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Florence to Switzerland in 10 days

Hello!

I am traveling overseas for the very first time with my five adult children. We are going during a very busy season, but it is the only window our family has. We want to explore Tuscany, with Florence as our home base for the first leg of the trip.
My questions: (1) Given the below schedule, should we fly round trip Nashville-Milan? (2) When is the best time to book flights? (3) Does anyone have any advice on this trip? Thanks so much!

June 28: Fly out of Nashville, arrive June 29 (Fly into Milan or Rome?)
June 29-July 3 FLORENCE
July 3-4 Como (Bellagio)
July 4-7 Lucerne Switzerland
July 7-8 one night in the city where we will fly out (Milan? Zurich?)
July 8 fly to Nashville, arrive July 8

Posted by
7364 posts

jamieb214,

You dont mention transportation so I'm assuming your looking at travel by rail.

Based on your proposed itinerary, Zurich is where I'd fly out of. You can actually take a train from Luzern to the Zurich airport rail station in about 1.25 hours so you wouldn't even need to go to Zurich, and therefore spend those days elsewhere, as you dont have a lot of time..

Note: Como is the name of a town, and also the name of a whole lake. So if you mean Como the city, it makes a difference in planning transportation. Some of the mid-lake towns like Varenna, Bellagio, Mennagio, etc, are more popular destinations than Como.

The best advice is to get a good guidebooks that address some of the logistic questions you might not have thought of yet.

Posted by
1292 posts

Since you have a family group; you should look at Agriturismo Farm Stays in Italy. Friends of mine stayed at one that was like a nice resort with separate cottages. It was located right in the middle of Tuscany; within day trips to Florence, Lucca, etc. You can get a weekly rate. Florence can be a very crowded experience in the Summer. My friends had to get up early to get photographs without people in the way. I feel that you might find that you are spreading yourselves too thin, when there are many places to enjoy in Northern Italy. Save Switzerland for another time.

Posted by
1316 posts

I would fly into which ever city you can get to with fewer connections and a morning arrival time. This is assuming you will get straight on a train to Florence, which will take 2+ hours from Rome or 3+ hours from Milan.

Flying home, I would fly from Zurich, preferably on an early afternoon flight. That way you can stay in Lucerne your last night and take the train (1 hour) in the morning directly to the airport.

Posted by
142 posts

Consider to fly BNA to Pisa with just one stop (LHR) and back from Zurich to BNA with just one stop (PHL). I see that on Kayak through either American or British Airways (the outbound flights are BA and in the inbound flights AA). Pisa is closer to Florence than either Rome or Milan is.

One tip I have heard in booking as many people as you have for flights is price both one or two tickets at a time and also all five tickets before you decide. If you book all five together it may bump to another fare class for all. If you book separately you can still link the reservations by phoning the airline after you book them on line. That way if there are changes to schedule or delays or cancellations at least you will all stay together.

Posted by
13633 posts

If you are going to a Florence first thing you might as well fly to Florence. However since you depart from Nashville you can fly directly to Europe with British Airlines via London Heathrow (LHR). BA flies to Florence from London City only, however BA flies from LHR to both Bologna BLQ (3 daily flights each way) and to Pisa PSA (one flight daily each way). Both Bologna and Pisa are close to Florence (less than one hour by train).

If you decide on staying at an agriturismo, while in Tuscany, as suggested above, you will need a rental car during your stay at the agriturismo, which are farms reconverted into country villas located in rural areas not well served by public transportation.

Como is not particularly beautiful in my opinion. There are better options on the lake. If you must stay near Como because of logistics to go to Switzerland by train later, consider Cernobbio, which is just outside Como but much prettier. I would stay at least 2 nights on the lake (it appears you have it down for one night only).

Posted by
7440 posts

I too am a Nashvillian, and often fly from there to Europe. With a primary destination of Tuscany, you might want to stay in an agriturisimo outside of Florence. With a couple of rental cars, your group could make some great day trips throughout the area. I prefer outside of San Gimignano and/or Certaldo as a central location to visit many of the other hilltowns like Siena and Volterra. Virtually every farm in the region has apartments and/or rooms for rent as a source of secondary income.

Most travelers to Northern Italy want to visit Venice and perhaps the Dolomite Mountains for sheer beauty. Going thru Milan to Lake Come and on into Switzerland complicates travel. We've found it easier to exit the region from the airport in Venice--connecting through Heathrow Airport. (We were in Bologna and Venice 6/2022.)

Your best bet would be on American Airlines making a connecting flight going over at JFK. If you flew the BNA-LHR non-stop flight on the way to Milan Malpensa Airport, you'd be facing a 7+ hour layover in Heathrow. American's partner British Airways has few flights flying into Milan. Then you'll have to take at rain into Milan's Central Train Station and catch a train into Florence. Last time we flew into Tuscany, we flew from London into Pisa and took a short train ride (1 hr.) into Florence.

