We are wanting to travel between Venice and Interlaken but want the scenic trains.. can we travel on these with the pass and if so how?
I don't know the answer to your question Vikki but if you are going to be in Switzerland for a few days you may want to look at the Swiss Pass Special available thru May 25. It would only be for Switzerland but you might could work it into your plans. Good for two travelers with unlimited travel on the Swiss Travel System. Gemut has some info at the link below: http://gemut.raileurope.com/rail-tickets-passes/swiss2-for-1/index.html
Which scenic train? None of the designated Scenic trains is a very direct route to get to Interlaken. The famous Glacier Express run east- west and does not cross to the north side where Interlaken is. The 3 country pass only gives 25% off on the Disentis to Brig section. You would leave the route there to head to Spiez and Interlaken on a regular train and that is covered. Or were you thinking of the Bernina Express or the William Tell route?
There is a really nice run called the Golden Pass between Luzern and Interlaken. All narrow gauge most of the climbs and descents are using a cog railway feature. It is very steep, goes over the Brunig Pass and turns around in Meiringen where meringue was invented and where Sherlock Holmes fought with Professor Moriarity at the Reichenbach Falls are just out of town. Its a nice waterfall to walk under or take a funicular up.
You are right, Nigel. I should have said "none of the scenic trains is a good route from Venice to Interlaken." The Golden Pass route will take them to Interlaken, but they have to get to Lucerne to start it. Venice to lucerne would be via Milan, I believe. Until vikki answers the question about which scenic trains she is thinking of it is hard to answer the question about using a 3 country pass.
thanks for all of the input.. we really don't know which trains to take.. we know that Interlaken will be our "base" camp for 4 days and we are coming from Venice.. it is looking like we will perhaps head to Milan from Venice and then head into Switzerland.. it appears as the 3 country pass will cover the scenic trains but now it is just trying to figure out which train would let us see the beauty..
Vikki, have you already bought the 3-country pass? If not, when is your trip, and what is the third country you will visit? I ask because there may be a much better option than a 3-country pass, which does not work as well in Switzerland as one of the Swiss passes does.
We are flying into Zurich, then on to Paris.. Paris to Rome (we most likely will fly there)..Tuscany with rental car... Venice and then back to Switzerland ..we will be over there mid September
Lola and other helpful folks - This is Tim, now, of the Vikki and Tim duo. Lola suggested that we would not need a car while traveling anywhere in Switzerland. I wanted to check on some places we were planning to go and see if they are all doable via the SwissPass. We've been told we just HAVE to see the following: 1) Lauterbrunnen 2) The Schillthorn 3) Gruyere 4) Lucerne (old town) 5) Grindelwald 6) Lugano 7) Mount Titlis (near Engelberg) So, are these places we can get without a car? AND does anyone have any feedback on the "must see" places???? Thanks again for all the help. - Tim
With that itinerary I think you are way better off with a Swiss Pass and discount point to point tickets to travel parIs and for Tuscany to Venice. Here' why: Two3 country Swlect passes, say for 6 days of travel will cost $920( $460 each). To that you must add the cost of reservation fees in France and Italy, and the extra cost for use in Switzerland on trains and lifts where a 3 country pass only covers 25%. By contrast, for travel in September, you can get 2 4-day Swiss passes on the 2 for 1 special for $254 in 2d class or $404 in 1st class. That is for both passes. Four-day Flex passes, which work like a pass, will cost a bit more but will give you more days of travel in Switzerland. Then you can get discount tickets on SBB.ch or TGV for travel from Zurich to Paris, and mini fares on Trenitalia for your travel in Italy. And the Swiss Pass will cover the Glacier Express if that is the scenic train you wish to take. However, forbyour travel plans I suggest either the Bernina Express from Tirano to Pontresina, or the Golden Pass route from Luzern to Interlaken. You can easily get to either Tiranp or Luzern from Milan to start your journey.
Lola wow.. thanks so much for the valuable information.. we will research your suggestions.. we are also thinking of renting a car in Switzerland to get around but I am concerned with mountain roads..thoughts?
We have spent a total of eight weeks traveling in Switzerland and never felt the need for a car. The train/boat.cablecar system takes you just about everywhere, including mountain villages that you cannot even reach by car. The Swiss transport system is a real marvel, and part of the pleasure of travel in this beautiful country. What do you wish to see when you are there?
