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train or drive from Venice to Grindelwald

train or drive from Venice to Grindelwald

Aug 18th, 2006, 07:32 PM
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train or drive from Venice to Grindelwald

We are a family of four travelling to europe next August. We would like to get from Venice to Grindelwald and wondering what would be better- train or drive ? We would love to see the Dolomites if possible on our way. Driving is probably the only way to do this. On the other hand, if the drive is difficult, we would opt for the train. Any suggestions ? Thanks.
okoshi2002 is offline  
Aug 18th, 2006, 08:45 PM
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I would say drive it. But as to how difficult, how are you at handling steep mountain passes?

You will pay a drop fee to return a rental car in another country than one in which you rented -- usually.

bob_brown is offline  
Aug 19th, 2006, 04:37 AM
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We recently returned from our trip where we took an overnight train from Venice to Lucerne. We travelled with our kids (11 and 13).

With the help of this board I did all of the arrangements for our 3 week trip except for this portion, where I relied on a travel agent. I asked for a non-smoking, private couchette and was assured that's what we would have. Imagine our surprise when we were settling in and two young women popped in with tickets for our car!!!
It worked out well, however, and given that we were going to spend 7 days in the Alps enjoying those mountains, I felt doing the overnight was the better way to go.
skiobx is offline  
Aug 19th, 2006, 09:03 AM
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My husband would be doing the driving. He is a photo buff, so we would probably pull off the road frequently.

The Hertz drop-off charge is about 300 euro.

We did take a night train once from Venice to Paris . I was a bit disappointed. It was very expensive for the sleeper couchette for the four of us, and of course we did not see much travelling at night.

Is there a day train that connects from Venice to the Interlaken area ?
okoshi2002 is offline  
Aug 19th, 2006, 12:51 PM
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Is there a day train, Venice to Interlaken? Yes. In fact there are two or three of them.

All require at least 2 changes of train enroute.

The earlies train leaves Venice (Venedig, Venezia) St. Lucia station at 6:52 arriving in Interlaken West station at 14:30. (The next train leaves Venice St. Lucia at 10:52 arriving Interlaken West at 18:35. A relatively late departure is at 12:52 arriving at 20:41.

There is one connection requiring 3 changes that makes the trip in less time, 7 hours plus a few minutes. It leaves at 14:52 and arrives at 19:59.

The changes on the first three connections are at Milan Central and Spiez.

The connection requiring 3 changes is the same route but it involves an additional change in Brig. (The other 2 changes are in Milan and Spiez.)

The route goes through the Simplon Tunnel to Brig, then through the Lotschberg Tunnel to Kandersteg and Spiez. At Spiez the train you are on goes to Bern and north. You change in Spiez for Interlaken.

The trains from Venice to Milan and Milan onward are Cisalpinos which almost always require a seat reservation.

Based on my experience with riding Cisalpino, you would want a reserved seat. (Assuming you are traveling 2nd class.)
bob_brown is offline  
Aug 19th, 2006, 02:15 PM
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I have done this drive. It's pretty but also pretty long. Why not break it up with a night on Lake Como?
vedette is offline  
Aug 19th, 2006, 05:06 PM
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bob brown

What is the best web site to look at those train options ?
okoshi2002 is offline  
Aug 19th, 2006, 07:44 PM
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In general I normally use 3 web sites for my info, depending on what I am looking for.

1. www.sbb.ch (look for the little en to get English captions; use Venedig for Venice.)

2. www.bahn.hafas.de/bin/query.exe/en
(generally very comprehensive for Western Europe, Poland, Czech Republic, etc. )

3. www.oebb.at (The Austrian system, and usually good for Hungary, Romania, Serbia, and the Czech Republic in addition to Germany, Austria, and Switzerland.)

For this particular query, I used the Swiss site.

Put in your date of travel and the departure time. You will get several results with options for later and earlier departures.

Look at the list, and select one or two of them for more details.

Then, if you want to see all the stops for a particular train, click on the train number, e.g. EC 132.

One thing I must add is that the schedules I cited in my first posting do not apply to all days of the week. Depending on which day you travel, you may find a few slight changes in times and the number of changes.

The basic route remains the same:
Venice - Milan - Brig - Spiez - Interlaken

Be sure to note that Interlaken has two stations, East and Ost - east.
The West station is toward the west end of the city close to the boat dock for the Thuner See; the Ost station is closer to the Brienzer See. It is the station from which the trains to Lauterbrunnen and Grindelwald depart.

You may not be able to get international prices from the websites. And if you price at Rail Europe, please be aware that many prices there are sky high.

