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Italian lakes and Switzerland

My fiance and I are planning a 10-day honeymoon to the Italian lakes and Switzerland in late April/early May. We have so many places we'd like to visit and not quite enough time. Would love some advice on the following itinerary. Would you try and squeeze Luzerne somewhere in there or skip it altogether? And is there anywhere you would go instead?

Day 1 (SUNDAY): Travel to MILAN
Day 2 (MONDAY): MILAN
Day 3 (TUESDAY): LAKE MAGGIORE (STRESA)
Day 4 (WEDNESDAY): LAKE MAGGIORE (STRESA)
Day 5 (THURSDAY): LAKE COMO (BELLAGIO?)
Day 6 (FRIDAY): LAKE COMO (BELLAGIO?)
Day 7 (SATURDAY): LAUTERBRUNNEN
Day 8 (SUNDAY): LAUTERBRUNNEN
Day 9 (MONDAY): LAUTERBRUNNEN
Day 10 (TUESDAY): ZURICH
Day 11 (WEDNESDAY): TRAVEL BACK TO US

Posted by
12809 posts

Stresa (lake Maggiore) is just 35 minutes away from Milan Malpensa airport, therefore it make sense to go there straight upon arrival. Going to Milan to spend the night then backtracking to Stresa is a waste of time. Besides there is no better place than lake Maggiore to recover after a long flight. If you want to visit Milan (why?) you can do so on the way from Stresa to Lake Como, since you probably need to pass through Milan anyhow (certainly if you don't have a car.). To go to Stresa from the airport you can take a taxi to nearby Gallarate (5min from the airport) and catch a train to Stresa there. There are also shuttle buses from the airport to Stresa and of course, private transfers (limo service) are also available for more money. If you rent a car at the airport it's a 35 to 40 min drive.
For lake Como the Midlake is the best part (Bellagio, Varenna, Menaggio are the main towns in that area). You have not specified whether you will rent a car, I presume not. Varenna is the most easily reached by train (from Milan), both Bellagio and Menaggio can be reached by boat from Varenna. Bellagio and Menaggio are also easy to reach by bus or boat from Como (to go to Como you would take a train from Milan). Menaggio has the advantage of being connected by bus to Lugano, in Switzerland (if that is where you intend to go). If you have a rental car you have more freedom, however it's not needed for where you want to go and also renting a car in Italy and returning it in Switzerland will costs you many hundreds euro in international drop off fees. In that case you may want to drop the car off in Como, then proceed by train to Switzerland. Switzerland can also be very easily visited by train, so a car is not indispensable.
Another thought. Stresa (and therefore Milan Malpensa airport) are along the train line from Interlaken to Milan (via Spiez, Brig, Domodossola). Therefore you could also take the train back from Lauterbrunnen to Stresa (via Interlaken, Spiez and Brig) spend the last night again in Stresa, then in the morning go to the Malpensa airport and catch the plane home. Actually you could even leave Stresa for last in this case. That is go to lake Como first upon arrival, then Lauterbrunnen and lastly Stresa for a few days before flying home from Milan. So no need to go all the way to Zurich, you can go back to the airport where you arrived from. And Milan often has the cheapest flights.
Lots of ideas to think about uh?

Posted by
31440 posts

ashley,

First of all, congratulations!

As usual, Roberto has provided lots of great suggestions to consider. I have a few also. Would something like this work....

  • D1 - Flight to Milan
  • D2 / N1 - Arrive MXP - travel directly to Lake Como. While it will be a bit of an ordeal after a long international flight, it's easily possible. The Malpensa Express to Milano Centrale is about 55 minutes, and the Regionale to Varenna is 1H:03M. You might consider staying in Varenna rather than Bellagio, as that will facilitate your ongoing journey and save 30-45 minutes or so. You can easily travel to Bellagio while you're there (about 20 minutes by Ferry from Varenna, as I recall).
  • D3 / N2 - Lake Como
  • D4 / N3 - Lake Como (it would be a good idea to add one night, as it will take some time to get over jet lag and Varenna is a great place to do that).
  • D5 / N1 - Train to Lake Maggiore / Stresa (there are a variety of trains on that route, but the quickest and easiest appears to be a departure from Varenna-Esino at 10:37, arriving Stresa at 13:20 (time 2H:43M, one change at Milano Centrale).
  • D6 / N2 - Stresa
  • D7 / N1 - Train to Lauterbrunnen (the rail trip will take about 3 hours, with two or three changes - you can see the train details on the bahn.de website ).
  • D8 / N2 - Lauterbrunnen
  • D9 / N3 - Lauterbrunnen
  • D10 / N1 - Train to Zürich (that trip will be ~2H:25M with two changes - the Zürich Airport is only about 10 minutes by train from the main station, so very convenient - if you want a hotel close to the station, have a look at Hotel Walhalla as it's right next to the station, as well as close to Tram Stops, tour bus stops, etc.
  • D11 - Return flight to U.S.

