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Luzern to Milan and points east using Swiss Pass?

I'm running some scenarios to see which sort of rail passes I might need for a trip May/June 2022. I am flying into Zurich for a few Swiss days to get rid of jetlag before heading to Venice to start Rick's VFR tour, following that with a Rhone-Saone river cruise before flying home from Paris.

I think a 4 day Swiss pass will get me from Zurich through Interlaken to Wengen for a couple of days, take the sting out of some lifts, get me back to Luzern for a day before heading over the Alps to Italy on the 4th day. However, I'm confused about the Luzern through Milan to Venice stretch. The Swiss pass will cover me to Chiasso but how and when do I ticket from Chiasso to Milan or Padova or Venice (depending on where I decide to end for the day) where the Italian train appears to require a seat reservation but the Swiss leg does not? How do I estimate what that cost is to determine If a Eurail Pass would be a good idea as I add in my French rail travel? (After ending the tour in Rome I'm flying to either Lyon or Marseilles and taking a train to Arles for a river cruise then train a final train stretch to Paris to fly home).

I HATE leaving things to chance (which is why no reservations on Swiss trains is freaking me out) and I have this obsessive-compulsive desire to run these scenarios. Really, the only pressing purchase is the Swiss pass while it's on sale. Also a Eurail pass has a cancellation benefit if purchased in the next few days.

So, long story short.... How do I cross the Swiss/Italian border if using a Swiss Pass?

Many thanks in advance!!!

Posted by
2110 posts

Don't get a Eurail pass for France and Italy. Don't. You will still need reservations and they are a hassle, especially in France where they also suffer from limited quotas.

As for the swiss pass: perhaps someone with more recent experience will jump in, but the trains between Switzerland and Italy require a reservation so it adds complexity (I just don't remember how it works, and it might have changed). However, the fare will be covered by the pass up to Chiasso, so you can get the pass if it looks like it saves money for you! Which it probably does, because you will travel a lot in a short time.

Posted by
219 posts

I can tell you my experience. I do not claim to be a Swiss Pass expert, and I don't know about the Eurail Pass!!! Your experience could be different.

We used the Swiss Pass starting in Zurich for 1 night, 2 nights in Luzern, 4 nights in Murren. It covered almost all of our travel needs. On the last day, we traveled from Murren to Lauterbrunnen, to Interlaken, to Spiez, to Milan, then Varenna. We switched trains in Spiez to get to Italy, so we had a half hour wait. I went to the ticket office and told the guy I was going to Milan and I had a Swiss Pass to the border. He sold me a ticket for the remainder of the trip from the border to Milan. It turned out to be quite easy and we had time to get sandwiches from the local Migros!!

One suggestion would be to do Luzern first, then Wengen so you are not back tracking.
Also, download the SBB app to your phone. It is very helpful with schedules.

Posted by
378 posts

I can help with the reservation confusion. I experienced similar confusion when my plan was to travel from Zurich to Milan. Chris F. from Basel provided the following info, which clarifies the situation:

Carrie, the way this works, it is a Swiss train when running on Swiss
rails, and Swiss rules apply; then it is an Italian train when running
on Italian rails, and Italian rules apply. Swiss rules: You do not
need a reservation, all you need is your Swiss Pass, and get on and
sit in any seat. "I’m thinking they won’t let us on the train for the
earlier portion without a ticket." - You have a ticket, your Swiss
Pass. Nobody checks who gets on the train, they check onboard once the
train is moving. Italian rules: You MUST have a reservation. You need
to buy a ticket (Swiss Pass not valid), which will be specifically for
one train and will include a reserved seat. What you need to do: Go to
the Trenitalia (Italian Railways) site: And buy ticket(s) for this train.
This ticket will list train ID and seat numbers. And then just get on
the train at Zürich HB, and sit on any seat (hopeful you can get the
seat reserved for your from Chiasso). The Swiss ticket inspector will
want to see your Swiss Pass(es). At Chiasso there is a staff
changeover, and when the Italians check. show him your Italian
ticket(s). P.S.: "where it will allow discounts for the GA," - GA is
the same as a Swiss Pass. GA is the annual Pass for Swiss residents.

So, your Swiss Pass gets you to the Italian border and you sit anywhere you want. You just need a ticket for the Italy portion and sit in your reserved seat.

Not needing reservations on the Swiss trains is a huge plus, so don't let that freak you out. 😊

Posted by
609 posts


That was a very clear explanation of the very complicated Swiss Pass for this situation. Thank you and thanks to Chris F, wherever he is right now.

I remember trying to figure out the best Swiss Pass option for us, traveling in 2018. In the end, an 8 day Swiss Pass worked for, us even though part of the time we were on the RS My Way Alpine tour. We were traveling in Switzerland afterwards, and could use it in the Lauterbrunnen area while on the tour and for trains, boat cruises and museums afterwards, including from Chamonix France to Montreux, Switzerland.

The Swiss Pass can be great, but it is hard to figure out the best options.

Posted by
55 posts

Phew! I think I’ve got it. The trick appears to be buying an Italian train ticket for the continuation of the Swiss train that I’ll be on. What could possibly go wrong…😜

Thanks for the great explanation!

Posted by
12141 posts

You can also buy the ticket for the whole journey on the Swiss rail site, and get a reserved seat because it is a cross-border train. The Swiss site will credit you for your Swiss Pass and charge younonly for the Italy part.

We didnit this way because is easierer to use than Trenitalia, IMHO. Here's how:

You can use to go directly to the English version of Enter your start and end points (Luzern and Milano Centrale) and the date. Of course you cannot see schedules for next May yet, so use a date next week for your test run.

The next page will,display a bunch of options; choose one with no changes (that column will show 0 instead of 1 or 2). There are only a few. The Intercity direct train departing at 12:18 is a good choice.

Click on the red tickets on the right to purchase. The next page will have you choose between a one-way or roundtrip ticket; checkmthe one-way option and hit "next".

The next page will ask your age range (25-59, say) and to the right of that is a drop-down menu for entering your Swiss Pass. Choose the "GA 2d class 1 yr" option even though your Pass is only good for a short time. GA stands for "General Abonnmemt" which means full coverage of the fare, rather than half. The one-year version if what many Swiss residents buy, but as a visitor youncan use your 4-dY or whatever length Swiss Pass for the same discount. Just make sure your Swiss Pass covers the day you will travel to Milan! Now hit "next"

The following page will,show younthe price: 19 CHF. Hit "next" to proceed.

On the next page you will have a chance to opt for a reserved seat that will cover the whole journey. Choose "Make reservations on all available trains" and select the type of seating you want, or check "no preference". I usually select window seats and we get 2 seats facing one another across a table (usually). Hit "next".

I'll stop here as Inthinkmyounget the picture. I recommend registering on the SBB website as a customer so you always have access to the system and your tickets. I also advised my bank (the Visa card provider) that I was going to make a foreign purchase before doing this. If you have an AmEx card youndon't need to advise them in advance but they may contact younduring the transaction to confirm it is really you (they did when Inwas buying tickets on Deutsche Bahn). Have your phone handy for a text just in case.

Or you can just buy the ticket at the Luzern train station (ticket window, not machine) and show your Pass. But that can mean waiting in line, so I never do that.