So, are these places we can get without a car? AND does anyone have any feedback on the "must see" places???? Every one of them, easily. 1) Lauterbrunnen Yup, especially if you go up to Muerren or Q2, or Q5. Parking easy at Lauterbrunnen but not possible at Gimmelwald or Muerren. 2) The Schillthorn Yup. Parking impossible. 3) Gruyere Yup. There's even a special tousrist train that not only goes there but also includes a chocolate tour - its known as the Chocolate Train and it uses really old classic carriages. 4) Lucerne (old town) Oh yes. And parking difficult. Often referred to by its German spelling - Luzern. 5) Grindelwald Yup. The North Face is wonderful. 6) Lugano Yup. Not on my top list, very nice but I prefer other places. Parking easier in Paradise than in centre town. 7) Mount Titlis (near Engelberg) Oh yes. Just a very short jump from Luzern.
Vikki & Tim, I haven't looked specifically at the question of the Swiss Pass, but you can easily reach all of the places you listed via public transport. The Swiss have an incredibly efficient and well organized transportation system, so you'll be travelling via a combination of trains, Buses and Cable Cars. You don't need a Car. To get some ideas on "must see" places, I'd suggest having a look at a copy of the Switzerland Guidebook, as there's LOTS of information there. The newest print edition will be available on March 27th. Rather than using Interlaken as a "home base", have you considered staying in the Lauterbrunnen Valley, perhaps in Lauterbrunnen or Mürren? That will allow easy access to Lauterbrunnen, but also the Schilthorn and Grindelwald. As you'll be coming from Venice, you might want to do Lugano first, as it's only about an hour from Milano. From there you can carry on to the other locations you want to visit in Switzerland. I'd probably fit Gruyeres in at the end. If you need further information on the Swiss Pass (or others) you might make a call to the "Railpass" department at ETBD. A short phone call with the experts will allow you to sort through the choices very quickly. Click the "Railpasses" tab at the top of the page for contact info. Good luck with your planning!
Vikki & Tim, I just read one of your previous notes, regarding travelling through Tuscany with a rental car. A few "caveats" to be aware of.... It's important to note that for driving in Italy, each driver must have the compulsory International Driver's Permit, which is used in conjunction with your home D.L. These are valid for one year, and easily obtained at any CAA/AAA office (two Passport-sized photos required, which in some cases is offered at the issuing office). Failure to produce an IDP if requested can result in fines on the spot! Have a look at This Website for more detailed information on driving in Italy. You may also want to have a look at some of the other posts here concerning the dreaded Zona Traffico Limitato areas that are becoming increasingly prevalent in many Italian towns & cities ( especially Florence!). EACH PASS through one of the automated Cameras will result in a €100+ ticket! A GPS along with a good Map would also be a good idea. Be sure to also give some thought to the question of CDW. If you accept the CDW offered by the rental firm, it will be expensive but will provide "peace of mind". Some "premium" credit cards provide rental vehicle insurance, however I've found this to be somewhat complicated so I just accept that offered by the rental firm. Check the Car Rental section in Europe Through The Back Door for further information. Cheers!
NIgel has applied his usual sense of humor. Schilthorn and Mt. Titlis cannot be reached with a car. These are cablecar rides to the top of peaks. Spectacular. And a Swiss pass will reduce your cost of the ride by 50%. So here's the list: 1) Lauterbrunnen: a short and scenic 20-minute train ride from Iinterlaken. Actually, I sugggest you stay in Lauterbrunnen instead of Interlaken; it is much prettier. Picture a village in a valley that looks a lot like Yosemite. (Or you can stay in one of the car-free villages atop the cliffs on either side, Wengen or Mürren). 2) The Schillthorn: this is a cablecar ride up from Stechelbeg, at the far end of the lauterbrunnen Valley (reach by Postbus from Lauterbrunne, or a pleasant 1-hour walk). Or you can go from lauterbrunnen up to Mürren by cablecar and train (free this far with the Swiss pass), and catch the Schilthorn cablecar there. 3) Gruyeres: another great train ride; you can go by the Golden Pass scenic route via Zweisimmin and Montbovon, or via Bern and Fribourg. Or make a loop. It's about 2.5 hours +/- each way. 4) Lucerne (old town): This is a ride on the scenic Golden pass route in the other direction (east). The train station is right in the old town area. Cross the famous wooden bridge and you're there. Combine this trip with Mt. Titlis (see below). to be continued. .
