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Old 07-06-2010, 10:33 AM   #1
RSM
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Back from 6/20 Alpine Magic

We just returned from the 6/20 Alpine Magic adventure (with a few extra days in Paris). All I can say is what an awesome experience. I will post some pictures within a couple of weeks (~2500 to download), but I'll provide some scatter brained thoughts on the adventure in no particular order:

1.) Can't say enough positives about our guides (Marc and Maddie). Although it was their first adventure together (I think Maddie was training on the early June adventure) you would never know it. They had a genuine chemistry together and it showed. They spent time with each family/individual and really got to know them. Our son has a tree nut allergy and I think Maddie was more on top of it than we were. Marc would call the group togethe with his uniquely accented "Adventurer's" call, about half way through I think all of the junior adventurer's were having a contest on who could do the best Marc impressions. I could go on and on, but the value that they brought to the overall experience can't be measured.

2.) As a whole our group really bonded. We had a very diverse group that really got to know one another. This made the trip so much more enjoyable for us.

3.) We had 8 junior adventurer's (from 7 to 13) and they seemed to bond as a group within a couple of days. They rode the bus together, played together, and ate together. If one of the JAs wasn't at the JA table at dinner, a JA would seek him/her out, say "we saved you a seat at our table, come on and eat with us". I don't think Marc and Maddie had to do alot of work to get the JA's together, the kids really did seem to come together on their own. Again, this really adds to the experience and our son now has some pen pals and new friends.

4.) For us, the Disney excursions/adventures were awesome and fit perfectly. They were diverse enough so that there was something for everyone and for the most part, we never felt rushed or wished we we could stay. For some specifics, we had a blast on the ropes/ziplines. Although, if you go on this trip be aware that the younger JAs start on the kids course (which they blew though with ease) while the parents start on the "green" course, and can work up to the increasingly difficult "red" and "black" courses. When we finished the green course, we saw the two 7 year old boys sitting rather bored. It looked like they weren't going to be allowed to go on the "green" course--need to be 8. After some minor negotiations with the owner, and telling him that we would sandwich our son, and the same with the other 7 y/o, he allowed them to go on the green course once they passed a training exercise. So, although we would have liked to have done the "red" course, it was more important that our son get his shot at the big boys course, and he had a blast (although that is all we had time to complete). I won't go into alot of detail on the others (lake cruises, Isola Bela, running with huskies, Ballenburg, etc.). I will say that the pasta making lesson was also alot of fun and a great time for the group to bond. There were a ton of laughs. The only adventure that seemed a little forced was the Bike trip around Lake Lucern. For us, this was the one that felt a little rushed. It was bike to a scenic vista, take some pictures, and bike back to the bus. It felt more like they were simply trying to break up the one long bus ride. It was OK, just didn't really have the WOW factor to it.

5.) For on our own excursions, we pretty much got to do everything we wanted/planned, except for Mt Pilatus in Luzern (we didn't really have a good 5 hour window to do it). We really lucked out, for the 2 weeks we were in Europe the weather was spectacular (if not too hot). I would definitely recommend that you research what you want to do in Zermatt. You have two free afternoons and there is so much you can do. On the day we arrived in Zermatt, we had a fondue lunch, then we got to go paragliding in the afternoon. We took off from Riffelberg and it was a surreal experience with awesome views of the Matterhorn and the valley beneath. On the second free afternoon in Zermatt, a group of us took the gondola's up to Klein Matterhorn and went into glacier palace. Again, awesome views and it is pretty cool to go inside of a glacier. In Stresa, we took the "bucket" up Mottarone to the top of that mountain for those views. Also, walking the bridges and old wall, and climbing the "towers" of Luzern provided more sweeping views/perspectives. If you get the sense we try to get to the highest point wherever we go, you are probably right :-)

6.) I should also mention the local guides. I'm not sure where Disney finds these people, but they are also great. One I will mention is the woman who does the wine tasting in Stresa. Most wine tastings I have been to are always about the grape and process. The woman who did it in Stresa had a story for everything. She was funny, engaging, warm, and informational. Her stories about being a young girl at the end of WW2 in Stresa were moving. Hopefully, other ABDs later this summer have her.

7.) We found the people in these areas to be so hospitable and nice. One quick story. As I mentioned our son has a tree nut allergy. In Switzerland, we were having trouble finding chocolate without nuts (most of the chocolate tended to have hazelnuts). Towards the end in Luzern, we promised him we would find chocolate fondue for him. We went to the Fondue House in Luzern. Initially they said the fondue did not have nuts, we ordered a 3 course fondue meal. Then they came back and said it was pre-made with Tobblerone (nuts). Without prompting, the owner came over and said he would take care of it. He had the chef run down the block to the chocolatier, buy some chocolate, and make up a special batch for us. So, if you are in Luzern, hit the Fondue House (~a 3 minute walk from the hotel). Good people as well as great food.

