I will be taking the 9 day Heart of Italy with my Husband at the start of October. It ends in Florence. My husband loves mountains so I was thinking of taking train to Varenna and lake Como. This will be second week of October. I suspect we will need our jackets! Is there enough to do there for 4-5 days or should we try to go to Switzerland? What would be the best City to fly back from northern Italy/switzerland to DFW airport?
I am taking the Heart of Italy tour in October - But the third week - just missing you. I was also looking to go somewhere else at the end of the tour. I have been to Varenna and Lake Como in the summer - which is a great area to relax after a strenuous tour. Pretty sure there is no direct train route and you would have to change in Milan. But its an easy ride to Varenna from there. After your stay, perhaps you could go to Tirano where you could catch the Bernina Express up to Chur and then fly back home from Zurich. I have done the route in the summer and thinking October would be just as enjoyable in a different season.
How about 2 nights in Varenna, then train over the Bernina Pass route to Pontresina in Switzerland for 2 -3 more? Then fly home from Zurich.
A cursory glance on flights shows cheaper flights between Zurich and Dallas than Milan and Dallas (prices I saw were based on roundtrip in January, which of course could be very different for October).
The Engadine area of Switzerland (which includes Pontresina) has the reputation of better autumn weather than other alpine regions. It must be true, because the one time we took that route in October, we hiked on a beautiful sunny day from Samedan (village next to Pontresina) to St. Moritz. The following day we rode the Bernina Pass train to Tirano and on to Varenna—-where it was cold and rainy. 😔
Alternate suggestion: train to Lugano (via Milan or to the town of Como on the same train line as Lugano, but 30 minutes closer to Milan. Spend a night or 2 by the lake, then take the Gotthard Panorama Express train and boat combination to Luzern. This special train uses a route that avoids the deep tunnels under the Alps that most trains between Italy and Switzerland use (the other exception being the Bernina Pass route above). it runs until 24 October but not every day, so you would have to plan around that.
Luzern is not actually “in” the mountains, but close to the, and there are a couple of nice mountains you can easily reach for hiking with glorious views over the lake.
A nice aspect of Luzern is that it is just over an hour from the Zurich airport by train, and there are 1 or 2 direct trains every hour that go right into the terminal itself. So you can spend your last night of the trip in Luzern; no need to change to a Zurich hotel that last night, unless your flight is an early one.
American Airlines use to fly nonstop from DFW to Zurich’s Flughafen airport so check Skyscanner with the date you’re flying home. I’ve flown into Zurich twice and hopped on a train to Zurich’s central station then took a direct train to Milan (4h 15m).
There are direct trains from Firenze Santa Maria Novella station to Verona (1h 45m). To get to Varenna on Lake Como you’ll need to change trains in Milan taking 3h 30m.