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Trip Report: Adventures By Disney Italy and Switzerland

After our return to Adventures by Disney trips with our Portugal AbD, we were excited to again travel this year. We reviewed many of the trips on our bucket list and ultimately decided to reserve the Adventures by Disney Italy Switzerland trip (nicknamed Alpine Magic). This 8-day vacation started in Stresa Italy and continued to Zermatt and Lucerne Switzerland.

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links and a purchase through one of these links may result in a commission paid to us at no additional cost to you. We did attend a 2-night complimentary NYC AbD in 2018 but paid full price for our four European trips.

The snow covered Alps with blue sky and rocky mountain with green

Arrival Day

Like the other Adventures by Disney European trips we’ve taken, we decided to arrive a day early. This gave us ample opportunity to get acclimated to the time change before touring. We booked our pre-stay through AbD and were able to stay in the same hotel room for that whole part of the trip.

Our first flight went from Boston to Zurich and arrived around 11 am. We had a short layover with enough time to get a quick lunch, before boarding our short flight from Zurich to Milan. Our AbD driver was waiting at baggage claim, and we had a 50-minute drive to Stresa, Italy, to our first hotel.

Upon pulling into the hotel, the Grand Hotel Des Iles Borromees, we were immediately impressed with the opulence of this historic hotel. It’s absolutely stunning, with beautiful grounds. I could easily have stayed there for a week. We checked in, received our keys (real keys, which we left at the concierge desk every time we left the hotel), and found our rooms.

At this hotel, we had two separate rooms. Like many historic European hotels, these were small rooms, but still very beautiful, I especially loved the views from the balconies. Our hotel rooms didn’t connect, although I understand that some guests did have connecting rooms. Since our kids are older, it was fine for us.

We were hungry, so immediately took the quick walk into Stresa (about 5-10 minutes), to get dinner. We arrived at the recommended Mamma Mia restaurant right at opening. This restaurant was the perfect spot for our first Italian dinner, and we had pasta and pizza.

Then, we walked back to the Grand Hotel Des Iles Borromees, unpacked, and went to bed. This hotel thankfully has air conditioning (it was hot). While the beds were a little on the hard side, we were exhausted and slept well.

Tip: We definitely recommend arriving a day early and booking a pre-stay at the first hotel through AbD. It will give you time to relax and enjoy the hotel’s amenities.

Large historic hotel with landscaped entrance

Day 1: Stresa

The next day was the first official day of our adventure, starting with our welcome dinner. Therefore, we had the entire day to ourselves. We started with the amazing hotel breakfast buffet, including cheeses, meats, fruit, croissants, and so much more. This was my favorite breakfast at all of the hotels we stayed at, and we even had the opportunity to see outside facing the lake.

Stresa is a small town, and we knew that we’d have time to explore most of it during our trip. Therefore, we decided to take advantage of the beautiful outdoor pool area. We found some nice shady pool chairs and set up for the day. At lunchtime, we sat outside at the poolside cafe and enjoyed salad and sandwiches.

The Grand Hotel Des Iles Borromees does also have an amazing spa with an indoor pool. Because of the hot weather, we decided to take advantage of the outdoor pool rather than the indoor one.

We also stopped by the welcome desk in the lobby set up by our two adventure guides, Marcello and Marissa. Marissa was also our guide on the Amalfi Coast and England/France Adventure by Disney trips, and we were so excited to see her! While we hadn’t met Marcello before, his sister Miki was our guide in Amalfi. The guides absolutely make the trip, so we were thrilled to have this duo as our guides for our vacation.

In addition to getting some details about our evening plans, we also got a map of Stresa with some activity recommendations. We were also given the opportunity to preorder our lunch for the next day. Pre-orders are sometimes a part of an AbD trip, and they help speed things up at the restaurant for group meals.

In the evening, we met in the lobby and had a brief outdoor reception where we got to meet all of the other guests. Then, we had a delicious buffet dinner at the hotel and got the details for our trip.

