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want to go to go switzerland from Varenna

Hello all.
In Sept. we will be in Varenna and would like to cross over into Switzerland but we don't have too much time--maybe 2 nights.
Is St. Moritz worthwhile?? is train easy from Varenna to get there?
Any/ all suggestions greatly appreciated!!!

Posted by
1653 posts

St Moritz in itself is not worthwhile at all (very disappointing town, only designer boutiques) but the region is beautiful and the train ride through the Bernina Pass is breathtaking. 2 nights in either Pontresina or Samedan are highly recommended, you can hike a little, enjoy the views from Muottas Muragl, Piz Nair or Diavolezza, eat some excellent food (dinner at Muottas Muragl is excellent!)...

Train is super easy, just one change in Tirano, no reservations needed unless you want to travel in a panoramic car for the Tirano-Samedan/Pontresina leg on the "Bernina Express" (but regular trains also ply the route with no need for reservations).

Posted by
25 posts

ok thanks but I have zero knowledge of any of these towns?? are they close to an aiport? we need to end up in Rome so what is better? flying back from Switzerland or getting back to Milan and then taking train???

Posted by
8889 posts

This is a good plan because the train route from Varena to St Moritz is the Bernina Pass route, the only rail route OVER the Alps, and is UNESCO World Heritage because it is sooo scenic.

Train 1 - Varenna to Tirano
Train 2 - Tirano to St Moritz (Bernina Pass route)

For full info about this route, how to do it, photos and videos see here: https://www.seat61.com/BerninaExpress.htm
He describes the full route:Milan - Varenna - Tirano - St Moritz - Chur, you are just proposing the middle section.
You can look up times on the SBB (Swiss Railways) website: https://www.sbb.ch/en
Varenna-Esino to St. Moritz will take about 3½ hours.

Posted by
8889 posts

but I have zero knowledge of any of these towns?? are they close to an aiport? we need to end up in Rome so what is better?

From your original post I guessed you wanted 2 nights and then return to Varenna. I am now confused. Perhaps if you could tell us your overall plan it would help.
What happens before Varenna? Fly into xxxx? train to Varenna?
And do you want to return to Varenna, or where do you want to go next?
"are they close to an airport?" - No, but that is the wrong question, getting to somewhere does not mean finding an airport.
One possible solution is to continue St Moritz - Chur (2nd part of Bernina route, and a better place to overnight); train to Zürich airport and fly to Rome.
Or, backtrack to Varenna and Milan, train to Rome.

If there is nothing before Varenna, a totally cleaner plan is to do it the opposite way around fly into Zürich, Chur overnight, Bernina Route to Varenna (x nights), train via Milan to Rome. Then you aren't doubling back on yourself.

We (and you) need the big picture to plan this properly.

Posted by
25 posts

thanks for the helpful information CHris..here is our plan thus far. We are flying in and out of Rome ( tickets already purchased) and will spend 3 nights there on tail end of trip
We have a week more to play with not counting ROme so are going to Varenna from Rome ( I guess via train) and spending a few nights there, so basically we then want to cross into Switzerland and spend 2 nights before heading back to ROme again.. eihter flying, trains--- I dont know. As you can see I need help.
I have never been to Northern Italy or Switzerland so we are beginners for sure!!
Thanks so much

Posted by
25 posts

Balso, if we did stay in Pontresina or Samedan rather that St.MOritz what is the best option for getting around the town?? Rental car??

Posted by
8889 posts

We are flying in and out of Rome ( tickets already purchased) and will spend 3 nights there on tail end of trip
We have a week more to play with not counting ROme so are going to Varenna from Rome ( I guess via train) and spending a few nights there, so basically we then want to cross into Switzerland and spend 2 nights before heading back to ROme again
if we did stay in Pontresina or Samedan rather that St.MOritz what is the best option for getting around the town?? Rental car??

Suzy, if you don't mind me saying so, you have a North American's fixation with flying and cars. You are "beginners for sure!!".
With hindsight, it would have been better to fly into Zürich and out of Rome, use train to link all the places in between together.

You can still do this, as soon as you get to Rome, either the same day or the next, fly north to Zürich. You have unfortunately wasted time by going via Rome. As soon as you land, get a train from the airport to Chur. If you land in the afternoon, overnight in Chur. Next morning on to Pontresina or Samedan (first part of Bernina Route, including the famous Landwasser viaduct, click here for photo)
If you land early enough, go direct via Chur to Pontresina or Samedan.
1 or 2 nights in Pontresina or Samedan.

