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How to combine Switzerland with Italy July 2021

Hi there!

We are a couple in our early thirties and not sure how to combine the two countries! We are coming from Dubai. Any advice will be appreciated. The trip will be a 11 nights hotel stay including travel days. We don’t which country to start with first! Maybe Italy first ? Do you know how to connect the two countries by train with the shortest train journey and most efficient way ? This is the thing I need help with most !

Just some points:
- we do not want to stay/waste time in Milan as we’ve already seen it
- We want to go to Florence and Venice
- We don’t like changing hotels too much
- We want the trip to be more focused on Switzerland and Italy is the add on
- We want to stay in the Bernese Oberland for 4 nights
- we can exit from Zurich or Geneva

Thank you!!

Posted by
902 posts

Eleven nights go by really fast. You could:

Fly into Florence, stay 3 nights
Train to Venice for 3 nights
Train to Lauterbrunnen area (8+ hrs) for 4 nights
Train to Zurich or Geneva for 1 night
Fly home

Getting from Italy to Berner Oberland is going to take a full day (and require at least 3 train changes), but the train ride might be pretty.

Posted by
7261 posts

You don't have enough time. But you can do it this way:

Fly into Venice
Stay in Venice 2 nights.
Train to Florence
Stay in Florence 3 nights
Fly Florence to Geneva
Take the train from Geneva Airport to Montreux.
At Montreux transfer to the scenic Golden Pass Route http://www.goldenpassline.ch/en/
Take the Golden Pass Route to Interlaken.
At Interlaken change for the train to Lauterbrunnen
Stay in Lauterbrunnen 4 nights
Train to Geneva or Zurich Airport
Fly out of Zurich or Geneva Airport.

Posted by
3348 posts

Getting from Italy to Berner Oberland is going to take a full day (and
require at least 3 train changes), but the train ride might be pretty.

Normally, Florence to Spiez (in the Berner Oberland) should be doable in around 4:30 by train with one change in Milan, if the schedules match up. And even in the current pandemic time, I see a 5:28 connection with two changes (Milan and Brig).

Posted by
4160 posts

Are you interested in Switzerland specifically, or in the Alps in general?
If you are interested in the Alps, close to Venice you have the Dolomites: it is very different from Switzerland (in particular, there are no glaciers in the main part of the area) but the scenery is absolutely stunning!
I do not want to confuse you, and your Swiss plans are feasible, but maybe have a quick look?

Posted by
9 posts

Hi there! Thanks for the suggestions. It’s all sounding so hectic but I’m sure there is a way. I just want to make sure I don’t back track and add on extra train time unnecessarily.

Definitely interested in Switzerland, so wouldn’t go to the Dolomites. ( maybe another time)

Some questions based on the replies :
- are the train rides from Milan to Interlaken ost nice ? It’s a long time so hope so..
- is it easy to stop off to Lake Como on the way and store my luggage (and what train station should I use)
- Is Lake como even worth trying to go to on the way if or is it really inconvenient
- Should I start from Switzerland instead of Italy? ( I want to add either Lucerne or Montreux for a night since I need to depart/arrive either from Zurich or Geneva anyways) and it will be nice to not Onlyy have stayed in the alps.

Thank you!!!

Posted by
280 posts

My thoughts:
Start with which destination is most important to you and start planning from there. You may find that some places, in terms of logistics, just won’t work. Download some of the train apps - they might not be totally accurate for your timeframe, but will give you a good, general idea.
Trenitalia for Italy. You will need to enter destinations in Italian. Frecciarossa is a nice, higher speed train. IC is generally nice. The sites will tell you the kind of train. Frecciarossa is a separate company from Trenitalia.
The next 2 have English
SBB.ch for Switzerland
Db.de for general lookup.
Como is lovely and about an hour from Milan airport but is Como an aside or what you really want to see. If you’re looking for a lakeside resort Stresa on Lake Maggiore is an hour by train from Milano Centrale.
Start with these suggestions and come back with your questions. Everyone on this forum is happy to help.