Flights from Zurich will enter the U.S. in Philadelphia, and you wouldn't have any problem getting back into BNA from there.

Posted by
2286 posts

Flying from BNA to Milan is cheaper but flying into Rome is closer. Taking the train from either airport requires a transfer to get to Florence’s SM Novella Station. From Rome’s Fiumicino Airport it takes 2h 45m and from Milan’s Malpensa Airport 3h 30m.

should we fly round trip Nashville-Milan?

No, check one-way and multi-city flights (flying into one airport and out of a different airport i.e., flying into Milan and out of Zurich).

When is the best time to book flights?

For low-cost carriers as early as possible. For flagship carriers i.e., Delta, ITA Airways (Italy) and Swiss Air there is no way of knowing. You are going to Europe during peak season so I’m assuming these flights will be full.

you should look at Agriturismo Farm Stays in Italy.

You need a car to do this.

July 3-4 Como

Take a direct train from Florence’s SM Novella station back to Milan’s Centrale station (2h) and sleep in Milan near the station where most of the sights are. Instead of sleeping on Lake Como take a day trip instead. Take a direct train from Milano Centrale to Varenna-Esino (1h 15m) and walk around Varenna then jump on a 15m ferry ride to Bellagio. This itinerary makes the logistics easier which is what you want when traveling with others.
There is one direct train from Milano Centrale to Luzern (4h 30m) departing at 10:05a. Instead of sleeping at an airport hotel or in Zurich take a direct train from Lucerne to Zürich’s Flughafen train station that’s a 2m walk to the Zürich Airport. First train departs at 4:52a. There is an earlier one but it requires a connection.

Posted by
13875 posts

As you can see, there are lots of ways to do this trip, and many opinions on the matter.

I will just note that it is easier and faster to reach Luzern from Lake Como (specifically Bellagio) than it is to get into the Dolomites villages from the same location.

Either way you will go by ferry from Bellagio to Varenna, where you catch the train. Varenna-Esino to Luzern is 4:06 by train on the fastest route. Varenna to Bolzano, gateway to the Dolomites, is 4:55 by the fastest train route. But Bolzano is not in the Dolomites; you have to catch a bus from there into Val Gardena and it’s villages. Ortesei is the nearest, and that bus ride adds N hour or two to your travel, depending on how long you have to wait for the bus.

FWIW, I like Roberto’s suggestion to reach Florence as your first stop by flying into either Bologna or Pisa. Both towns are closer to Florence than Milan is, and their airports are much closer to the main train station than Milan Malpensa, the usual airport for flights coming from the US.

Posted by
2286 posts

it is easier and faster to reach Luzern from Lake Como (specifically Bellagio)

There is no train station in Bellagio. The nearest one is in Varenna and requires a connection taking 5h 15m.

Posted by
13875 posts

I believe I made that clear in my post—-that either way they would have to start with the ferry from Bellagio to Varenna. Since that part of the journey is the same for both destinations (Luzern or Dolomites) it was simpler for comparison purposes to just post the travel time from Varenna.

They will still need to find a ferry schedule for Lake Como for the time of their trip, which they only said is “ high season”. If that means next summer, the schedule may not be out yet.

Posted by
4 posts

Book as early in advance as you can. Same with hotels. Train tickets you don't need to worry about all that much but look at getting an Trenitalia pass early on too. Train travel is way more civilized - and a million times safer than driving in Italy. Rome is seriously dangerous with how they drive.

Huh, if it were me I'd skip Como and Lucerne. They're pretty but there isn't a whole lot to do in those places besides gawk at how pretty they are, eat and shop. There isn't a whole lot in the way of culture or learning. My suggestion would be to retool your trip. Fly to Rome, spend at least 2 full days there - go the Vatican museums - see the Sistine Chapel! - and St, Peters Basilica on day one - lineups can be long for St. Peter's but it's worth it. It's one of the most amazing man made structures on the planet. You will not regret it. I tell everyone going to Rome, if nothing else, go to St. Peters! See the Pantheon and the Colosseum, or skip the latter and go to the The Galleria Borghese instead - incredible art museum!

Four days in Florence is acceptable. You'll only scratch the surface but you can see a lot in that time. The Uffizi should be first on the list. Go to the Bargello National Museum there. It's a real gem that's overlooked by most tourists so it's never crowded. The Basilica of San Marco is seriously impressive if you want to see just what kind money and power the Medici really had. The Pitti Palace has some great, more modern art as well as the Boboli gardens which would be in full bloom while you're there.

Then spend 2 days in Milan. Maybe even fly out of Turin. The more major places - not Como/Lucerne - will provide much more options for keeping your kids entertained, as well giving them some important culture early on.