I agree with Roberto that you might skip Milan this time, as your introduction to Italy would be better at one of the lakes.

With such a short time frame, I'm not sure there will be enough time to squeeze Lucerne into the Itinerary. If you wanted to drop one of the lakes (Como), then Lucerne would be a good substitute for two nights. However, one important point to consider is that Switzerland is expensive, so it will probably be slightly cheaper to spend the bulk of your time in Italy.

Posted by
3 posts

Thanks everyone for your amazing feedback. One more question, is it worth going to both Como and Maggiore or would you skip one of those to go to Luzern instead?

Posted by
31440 posts

ashley,

If your budget will stand an extra few days in Switzerland, Lucerne would be a good fit into your Itinerary. Although Lago di Como is a great place to visit, it's somewhat of an "outlier" in this case, so would be the most logical place to skip this time. Therefore your route would be MXP > Stresa > Lucerne > Lauterbrunnen > Zürich. The trip from Stresa to Lucerne will be about 3H:45M with one or two changes, depending on which train you choose.

Regarding which place to stay in the Berner Oberland. If you're planning to visit sights on both sides of the valley, from a pragmatic and logical point-of-view, Lauterbrunnen is the rail hub so makes the best home base for that area (IMO).

Posted by
12809 posts

I agree with Ken. Lake Como is a detour for your intended itinerary. Just stay an extra night elsewhere (Lake Maggiore needs at lest 3 nights, but 4 is better).
I would do Lucerne last just before going to Zurich. Lucerne is closer to Zurich than Lauterbrunnen.

Posted by
3 posts

Thanks to everyone for your feedback so far! Our itinerary has changed a bit due to flights being cheaper in to Zurich than Milan. We are now flying into Zurich on April 28 and leaving on May 9. I would love some feedback on the following itinerary. Would you do anything differently? Are there any affordable hotels that you would recommend?

DAY 1 - MONDAY, APRIL 27 - LEAVE US
DAY 2 - TUESDAY, APRIL 28 - ARRIVE IN ZURICH + TRAIN TO LUZERN
DAY 3 - WEDNESDAY, APRIL 29 - LUZERN

DAY 4 - THURSDAY, APRIL 30 - TRAVEL TO WENGEN
DAY 5 - FRIDAY, MAY 1 - WENGEN
DAY 6 - SATURDAY, MAY 2 - WENGEN

DAY 7 - SUNDAY, MAY 3 - TRAVEL TO ZERMATT
DAY 8 - MONDAY, MAY 4 - ZERMATT

DAY 9 - TUESDAY, MAY 5 - TRAVEL TO STRESA
DAY 10 - WEDNESDAY, MAY 6 - STRESA
DAY 11 - THURSDAY, MAY 7 -STRESA

DAY 12 - FRIDAY, MAY 8 - TRAVEL BACK TO TO ZURICH
DAY 13 - SATURDAY, MAY 9 - TRAVEL BACK TO US

Posted by
27511 posts

Ashley

As you will be in the Lauterbrunnen Valley between the seasons - too late for skiing and too early for spring pursuits - it is worth checking that all the lifts, cable cars and facilities will be working. At that time of year many transportation systems do their annual maintenance and some facilities may be closed.

Also, while the cows are in the barns all winter the farmers collect their by-products and as soon as the snow is all gone they power spray what they have collected on the fields as fertilizer. Use your nose when you go hiking.

It pays to be informed.

I hope you have a great honeymoon, a fabulous marriage. Congratulations.

Posted by
2438 posts

Just last night I was watching an episode of Rudy Maxa's Smart Travels courtesy of Amazon, it was on Milan and the Lake District. Check it out soonest; I'm sure Rick has a comparable show.