5) Grindelwald : this town is a another short (25 minutes?) train ride from Interlaken; it is the next valley over from lauterbrunnen. 6) Lugano: you could stop here on your way from Italy into Switzerland if you go the Gotthard pass route (Milan to Arth-Goldau to Luzern). 7) Mount Titlis (near Engelberg): this is a spur off the Golden Pass route between Interlaken and Luzern. Disembark at Hergiswil (on the lake close to Luzern) and catch a train to Engelberg. The rotair cablecar will take you up Mt. Titlis to see the glacier grotto and the view. I'm a native southern Californian and my first ever ski experience was up at Engelberg. That was long ago. . . All of these train rides are covered (free) with a Swiss pass. The cablecars and gondolas are 50% off. Since you are going in September, you can get the 2-for-1 deal on either a 4-day Swiss or a 4-day Flex pass. With the Flex, you your 4 days for full coverage, and the others are 50% off. You do have to use "covered" days at the beginning and end, as the 50% days are in between. There is an alternate possibility for travel from Zurich to Paris and Milan to Luzern, and that is to buy cheap tickets in advance on SBB.ch. Milan to Luzern with a "special offer" tiocket, for example, is around 26 CHF, which is actually cheaper than using up a day on your pass. But then you would not be able to break the trip at Lugano. It's complicated. Train routes: www.rail.ch
Thanks everyone for the wonderful feedback.. we were thinking we could plan this without a travel agent but we are now having second thoughts..all so complicated..if we were to do the 2 for 1 Swiss Pass and just individual train tickets within Italy (Rome to Venice, Venice to Milan) would the pass cover the Milan into Switzerland or would we need another individual ticket? We are looking into flying from Zurich to Paris and then Paris to Rome instead of the trains now... they seem to have crazy low rates.. and then only have to take a train from Rome to Venice and then on over to Milan for entry into Switzerland.. while in Tuscany we will rent a car for a week to travel around the small towns but take the train into Florence for the day.. just not sure where to even begin.. will also look into changing our Switzerland base as suggested...thanks again everyone
I just wrote a very long response and it did not go through, and I lost it. Very frustrating. Basically, I said you do not need a travel agent for this. It is really easy to book the tickets in Italy (rome to Venice and Venice to Milan) yourself on Trenitalia. People here will help you learn how to use it and find the mini fares. We are very patient and try to be helpful! From Milan into Switzerland, it depends on your route and whether you want to use your Swiss pass. If take the Gotthard pass route to Luzern (one of the "must-sees" on your husband's list) you can just buy a ticket as far as the border (Chiasso is the station) and the pass will cover from there. Or you can buy a "special offer" ticket from Milan to Luzern on the Swiss rail site, rail.ch, and save a day on your pass. If you do this, you MUST pick up the ticket in Switzerland, so do that when you are in Zurich, prior to leaving for Paris. I suggest you spend a night at least in Luzern, as that will be enough traveling for that day (you've come from Venice). The next day you can head to Interlaken and on to Lauterbrunnen via the scenic Golden Pass route.
Lola, you have been so helpful..I fear I might become a pest.. I am struggling trying to find information on your suggestions..must be doing something wrong.. I am just a bit overwhelmed with the process I think.. we will be over there for 4 weeks and the Switzerland section will be the last part of our trip..I have gone online and researched the mini trips in Italy but it says you can only book those 2 days before the trip ( I am guessing we can use these from Rome to Venice and Venice to Milan?).. this concerns me.. for most of the trip it will just be the two of us but we are meeting up with 4 others (2 of which are over 80 but in great shape) in Rome and then traveling on together from there to Venice and then Switzerland..Switzerland has my head spinning as I just can't seem to get my arms around a schedule that makes sense..would you recommend doing the first class swiss pass or 2nd class? You seem so well plugged in I wonder if you could suggest how you would do it if given just a few days.. we plan to leave Venice on a Monday morning and have until that Saturday in which we need to be in Zurich for flights home... am I asking too much here?
