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Highlights of Switzerland & Italy by Rail

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You are viewing the 2024 itinerary. Select your departure year
202420252026
11 days From $3,425 per person
4.2 stars(8 reviews)
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Inspiring scenery and fascinating cities where history lives on through architecture and timeless traditions invite your exploration on this remarkable journey through Switzerland and Italy.

Travel on your own following a well-planned itinerary

2024 Tour code: SE-SWIS-24

About the tour

From Alpine peaks to glacier-fed lakes and beloved cities that exemplify cultural nuances, this journey delves into the wonders of Switzerland and Italy. There is no shortage of beauty to behold as you explore Switzerland from thought-provoking bases in Zürich, Chur, and Lugano and then cross the border into Italy, settling aside beautiful Lake Como. From Lake Como, venture south to Florence before proceeding to the capital of the ancient world, Rome. While tasting local flavors and experiencing history spanning millennia, you will see why there are few better places to appreciate your surroundings and gain a lifetime of memories.

Highlights

What’s included

Itinerary

Day 1 - Arrive in Zurich

Switzerland's financial powerhouse offers a warm welcome to the country as you arrive. Make your way from the airport to your hotel independently, and once you have checked in, you are free to begin your explorations in this fascinating city. Though beloved for its modern offerings, Zürich boasts a storied history, which you can find hints of throughout the city if you look closely enough. Walk through Old Town's narrow streets to see buildings constructed as early as the 13th century or seek out the various ornamental water fountains. There are nearly 1,200 sprinkled throughout the streets, so you will not have to look long. Overnight Zurich.

Day 2 - Lindt Chocolate Factory and Chur

This morning brings the opportunity to get acquainted with the tastes of Switzerland - first with breakfast at the hotel, then after, while exploring one of the country's most famous products: chocolate. Using your Swiss Travel Pass, which offers a 50-percent discount on train, boat, and mountain railway journeys, make your way to Kilchberg. You could embark on a scenic boat ride from Zürich to Kilchberg or use the local rail network. On arrival, enjoy a self-guided tour of the Lindt Chocolate Factory, learning about the history of Swiss chocolate and how these delectable treats came to be. Of course, there are plenty of opportunities to taste the creamy chocolate, as well.

Return to Zürich following the tour with time for lunch or to continue exploring the city ahead of this afternoon's journey to Chur by rail. As Switzerland's oldest city, Chur brims with old-world charm presented in its well-preserved buildings, stunning churches, and medieval architecture at every turn. Jagged Alpine peaks surround the town, making the setting all the more idyllic. On arrival, get your bearings in this scenic destination by perhaps wandering through Old Town or trying a restaurant serving food typical of the Graubünden region. Overnight Chur.

Includes
  • Breakfast
Day 3 - At Your Leisure in Chur

Savor a free day to explore Chur and the surrounding region as you please. This 5,000-year-old destination has much in the way of culture and history, and its city center is traffic-free, making it a joy to discover on foot. Maybe venture to the 800-year-old Gothic Cathedral of the Assumption, which looms above the city center from the Episcopal court. You could also wind through the narrow lanes and alleyways, admiring the traditional, earth-toned buildings. Riding Chur's cable car up the slopes of Brambrüesch provides exceptional views over the city and the peaks that envelop it.

Venturing further afield, you could use your Swiss Travel Pass to take the Arosa Line from Chur to Arosa, an outdoor lover's dream. This resort town is surrounded by hiking trails and is built around several picturesque lakes, including Lake Obersee. Arosa also has a bear sanctuary, Arosa Bärenland, that makes a unique addition to any vacation. Overnight Chur.

Includes
  • Breakfast
Day 4 - Bernina Express

A journey of grand views and incredible feats of engineering lies today as you join the UNESCO World Heritage Bernina Express on its route to Tirano, Italy. This journey is often referred to as the rail experts' best-kept secret and includes steep inclines, circular viaducts, and winding tunnels that unveil the sheer majesty of the Swiss landscape. Experience the iconic Landwasser Viaduct and the hand-carved Albula Tunnel. Look upon gorgeous mountain passes and Palü Glacier as the train crosses Alp Grüm. The journey is a story of contrasts, especially as the train enters the colorful Poschiavo Valley and passes towns where palm trees complement the Italian architecture. We arrive in Tirano and switch to the Bernina Express Bus, which takes you back across the border into Italian-speaking Switzerland, venturing past lush vineyards and along sparkling Lake Como en route to Lugano.

As the bus arrives in Lugano, make your way to your centrally located hotel for check-in, and then the remainder of the day is yours to enjoy your new locale. One of the best ways to soak in the scenery is to stroll along the lakeshore promenade. Overnight Lugano.

Includes
  • Breakfast
Day 5 - Lake Lugano Cruise and Como

After breakfast at the hotel, make your way to the harbor to join a scenic cruise across Lake Lugano. This body of water provides jaw-dropping views from every angle, with forested mountains providing a stunning backdrop and small villages dotting the waterfront and climbing up their slopes. Your cruise takes you to the picturesque village of Gandria at the base of Monte Brè. The village creeps up its base, giving it steep, narrow streets and pretty staircases that you are welcome to explore during your free time here. Buildings dating to the 17th century line these walkways and are complemented by a lakeside promenade that provides lovely water views. Enjoy these elements without worrying about car traffic before cruising back across the lake.

