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Suggestions for Switzerland-Italy Trip??

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Apr 19th, 2017, 05:15 PM
  #1
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Suggestions for Switzerland-Italy Trip??

We rather impulsively booked a flight into Zurich (from California) for late August, departing for home from Venice 17 days later. My husband has long wanted to ride the Bernina Express, and I've wanted to spend a little time on Lake Como.

At this point, we'd love some suggestions for Switzerland. We like the idea of seeing Luzern, but Zurich might be fun to explore, too. I've considered Renaissance Luzern Hotel and Hotel la Paix. Of course, I love Hotel des Balances but we'd like to keep the rate under 300 chf if possible. Perhaps there are hotels or other interesting towns we are not aware of? (We will not be renting a car).

So far, our plan is:
Fly into Zurich mid-afternoon
3 nights Zurich or Luzern or ???
1 night Chur (to catch the early morning Bernina Express to Tirano, Italy)
Train from Tirano to Varenna
3 or 4 nights in Varenna
Train to Firenze and/or ???
4 nights undecided (possibly Firenze - we were there last October for 7 nights; still more to see)
Train to Venice
Up to 4 nights Venice (this will be our 3rd visit)
Fly out of Venice 6AM

Any ideas would be appreciated. We will need the most help with Switzerland. Any suggestions for our time between Varenna and Venice are welcome also. We already know where we want to stay if we are in Florence and Venice.

And yes, I know it will be hot, hot hot in August/early September. Sigh. Sometimes the timing isn't the best.

Fodorites have always given us great ideas. Thank you for that, and thanks for any new input.
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Apr 19th, 2017, 05:31 PM
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I much preferred Luzern to Zurich, and they are close enough that you could stay in Luzern and still do a day trip to Zurich if you wanted to see it.

You seem to have allocated more time to Italy (no problem with that!) but it seems like you could take a couple days from Italy and spend them in or near the Bernese Oberland which many people consider the 'best' of Switzerland.

Since you have just spent 7 nights in Florence you might consider staying in Siena instead. It's a great city itself but it is also close enough to Florence that if there are specific things you wanted to see you could do a day trip back there. If you decided to stay in Florence at least consider a day trip to Siena.

Same idea for Venice. Since you've already spent a good deal of time there (nothing wrong with that, I just came back from my 5th visit) you might consider another town in the Veneto - Verona or Padua would be my picks. Padua is only a half hour from Venice but not sure if that's close enough to make sense for a 6am departure.

I have photos of all these places here: http://andiamo.zenfolio.com/

Sounds like a nice trip whatever you decide.
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Apr 19th, 2017, 07:19 PM
  #3
kja
 
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I trust you realize that you don't actually have to ride the "Bernina Express" to travel, by train, on those rails? You can take the regular trains, with greater flexibility, on the exact same tracks. The main differences are, as I understand them, the flexibility (greater for the regular trains), the cost (more for the named train), and the availability of overhead windows (but the views are to the SIDE!, so I've never understood the appeal). JMO.
Consult the main Swiss Rail web-site:
https://www.sbb.ch/en/buying/pages/f...fahrplan.xhtml

I found much to enjoy in both Zurich and Lucerne. Zurich is, IMO, vastly underrated, but IMO, doesn't have the same scenic value that Lucerne has. OTOH, Lucerne has become such a tourist destination that it can, IME, be unpleasant during high season. JMO. Depends on what you hope to see and experience....

You might find some useful information in my trip report on Switzerland:http://www.fodors.com/community/euro...any-thanks.cfm

Hope that helps!
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Apr 19th, 2017, 08:07 PM
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Isabel, what beautiful photos! Are you a professional photographer?? Thank you for sharing them. I am now inspired to look more closely at Switzerland.
Our reason for flying into Zurich was to access the Bernina Express before heading into Italy. Now I'm realizing the opportunity to explore Switzerland as well. I will be pouring through all of your photos. Thanks!
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Apr 19th, 2017, 08:17 PM
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Kja, thank you for sharing your wonderful trip report. I'll be re-reading it carefully while looking at a map.
This was supposed to be an Italy trip (our fourth), but now I am fascinated with Switzerland. Pricey place, though,
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Apr 19th, 2017, 08:41 PM
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Isabel, your pictures are gorgeous! What a brilliant photographer you are!

