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Is Monteross to Brig a viable alternative?

  • 9 December 2023
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Our planned trip (In April) currently sees us going from Monterosso to Milan (1 night) > Brig* on a direct Eurocity train > connect to the Glacier Express towards Chur (1 night) > Bernina Express to Tirano > Varenna (3 nights)> Venice.

Milan isn’t that exciting so I was wondering if it was realistic to do Monterosso > Brig (1 Night) > Glacier Express to Chur (1 night or maybe even none) > Bernina Express to Varenna instead.

I think more time on the Glacier/Bernina runs may be better than a night in Milan. Is that reasonable, or not worth the effort to change things around?

I don't know if the Glacier Express leg adds a lot to the journey, as another alternative might be straight from Monteross To Chur (1 night) to Tirano to Varenna and add an extra night there.

Or am I just overthinking this and be satisfied with the current plan?  

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Best answer by thibcabe 9 December 2023, 14:30

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After further research I need to re-construct this question. I would prefer to delete and start again.

At any rate I have returned to the idea of staying at Milan but I am worried about the next leg as I can’t seem to find a reasonable way to make it work.

The plan: 

Monterosso > Milan - looks like about 4 hours. 

Milan 1 night  then > Chur which according to Google, is about a 4 hour trip, or about 6 hours if I go via Brig. Happy with either option, probably prefer via Brig.  

Chur > Tirano looks like 4-5 hours according to Google and bahn.de. I understand this is the Bernina Express, the trip not to be missed.

I had not planned to stay in Tirano at all but planned, on the same day, to continue Tirano > Varenna, and I have booked accommodation in Varenna accordingly. However I now think I have messed up. Google makes it look like the train back tracks a little and takes 6, or up to 7 hours, thus my entire trip would be up to 12 hours. I can handle 12 hours on a train, if that is the sensible thing to do, but not sure if it is practical to try to connect these two trips without a stopover at Tirano, which I would rather avoid.

 

 

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I think you’re right in that you might be overthinking!

Milan to Chur in 4 hours sounds like you would be taking the bus for part of the way? I’ve no idea how pretty (or not) that bus journey will be, but you’re missing the Glacier Express.

For sure, Chur-Tirano on the Bernina Express is the highlight here. 

It’s a little difficult to follow your exact plan. If you post a screenshot of the journeys & times you plan to take, like I did in your previous post, I can advise better.

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Monterosso to Milan should be around 3 hours, by Intercity train.

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What app are you using? I keep using Google and double checking bahn.de, but I am not yet looking at individual trains, just average travel times so I can make sure it’s workable. Bahn.de doesn’t seem to even have a Tirano to Varenna 

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This is an image from the Rail Planner app for Monterosso to Milan. it looks like 3 hours 39 is the shortest at a reasonable time here too

 

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Yes Tirano - Varenna isn't yet on planners as Trenord/Trenitalia just released its timetables a few days before the yearly change. They should appear in a few days.

So what have you booked at the moment ? 1 night in Varenna 2 days after Monterosso or straight after ?

I'd say that Milan - Brig - Chur takes longer than 6h unless you are directed via Zurich (missing all the scenery) : probably what's happening here. We had posted a possible itinerary via Brig, let me add a screenshot here.

I don't think Monterosso - Brig - Chur is possible in a day and I wouldn't recommend it for sure ! You could do Monterosso - Brig - somewhere along the Glacier Express journey (Andermatt isn't that beautiful but it's conveniently located) in a day and continue the following day to Varenna.

DAY 1 :

- IC Monterosso - Milano Centrale 10:33 - 13:53 3€ reservation

- EC Milano Centrale - Brig 15:20 - 17:16 13€ reservation

- R Brig Bahnhofplatz (front of the station) - Andermatt 17:23 - 19:20 (unlikely) or 18:23 - 20:20

Unfortunately there are less trains running between Milan and Switzerland via the Simplon route this year (due to works) so as you miss the early morning trains coming from Monterosso you must wait for the afternoon ones (or take slow regional trains).

DAY 2 :

- R Andermatt - Disentis/Mustér 09:28 - 10:39

- RE Disentis/Mustér - Reichenau-Tamins 10:44 - 11:49

- IR Reichenau-Tamins - Samedan 12:08 - 13:45

- R Samedan - Pontresina 13:48 - 13:57

- R Pontresina - Tirano 14:08 - 16:23

- R Tirano - Varenna-Esino 17:08 - 18:34

Don't worry about the tight connections, they're all guaranteed (aka the train will wait). You can avoid a train by going all the way to St. Moritz (small detour) and make a little break there. Trains run hourly until Tirano.

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This is an image from the Rail Planner app for Monterosso to Milan. it looks like 3 hours 39 is the shortest at a reasonable time here too

 

The timetable here is far from complete. As we've said Italian timetables are often published late. All direct IC trains are missing but they are on Trenitalia : the 10:33 - 13:53 IC is ideal.

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Bahn.de doesn’t seem to even have a Tirano to Varenna 

Try searching for today - 9 Dec, and the trains show up. Unfortunately the timetable change on 10 December means times are still not published for these services after that, but you can assume the times will be similar.

They do appear to be visible on the train operator’s own website:  https://www.trenord.it/en/

 

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Today, the app shows the following, suggesting Google may be totally wrong. Neither the app nor Bahn.de show anything for the date I want to travel. Maybe I just wait another day or two for the new schedules to be finally posted. I was hoping to make a decent start before I have to go back to work next week

Bahn.de

Rail plannier

Google suggests:

 

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This is an image from the Rail Planner app for Monterosso to Milan. it looks like 3 hours 39 is the shortest at a reasonable time here too

Again, the timetable information for April is incomplete. If you search again for today, you should see the Intercity trains taking 3h.

