going to Switzerland from Como

Old Dec 29th, 2007, 07:50 PM
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going to Switzerland from Como

Four of us are interested in traveling by train to Switzerland for 2 days after visiting Lake Como in Italy. Need suggestions on what city (Zurich?) and how to get there. I see that Cisalpino seems to be the train, but can't see how to make reservations on line. Also, it's our first time to Lake Como. Any help is greatly appreciated for us middle-agers. Thanks!
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Old Dec 30th, 2007, 01:50 AM
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I did this in reverse last year. You don't need to book before you go just buy your ticket at the station when you get there.

There is a non stop train from Como to Zurich. If you are not staying in Como just take a ferry there they run frequently during the summer.

Go onto the Swiss railway website and it will give you all the info you need.
www.sbb.ch/en/

I loved Switzerland but preferred the mountains and the lakes to the city.

Wherever you go in Switzerland you can be sure of a very comfortable and efficient train journey - they really do run like 'clockwork'!

Enjoy your trip
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Old Dec 30th, 2007, 02:01 AM
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A better choice would be Lucerne
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Old Dec 30th, 2007, 02:05 AM
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You can get all the information you need at www.cisalpino.com

Don't forget that Lake Como is only a few miles from Lugano.
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Old Dec 30th, 2007, 02:23 AM
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Hi cabel,

Like cambe above, I also prefer the small mountain villages to the cities of Switzerland. Oh, the cities are fine and interesting, but the countryside is far more appealing.

If you'd like to see some of the mountains while there, here are some places you can consider --

Brig, a sweet little town surrounded by mountains. It has a lovely old town, a castle, and dozens of hiking trails leading off to the mountains. From Brig, you can visit the car-free villages of Bettmeralp and Riederalp, or Zermatt, or you can visit the Aletsch glacier. Brig would also be very convenient for your travel.

Wengen, Mürren, or Grindelwald, the mountain villages of the Berner Oberland. These spots are very popular with first time visitors because the scenery is spectacular, seen from the mountains themselves, and because they have a beautifully developed tourist infrastructure (lots of hotels and restaurants, good transportation in and around, and lots of folks who speak English).

Finally, Luzern, as Clark55 mentions, would be another good choice. Though it is a city, it sits in a spectacular setting, nestled at the base of some mountains and the foot of a system of lakes. You can ascend the peaks of three mountains, take a ferry cruise along the lakes, or just explore the old town.

Good luck with your decision!

s
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Old Dec 30th, 2007, 07:19 AM
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I also suggest Luzern, and the best train connection may be from Lugano if you are staying at mid-lake. There is a bus from Menaggio.
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Old Dec 31st, 2007, 08:12 AM
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Thank you so much! It looks like Wengen and surrounds will be our place for 3 days, although I am a little nervous about activities at night. We looked at Interlaken, but it seems that the real Berner Oberland begins in Wengen, Murren, etc. Again, it is so helpful to hear from you who have been there!If you have any other ideas, please pass them on.
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Old Dec 31st, 2007, 08:29 AM
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Hi again,

What kind of night-time activities are you thinking about? Beyond dinner and an after-dinner drink, there's not much going on in Wengen. Not in Interlaken either, though the crowd is a little younger (hostel-type crowd or a little older).

If you want something more sophisticated, you may want to go to a city like Bern, Luzern, or Zürich.

s
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Old Jan 3rd, 2008, 12:34 AM
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You do NOT have to take just the Cisalpino to go between Como and Zurich, you can take any train running that route, see rail.ch for schedules. The Cisalpino is certainly the fastest and is a very cool sleek train but it is also more expensive. Look into just the regular trains. You can buy a ticket for the Cisalpino from any train station or on line at rail.ch or on line at the Cisalpino website, see http://www.cisalpino.ch. However, they can fill up so you may want to make a reservation.

