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Florence to Zurich by Car

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Dec 4th, 2014, 11:21 AM
  #1
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Florence to Zurich by Car

My tour of Italy ends in Florence. I am thinking of driving from Florence to Zurich for my flight back to the States. Via Cinque Terre and Sessa. Good idea? Anyone have a better idea? I will have 5-7 days.
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Dec 4th, 2014, 11:28 AM
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will you have a steep drop-off fee for renting in Italy and returning in Switzerland as is typical? Maybe drive thru the Italian Lakes District but return car before Switzerland and then take the train which if going to places like Zermatt or Interlaken areas - Alpine Wonderlands cars are useless anyway and often must be parked on the edge of towns and you have to take trains or cables anyway.

For lots of good info on Swiss trains check these IMO superb sources: www.swisstravelsystem.com; www.budgeteuropetravel.com and www.ricksteves.com.

Or take the train from Florence to Switzerland via MIlan, stopping off perhaps in Stresa on Lake Maggiore for a few days - the stunning Borromean Islands being just offshore and other hot spots around the lake accessible by public boats - then head to say the Interlaken area for 4 days or so - this area is a short train ride from Zurich Airport.
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Dec 4th, 2014, 11:43 AM
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In which season?
Are you mainly interested in Northern Italy or in Switzerland?
What are you interested in: landscapes, lakes, mountains, medieval cities, churches, castles, all kinds of museums, modern architecture?
Sessa: do you mean the tiny Swiss village of Sessa? if yes, why?
5Terre: do you plan to hike?
why by car: do you plan to drive to extremely isolated places with no tourist or other infrastructure?
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Dec 4th, 2014, 11:59 AM
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I'd also like to know why Sessa is a specific destination.

Because of the likely car rental drop fee and the vignette you'd have to buy for Switzerland, I'd leave the car in Italy and train the rest of the way.

But unless you plan to linger in and explore northern Tuscany and/or the Piemonte area, I'd try to skip the car altogether.
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Dec 4th, 2014, 12:38 PM
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Even in the Cinque Terre cars are banned from the towns themsleves and mus be parked at the edge of towns for a fee of course - Stresa - I assume you mean Stresa not Seesa again boats are the best way around the lake. Then hop the train to Switzerland.

I see little advantage for a car the places you want to go - 5 Terre and Stresa (if you mean Stresa and it is a neat lakeside town with train station a short walk from many hotels.

Indeed from Stresa you can I believe take a boat to Locarno, Switzerland and go from there to Zurich.
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Dec 5th, 2014, 01:58 PM
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You could leave your car in Italy at say Stresa if possible and take the short train ride to Switzerland from there.
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Dec 5th, 2014, 03:30 PM
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Avis and Kemwel have offices in Stresa. I don't know about any others.
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Dec 6th, 2014, 04:43 AM
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More input needed from OP as requested by Neckervd especially regarding Sessa
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Dec 6th, 2014, 07:21 AM
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We plan to visit (May 2015) Amalfi coast, Rome, Venice, Florence, winding up with a car to tool around Tuscany. We prefer to drive, many times taking roads off-highway thru small towns; you really see the country that way. Did this in France/Germany/Switzerland 25 years ago; sounds like it might be more of a problem now (vignette??)?
I understand places like 5 Terre we will have to park outside... I do not see that as a problem?
A friend told us Stresa (I mis spelled before) on Lake Maggiore is a beautiful stop on the way back to Zurich.
We are interested in: landscapes, lakes, mountains, medieval cities, churches, castles; museums, not so much.

Thanks again for the help.
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Dec 6th, 2014, 07:49 AM
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The problem is not the vignette but the drop off in a different country. Perhaps you could drop of at Stresa and then get a Swiss plated car at Locarno. Transport between Stresa and Locarno is not difficult.

Travelling north from Cinque Terre choose the A26 from Genova. The section from Alessandria to Stresa is very easy. Avoid the Milan ringroad at all costs. A side trip to Pavia and its Certosa is recommended.

As well as Lake Maggiore consider also Lake Orta.