Vikki, do not worry-you are not asking too much. People on this board are happy to help you. It seems like we have suggested a lot all at once, but you have plenty of time to figure it all out. A little practice with the train websites and you'll be an expert. Buying tickets on Trenitalia is actually easier than making seat reservations for using a pass. I had the whole "mini" fare thing explained on the response I lost. I'll try not to make this one too long, as that is what caused it. You cannot see fares and schedules for September yet, but you don't need to. You can practice with the website using a date 2 months from now (it doesn' have to be exact.) go to Trenitalia.com, get the English version, and put in Rome for your departure place, Venice for arrival, a date in May, and be sure to select a time or it will default to local (Italy) time which may be in the middle of the night. I like to use 9 or 10 am and it will show several trains, maybe 4 or 5, and the regular fares for 1st and 2d class. It may show both ES "Frecciargento" and cheaper IC trains. You want the Freccia ('arrow") trains as they are much faster. Dont' worry about the price shown; you haven't seen the mini fare yet. to be continued
a train using the button on the right, and hit "continue." The next page will show "base" and "mini" fares if they are available for that train. Using May 14 for the date, I picked the 10:20 train from Rome and it shows a mini fare of 19,00 euro. The regular fare is 76,00 euro. Quite a savings. The mini fares are avilable months in advance---I don't know if it is 3 months or 2 but someone else will. They start as low as 9 euro and the price goes up as they sell out and you get closer to the date of departure. They "may" still be available a couple of days ahead but don't count on it; generally they sell out well ahead. I'll address you other questions separately and give others a chance to jump in.
You are quickly becoming my best friend...
Switzerland: AS I understand it, there are certain places you want to visit because of your (Tim's) parents. They actually fit in a nice logical order, and make a good compact trip that includes everything on his list. On Monday, travel by train from Venice to Milan and take the train from there to Lugano. This is a shor hop. Spend that night in Lugano. Tuesday, continue on the train to Luzern. You will have one train change at Arth-Goldau but the trip will be 2 hours or less. You'll have the rest of the day to enjoy Luzern. Wednesday, you could check out, put your luggage in the lockers at the station and take the train to Engelberg and Mt. Titlis. (change trains at Hergiswil, a suburg of Luzern) You'll have to return to Luzern to pick up your bags but it won't take long. I think this is easier than schlepping your luggage to Engelberg. You'll then take the train over the scenic Brunig Pass (golden pass route) to Interlaken Ost. Change trains there for the short ride to Lauterbrunnen. Spend 2 nights in Lauterbrunnen. On Friday afternoon, you can head to Zurich for your Saturday flight. The journey from Lauterbrunnen to Zurich is only 2.5 hours. You will change at Interlaken Ost and Bern. Depending on the time of your flight, you could even spend Friday night in Lauterbrunnen and go to the airport on Saturday. The train from the Zurich main station (Zurich HB) to the airport only takes about 11 minutes. some of the trains from Bern will go to the airport after Zurich HB so you don't even have to change.
LOLA..ok now there is no doubt... you are my new best friend..wow.. can't believe you mapped it all out for us.. sounds wonderful.. couple more questions..on Tuesday how long is the trip from Luzern to Gruyeres? Wonder if we would be better how just staying another night in Luzern and then head south the next day.. afraid it might be late and getting dark and we might miss the views? By the way I did manage to find the mini rates, thanks for the tip... would never have found it otherwise
Wow Nigel... much to consider... not sure where Lugano must see came from but consider it removed from the list..sounds like we could just spend our 3-4 days near home base and be busy with the beauty..we have found a beautiful home right on the lake to stay and with everyone's input about the area we are more excited than before... Tim's mom has family connections and might want to take one of our precious days to visit Basel but I am hoping not as there seems to be more than enough to do near us... does anyone have any input on Venice and how long of a stay do we need to see it? We are planning on traveling there from Rome in the morning and arriving just after lunch and spending 2 nights.. now the question is... do we leave early from Venice to get straight to Brienz or do we visit Venice a bit more in the am.. travel to Milan, stay over night there and then head into Brienz.. Lola I will play around with the train schedules.. sure wish they would let you book in advance
SBB will let you book in advance, just not this far in advance. The new schedules come out mid-June, but they will change little, if at all. Prices will not change much either, so for budgeting purposes you can use what you see now. The Bernina Express is a great idea. It will take a bit longer, but it's worth it. That is the most scenic route over the alps. No contest with the shorter Brig/spiez route, which goes UNDER the Alps in a tunnel. I've always want to do the Bernina Express, and am planning it into our next trip to Venice. I assume Tim is thinking of just the train part, from Tirano to Chur, not including the bus part which goes from Lugano to Tirano. That would make for a long day. You can shorten your second day (Bernina Express to Chur to Brienz) and avoid spending a night in Milan (expensive!), by doing this: travel from Venice to Milan at mid-day, and then transfer to a train heading to Varenna, on Lake Como. This is only an hour from Milan but in a different world. It is also right on the train line to Tirano. The ride costs all of 6,25 euro. Varenna is a charming village right on the lake. We spent 3 nights there, at Albergo Milano, and loved it. http://www.varenna.net/ I would take any room or apartment they have available.
