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How should we make our way from Zurich to Southern Tuscany?

How should we make our way from Zurich to Southern Tuscany?

Sep 21st, 2009, 06:21 PM
  #1  
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How should we make our way from Zurich to Southern Tuscany?

We (DH and I - in our 70's, pretty well-traveled) have just used up all our FF points to score Business class flights to Zurich next June, with return from Milan three weeks later.

We will have 11 days to get from Zurich to the Val d'Orcia, where we will join our friends for a week at a large country house at La Foce, the lovely gardens/property there.

This is an overabundance of joy for me, but we need to decide what to do with that time.
We have talked about the following:

1. a few days in the Dolomites -(gotten ideas from you all on where to stay)

2. driving over the Alps, after a couple of days in Kusnacht,near Zurich (where I studied once at the Jung Institute)

3. taking the Bernina Express down to Como and then to Milan - then renting a car to drive down to Tuscany (just got that idea from PALENQUE, thanks.)

4. stopping on the way if we can somehow get to see the sculpture garden at Le Celle near Lucca.

So, I will feel perfectly comfortable training or driving or whatever anywhere in Italy, even though we're getting long in the tooth, if we have ideas from you wonderful Fodorites.

Could you please share ideas or give us tips and hints on what to do?? Am I biting off more than I can chew??
taconictraveler is offline  
Sep 21st, 2009, 07:06 PM
  #2  
 
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If you pick up a car in Switzerland and drop in Italy you will have a big drop-off fee.
kybourbon is offline  
Sep 21st, 2009, 07:17 PM
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Hi taconictraveler---we will be doing a similar trip next June with our daughters, flying in and out of Zürich, but traveling to Tuscany. We plan to travel all by train, but that doens't mean it would be right for you too.

kybourbon has a good point about the drop fees for one-way rentals. Do check that out before you choose that option.

With 11 days, you have an abundance of options and can include several of your plans listed above. For example, you could spent a couple of days at Kusnacht, then continue by train into Italy. Head for Bolzano (I believe the route takes you through Milan) and rent a car there to visit the Dolomites. You could return the car and continue south by train, or keep it and travel south that way.

Frankly, we found driving in Italy a bit nerve-wracking, which is why we are not doing it this time. But that was in the Veneto region---maybe the drivers there are especially fast and reckless. Once we got off the Autostrada it was better . . . but still not particularly relaxing.
enzian is offline  
Sep 21st, 2009, 08:10 PM
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Fattoria di Celle? It's closer to Pistoia than Lucca. Visits/tours are possible April through September by reservation. Note the warning that the tour involves a 3-4 hour "hike."

http://www.sculpture.org/documents/p...ori/gori.shtml
Jean is offline  
Sep 22nd, 2009, 03:11 AM
  #5  
 
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In june there are a lot of interesting cultural and historical activities in Italy. I can only speak for my region (south-piedmont) where we have in june:
- re-enactment of the Siege of Canelli (http://www.assediodicanelli.it/ 3th weekend of june)
- Sagra della Robiola in Roccaverano (cheese festivities in the little village that is known for this goat cheese)
And a lot of other little village celebrations.
Agriturismo_Verdita is offline  
Sep 22nd, 2009, 06:26 AM
  #6  
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kybourbon: Yes, I had heard there would be a big drop off charge for such a car rental.

Do you know if there is ALSO still a sort of stigma about taking rental cars IN to Italy? (I cannot imagine in my wildest dreams why anyone would think that Italian drivers and roads are wilder than any other, although I still remember my terrors driving along the autostrada through the mountains from Milan to Tuscany!!)

I think we will therefore probably try to train to Milan and pick up a car there for the balance of the trip.
taconictraveler is offline  
Sep 22nd, 2009, 06:30 AM
  #7  
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Jean: Thanks for that very helpful info. We almost went to Fattoria di Celle a few years ago but had forgotten the details. So glad to get the website from you.

I know it's a big walk around. I am a good walker, but I'm not so sure DH will be in to that. However, I'll now research it more.
taconictraveler is offline  
Sep 22nd, 2009, 06:38 AM
  #8  
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Enzian: We certainly are considering train travel, esp. since PALENQUE put me on to the Budget Europe Travel sched. about various trains.

