I am considering traveling from possibly Zurich to Florence. Can anyone give advice on the options, advantages or drawback of driving vs rail? Is Zurich the best city to start?
We have done the reverse - Florence to Zurich with a train change in Milan. Beautiful ride between Milan and Zurich. The drawback to driving is that someone has to drive and cannot enjoy the scenery. A car is a pain in Florence and a potential traffic ticket magnet so I am not sure why you would want to drive.
Hi Marsha. I second Frank's comments. To me the train is a no-brainer, unless the goal is to stretch out your trip and get off the beaten path. Enjoy your trip!
The biggest drawback to driving would be cost. Assuming you are renting a car in Switzerland and dropping it off in Italy, the fee for this is very high (people on this Helpline have said it's hundreds of dollars). Even if you are returning the car to the same country where you rented it (usually no extra charge, even for different cities in the country), don't forget the costs of gas (~$9 per gallon), parking, tolls in Italy, vignette in Switzerland (but if you rent in Switzerland it should already be on the car), and tickets months later from any ZTL's or speed cameras you encounter. And if you don't know what ZTL's are, you'll find out the hard way in Florence. Be sure to look into this before you think of renting. Then there's the fact that you do not want or need a car in Zurich or Florence themselves. Unless you plan to stop off along the way, at places that are not on the train route, I'd take the train (probably breaking it up in Switzerland and Italy). "Is Zurich the best city to start?" Start what? Seriously, we need more information to answer this - not sure what you're asking.
Thanks for the information on train versus driving - I thought the train would be better. When I said "start" our trip in Zurich - I meant that we have in mind to see some part of Switzerland, travel then to the lake area of Italy and end up in Florence. Does anyone have advice on this/
The big question now is how much time do you have to get to Florence? By fast train, the direct run takes 6.0hrs. Apparently, you may have more time. By train, you have the option of traveling to Lucerne/Interlaken Ost via the Golden Pass scenic train and then by a short train ride into the Muerren, Gimmelwald and other wonderful sites in the Lauterbrunnen Valley. Then, it's still 6.0hrs to get to Milan/Florence by train. It would probably cost you about 150CHF in train fares to get through Switzerland not counting any hotels or food. The train fares from Domodossola to Florence will cost you about 70Euro
Again, thanks for the good info on trains. We are still early in our planning but think we might have 3-4 days in Switzerland, then possibly two nights in Italian lake area, then to Florence. We are meeting a small group in Florence and spending a week in a countryside villa.
It's almost always easiest to travel in a line. So, you would fly into Zurich, see Lucerne and/or the Berner Oberland, then go to Italy and fly out from there. Trains on this route are easy. If you are more drawn to the Lake Geneva area (Lausanne, Montreux, Vevey), you would fly into Geneva instead of Zurich. Both Geneva and Zurich have nonstop flights from JFK; I'm not sure about YYZ.
Thank you all for your quick and informative responses. I feel more confident about planning our trip.
Why not do both? Driving in Switzerland is easy and allows so many opportunities to get off the beaten path. In 2010, my husband and I rented a car in Luzern to explore the Berner-Oberlander and then drove the southern passes to Locarno (Ascona) in the Ticino. After two days on Lake Maggiore, we dropped the car and took the train into Italy. Our Europe travel mantra is "trains, planes, and automobiles." Have fun!