Zurich to Milan by train

An Astoro train at Zurich HB

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SBB (Swiss Federal Railways) and Trenitalia (Italian Railways) jointly operate an excellent train service between major Swiss cities and Milan, with one or two trains per day continuing to Verona & Venice.  These trains are branded EuroCity, a generic term for quality train in much of Europe, they are operated by bullet-nosed Pendolino trains, some owned by SBB some by Trenitalia, with new Giruno trains now entering service on the Zurich-Milan route.  Advance-purchase fares start at €29 in 2nd class or €49 in 1st class booked at a site such as Raileurope.com or Thetrainline.com

COVID-19 update:  The Switzerland-Milan EuroCity trains are now running more or less normally.  However, there are question marks over whether the significantly improved timetable for 2021 with up to 10 Zurich-Milan trains and up to 5 Basel-Milan trains can be fully implemented, at least initially.  More COVID-19 travel info.

small bullet point  What are the trains like?

small bullet point  Travel tips:  Luggage, WiFi, food & drink...

small bullet point  How to check train times, fares & tickets

small bullet point  Route map

small bullet point  Scenery & sights

small bullet point  See the video:  Milan to Zurich by EuroCity train

Routes operated...

-  Zurich - Lugano - Como - Milan (the Gotthard route), every 2 hours, 1 per day extended to Verona & Venice and 1 per day extended to/from Frankfurt).

-  Geneva - Lausanne - Montreux - Brig - Milan (the Simplon route, 1 per day extended to Verona & Venice).

-  Basel - Bern - Spiez - Brig - Milan (the Lötschberg route) and Basel - Lucerne - Como - Milan (the Gotthard route), 1 or 2 trains per day.

What are the trains like?

Astoro trains...

These classy tilting pendolino  trains, designated RABe503 Astoro by the Swiss or ETR610 by the Italians, have 1st & 2nd class and a restaurant car.  They're excellent trains, fully air-conditioned with power sockets at all seats, and seats line up with the windows for great views.  In early 2020, all Swiss-Italian EuroCity trains were operated by these Swiss Astoro trains or their Trenitalia-owned ETR610 equivalent, but starting in late 2020 SBB's new Giruno trains entered service on the Zurich-Milan Gotthard route and will eventually take over all services on that route.

ETR610 EuroCity train at Milan Centrale

A Swiss SBB-owned ETR610 about to leave Milan Centrale with a mid-morning EuroCity train to Bern & Basel.

1st class table for two   1st class seats on an ETR610 train

Table for two in 1st class, ideal for couples...

 

1st class seats.  Larger photo.

Lunch on an ETR610 train   ETR610 restaurant car

Lunch in the restaurant car...

 

The restaurant car.  Larger photo.

1st class table for two   1st class seats on an ETR610 train

Table for 4 in 2nd class, ideal for families...

 

2nd class.  Larger photo 360 degree photo.

Giruno trains...

These new trains, designated RABe 501, are entering service on the Zurich-Milan route and should take over all or most Zurich-Milan services from 13 December 2020.  In the future, they will also operate into Germany.  They are low-floor, with easy level access from platform to train, some of the seats at the car ends are on a raised dais above the wheels - better for scenery.  There's a restaurant car with cafe-bar counter, and the train has power sockets at all seats.  I explain how to tell if your train is due to be a Giruno or Astoro/ETR610 in the travel tips section.

Giruno train

A Giruno train, now entering service on the Zurich-Milan route.  Photos courtesy of Andreas Wiedenhof.

1st class on Giruno   Bar counter in the restaurant car

Giruno, 1st class.  Larger photo.

 

Cafe-bar counter.  Larger photo

Restaurant car on Giruno   2nd class on Giruna

Giruno restaurant car.  Larger photo

 

Giruno, 2nd class.  Larger photo

Trenitalia trains...

Trenitalia provides the rolling stock for some Switzerland-Italy departures, using its ETR610 pendolino trains.  To all intents and purposes these are identical to SBB's RABe503 Astoro trains, but with a different exterior & interior colour scheme.  You could get either a Swiss or an Italian train.

Italian ETR610 train to Switzerland at Milan Centrale

A Trenitalia-owned ETR610 about to depart from Milan Centrale for Zurich...

Frecciargento train 2nd class seats   Frecciargento train 1st class seats

2nd class on a Trenitalia-owned ETR610...

 

1st class on a Trenitalia-owned ETR610.

Travel tips...

1st class table for two   1st class seats on an ETR610 train

You put your suitcase on racks like this one, or between seat backs where seats are back-to-back...

 

There are power sockets at all seats in both classes, standard 2-pin European type...

Times, fares & tickets...

Route map...

You can see how the Gotthard Base Tunnel on the Zurich-Milan route saves a lot of time compared to the old route with the spirals & original Gotthard Tunnel.

Switzerland to Milan train route map

Click for larger mapHighlighted = Zurich/Basel/Geneva-Milan train routes. Green = scenic routesRed = high-speed lines.

Reproduced from the excellent European Rail Map with kind permission of the European Rail Timetable people.  I recommend buying the European Rail Map for your travels and a copy of the European Rail Timetable, www.europeanrailtimetable.eu with shipping worldwide.

Scenery & sights...

These trains pass some great Alpine scenery as well as Swiss and Italian Lakes.  Here's a summary of what to look out for on each of the four routes, written assuming you're travelling south towards Milan - if you're travelling northwards the sights will obviously be on the opposite side of the train.

Sion castle, see from the train to Venice

Sion castle in the morning light, seen from the Geneva to Venice train on the Simplon route...

Lake Leman, seen from a Geneva-Milan train

Lake Leman, seen from a Geneva to Milan train on the Simplon route on a wintry day.

Pretty church & vineyards seen from a Zurich to Milan train   Pretty church & vineyards seen from a Zurich to Milan train

Villages & vineyards seen on the Zurich-Milan Gotthard route...

Lake Lugano, seen from a Milan to Zurich train

Lake Lugano, seen from a Milan to Zurich train on the Gotthard route.

Lake Maggiore, seen from a Milan to Basel train

Lake Maggiore...  Trains between Geneva, Lausanne, Basel, Bern & Milan on the Simplon & Lötschberg routes pass right by the shores of Lake Maggiore.  This is Lake Maggiore seen over lunch in the restaurant car of the 11:25 Milan to Basel on a bright winter's day.

Watch the videoMilan to Zurich via the Gotthard route...

This video takes you on a journey from Milan to Zurich via the Gotthard Base Tunnel on a Swiss-owned ETR610 EuroCity train.


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