In towns either walk or use local transport (buses), you do not rent a car just to get around inside a town (North American thinking). Possibly a taxi from the station with your luggage. Small tourist towns are not designed for cars, they are optimised for people without cars.

Next day, 2nd part of Bernina route, via Tirano, to Varenna

Finally train Varenna --> Milan --> Rome. If you have spares days, add an overnight in Florence, on the route.

Posted by
25 posts

Yes, Chris I realize now that we should have flown into Zurich and out of ROme but that is over and done with.. I didnt realize I wanted to go into Switzerland until after we booked... we had only planned to go up to Lake Como for a few days.. I suppose its just too complicated. Perhaps we should stay in Italy for the the entire trip.
In my "North American" thinking about a rental car it is because our "towns" here are often miles and miles apart from one another...a bit tricky to do by foot or bus, especially with luggage.
But I appreciate your feedback!

Posted by
8889 posts

Not complicated. I was trying not to be negative.
Fly to Zürich - train Pontresina/Samedan - train Varenna - train Florence - train Rome
adds up to a very doable and good selection of mountains, lakes and historical cities. Hopefully you have enough days to do this.

I think the difference is the towns are more compact (same population, just not "puffed up"), and connected by trains You can walk from the station to the centre of town, or get a taxi or local bus, then walk around the centre.

Whatever plan you come up with, I hope you enjoy yourselves.

Posted by
1653 posts

Pontresina and Samedan aren't towns, they're villages, connected by a dense network of trains and buses that run at least hourly and often half-hourly. A car is a hassle in that region, plus... there's nowhere to rent one, except maybe in St Moritz.

Posted by
7153 posts

North American fixation on rental cars and flying is nothing to be ashamed of- it’s just the way we’ve been taught. Only when you visit places in the REST of the developed world do we finally understand how utterly lacking American transportation actually is!

Posted by
25 posts

ok thanks again for the clarifications and helpful hints...most appreciated!
That train through the mountains sounds glorious and I just googled those villages and they look very charming and beautiful.I think we will do just that from Varenna and then make our way to Zurich to catch a flight back to Rome--

Posted by
25 posts

Or maybe instead it’s easier and less time consuming to backtrack ( instead of going further north to Zürich) maybe just go back the way we came through Varenna and get the fast train out of Milan to Rome?? What do y’all think??

Posted by
15566 posts

Certainly doable, but it is an 8 hour train journey. And that is an 8 minute transfer in Tirano where you will have to run across the piazza from the Rhb station to the Nord station. Maybe build in a 3/4 to 1 hour change there so it won't be so stressful. Then it will be a 9 hour journey.

Posted by
25 posts

Hmmmm, ugh, yes!! So much to consider! Too bad the days of travel agents are long gone... 😂 hahaha

Posted by
15566 posts

You want to pay somebody money to tell you what do? I can always use some extra income.

Posted by
25 posts

😂😂😂🤣🤣🤣... the planning part is supposed to be fun, however can also very daunting when you are going to a completely unfamiliar area!! Just sayin’...

Posted by
15 posts

There is a hike out of Pontresina Called Panoramic hike or Panoramawig. It's an easy hike with very little elevation gain. Great mountain views. You take a funicular up and a chairlift down. It's in Rick Steve's book.

Posted by
174 posts

Another option would be Lugano, Swtzerland. It is approximately 2 hours from Varenna by train or bus/ferry. I think the train may give you more options (nowhere near as scenic as Bernina Express I'm sure). I've been to Varenna but not Lugano. Varenna is super cute, and I hear Lugano is also very nice. Then, when it's time to go back to Rome, just shoot down to Milan and beyond. https://www.rome2rio.com/map/Varenna/Lugano rome2rio is a great site for trips like this. Doing your own planning can be a little overwhelming, but it gives you so much more freedom!!! Good luck!!

Posted by
669 posts

IMHO, if you want to experience Switzerland, I'd go to a Swiss city other than Lugano. Lugano is very Italian, and I thought, had the same vibe as Italy. It is a very beautiful location, but when there I saw lots of graffiti and litter, unlike other Swiss cities I had visited.
Just my humble experience and opinion.
Safe travels!