Hey, it is fun trying to help people out. But I see I left out Gruyeres. I was originally thinking that would be a day trip from Lauterbrunnen, but with a night in Lugano and one in Luzern on the way, there is no time. You could visit Gruyeses on Friday, on your way to Zurich. That would mean storing your luggage along the way, maybe in Fribourg since you would pass back through there going to Zurich. But now I see why Tim thought you might want a car for Switzerland. That won't be easy either, as six of you plus luggage makes for a challenge. Maybe get a smaller car and some of you ride trains while someone drives the car with the luggage? We travel around Switzerland with a family group of 6 to 8 people, all by train, and have fun doing that. But we are going for hiking, and no one in our group has been over 65. If your parents are fit, will they be OK managing their own luggage, maybe with a bit of helpmto get it on the train?
I believe we have way too many places to see in such a short time and need to scale this back to a manageable schedule..Tim has his heart set in staying in this incredible home right on the lake in Brienz as our home base.. the home is beautiful and affordable.. with that in mind what top 3 places are must see's? We are thinking of Jungfrau or Schillthorn for one day... old town Luzern on day...Gruyeres one day with one day open to explore Interlaken and surrounding area...with this in mind how would you map this out?
would it be possible to make the journey from Venice to the Lake Brienz house in one day?
Yes. That is a good central location for what you plan to see, and easy to reach in a day from Venice, all in daylght. The train from Venice to Milan takes 2.5 hours. At Milan, you would take the train that goes straght north into Switzerland via Brig, to Spiez. There you change for a train heading east past the two lakes (Thun and Brienzersee) to Brienz. The journey from Milan to Brienz (the town) takes 3.5 hours if you catch the 11:25 from Milan. You would arrive in Brienz at 14:56. This requires a fairly early departure from Venice (7>50). the next Milan-Brienz train takes a bit longer, but you would still be iin Brienz by 5:00 pm. I'd say this is a good plan.
Progress....we needed to nail down accommodations so we are planning on arriving from Venice on a Monday night and stay straight through until leaving early Saturday for Zurich for the flight home...parents leave Saturday and we leave Sunday... thinking a flex pass might be best as we will actually have 5 days there and might just plan to stay close to home base that Friday and do Interlaken and the area without using a travel pass day.. now how do you find the special offer ticket rates you discussed for the travel to Paris and from Venice to home base... trying to work out a budget.. so many details but thanks to your help I believe we are getting there...Lola did I mentioned I lived in the Seattle area for 6 years and have a son who lives in Maple Valley?
Too funny! That is where my secretary lives (can I use that word? She hates "administrative asistant!). It is too early to book that special offer fare for September but you can practice using a date about 2 months from now. I think they may be available 90 days ahead but you probably won't be able to buy until after the mid-June schedule change, so late jUne. Go to the Swiss rail site, rail.ch or SBB.ch (they are the same thing). I used a test date of May 22. Put in Zurich to start and Paris to end (don't choose any particular station, just "paris" will work). Choose a morning departure time (I used 8 am). It should show 4 or 5 trains, just like the Trenitalia site. Two of the morning trains should be direct, with no changes (look for the "0" in the "change" column). I picked the 11:34. Hit the red "fare/buy" button, and enter the information asked on each page, hitting "next" each time. The 2d page will have an "add passenger" button and you select the correct age. Leve the "reductions" part untouched (even if you wanted to use a day on your flex pass for this it won't reduce the Special Offer price). The next page should show you tow prices, the regular (147 CHF) and the Special oOffer of 80 CHF below that, with a button to select the one you want. It will actually show the price for both tickets, so don't panic whe you see 160 CHF!
What a wonderful place to get to stay - Brienz. I'd love to have a few days there. I don't want to tell you all the stuff that you may know, but if you will bear with me let me tell you a few of all the wonderful things just a few kilometres near Brienz. On the doorstep, and inches from the waterfront station, is the landing stage fir the Brienzersee lake steamers. Brienz is at the far end of the lake from Interlaken (so named because it is between that lake and the next large one, the Thunersee, which reaches nearly to Bern) and is where the steamers turn round. A ride on the lake is calming, refreshing, easy for all from children to elderly, and we go almost every year. If you have some railpasses it is included - it is run by the BLS, the same folks who run the trains from Interlaken to Bern. Across the lake one or two stops is Giessbach. From there landing stage up the cliff to a big old hotel is a very old, fun, inexpensive funicular railway. From the hotel is a lovely easy walk through the woods to and under the Giessbachfalle, a lovely waterfall. You can walk back down to the landing stage from there, or go back to the funicular. In Brienz are wood carvers. Next to Brienz is the Rothornbahn which is a (usually) steam engine powered cog railway using a really old steam engine on which the boiler is at a steep angle so it is level as the train goes up the mountain. Not far from Brienz is the Ballenberg Open Air Museum, see Rick Steves' guidebook for a full description. Brienz is just a very short train ride from Interlaken at the end of the narrow gauge railway operated by the Zentralbahn. That's the same line that takes the scenic Brunig Pass route to Luzern, via Hergiswil, very scenic. I will tell you the best of all, IMHO, in my continuation ....