Much as I love Wengen, getting there from Como can be a pain. With only 2-3 days, it may not be worth trying to get to Wengen, which is going to take you about 6 hours and require 3 or more changes. You could consider the St Moritz area, which you can reach by non-stop "Palm Express" bus in 3 hours from Menaggio (a very pretty ride over the Splugen Pass and Majola Pass and through some lovely ancient towns like Promontogno and Stampa) This is a really, really lovely area and is very untouristed by Americans. You may find this area better for night-time activities, as there are more restaurants and there are clubs, etc in St Moritz itself. Many Europeans vacation here. There is lots of walking, cable cars and some very charming villages, including Guarda which may be the most charming village in the entire country. You can then take what I consider to be the most scenic train ride in Switzerland, which is the ride down from the St Moritz area to Zurich (assuming your flight is out of Zurich).

Another way to get to St Moritz would be to take the Bernina Express, the best of the "scenic" train rides in Switzerland, IMO. This would require a bus ride over to Tirano (about 2-3 hours), but from there you would get the afternoon train Bernina up and over the glaciers and down into the lovely St Moritz valley. For info on the Bernina Express, see rhb.ch. (You can also take a "regular" Swiss train from Tirano, however, this is one occasion one the panoramic cars which are only available on the Bernina Express itself are really valuable. You do not need to take the Bermina all the way to Zurich, you can get off in St Moritz, hang out for a few days, and then take a regular Swiss train down to Zurich).

I also do love the mountains of Switzerland, but Zurich for 2-3 days is perfectly lovely also and perhaps you will have had enough of countryside with Como. Lots of good restaurants, museums, etc in Zurich too. Where are you flying out of?
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Old Jan 9th, 2008, 05:24 PM
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Thanks so much for the help. Now I'm REALLY nervous! I've made reservations in Wengen for 3 days and maybe we'll be bored. Perhaps we should go up further to Zurich. We are returning to Milan for our flight home. Yikes. Is this too complicated for 4 50+ year olds to make the trip from Como to Switzerland and back to Milan? I thought we could spend the weekend before our Mon. flight out in Milan b/c I'll need a big city...with a bar!
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Old Jan 9th, 2008, 06:42 PM
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I am not sure what kind of night life you are looking for. But after a full day of walking/hiking in the breathtaking OB (waterfalls, glaciers, high mountain peaks, my favorite activity is to drink a bottle of wine watching the sunset.

Seriously, I am in my mid 50's and I have been to Wegen twice. There are bars in some of the hotels.

Wegen is not big, but the views are to die for.

If you have a chance take the train up to Jungfraujoch. It is like being at the top of the world!
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Old Jan 9th, 2008, 06:44 PM
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There is PLENTY of liquor in the mountains of Switzerland, don't' worry if that is the issue. In summer you have access to Weiss beer (white beer) as well.

It is not too complicated for four adults to take a train from Como to Switzerland to Milan, it is just that there are a lot of choices. Most of us feel that the countryside of Switzerland offers more than its cities, but there is nothing wrong if you want to go to a city in Switzerland. It's just that they really do not compare to Italian cities in terms of architecture, history, etc. They are very clean, organized, safe, etc but the old towns tend to be small, not that old (medieval versus ancient) and there are no glorious churches full of artwork (they are very very plain, the Reformation came though with a vengeance and in fact had a Zurich-based leaded named Zwingli). There are however, many excellent museums in Zurich, lots of good restaurants, street markets, ferry rides on the lake and Alps views in the far distance on a good day. There is a little train you can take up to our local mountain for a great view, there are walks if you want to do that, so you can get some of the countryside in as well. If for some reason the stunning, stunning Swiss countryside bores you to tears, well its YOUR vacation and you should do with it what you want. Go to Zurich if you think that would be better for you.

I love Wengen, and have been known to drive there for the day from Zurich when I lived there just to do a walk for the day, but there is very little to do there but admire the really absolutely gorgeous scenery and take walks and train rides up to see more views. I will say that even people I have taken there like my sister- in-law who really does nothing but shop for a pastime (I think she found Venice boring), was stunned by this place (and it was cloudy and even rained part of the time), so I would not underestimate your ability to be fascinated by the scenery. But my point in making the Engadine (St Mortiz) suggestion is that there are MUCH EASIER ways from Como to see scenery which is just as beautiful and where you may find a few more things to do than in Wengen. The Bernese Oberland is really hyped and as I have long said, they don't have better mountains, just better PR.