On arrival in Lugano, switch modes of transportation and join the train to Como, Italy, nestled on the banks of serene Lake Como. Transfer on your own from the train station to your centrally located hotel, and then enjoy an evening of leisure in this laid-back destination. The beauty that surrounds you is truly unmatched. Overnight Lake Como.

Includes
  • Breakfast
Day 6 - Lake Como Cruise

If the environment enveloping Lake Como could be described as one thing, it is romantic. The vistas are breathtaking, from the historic resort towns that abut the shores of the glistening, glacier-fed lake to the rolling foothills that gradually transform into jagged mountain peaks. Soak in this ambiance and more as you cruise Lake Como today. This excursion highlights the very best of the region and offers a unique perspective of timeless locales.

The remainder of the day is free to continue your explorations around Lake Como at your leisure. You may wish to spend time in Como, home to a gorgeous 14th-century cathedral, beaches, and lovely museums, including the Como Archaeological Museum. A funicular railway set in the heart of town allows you to peek over the tops of the spindly Italian Cypress trees and enjoy an adventure to remember in the cliff-top village of Brunate. Elsewhere on the lake, gorgeous villas exist, such as Villa Balbianello in Lenno and Villa d'Este in Cernobbio. Bellagio is one of the most beloved towns on Lake Como, and Varenna is simply picturesque. Best of all, these destinations are easily accessible from the water. Overnight Lake Como.

Includes
  • Breakfast
Day 7 - Florence & Wine Tasting

As you board a train bound for Florence, your journey presses forth into Tuscany this morning. The route traverses Italy's vast interior, passing through beautiful metropolises like Milan and Bologna as the train works its way south. Watch as the dramatic Italian alps fade into the distance, and the terrain becomes decidedly more pastoral. After just over five hours of travel, arrive in the Tuscan capital city, the birthplace of the Renaissance, Florence.

If there is one thing Tuscany is known for, it is the traditions passed by food and drink throughout the centuries. Wine, cheese, cured meats, and fresh bread are hallmarks of Tuscan cuisine, and this afternoon, you have a chance to connect to generations past by tasting just those things. Meet a guide in the Piazza dei Rossi early this evening and take a short walk to a centrally located winery. Sample three varietals of locally produced wine and delicious charcuterie in a typical Italian setting. Overnight Florence.

Includes
  • Breakfast
Day 8 - Florence Sightseeing

The city of Florence is rife with historical sites and magnificent medieval architecture, both of which are yours to discover on this morning's walking tour. Join your local guide in Piazza della Signoria at the historic Caffè Rivoire-Collini for this small group excursion and get set for an insider's look at this dynamic city. The tour begins in the beautifully preserved piazza, where sites like the Loggia dei Lanzi, with its sweeping arches, and the 13th-century Palazzo Vecchio, frame the vast, open space. Wind through Florence's pretty piazzas and narrow streets to the Duomo complex, home to a grandiose cathedral, Giotto's Bell Tower, and the Baptistry. Your tour concludes as you approach the Accademia Gallery, home to many traditional Florentine artworks, including those by Michelangelo. Before you leave the museum, enjoy a look at his grand masterpiece, the statue of David.

Spend the remainder of the day exploring Florence at your own pace. Perhaps continue your deep dive into Tuscany's art scene by visiting the Uffizi Gallery or meandering through the jewelry shops in Ponte Vecchio. The Piazzale Michelangelo is the best place to marvel at panoramic views over the city. In contrast, the Mercato Centrale offers a bustling backdrop to navigate the flavors of Florence. Overnight Florence.

Includes
  • Breakfast
Day 9 - To Rome by Train

Make your way to Florence's train station this morning to travel deeper into the boot to the Eternal City, Rome. The trip takes approximately one and a half hours aboard a high-speed train, leaving plenty of time to get out and explore your new surroundings on arrival. Ancient Roman history fills the air in this atmospheric city, and there are plenty of places to relive the glories and hardships of this period. Visit the Roman Forum, the Colosseum, Palatine Hill, or the Pantheon. Jumping through the centuries, look at the gorgeous buildings and Fountain of Neptune in the Piazza Navona, or seek out the golden sculptures and artworks within Basilica di Santa Maria Maggiore. The Villa Borghese Gardens is another gorgeous place to discover quintessential Rome.

Tonight, enjoy a unique perspective on the city as you join an illuminated panoramic tour alongside a small group. Your driver guides you between Rome's most beloved attractions, beginning at the Piazza del Popolo, where you can climb the Spanish Steps and make a wish in the Trevi Fountain. Embrace the nocturnal ambiance of Piazza Navona, Pantheon Square, and Piazza Venezia. Visit the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier and wrap up your tour with a far-reaching view over Rome from Gianicolo Hill, a beloved lookout point. With streets cleared of the masses and softly glowing lights illuminating the buildings, this tour is your chance to soak in the wonders of Rome one stop at a time. Overnight Rome.

