Traveling from Berner Oberland to Italy

We are planning to visit Switzerland for 3-5 days, mostly in the Berner Oberland region, then visiting northern Italy, most likely the Tuscany region for another 5 days before heading to London. Is taking the Willaim Tell Express to Lugano the best way to go? Then from Lugano driving into Italy? Any and all suggestions for Switzerland and Italy are welcome.

Posted by Ken
Vernon, Canada
21491 posts

Susan, Taking the William Tell Express or other scenic train is one option, but it will likely take longer than a direct, faster train. Given the distance and travel times to reach Tuscany, I'd suggest taking a quicker route. One of the easiest trips will be a departure from Interlaken Ost at 08:00, arriving Firenze SMN at 13:55 (time 5H:55M, 3 changes in Spiez, Brig and Milano Centale, reservations compulsory on 2 legs). You didn't specify your destination in Tuscany, but Florence is of course in Bella Toscana. Travel by train will be easier and more efficient than driving (there are few "issues" with driving in Italy, especially as you'd likely be renting the car in Switzerland and dropping it in Italy). Happy travels!

Posted by Denise
Lake Forest, CA, USA
1479 posts

You could rent a car for a few days after arrival in Florence which would allow you to travel around the Tuscany area and to some hilltowns. I would suggest picking the car up at the airport to avoid any fines for driving in the ZTL zones. You cannot drive in the city center, or even get close to it. Check online, or call, AutoEurope for prices for a minimum 3 day rental. You will have to obtain an International Driver's Permit at your local AAA office. No test is required, just two passport-type photos along with $15. Like the previous poster indicated, you just need to decide where and what you want to see in Tuscany. You could also stay in Florence and take a day trip to Sienna by bus. Pick up the Rick Steves' Italy guidebook and see what you might be interested in. Sounds like a fun trip.

Posted by Susan
San Diego, California, USA
2 posts

Thank you Ken and Denise. I have purchased the Rick Steve's books for Switzerland and Italy. We are having trouble deciding what to narrow our Tuscany visit down to. I am now thinking maybe we should head to Italy first then up to Switzerland so that we are in Switzerland's Berner Oberland area in early June rather than late May. Any thoughts on this? I am struggling with how to schedule our Tuscany time. My husband wants to see Assisi and Lake Como. I haven't been to Florence or Venice and my daughter wants to see Cinque Terre and smaller Italian towns for a more local experience. She is 21 years old. We will have 5-7 days to devote to Italy. Then 3-5 days for Switzerland before we head to London to drop our daughter off for summer school by June 7th. I know Rick Steves lists Venice, Cinque Terre and Florence as must sees but I am interested to hear from those of you that have traveled Italy with what your thoughts are. We won't be able to accomplish everything and I need help with narrowing our Italy stay. Thank you so much in advance for your input. Susan

Posted by Lola
Seattle, WA
6113 posts

Hi Susan-putting Italy ahead of Switzerland is a good idea. You will have cooler weather in Italy and better chance of nice spring conditions in Switzerland, with more lifts and hotels open. For Italy, it is unrealistic to even consider Florence, Assisi, Cinque Terre, Venice and Lake Como in 5-7 days. Never mind what RS says are "must see"; what do you want to see? How important is it to you to see it? ANd consider how far it is off your main path. I like to plan a nice compact trip and minimize long train days. Venice is the outlier and you do not have enough time to do it justice unless you drop most everything else. Think in terms of three places at most. You could focus on Florence, Assissi (well south of Florence) and Como; or Florence, Cinque Terre and Como. Even that is moving pretty fast. I put Como in both scenarios as it is pretty much on your way to Switzerland, which you will access via Milan. If you do go to Como and stay in Varenna, you could enter Switzerland by way of the highly scenic Bernina Express route. This takes considerably longer than the route suggested by Ken, so you might considera one-night stop on the way. Luzern or Pontresina are nice choices. Or from Varenna return to Milan (1 hour) and take either the Brig-Spiez route, or the Gotthard route which I prefer because it avoids the two long tunnels on the other route. You can head to Luzern (change at Arth-Goldau)and then take the scenic Golden pass route to the Berner Oberland. Or you could take the William Tell route as you originally asked, if you like the idea of a lake boat ride.