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Best Places to see in Northern Italy/Switzerland?

Best Places to see in Northern Italy/Switzerland?

Old Dec 2nd, 2014, 06:38 PM
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Best Places to see in Northern Italy/Switzerland?

We are returning to Italy this summer, flying into Rome and leaving three weeks later from Zurich. We want to spend time in 3-4 day chunks in different parts of Northern Italy and Switzerland. We have done the big cities of Italy (and loved them, but not looking to go back necessarily this trip-Rome, Florence, Venice), and would like to see some other places. We would like to stick to trains (vs. rental cars), but would consider another mode of transportation if it is necessary. We enjoy food, wine, short hikes, and soaking in the culture around us.

Suggestions for can't miss places? Favorite stops? We are itinerary developing right now, but flights are booked.

Thanks for your help!
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Old Dec 2nd, 2014, 08:14 PM
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I found the Rough Guide and the Michelin Green Guide the best of the half-dozen or so guidebooks I used for this part of the world.

And I got a LOT of wonderful advice from people when I planned my time in Switzerland, so you might find some useful information in my main planning threads:
http://www.fodors.com/community/euro...to-25-days.cfm
http://www.fodors.com/community/euro...etter-plan.cfm

Enjoy!
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Old Dec 2nd, 2014, 08:32 PM
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Sticking to the trains and looking for good food and wine, I would head up to Orvieto for the first stop and do some day trips and hiking around there, move on to Modena/Mantova for the second base. Verona for the third, then on up to Lugano. (If you want to go hiking around Modena, head to Bologna for lunch and then walk it off climbing the 600plus steps to the santuario in the hills.)

If you were willing to rent a car you could have a far more scenic trip, with more hiking options, and probably access better food and wine. With a car, I would recommend spending a night in Orvieto, then moving to Montalcino for several nights there, then on to Modena for a base, followed by the eastern shore of Lago di Garda, then a swing through the Dolomiti. You could give up the car in Bressanone and take trains from there to Switzerland and have the reset of the time in Switzerland.

Between Rome and Switzlerand there are easily several thousand "don't miss" destinations, and most people could probably name enough "favorite spots" to fill a six month trip. You will find nice food and wine and good walking and climbing opportunities wherever you go. So think about whether you want train or car, and roll with your choice and don't fall prey to fears that everybody else is trying to pull you this way or that. if you want to get away from the big cities, small town Italy is very interesting in its own right and very pretty for the most part, with memorable things to see and do and eat and drink.
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Old Dec 3rd, 2014, 02:02 AM
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"Suggestions for can't miss places? Favorite stops?"
There are just too many!
You may have a look at
http://www.myswitzerland.com/en/home.html
http://www.swisstravelsystem.ch/en/
http://fahrplan.sbb.ch/bin/query.exe/en
http://oldweb.enit.it/comuni.asp?lang=UK
or better: load down a guidebook
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Old Dec 3rd, 2014, 04:27 AM
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Just some rough ideas for northern Italy:

You'll need a rental vehicle, but there are some nice wineries north of Venice. We really liked Alice Relais, near Vittorio Veneto.

On the train route, there's the city of Vicenza, which is worth a couple of days for its food, museums, etc.

I'm going to recommend Milan if you're interested in a city that's not among the Big Three. IMHO, Milan is one of the underrated cities in Europe because people want to compare it with Rome-Florence-Venice. Lots of interesting sights, including the Last Supper, and good food.
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Old Dec 3rd, 2014, 05:53 AM
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Wengen!

See Wengen and die!



Thin
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Old Dec 3rd, 2014, 07:36 AM
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I recommend Torino for one of your stops. I also really like Milan, where we happen to be right now.
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Old Dec 3rd, 2014, 09:23 AM
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Following on from Sandralist -

Consider a Orvieto/Cortona/Arezzo combination

Rather than stay at Mantova consider Modena which gives you better connections. Do not overlook Mantova as this is one of the most attractive small cities in northern Italy.

My only concern might be when you are travelling. The Po valley around Bologna/Modena/Mantova can be very hot and humid in the summer.