8.) It was pretty cool being in Europe during the world cup. The atmosphere is electric. Outside of our hotel in Luzern was a small "courtyard". They had a jumbotron set up showing world cup matches which were able to watch from our balconies. The courtyard would be filled with people passionately rooting for their team. Switzerland was actually playing one game and the place was packed. The only thing missing was a Swiss goal. We all wanted to see the place erupt.

9.) The food on the adventure was actually pretty good given that most of the meals were a fixed menu. Two meals stood out to me. The one at Monterossa in Stresa was alot of fun and it was a great family style meal, and the lasagna after the pasta making was the best I've ever had.

So, overall I would recommend this adventure to anyone. We can't speak highly enough of this experience. The end to end experience of getting to know our guides, doing the adventures, making new friends, and doing this as a family will create lasting memories.

I will try to post some pictures over the next couple of weeks. If there are any specific questions, you can PM me.
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Old 07-06-2010, 11:27 AM   #2
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Welcome back, RSM. Wow! The more I hear about this trip, the more spectacular it sounds! So glad you had such a good trip, and that you all bonded so well.

And I have to agree. The Adventure Guides really make the trips!

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Old 07-06-2010, 02:38 PM   #3
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RSM, I'm so glad to hear that you had a such a wonderful experience and that your son made friends on the trip. I'm torn between the Galapagos and Alpine Magic for 2011, either of which will be fantastic, I'm sure. I may be even more torn once the new itineraries are released. Looking forward to seeing you photos too! Welcome, home!
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Old 07-06-2010, 07:17 PM   #4
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Sounds like a great trip! How was the paragliding? I've seen it on a video and it looks like fun!
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Old 07-06-2010, 08:39 PM   #5
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Hi RSM!

It was great fun meeting you guys and sharing this Adventure with you. I agree with everything you described - this trip was full of Alpine Magic!

This was our 6th AbD and we have yet to encounter a less-than-outstanding AbD guide. Marc & Maddie ranked right up there with the others.

As you know, we did not have the cheese fondue lunch with the group in Zermatt, but the guides made sure we did not feel left out. Maddie joined us for our private little lunch at an Italian restaurant while Marc entertained you guys. This is the level of service that sets AbD apart from the other tour companies. (But we won't mention the JA lunch at the Kronen Hotel restaurant in Andermatt though... ).

Looking forward to seeing your pics!

Allen & Angela
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Old 07-07-2010, 09:07 PM   #6
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Hi there! Thank you for your thoughts so far. Can't wait to read your trip report!!!
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Old 07-08-2010, 12:27 PM   #7
RSM
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Originally Posted by brewcrew View Post
Sounds like a great trip! How was the paragliding? I've seen it on a video and it looks like fun!
Hi Brewcrew,

The paragliding was spectacular. Very easy take off and landing, and the views were magnificient. I've posted a few pictures in another thread.
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Old 07-08-2010, 12:31 PM   #8
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Hi RSM!

It was great fun meeting you guys and sharing this Adventure with you. I agree with everything you described - this trip was full of Alpine Magic!

This was our 6th AbD and we have yet to encounter a less-than-outstanding AbD guide. Marc & Maddie ranked right up there with the others.

As you know, we did not have the cheese fondue lunch with the group in Zermatt, but the guides made sure we did not feel left out. Maddie joined us for our private little lunch at an Italian restaurant while Marc entertained you guys. This is the level of service that sets AbD apart from the other tour companies. (But we won't mention the JA lunch at the Kronen Hotel restaurant in Andermatt though... ).

Looking forward to seeing your pics!

Allen & Angela
Hi Allen and Angela,

It was a pleasure for us to meet and spend time with both of you. Your stories had us in stitches. Thanks for helping to make this a great experience for our family. Just so you know, the metro tickets and euros you gave us went to very good use in Paris. After a couple of metro rides,we were getting around the city very easily. Aiden had a blast riding the metro.
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Old 07-09-2010, 08:27 AM   #9
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Originally Posted by RSM View Post
We just returned from the 6/20 Alpine Magic adventure (with a few extra days in Paris). All I can say is what an awesome experience. I will post some pictures within a couple of weeks (~2500 to download), but I'll provide some scatter brained thoughts on the adventure in no particular order:

1.) Can't say enough positives about our guides (Marc and Maddie). Although it was their first adventure together (I think Maddie was training on the early June adventure) you would never know it. They had a genuine chemistry together and it showed. They spent time with each family/individual and really got to know them. Our son has a tree nut allergy and I think Maddie was more on top of it than we were. Marc would call the group togethe with his uniquely accented "Adventurer's" call, about half way through I think all of the junior adventurer's were having a contest on who could do the best Marc impressions. I could go on and on, but the value that they brought to the overall experience can't be measured.