Elnap29, my suggestion is not to stay in Zurich, but go straight to Wengen or Murren in the Bernese Oberland!
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Apr 19th, 2017, 08:46 PM
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Isabel, your pictures are gorgeous! What a brilliant photographer you are!

Elnap29, my suggestion is not to stay in Zurich, but go straight to Wengen or Murren in the Bernese Oberland!
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Apr 19th, 2017, 09:52 PM
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Hi elnap29,

I can understand your reasoning to be thinking about Zürich or Luzern . . . but I think you would enjoy your Swiss trip more if you spent more time in the mountains. And yes, Wengen and Mürren in the Berner Oberland would give you that mountain experience, but you can also get into the mountains closer to the start of the Bernina Express.

Chur is a good destination worth a few nights, as are Pontresina, Scuol, or Sils (just a few of the wonderful places in the Engadin Valley).

https://www.pontresina.ch/en/

(This website uses google translate to translate German to English, so you have to click on "Sprache" and then select "English" for the translation):
http://www.engadin.com/ferienorte/en...scuol/?S=1&R=2

The best part of traveling the Engadin in August is that that area is largely undiscovered by English-speaking visitors. While the Jungfrau region will be pretty much overrun with tour busses and day-trippers going up to the Jungfraujoch, the Engadin will be filled with German-speaking hikers. It's a totally different vibe. Not so many cameras, and no clumps of folks stopping on the sidewalk. But it still has those jaw-dropping peaks and valleys dotted with blue, glacial lakes.

So if I were you, I might stay 1 or 2 nights in Luzern then 2 or 3 nights in the Engadin.

Have fun as you plan!

s
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Apr 19th, 2017, 10:01 PM
  #9
kja
 
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Thank you for your kind words about my trip report!

I'm going to do something I don't often do -- disagree with swandav!
From my perspective, if you are going to go to the Engadine -- and the Engadine is, IME, well worth it! -- then plan on at least 5 nights there. JMO.
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Apr 19th, 2017, 11:16 PM
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heheheee, that's a good disagreement. I'll agree to your amendment!

s
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Apr 19th, 2017, 11:47 PM
  #11
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@ swandav:
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Apr 20th, 2017, 01:47 AM
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South Tyrol is always an amazing trip. If you have time you should go there too. The Belvita hotels in Italy offer a spa and activities as well. If you are interested: https://www.belvita.it/en
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Apr 20th, 2017, 09:59 AM
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Elnap29, I would agree with the Engadine en route to Italy as suggested IF I knew you were interested in hiking for example. If on the other hand you are only interested in what cities offer, then I would not suggest the Engadine over Zurich or Lucerne.

I do happen to prefer spending as little time as possible in cities and do like hiking. If it were me, I would not even spend 1 night in Zurich or Lucerne, I would travel on to the Engadine on your arrival day. But first you need to say more about what YOU are interested in doing with your time. What I or anyone else would do is irrelevant.

Regarding the Bernina Express. I have rode both the Bernina Express and 'ordinary' trains on that route and agree with kja, that there is no appreciable difference. One difference kja did not mention is of importance to photographers. The windows on the regional trains open, they do not on the BE. I never understand why people try to take pictures through a glass window.

