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First timers travelling through Italy, Switzerland and France in Feb/March

First timers travelling through Italy, Switzerland and France in Feb/March

Nov 6th, 2014, 11:38 AM
Join Date: Feb 2014
Posts: 6,534
Maybe I missed something in this long thread, but why are you missing Tuscany? If you are going to Florence, you will in Tuscany, and if the weather is nice and dry, you can hire a driver or a car to drive out to wineries. It is short but pretty drive. Vintners are usually happier to see tourists in winter than they are at other times of year, since it isn't a busy work time.

If you decide you don't want to go to Florence (but if your wife makes jewelry, she might very much enjoy it) then there is outstanding wine produced in the Veneto -- red wine to the west, just outside the Veneto, and white to the north, in prosecco country. You should get in touch with some tour guides in advance to see if they would be willing to take you on a tour if the weather is nice.

There are some people who believe that you should plan and line up all your hotels and tours in advance and pre-book them, and they find it extremely difficult to travel in winter because it requires being flexible. But there are plenty of days in Switzlerland and Italy where it is sunny and dry in January and February and perfectly pleasant to be visiting small villages or farms provided you have the right clothes.
sandralist is offline  
Nov 6th, 2014, 11:39 AM
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Sorry, I meant to type that the great red wine of the Veneto is produced just outside of Verona, and the most popular whites are found mainly to the north of Venice.
sandralist is offline  
Nov 6th, 2014, 10:24 PM
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Thank you for the Swiss train info PalenQ, we were just discussing the two topics this morning, pass versus local ticket buy, and the Bernina Express.
I have been looking at whether we can have an extra night in Lucerne, (Mon 16th), rather than travel to Zurich where, for an overnight stay, we won’t see much more than a Hotel and the train station. I found that we could travel from Tirano to Chur on an early enough train to enable travel from Chur to Lucerne with an after dark Hotel check in, but She Who Matters Most maintained that the Bernina Express had only one northbound trip and arrived too late for transfer to Lucerne. We, (she), then deduced that the timetable I had was for the regular trains and the discussion then turned to whether we really needed to take the actual B E, or whether a regular train would be sufficient. Obviously when we first locked onto the Alps express idea, we had a vision of ourselves on the colourful train with the panoramic windows etc., but of course ‘adapt’ is a motto with which we’re familiar. We gather that sometimes they hitch a first class style car to a regular train, is that true?
I will look over the sites you suggested. We’re doing research and planning in between work commitments.

Thanks sandralist, Tuscany is definitely on the cards, we just haven’t planned those few days out yet between Venice, (12th) and Milan or Tirano, (15th). We could base in Florence and just do a day tour or stay a night in Florence, and stay a couple of nights in Chianti or somewhere. Valentines day is on the Saturday. On one hand it would be nice to do something special, on the other hand, demand could mean premium prices, crowds. We’re still looking at that. Veneto and Verona sound appealing, thanks, definitely up for quality reds.
With respect to flexibility of plans, would it be possible to leave dates open, have a couple of options researched, and just go with whatever we feel like according to the conditions when we’re there? Risky.
So very glad I joined this forum, thank you .
Alleyoop11 is offline  
Nov 6th, 2014, 10:31 PM
Join Date: Dec 2006
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As already mentioned, no reason to take the actual "Bernina Express" rather than the regional trains along that very same line. The "Bernina Express" has panoramic windows, which don't open and -- depending on the time of year -- these trains can be massed by tourists. The regional trains give you more flexibility and have regular windows (which, IME, offered magnificent views and -- unlike those of the Bernina Express -- can be opened). I was glad I took the regional trains. YMMV.
kja is offline  
Nov 7th, 2014, 09:35 AM
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We gather that sometimes they hitch a first class style car to a regular train, is that true?>

I've seen the opposite - hooking a few cars for local travelers onto a Bernina Express train - but not usually as there is rarely it seems any trouble getting groups to book the official BE, which also has 2nd class cars I believe.
PalenQ is offline  
Nov 7th, 2014, 10:30 AM
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In any case local train or spiffy BE train with fancy doilies on the seat backs you want to sit on the west side of the train for the most awesome views - around the summit and stations of Alp Grum and Bernina Ospiz - views towards the glacier and its glacier-fed placed lake.
PalenQ is offline  
Nov 7th, 2014, 10:48 AM
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I don't know about areas that might be popular as ski resorts, but for 99 percent of Italy you could go without reservations, certainly the small towns around Chianti. You only need to be careful in Venice about Carnivale. As far as San Valentino goes, it is only recently that some of the restaurants in "romantic" tourist destinations make a big deal of it. There is no particular history in Italy of "Valentine's Day" with flowers, chocolates, mandatory dinner, hearts, etc. There are a couple of very high end castle-wineries near Florence and Siena that probably offer higher-priced "San Valentino packages", but otherwise, most of Tuscany will be empty in February. Some of it will be shut down.

The real issue is a risk of a snowstorm that could strand you somewhere in the deep countryside. But if you wanted to splash out on something nice in Florence or Siena, that isn't too much of a risk (although the steep layout of Siena would be risky in the event of real snow and ice, so I would stick to Florence). However, I will also point out that these places are simply gorgeous even with simple lodgings and a warming bowl of Tuscan soup for dinner. Personally, with a glass of chianti, I find that as romantic as can be. So I don't think you need to plan to cook up romance there. If you book something simple, you can have the extra money to hire a driver for a tour of the countryside if the sun is shining, and lunch someplace. Drivers aren't cheap, but that could be rewarding.
sandralist is offline  
Nov 8th, 2014, 09:20 AM
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OK -- I see several mentions of short days. This happens all the time - folks post about dreadfully short days in Fall or late winter - this not so. The days are short from mid November to mid January. They are NOT appreciably shorter when you are traveling (daylight hours are quite short in mid December but get longer quite fast)

For comparison . . March 1 in Geneva has 11 hrs 6 mins of daylight, Sydney has 12 hrs 40 mins. Sunset at 6:21 vs. 7:32. So yes, the days are a bit shorter, but basically it will be daylight when you are sightseeing . . .
janisj is online now  
Nov 9th, 2014, 08:43 PM
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Helpful information once again everyone, thank you.

We fully agree with the simple lodgings, bowl of Tuscan soup, glass of chianti philosophy. We're figuring we could just about stick a pin into a map of the region while blindfolded, go there and have a most enjoyable time .
Alleyoop11 is offline  
Nov 10th, 2014, 01:52 AM
Join Date: Feb 2014
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I think you are correct in your assumption of "stick a pin in a map." But it helps to remember that the world is not flat, and that in mountain settings and more northerly destinations, sunsets come sooner and a lower angle of light at that time of year can limit effective hours of daylight for touring, especially on overcast days.
sandralist is offline  
Nov 19th, 2014, 04:52 PM
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This is a long thread. For further questions I should begin a new thread?
Bernina Express times are on the website for the proposed date of our journey. I can't book though, as the Swiss Pass can only be issued 2 months prior to departure.
We'll be traveling from Tirano to Chur, then Chur to Luzerne in time for 6pm Luzerne check in.
I was thinking of doing Tirano to St Moritz, having a one or two hour walk before resuming to Chur, but on that date I'm not offered a St Moritz to Chur option.
Another option is to arrive in Chur early enough for a walk around, bearing in mind early sundown.
Best time to travel up through the alps, (mid February), is between 9.00 and 15.00 or so?
Advice received so far has been very helpful, I have an armful of travel guides from the library , and of course the internet is very helpful. Finding time to research is the trick .
Alleyoop11 is offline  
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