2.) As a whole our group really bonded. We had a very diverse group that really got to know one another. This made the trip so much more enjoyable for us.

3.) We had 8 junior adventurer's (from 7 to 13) and they seemed to bond as a group within a couple of days. They rode the bus together, played together, and ate together. If one of the JAs wasn't at the JA table at dinner, a JA would seek him/her out, say "we saved you a seat at our table, come on and eat with us". I don't think Marc and Maddie had to do alot of work to get the JA's together, the kids really did seem to come together on their own. Again, this really adds to the experience and our son now has some pen pals and new friends.

4.) For us, the Disney excursions/adventures were awesome and fit perfectly. They were diverse enough so that there was something for everyone and for the most part, we never felt rushed or wished we we could stay. For some specifics, we had a blast on the ropes/ziplines. Although, if you go on this trip be aware that the younger JAs start on the kids course (which they blew though with ease) while the parents start on the "green" course, and can work up to the increasingly difficult "red" and "black" courses. When we finished the green course, we saw the two 7 year old boys sitting rather bored. It looked like they weren't going to be allowed to go on the "green" course--need to be 8. After some minor negotiations with the owner, and telling him that we would sandwich our son, and the same with the other 7 y/o, he allowed them to go on the green course once they passed a training exercise. So, although we would have liked to have done the "red" course, it was more important that our son get his shot at the big boys course, and he had a blast (although that is all we had time to complete). I won't go into alot of detail on the others (lake cruises, Isola Bela, running with huskies, Ballenburg, etc.). I will say that the pasta making lesson was also alot of fun and a great time for the group to bond. There were a ton of laughs. The only adventure that seemed a little forced was the Bike trip around Lake Lucern. For us, this was the one that felt a little rushed. It was bike to a scenic vista, take some pictures, and bike back to the bus. It felt more like they were simply trying to break up the one long bus ride. It was OK, just didn't really have the WOW factor to it.

5.) For on our own excursions, we pretty much got to do everything we wanted/planned, except for Mt Pilatus in Luzern (we didn't really have a good 5 hour window to do it). We really lucked out, for the 2 weeks we were in Europe the weather was spectacular (if not too hot). I would definitely recommend that you research what you want to do in Zermatt. You have two free afternoons and there is so much you can do. On the day we arrived in Zermatt, we had a fondue lunch, then we got to go paragliding in the afternoon. We took off from Riffelberg and it was a surreal experience with awesome views of the Matterhorn and the valley beneath. On the second free afternoon in Zermatt, a group of us took the gondola's up to Klein Matterhorn and went into glacier palace. Again, awesome views and it is pretty cool to go inside of a glacier. In Stresa, we took the "bucket" up Mottarone to the top of that mountain for those views. Also, walking the bridges and old wall, and climbing the "towers" of Luzern provided more sweeping views/perspectives. If you get the sense we try to get to the highest point wherever we go, you are probably right :-)

6.) I should also mention the local guides. I'm not sure where Disney finds these people, but they are also great. One I will mention is the woman who does the wine tasting in Stresa. Most wine tastings I have been to are always about the grape and process. The woman who did it in Stresa had a story for everything. She was funny, engaging, warm, and informational. Her stories about being a young girl at the end of WW2 in Stresa were moving. Hopefully, other ABDs later this summer have her.

7.) We found the people in these areas to be so hospitable and nice. One quick story. As I mentioned our son has a tree nut allergy. In Switzerland, we were having trouble finding chocolate without nuts (most of the chocolate tended to have hazelnuts). Towards the end in Luzern, we promised him we would find chocolate fondue for him. We went to the Fondue House in Luzern. Initially they said the fondue did not have nuts, we ordered a 3 course fondue meal. Then they came back and said it was pre-made with Tobblerone (nuts). Without prompting, the owner came over and said he would take care of it. He had the chef run down the block to the chocolatier, buy some chocolate, and make up a special batch for us. So, if you are in Luzern, hit the Fondue House (~a 3 minute walk from the hotel). Good people as well as great food.

8.) It was pretty cool being in Europe during the world cup. The atmosphere is electric. Outside of our hotel in Luzern was a small "courtyard". They had a jumbotron set up showing world cup matches which were able to watch from our balconies. The courtyard would be filled with people passionately rooting for their team. Switzerland was actually playing one game and the place was packed. The only thing missing was a Swiss goal. We all wanted to see the place erupt.