Note that the Special Offer tickets do sell out-I could not find them for 15 May, so I tried 22 May. And sometimes they will offer one but not two. So this is why it is good to learn the process and buy them as soon as they become available. If, when the time comes to buy, they don't show up, wait a day or so and keep trying. If they still don't appear, then you can choose to use a day on your Swiss Pass, which will bring the price from 147 CHF down to 95not as good as the Special Offer, but not bad. You should also try comparing with the price of advance purchase tickets on TGV-europe, the French site. I have never bought from them, but I have tried comparing prices, and sometimes they are better than SBB. I may just depend on the euro-CHF exchange rate, or maybe the French site gives better discount on the French portion of the journey. apparently you have to chose "UK" (British flag) as your home when using the TGV site. If you say US it will switch you ro RailEurope and they don't usually offer the discounts. As least that is what I have read here. From Venice to Brienz, you should buy the minifare ticket from Venice to Milan on Trenitalia. From Milan to Brienz, you will be taking a train for which I have never seen special offer discounts. So this si where you will start your Swiss Pass. coverage will start at Domodossola, before you even get to teh Swiss border. (Check with the synoptic rail map to confirm this; I gave Tim the link). So you would buy a ticket from Milan only as far as Domodossola from Trenitalia, and from there will count as Day 1 on your pass. to avoid arguments with the conductor, you should write the date in the first box on the pass before he checks. You should to do this prior to using your pass each day.
... a bit more .... Now, if you take the Zentralbahn train towards Luzern and go (I think) one stop you will get to Meiringen. That is a lovely little town, where, according to local tradition and backed up by Wikipedia (so we all know how accurate that is), the Meringue was invented. So the next time you have Lemon Meringue pie, you know who to thank. Also, as you wander through the town (it is where the train turns around by changing ends so it can get a run at the Brunig Pass which rises just out of town) you will notice signs and statues about Sherlock Holmes and Conan Doyle. Just out of the town is Reichenbach Falls which all Sherlock Holmes fans will recognize as the scene of the perilous fight between Holmes and Professor Moriarity where the latter plunged to his fate and Holmes went into hiding after Conan Doyle had been unable to kill him off. It is possible to ride a funicular to the top of the falls, fantastic views, or walk up and through or down through the falls. There is a place at the top, just past the top, where Trotti bikes are rented. The road next to the falls is worked by a Postbus so a car is not needed, and that Postbus goes over the top, to Grindelwald, if I am not mistaken. Nothing quite like standing on the edge of the falls and hearing the melodic special horn tune of the Postbus nearby. They are the kings of the road in Switzerland and as they come to hairpins in the road sound the special horn so every other vehicle pulls over and gives them right of way. Oh how I wish I were going instead of you. I've been transported back by your questions. Thank you so much for asking them.....
Oh, NIgel, don't get me started! I have always wanted to stop at Grandhotel Giessbach, have lunch on the terrace, walk to the waterfall. http://www.giessbach.ch/how-to-get-there.html Even planned a long (2-day_ hike over there from Grindelwald, via Axalp, but the weather didn't cooperate. Someday. . . This Brienz base should be perfect for what they want to do, and I'll bet they discover a whole lot more, thanks to your evocative post.
I'm just wondering what the pull was of Lugano. I know it is on your must see, but why, if I may ask? If it is family, disregard what I am about to say. OTOH, if you are (or Tim) want to see it because of the lake, or the fact that it is in Ticino, can I suggest that the Italian bit will be taken care of in Italy, and the lake bit will be taken care of at Brienz. In fact, I would maximize my stay at Brienz. The lake is a really neat light green colour because all the water is from glaciers, fed by all the waterfalls around. Lugano's lake is, absolutely agreed, very beautiful, large and dark. I believe it is best seen from the mountain top. But given a choice ...