Posted by
28107 posts

To elaborate on Sandra's quite comprehensive post just above, a couple of things.

Frecciarossa is the highest level (fastest and best laid out trains) of the Freccia brand of Trenitalia trains. The Freccia trains (FR on most timetables) are high speed trains which in certain parts of Italy run on separate high speed tracks than the lower grades of Trenitalia trains like IC, RE, R, and D. They run between major cities with very few, and sometime no intermediate stops. Freccia is Italian for arrow, and rossa is red, so Red Arrow. The trains are predominantly red coloured. Frecciargento (FA on many timetables) is the next step down, Silver Arrow, using slightly older yet still high speed trains, and they often run on routes with less high speed track, and the lowest Freccia is Frecciabianca (White Arrow, FB on many timetables). They are all good.

Although run somewhat separately from other Trenitalia divisions they are still definitely part of Trenitalia.

There is another completely independent rail company called ItaloTreno which is private (Trenitalia is state owned and run). ItaloTreno trains and marketing is predominately maroon and red and black. They run between major stations only on a much smaller number of routes than the Freccias, just as fast, and I personally prefer them. Their website also does English.

ItaloTreno do not go out of Italy and either none or very few Freccias do either (I haven't checked since the Before-Times) but many IC, N, and D Trenitalia go into surrounding countries, including Switzerland, as Swiss and Austrian trains go into Italy.

Posted by
786 posts

Our favourite link between Italy and Switzerland is the Bernina Express. From the Berner Oberland (we stayed in Murren), its a beautiful drive via Lucerne to Chur, where we overnighted. The train leaves about 8:30 am heading south. In Tiranno, you cross from the Swiss train station to the Italian one and take a regional Trenord train south past Lake Como to Milan. You can get off in Varenna or Lecco if you want to stay on Lake Como.

Posted by
28107 posts

are the train rides from Milan to Interlaken ost nice ? It’s a long time so hope so..

EDIT: I've done this in the direction from Interlaken Ost to Milano Centrale but it works exactly the same in the opposite direction, although I much prefer the Bernina Express southbound (Landwasser Viaduct).

It depends.

So does the time it will take.

Do you want fastest or most scenic?

Most scenic is, by degrees, slowest.

Fastest is least scenic.

Depends which you you choose.

Most scenic of all - any train westbound from Interlaken Ost to Spiez, a crossroads station on the main north/south rail line which the Interlaken line branches off. Almost all trains heading west (and there are a lot) will call at Spiez, from the lowliest all-stops to InterCity Express (ICE) trains going to Germany and everything in-between. Change to a Lötschberg Express to Brig. A big lesson to learn about Swiss trains is that "Express" means slow and scenic. Yeah, I know. That train takes you way up into the mountains around Kandersteg (steep but no cog wheel, it is all adhesion) and along the cliff face where you can look down into the valleys and has one shortish tunnel and a few very short. If you take the main line trains via Visp you spend most of your time in a deep tunnel - no scenery. That why for most scenic you need the Lötschberg Express. Get off the train at Brig (it usually terminates there but not always) and go upstairs and outside to the street, walk a block or so and catch the Glacier Express in the middle of the street. The little red trains go the same places at the same speed with the same scenery as the named expensive tourist only trains. Many hours later and after having seen magnificent views and glaciers and lakes you will arrive in either Chur or St Moritz. Preferably after an overnight stop, but sometimes doable in a day - ask if this interests you - change to the Bernina Express (same advice about regular trains) for the jaw dropping, even more spectacular ride to Italy. Up and over the most incredible scenery. After an outside corkscrew loop where you can see the front of the train going under the back of the train, you are in Italy and the train ends at Tirano. Cross the plaza and get on a TreNord (a subsidiary of Trenitalia) train with a destination of Milano Centrale. That train follows Lake Como all the way down as far as Lecco, and then goes inland. If you want to stop on this route at Lake Como find a place to stay at Varenna which also has a ferry over to Bellagio (but that is a whole 'nuther adventure).