http://www.myswissalps.com/berninaexpress/gettingthere

The Bernese Oberland mentioned above is the most popular place for first time visitors to the Swiss Alps to head for. But other areas such as the Engadine are no less beautiful and are on the route to Italy that you want to take. There is no need to divert from your route at all.
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Apr 20th, 2017, 01:40 PM
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Your original post has most of your time in Italy, just a bit at the beginning in Switzerland. While I would (did) advise you to add a couple days since you will already be there, I wouldn't let myself get sidetracked into visiting all the places everyone mentions in Switzerland. There are LOTS of great places, you could spend months traveling around the country. I think the Swiss cities are interesting as well as the mountains. But there is nothing wrong with more or less sticking to your original plan and just taking two or three of the Italy days to add to Switzerland but keeping the majority in Italy. For one thing, Switzerland is a lot more expensive than Italy. There are actually quite a bit of the Alps on the Italian side which are just as amazing. Although without a car harder to see. But northern Lake Como (and Lake Garda) have nice mountain scenery (and lower prices than Switzerland). I think my 'best' trips have been the ones where I combined the two countries.
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Apr 20th, 2017, 03:57 PM
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Isabel, that you may have found Switzerland more expensive than somewhere else does not mean that A, someone else will find it expensive or B, that someone else may find places to stay etc. that are not as expensive as the places you stayed in Switzerland.

For example, you may have a 'beer budget' and consider something expensive that has a 'champagan budget'. You may have paid X to stay in one of the more popular places like Interlaken for example while someone with a greater knowledge of Switzerland stays in a mountain village somewhere for half as much.

You are making assumptions based on your personal experience. That doesn't mean they will apply to everyone else.

It really annoys me when people repeatedly say Switzerland is more expensive. If I want to visit Switzerland, there is no point telling me somewhere else is cheaper and if I have a budget I want to work to, I can find a way to do it in Switzerland just as easy as I could in Italy.
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Apr 20th, 2017, 06:16 PM
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I didn't say they shouldn't visit Switzerland, in fact I was the first person to reply and said they should add time to what they originally planned for Switzerland.

But really it's not just my opinion that Switzerland is more expensive than Italy (or most other European countries). It is commonly stated on this forum by many other posters, and if you compare prices for similar type things - food, accommodation, transportation, etc. the facts bear it out that it is more expensive. That doesn't mean it isn't 'worth' it. I've been to Switzerland a number of times and I will be back again. Everyone's budget is different and certainly for some people money is no object. But IF the cost of things does matter - and it does to many - than knowing ahead of time that Switzerland prices are going to be higher for similar things than in Italy (for example) is helpful.
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Apr 20th, 2017, 06:54 PM
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I am a hiker/walker and enjoyed staying in the Engadin, taking the local train for the Bernina, getting off, and walking part way, then catching a train part way back. getting off and walking, etc. I didn't stop and go up on the glacier, but could have on that or another day. So, it depends on if you just want to ride through and look at the views or get off and spend some time.

Before my trip, I found a video link on one of the tourist websites that contained a video someone made walking the trail. No big production, just a camera from the hiker's point of view, occasionally stopping to look at a sign or a view, then continuing on. It gave me a great idea of which sections I wanted to walk in terms of terrain and scenery.

I found places in Samedan where no one spoke English, which seems so unusual in Europe these days and reminded me of my earliest trip to Germany decades ago.
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Apr 21st, 2017, 10:00 AM
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Sorry Isabel, I am not trying to pick a fight with you personally. But I get very annoyed by people repeating OPINIONS as if they were facts.

You write and I agree with, "But really it's not just my opinion that Switzerland is more expensive than Italy (or most other European countries). It is commonly stated on this forum by many other posters,". But they are just that, opinions, not statements of fact. While that does seem to be the common opinion, it is easy to dispute that opinion with facts.

Let me give you an example of the facts of costs in Switzerland. Last week or next week, you could stay in a 3 star boutique hotel with an awarding winning restaurant, in the Engadine for $61.40 per night. That's for 2 people, bed and breakfast. Here is the hotel:
http://bellevuewiesen.com/

Also included in that price would be a 'Guest Pass' for the entire Davos-Klosters area. All bus, train, gondola, cable cars, etc. 100% free for your entire stay. It's probably the best Guest Card in Switzerland for value. It can easily save you hundreds of dollars in a week of use.
http://www.davos.ch/en/davos-kloster...al/guest-card/
So transportation would be the total of your train ticket from say Zurich to the hotel and return. That's around 100 CHF/USD each total.

