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Trip report - Switzerland and north Italy

Trip report - Switzerland and north Italy

Old May 23rd, 2023, 11:11 AM
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Trip report - Switzerland and north Italy

We are currently in Switzerland and will write up a report on the go, as it’s a longish trip and I’ll never get to it once home.

It’s 39 nights, mostly in the mountain and lake regions we love in Switzerland and north Italy.

Our previous trips have been quite similar in pace and destinations, lakes/ villages / mountains/ forests / valleys, historical architecture, good transport hubs and simple routing, 7-9 night bases.

Switzerland might look tiny on a map but it takes a long time to travel across the country so we choose a region and stick to that, and north Italy is also a favourite.

This time our longer bases will include

Lake Maggiore (Stresa), the Ticino (Locarno), Upper Engadine (Sils Maria), and South Tirol (Bressanone and Corvara)

Flight into Zurich and out of Munich. Lots of options to join the dots between these 2 cities.

I rewrote my plans so many times.DH was understandably bewildered, a colleague sent me this picture and we labelled it

“just follow me” …

Madam was not happy once she sensed what was going down….


Practical stuff:

Bought a Holafly esim for Europe (installed esim at home a couple of days before trip, but did not activate it. On arrival turned off airplane mode and turned on roaming for the new carrier and disabled on home carrier).

WhatsApp to coordinate our meeting up with friends and Airbnb hosts.

ApplePay (luckily had set this up as my visa card required my PIN number - which it doesn’t at home - and I couldn’t remember it, lol, jet lag fog).

Installed SBB App for routes, and as an option for ticketing.
We pre purchased half fare card 120CHF each, ticket is emailed, can print or save. Conductor will scan your half fare card and possibly cross check passport.


Used https://www.sbb.ch/en to calculate train/ bus costs (defaults to cheapest price automatically, so prices reflect a half fare card/ or saver pass used) so need to do some maths to check value
Some extra tips:
Clicking on the "Passenger 1" Pen icon you can adjust the passenger status eg full fare, half fare,
Can select “duration of transfer” at least 10 mins, to reduce stress of delays and hauling luggage from under bus, traffic jam at train doors, etc as route planner defaults fastest route (eg I chose a longer transfer on a previous trip that included Glacier Express and were glad we had, some passengers missed their connection)

Also, can try different routes example via “Simplon” in order to choose my preferred route to Stresa (can add “ship” or “bus” for scenic options)

Pre booked a few restaurants for our Stresa stay.

Adelaidean is offline  
Old May 23rd, 2023, 11:27 AM
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Yay! I've been looking forward to this.
Melnq8 is offline  
Old May 23rd, 2023, 11:27 AM
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Travel and arrival day:

Zurich base (visited Zug)

It’s a long slog for us to get to Europe, 34 hours home to Zurich airport as we flew with Singapore Airlines (can reduce to 24 hours if Qatar is carrier, at least we have some choices). Transit hotel in Singapore to shower and rest a bit between flights. Always worth it.We chose to stay in Zurich for 2 nights (jetlag recovery and leaves a buffer for potential flight issues / cancellations, lost bags).

We like Zurich anyway. Compact and nice historic buildings, river and lake.

Great day trip options.

(Stayed at the Best Western Plus Hotel Zürcherhof close to station, @ Zähringerstrasse 21, used booking.com 422CHF for an ‘urban double’ which is larger than expected for the price, includes excellent breakfast. Good price, excellent location, lovely hotel)

We arrived at the hotel about 11:15am, so with checkin and quick walk back to station, we were on a train to Zug before we started flagging.We really only had a few hours of puff left in us, so chose the shortest/ easiest for first afternoon.
A 30 minute train ride (CHF 8.70 half fare- our tickets were checked, the half fare card scanned and passport cross checked on this ride).

Easy and pleasant walk to Lake Zug (Zugersee) from the train station and on to the old town on this gorgeous sunny day, with a welcome stop at Cafe Strickler for lunch on the way.

The lakeside promenade area is wide with wonderful trees, grassy areas, and some paddle boarders to watch, little children on a group outing excited at the aviary (kookaburras and a snow owl!), in itself just a soul soothing scene of beauty and tranquility.

The curved alley entices you into the charming medieval streets and around to the Burg, with the unexpected pleasure of a lovely garden on the way.

The Burg is closed Mondays, and the clock tower key for public access not at the shop downstairs when that is closed, but stamina was limited and we were satisfied with the perfect first afternoon.

