Zurich, Tuscany & Venice

Old May 27th, 2006, 03:23 PM
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Zurich, Tuscany & Venice

My husband and my 5 year old boy are planning to go to Tuscany & Venice for 16 days ( 2 days travelling)at the end of July. We flight into & leave from Zurich and have to be in Pieve de Camaiore (20 minutes from Lucca)for our friend's Bday party a week from our arrival in Zurich. I want to go to Lake Como and he wants to take our boy on a train ride (Glacier Express) from Chur to St. Moritz. We are renting a car so our trip looks like this:
1. Arrive Zurich (1 night)
2. Zurich, Chur, St. Moritz (1 night)
3. St. Moritz, Chur,Lake Como
4. Lake Como
from there I don't know if we should go to Venice for a couple of nights, then to Florence and then to Pieve de Camaiore and take day trips to Cinque Terre and Pisa or come down to the Italian Riviera to Pieve de Camaiore and then to Florence, Sienna to Venice and then to Zurich.

Any suggestions?

Thanks
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Old May 27th, 2006, 04:51 PM
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I think you're trying to cover a lot of ground. Is it 16 days plus 2 days arriving and departing, or is it 14 days between arrival and departure? Are you driving in Italy or using trains? Have you factored in the travel time between places you intend to overnight? For example, Lake Como to Venice by train will take the better part of a day and at least a half day from Venice to Florence. Also, you'll probably have to spend the last night Zurich, so you need to figure out the logistics of getting there from the last destination, wherever it may be.

Many on this board believe if you go to Italy you must go to Venice, but it seems to me you already have a rather full itinerary in Switzerland and the western part of Italy. It's your trip, but if it were mine I'd slow down and avoid staying anywhere (except Zurich) less than two nights.

In July, I'd add time near water. Lake Como water is fairly cold but there are a few hotels with pools and also a public pool. A few days on the Riviera or CT or in Tuscany at a hotel with a pool would be a nice break from the summer temps.
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Old May 27th, 2006, 04:58 PM
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Sorry, just noticed "we are renting a car." I'm not sure this would alter my view. It's a lot of driving, especially since you have to get back to Zurich. I doubt you could rent a car in Switzerland and drop it in Italy, but I could be wrong. I would look into this and also do some research on driving times. Factor parking fees into your hotels costs.
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Old May 27th, 2006, 05:39 PM
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DH and I have driven from Orvieto, one hour + north of Rome, to Zurich in one (long) day's drive more than once. It is do-able, but tiring. We split up the drive this past April by stopping overnight in Locarno Switzerland.

We always rent in Zurich airport and return the car to Zurich airport. It is really very convenient to do this.

Our trips are typically two weeks, and we also cover Germany and Italy. Yes, sometimes it's pretty "whirlwind" but I wouldn't change any of my trips to Europe, and I travel there twice a year.
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Old May 28th, 2006, 08:51 PM
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My first suggestion is to go to Venice last, and to fly between Venice and Zurich, ideally flying out of Venice the morning of your return flight from Zurich to the US. This does not always work with US flight departure times from Zurich, so you may have to overnight in Zurich, but this will save you a LONG drive or train trip from Florence, Venice or the Cinque Terre area.

Secondly, the train ride from Chur to St Moritz, while extremely beautiful and one of my favorite train rides in Switzerland, does NOT go up over any glaciers or Alps. It goes along valley floors and through some gorgeous ravines and into the St Moritz valley, and there are some great Alp views; however it is not the true Glacier Express as you may be thinking or have read about. I didn't even know that this portion was advertised as being part of the Glacier Express, the true Glacier Express goes from St Moritz to Zermatt, takes about 10 hours and is, IMO, not that interesting and way too long for a 5 year old.