I recently bought a restricted ticket from Munich to Basel from Die Bahn via the on-line ticket service. I ordered on-line. Die Bahn sent me an an email with a PDF attachment that contained my ticket. I paid about $65.00 per ticket. Rail Europe wanted $199.00 for a similarly restricted ticket, plus shipping costs!

Some people use the Trentalia (Italian site) but I find the Swiss site to be more to my liking. That is a personal preference, however.

If you want access to a really generic site, try this one:


Click on "Links" and you will see a series of icons in the form of national flags or national seals for just about every national rail website west of Mongolia.

It even has a web site for Kyrgyzstan.
If you want to travel to Bishkek (Frunze under the Soviets), this web site should fix you right up, provided you can read Russian. Is it is in another language? I don't know because I cannot read Russian.
bob_brown is offline  
Aug 19th, 2006, 07:59 PM
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OOOPS Use Venezia on the Swiss site for Venice. You probably want the Santa Lucia station and not Mestre.

Venedig works on the German site.

Also note that within Italy, the Cisalpino trains usually demand a reservation. As I said earlier, it is a good idea to have one. I rode one last year from Stuttgart to Zürich and I was glad I had a reserved seat. The train was crowded.

I never rarely buy one in Switzerland, but on Sunday afternoons, some of the trains can get crowded.

If I am taking an international train out of Switzerland, I usually have a seat reservation if for no other reason than to make sure I will have a seat in a non smoking car.

bob_brown is offline  
Aug 20th, 2006, 03:09 AM
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>If I am taking an international train out of Switzerland, I usually have a seat reservation if for no other reason than to make sure I will have a seat in a non smoking car.

Fortunately this problem belongs (mostly) in the past. All Swiss, Italian and French trains are non-smoking now. Germany is yet to follow...
altamiro is offline  
Aug 20th, 2006, 08:33 AM
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Thank you for all the details .

Will need to explore cost of train for four versus a car . The latter may be less expensive, and with 2-3 train changes between Venice and Interlaken, may be just as fun to drive.

bob brown, I saw an old post from several years ago here on Fodors - you mentioned three possible routes/passes going between Switzerland and Italy. Do you currently have a favorite route to drive for (scenery and good road) ? Thanks.

okoshi2002 is offline  
Aug 20th, 2006, 09:17 AM
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I am sure others will have definite views on this subject.

I really don't have a favorite.

The Simplon Pass makes the most sense if you want to get to Interlaken, but the road from Domodossola to Brig is not my idea of fun. Narrow, twisting, etc.

You can drive over the St. Gotthard Pass, but the tunnel is open again after a major accident a couple of years ago. If you take the tunnel, you can leave the autobahn north of Andermatt and take the Susten Pass over to Innertkirchen, Meiringen, and Interlaken.

The Susten Pass is very scenic without being hair raising. My wife was at the wheel when we drove over it last summer. However, she is not the type to let a curvy mountain road bother her. Like me, she respects them, but seems to enjoy driving them.

If you want to go out of your way a little, Col St. Bernard, the scene of the monastery that raised the famous dogs, is a pretty drive too. It is steep, but Val d'Entremont is lovely.

To combine efficiency with some scenery, I would take the St. Gotthard tunnel route and then drive over the Susten Pass to Meiringen.

If you want to double dip, drive through the St. Gotthard Tunnel, and then take the road from Andermatt to Brig and drive over the Furka Pass and then over the Grimsel Pass to Innertkirchen and Interlaken Those two passes should satisfy any real craving for Swiss mountain passes.

The Furka is one of the few that had me tightening my grip on the wheel! I am not sure why, I think it was because I was slow compared to the others and that bothered me. The Grimsel Pass is not all that bad. It has a lot of switchbacks but they are are well engineered.

One thing about those Swiss Passes. On weekends they are habitat of motorcycle thrill seekers who like to see just how fast they can take the curves. If you drive over one or more of them, just be prepared for some guy on a speed bike going like he was trying to out run the end of the earth. I have seen them leaning over at what seemed like 60 degrees from the vertical as they rounded the curves.

As my wife said, if he runs off the road, it will not be our problem. In a few seconds he would be 2,000 feet or more below us.

We have plans to drive over the Grimsel Pass again in a few days. We will spend the night at the Hotel Grimsel Hospiz up on the heights of the pass.

Depending on how you want to plan your route, you could also drive to Bozen (Bolzano) to Meran (Merano) and go over the Timmesljoch to the Ötztal in Austria, and take the freeway through western Austria to Switzerland.

That too is the long way round.
Which would I do to reach Interlaken? Depends on time. Probably the St. Gotthard Tunnel and then the Susten Pass.

bob_brown is offline  
Aug 20th, 2006, 10:24 AM
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Hi Bob!