Due to this recommendations depend upon your dates of travel

Wengen is a bit out of your way but I would strongly recommend Lucern which is a very convenient stop between Milan and Zurich
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Old Dec 3rd, 2014, 09:36 AM
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Wow! Thank you all so much. I am reading, looking up, and plotting my course, thanks to all of your recommendations. They all look fabulous. I'll update you when it becomes more clear what our path might be.
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Old Dec 3rd, 2014, 09:42 AM
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Endless possible choices, but somewhat limited by sticking with train travel. Given your time I would pick 5 or 6 destinations and they would include:

Siena
Parma
Camogli
Stresa
Luzern

You pick the days. Have fun !
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Old Dec 3rd, 2014, 09:48 AM
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We spent 5 days in Bolzano in October and really enjoyed it.

If you can rent a car, I would highly recommend Cormons. Gorgeous scenery, interesting wine, fantastic food, very good hiking trail system and very friendly people.
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Old Dec 3rd, 2014, 11:18 AM
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I'm with Pepper. By far my favorite part of Switzerland is the Berner Oberland. I would go out of my way to visit.
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Old Dec 29th, 2014, 04:54 PM
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Ok-here's what I'm thinking, and I'm finding the train situation in Switzerland to be more complicated than the Italian trains. Maybe I'm missing something? (I do realize the ALPS are in the middle...) Here's our tentative itinerary. Any thoughts you can give on minimizing/consolidating the plan to be more train efficient would be helpful!

Day 1: fly into Rome; spend the day/night in Rome (spent 6 days there last year, don't need a lot of time there).
Day 2: Train to Parma
Day 3: Parma
Day 4: Parma (visit another city/town via train)
Day 5: Train to Turin (picked up at train station for a 4 day Piedmont cooking/wine experience)
Day 6: Piedmont
Day 7: Piedmont
Day 8: Piedmont-return to Turin mid-day, spend night in Turin
Day 9: *this is where I'm getting a little stuck* Train to Lugano OR get to Tirano somehow...we'd like to take the Bernina Express, but it is seeming complicated to get to either end of it.
Day 10: Lugno to somewhere in the Berner-Oberland area (Lauterbrunnen/Wengen?)
Days 11-15: explore the B-O region
Day 16: Train to Lucerne
Day 17-19: Lucerne
Day 20: Train to Zurich
Day 21: Travel home to US

Having spent the last two summers traveling in France/Italy, we are comfortable and familiar with the trains. Trying to be efficient with the trains in Switzerland is stumping me! Thanks for your help.
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Old Dec 29th, 2014, 05:36 PM
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"Day 9: *this is where I'm getting a little stuck* Train to Lugano OR get to Tirano somehow...we'd like to take the Bernina Express, but it is seeming complicated to get to either end of it."

As I understand it, the "Bernina Express" is a special non-SBB tourist train that uses the SAME tracks as the trains run by SBB from Tirano north, so you can take the regional / local trains instead. That said, I personally can't imagine trying to do the whole route AND BACK in a single day -- I'm not even sure it is possible, even if you do only one segment. Here's the link to SBB, where you can check your options:
http://www.sbb.ch/en/home.html

And just to make sure I'm understanding: You aren't planning any time in areas that one can see from the Bernina Express? And no time in Lugano? Is your only purpose in visiting Zurich is to catch your flight home? (I really enjoyed Zurich, but if your SOLE purpose is to catch your flight, then depending on the time of your flight, you may be able to go to the airport from Lucerne -- see the same sbb link listed above.

Hope that helps!
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Old Dec 29th, 2014, 10:23 PM
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Sorry, I should also have noted some other differences between the Bernina Express and the local / regional trains: The tourists' Bernina Express has (as I understand it) panoramic windows. During high season (including summer) it is often full. The regional / local trains along the SAME rail lines don't have panoramic windows -- but many of the windows open. And they are less likely to be filled, so you might be able to move from side to side to take advantage of ALL the views. I chose the regional / local train -- no regrets! YMMV.
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Old Dec 29th, 2014, 10:49 PM
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maintrvlgrl: Sounds like a wonderful trip! Italy and Switzerland are great. On our 1st trip to Switzerland, we loved the Bernese Oberland area the best, and we stayed in both Wengen and Murren. I preferred Murren over Wengen. Loved seeing the wildflowers in the Alps! We are going to Paris & Switzerland next summer...back to Murren!