If I were you, and if your husband wants to take a ride through glaciers and Alps, I would drive or train to St Moritz, spend one or two nights there (possibly skipping Zurich, see below), and take the portion of the Bernina Express which goes from St Moritz to Tirano and back to St Moritz. This can be done as a half-day trip and would take about 6 ours, in including a 2 hour stop for lunch in Tirano, a good break for the child. This is a spectacular trip and would be more manageable for a 5-year old IMO. (You can in fact do this entire trip from Zurich as a day trip, but this takes almost 12 hours door to door and would be too much IMO for a 5 year old.) You yourself could stay in St Moritz for the day if you did not want to do this trip with your husband. For info on the Bernina Express, go to rhb.ch

The drive from Zurich to St Moritz is less than 3 hours and would take you up and over the very fun Julier Pass, which is like a moon scape as it is above the tree line. The train trip takes under 4 hours, and includes the wonderful portion between Chur to St Moritz first mentioned above. Doing the trip this way would give your and your family more time in the beautiful Engadine area, and this area is much nicer than Chur, IMO, which is really an industrial town with a very small old town that is not anywhere near the same type of beautiful mountain valley that St Moritz is. With a 5 year-old, this may be preferable to moving every night. From St Moritz, it is a very easy drive of less than 3 hours to Como, and a very pretty drive at that.

Alternatively if you wanted, you could spend 1-2 nights in the St Moritz area and then you could all take the Bernina Express to Tirano and then take a train to Como. The train takes just over 3 hours. There is an Autoeurope office in Tirano. (This would save you rental car drop off charges between Switzerland and Italy, but if you are returning the car to Switzerland, you may still have them, you might want to consider dropping the car at the Italian border on your way back and taking a train from there.)

As another alternative, if your husband just wanted to take a train ride and was not particularly sussed about whether it involved glaciers, you could stay in Zurich both nights (which has an excellent zoo, ferry rides on the lake, and most likely the circus would be in town in July, all of which would certainly interest a 5 year old), and he could take a train ride either up to Utliberg, less than 20 minutes but certainly fun and great Alp and lake views from there, or to a place further away like the gorgeous Wallensee area, about an hour by train and surrounded by mountains. You can take the train to Murg or Mols, take a ferry down the beautiful lake to Weesen and then take a train back. There is also walking and biking along the lake. (As there is in Zurich.) This would mean less moving and shorter train rides than going to St Mortiz. From Zurich, there is a wonderful train ride to Como that take only 4 hours and is extremely pretty. While none of these trips have the wow of the Bernina Express, for a child they would still be very enjoyable, IMO, and very easy for you.

From Como to Florence is Florence is less than 3 hours by train. I personally would train to Florence from Como a rent the car only in the Florence area, returning it there, saving drop off charges. From Florence to Venice by train is about 2.5 hours. You do not need a car in Como and certainly not Venice so the less time you rent one, the better, IMO.

For train schedules, including within Italy, go to the Swiss rail site at rail.ch

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Old May 29th, 2006, 06:27 PM
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Thanks for the input.

Jean would you rather stay 3 nights in Lake Como and one night in Riviera, or 2 nights in Lake Como and two nights in the Riviera. Any hotels you would recommend?
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Old May 29th, 2006, 06:28 PM
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Cicerone:

My husband wants to spend one night in St. Moritz, Can you recommend a good hotel, which is not too expensive?

Thanks
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Old May 29th, 2006, 09:46 PM
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I don't know any not too expensive hotels in St Moritz (although I am sure some exist) I have only stayed at the Suvretta House which was excellent albeit quite expensive. There are many expensive hotels in St Moritz as it is a very expensive town in a very expenisve country, and I am sure there are some good 3 stars as well, take a look at some of the websites below.

karenbrown.com
alpineclassics.ch
relaischateaux.com
romantikhotels.ch
www.swisshotels.ch
summithotels.com

There is nothing wrong with St Moritz, it is just full of very expensive stores like Gucci, Cartier, Bulgari etc which I am not interested in in the first place and in the second it is a little bit incongruous to me to have all that in the alpine setting. There is not much of a village left to it, and it can get crowded and often involves walking up and down a lot of hills. But there is some great people watching and some good restaurants.

I can recco some nice hotels in Celerina and Pontresina and Sils-Maria. Celerina is just a few miles north east of St Moritz, about 10 minutes by train or you can even walk if you have the time. I actually prefer as it is much much smaller and much less crowded and touristy than St Moritz. Pontresina is about 5 minutes further east along in the valley and has a little more of a spectacular setting than Celerina, and Sils-Maria probably has the most spectacular setting of all, but any are a good choice. You can go for lunch and to see the town of St Moritz for the day. Both have beautiful views and you can get out into the countryside in moments. Celerina is where the famous (or infamous) Cresta Run bobsled run is located (closed in summer). I actually think Celerina is better than St Moritz and even Pontresina in terms of using the train because the station is walkable to most hotels; in St Moritz you have to get a bus or taxi or hotel car up a fairly big hill to the main town and hotels (and the Suvretta House is just plain located far away from the town, you really need a car to stay there, lovely as it is, go to http://www.suvrettahouse.ch/en/).

