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You can actually say about the same for most cities in Europe as they were not built to handle cars (no cars a few hundred or more years ago), parking is very, very expensive and often not conveniently located. Gas runs about $8.50 a gallon, the roads in Italy have fairly expensive tolls and the driver can't enjoy the scenery. A tour of cities is best done by train (the public transportation system is truly excellent). I'm as addicted to the idea of always having a car as any American but I wouldn't even think of it if I was doing your trip - it's very easy to rent for a day here and there and use trains to cover the long distances. Additionally, trains go through the towns and villages while the highways go around everything so you don't get to see much. City driving particularly in Italy is a night mare of what we think is craziness. Car, of course, can't go to Venice so becomes a parked expense.
Okay, small list of reasons to not drive. Rail fares in Italy are less expensive than driving in many instances. For example, you can go from Florence to Venice (center, not a remote parking lot) for as little as 19 Euros each and it takes 2 hrs. The estimate for driving not including the rental car cost for the day or parking - just tolls and gas is 50 Euros. It's about 12 Euros less expensive to take the train and arrive in the center of Venice (much easier). Trains run frequently all over Europe so there's no hanging around as a rule. You can get sandwiches or whatever and have a lovely picnic as you watch the countryside and towns go by - you can even have a glass of wine with your picnic as you aren't driving (European rules on drinking and driving are much stricter generally).
If you do want to drive, look for nice villages or towns near the cities and book your hotels there so that you don't take the car into the cities. You can drive to a local rail station and then take the train into the city. Also much less risk of getting the rental car damaged and all the hassle that entails.
Hope this gives you some ideas to consider - we're all happy to help whichever way you choose to make your trip!
That is excellent information. Thank you for taking the time to answer. I will do some research on the rail option.
Let me add more reasons for not using a car in Europe: access and parking restrictions for non-residents in some countries (especially Italy) and "low emission zones" - more at http://www.lowemissionzones.eu/ - access restrictions for cars not fitting certain standards, identification with car window stickers (Germany for instance, stickers mandatory also for visitors - most rental cars are up to most restrictive standards, but don't have the required sticker)
And many cities in Switzerland too sell parking permits for unlimited parking in restricted parking zones (parking meter zones for instance) to residents only. Result is less free parking fields (or simply none) and only limited time parking space available for non residents. So visitors have to use more expensive parking facilities.
When are you making this trip? That also makes a huge difference. Driving in the Alps in winter is no fun and driving in Tuscany in summer is no fun either! And the Milano-Genova autostrada can be a nightmare, especially the bit in the tunnels between Ovada and Genova or, on the other side of Genova the "old" road that has been turned into a two lane autostrada. It is very very windy.
you might look at this (just to make your day, I suppose!!)
You could do this entire trip, so easily, by train!!
Looking to travel late May or waiting until late August. Train is sounding better and better...lol
I see they sell a train pass that is good for unlimited travel for "x" amount of days.
What do you do with luggage? Assuming we each have a back pack and suitcase.
Do they have lockers at train station or do we have to get to hotel and ask them to store?
Given you aren't spending any time in Switzeralnd, you are probably thinking about a Rail Europe pass A great source of information for these is the Rick Steves website
Also post on the forums for Italy and Austria to see if there are passes for their national rail systems that, like Swiss Rail passes, give you a savings over a Rail Europe pass. The Rail Travel forum also has good information.
Luggage - many stations have luggage storage rooms and/or lockers and hotels generally are willing to keep your bags before your room is ready and after you check out for a few hours. Train cars have areas for luggage but it may be overhead so be sure you can lift your bags. It's not particularly difficult to manage luggage if there are two or more in your group - for example, when you are boarding, one gets on and the other hands up the bag, just reverse it when you are getting off.
Hope you have fun planning!
OK almost completely convinced to use the trains - Would buy 3 country eurail pass for 2 people (saver),
Would look for hotels near train stations to avoid dragging luggage around.
How does this sound for updated itinerary?
Innsbruck to Venice 2 nights
Venice to Florence 2 nights
Florence to either Genoa or Milan 1 night
Genoa or Milan to Interlaken 2 nights
Interlaken to Zurich on departure day
Rick Steves has a nice sight but he makes it sound like I'm guaranteed to be robbed...
I'm assuming it's similar to America where if you go into the wrong areas or late at night expect trouble.
Thanks again for helping me plan -
Hiking in the mountains is a must
Wife loves wine so wine region is a must
I brew beer so any breweries will be visited
Other than that we will enjoy the scenery and art/history.
You need to be very careful when buying a Eurail pass since it is not valid on all train lines. So read the fine print carefully.
With all the travel between places you will be doing I am not at all sure you will have time to see much when there. Essentially you will have 1.5 days in each of Innsbruck, Venice, Florence and Interlaken and .5 of a day in Milan or Genoa (I would go to Milan since it is on your route...Genoa is a sizable detour to the west.) And I would definitely not stay in Interlaken. It is awful. Unless of course you love tour buses and fast food and souvenir shops! Stay in the mountains. Look at wengen. That would be a really different experience for you.
You aren't really travelling in any of the Swiss wine growing areas though there are some vineyards near the Thunersee. I would take the time to visit a vineyard in Tuscany if you can. Breweries - maybe in Austria? Seems to me you should concentrate on the mountains here.
Honestly I think you are going to see a lot of railway trains and stations... and I would not choose hotels near stations because, generally speaking, these areas are not great (and you ask about safety!) Choose hotels that get good reviews on TA and are centrally located. Then take local buses or trams from and back to the station.
If I were making this trip I would cut out Austria entirely and split my time between a mountain resort in Switzerland and Venice and Florence...