White peacock fanning its tail feathers

Day 2: Isola Bella and Isola del Pescatori

While our guidebook listed this itinerary as Day 3, we had it as Day 2. We started our day again with the breakfast buffet. A massive thunderstorm actually woke us up, so we were worried that we’d deal with heavy rains. Luckily, the storm passed before we met up with the group.

In the lobby of the hotel, we met our local guide and were given our whisper devices to hear her narration. Then, we took a very short walk across the street to a private boat. It was a short boat ride to our first destination – Isola Bella. Upon disembarking the boat, we walked to the beautiful Palazzo Borromeo.

Tickets were prepurchased for us, so we were able to skip the long line. We all scanned our tickets and our local guide led us through 30+ rooms, including some really unique grotto rooms. After touring the palazzo, we had some free time to explore the breathtaking gardens. In addition to statues and flowers, the garden is home to unique white peacocks.

It was still overcast, but not raining. During our walk through the gardens, we were surprised to see one of the peacocks completely fanned out its tail feathers. It was so beautiful.

We also had a bit of free time to explore the rest of the island. This area includes shops and cafes. However, we were about to board our boat to go to our second destination, Isola del Pescatori.

Isola del Pescatori, the fisherman’s island, is very small. We did a brief walking tour, but most of our time having lunch. This was the lunch we preordered the day before. I took advantage of our location and choose lake fish for my appetizer. It was similar to salmon but was pickled and so delicious.

During lunch, Marcello walked around to all of the guests making restaurant recommendations for our on-your-own dinner. He recommended Lastresa to us and made us a reservation.

Next, we took our boat back to Stresa, where we had a brief walk to the La Cambusa Wine Shop. There, the younger kids split off with Marissa to get gelato, while the adults had “Taste of Italy” food and wine tasting. Most of the guests loved the food and wine so much that they purchased some to either ship home or take in their luggage.

Once the tasting was over, we had free time. We could go back to the hotel, or stay in Stresa. It was very hot, so we decided to go back to the hotel.

I figured this was the perfect time to explore the highly-reviewed spa at the hotel. The hotel provides robes, flip-flops, and a tote bag to use for this purpose. Enter the indoor pool area, and you’ll see the pool, spa showers, a Turkish bath, a snow room, a sauna, cold and warm plunge pools, and a music pool.

Then, we headed to dinner at Lastresa. The ravioli there were my kids’ favorite meal, although I didn’t love my entree. The service was excellent, however. We were exhausted, so we went back to the hotel when we were done and relaxed before going back to bed.

Green shrubs and trees with mountains surrounding the lake

Day 3: Lake Como

I was so excited to visit Lake Como, and overall, I think this was my favorite day of the trip. This popular destination is about an hour from Lake Maggiore. We boarded our bus, met our driver (who followed us throughout the trip), and took the journey to the lake. Marcello provided us with some narration and information about the area, and Italy in general, making the trip go by quickly.

After being dropped off at the bus, we had a quick walk to the villa for our cooking class. Stefano Visini, from Visini Restaurant, was waiting for us. There were food prep stations set up for us, and we were treated to cold water and prosecco.

Our adventure started with a cooking demo by Stefano. We learned how to make gnocchi, as well as fresh pasta. We watched the demo first, then had the opportunity to make our own pasta. It was such a fun, unique experience, and one of those things that may be difficult to do if you aren’t traveling with AbD.

After we made our pasta, we were into the villa to enjoy a delicious dinner prepared by Stefano (thankfully not by us!). We had lasagna, pesto gnocchi, and an amazing tiramisu (made by Stefano’s daughter). It was such a delicious lunch.

Full from a great lunch, we packed up our belongings and walked a few minutes to meet our Lake Como local guide and board our boat. During our boat tour, our guide pointed out some of the most famous sites, including the Mandarin Oriental Hotel, the filming location for Ocean’s Twelve, and George Clooney’s Villa.