Thanks again Lola...my husband is now saying we will travel from Venice mid day to Milan, spend the night in Milan and then cross over to Switzerland..when looking at trips into Switzerland how can we tell which trains are more scenic than others... we are looking into taking the Bernina Express into Chur and then cross over to the Brienz area...does this make sense or is the more direct route that is still beautiful?
Venice? Milano? Venice is a very personal place. Some people only arrive by cruise ship in the morning, get herded around the places their cruise guides want them to see, and get back on the ship in the afternoon, swearing they will never return and have never seen so many people in such a small place. Others stay one night, get into a few churches, see the biggies, enjoy the night time scene, have a dinner, probably at a touristy place, a gondola ride, and shove off after breakfast. Still others go back as often as they can, for as long as they can. That's my wife and myself. We sometimes stay in Dorsoduro, sometimes further around, sometimes on the mainland (not Mestre). We have good maps, we wander. We look at a sottoportego (underpass) and wonder what is beyond. So we go to look, and wander down the calles (alleys) to see where they go, look up and down, round and round all the time. Watch the boats, look at all the bridges and paint and signs and colours and ... and ... and... We frequently don't see many people at all. We use an analogy from when we lived in California. We used to visit Yosemite. There were always hordes of people in the valley, and we had huge crowds of tourists. We developed a philosophy - "get off the valley floor". When we would start climbing up the trails we only had to go a short distance and almost everybody was left behind. That's what we do in Venice. It is so easy to do, just go the other way or explore the side calles. For us three nights at a time is perfect. That's what we are doing next month. 3 nights just near the Rialto Markets. Then we will be on exactly the same train Lola suggested to Milan, but the other direction. Can I suggest unless there is a reason for the night in Milan to push through to Luzern or Brienz?
Nigel, don't you think it would make too long a day to travel from Venice to Milan to Chur (via Bernina Express) to Brienz? I do. That is why I suggested Varenna as an intermediate stop, as an alternative to Milan. As for Venice, . . . well, it is one of my 3 favorite places in the world. The other two are Switzerland and Yosemite (I lived there for a year after college and like Nigel know how to avoid the crowds.) Any number of nights in Venice are better than a day visit. So 2 is good, but 3 would be even better. (But I know your time is limited and you have to make choices, and you sholdn't cut into your time in Switzerland.)
Yes, Lola, you are right if doing the Bernina Express (who came up with that name??? If that's an Express I'd like to see the slow train!!!) It is a wonderful ride, but it is long and slow. Loop the loop out in the open, in and out of valleys through massive numbers of tunnels, several of them with loop the loops inside the mountains, incredible views, neat trains (we don't take the touristy ones), at the Landwasser Viaduct the train erupts from the top of a cliff straight into a bending viaduct hundreds of feet up ... oh my. Lola, you gotta do it. It is well worth it. I was writing my prior answer when you were writing about the Bernina. Our favourite place on the route was Samaden. But, it is a bit of a busman's holiday for me.... Oh yumm... But, I am critically aware of the shortness of time. In an ideal world we would all be independently wealthy with unlimited time and we could spend days and days in each place. But there are limits - that why I suggested to plough on through northern Italy. Something has to give. Its not for me to say what. I'll post what I see as positives and negatives about each place - and they are all wonderful places - and I will let Vikki and Tim choose between them. Like I said, something has to give...
We would really like to take the scenic route to Bienz and will consider it part of our site seeing of Switzerland..I love the stop in Varenna.. town looks charming.. and I think traveling with my in laws this makes the most sense.. I went on the Trenitalia site and see schedules but says n/a for prices.. what does that mean? I tried a couple of different dates with the same results..trying to put a timeline together if we were to stay over there in Varenna... I am really struggling with the train web sites..how does one find the schedule for the Bernia Express? I understand we can't book trains but need to nail down hotel
Lola and Nigel - (This Tim responding, now) - You two are amazing! A fountain of information... We took a look at the schedules and determined that attempting to go from Venice to Brienz in one day was crazy. We'd be exhausted and wouldn't arrive in Brienz until 7:00 at night. So, taking Lola's suggestion, we thought we would spend the morning in Venice, leave in the afternoon and plan to overnight in Verrano (it looks lovely). Then, early the next morning, take the Bernina Express over the Alps and enjoy the wonderful scenery from Chur to Luzern, Zurich and down to Interlaken and Brienz. By the way, if you two are curious, we are staying right on the lake in Brienz at a house the owner calls "Carpe Diem" which can be viewed on the "BrienzHolidays"' site. It looks amazing! So, what do you two experts make of this plan so far??? - Tim
just to add to Tim's post...I am only finding one train on the Bernina Express leaving Tirano at 2:30 and arriving at 7 pm in Chur... then we still have to make our way to Brienz..seems odd... am I missing something? I think Tim's route has too many stops and changes and I am afraid we are not going to get the scenery we are after... thoughts?
