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Berner Oberland to Italy

We would like to go to Gimmelwald- arrive Zurich from USA then train to Gimmelwald. Then we would like to go to Northern Italy- mostly Verona, Dolomites, maybe small towns nearby, maybe Venice (have been before) and maybe Lake Como area. I was thinking Lake Como would be the obvious place to stop coming from Gimmelwald. Is that correct? It looks like it will take between 6-8 hours to get to Varenna. Is there any quicker route or different place to enter Italy from Switzerland that might be faster?

Posted by
6898 posts

Here's a bit of history on the Zentralbahn as shown on Wikepedia.

The Zentralbahn is a Swiss railway company that was created on January 1, 2005, with the merger of the Luzern-Stans-Engelberg-Bahn (LSE) and the Brünigbahn. The company is located in Stansstad.

On 30 June 2004, the Swiss Federal Council empowered the SBB-CFF-FFS to sell the Brünigbahn to the LSE as per 1st of January 2005, and subsequently the LSE was renamed Zentralbahn.

At the end of 2009 ZB took over the standard gauge infrastructure from Kriens-Luzern-Bahn and from IGG, making ZB a dual gauge operation between Luzern and Horw.

All of that being said, you can go to their website at http://www.zentralbahn.ch/ and see the train. You can also see a small route map in the upper left of the website and it shows Interlaken to Lucerne. However, I cannot see this routing on the Swiss train website.

It seems that the Zentralbahn may only go from Lucerne to Engelberg according to http://www.myswitzerland.com/en/travel/getting_around/traveling-by-train/zentralbahn.html. Hmmm.

Interestingly, you will most likely see most of this journey on the Golden Pass scenic train from Interlaken to Lucerne. Once near Engelberg, the Golden Pass train duplicates stops that I see on the Zentralbahn train (i.e. Stans, Hergiswil). I just can't see specific train routes and schedules for the Zentralbahn.

Posted by
26369 posts

Susan and Monte

Have a squint at www.sbb.ch which is the official Swiss Railways website. Click the little "EN" at the top and it will magically change from German to English.

Put in Gimmelwald and Milano, via Luzern, and your date and time of travel into the Timetable device, click and watch your choices pop up. Click to show intermediate stops, and you'll see the lot..... an absolute wealth of information. You can click Fares, too.

more questions?

Posted by
12538 posts

Nigel is describing the Golden Pass route which goes between Luzern and Interlaken Ost over the Brunig Pass. I only takes 6 minutes longer than going via Spiez and Bern, and is probably less expensive as it is a shorter route.

To find it on the SBB website, enter "Lauterbrunnen" as your starting point (for some reason SBB doesn't recognize Gimmelwald as a starting point) and "Arth-Goldau" as your end station. Arth-Goldau is where you will actually pick up the Gotthard Pass train going on down through Lugano to Milan.

Doing that, you will see 2 different routes---generally they alternate. One goes Lauterbrunnen--Interlaken Ost---Bern---Luzern---Arth-Goldau; the other goes from Interlaken Ost via Brienz, Meringen, etc. to Luzern and there you change for Arth-Goldau. This is one of the so-called "scenic" routes and it is indeed very nice. both regular trains and designated Golden Pass trains take the route. You can find the fares using the "Fare/Buy" button on the route you select.

Posted by
12538 posts

Actually, a better way to find it, which will show the whole route to Milan, is to enter "stechelberg" as your starting point and "Milano Centrale" as your end. Then put in "Luzern" under the "via" block.

Most of the selections that come up will be this route. Ignore the ones that have Bern in th emix; you want a direct train from Interlaken Ost to Luzern.

That journey takes 6 hours 40 minutes and the regular fare is 122 CHF. If you book far enough in advance, you can get the discount fare I mentioned above on the Arth-Goldau to Milan portion.

Posted by
26369 posts

Lago di Como is a great idea. I don't actually know much about Como other than what I have read and seen as I drove through but I can certainly vouch for Lugano and the Lake Lugano area, just a few miles north.

Everything I've heard about Como is good, I've not stayed there because it is so close to Milan.

The lakes certainly are beautiful - the view from the top of Monte Bre above Lugano is breathtaking.

There are a couple or so routes by train from Interlaken to Como and Milan. If you go left from Interlaken Ost, through Interlaken West to Spietz then reverse there up to the Lötchburg tunnel through Brig (maybe a ride on the Glacier Express line from Brig)then Simplon and down the hill to Milano.

If you don't switch at Spietz and stay on until Bern, you can loop around through the flatlands to Luzern (actually Arth-Goldau)and down via the Gotthard pass, flying (yes) through the s-bends and loops down to Milano and Como.

