We are planning a trip that will include Switzerland and Italy. Original plan was to fly into Zurich and train to Wengen. After four or five nights there we would like to spend a couple nights in Zermatt (have to see Matterhorn). From there we will take train to Florence for two nights and then rent a car for a week in Tuscany. We plan to fly out of Rome after a few nights there. We are very concerned about the weather in Switzerland and hope to take cable up to the Schiltorn and do some hiking. Should we reverse the order of our trip and start in Italy? Will the rides up to the peaks be up and running? Will arriving in late May (as opposed to mid May) in Switzerland give us an advantage weatherwise? This is our first trip to Switzerland--not sure exactly what to expect.
Expect clouds. Hope for sun. If you have the option, I would reverse your schedule to begin in Italy and end in Switzerland.
Thank You--yes, we do have the option of reversing destinations.
Two years ago this region had several inches of snow in the last few days in May. We were there and didn't even get out of Lauterbruen valley do to low visability. Also, the locals told us that even the lower trails were muddy and not a pleasant hike, while the higher trails were still in bad shape. We returned late August of '08 and it was perfect. I'd go to Italy first.
Enjoy, both are great regions.
The weather in the Swiss Alps is extremely tempermental. As others have noted, in May you could experience weather in the 60s or 20s, clear skies or overcast fog, rain or snow. Also as others have noted, it's probably best to push Switzerland back towards the end of your trip. The weather may not be much different, but at least by late May, most of the businesses in the Alpine towns on the Schilthorn will be open. The cable cars never close (except briefly for occassional maintenance), although the furnicular closes during the shoulder seasons.
To maximize your chances of hiking under the sun, start off early in the morning. For some reason, mornings in the Swiss Alps tend to be clearer than the afternoon, although nothing is 100%.
I would also reverse it to increase the chance of better weather but just take what you get and make the best of it.
In Spring, a good general rule is to work South to North to improve your chances of getting good weather. Flowers bloom earlier further South so you may see more color as well. I would reverse it.
Of course, that's far from a guarantee you will get good weather, it just improves your chances.
We started out in Italy and ended up in Lauterbrunnen in the first days of June 2007. The weather was great. We went up to the Jungfraujoch and visited Wengen on the way down. The next day, we went up to the top of the Shilthorn. No snow below Kleine Scheidegg, Muerren or Gimmelwald. The weather was great. Wildflowers in full bloom. However, the trails had a lot of water from the snow melting above. Looked like muddy trails to us.
Note that the weather is not the same every year in late May and early June. No guarantees. You take your chances.