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Milan to Zurich - stops & stayovers

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Aug 21st, 2016, 11:03 PM
  #1
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Milan to Zurich - stops & stayovers

Two questions:
We'll be traveling from Milan to Zurich by train, but taking the slow route. We plan to stay in Como a day or two and would like to see (and maybe stay in) Lugano. We have several days to do this and could possibly fit in one more city along the way. Should we just distribute our time between Como and Lugano, or is there one more place that we should check out? Things we like: gardens, castles, art and science museums, and I'd be open to walking around a glacier...

The train from Como to Zurich stops in Giubiasco, Bellinzona, Arth-Goldau, and Zug. We're thinking of stepping off the train, spending 2-3 hours in one of these, and getting on a later train to resume our journey to Zurich. If we're looking for a good restaurant within 1-2km of the trainstation, nice scenery, not heavy into shopping, maybe take a walk/hike through gardens or maybe a museum -- which is a good stop for this?

Thank you very!
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Aug 22nd, 2016, 01:20 AM
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With several days for this journey I'd go via Bernina Pass/Engadine valley, take the Bernina route. It's the best option to see glaciers.

From Como take the ferry to Varenna e.g., train to Tirano, change to a regional train or Bernina Express train to Pontresina, which makes a very good base for one or two nights. Either make an excursion to Morteratsch glacier or Diavolezza, where guided glaciers tours are offered. From Pontresina go to Zürich via Chur.
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Aug 22nd, 2016, 04:25 AM
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Up to you in terms of Como vs Lugano; from the latter I believe there is a bus service over to Menaggio from which you could take the ferry to Varenna-Esino for your train connection to Tirano.

Depending on the time of year you could also take the Bernina Express Bus directly from Lugano over to Tirano, too.

www.rhb.ch
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Aug 22nd, 2016, 09:25 AM
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Thanks, Ingo and Dukey1. This is rather different from the route I'd been speaking of but it's sounding like there's strong enthusiasm for the Berninia route. Appreciate the recommendation for a stay-over location, too. I'll look into this.
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Aug 22nd, 2016, 09:57 AM
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Arth-Goldau is only good if:
- you want to visit the Rigi
- you want to go to Lucerne

The town itself is dismal for tourists unless you'd like to visit the animal park (Tierpark), which is quite nice.
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Aug 22nd, 2016, 11:29 AM
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The Bernina Pass rail route to me is the most dramatic crossing of the Alps and one of Europe's most scenic railways- the only north-south crossing of High Alps that does not tunnel under them - a real Top of the World type setting - but would take longer than the route via Lugano-them main line where the new Gotthard Tunnel, opening in a few months, is the longest rail tunnel in the world and you see very little Alpine Wonderland scenery.

Milan take train to Tirano (or from Como boat to Varenna-Esino to catch the train to Tirano) and then hop on Swiss trains that take you up and over the Bernina Pass, including some official Bernina Express trains (which should be reserved far in advance as they do fill up with tour groups often - also cost $15 or so more for the mandated seat reservation/supplement- regular trains you can just hop on with a valid ticket or pass).

Then from St Moritz you go to Chur by train and change there for trains to Zurich - can do in one long day.

for more on Bernina Pass trains and Swiss trains in general check www.budgeteuropetravel.com; www.ricksteves.com and www.swisstravelsystem.com.

For the Milan-Lugano- Zurich main route - yes at Arth-Goldau take a short train to Lucerne for your break - even a few hours in Lucerne is awesome- then a short 45 minute or so train to Zurich direct from there.
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Aug 22nd, 2016, 12:22 PM
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kleeblatt, PalenQ, thanks. This is the thing I was hoping to learn, whether any of the stops on that particular route are worthwhile, and it's just sounding like more votes for Bernina

Is the primary difference between the "official" Bernina Express and other trains that use that rail are great windows?
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Aug 22nd, 2016, 12:55 PM
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The difference is that there are Panorama Cars in First Class and those have the larger windows. The other "official" difference is you don't have to change trains to traverse the whole route.
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Aug 22nd, 2016, 12:57 PM
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AGAIN, look into using the BUS from Lugano unless you prefer to do the ferry to Varenna and the train to Tirano from there.
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Aug 22nd, 2016, 01:16 PM
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The other "official" difference is you don't have to change trains to traverse the whole route.>

Not sure what whole route Dukey is talking about but if Tirano to St Moritz the local trains go direct - no changes required.

but Bernina Express trains- some of them- will go right thru to Chur - but again book early to get a seat on the official trains and check schedules to see if the few of them a day some days comport with your schedule.