I guess I should maybe mention taht you could ALSO consider the eastern end of Lake Geneva (like Vevey and Montreux) which has stunning lake and Alp views, great restaruants, litle villages and big cities AND wineries for wine tastings. That may be the best choice for you all. From Como you would need about 4.5-5 hour by train with one change, not bad as part of this is on the very fun Cisalpino (which I believe you were looking at originally for Zurich). The return to Milan would be 3.5-4 hours, again choice would be by Cisalpino and time is not bad. You might consider this as an option.
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Old Jan 10th, 2008, 02:55 AM
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Sorry, the penny just dropped for me. If you are going to be in Italy and then flying out of Milan, you might consider renting a car to do the Swiss portion, as you won't pay high drop off fees to rent and return in Italy (should not even if you rent in Menaggio/Como and return elsewhere in Italy, but do check, its usually between countries that you have the high fees). This would save you a good bit of time and would give you the chance to do some very scenic drives. With 4 people the cost may not be that much more than the train. If you really don't care too much about cost, the VERY best way to do this drive is in a convertible, but you would need 2 unless you have no luggage...

The drive to St Moritz from Menaggio/Como would be about 2 hours, would be over some very scenic passes and you could stop in the little villages like Promontogno or the more charming village above that (name escapes me at the moment). To go back to Milan from there would be under 3 hours. You could even just drive to

The drive to Wengen (you have to park in Lauterbrunnen as Wengen is car-free) if you go via the tunnel at Bellinzona would be about 3 hours, but you could do a longer route over passes that would be quite scenic, including the San Bernadino pass. Once you are in Lauterbrunnen, you won't need the car for Wengen or much or the valley, but you might like it to do drives. You will have to pay for parking (same in St Moritz as you hotel may not have it, or if they do will most likely charge a goodly fee for it). The drive to Milan from Lauterbrunenn would be something over 3 hours.

Even the Lake Geneva area would be fine by car, about 4 hours from Menaggio/Como to the Monteux area, and about 3 returning to Milan. This would be a very pretty ride throuhg giving views of the Alps and through the Swiss Alps. There would be some places to stop off on the way (or you could competely detour to someplace like Mt Blanc in France).

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Old Jan 10th, 2008, 09:13 PM
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Hmmm...this has been an interesting discussion for me. I am flying into Zurich in April and will spend 2 days there and then go on to Como and other parts of Italy for 2 weeks. My plan has been to rent a car for me, my husband and small child. I hadn't considered a train but might now look it up.

A couple of questions, since there seems to be a lot of experts on this subject here:
1. Do I need a car to really enjoy Lake Como area for 4 nights(we will be at Villa d'Este)?
2. Should I expect snow in mid-April if I decide to stick with driving from Zurich to Como?
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Old Jan 11th, 2008, 02:49 AM
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You do NOT need a car in Como, and IMO a car is a hindrance as journeys by car are often longer than journeys by boat. Take a look at a map and see how very long and very thin the lakes are. In a car, you spend a lot of timing driving around the lakes to get from point to point, by using the ferries, you cross the lakes in much shorter time and get the great views to boot. The one caveat to this is ferry schedules in April may not be fully up to summer speed, for the ferry schedule on Lake Como go to www.navigazionelaghi.it But basically you should be fine. Parking in many of the smaller villages is going to be hard to find and expensive. All in all, I never see the point of having the car, when I lived in Zurich I took the train when going there far more than I would drive.