Pleasant stroll to the Falafel and Mezze House at Rathausbrücke in Zurich for takeaway dinner.
Cheap and healthy falafel/ salad wrap, delicious.

Early to bed, then awake before 4 am.
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Old May 23rd, 2023, 11:31 AM
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Fabulous, Aidelaidean! Great start and gorgeous photos! I look forward to this. What a wonderful amount of time to travel! I don't know if we'll ever manage it, but this is a trip I'd love to do someday.

Oh, and that is definitely me explaining our trips to my husband!!
And this is him as I'm explaining the trip:

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Old May 23rd, 2023, 11:34 AM
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A few snaps of the walk for dinner in Zurich…I didn’t take my camera, so just phone shots.

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Old May 23rd, 2023, 11:35 AM
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I'm surprised you could do anything on your arrival day other than hit the sack! I sure don't miss those gawd-awful flights from Australia and Indonesia.
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Old May 23rd, 2023, 11:37 AM
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Hi Mel and progol!

Desperate to travel, Mel, so determined not to moan about it
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Old May 23rd, 2023, 12:11 PM
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Day 2:

Zurich base (visited Stein am Rhein)

Day trip options on my list - (previously visited Solothurn)Sisikon and walk part of the Swiss Path to Fluelen
Rapperswil and ferry
Stein am Rhein

forecast: cloudy in morning, thunder and rain in afternoon

We figured Stein am Rhein would be good for a rainy day, quite touristy so presume lots of eateries to sit out showers.Stein am Rhein (28CHF return)
  • can include boat to Diessenhofen and the wooden bridge/ old town there. Only 10 min by train if boat timings don’t work.
But first, after a decent sleep (awake early, but felt good), we had a fabulous slow breakfast at 7 am in the hotel’s lovely dining room.

We love Swiss breakfasts : I had a feast of Bircher muesli/ pepitas/ walnuts/ yoghurt/ juice/ double espresso/ boiled egg/ cheeses / fantastic crusty sourdough rolls and rye loaves, carrots, kohlrabi, tomatoes, fresh fruit, wonderful fruit jams, DH ordered scrambled eggs, they also have smallgoods, smoked salmon, pastries OMG, we felt like the holiday has really begun.

We compared our kids recent trip where they got up at 11am, no breakfast, lunch whenever, and ate dinner at 9 pm, ugh, no thanks.

I mastered the SBB App and bought today's return tickets online, and we have the timetable and platform sorted. Becoming as efficient as the Swiss.

It’s a little over an hour by train, changing in Winterthur.Pretty little towns and farms en route, went by quickly.

Easy stroll from station to river, with the old town across bridge but we first wandered the riverbank, so quiet and peaceful, just a few locals on bikes or walking.

he’s 90, was up for a chat

sweet kiddos walking

Found my DH chatting to a chap, despite his 3 words of German, worked out he’s 90 and lived there 70 years, and walks every day.

We then crossed the wooden bridge to Werd Island, a listed UNESCO site for its archaeological findings of ancient pile dwellers around 5000BC. We were alone there - which in itself was incredible.

We then strolled through Stein am Rhein old town, with its extraordinary painted facades and well preserved half timbered buildings, many with elaborate oriel windows. Evidence of a wealthy medieval village. It’s very charming, despite being a tourist magnet and with some inevitable tacky souvenir stands.

Lunched in the pedestrian zone, apfelschorle, mixed salad, raspberry torte. Delicious.

Then on to the Benedictine Monastery complex, now a museum. 5CHF entry.

No monks have lived in the monastery since 1525, when it was dissolved as a result of the Reformation.

Fabulous site with a wine press, church and cloisters, frescoes, a banquet hall, stunning gardens (including a medicinal herb garden).
Those gardens were just exquisite.
We were alone in this complex, unbelievable. It felt so meditative and calming, and such a privilege to see history so well cared for.

The sky got a bit threatening, and we headed to the station, opting out of extending the day after all.
Still jet lagged, we bought some ready made meals from the Coop at the station and ate in our hotel room in our PJ’s

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Old May 23rd, 2023, 12:40 PM
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Wonderful photos and report! You got me at breakfast - what a feast! I love the painted buildings, and for a tourist magnet, it doesn’t look all that crowded. And of course, the monastery - those frescoes are stunning.