9.) The food on the adventure was actually pretty good given that most of the meals were a fixed menu. Two meals stood out to me. The one at Monterossa in Stresa was alot of fun and it was a great family style meal, and the lasagna after the pasta making was the best I've ever had.

So, overall I would recommend this adventure to anyone. We can't speak highly enough of this experience. The end to end experience of getting to know our guides, doing the adventures, making new friends, and doing this as a family will create lasting memories.

I will try to post some pictures over the next couple of weeks. If there are any specific questions, you can PM me.
RSM,
Fabulous trip report!

We are heading off on the same adventure starting 8/5/10. We are a family of four with 2 daughters ages 10 and 7 and are all very excited as this will be our first ABD trip and the first trip for any of us to Europe.

We are spending a 3 days in Venice prior to the trip and then heading to Foix, France for 6 days after the trip to visit friends

I have a few nuts and bolts questions I have asked around the forum and was looking for your input

I am trying to get my head around packing specifically the right clothing attire for the trip.

Meaning how casual/dressy to pack, tee shirts, collared shirts, type of footware (sneakers, hiking shoes, dress shoes), are shorts ok, sweater/jacket? in August, etc with respect to the temperature, activity level, local culture/customs and the availability of laundry services in the towns we will be in. Attempting to pack for roughly 20 days is becoming a daunting task without the prospect of laundry!

Internet cafes/wifi hot spots in town or hotels available to keep in touch with family, etc?

Did you rent/purchase an international phone or use your own cell service? We have sprint and their international service is really zero and I was wondering about getting an international phone more for emergencies/etc

Are their safes in the rooms for laptops, passports, etc or did you carry your passport with you at all times?

Sounds like the guides on this trip can make recommendations regarding best use of our free time, excursions, restaurants or should I start planning our free time and booking things in advance?

Sounds as if the kids really had a wonderful time and certainly their activites are incredible, I'm hoping my two will really bond with the rest of the adventure team

Sorry about the boring nature of the questions,thanks in advance for your input and thanks for the wonderful review/pictures

take care

rich
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Old 07-09-2010, 09:17 AM   #10
RSM
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RSM,
Fabulous trip report!

We are heading off on the same adventure starting 8/5/10. We are a family of four with 2 daughters ages 10 and 7 and are all very excited as this will be our first ABD trip and the first trip for any of us to Europe.

We are spending a 3 days in Venice prior to the trip and then heading to Foix, France for 6 days after the trip to visit friends

I have a few nuts and bolts questions I have asked around the forum and was looking for your input

I am trying to get my head around packing specifically the right clothing attire for the trip.

Meaning how casual/dressy to pack, tee shirts, collared shirts, type of footware (sneakers, hiking shoes, dress shoes), are shorts ok, sweater/jacket? in August, etc with respect to the temperature, activity level, local culture/customs and the availability of laundry services in the towns we will be in. Attempting to pack for roughly 20 days is becoming a daunting task without the prospect of laundry!

Internet cafes/wifi hot spots in town or hotels available to keep in touch with family, etc?

Did you rent/purchase an international phone or use your own cell service? We have sprint and their international service is really zero and I was wondering about getting an international phone more for emergencies/etc

Are their safes in the rooms for laptops, passports, etc or did you carry your passport with you at all times?

Sounds like the guides on this trip can make recommendations regarding best use of our free time, excursions, restaurants or should I start planning our free time and booking things in advance?

Sounds as if the kids really had a wonderful time and certainly their activites are incredible, I'm hoping my two will really bond with the rest of the adventure team

Sorry about the boring nature of the questions,thanks in advance for your input and thanks for the wonderful review/pictures

take care

rich
Sounds like a fantastic trip. We spent 5 post days in Paris. I will give you my take on your questions:

1.) PACKING--Argh!. This is a hard trip to pack for. Weather is somewhat volatile and it is diverse. Temperatures in Stresa and Luzern were in the mid 70's to high 80's depending on the time of day, so shorts, tee shirts, short sleeve polo shirts are fine. In Zermatt, temperatures were probably in the mid to high 60's in the village. But as you got up into the mountains it cooled significantly. We ended up buying a sweatshirt in Zermatt. I brought a fleece, but that turned out to be too heavy. I did wear jeans the day we paraglided in Zermatt, but other than that I wore shorts every day and my wife wore capris. Aiden wore shorts almost every day also. For footwear, we brought sneakers, low cut hiking shoes, and dress shoes (more because we were eating at the Jules Verne in Paris on night). For the ABD, the only meal people really dressed for was the farewell dinner. And that was more or less chinos/slacks and a collared shirt. Also, bring swimsuits. The pool at the Regina in Stresa is very cool and the pool in Zermatt is fun also. I didn't notice any laundry service around, but I wasn't looking either. The hotels did offer it, but that would get expensive.