Then, our boat stopped at the Villa del Balbianello, where we were able to disembark the boat and walk around. This picturesque spot was the filming location of the marriage of Padme and Anakin in Star Wars: Episode II – Attack of the Clones.

Our guide Marissa took some family photos of us, while Marcello waited in the cafe and offered everyone a cold non-alcoholic drink. Then, we had some free time to walk around the gardens before boarding the boat to return to the town of Como.

Once we arrived at Como, we had a walking tour of the city. Then, we had some free time to shop around town. Our guides gave us some recommendations for shopping, including A. Picci, which is the best place to purchase silk.

After shopping, we met up at Visini, where Stefano had prepared a huge feast. We started with an appetizer buffet and then had the most delicious, rich risotto. A light cake was our dessert, and it was the perfect finish.

Once dinner was done, we boarded the bus back to Lake Maggiore. We were checking out the next morning, so we had to pack all of our bags to have them ready and outside our door early the next day.

The Matterhorn above the town of Zermatt with other mountains and trees and buildings

Day 4: Travel To Zermatt

We loved our hotel in Italy so much, so we were a little sad to pack up and leave for Zermatt. However, we knew that we still had some fantastic parts of our vacation left. We put our luggage out early, and then enjoyed one last delicious breakfast before boarding our bus to Zermatt.

Overall, we were expecting about 4 hours or so transit time. First, after about an hour, we got to the Swiss border. Any guests who had purchased $150 Euros worth of merchandise at one store were eligible to submit for VAT refund. There was only one of us, so it was a quick stop.

Then, we traveled another 30 minutes to the gorgeous Simplon Pass, for a quick rest stop. The Simplon Pass offers fantastic views, so we took a quick opportunity to take family photos. There’s also a fountain offering glacier water. Most of us filled out water bottles with this ice-cold, fresh water.

After this break, we boarded the bus again about an hour and a half ride to Täsch. Zermatt, our next destination, doesn’t permit regular cars or buses. So, to get there, we had to ride the train for about 15 minutes. Thanks to AbD, we didn’t have to worry about our luggage, it was transferred for us.

Upon arriving at the Zermatt train station, it was obvious that this is a special place. We immediately saw these adorable electric cars that serve as taxis from the various hotels. The whole town is very walkable, however.

Our next stop was at a local restaurant for a fondue feast. We had cheese, meat, and chocolate courses. My daughter’s tree nut allergy was completely accommodated.

As we dined, Marcello walked around asking about dining preferences for the on-our-own dinner that night. Because we had fondue for lunch, we opted for casual Italian food at Grampi’s Bar and Restaurant.

After our fondue feast, we briefly went to our new hotel (Mont Cervin Palace) to check in. This was my favorite room at any of our hotels. While it didn’t have A/C (although the temps were very pleasant), our room had a sitting room, one and a half baths, a desk, and a gorgeous balcony with a view of the Matterhorn. We had two rooms for our family of four – adjacent, but not connecting rooms.

Our guides had told us that we’d be making a late decision on the next part of our agenda. The Gornergrat Cogwheel Train ride was best taken when the weather was clear. Ultimately, the weather forecast showed that Day 4 was the best time for this. So after our brief hotel check-in, we met again for the quick walk to the train.

The Gornergrat Cogwheel Train is an approximately 45-minute journey up the slope for great views of the Matterhorn and other peaks. It was a little chilly up there, so we all brought our sweatshirts. It’s a beautiful train ride, with several stops along the way.

Once we arrived at the top, we took some photos and enjoyed the view. Then, we were completely on our own to do whatever we wanted to. My family (minus me) opted to walk down about 45 minutes to the next train station. I decided to take the train down and do some shopping in town.

Our guides provided us with a map with some recommended shops, including a chocolate shop and a place to get customized Swiss army knives. I really enjoyed shopping in Zermatt – it was my favorite place to shop.

In the evening, we had our delicious pizza and pasta dinner at Grampi’s. While we initially wanted to shop after dinner, we noticed that all of the shops closed around 6 pm. So we just went back to our rooms and enjoyed a nighttime view of the Matterhorn.

