8 days Northern Italy/ Switzerland

Feb 1st, 2015, 10:25 AM
  #1  
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8 days Northern Italy/ Switzerland

Hi everyone! Looking for some advice, please!

My boyfriend and I are going to northern Italy/Switzerland for 8 days in May. We are flying into and out of Milan, but don't plan to spend much time there. We are planning to go to Bologna, Lake Como area (I'm thinking of staying in Bellagio or Varenna) and Switzerland (not sure where yet). We'd like to rent a car for some part of the trip or travel by train if we don't have the car. (I like the idea of the car so we can stop and explore along the way). We are in the early stages of planning and just have the flight. I'd love advice/insights/suggestions on a few things.
-itinerary. I was thinking head right to Bologna for a night or 2, then to lake Como area for a few nights then Switzerland for a few nights and back to Milan. Does this make sense, thoughts on this and which legs of the trip would be good to have a car?
-hotel and things to do recommendations. We do want to stay in nice places but are aiming for under $300 a night. We are interested in foodie activities, must see museums, gardens, hikes etc
-we picked these areas to visit after some research but they aren't set in stone if anyone has any other suggestions for must see day trips (or places to spend a night) in this general area

I know these are general questions, but u really appreciate your advice! Thank you all!
CJ4079 is offline  
Feb 1st, 2015, 11:16 AM
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Firstly, I don't think a car will be an asset to you for any portion of your trip. Your itinerary is such that not only will you have little time to stop and explore, your best areas/destinations for exploring are better explore by boat or on foot.

If you are heading to Bologna for reasons of food, it is important that the days that you will be there coincide with days that the markets are opens (which means no Sundays or no Thursday afternoons).

Your budget for hotels for Italy is actually more than you need if you don't need luxury. (I personally don't have a clue about Switzerland, and you haven't set where you are going.) However, Bologna can often get booked up with trade fairs, so if you come to a firm decision to go there, you should book hotels as soon as possible.
sandralist is offline  
Feb 1st, 2015, 11:48 AM
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Thanks for your advice! I'm not sure where we should go in Switzerland yet... I'm thinking of St.Moritz, Brig or Interlaken but I need to do more research. We're looking to see charming Swiss towns and the mountains for walks, easy hiking etc

Do you have any thoughts on what area to stay at in Lake Como area? Varenna or Bellagio or another? Thanks!
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Feb 1st, 2015, 11:54 AM
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Where you stay in Lago di Como depends, I think, on whether you also go to Switzlerand (and where in Switzlerand) and maybe also how much time you finally decide to spend in Lago di Como, plus whether you want to go to famous gardens and a few other details. But first you should decide about Switzerland.
sandralist is offline  
Feb 1st, 2015, 02:54 PM
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We're strongly leaning towards Lucerne and Bern for the Switzerland part of our itinerary
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Feb 2nd, 2015, 08:38 AM
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In order to get sure: you don't want to see the Swiss mountains, but Berne and Lucerne. In this case, you could make the following loop:
Menaggio - bus - Lugano - train - Lucerne - train - Berne - train - Stresa/Lake Maggiore - airport bus - Milan Malpensa airport.
The same itinerary can be done by car (either Berne - Montreux - Brig - Stresa or Bern - Kandersteg - car shuttle train - Goppenstein - Brig - Stresa).
neckervd is offline  
Feb 2nd, 2015, 10:45 AM
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If you only want to say overnight in Lago di Como, maybe the thing to do is to take the train to Varenna, then a short ferry ride to Bellagio and stay there. The next morning, it's another short ferry to Menaggio, where you can catch the bus for Lugano. If you want to spend longer at the lake you might prefer Varenna.

If you decide you would rather rent a car, be sure to rent it in Italy so that you can drop it off in Italy, or else the costs of dropping it off in Switzerland will really add to the cost of the rental. Maybe a convenient place to do that is in the town of Como. Coming from Bologna you would need to switch to a commuter train to get to Como and pick up the car. Then you could drive it to Menaggio, spend time there, then head up to Switzlerand and do the loop that would bring you back to Stresa and Malpensa.

I'm not advocating renting a car -- or even including Switzerland in the itinerary if you are leaning toward thinking you'd rather skip it.

Something else you could consider is to doing this loop somewhat "backwards". When you arrive in Milan Malpensa, take the bus directly from the airport to Lugano (one hour). Spend a night, then rent a car and take a mini-road trip to Switzerland, coming back to Lugano, dropping off the car and then taking a bus down to Menaggio, and the ferry to Varenna. After a night or two on the lake, take the train down to Bologna, then back again to fly out.
sandralist is offline  
Feb 2nd, 2015, 07:33 PM
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Thank you so much for your advice and thoughts!!

We are actually thinking about doing the loop backward as you suggested. But something is kind of throwing a wrench in these original plans, and perhaps I should start a new thread but I'll just include this here... I am realizing that it is still possible to ski in Zermatt in May (when we'll be there). Bf and I are skiers and have always dreamed of skiing in Switzerland, and we'll be so close (relatively speaking) I'm now thinking about doing Zermatt instead of the Bern and Lucerne idea.

I know skiing in May is very limited and I've read some things that Zermatt is almost all shut down in May, but I'm still intrigued. I know we're already trying to pack a lot in, and Zermatt seems like more travel time, but being close really makes me want to see it. In general I'm a 'pack a lot in' travel person bc who knows when I'll be back but on the other hand I do want to get a taste for an area. Basically I just don't know what to decide! Any thoughts on Lake Como area the Zermatt?
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Feb 3rd, 2015, 01:52 AM
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Never been to Zermatt and am not a skier myself, so can't help out!
sandralist is offline  
Feb 3rd, 2015, 08:50 AM
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Everything is possible.
However, it's easier to combine Lake Maggiore with Zermatt:
Motorway Arona - Stresa - Gravellona - Iselle,
car shuttle trains or Simplon Pass road Iselle - Brig,
cantonal road Brig - Taesch,
resp trains Arona - Stresa - Verbania - Domodossola - Brig - Zermatt (8 daily, with 2 changes)
trains Locarno - Domodossola - Brig - Zermatt (10 daily, with 2 changes).
Locarno is 1 hr by train from Lugano.
neckervd is offline  
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