2.) More Packing Stuff--Watch the weight of your bags. We found that they pretty rigidly enforce the 23 Kg (50 lb) limit. On our Air France flight from Zurich to Paris, we basically had to re-pack 3 suitcases of stuff. Air France charges 150 euro per bag for heavy bags. We did luck out on our flight home. I am a Star Alliance 1K member, so one of the perks is a 75 lb limit.

3.) I used my Blackberry to stay connected for voice and data. It is AT&T, and I didn't have any problems with signal strength anywhere. I didn't bring a laptop. I do recall that each hotel does have ways to access the internet either in the room or the lobby. The hotel in Zermatt has a PC that you can access in the lobby (don't know if you have to pay).

4.) Each room did have a safe. We kept cash and passports in the safe. We didn't carry our passports. The safes are small though. I'm not sure whether a laptop will fit in it. My hunch is that it won't.

5.) The guides can make recommendations on things to do, restaurants, etc. Our trip was their second time doing it, so by the time yours rolls around I think they will have one or two more under their belt. In all three stops there is alot within walking distance. It seemed like there was less free time in Stresa. In Zermatt, we had pre-planned/booked the paragliding on our own (the guides really didn't have alot of information on that), and we did it the first day we arrived (the first day in Zermatt you get to the hotel about 1:30-2:00). We booked it for 4:00 pm. But you don't have to book it in advance as they will take walk ins. If you don't want to paraglide, you can take the Gornergrat train (very close to the center of town) and get some spectacular views of the Matterhorn/Alps. The second free afternoon in Zermatt, we went to Glacier Palace taking the Klein Matterhorn gondolas. There is alot to do in Zermatt. In Luzern, we pretty much walked around the city on our free time doing some shopping, climbing the towers at the old wall, sightseeing, etc. Some in the group rented a pontoon boat and went onto the Lake (right across the street) for a couple of hours. If you have time, there are a couple of pretty good websites for Zermatt and Luzern with a litany of things to do.

Have a great trip. I believe Maddie and Marc will be your guides, and they are great at interacting with everyone and getting the kids together.
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Old 07-31-2010, 07:39 AM   #11
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We leave August 5

Hi! We are going on this trip August 5. RSM, have I rented you points? Your screen name is so familiar! Anyway, are there little fridges/mini bars in the rooms? Can't wait to go...I have 3 daughters: 12, 16, and 19....anyone else going?
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Old 07-31-2010, 09:17 AM   #12
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Hi! We are going on this trip August 5. RSM, have I rented you points? Your screen name is so familiar! Anyway, are there little fridges/mini bars in the rooms? Can't wait to go...I have 3 daughters: 12, 16, and 19....anyone else going?
Hi TSgirl,

I've never rented points, so it must be someone else. Anyways, I do remember a mini bar in Stresa and Luzern. Not sure about Zermatt. You will have a great time. This is an awesome itinerary. You can check out photos in the trip report sticky if you want to see some of what is in store for you.
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Old 07-31-2010, 08:40 PM   #13
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We did this trip last year and also had a wonderful time. Each city is fantastic in it's own unique way. We also loved the lady that owned the shop in Stresa that did our wine tasting. Disney works hard to find just the right person for each experience. We spent 3 days in Venice at the beginning of our trip and took the train to Stresa to meet up with our group. Jason and Marco, are guides, were terrific and set the bar so high, I don't know how our next adventure will compare.
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Old 08-01-2010, 04:55 PM   #14
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Thanks for the info. Can anyone tell me about plugging in electrical stuff like hairdryers and ipod chargers, etc...Do the hotels provide adapters? Are there hairdryers in the rooms? Thanks!
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Old 08-01-2010, 05:25 PM   #15
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Thanks for the info. Can anyone tell me about plugging in electrical stuff like hairdryers and ipod chargers, etc...Do the hotels provide adapters? Are there hairdryers in the rooms? Thanks!
Each hotel had a hair dryer. I brought a couple of adapters with me. A standard European adapter (without the ground pin) will work in each location. Note; if the adapter has a ground pin, Italy and Switzerland have a unique configuration and you will need one specifically designed for that country. I think the hotels had some, but you never know if they will be available. The adapters for Italy and Switzerland are available on-line. I think they were about $8 or 9 each. For most electronics (ipod, PC, phone, etc.) you won't need a converter, just an adapter.
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