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Highlights of Switzerland & Italy by Rail

You are viewing the 2024 itinerary. Select your departure year
10 days From $3,745 per person
4.2 stars(6 reviews)

Inspiring scenery joins fascinating cities where centuries of history live on through architecture and timeless traditions in Switzerland and Italy, two countries that enrich the soul and inspire exploration.

Travel on your own following a well-planned itinerary
Save up to $350

Get up to $350 off the listed price when you book a qualifying US, Canada or Europe independent rail vacation by September 27, 2023. Savings applied at checkout or by calling a rail specialist.

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2024 Tour code: SE-SWIS-24

About the tour

From Alpine peaks to glacier-fed lakes and beloved cities that exemplify cultural nuances, this thoughtfully composed journey delves into the wonders of Italy and Switzerland. There is no shortage of beauty to behold as you travel between cities by train and embark on fascinating excursions that allow you to become one with each destination.

Begin in Switzerland with time in Zurich and Lucerne before crossing the border into Italy and settling aside beautiful Lake Como. From Lake Como, venture south, pausing in Florence to experience Tuscany and then moving onto Rome. The journey, while independent, features ample opportunities to join small groups and guided excursions that give you a unique perspective from which to appreciate your surroundings. Embark on a guided walking tour and a trip to the summit of Mount Rigi in Lucerne. Cruise the glistening waters of Lake Como as you arrive in Italy, and then once you get to Florence, a wine tasting excursion and guided walking tour showcase the best of the region. Moving onto the final stop, Rome, a nighttime panoramic tour and a visit to the Vatican Museums are just some ways you are invited to spend your time. Where will your curiosity take you as you explore these picturesque countries?


What’s included


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, Zurich boasts a storied history, which you can find hints of throughout the city if you look close 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 - Zurich to Lucerne by Rail

Depart Zurich by train this morning, and make the short and scenic journey to Lucerne, nestled at the cusp of the Swiss Alps. This medieval Town has an idyllic lakeside position that provides breathtaking views. Your trip is quick, taking less than an hour to complete, and on arrival, enjoy an introduction to the city's offerings on your choice of two optional excursions. Your first option takes you to the Swiss Museum of Transport. During your visit, set your sights on more than 3,000 items, including exhibits related to travel by air, rail, road, sky, and space. Interactive exhibits and simulators engage visitors and present the wonderful world of travel. Alternatively, visit the Swiss Chocolate Adventure to explore chocolate and its global impact. This experience is unique in that the presentation takes place aboard a ride. Spend approximately 20 minutes immersed in all things chocolate, then conclude your visit by tasting some of the world's finest sweets: Lindt chocolates.

Following your chosen adventure, you are free to continue sightseeing on your own. You may wish to visit one of the city's fantastic art galleries, including the Rosengart Collection, or take an excursion to the summit of Mount Pilatus. Overnight Lucerne.

  • Breakfast
Day 3 - Mt. Rigi

After breakfast at the hotel this morning, walk to Lucerne's pier to board a boat to Vitznau at the base of Mount Rigi. On arrival, join Europe's first mountain railway, the Vitznau-Rigi Kulm Cogwheel Railway, for an hour-long trip to Rigi Kulm. As the highest peak on Mount Rigi, this summit provides a spectacular, 360-degree vantage point from which to look over central Switzerland. Gaze over mountain peaks, foothills, and valleys. Distant towns dot the landscape, and beautiful evergreen groves and no fewer than 13 sparkling lakes fill the gaps. Spend your time at the top, soaking in these vistas or hiking the various trails at the top.

You can choose to end your visit at any time and return to Lucerne, or you can extend your time on Mount Rigi by joining an optional excursion to the Alp Chäserenholz cheese dairy. This farm is just a 20-minute walk from Rigi Kulm and has an extensive property that includes a cheese dairy building, an aging cellar, a cheese shop, and restaurants. Enjoy a traditional fondue meal after touring the facilities. Overnight Lucerne.

  • Breakfast
Day 4 - Gotthard Panorama Express to Lake Como

As you travel by train from Lucerne to Lake Como, a day of gorgeous Swiss scenes lies ahead. Begin on Lake Lucerne, cruising across its tranquil waters to Flüelen. Once the ferry docks at the harbor, a short, five-minute walk takes you from the shore to the local train station, where the Gotthard Panorama Express waits for the next stretch of the journey to Lugano. Follow the old Gotthard Route through the 9-mile Gotthard Tunnel, a feat of engineering hand-carved through a mountain base in 1882, then watch as the Swiss landscape opens once more during your southerly course toward Mediterranean Lugano.

Join a local rail line on arrival in Lugano to complete the journey toward the beautiful alpine treasure of Italy's 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.

  • Breakfast
Day 5 - 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.

  • Breakfast
Day 6 - 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.

  • Breakfast
Day 7 - 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.

  • Breakfast
Day 8 - 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.

  • Breakfast
Day 9 - 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. 

  • Breakfast
Day 10 – 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. 

  • 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.


Gotthard Panorama Express


4.2 stars4.2 / 5 · 6 reviews

  1. 5 stars
  2. 4 stars
  3. 3 stars
  4. 2 stars
  5. 1 star


5 stars

Submitted 3/Aug

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

Collected by Trustpilot


4 stars

Submitted 21/Jun

Good luck finding each hotel!

Collected by Trustpilot


1 stars

Submitted 18/Jun

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.

Collected by Trustpilot


5 stars

Submitted 9/Jun

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

Collected by Trustpilot


5 stars

Submitted 11/May

Wow!! The arrangement of tours, hotel selections, services and itinerary exceeded our expectations in every way. I would highly recommend this tour for people who enjoy an independent adventure. Thank you for such a fantastic experience, all around.

Collected by Trustpilot


5 stars

Submitted 29/Apr

The accommodations were excellent in both quality and location. The tours chosen were great, not too much and not too little. My only suggestion (not a complaint) is that if you’re a first timer, when you get your packet and final itinerary call VBR and have each day, event and transfer explained to you. The transfers between Switzerland and Italy can be confusing. That said I highly recommend the Highlights of Switzerland and Italy by VBR.

Collected by Trustpilot