What looks like a smart option is perhaps to stay in Zurich at least overnight (to rest and renew after overnight flight from JFK) and then take one of those wonderful trains (either the Bernina Express over the top of the Alps, or the William Tell, with a boat from Luzern to Fluelen, then a train down toward Milan) -- and then rent a car at Milan-Malpensa for the balance of our journey (we will want a car in Tuscany)

At the same time, I am not looking forward to driving on the autostrada in Italy. I don't mind the local driving or driving around the Val d'Orcia, but DH is not an aggressive driver and the autostrada will no doubt unnerve him.

We've done a fair amount of train travel in Europe, mostly in Switzerland, but with a small group of train buffs.

However, we may consider more trains this time, cuz it looks like one can organize it better now than in the past.

Can you tell me what trains you are taking and where to?? any tips greatly appreciated.
taconictraveler is offline  
Sep 22nd, 2009, 06:40 AM
  #9  
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Agriturismo_Verdita: Thanks for those suggestions. I'm going to research the south Piedmont, where they say the food is just great!!

Also do you happen to know if there is a website for very nice Agriturismos in the top half of Italy??

Thanks for any help you can give in that direction.
taconictraveler is offline  
Sep 22nd, 2009, 08:03 AM
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The food ... of course !!! ... yes it's great, but I think you will find out that it's great everywhere in Italy. Try as much as possible the local dishes and you'll see that there's a lot of difference in the Italian kitchen.

Here in Piemonte truffle season just started now, mmmmm, love it ! Tomorrow there's a trufflewalk for the guests with our local trufflehunter and if we're lucky he gives us the little ones that he can't sell anyway.

There are really a lot of agriturismo's in Italy and you can find them easily through google.
You can look for example with the keywords "Agriturismo Piemonte" and you will have so many choices. And then you look for the things you find important, for example if they have a restaurant or not, apartments versus B&B service, ...
Agriturismo_Verdita is offline  
Sep 22nd, 2009, 12:37 PM
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You don't have to use the Autostrada. You can get around easily (if slower) on secondary roads. Just have good maps.
Jean is offline  
Sep 22nd, 2009, 07:18 PM
  #12  
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Jean: Isn't it weird how sometimes we don't even think of the easiest answers?

Thanks for giving me a great idea. I'm getting out my really good Italy map, and charting a different route. After all, we have plenty of time.
taconictraveler is offline  
Sep 22nd, 2009, 08:49 PM
  #13  
cwn
 
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Hi,

Your trip sounds nice. We rented a car for three weeks in Germany and drove to Italy then on the France and Belguim and back to Germany this May so we didn't have a drop off charge. We had no pproblem going from one country to another. We have rented in one country and dropped it off in another in the past. If the fee doesn't brother you, go for a car especially since you want to explore some. It is so much easier.

We drove mostly secondary roads during our week in Italy, but did use the Motorways to move from one country to another and had no problem. We are both 65 so we aren't spring chickens. We spent a week in Cortona.

If you are interested in what we did see our daily blog of the trip with pictures at:

www.aroundtheworlsin132days.blogspot.com

Have fun!
cwn is offline  
Sep 22nd, 2009, 08:54 PM
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taconictraveler, thanks to you I have added the Dolomites back into our trip.

We are taking our 2 daughters on this trip to celebrate their graduation from high school and college. They have been to Switzerland before, and also Paris and London, so we thought Italy this time. But we are flying into and out of Zürich, because I can't even think of a trip to Europe without a stop in Switzerland. We are flying from the west coast of the US so have along journey. Like you, we got business class tickets using miles. This part will be a surprise for the girls.

We will spend the night of our arrival (late afternoon, after a transfer at Heathrow) in Zürich. We have a favorite restaurant for dinner but will be trying different (more moderate in cost) hotel this time.

I planned to take the train the following day into Italy, with a stop for a couple of nights along one of the lakes. But my husband wants to take the girls to see Milan, and hopefully attend the opera or the ballet at La Scala. I discovered today that we can save at least 120 euro on hotels if we stay in Milan on a Saturday night instead of a weeknight. So . . . I tinkered with the itinerary and plan to take the train directly from Zürich to Milan (a 3-hour journey via Lugano) the day after our arrival, and skip the lakes until our return. That way, we sill have time for a quick visit to the Dolomites, which makes me very happy, as I love that area and want to share it with my family.

