From Switzerland to Italy

I would like some advice on my Switzerland/Italy itinerary. We are traveling a total of one week. We are staying our first 3 nights in Lauterbrunnen and would like to make our way to Lugano or go even further to Varenna. We return out of Zurich. Our travel group includes 3 adults, 1 senior and 2 kids (8 & 10). We will have a Swiss Flexi Pass (saver). I realize traveling from Lauterbrunnen to Varenna in one day would be grueling so I am considering one night Lugano then possibly on to Varenna. However, I have concerns about the buses. Will it be a big hassle to get our luggage on and off the buses? As I understand it, we will have to take one bus from Lugano to Cassarate. Being a city bus, I imagine luggage would be a hassle on this bus. Maybe we could take a taxi but I bet that would be costly. How is luggage stored on the C12? I would like to hear from someone who has taken C12 bus so I can weigh whether going to Varenna is worth the trouble. If it is too big of a hassle, we would just skip Italy and stay in Lugano. If we do opt to go to Varenna, could someone explain the easiest and quickest way (using a Swiss Pass) to return to Zurich? I do see we could take a train from Menaggio and arrive in Zurich at 20:13. I would like to get there earlier than that. Using the Palm express will not be an option for us on the way to Varenna but could be a possibility for our return as we depart on a Friday. Thanks in advance for the advice.

Posted by Larry
Elk Grove, CA, USA
6724 posts

Angela, you can be in Varenna-Esino from Lauterbrunnen in 5.0-5.5hrs if you choose the right runs. Right now, I see a 07:10 departure from Lauterbrunnen that puts you in Milan in 4.0hrs. One train change in Spiez. Varenna is just another hour by train from Milano Centrale. Going to Lugano from Lauterbrunnen will take you the same amount of travel time to get there by train and bus. With your Swiss Flexi Pass, be sure to get the free family card for your children. With this card, they travel free throughout Switzerland in the company of at least one parent or Grandparent.

Posted by Angela
Imatra, Finland
16 posts

Larry, Great advice! On that idea, I have some questions:
1. How scenic is this Lauterbrunnen to Milan train compared to the William Tell Express? 2. Using our Swiss Pass, how do we take this train into Italy. Do we just hop on in Lauterbrunnen? What about the Italy portion of the trip? I realize we can buy the Milan-Varenna ticket from Trenitalia. 3. For our return from Varenna to Zurich, should we do that via Milan as well? If so, again, how do we book this using our Swiss Pass. 4. How can I figure how much extra it will be for the Italian leg of the trip? 5. After looking at some of the connections, it may work out better to go Milan to Como then ferry to Varenna. Thanks for the info!

Posted by Lola
Seattle, WA
5444 posts

Angela, on either the Swiss or Italian rail site (SBB.ch or Trenitalia) there is an option to reduce the price of a cross-border ticket if you have a Swiss pass. It will be something like "GA Swiss2" for a second-class pass and GA Swiss1 for a first -class pass. The GA stands for General Abonnement and means a complete reduction for travel within Switzerland. Look for it under "Show fares" on Trenitalia. On SBB, it will show up on the page that loads after you choose a particular train. This would apply to either a Spiez-Milan or a Zurich-Milan train. For travel originating in Switzerland, I buy tickets on SBB. You can also buy your tickets for return from Italy to Zurich on SBB; just be sure to pick up the tickets at the train station before you depart for Italy (they don't do print at home tickets for cross-border travel into Italy). The Zurich to Milan route (via the Gotthard pass and Lugano) is more scenic than the route via Spiez and Brig. That one has two Loooong tunnels. The gotthard Pass route has a few tunels but they are not nearly as long. And two of them are spirals---you can see this on th erail map.

Posted by Larry
Elk Grove, CA, USA
6724 posts

First, Lola has some of the best advice on Switzerland. Second, you can buy the ticket from Lauterbrunnen to Varenna-Esino in Lauterbrunnen. Your Swiss Flexi pass will only get you to the Swiss border. The approximate fare to the border from Lauterbrunnen is 55CHF. You Swiss Flexi Pass can cover that if you have a travel day left on the ticket. With no pass, the fare will be about 105CFH to Varenna. Your call here. Just show your pass to the ticket agent and they will make the fare adjustment and sell you the tickets. The train journey from Lauterbrunnen to Milan is so-so on scenery. As Lola mentioned, there are a couple of long tunnels. But, it's the quickest way to get to Milan.

Posted by Angela
Imatra, Finland
16 posts

Great advice from both of you. It helps me weigh my decision. It looks like it will cost an additional 118CHF Lauterbrunnen to Milan. Then it is 54e to get from Milan to Como (Como because the Varenna connections weren't ideal). Then the ferry ride to Varenna. That plus losing out on the scenery of the William Tell Express makes me lean towards staying in Lugano. A day trip via the bus seems like it would be cheaper and less of a hassle. From Lauterbrunnen to Lugano, do I just get on with my Swiss Pass or do I need to make reservations. My next task is finding a place to stay in Lugano. In Varenna center, I had already found an apartment with a lake view we were going to rent for 200CHF/night. I would love to find something like that in Lugano but no luck. Again, thanks for help.

Posted by Angela
Imatra, Finland
16 posts

Lola,
Thanks for sticking with me on this. I did a little more math. When I did a search on Domodossola to Milan for 2 kids, it gave me the price of 18e/22 SF. I believe the Milan to Varenna tickets would be about 54e/66CHF for the 6 of us. 84+22+66=172CHF to get to Varenna. As much as I would like to get to Varenna, it just seems like it is a bit complicated and expensive. A bus trip for the day via the city bus and the C12 may be a better option. Do you know how much a C12 ticket costs? Thanks again for your help. I do appreciate it. Angela

Posted by Lola
Seattle, WA
5444 posts

Angela, where are you seeing those prices? According to SBB, lauterbrunnen to Milan with a Swiss pass is 21 CHF per adult, so 84 CHF. The kids would be free as far as Domodossola with a Family Card. I did not check the price to get them to Milan but it won't be much. and then Milan to Varenna is 6,45 euros each. (that is cheaper than going to Como). If you prefer going to Lugano that is fine (and a more scenic journey), but don't make that choice based on wrong prices, particularly if you found a place in Varenna you like. Also, you can get to Varenna on the route via Luguno just as easily if you don't want to stop in Lugano. We found lodging there to be quite expensive, and it wasn't right on the lake.

Posted by Larry
Elk Grove, CA, USA
6724 posts

If Lugano is your destination, you can make this journey and stay entirely inside Switzerland. The routing is Lauterbrunnen/Luzern/Arth-Goldau/Lugano. If you have a travel day on your flexi pass, you should be completely covered. Journey time is just over 5.0hrs. Same amount of time if you went Lauterbrunnen/Spiez/Milan/Lugano and incurred fares in Italy.

Posted by Lola
Seattle, WA
5444 posts

Yes, and that is a nicer journey,mas I mentioned above. I do not know of any good places to stay in Lugano,,but hopefully someone else can help,with that.