The gardens on Lake Maggiore will be spectacular in May. Apart from Stresa and the Borromean Islands consider also Villa Taranto at Verbania.

In Switzerland there is an attractive castle at Bellinzona as well as others heading north to San Gottardo. If you have the time and inclination you could consider crossing the San Gottard via the mountain pass (if open - a late snowfall is always possible) rather than taking the tunnel.

Do not miss Lucerne.
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Dec 9th, 2014, 08:04 AM
  #11
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Thanks!
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Dec 9th, 2014, 08:26 AM
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Transport between Stresa and Locarno is not difficult.>

and sweet - boats go from Stresa to Locarno I believe or you can take the train to Domodossola and then take the nice Centovalli Railway, one of Switzerland's iconic scenic railways (even though much of it goes thru Italy) to Locarno.
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Dec 9th, 2014, 09:52 AM
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I would eschew a car in Switzerland if going to Alpine areas where they canot be used except to get to parking lots on the edges of towns - the system of trains in Switzerland is fantastic - plus the myriad of aerial gondolas going off everywhere.
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Dec 9th, 2014, 10:37 AM
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If your vision of driving in Europe is that from 25 years ago, it would be prudent to validate the reality of driving around in a rental car now along with one-liner rules you have heard such as "trains are slow."

I used to rent more cars 25 years ago, but now I am more strategic in where I rent cars.

What have changed? It looks like you are from the US?

The drop-off charge has already been mentioned.

Most Italian cities/towns popular with visitors, the ones you have mentioned have restricted zones, ZTL, off-limit to non-residents and non-service vehicles. They enforce the ordinance vigorously using ubiquitous video cameras to send you breathtaking traffic tickets to help you remind you about your trip months after your return. Many dismiss the ZTL as something easily avoided. You can search the web to see just how many people get snagged by the ZTL even those who knew the existence. Also as mentioned above, many Alpine villages in Switzerland are off limit to cars. If you packed your luggage assuming you can drive up to hotels, you will be in for a surprise.

All the countries you mentioned also enforce speed limits within just a few kilometers of the limit using speed cameras and other means. Many from the US fume believing it is unfair to be tickets for just "few kilometers" above the speed limits. You get tickets according to the local rules.
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Dec 9th, 2014, 12:10 PM
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dozens of Fodorites have been nabbed in Florence for example with tickets they got once back home for violating the no-fly (no-car) zone and being caught with cameras - like greg says be careful if driving in Italian towns - never a pleasure anyway.
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Dec 9th, 2014, 12:53 PM
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you absolutely don't want a car in Florence. I've done plenty of driving in different places and I'd never consider driving there - apart from the ZTL, the driving is completely mad.

in 5-7 days you really only have time for 2 bases max and if it were me, I'd head for Lake Maggiore which as others have said would be lovely in May and base myself there for the rest of the trip before hopping over to Switzerland. We spent 2 weeks there a few years ago in May/June and never ran out of things to do.

if you want to drive and have a car there fair enough, but avoid those ZTLs.
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Dec 9th, 2014, 12:56 PM
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, the driving is completely mad.>

I seen a sign in a square in Florence once about the new tram and traffic in general and it said Florence had the most mopeds per capita in Italy and the most bicycles being used on its streets - adding to the chaos annhig is on about.
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Dec 9th, 2014, 01:05 PM
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funny you mention the mopeds, Pal - one incident that impressed me was when I saw a car on the right side of the road driving straight at a moped that was on the wrong side - how they avoided each other I will never know. I had my eyes shut waiting for the crash but somehow it never happened.
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Dec 9th, 2014, 01:55 PM
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I agree -- don't base your plan on what you did/were able to do 25 years ago. Much is different now.
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Dec 9th, 2014, 02:15 PM
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in fact, we were in Florence about 30 years ago, and had no problem driving, parking or finding a hotel, and that was in July. Venice where we started our trip seemed busy, but my pics of the grand canal show it almost empty compared with today, and there was very little traffic in Florence, comparatively speaking.
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