Our route through Italy will now take us in a clockwise loop, from Milan to Bolzano, into the Val Gardena, and back to Bolzano (this portion with a rented car). We will turn in the car at Bolzano and take the train to Lucca---a long day of 6 hours on the train. We will spend 3 or 4 nights in Lucca, visiting sites in Tuscany from there, and then work our way back up the coast of Liguria and then the lakes (Como) back to Switzerland for our return flight.

While we plan to do the bulk of our travel by train, I agree with Jean who said you can stay on secondary roads in Italy and not feel as vulnerable as on the autostrada.
enzian is offline  
Sep 23rd, 2009, 06:48 PM
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Enzian: Glad to be of help. That's what I love about Fodorites!
Tell me more please about the train from Zurich to Milan, do you change in Lugano? And does that train have a special name? Are you getting tickets ahead of time?

We're trying to decide about stopping in Lake Como, where we have a favorite place in Lenno, and also want to spend at least one night in Zurich area, probably Kusnacht, which I love, but maybe in town.

I've been to La Scala on a previous trip to Milan, and Boy! was it wonderful. It was Riccardo Muti conducting the Opera Orchestra performing Beethoven's Ninth. It was as though I had never heard it played before!!
taconictraveler is offline  
Sep 23rd, 2009, 07:04 PM
  #16  
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cwn: I couldn't find your blog. Is there another way to get to it? that hot link didn't work for me. thanks.
taconictraveler is offline  
Sep 24th, 2009, 07:22 PM
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Hi taconictraveler---there are lots of trains each day from Zürich to Milan. According to the schedule on the Swiss rail website, www.rail.ch (in English), there is a 9:01 am direct train that goes via Lugano but no changes. There is an 11:09 train with a change at Lugano. Both take around 3h 40min. Both are "Cisalpino" trains with compulsory reservations, but the one with a change in Lugano uses an IC (intercity) "tilting train" for the Zurich to Lugano portion, which sounds interesting.

Since an 11:00 am departure fits better with our daughters' sleep habits, we'll probably do that one. Of course, the schedules could certain change over the next nine months, but in my experience they don't change much. I'll probably reserve on the website a week or two before we go.

There are other trains that travel via Bern and Brig, but those take longer, and we have been that way lots of times. The Lugano route will be new for us.

For the Lake portion, we will go to Lago di Como, but stay in Varenna. We can visit other places by boat from there, and we'll probably include Como itself, as today I discovered the Silk Museum there, and I think the girls might find that interesting (I know I would).
enzian is offline  
Sep 24th, 2009, 07:33 PM
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Thanks. this is good information. Do you usually travel first or second class?I presume this train goes thru tunnels in the alps.

The other choice will be to take the Bernina Express and go over the top, but not thru tunnels.- but that takes us further East, which is OK if we do decide on the Dolomites.

We also might go to Milan to rent a car, then go back up to Como, so that we can return the car there later, with no drop off charges.

Do you have a favorite hotel in Varenna?
taconictraveler is offline  
Sep 24th, 2009, 11:05 PM
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The Cisalpino (which is quite often late) from Milan to Zürich takes the same route as other trains. You'll go through many tunnels, especially in the area before and after the Gotthard tunnel.

The Bernina Express is indeed more scenic and stunning but more time-consuming. You will still go through some short tunnels but nothing like the Gotthard tunnel. The Upper and Lower Engadine is picture postcard perfect with its quaint houses and small villages.

The Gotthard tunnel in itself is nothing special. Just a long dark ride. However the magic of it is the remarkable change of scenery, architecture and weather upon going through the tunnel. Before entering the tunnel, you might have rainy, cold or foggy weather. On the other side, the bright sun will greet you as it shines through glorious blue skies.

It's like going from Seattle to LA by train in a matter of a few hours.
kleeblatt is offline  
Sep 25th, 2009, 05:27 AM
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Schuler---is the Cisalpino late in the southbound direction (starting from Zürich) as well?

We will be taking both routes---the fast train Zürich to Milan on our way into Italy; the Bernina Express on the return.

taconictraveler---we travel second class in Switzerland and first class in Italy. I guess I'll have to flip a coin to decide what we do on the Zürich to Milan ride.
enzian is offline  

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