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Golfer-Dude
Traveller
1 comments

Posted 2 weeks ago

My wife and I are retired and would be very interested in your suggestions for a mid-September/early October, 2-week + trip that will start in Zurich and end in Milan. We were in Rome 2023 for the Ryder Cup and experienced the smooth ride of the high-speed trains from Florence to Sorrento.

We (Dennis and Laney) are planning our trip so that we can travel by train and spend several days in various locations (Wengen, Zermatt, Lauterbraunan, Grindelwald, St. Moritz, etc.), using an Interrail Global Pass or as you may recommend.

We need:
- hotel sites we could use for overnight stays and suggestions
- train connection points along the way, that would assist us in our visit to some of the out of the way locations (all suggestions are appreciated).

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MisterSteve
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813 comments

replied 2 weeks ago

First of all, if there is no plan to travel around Italy other than border to Milan and then to a Milan airport the Interrail (Eurail if you live outside of Europe) may not be the best idea. There is also the Swiss Travel Pass www.sbb.ch/en/tickets-offers/tickets/guests-abroad/swiss-travel-pass.html which includes most other public transport as well as trains - especially the regional buses operated by Swiss Post which offer some fantastic rides. It also gives discounts on some cable cars and free entry to many museums etc. None of the passes give free travel higher than Wengen or Grindelwald (to Jungfrau) or higher than Zermatt (to Gornergrat). All passes include the Bernina Route through to Tirano in Italy (the main station not just border). Italian regional trains run at regular intervals from Tirano to Milano along the east side of Lake Como, the fare for this is not high and can be bought at the station before departure - which is why Swiss Travel Pass may be better. And the really useful point is that the Swiss Travel Pass can be bought as a walkup at the railway ticket counter at Zurich Airport station!

For comparison Interrail/Eurail valdity www.interrail.eu/content/dam/_new-structure/doc/res/See_Switzerland_by_train_2024_Geltungsbereich.pdf
Swiss Travel Pass validity, yellow lines are the bus routes https://shop.swiss-pass.ch/assets/docs/Area_of_Validity_Swiss_Travel_Pass_2024_EN.pdf

Tourist ideas to follow......

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MisterSteve
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813 comments

replied 2 weeks ago

September is a reasonably reliable month for weather in the Alps so that is a good choice, it will start to get cold at night in the mountains as you get into October but could still be warm during the day. Hotel and restaurant prices in Switzerland are high by european standards but probably no worse than Rome in Ryder Cup week.

Zurich airport is the main entry point for non-european flights but some also go to Geneva Airport, which also has a railway station with ticket counter that sells Swiss Travel Pass. I'm not a fan of Zurich city, too much glass, concrete and steel. Of the bigger cities Basel is nice but usually missed by most tourists because it's not in the usual circuit. The usual recommendation is to take a direct train from Zurich Airport to Luzern which has tourist infrastructure and is a good base for a few days. Apart from the named trains below and a few international trains, you don't need reservations on Swiss trains.

Luzern has museums and access to cruises on the lake (included in Swiss Travel Pass) - be warned, even on a sunny day it can be cold in the middle of the lake. Best excursion with the Swiss Travel Pass is cruise to Vitznau, then take the little train up to the summit of Rigi mountain, return by the other little train down to Arth-Goldau and fast train back to Luzern. Interrail/Eurail only get you a discount on the cruise and little trains on the RIgi.

It's easy to reach the Berner Oberland from Luzern BUT beware of the train pass restrictions as noted in my first reply - and if the weather is poor you will feel hemmed in in Wengen etc. and want to go somewhere else. Interlaken looks a convenient base on the map but it's not that nice. Since travel distances won't be large I would suggest Spiez as a base, easy enough to get back to the high mountains and also has option of Bern on a wet day or heading for Montreux if the weather is better in that direction. Also easy to reach Zermatt, although I don't recommend the fastest route because it is mostly tunnel. Instead take the old line over the Lotschberg (see https://youtu.be/Mw8gnaULUaI?si=VJgINb_7_WfszCbM ) to Brig and change trains there. To be honest I wouldn't bother with Zermatt if you'd already been in the Berner Oberland for a few days.

To reach the St Moritz area (the Engadine region) from Spiez or Zermatt there are some good rides. From Brig to Reichenau-Tamins by the route of the Glacier Express and then over the Albula Pass line to St Moritz. The named train has compulsory surcharges even with a pass but there are other regional trains without surcharge and possibly at more convenient times although none will be direct. I think nearby Pontresina is nicer than St Mortiz, change trains at Samedan. From either you have various excursion options, especially with the Swiss Travel Pass in the buses over some of the high passes. It is still just about possible to walk from Morterasch station (a short ride from Pontresina) to the foot of the glacier of that name - it takes about an hour, is more or less flat but chunky soles on shoes would be useful. High factor suncream is essential even on cooler sunny days in the Engadine because the altitude reduces natural UV protection..

The route of the Bernina Express runs from St Moritz and Pontresina to Tirano. The named train also has surcharges but this time the more frequent ordinary trains do go all the way. Some BE trains have ordinary cars at the front without surcharge. Tirano to Milano is 2½ hours in a regional express train , the fare in 2nd class is €12.50

The main airport in Milan is Malpensa which is linked to the city centre by Malpensa Express trains. Interrail/Eurail is not valid on these which is why a Global Pass might not be the best idea if the only other journey in Italy is €12.50 from Tirano! Linate and Orio al Serio (Bergamo) airports are best reached by shuttle bus.

Youtube has many videos about Glacier Express and Bernina Express, and the scenery is the same on the ordinary trains on the routes! there are also some about Golden Pass line, which would cover Luzern to Interaken and Spiez and the excursion to Montreux. In all cases, if you can watch these on a good tv and want a relaxing evening also try the "cab ride" /drivers view videos especially those by user lorirocks777 who seems to get a lot of special access!

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Golfer-Dude
Traveller
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replied 2 weeks ago

Mister Steve...We appreciate your prompt reply and travel recommendations. I plan to watch the noted videos soon. I may have a couple of follow-up questions later. Thanks again ... Dennis