You can assume they will be available in April, even if the exact time changes by a minute or two.

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This is an image from the Rail Planner app for Monterosso to Milan. it looks like 3 hours 39 is the shortest at a reasonable time here too

Again, the timetable information for April is incomplete. If you search again for today, you should see the Intercity trains taking 3h.

You can assume they will be available in April, even if the exact time changes by a minute or two.

Yes exactly and times are already available on trenitalia.com. I just don't know why they're taking so long (every time) to send them to the European database…

EDIT : Google Maps isn't exactly a reliable source either for timetables. To look at a map yes but sometimes companies/trains are missing.

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That Google Map option is sending you back over the Bernina Pass, where you’ve just come from(!), to take a bus through Switzerland and then two trains to Varenna. Probably because it doesn’t know about the direct Trenord trains.

As we said before, Google Maps is certainly a useful tool but it’s only one part of planning a journey. You need to sanity check anything it’s told you.

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So here is the best plan (posted above with more details) :

DAY 1 :

- IC Monterosso - Milano Centrale 10:33 - 13:53 3€ reservation

- EC Milano Centrale - Brig 15:20 - 17:16 13€ reservation

- R Brig Bahnhofplatz (front of the station) - Andermatt 17:23 - 19:20 (unlikely) or 18:23 - 20:20

DAY 2 :

- R Andermatt - Disentis/Mustér 09:28 - 10:39

- RE Disentis/Mustér - Reichenau-Tamins 10:44 - 11:49

- IR Reichenau-Tamins - Samedan 12:08 - 13:45

- R Samedan - Pontresina 13:48 - 13:57

- R Pontresina - Tirano 14:08 - 16:23

- R Tirano - Varenna-Esino 17:08 - 18:34

2 long travel days but most of the journey will be scenic for sure. Questions welcome :)

If you wish to save some time on Day 1 (and/or visit a beautiful town along the way), choose this route :

- IC Monterosso - Milano Centrale 06:54 - 10:00

- RE Milano Centrale - Locarno 10:43 - 12:38

- stop for an hour or two

- IR Locarno - Göschenen 14:33 - 16:08

- R Göschenen - Andermatt 16:14 - 16:24

You're missing part of the Glacier Express route (but it's not the most scenic bit) and this itinerary is still quite beautiful ! Trains are hourly so you can decide on the day how much time you want to spend in Locarno.

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Thanks for such a detailed update. This is teaching me so much about life in Europe. You are obviously very comfortable with these timetables, whereas I get nervous. E.g., you’re suggesting getting into Andermatt at 20:20. Regardless of the time of the year, at that time of the night, it’s dark where I come from, and things are starting to wind down. Unless I knew the place well and I was staying at a 4 or 5 star hotel, I would probably not think of making my way to accommodation that late, they’d probably be closed. So much for me to experience.

To answer your earlier question, I have currently booked 1 night at Monterosso, 1 at Milan, that I am thinking of cancelling so I can have an extra night at another location, 1 night at Chur and 3 nights at Varenna. Your plan would see me cancelling my night in Milan, changing my night in Chur to a night in Andermatt and making Varenna late at night. 

I will study the plan and reconsider options when the full schedule is released in a few days. I’ll also have to check what check in times my accommodations will allow (I know the one in Vence wants an extra 30 Euro if I check in after 7), how far from the train station they are and what the transport from station to accommodation is like. 

Thanks very much for taking so much time to plan that all out for me. I appreciate your effort!

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(Andermatt is a really small village but yes you should always check check-in times. 7pm is a common check-in time, I find it bad practice they want you to pay extra for that...)

So after reading your plan I'd keep it. While Milan isn't the most beautiful Italian city there's still plenty to do for an afternoon. Let's say you take the 10:33 train from Monterosso, arrive at 2pm, go to your hotel and then walk a bit through the city center before a good dinner somewhere. Perfect !

The following morning take the 07:20 or 08:20 EC train to Brig and slowly make your way to Chur. The longest travel day but beautiful landscapes guaranteed !

And on the third day take the direct Bernina Express leaving at 08:28 to avoid the connections (even if they're straightforward). You'll arrive in Varenna in the afternoon :)

The above itinerary sounds really good in my mind ! If you think you won't have enough travel days in the end, consider buying a Monterosso - Milan advance ticket (20€ 1st class).

If you wish to change the number of nights : maybe spend 2 nights in Monterosso and 2 in Varenna but I wouldn't change Milan or Chur.

EDIT : Sun sets at about 8pm in April, I had a quick look. Obviously earlier in the mountains.

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I find checking the area out on Google Streetview helpful if I’m unfamiliar. And Timeanddate can give you sunset times and typical weather for the time of year you’re going.

Switzerland does tend to shut down early - and often completely on a Sunday, which often catches people out! - but arriving in Andermatt at 2020 you should be able to find some life in the town. I wouldn’t hang around if you want to eat though. (Or perhaps pick up a picnic from the Co-op during your wait at Brig.)

I don’t know where you’re booking your accommodation, but if it’s a small B&B through Booking.com or similar, they often have an option to contact the owner. You can then check that they are happy with arriving at that time. They usually are if you contact them; what they don’t want is someone who gives no indication of what time they might arrive, and turns up unannounced at midnight!

For a short overnight like this, I tend to pick somewhere within a few minutes walk of the station.

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