Too long? Less off the scale fabulous but still most excellent and somewhat faster by several hours - is to take the eastbound hourly narrow gauge ZentralBahn (part of the Golden Pass route) via Meiringen (Reichenbach Falls of Sherlock Holmes infamy is a short walk from the station and has a funicular going up the falls), the cogwheel ride over the Brünig Pass to Luzern (Lucerne). Change to a train to Chur and continue as above.

Still too long? When you get to Luzern change to the fast train to Milano Centrale (Milan Central) station. The train will go through a very long and deep tunnel under the Alps.

Fast and not particularly scenic - west from Interlaken Ost to Spiez, change to a direct train to Milano Centrale which will go in pretty much a straight line through very long and very deep tunnels to be the fastest route south. The only way you could have a longer tunnel is to go to Zurich and change to a train to Milano Centrale because this train uses the incredibly long Gotthard Basistunnel. But these are fast routes.

Where do you think you would like to put the balance on the time vs scenery seesaw?

Posted by
9 posts

Thanks for the information everyone! I decided to go to Switzerland first. It’s just two of us going in July. Since the roads in the summer in Switzerland are easy to drive on, do you think it would be much cheaper to drive and use parking lots for us rather than ticket fares for 2 people. My spouse is happy to drive. Please have a look at my itinerary and let me know about the car vs train and also if I should adjust my itinerary ( I can’t stay more than 11 nights)!

-Fly into Zurich, rent a car and drive to Lucerne: stay 2 nights
-drive from Lucerne and go to Jungfrau region for 3 nights ( park in lauterbrunnen or grindelwald) stay in either grindelwald or Wengen
- drive from there to Milan and stopping at interesting places along the way. Return car in Milan and take a train directly to Florence. Stay 3 nights
- Take a train from Florence to Venice and stay 3 nights
- Fly out from Venice

Posted by
3348 posts

Renting a car in Switzerland and returning it in Italy will be expensive. I don't know how expensive, but cross border rental fees of €1000 have been mentioned in the forum. And if you think that it would be cheaper to drive i suggest you do the maths again and make sure you don't forget any costs. Having a car parked in Luzern for two days can cost more than the train tickets from Zürich airport to Luzern just in parking fees, not to mention paying the car rental cost to have a car sitting in a parking lot gathering dust.

If there are some region you really want to see by car, rent a car for that part of the trip. But in general, public transport is great in Switzerland and trains and buses will take you almost anywhere, including places like Wengen where a car will not take you.

Posted by
9 posts

Is Lucerne a car free city ? I was thinking to park my car at the hotel we stay at so I thought it wouldn’t be too much.

Does anyone know the parking rates at grindelwald or Lauterbrunnen.

I know for sure if we came outside of summer we would take trains! Just wanted to take advantage of the weather

Posted by
1425 posts

Luzern is not car-free. It has an excellent public transportation system (trams mostly), so a car isn't essential.

Posted by
3348 posts

Is Lucerne a car free city ? I was thinking to park my car at the
hotel we stay at so I thought it wouldn’t be too much.

Luzern is as mentioned not a car free city, but like all European cities you don't want to drive in it. If you want to rent a car, by all means do it. But don't think that it will save you money. I don't know where you plan to stay, but if you want to stay in central Luzern expect to pay 25-30 CHF per day for parking. There are cheaper options available on the outskirts though, but then you have a bit of a walk or tram ride to the city centre.

I know for sure if we came outside of summer we would take trains!
Just wanted to take advantage of the weather

In what way is driving taking advantage of the weather?

Posted by
28107 posts

In Lauterbrunnen the parking garage is under and above the train station and across the road (tunnel) from the cable car to Grutschalp for Mürren. At least CHF 17 per day. All spelled out in English at https://www.jungfrau.ch/shop/en/parkticket

It will cost more than that in Luzern.

There is very little free parking in Switzerland.

Posted by
7205 posts

It all sounds so complicated…but it’s not. Download the SBB app on your phone and just type in your FROM and TO locations and the date you want. You’ll be presented with the train options including all the connections. Just follow which ever one suits you best.