View of Zermatt from a window with small buildings, mountains, and blue sky

Day 5: Ropes Course in Zermatt

I was most eagerly anticipating day 5 because I knew we’d have beautiful views. We started with a great breakfast at the hotel (with both a buffet and menu to order from), and then met up with the group. From there, we boarded mini electric taxis and were driven up to the Forest Fun Park.

We were told to wear long pants or longer shorts and to bring layers. Most women wore leggings, which were best for the harnesses. While I did bring a sweatshirt, I didn’t end up using it.

We were harnessed up, given helmets and gloves, and then watched a safety demo on how to use the equipment. Then, there were two trial ziplines to do, before we were given the all-clear to start on the courses.

The Forest Fun Park has several different options, all indicated with color. Some were more zip lines, while others were more ropes courses. I started with the blue course but struggled a bit. My 4’11” height was a bit of a liability, so after doing the blue course, I enjoyed watching my kids conquer the courses.

Our afternoon was free after the Forest Fun Park, so we had the option to stay as long as we’d like. My daughter was having a great time, so we stayed a little longer. From there, we could either walk into town or take another taxi.

Lunch was on our own, and we were pretty hungry by then. Several of our fellow adventurers had raved about the Brown Cow Pub near our hotel. They don’t require reservations and have pub-style food like burgers, chicken nuggets, and wings. The food was absolutely delicious, and the portions were huge.

Then, we decided to walk around and do some shopping, before our group dinner. We had also heard about the goat parade through town every day around 9 am and 5 pm. We’d missed the early time, so we made sure to see the goats at 5 pm (they came by at 5:15 pm).

Adventures by Disney always offers one night with an adult dinner and a junior adventurers dinner and movie night. Our group had older kids and no real junior adventurers, so we all dined together. Our food for this meal had also been preordered. Then, the kids went off to watch the Disney movie while the adults packed up for the next day.

Chapel Bridge in Lucerne with buildings along the waterfront

Day 6: Off to Lucerne

Leaving Zermatt was even more difficult than leaving Stresa. This charming little town definitely captured my heart. But we had one more destination to conquer – Lucerne, Switzerland. After leaving our luggage outside our room and enjoying one more breakfast, we met up with the group to go back on the train to Täsch.

Once we arrived in Täsch, we boarded the bus again for our first destination, the Grimsel Pass. We had been previously warned that those prone to motion sickness may have been affected by this ride. Our guides recommended something called Travel Gum, which helps curb motion sickness, and we were able to purchase this in any of the local pharmacies. I ended up using a piece of gum, it was definitely a twisty road.

We were soon at the Grimsel Pass, a beautiful pass that offers stunning views of the Alps and nearby ponds. We had pre-ordered a box lunch and enjoyed a picnic in this pretty setting. Then, we boarded the bus again for our next destination, Aeschbach Chocolatier.

Part cafe, part museum, the Aeschbach Chocolatier was the site of our chocolate-tasting experience. Not only did we get to sample chocolate, but we also got to make our very own huge chocolate bar. In the end, we were given a 5 CHF gift card to use in the cafe or gift shop. This was such a fun experience – and the chocolate was very good.

From there, we had just a 20-minute ride to Lucerne. Our guides had a surprise for us, however. Once we got to the city, we were able to take a quick ride and walk to the Lucerne Lion Monument. Apparently, this isn’t usually part of the tour, but we had made some great time earlier in the day and had the opportunity to take this detour.

Our hotel in Lucerne had actually changed a few months prior to our arrival – we ended up staying in the Renaissance Lucerne. It is a smaller hotel than the others, but our room was so comfortable with great beds and efficient air conditioning.

We had a little while to unpack and relax. Since this was another on-your-own dinner night, Marcello sat in the lobby and made reservations for dinner for all of us. We were looking for something casual and picturesque, so Marcello recommended the Pickwick Pub, a waterfront British pub that doesn’t accept reservations.