Have you looked at Rhaetische Bahn website which shows the timetable for the named trains? If you go to the Bahn or SBB websites you can see al the local trains which ply the same route, just as fast (or slow) make all the same stops and see the same scenery, with no special charges or tickets. You can see trains at 7:40, 8:34, 8:50, 9:40, 10:03, 10:50, 11:27, 12:50, and on so. These trains have 1 or 2 changes at Pontresina and Samadan (2 changes) or St Moritz (1 change). Personally I'd take the 2 changes because I like the stations where the changes are. The 2 changes trains take 4:13, the 1 changes ones are an hour slower. On those local trains, if you have time and organize the luggage you can get off at intermediate stations and get back on after a walk, etc.
That "Carpe Diem" house is indeed a find-great location, nice inside and out. It will be great for your group. I have seen this house mentioned on other travel boards (Fodors, Tripadvisor) but never actually looked at it before. I just might organize our next family trip around a stay there!
Looks like we can catch a 6:58 out of Venice and arrive in Tirano at 12:50.. this would give us plenty of time to catch the Bernina Express at 2:30 to Chur... now we are thinking maybe it makes sense to take this route and stay in Chur before heading to Brienz..am I correct that we could use our Swiss Pass for the Bernina Express? Does anyone have input on 1st class vs 2nd class? I think if we do the flex pass we could just buy local train tickets for a day in the middle of our stay or for the last day into Zurich on one of those special discounts Lola was talking about...
When we did that route we stayed overnight in Chur and went to the joining of the two Rhines. As strange as it sounds the Ibis Hotel in Chur is a pyramid. We stayed there several years ago when there was still smoking and the shape of the building acted like a chimney. As far as I know smoking is now illegal in hotels so tha wouldn't be a concern. Neat rooms.
Thanks Nigel for the tip on the hotel..we will look into it..as of right now we are thinking of doing Venice to Chur in one day and then Chur to Brienz.. the cool part is it stops in Luzern which is one of our places so we may just check our bags in a locker and tour the town before heading to Lk Brienz.. trying to figure out what the reservation fee would be on the Bernina Express if we were to use our Flex 4 day Swiss Pass.. we will be short a day or two of travel with the pass so we will need to buy individual tickets for some trips.. just not sure which ones.. these train websites do not make it easy..still wondering about the difference between 1st class and 2nd class... missing your input Lola....
I'm here. . .just got busy today! Let's see. I believe I have seen a way to make a reservationnwith a Swiss Pass on the Rhatischebahn website. Probably you proceed as if buying a ticket for your day of travel, and at some point before the payment page it will ask what reductions apply, and yochoose the Swiss Pass reduction. I didn't check onnthat, but I will if you cannot find it. As far as using the Flex Pass, it may not be clear that you have four " fully covered" days, including unlimited train and boat trips (but not cable cars like the Schilthorn above Mürren, which are covered 50% no matter if it is a covered day or not); the other days between Day 1 and Day 4 are 50% for train, boats and cable cars. So you use the pass on your first and last travel day in Switzerland, plus two more of your choice, and of course younwill choose the most expensive ones. Mprobably the day trip to Gruyeres, and to Luzern/Engelberg/Titlis if you do that ( and remember the Titlis cable car is 50%). Sorry if I am repetitive but it Is confusing. Since a covered day is unlimited, you could go for a free boat ride on Lake Brienz after using the pass to go somewhere for the day, if you still have the energy! Tbc
First v. second Class: we have only traveled 2d class in Switzerland and normally that would be my recommendation. But with the Bernina Express it might be worth 1st. And boat rides are definitely nicer in First. For the trains, the IC or Intercity trains have 2 classes but some of the mountain trains do not. Where there is a first class, it will be less crowded and quieter. It may be upstairs. We stumbled into a 1st class section by mistake once when trying to find seats on a really crowded train.( the only time we encountered a train that was that crowded). It was nice, and on that train it was almost like a salon car, with booths and alternatives to seats in rows. Very nice and very quiet. But that was the main Bern to Zurich run and other trains may not have that feature in First. You know, the 2 for 1 is such a good deal I think I'd go in First, if it doesn't strain your budget.