Or do as I would do. Go the other way when you get to Interlaken Ost, get on the white ZentralBahn train for Luzern, up the Brünig Pass on the rack(!!), on and off the rack again after changing ends in the town where Sherlock Holmes fought Moriarity, then pick up the flying train from Luzern as in the previous paragraph.

Can I suggest that you take your time going to the lakes, then really enjoy yourself.

Happy Trails

Posted by
12538 posts

We were in Varenna three weeks ago, on a trip that started in Zurich and took us to Verona as well. It was lovely there, although the day we arrived in Varenna it was so hazy we could not see across the lake.

As noted, there really aren't any fast ways to get there, especially starting at Gimmelwald. The fastest route (under 6.5 hours) would be to Milan via Spiez and the Lotchburg Basistunnel, then train to Varenna.

A more scenic and fun way would be to take the Gotthard route suggested by Nigel, and get off in Lugano to take the bus to Menaggio, then ferry across the lake to Varenna.

Depending on when you are going, you may find discount tickets available on the SBB website for the Gotthard route (Zurich to Milan for 30 CHF instead of 91 CHF in 2d class). But it may not be cost-effective if you are only going as far as Lugano.

Another route, if you wanted to explore more of Switzerland, would be to head first to Pontresina in the Engadine area, overnight there, then take the Bernina Express as far as Tirano, and make the short hop to Varenna from there. This is the route I wanted to use on our trip, but we ran out of time.

If your first stop in Italy is the Dolomites instead of Como area, then it's probably faster to head east into Austria, and take the Brenner route from Innsbruck down to Bolzano.

Posted by
6898 posts

There is no really fast way from the Lauterbrunnen Valley to the Lake Como area. The Swiss train website shows a journey time of 6.5hrs-8.5hrs and 5-7 transportation changes all depending on the run you are on. It's 55 minutes on a cable way, bus and train just to get from Gimmelwald to Interlaken Ost. But, it's great fun and scenery.

I do like Nigel's suggestion of going north to Lucern and taking the fast train to Milan via the Gotthard tunnel. It will take an hour longer but once you board the train in Lucern, you are 5.5-6.0hrs and one train change in Milan away from Varenna-Esino. It takes 3.0hrs to get to Lucrene from Gimmelwald.

Since you have a long journey, you might as well make it the most scenic.

Posted by
1808 posts

"If you don't switch at Spietz and stay on until Bern, you can loop around through the flatlands to Luzern (actually Arth-Goldau)and down via the Gotthard pass, flying (yes) through the s-bends and loops down to Milano and Como.

Or do as I would do. Go the other way when you get to Interlaken Ost, get on the white ZentralBahn train for Luzern, up the Brünig Pass on the rack(!!), on and off the rack again after changing ends in the town where Sherlock Holmes fought Moriarity, then pick up the flying train from Luzern as in the previous paragraph. "

I'm having trouble finding this on the Swiss rail site. I don't really understand how to enter the information to get a schedule for this route. Can you guys help me with that? Also, any idea how much it will cost?

Posted by
12538 posts

One more thing---if you want to see all the way to Varena, you can try entering Varenna as your end point instead of Milan. But sometimes the Swiss website doesn't give you the closest connection---I've noticed if it is 10 minutes or so, they won't mention it (I think they don't trust the Italian train system to arrive in Milan on time).

So what I do is use both SBB and Trenitalia and compare. But you will need some time at Milano Centrale to buy your ticket, unless you get it in advance, which is a good thing to do because the lies at the ticket machines in Italy can be long and frustrating.

Also---when you are ready to leave Varenna, read the section in Rick's book about the tickets. there is no counter or ticket machine in the station. You buy your tickets at a travel agency on the path going to the station (assuming you are walking).

Posted by
6898 posts

Actually, I can see the entire Gimmelwald to Varenna-Esino journey via Lucernce on the Swiss train website. I'm looking at it now. 8.5hrs-9.0hrs with up to 8 transportation changes depending on the run.

It's the Italian train website that will not show you anything beyond Interlaken Ost into the Lauterbrunnen valley.

Posted by
1808 posts

Thanks for all the details, just what I needed! I haven't had a chance to look it up yet, but reading the reply's sometimes it feels too difficult, and I wonder if it is really worth it?? We did go to Gimmelwald once before but our daughter wasn't able to hike and we couldn't afford to take many gondolas, so I feel like we missed out a bit. I'd love to go back, but maybe it is just too far and complicated?? Is it easier than it seems, and is the train ride beautiful and worth the time of travel?

Thank you so much for the help!

