signage is confusing (as it is in my opinion throughout Italy). I did make the correct decisions and off we go, despite being tired and excited. We plan to stop on the Autostrada A24 or then A25 for a quick lunch. The A24 exit is about 1/3 way around the GRA (Exit 14 - L’Aquila, Pescara) from Fiumincino.

The weather this day is occasionally damp and a little dreary. Once on the A24 the traffic thins substantially and we make good time. We stop for a short rest and a light lunch after we branch onto the A25. My wife and I stop at Brecciarola and shared a panini di prosciutto. The Apennines are still snow covered and offer a nice vista. The A24 and A25 drive is quite spectacular for an Autostrada, since you traverse mountains and use many tunnels.

The A25 then feeds into the A14 west of Pescara. We take the north fork of the Y and exit at Pescara Nord, Montesilvano/Città Sant’Angelo. After missing the hotel street at first and getting slightly lost in Montesilvano, I recover after asking for directions from a gentleman out for a walk (my wife being duly impressed with my command of the Italian language) and find the hotel at about 4:00pm. There are no problems checking in. The Expedia pre-paid reservation means that we do not pass along credit card data or exchange cash at any time at the hotel. After a short rest, we go looking for some food, but of course it’s too early and we end up buying some snacks at the Warner Village Mall a short walk away.

There are many people walking in Montesilvano. Too many, I think, for the typical La Passeggiata. Many more than I would have expected in the Adriatic “off season.” I find out from the hotel desk that most hotels are temporarily housing people from the L’Aquila area while the government is preparing more “permanent temporary” shelters near L’Aquila and environs. The earthquake of April 6 is very recent. Our hotel is also full of Aquiliani temporarily posted there.

I call my cousin that evening and make arrangements for her to meet us tomorrow morning. After a long day, we both go to sleep early and prepare for Monday and visits with my cousins from Atri and Silvi.

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