I am a huge fan of the Vila d'este, great service, ambience, history. Make a spa booking before you arrive, their spa is small and popular. Please have the crepes suzette in the main dining room for desert one night, they are one of the few remaining places that prepare them at your table, your child should enjoy that (you too.) You can get to the hotel via taxi from the train station in about 15 minutes, another reason you don't need the car. The hotel is about a 10-15 minute very pleasant walk to the ferry pier (you can also hire you own little boat to do a lake tour, which I recco esp if you want to do something like go to Villa Balbianello and tour the house and gardens. You need reservations to tour the latter, and can only get there by hired boat. No public ferry stops there. Gardens may not be at their best in April.

If you drive, you are mostly going to have to stick to the boring highway along the valley floors in April as the higher fun passes are not going to be open for the most part (closed until June); another reason not to bother renting the car and saving that for a summer trip. On the major highways in the valleys, I would not worry about snow. It melts quickly and the roads are cleared well. Most Swiss cars you rent will have snow tires in any event.

Finally, the train is fun, scenic, easy and fast. No getting lost in roundabouts with the bad signage on the Swiss and Italian roads, no US$7 plus a gallon for gas. (Plus what the Vila d'este will charge you for parking....) If you take the Cisalpino, it's an extremely cool super-fast bullet train, but any regular train is fine. I personally would take a first class car because you run the chance of getting Italian train cars, and IMO the first class cars are nicer. On the Swiss trains there is almost no difference, but they run both on this route and you never know. The Cisalpino is pretty nice in both classes. Also in first you can reserve seats so you can all sit together.

If you want to pick up a car in Como for other parts of Italy that is possible, but if your itin includes places like Venice and Rome, then I would stick with the train for those places, and get a car if you have other places on your itin that are not a city (or car-free like Venice.)
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Old Jan 13th, 2008, 06:49 PM
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Thanks everyone for your responses.

Cicerone-Thank you for your detailed response. You have given me a lot to think about. We always rent a car on trips to Europe and my husband is worried that we will feel isolated and stuck without one in Como. We had assumed that we would get one but you are making me think twice....mor investigation needed.
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Old Jan 13th, 2008, 08:31 PM
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That is such a male thing....he needs to think outside his comfort zone a bit. IMO when in Como a lot of what you will want to see and do is on the lake and really best accessible via the lake, and some, like Villa Balbianello mentioned above, and the very nice Locanda dell'Isola restaurant on Isola Comacina are ONLY accessible by boat (www.comacina.it/isola/isle.htm). I would use the money toward a private boat rental for a day (a much better way to stalk George Clooney in my experience, you can't get a good view of the house by car. . .)

Also if you want to do something like walk from Bellanno to Varenna or vice versa (there are hard and easy versions of this walk), you will not want a car, as otherwise you will have to back track to collect it after the walk, and without the car you can just ferry out and back.

Finally, with only 4 days, you will want to probably spend at least one day simply at the hotel which a small indoor pool, big gardens and a nice climb behind the hotel up a manmade hill of rocky trails for some nice views, and also in the little town of Cernobbio which has a tiny lovely little church. (One time I was there when Bruce Springsteen was also staying, and so I spent a lot more time hanging around the hotel than I had planned, but I am an old Jersey Girl so could not help myself.) I can't imagine what you would need a car for with only 3 nights/4 days.

While you can use car ferries to cut some time off the drives, these are not always as much fun as they sound, and you may be queuing with the car to get on one, plus you have to pay for the car to use the ferry, then pay for the parking once you get there, then repeat the process on the way back. In any event, you are still going to be tied to a ferry schedule even with the car if you want to save yourself long drives, so IMO just forget the car and use the ferry on your own without it. For short trips, I don't know why you would want to drive to the town of Como, then hunt for and pay for parking, etc when you can take the ferry over in 10 minutes and be dropped off right in the centre of town.

To rent a car at the end of the trip to go on to other parts of Italy I can possibly see, as I mentioned above. Also, if it were summer and the high Alp passes were open I could also sort of see the point in taking a longer route over via Switzerland for the drive down, but again in April you won't be able to do that.

I just checked the ferry schedule and summer schedule starts March 23 so you will be fine with April ferries.

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