11 Days Switzerland and Italy Itinerary
I had always romanticized my first European tour to be a winter affair. A long tour in the wintertime with the Christmas and New Year fiesta in the air, requires a cautious planning. I wanted to create just an outline of the plan with a blend of randomness. I was hell-bent on not opting for vacation packages as they are restricted in so many ways and thus had to spend a good amount of time on online research. This vacation symbolized our first wedding anniversary celebration and hence giving it special attention was indispensable
We had to plan our eleven nights eleven day itinerary for our first Euro trip such that we make the most of it. In order to avoid a rush-hush trip we intended to visit not more than three cities. We zeroed in those three places which are geographically congruous but extremely diverse otherwise. A combination of a scenic bliss, a floating city and a historical paradise befitted our idea. This is how our initial plan looked like:
Five days five nights in Switzerland with Lucerne as the base
Three days three nights in Venice
Three days three nights in Rome
The VISA Episode
Since the arrival and departure was from Zurich airport and the Swiss consulate was closer to our city (and also they are supposedly one of the easiest to deal with). Nevertheless, the nearest Italian consulate from San Jose is only in Los Angeles which is a good five hours drive from here. Thus, Swiss consulate was our preferred choice for visa appointment.
For those who do not know, Schengen visa gives you entry permissions to a group of European countries (almost all of them being the favored tourist destinations). Most of us know about this and so did I but what I did not know was that in deciding which consulate to take visa appointment from, we should not take into consideration the port of entry but country where the duration of stay is the longest. So we were denied the Schengen Visa on the grounds of longer stay in Italy. Just to mention, the consulate lady did check all the bookings (flights, hotels, trains) meticulously!
We returned back home utterly disappointed. On the way back home I started to think of ways in which I could mend this situation. The first thought which crossed my mind was of course taking an appointment for Italian consulate but to my horror, the next available appointment was that of three months later. I was like Holy Shit! BUT I had booked almost everything in advance and more importantly had already fantasized much about this highly awaited trip so perhaps it was too late to give up on it so easily 😉 The only viable option was to change the itinerary by extending the duration of stay in Switzerland but this meant cutting short the stay in either Venice or Rome.
Luckily, it turned out to be that all our hotels were non – refundable except the one in Venice. Although I was biased towards not to cut short the stay in Venice, I did it anyways because the hotels we booked were pretty expensive and cancelling the non-refundable ones in Rome would have been a huge blow Before doing this, I confirmed from the Swiss consulate customer care whether they will consider approving visa for sure owing to our new itinerary. I also mentioned that taking into account our flight dates, it is impossible to get appointment at Italy consulate. They responded that as long as they do not find any fraudulent documents (particularly bookings of hotels and trains which casts a doubt on our actual intent to stay longer in Switzerland), we have a strong chance of getting the visa. Thus, we went ahead with the bookings and rescheduled the consulate visit the very next day. Oh yes, the favorable thing was that the wait time here was just a day. This time we returned home happy and contended
We later regretted that had we done a little more homework on this , we could have avoided the hassle of altering the itinerary, readjusting the train and hotel bookings and traveling to San Francisco Swiss consulate office twice(fortunately it is just an hour drive from our place ) !
Yeah … A Vacation package might have saved us from this trouble but now when I remember the fun we had during our trip: exploring and figuring out things on our own, believe me, a package tour would have been far from being worth it.
Our final plan: Six nights – Switzerland and Five nights – Italy
Here is the Itinerary for reference:
If you are travelling in winter , It would be best if You try to get a flight which lands in morning
- Pick up brochures from tourist Center @airport and clear out the doubts (if any) with the front office
- Catch a train to Lucerne ( 40 minutes Journey)
- Get the travel passes from tourist center @Lucerne Bahnhof
- Check-in in the hotel and unwind
- Explore the nearby area and have lunch
- Lake Lucerne round trip Cruise (three hours)
- Take the boat from pier 1 to Vitznau. Pier 1 can be found right in front of Lucerne bahnhof and across the bus station.
- Board the cogwheel train to get the Rigi Kulm
- Explore “Weggis” on your way back to the pier
- Take a train to go to Mt Titlis via Engelbergh
- Spend the half day here. There is an abundance of snow to play around with and a trail for skiing. If you are not into skiing then do not forget to hop on the Ice flyer because if you do ski then you will be anyways using the flyer to commute to the beginning of the trail.
- There are restaurants, coffee shops and a food court ideal for having lunch
- Head back post lunch to catch a walk around the town of Lucerne, mainly the area surrounding the train station. There is a grand “culture and Congress Center” nearby and the entrance has a snow skating rink as well as lots of local food trucks. The ambiance is here is very lively in general.
- Board a train for Murren via Interlaken (your pass will most probably include the train tickets. Check beforehand so that you do not end up buying extraneous tickets !)
- Explore the small town of Murren
- Get to Schilthorn via cable car. (This ticket is expensive €€ and it will mostly not be a part of any kind of pass )
- Enjoy the skywalk ramp and grab lunch at Piz Gloria
- Head back early as it will take almost around three and a half hours to get back to Lucerne.
- Leave for Venice
- Explore the area and the streets close by to your hotel
- Indulge in Italian savory
- Meander in the streets of Venice
- Visit the island of Murano
- Select , trace and visit the sites and museums which suits your taste
- Indulge in Italian cuisine
- Board the train for Rome.
- Check into the hotel and explore the nearby locality.
- If you are a vegan or you are not a fan of sea food, I would suggest you store the basic grocery items.
- In case you have not yet booked any kind of tickets or passes. beforehand then while you relax in your hotel, lay back and browse through all those museums and the popular sites you are interested in and do the required bookings.
- Visit the must go sites like Colosseum, Roman Forum,Palatine Hill, the Trevi Fountain and Spanish Steps or those ones which you shortlisted.
- Board the train for Vatican city and visit the St Peter’s Basilica and Vatican museum for the world famous Sistine Chapel.
- Hop in the train for your final Swiss rail journey from Rome back to Zurich. This is going to be a long one but worth every minute. This will keep you occupied for most part of the day
- Check into your hotel and figure out the easiest way to commute to the Zurich airport. Most hotels provide frequent shuttles to airport.
- Plan for an exotic fine dining
- This is a final leg of the trip and you probably will have to catch a long international flight later in the night or in the early hours the following day. So try to keep the plan as less tight as possible. As Zurich is a commercial city, a good choice will be to have a stroll in the affluent street of Bahnhofftrasse.
- There are plenty of options to hang out at the Flughafen airport itself as it is pretty much like a premier mall with couple of exquisite coffee shops and enough eateries.
- Not to be mentioned – shop for Swiss chocolates and indulge in Luxembourg chocolates!