I have ridden both the official BE and locals and prefer the locals - the BE trains are usually chock full and you are stuck in your reserved seat, which may be an aisle seat - on regular trains they are usually half full or so and you can move from side to side as the scenery dictates since no seats are reserved- I'd rather have a window seat for sure than be stuck on a chock full official BE train in an aisle seat.

To me the observation cars are nice but you can in a window seat see the scenery perfectly well - better than being stuck in an aisle seat on the official BE.

Plus no advance booking involved- if weather is poor the day comes to go and it is cloudy and rainy you can then go via the mainline route Milan to Zurich via the Gotthard route.

In summer local trains have open-air flat bed cars in 2nd class - these are the ultimate observation cars-not all trains have them but those that do well I took one and it was awesome.
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Aug 22nd, 2016, 02:53 PM
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> The other "official" difference is you don't have to change trains to traverse the whole route. AGAIN, look into using the BUS from Lugano unless you prefer to do the ferry to Varenna and the train to Tirano from there.

Gotcha, thanks!

> regular trains they are usually half full or so and you can move from side to side as the scenery dictates since no seats are reserved

Very good to know. I'd prefer that over a crowded train, personally.
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Aug 22nd, 2016, 10:27 PM
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Hi dirthawker,

Another difference I've found between the marketed "scenic" trains and local trains:

Marketed scenic trains will be full of tourists, mostly folks just like yourself.

Local trains will be full of locals, so you get the chance to get inside the culture for a short while.

Have fun as you plan!

s
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Aug 23rd, 2016, 12:09 AM
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Local trains can be very crowded too, depending on the route and time of day or year.
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Aug 23rd, 2016, 12:09 PM
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Yes any train can be crowded at certain times - but the official BE trains often sell out way ahead of time and thus are usually full (with tour groups) you are stuck in your seat

On local Bernina trains folks get on and off - especially groups of hikers and walkers so you can snag a window seat - anyway most of the scintillating scenes are on the west side of the train - nearly all if I recall correctly. If booking BE try to get a window seat on the west side of the train.

If boarding a local try to snag a window seat on the west side of the train.

but kleeblatt is right in that locals can also be very crowded at times. If you start in Tirano however you should have the choice of seats on locals as most of the folks will get on and off much later. the train starts at Tirano.
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Aug 23rd, 2016, 02:31 PM
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and I'd be open to walking around a glacier...>

Well not sure about walking around a glacier but in Grindelwald you can walk to one and at the Jungfraujoch the same-the tip of the Aletsch Glacier, I believe the longest in the Alps.

On the Bernina Pass train you can get off at the summit station and walk to a glacier - not sure what you'd do with luggage however - may be a storage place in the station.
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Aug 23rd, 2016, 09:41 PM
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Another great option is to take the Palm Express postal bus (those are nice coaches run by the Swiss Postal Authorities along routes where trains don't go) - it runs between Lugano and St. Moritz (via Menaggio) see https://www.postauto.ch/en/leisure/palm-express
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Aug 24th, 2016, 06:04 AM
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the Palm Express bus is one of the most gorgeous I have ever taken- Lugano is close to Lake Como and you can join that bus I think in Menaggio, on Lake Como. reservations required - Swiss Pass fully valid even though it in part goes thru Italy.
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Aug 24th, 2016, 02:20 PM
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Hi swandav2000, I traveled in CZ some 10 years ago and the locals were really nice people. I'm hoping to have a similar experience here too.

michelhuebeli, sounds like an interesting option! Thank you for the suggestion.
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Aug 25th, 2016, 01:11 PM
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Marketed scenic trains will be full of tourists, mostly folks just like yourself.

Local trains will be full of locals, so you get the chance to get inside the culture for a short while.>

Yes - I've found that true and one reason I do not enjoy the official expresses on those scenic routes as much as the local trains - nothing against other tourists of course but just enjoy a more local crowd - and more empty seats for sure.
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Oct 31st, 2016, 03:10 PM
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We just got back a couple days ago and I wanted to say thanks again to everyone who advised. We decided not to stay in Como but just wander around there a few hours before taking the ferry to Bellagio. We meant to stay just one night, but a train strike kept us there one more. Bellagio's narrow little "streets" were great fun to wander and get a little lost. Ferried to Varenna, train to Tirano and Pontresina on the Bernina route. It was a fantastic ride and great views! The train was only about 1/2 - 2/3 full most of the way -- it got a little fuller picking up people at the glacier. We took a side trip to Muottas Muragl on the last day the funicular was open. It was cloudy but the panoramic vista was still amazing -- maybe one day we'll go back to see it under clear skies. Then we got kind of in a hurry and went straight on to Zurich. The Bernina route was definitely worthwhile!
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