Posted by
26369 posts

"Thanks for all the details, just what I needed! I haven't had a chance to look it up yet, but reading the reply's sometimes it feels too difficult, and I wonder if it is really worth it?? We did go to Gimmelwald once before but our daughter wasn't able to hike and we couldn't afford to take many gondolas, so I feel like we missed out a bit. I'd love to go back, but maybe it is just too far and complicated?? Is it easier than it seems, and is the train ride beautiful and worth the time of travel?"

Oh dear, oh dear. No guys, its not too difficult. Yes, it really is worth it. Really. It looks like lots of work, and planning is everything, but the meadows around Gimmelwald and the Lauterbrunnen valley are better hiked than anything; the train from Interlaken to Luzern up the Brunig is fabulous. Unless you don't like waterfalls, trees inches from your window, cog railways, Sherlock Holmes, mountain views, and mountains, perhaps.

The trip from Luzern to Italy (take the tilting train) is so beautiful, and you high speed loop around the same valley so you see the same church 3 times from different angles. You must see it to believe it.

But then, its not an E ticket ride at the kingdom of the mouse.....

Posted by
12538 posts

It's not eally complicated---the transfers are quick and easy, at least in Switzerland. And I can't imagine skipping Gimmerwlad.

Here is how you can simplify things: you say you are flying into Zurich. Take the Brunig Pass route to get TO Gimmelwald instead of on your way to Italy. That's an easy trip as there are trains departing from the Zurich airport that go to Luzern without a change. Then connect to Interlake, Lauterbrunnen, bus Stechelberg and ride the cable car up. It ounds complicated, but it's a lot of fun; everything is times so you pretty much move from one to the next.

Then, on your way to Varenna, use the faster and much simpler route via the Lotschberg tunnel. From Interlaken, you change at Spiez to a southbound train. Some of these go directly to Milan with no intermediat changes--pick a route like that. Then you'll have one last transfer to Varenna---don't take one of the trains that makes you transfer at Lecco).

Put in your starting and end points (Gimmelwald and Varenna) and this will show up as the fastest route and the one with the fewest changes.

Posted by
1808 posts

Thanks again to everyone! I did find the route on the Swiss rail site....but 9 hours...and lots of money for 3 people??

I really love Gimmelwald, went in 2005 from Germany and back to Germany with a rental car. We are not stuck on Lake Como by any means, just looking for logical stops. My husband really wants to do Bavaria/Austria and the Dolomites, my daughter wants to do Verona, and I would like Gimmelwald and love Italy, too (did Venice, Rome, Florence, CT already) We have 4 weeks. Any good ideas to connect these locations? Or other ideas for better locations? I was thinking Gimmelwald to Varenna, to Verona, to Dolomites, to Salzkammergut area, to Munich, Rothenburg, Frankfurt(to visit friends).

Where do other people come from and go to while seeing the BO?

Posted by
26369 posts

"Where do other people come from and go to while seeing the BO?"

Well, because of my circumstances my answer may not help much.

Every year we drive from home in the UK to various places in Europe and make several train journeys both to countries in western Europe and within them.

This year is the first in years that we haven't made it to, as you call it, the BO. That's because our big trip involved us driving from Monaco to Venice along the coast (never do that again) and Venice to Salzburg, then through Germany to Luxemburg and home, missing Switzerland by a couple of hours.

However, usually we drive to Luzern, Bern, Chur, or Interlaken on the first full day of driving after crossing the Channel by Eurotunnel. Usually do that after work, and stay in Calais or Lille or Bruges or Ghent.

We ride trains around Switzerland (busman's holiday) and go up to Gimmelwald, Muerren, Almendhubel, ride boats around the lakes, do things in Luzern, and the Vierwaldstattersee area. Then drive into Italy, Austria, or Germany for a few more days. Usually manage to work Venice in somewhere.

Hope that helps with your latest question....

Posted by
12538 posts

When we visit the Berner Oberland, it is part of a trip to Switzerland, specifically for hiking. We also go to the Valais region (Zermatt, Bettmeralp) and make a stop on the way at Kandersteg (Oeschinensee). Once we included a week in Chamonix.

I tried to include some time in Switzerland on our recent trip to Italy, since we flew into Zürich. but as you are discovering, it is difficult, and the Lauterbrunnen/Gimmelwald area in particular is out of the way and well off you path.

If your goal is to see lovely alpine scenery with snowy peaks and glaciers, would you consider a different area? I keep reading grreat things about the Engadine on other travel boards, and the photos of the area look spectacular. I mentioned this route briefly above, but not in much detail. If you skip Gimmelwald and go directly to Pontresina from Zurich, that journey is only 3 hours 19 minutes. That's about the same time as it takes to get to Gimmelwald, but you can do it with 2 train changes instead of 4.