Includes
  • Breakfast
Day 10 – Vatican Museums

Take a leisurely morning to revel in the charms of Rome at your own pace. Sip an espresso at a sidewalk café or pop in and out of the local boutiques that adorn the narrow cobblestone streets. Of course, seeking out the city's ornamental fountains offers both a challenge and an opportunity to swoon over different stories and architectural styles throughout the city. This afternoon, a driver picks you up from your hotel to escort you to the beautiful religious haven that is Vatican City. Skip the line on this excursion, and enjoy plenty of time to explore the Vatican Museums. Begin in the Gallery of Tapestries, where ancient textiles line the walls and tell stories passed down through the ages. Moving on, wander through the Gallery of Maps, where gorgeous frescoes painted by Ignazio Danti in the 16th-century guide the way to the centerpiece of Vatican City, the Sistine Chapel. Michelangelo's frescoes grace the walls and ceilings of this impressive church, including his most well-known piece, the Last Judgement. Take a moment to reflect on the significance of this building, both in the art and the religious communities. Overnight Rome. 

Includes
  • Breakfast
Day 11 – Return Home

Your memorable journey through Switzerland and Italy concludes this morning after breakfast at the hotel. For your convenience, a transfer to Rome's international airport is included. 

Includes
  • Breakfast

Additional information

Departure times

Departure times vary based on selected rail vacation. This information will be provided in your final documents. For more information please speak with your rail specialist.

Mobility information

Due to the nature of our tours they are generally unsuitable for those with restricted mobility. If you’d like to discuss any particular vacation with us in this respect, then please don’t hesitate to call us.

Train

Gotthard Panorama Express

Reviews

4.2 stars4.2 / 5 · 8 reviews

  1. 5 stars
    (5)
  2. 4 stars
    (2)
  3. 3 stars
    (0)
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  5. 1 star
    (1)

DALE PATRICIA TAVAREZ

4 stars

Submitted 13 Nov 2023

Locations were amazing. It would have been helpful to have itinerary earlier in the process so that we could map out places we wanted to go. Also it would have been nice to know ahead of time that one of the hotels did not have air conditioning. It was a little too hot to not have AC. For our time in Rome, we were told that the Vatican Museum was closed the day we were supposed to tour and so we agreed to book a Food tour instead. We were not told how long the food tour was so booked a Vatican tour on our own and had to leave the food tour early to make it to the Vatican Museum on time. I am not sure why we were told it was closed that day.

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CAROL GUERTIN

5 stars

Submitted 05 Oct 2023

Excellent well planned trip with wonderful hotels n excursions n train service

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SUSANNAH KATHLEEN SANDRIN

5 stars

Submitted 03 Aug 2023

The hotels were lovely, the planned activities were very fitting for the location, and the tour guides they selected in each city were excellent.

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DENNIS CHAMBERLAIN

4 stars

Submitted 21 Jun 2023

Good luck finding each hotel!

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EMILY DEBRA RUSK

1 stars

Submitted 18 Jun 2023

I booked the Highlights of Switzerland & Italy by rail. Despite booking and paying in full months in advance I did not receive my travel documents until the day before I left. I had to call several times to get them, when my original invoice stated I would receive them 2 weeks before the trip. This meant I wasn’t able to book any excursions outside of the planned itinerary because I didn’t know what free time I would have or what time the trains would depart/ arrive. I paid for the upgraded hotel package which was a joke. Our first hotel was in a bad area far away from any of the sights. I was on a trip with my husband and parents and the hotel appeared to be a swinger style resort with nude pictures of women, mosaics of people having sex, and sayings like “send nudes” and the elevator even said “my favorite moves are up and down”. The hotel in Rome was also in a bad part of town. We saw many fights on the streets and heard sirens all throughout the night. When we asked for dinner recommendations from the front desk he said, “there’s nothing to recommend in this area I would use the train to go to a different part of town”. The toilet in our room did not work. In my parents room their air conditioning did not work. They also emailed me while on the trip stating they forgot to book our Lake Como Boat Cruise (for the next day). They recommended we buy the tickets when we got there. We waited in line for almost 3 hours just to find out they were sold out. I called the 24/7 1-800 number to see what our options were. She said she’d call me back in 10 minutes. I waited 30 minutes and didn’t hear from her so I called back. I found my own replacement tour, paid for it and they said I’d be reimbursed. I haven’t received the reimbursement yet. We also had our reservations booked with another couple. We were told all the tours and train times would be the same. This was not the case. They had different train times and times for tours. I could go on, but I think the point is made. This experience was stressful and terrible overall. I travel often but I’ll be sure to never use this company again.

from Vacations By Rail
Thank you for taking the time to provide feedback on your vacation. We regret to hear that experience was not enjoyable. We will have someone from our travel services team reach out to you shortly to make this right.
1 comment

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JOHN HARAMIS

5 stars

Submitted 09 Jun 2023

My wife and I just returned from our Swiss/Italy vacation by rail and we could not have asked for a better experience. All aspects of the trip were well organized and the customer service provided by all the reps was excellent. We recommend vacations by rail and we will use them again

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