In Celerina, two hotels I can recco are below. The first hotel is a nice 3 star with each room done in an individual style (in some cases kind of quirky), the second is a more luxurious 4 star, but it has an indoor pool and wellness centre which you and the baby might enjoy. Both are worth checking for prices, both are walkable from the train station. The Cresta Palace has lots of Italian tourists, which makes it fun and very much a family place.

Hotel Misani
http://www.hotelmisani.ch/pgs_en/0000_home.php

Cresta Palace Hotel
http://www.crestapalace.ch/default_english.htm

Southside rooms have the best views.

In Pontresina a very good hotel is the Hotel Walther (hotelwalther.ch.), it also has an indoor pool and wellness centre and an excellent restaurant. There are some lovely walks in this area.

Another very lovely area is around Sils Maria, about 10 miles south of St Moritz, and a great hotel there is the the Waldhaus, go to http://www.waldhaus-sils.ch/en/home/home_e.htm

In most hotels, kids under 5 are generally free, although if you have a crib or rollaway you may pay a fee.

Also on Swiss trains and other public transport, kids under 6 travel for free, although on the "experience" trains like the Bernina Express or the Glacier Express this may not be the case, esp for the reserved seat cars. You would have to check on this.

IMO you a doing a lot of traveling to spend only one night in this beautiful area, not to mention on top of jet lag and jet lag with a 5 year old. I hope you get good weather for your one day. Much as I like Zurich (I used to live there) I would easily give it up for 2 nights in the Engadine and would certainly not spend a night in Chur in lieu of two nights in the St Moritz valley.

I also don't understand driving back from St Moritz to Chur, as the route to Como would NOT take you via Chur, you would go south from St Moritz toward Sils then over the Italian border, you would not go northwest towards Chur. If you are going by public transport, you have to take a combination of bus and train, but you change trains at Thusis, which is well south of Chur, and then head south, you will not go to Chur at all. How did you plan this itinerary?

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Old May 30th, 2006, 03:22 PM
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Wow! you know the area very well. Thank you for all the info.

We are not spending the night in Chur. We are actually picking a car in Zurich and plan to drive to Chur, leave the car there and take the train (Glacier Express )for an overnight to St/ Moritz. Then the next day we will take the train back to Chur, pick up the car and then go to Lake Como, I checked in yahoo.uk and it looks that the drive is about 3 hours. We leave in California so we are used to drive long distances... Then we have about 4 free nights before we go to Pieve di Camaiore where we will meet our friends for his B'Day, we will stay a couple of nights over there (Camaiore)and will visit Pisa and Lucca in between. Then I want to go to Sienna before heading to Florence and Venice. The last night we have to spend it in Zurich because we have an early flight the following day, so the last day (Monday August th) will be a day of driving from Venice to Zurich (or where ever we are back to Zuric).

After Pietre di Camaiore ( we have to be there on Monday July 31st)We will have 6 full days I am not sure how to organize my days. After St. Moritz I could spend couple of nights in Lake Como and couple of nights in the Italian Riviera or I could stay 3 nights in lake Como and one night in the Italian Riviera before going to Pietre di Camaiore, what do you think? After that Pieve di Camaiore we have another dilema, we either spend 2 nights in Siena, one in Florence and 3 nights in Venice or we do, 2 Sienna, 2 Florence 2 Venice???

Although my kid is only 5, he is use to travel and is very easy to travel with. I am not worry about him. When we go to Europe we are always on the go. We can always relax at home. Any suggestions?
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Old May 30th, 2006, 06:24 PM
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I would never recommend spending only one night (almost) anywhere, so if you want to hit Lake Como and CT I'd split the nights, 2 and 2.

