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Flying into Zurich en route to Florence?

We are heading to Florence, Italy for family wedding mid-July.
The best flights I found are in/out of Zurich, so I am looking for some ideas of things to do in/around Zurich and the mountains for a few days? We hope to not have a car. Also, any recommendations re: itinerary that might include Lake Como, Cinque Terre, before heading to Florence, and then travel back to Zurich? We have 10 days to travel and relax before needing to be in Florence. Thank you!

Posted by
10575 posts

You have two posts going on this topic: I will reply on this one and refer to it on the other one.

We like to fly into Zurich to get to Italy. It is a good way to incorporate the scenic Bernina Pass route into a trip. The Bernina Pass is the most scenic of all the so-called scenic trains in Switzerland, and the only route that goes over the Alps instead of under them in a tunnel (although the tunnel on the old Gotthard Pass route is quite short).
You can take the named Bernina Express train with panoramic cars or a regular regional train on the same tracks, which is less expensive.

From the Zurich airport, travel to the m;win station and transfer there to a train going to Chur. Depending on the time of arrival of your flight, you could overnight there, but it is better to continue to the Engadine area, stopping in either Samedan or Pontresina. The latter is 3 hours 18 minutes from Zurich.

Another option would be to go straight to Luzern from the airport for your first night or two. You would then return to Zurich to travel to Pontresina, adding an hour to that journey but it won’t be after a long flight!

Spend 1-2 nights in your Engadine village, then travel over the Bernina Pass to the Swiss/Italy border at Tirano. There you will change to an Italian regional train to go to Varenna on Lake Como. Spend 2 nights there. Then travel one hour to Milan and change to an Intercity train heading to the Cinque Terre area. There are two routes you can take; one via Florence and one along the coast via Genoa; we like the latter. There is a noon-ish Intercity train leaving Milano Centrale that goes all the way to Monterosso al Mare with no change at Genoa.

For the return to Zurich after your Florence stay, the fastest route it Florence to Milan to Zurich. There is a direct train (under the alps) from Milan to Zurich that takes less than 4 hours. Buy tickets around 3 months advance on Trenitalia to get a “mini” fare as low as 19,90 euros on this train.

I like to use Bahn.de, the German train website, for route planning as it is the most user-friendly. But you will have to buy your tickets on the Swiss and Italian sites, SBB.ch and Trenitalia.

Posted by
8412 posts

Great advice from Lola. I concur about Pontresina, although I think she meant to say Graubünden Region. 😉 We spent a week in Pontresina last fall and loved it. Absolutely no car required as the buses and the little red trains of the Rhaetian Railway will take you everywhere you want to go. Stay there as many nights as you can (at least three!).

Editing to clarify: It is the Engadine valley in the Graubünden Canton.

Posted by
362 posts

Personally, I'd go straight from the Zurich airport to either Luzern or the Berner Oberland via Luzern. I used to work in Zurich and there are MUCH nicer parts of Switzerland than Zurich IMHO. Spend a few days up in the alps and then go onwards into Italy via Speiz/Brig/Lago di Como/Milan. Once you're in Milan, getting to Florence is a snap by train. If you spend 5 days up in the alps and then another 5 in northern Italy (maybe stay in Stresa) you're getting a really nice vacation before you're in Florence.

Posted by
35 posts

We are doing the same trip in April - will Swiss weather allow us to follow/enjoy the above itineraries?

Posted by
7707 posts

We are doing the same trip in April - will Swiss weather allow us to follow/enjoy the above itineraries?

geoffleary, yes, all Swiss rail routes have at least one train per hour in each direction, 365 days a year. They do not shut down for winter.
The same cannot be said about roads.
Doing The Bernina route in April, you will see a serious amount of snow.

Posted by
23 posts

Thanks for all the good information. Now that our plans are set, I would so appreciate the best train routes and information to both see the best sights and get where we need to go!
We land in Zurich and then will spend a few days in Lauterbrunnen, and then Varenna (Lake Como), Cinque Terre, and then Florence. Thank you!