Dinner in PJs is definitely my kinda way to eat!
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Old May 23rd, 2023, 02:59 PM
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Love your trip report and appreciate all the trip reports posted by Aussie girls (and Mel) on their overseas adventures. I'm envious but glad that we travelled as much as we could, whilst we could. Keep going, girls!
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Old May 23rd, 2023, 04:20 PM
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What an exciting trip you have planned!
The photos are just wonderful and certainly remind us that it is a very sensible idea to have those couple of days after long haul from here.
Looking forward to following along, and hopefully planning for ourselves for later this year.
(As an aside: very sunny and 20C here today after the damp and grey week before!)
Travel well.
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Old May 23rd, 2023, 05:45 PM
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Thanks for starting your report even though you must still have been very tired.
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Old May 23rd, 2023, 06:22 PM
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Some of my photos didn’t load…

I was totally expecting Stein am Rhein to be heaving.
The train was pretty empty, and we came across lots of bike riders in the town, quite a few sitting in the square having lunch, or wandering, but it was very comfortable.

The SBB App is your friend….I had plenty of time to do some dummy bookings and get familiar with it which makes such a difference once we finally got travelling.
Buying tickets turned out to be easy and there’s lots of additional functionality that helps with smooth travel.

you get an overview of journey, the platform, the red dot in first photo indicates where you are on journey, and on the change of train line you can view the transfer (if it’s short, you can position yourself at doors and be aware which platform to head for).
We don’t have this sort of public transport where we live, and I’m not that tech savvy so it took me a bit of practise.

On my endless itinerary revisions…we love exploring the distinctly different regions in Switzerland, so wouldn’t be satisfied with a Lucerne, Zermatt, Jungfraujoch trip.
We’ve had several fabulous trips prior to this and found the popular regions justifiably amazing, but the lesser visited are just as rewarding.
So, when I started with a ‘should we spend 3 days in Locarno?’ question, that led to an eye opening buffet of options. And one of those was Stresa and the Borromean Islands. Well, it seemed too much for a day trip and so much to also explore in that area, so ended up with 8 days in Stresa and 9 days in Locarno.
These aren’t lesser destinations, just less known, I guess.

All my discussions and mumbling at home must have confused DH, because he recently told me that he’d talked to his dentist about our upcoming trip to Lake Garda……errrrr, no, not going there, lol.

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Old May 23rd, 2023, 06:28 PM
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Thanks for tuning in.
Wide awake at 2:30 am, so doing my writing, double checking my connections, emailing parents.
A trip report is a commitment, so figured if started, I’d make some time for it every day.
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Old May 23rd, 2023, 07:07 PM
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I am so happy to see you posting. I still can’t imagine that long of a flight then to see so much already. I always enjoy seeing your pictures and will be taking notes. 6 years ago I too flew into Zurich and out of Munich but only had 10 day so am looking forward to knowing what I missed.
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Old May 23rd, 2023, 07:22 PM
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I, too, am looking forward to this.

The flights from Oz are a killer...but, there's no other way, unless you stay home. I so envy Europeans and Americans / Canadians, who have only a short-ish hop!
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Old May 23rd, 2023, 07:52 PM
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Oooooh wheeeee!! Oh yaaaaay!! Love, love reading your reports!! Love seeing your amazing photos!!

Lol, I thought the only thing to do in Stein a.R. was to look at those frescoed buildings! You sure had a full day there, and now I really really want to go there!

Thanks so much for taking the time to post!! Sooo looking forward to all of your report!

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Old May 23rd, 2023, 07:57 PM
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Great start Adelaidean.We flew out of Adelaide last night on our way to Lisbon on our trip cancelled from 2020.
Like the night flight although we won't get there till the following night. Only 22 hours but 3 hops
Qatar's airport is looking almost Singaporean with a nice new sunken garden. Guess its had some work since the FIFA finals.
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Old May 23rd, 2023, 11:21 PM
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HI Adeladean, loving your trip report.
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Old May 23rd, 2023, 11:40 PM
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Your marketing for Switzerland is better than that of myswitzerland.com!
In the case you should be interested in bus and boat timetables for the area between the Swiss border and Stresa:
Commazzi buses run into scenic and not too touristy mountain valleys: Macugnaga/Z'Maggenen, Ponte Formazza/Zum Stäg and others.
If the weather is fine, you may reach Stresa by boat from Locarno (Wednesday, Saturday and Sunday) or by panoramic Simplon Postbus (from Brig to Domodossola).
The red rhododendron flowers above Lake Maggiore will begin to bloom very soon.
neckervd is offline  

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