We then had the option to take a walking tour with a local Lucerne guide. It was a short walk but took us past the Chapel Bridge and into the old town. Most of us left the tour in Old Town, as our dinner plans were in this area.

Our choice, the Pickwick Pub, was first-come first-served. Once you found a table, you placed your order in the pub. We were lucky to find a gorgeous waterfront table and enjoyed burgers and fish and chips. It was the perfect location for our first Lucerne dinner.

Gondolas above mountains with clouds and pond

Day 7: Mt. Titlis

While I was excited about our day 7 agenda, I was also sad that it was the last full day of our adventure. On our last day, we drove about 45 minutes to the Mt. Titlis ski area for a full day of mountain fun. Our guidebook had warned us that this could be a cold day, so we’d packed sweatshirts, gloves, extra socks, and coats.

We started with breakfast at our hotel. It was a smaller buffet than we had at the other hotels, but still delicious. Then, we drove to the mountain and met at the bottom to use the restrooms and grab some snacks from our guides. Marcello picked up the tickets as we waited.

To go up the mountain, we boarded a gondola to the first stop, about halfway up the mountain. We got off there to get acclimated to the altitude and to take some photos. Then, we got back on the gondolas and went as far as they go. The last part of our journey was on the Rotair, a rotating gondola that slowly spins 360 degrees.

Once at the top, we went through the glacier cave (a bit slippery, but very manageable) to the suspension bridge, and then on the IceFlyer chair lift over the glaciers. These were optional, but I think all of the guests did them. Unfortunately, the tubing and sledding were closed during our visit.

Although we’d brought jackets, we didn’t need them. Instead, we just wore sweatshirts and gloves (to hold on to the handrail at the glacier cave). It was chilly, but not freezing.

Ultimately, I think this was my favorite experience of the trip. It was stunningly beautiful, and after hot weather, it was actually nice to be in cooler temperatures.

Our group lunch was a prix-fixe menu at the Panorama restaurant, with huge windows facing the glaciers and mountains. It was a stunning location, and the food was great. After lunch, we had some free time to go back to the Glacier Park or to shop. Then, we all gathered for the return down – the same way we came up.

After arriving in Lucerne, we had some free time for shopping, packing, and relaxing. Several of the teens in our group were excited to visit a local Starbucks. We did some window shopping and then headed back to the Renaissance to get ready for our farewell dinner.

The group met in the lobby and walked about 15 minutes to the pier to board a private boat to our dinner. It was a beautiful night, and the views from the trip across Lake Lucerne were wonderful. Our destination was the Seehotel Baumgarten, a small hotel with a beautiful patio restaurant overlooking the lake.

As we pulled into the harbor, we were greeted by traditionally dressed musicians, including an alpine horn (alphorn) player. Even some of our group had the opportunity to try their skill. We also were treated to a yodeling performance. Then, we walked a bit up the hill to out dining location.

Again, this was a prix-fixe menu, with salad, chicken, and a strawberry cake. The chicken was especially good, and we all enjoyed chatting as well were getting ready to say bye.

At the end of dinner, we boarded the bus and were able to view the short slideshow that our guides had created for us. There were so many memories in just a short 7-day trip, and the strangers we’d met in Stresa had become friends.

We all had varying departure times in the morning, so we all said goodbye before going to bed. Our guide Marissa was also leaving in the morning, and we said bye to her.

Day 8: Home!

The last day is always sad because the adventure is over and you are left with a long flight home and some major jetlag. Our direct flight from Zurich to Boston was scheduled for 5:40 pm, so we had plenty of time during the day. We started with a buffet breakfast and then explored the city a bit.

We were provided a late checkout, so we grabbed a quick lunch at the hotel, and then met our driver for the hour drive into Zurich. We were so exhausted from our fantastic adventure but had lifelong memories to enjoy.

White peacock, matterhorn, historic hotel with plush landscaping.

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