Because your trip is at the end of July, I recommend you only consider hotels in the mid-Lake Como area that have air conditioning. I personally like Bellagio, but Varenna is charming and only 15 minutes away by ferry. I recommend the Hotel Belvedere in Bellagio which is located on a hill above the town. You have to walk up and down the hill between the hotel and town/ferry dock, but it's not mountain climbing, just a hill. The hotel has A/C, pool and a drop-dead gorgeous view of the lake and mountains. An alternative would be a small apartment in the middle of Bellagio at Residence La Limonera (www.lalimonera.com). The units have A/C, kitchenettes, TV, some views, and there's a good-sized grassy area (rare in town) and parking. Food shopping is nearby if you want to organize breakfasts and lunches. La Limonera fills up fast, especially on summer weekends, so if this appeals to you I'd book as soon as possible. Their website offers on-line availability check. I suggest dinner at least one night at Bilacus in Bellagio on Salita Serbelloni. Reservations are a must for high season, and if the weather's nice, ask for a table on the terrace.

I haven't been to CT in several years, so I hesitate to make a hotel recommendation. Do a search here for "Cinque Terre Hotels, and I'm sure there will be some good info.
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Old May 30th, 2006, 06:26 PM
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Darn. I screwed up that web address. It is www.residencelalimonera.com. Sorry.

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Old May 31st, 2006, 10:58 PM
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I am still trying to understand what you are referring to as the "Glacier Express between Chur and St Moritz". While the website for the train does call this part of the trip the Glacier Express, please be aware, as I have mentioned before, that the portion between Chur and St Moritz does NOT involve any glaciers and does not go up through any high mountain passes. It is a very beautiful train ride, IMO, one of the most beautiful in Switzerland, but it is not the true Glacier Express which goes past several glacier and through some very high mountain passes on its way from St Moritz to Zermatt.

Is the point just to take any train ride, or is to take the famed Glaicer Express? If the latter, the route you have chosen is not in fact the famous one over the glaicers. If your husband wants to go past glaciers and through high mountains passes, you should spend 2 nights in the Engadine area and take the Bernina Express to Tirano and then to St Mortiz, described above. (It would be possible to do this from Chur, but you would have to be in Chur by 8:30 which means quite an early start from Zurich, that is why I would recco skipping Zurich and spending two days in the St Moritz area.)

Also, the Glaicer Express train from Chur to St Moritz leaves from Chur either at 2:30 pm or 3:30 and arrives in St Moritz at either 5 pm or 6 pm. While it is light in July until quite late, almost 10 pm, this late an arrival time is, IMO too late to do any good walking or really see the area at all. Hopefully in the morning you will make some time to really see this absoelytly beautiful part of Switzerland (other than from a train window albiet as loevely as that is). I just think this is a lot of travel for one "train trip", when there are many many train trips you could take from Zurich, or you could spend two nights in St Mortiz.

Finally, if your husband wants to do the trip specifically between Chur to St Moritz and does not care that no glaciers or mountain passes are involved, then IMO you do not need to take or pay for the Glacier Express or Bernina Express train cars, you can take any of the "regular" Rhatischebahn Swiss Rail trains which run on the exact same track. Theses are cute little red cars and are for the most part the same cars as the Glacier Express and the Bernina Express, absent the panorama cars. IMO you don't need the panorama cars for the portion you are taking as you are not going to have the mountain or glacier vistas. I would save the money (you will need it to pay for parking in Chur) and buy two first class round trip tickets from Chur to St Mortiz. The baby will go for free. The first class cars will be less crowded and slightly roomier, and you can also reserve specific seats. Sit on the right side of the train (i.e. the right side as the train departs the station) on the way up to St Mortiz and the left going down for slightly better access to views. Also, bear in mind that when you take the train back from St Moritz to Chur the next day, you are going to take the exact same train route back you did going up, so you won't see any different scenery and if you paid for the Glacier Express going up, you will get the same scenery for a lower price going down.

You could in fact spend two nights in Zurich and do the train trip from Chur to St Moritz as a day trip on your way to Como. Drive from Zurich to Chur (just over 1 hour), take a regular train to St Moritz (2 hours). Have lunch in the area, take the trainback to Chur (2 hours), then drive to Como (2.5 hours).

Personally, I think the drive from St Mortiz down through the Sils and the mountain roads into Italy is much prettier and you will skirt the shore of Lake Como for a lot of it. If you are going to be staying in Varenna or Bellagio this route makes more sense, but if you are staying in the town of Como (which I wouldn't as it is just not a nice town esp compared to others on the lake) or for some reason you really feel the need to drive from Chur that is fine, albiet that route is all via highways with trucks. You can stop in Bellinzona just at the Italian border, which has three castles.
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