Enjoy!
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Old Dec 30th, 2014, 04:33 AM
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I would suggest switching Bologna for Parma. I know I am in the minority here but I found Parma one of the most boring/least interesting of the towns in that region - I absolutely loved all the others - Bologna, Modena, Ferrera, Mantua, Verona, Padua. Bologna is a wonderful city plus it has great train connections so day trips are easy from there. Just a thought.

I also wouldn't spend the night in Zurich. If you are staying in Lucerne you can easily get to the airport straight from there in not much more time than from the center of Zurich. If you really want to see Zurich you could do it as a day trip from Lucerne. But I would take the Zurich night and add it to Bologna area instead.

Here's my photos of the areas you are considering
Bologna, Modena, Ferrera, Parma - www.pbase.com/annforcier/italy_emilia_romagna

This one has Mantua - www.pbase.com/annforcier/bergamo_mantova

Switzerland - www.pbase.com/annforcier/switzerland
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Old Dec 30th, 2014, 05:57 AM
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On day 9, you can take a train from Milan to Interlaken with one change (there are frequent trains from Turin to Milan). From Interlaken, catch a local train to Lauterbrunnen and stay there or head up to Wengen (although there is no need to die once you get there ;-) ) Thumbs up for the Alpenrose Hotel.

IMO, you're short-changing Turin, but of course it's your trip...go where you want to go!

The Engadin is an alternative to the B-O. If you caught a train from Turin to Lugano and spent one night there, then next day you could catch the wonderful "Palm Express" post bus which skirts lakes Lugano and Como and then heads up through the mountains to St. Moritz. From there you could easily hop a local train to Pontresina etc. for your Engadin base.

Between the Engadin and Zurich, there is one lesser-known place I'd recommend for 2015: Bad Ragaz. Every three years it hosts a wonderful outdoor sculpture exhibition. http://www.badragartz.ch/

We were at Bad Ragartz 2012, really enjoyed it and plan to attend the 2015 exhibition. BR is a pretty but quiet town with an excellent spa. You could, if you wanted, catch an early morning train from BR that gets into Zurich Airport around 8:15 am (change in Zurich main station), however I'm a more cautious type and would be more likely to spend the last night at the Radisson Hotel directly attached to the airport.
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Old Dec 30th, 2014, 07:03 AM
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If your focus is food, then Parma is a better choice than Bologna, while Modena an even better choice. As Isabel already noted, she is very much in the minority in her reactions, because most people find Parma a simply wonderful small city, rich in one of a kind sights like its historic theater, baptistery and duomo interior, its cultural connections to opera and perfume-making, and just an unusual mix of French overlay on the Italian culture. Bologna is an easy day trip from Parma or you can visit it on you way from Rome by leaving your luggage in the Bologna train station.

It looks to me like your Piemonte experience is a set deal -- but are you renting a car at any point? You might want one for those 4 days in the countryside unless it is a full agenda of cooking lessons and wine tours with no time on your own.

If you enjoy organized food tours you might enjoy one in Emilia Romagna. (I don't, so can't make any recommendations, but they can be an efficient way to get to know about food and wine specialties in the area.)
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Old Dec 30th, 2014, 05:55 PM
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Thanks again to all for your feedback! We went to Bologna and really enjoyed it last summer. We are planning to see Modena from Parma one of the days of our trip. We did an amazing food tour in Emilia-Romagna last summer as well.

We're adding at least a day to Turin-that was a good suggestion. As for a car, our agenda is set for those four days, but does include transportation out to some of the local smaller towns.

WeisserTee & kja-Thanks for your suggestions. They are very helpful! I think I'm starting to get a better picture of the Swiss part of the itinerary.

Now to take enough notes to write a trip report when we return!
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