We used to be one of those motorcyclists that would pass you in the wee morning hours. Oh... those were great times. Now my husband is a mountainbike enthusiast. He keeps his routes to small passes like the Pragel Pass, that connects Muothathal to Glarnerland.

Just wanted to remind Okoshi that summer weekends are notorious for traffic jams before the Gotthard Pass (both directions) and that driving over it is easy and can even save time.
kleeblatt is offline  
Aug 20th, 2006, 02:09 PM
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I forgot to mention that about the Gotthard tunnel. It is THE way between Italy and Germany, other than the Brenner Pass in Austria. So, yep, it gets full of cars and trucks, biigg trucks.

It is long and the length bothers some people. They get claustrophobic.

Well, Schuler, I am glad we did not have to scrape you off the bottom of a cliff.
As risk averse as I am, I doubt if I would have done that even if I had the opportunity when I young.

bob_brown is offline  
Aug 20th, 2006, 07:27 PM
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Thank you for all these opinions and suggestions.

We would like to see the Dolomites and perhaps spend one night there (near but not Cortina D'Ampezzo). Is there a logical route to take to get to Grindelwald from that direction ?
okoshi2002 is offline  
Aug 20th, 2006, 07:49 PM
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From near Cortina?
It is a long drive to Interlaken!!

And you must go to Interlaken to get tp Grindelwald.

You got a map? If not, better get one. I suggest The Alps by Euro Map. It is part of Langensheidt Publishing.

After you do, look at it and see if you agree with me: There ain't no good way!

You either wind around in the hills or simply go back toward Venice - Mestre on the freeway. Then head for Milano.

Or, go north from Cortina until you intersect the road at/near Toblach.
This is the road from Lienz Austria to the freeway south of Innsbruck.

When you reach the freeway, turn north to Innsbruck.

There you will intersect the autobahn/freeway east and west along the Inn Valley.

Turn west and go all the way to Switzerland.

Then, you can pick a route to Interlaken.

I think I would just stay in Austria and visit Heiligenblut and the Hohe Tauren park and drive over the Grossglockner Hochalpenstrasse and visit places like Kitzbuhl, etc.

I think the Grossglockner Hochalpenstrasse will qualify as a test of mountain driving skill. It is not bad, but it is a definite mountain road.
Heiligenblut is a neat little place.
Great food there.

Fly home from Munich.
bob_brown is offline  
Aug 21st, 2006, 08:18 AM
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I have been using Map Quest to this point to look at the routes. Will get a real map once we have a firm idea which part of europe we will drive.

The east part of Dolomite Road seems to be near Cortina . If the west ends near Bolzano, then get to Lugano (via Milan), on to Interlaken .

Therefore, I envisioned Venice, Cortina, Bolzano, Lugano, Interlaken roughly. I know this is not a direct route, but is it reasonable, and a worthwhile itinerary done over 2-3 days ?
okoshi2002 is offline  
Aug 21st, 2006, 08:25 AM
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Actually it is Ortisei that we would like to spend a day or two near the Dolomites, not Cortina.
okoshi2002 is offline  
Aug 21st, 2006, 01:40 PM
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The roads are slow, but I have not driven to Bolzano from Lienz or the reverse.

I did not feel that I could see much of the mountains from Bolzano.

If you want to see that part of the Dolomites, you will need to drive to Meran /Merano and over the Timmelsjoch.

I felt that the Austrian side of the range of peaks between Meran and Obergürgl was better seen from the Austrian side anyhow.

I guess it depends on what you mean by "seeing" the Dolomites. I want to be right at the base staring up or on top of somepart of it staring down.

Standing in Interlaken and staring at the peak of whatever it is I can see from there is not my idea of "seeing" the Alps.

The day I drove the Timmelsjoch, it was cloudy, wet, and dreary. I feel that I have yet to see anything much between Sölden and Meran. In other words, driving in the soup does not count as "seeing".

I have not ever driven to Bozen (Bolzano) and Meran (Merano). The time I went was on the train, although I did the Timmelsjoch by car we did not descend to the base of the pass on the Italian side.

bob_brown is offline  
Aug 22nd, 2006, 07:51 AM
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I will clarify "seeing "the Dolomites- we hope to complete some day hikes therefore easy access to the trails would be good. Ortisei or Castelrocco are discribed as being good bases .

Likewise, we'd like to hike some nice day trails near Grindelwald, Murren and Wengen.

What we see in-between those two destinations is icing on the cake.

We had hoped there might be suggestions regarding reasonable drving routes between the two regions .
okoshi2002 is offline  
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