Spend a couple of nights there and ride the lifts to see the peaks and glaciers; hike the . Most hotels include a transport pass with a 2-night or longer stay. Here's a website with some photos of one of the famous hikes you can reach by lift (although it looks like they were taken in fall, as the slopes are no longer green).

http://www.summitpost.org/mountain/rock/150947/piz-languard.html

From Pontresina to Varenna is a 4 to 5-hour journey, but it can be done with only a single change, at Tirano.

Your logical route would then be Zürich-Pontresina-Varenna-Verona-Dolomites-Austria-Bavaria. Fly back from Munich.

Our daughters (and we) really loved Verona when we were there a few weeks ago.

Posted by
1808 posts

Somehow I've got my heart set on the BO..but I could do more research and think about it.

On the route from Gimmelwald to Verona through Lucern, is there a good stopping point to spend the night to break up the 9 hour trip?

Also, my husband thinks it may be too much to arrive from the states (West Coast to Zurich) in the afternoon and get to Gimmelwald the same day. Yet, I hate to "waste" a day staying close to Zurich when we could get to the BO that evening. What do you think?

Again...I really appreciate the help!

Posted by
6898 posts

Don't give up on the BO yet. I'll see you on Saturday and we can discuss.

Posted by
3551 posts

consider Zurich, BO, train to germany and pick up car see bavaria area drive down to dolomites, and verona and venice(parking avail at train station) drive back toward Switzerland via lake como area then back toward germany via A13 drop off vehicle in beautiful lindau germany(visit) and quick train to zurich for return air. or a variation of abv.

Posted by
12538 posts

"On the route from Gimmelwald to Verona via Lucern, is there a way to break up the 9 hour trip?"

Are you going to Varenna (Lake Como) or to Verona first? I thought it was Varenna.

If you want to include Gimmelwald, then I think you have 2 choices: (1) do the Luzern route on your way TO the BO, and head to Verenna (or Verona) by the faster Brig/Milan route. That one is only 6.5 hours to Varenna; a bit more to Verona.

If you want to break up that trip, I would highly recommend an overnight at the rustic hotel at the lake above Kandersteg:

www.oeschinensee.ch

(2) travel from GW to Varenna (or Verona) by way of Luzern, and break up the trip with an overnight on the way. We would choose to stay up on Rigi, with gorgeous views over the lake, but this makes for a longer trip (part by boat). Here is the view from one hotel:

http://www.alpina-rigi.ch/html/hotel.html

But most people would rather not go that far off the path. Might be better for you to find something on the line between Arth-goldau and Lugano. We looked into stopping for a night or two in Lugano on our trip, and I couldn't find anything with the right feel for us. Lugano just looked like a big city. Nearby Gandria, right on the lake, looks charming, but involves some logistical complications.

There were some small towns along lake Luzern or in the mountains along the train route that looked nice ---Flüelen, Airolo, maybe Biasca---but I know nothing about them. You would have to change to a regional train that stopped there, as the main IC train does not. Some people like Bellinzona, also on the route (I think there's a castle there) but again I know nothing about it.

If you do choose this option and stay in Lugano or somewhere north of there, you might look into the direct bus from Lugano to Menaggio, which is a short (15 minutes) ferry ride from Varenna. Otherwise you would continue to Milan and backtrack to Varenna by train. For Verona you go to Milan first.

Posted by
4365 posts

Wow! (standing and applauding)

Kudos to the "Swiss Order of Dogged Determination and Explicit Information"!!!

I've always known where to go for THE lowdown on Switzerland, and this is exactly why! It's a lot of work typing out these complicated scenarios, then reading through all of the options, then RE-working the plan, so even though this topic doesn't pertain to me (today), I just want to thank everyone (includidng the OPs) for their contributions to this particular thread. I'll be picking your brains at a future date...

Great job!

Posted by
26369 posts

Lola, I think you have some pretty good ideas here.

I think anywhere around the Vierwaldstättersee (Lake Lucerne) is a wonderful choice. Rigi, perfect - but you want good weather if you go to the top (says one who has tried to see 2 feet through fog there), the boats on the lake are nice.

I agree about Lugano too. We really like the area, and the views; and near the funicular we found a very tasty pizza place, and good to eat at the Manora. But the town itself left us cold. And NEVER try to park there. We stayed in a southern suburb called Paradise.

We had a really good visit to Flüelen which is towards the south end of the Vierwaldstättersee. You can get the lake steamer there from Luzern, or by train. We've not overnighted, did it as a day trip from Luzern. Had a nice tour around a Raclette factory.

As far as we are concerned, you can keep Bellinzona. Its only redeeming features for us are a Mövenpick Marché restaurant in the rest area and a MM Migros market (when looking at Migros, the number of Ms indicates its size MMM is the biggest) where I loaded up on their most excellent own brand sunscreen.

Just our preferences, your mileage may vary.