<<"I will only have two nights to spend in Switzerland so want to get there early enough because we will need to leave early. So really only about 1 1/2 days in Switzerland. Do you think it will be worth the trip?: Do you recommend someplace else?">>
We are dealing with personal preferences, and to answer your question requires an understanding of your objectives and desired activities on your trip as well as my own attitudes about your trip if I had the opportunity to take it.
<<"We will be starting our trip in London. We can then go to Lucerne if that is easiest. In Italy we will be going to Bologna, Venice, Monterosso and Cortona with a short stop in Florence. So we can leave from any of those places to get to Lucerne too. Also, we can leave Lucerne and go to any of those places in Italy too or even go to Paris where are last place to visit will be. So for now I am pretty open and want to make the itinerary choices based on the best way to get to Lucerne. So really to and from Lucerne from any of the places listed above.">>
The earlier question, regarding your reasons for /interest in visiting Switzerland/Swiss town or village, which does not seem to have been answered:
<<"Once you are there, are there any specific things that you would like to do....such as hiking? Local scenic train rides? Any specific kinds of sightseeing? Any particular type of lodging?">>
I'll try to answer based on my own biases and my own limited experiences in Italy, my extensive knowledge of Switzerland, plus my best guess about your hopes for your trip. Note the word "biases."
I/we have traveled a bit in Italy. Total of about 2-3 weeks on our own in the Alto Adige(Bolzano, Merano), Tuscany to various towns near and including Sienna, Florence, Umbria (Perugia and Gubbio) .
Many business trips, usually with a short bit of sightseeing accompanied by a knowledgeable local. In Milano (many trips), Rome ( a few), many to Termoli, which is on the Adriatic about 30 miles north of Vieste ( our manufacturing operation was there), Ferrara, Bologna, an overnight visit with a long car ride both ways to a customer way east of Torino in a town whose name I cannot remember, and a few others.
Over 80 visits, all of several days to 3 weeks or even longer. A bit less than half based near Geneva, where I had some management responsibilities, and which included weekends and "post trip" travel in Switzerland, as well as visits to customers throughout Europe, and a bit more than half of the trips to Switzerland on personal visits in all regions.
Switzerland is well organized, beautiful beyond belief, a dream for landscape photographers, welcomes travelers in a professional and friendly fashion in English and in the official national languages of German, French, Italian and several other other languages...the extremely effective and timely train system's staff all are required to speak English...can definitely be expensive, but somewhat less so outside the main cities. Has a country wide hiking network of well marked trails of all ranges of difficulty from easy to technical climbing, with good maps, and we have walked or hiked many miles on these "Wanderwege." Swiss cities have true "Old Cities" that were spared the WWII destruction that makes all the "Old Cities" in Germany actually "New Copies Built in the 1950's."
Pockets of history from the Middle Ages through the Renaissance and onward. (The Abbey Church and Library at St. Gallen.)
With some care in selection, some little known but excellent , red wines and good ( but not "big" California style) whites. A tradition of culinary excellence at famous (within Switzerland) inns in the countryside, a dying breed. A cuisine that includes French, Italian and German elements.
Some extremely high quality art museums, often built out from private collections. For example, one of the best collections of Klee's in the world, chronologically organized along with Picasso's and others is at the Rosengart Collection in Luzern. 3 minutes from the main station.
Warm and friendly, full of history, architectural wonders, civilized for centuries while Switzerland was wilderness and was one of the colonies inhabited by warring tribes, wonderful food and wines, lots of history. Did I mention history? Some wonderful landscapes. A much bigger country than tiny Switzerland.
The substitute for a well managed and timely train system is that the schedule display monitors in the stations usually have an extra column, in addition to destination, departure time, etc. The added column is one that shows how late the train will be.
Many of the staff speak English, after a fashion. My only other language, German, has not been useful.
A short hike with the best maps I could find, near our B&B in Torii, south of Sienna, got us lost within a mile or so. I needed my compass and some guess work to figure out where we were, and on our way back to base, we found the barely noticeable unmarked turn we should have taken.
Florence in September - the streets were crowded with people speaking American English. A wonderful, beautiful historical town. The Uffizi contains powerful, historical artistic treasures beyond comprehension. (By the way, book ahead for the Uffizi, and check Rick Steve's book for a 3 hour tour that lets you see the high points and major works before museum fatigue sets in. Steve's and I approach travel differently, but in this case, his advice was invaluable.). We always had good food in Florence, but never found superlative there food, for some unknown reason. Odd.
In Italy, relax, take it easy, be flexible, and expect that your plans will be altered, often for the better. Expect that you will not travel on time, and be pleased when it happens on time...which it often does.
Switzerland -- expect to plan travel with precision, and that your plans will work. Your mention of a quick side trip to Luzern is completely possible in Switzerland, and you can be sure that all of the transportation will work as scheduled. Well, maybe busy trains to Zürich and the airport may sometimes be 5 minutes late in the morning rush hour....a matter of no small concern to the Swiss, I might add.
Personally, I would not attempt that in Italy.
So, as you might guess, if I were planning the trip, I'd cut out some time in Italy, and add time in Switzerland. But, I'd guess from your description of your proposed itinerary that you have definite and well chosen plans and reasons for visiting for the Italian cites that you have mentioned. You clearly want to see Italy.
So, trying to put myself in your shoes, I'd cut out time in all of the other places, skip London, skip Switzerland, add the time to your existing destinations in Italy, and be flexible.
Then, I'd make sure to visit Switzerland the next time, and dig in for a couple of weeks with one or two bases. One would be Luzern.
Also, a final impression which may be off base. If so, I apologize if I misunderstand your approach. In the USA, we travel by airplane or car. Train travel is a bit unusual. In my view, your plans reflect that approach.
In Switzerland especially, but also in much of western Europe, train travel is common and can be a pleasure. Until the advent of discount airlines, it was also cheaper than air travel, and it gets you directly to the centers of the cities. If you fly into Malpensa to get to Milano, you'll recognize instantly why train travel is so much more convenient. (Switzerland has made a major and expensive effort to connect the major airports to the city centers by good frequent fast train service. That is also common in other countries, but the Swiss system is quite good.)
Switzerland adds the benefit that the scenic train rides, possibly including the ones with the fancy names, are an integral and enriching part of the travel experience. Taking a train to Zermatt from Wengen, using the old route via Kandersteg offers wonderful views that you cannot even begin to approach by automobile, and can only otherwise achieve on foot, in mountainous terrain. The route over the Gotthard Pass is an engineering marvel and very scenic.
For what it is worth, that is my opinion. Admittedly biased, and probably insufficiently appreciative of Italy. Different strokes.....