If you wanted, you could get a half-board package from the hotel for another $35 per person per day and they'll include packed lunches to take on your hikes.

So, let's say you stayed a week. Not including airfare to Zurich, your total costs would be $200 (train to/from Zurich); 7 x $61 = $427 for your room and 7 x $70 = $490 for dinner and packed lunches. That gets you a grand total of $1,117 USD for food, accommodation and transportation Isabel. Now you tell me that you would say that was expensive.

You wrote, " But IF the cost of things does matter - and it does to many - than knowing ahead of time that Switzerland prices are going to be higher for similar things than in Italy (for example) is helpful."

I would agree with that IF it were true. But in fact, it is again, only an opinion and the facts do not bear it out. The facts show that if you have whatever budget to work with, you CAN visit Switzerland on a modest budget. In FACT, a backpacker can visit for a week on even less than $1,117. Staying in hostels, eating supermarket food and simply walking in the mountains can be done for $100 a day.

So the question I have Isabel is WHY people keep perpetuating the myth that Switzerland has to be more expensive? I think the reason is that those doing so are basing their opinion on their limited experience of visiting the usual suspect highly popular (and therefore more expensive) locations and staying in hotels found on third party booking sites that show a HOSTEL in Interlaken at $1360 for a week for 2 people! You can find the hotel I linked above on those third party sites but you have to KNOW to look in the right area to find it.

What people posting here regularly should be doing, is NOT telling people Switzerland is more expensive but instead telling them you can visit on a budget if you just put a bit more effort into finding out how to do so.
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Apr 21st, 2017, 11:20 AM
  #19
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Oh. My. Goodness. Thank you all so much for opening our eyes to some wonderful travel possibilities. We have never looked at Switzerland travel before, and now I wish we'd organized our flights differently. This started as a trip to Italy with the added lure for my husband of riding the Bernina Express.
We have much to research.

We find the idea of Engadine very intriguing - probably not drawn to the St Moritz area though. A little about us: We have always been active; the majority of our vacations have been hiking or walking trips. We love the outdoors! However, we are in our late sixties now and are finding we have to be a bit more careful. (I lost my footing on a steep trail a few years ago and tumbled off a cliff - very fortunately into a bottomless pool of water - so I don't take as many risks as I used to do). Our trips to Italy have been different - more about history, art, culture, meeting local people - although we do not speak more than 6 words in Italian. In Italy we have spent time in Rome, Venice, Florence, Siena, and other small towns and archaeological digs in Tuscany. All of our trips have been independent with an occasional day guide. Despite this, I consider us travel novices.

We do not speak German.

What do you recommend for the best information on the Engadine? Where is the lower Engadine? How do we get to these beautiful places without a car? Guarda looks wonderful.

Our trip is end of August into early September. I am wondering about the weather and travel clothes needed. We had planned to travel especially lightly this trip because of the heat in Italy and also because we will be in areas where a rolling suitcase is awkward. Thinking about travel backpacks. I'd rather not pack hiking boots this trip. I am wondering if we can make a trip to the Engadine work for this trip, or if we should try to plan for a separate trip next year.

Sorry to ramble, but I am very grateful for everyone's input. Kja and Isabel - so much information!! Thanks. And Dogeared, I thank you for showing me some budget options. We often use a balance of different types of lodging to make a trip more affordable. But please just offer some options without disparaging other Fodorites. Everyone has different travel perspectives and all are helpful and appreciated.

Thanks to all of you!!
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Apr 21st, 2017, 12:07 PM
  #20
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Swandav2000, thank you for the encouragement to visit the Engadine in August. Are you able to give me an idea of weather to expect?
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