Please sign in to post.

Most scenic way to get from Zurich to Milan

We need to get from Zurich to Milan and have 1 day to do so. Is it possible to incorporate the bernina express as part of that travel?

This would be for mid-June. I realize it might be a very long day, but we would need to depart Zurich in the morning and end up in Milan that evening.

Alternatively, how scenic is the regular train service without using the Benrina express.

Thanks for any advice and recommendations.

Posted by
16156 posts

The direct route uses the new Gotthard Basistunnel and takes 3 1/2 hours from Zurich to Milan. You pass under the Alps in a very long tunnel.

The Bernina Route (which may or may not use a designated Bernina Express train) takes 8 hours, according to sbb.ch. you can depart Zurich at 7:37 or 9:37 am and arrive in Milan at 15:40 or 17:40, with 4 changes along the way.

Is it worth the extra time? We think so, but we broke the journey up into three days of travel, with overnight stops in Samedan and Varenna. Still, if you don't mind the idea of 8 hours on a train, the scenery over the Bernina Pass is well worth seeing. After you reach Tirano (at the border) the scenery is more ordinary, although you will get some glimpses of Lago di Como.

Posted by
169 posts

Thanks for your reply. I went to the website and didnt see the times you mentioned. In order to go from Zurich to Milan and take the Bernina express, do I have to break it up and go from Zurich to Chur, then Chur to Tirano, then Tirano to Milan ?.

I see that on Trenitalia website I can get from Tirano to Milan, I'm just confused about the Swiss trains.

Posted by
5835 posts

...do I have to break it up and go from Zurich to Chur, then Chur to Tirano?

For Swiss travel
https://www.sbb.ch/en/home.html

Possible Swiss route June 15 departing about 8am:
Zurich HB at 8:07 on the InterCity 913 train towards Chur to Lanquart 9:11
Landquart at 9:20 on the Regional Express 1327 train towards St. Moritz to Samden 10:57
Samden at 11:09 on the Bernina Express 961 to Tirano 13:32

Posted by
16156 posts

On sbb.ch, enter Zurich to Milan, and under the via" option put Tirano. It should then show you the route I mentioned. Ignore the route via Monza if it shows one.

Posted by
169 posts

Thanks for all your help. Just a few questions. When I go to the SBB website and enter my date June 15, for travel from Chur to Tirano it keeps changing the date and seems to show only availability in August. I did this a few times, and same thing happens. Either I am doing something wrong or potentially it is sold out on those dates.

At least now I know that the train I want departs 08:32am from CHUR and arrives in Tirano at 12:45pm (train 951)

However, when I go to a 3rd party website, like Rail Europe or DB there seems to be avilability, but at a higher fare and in first class.
If that is my only option - what would be the benefit of first class?

Can anyone please advise if I am somehow doing something wrong on the SBB website.
If not, my options are limited and I would have to decide between Rail Europe or DB.

I realize they are all selling seats on the same train.
Is one any different than the other.

Posted by
5835 posts

When I go to the SBB website and enter my date June 15, for travel from Chur to Tirano it keeps changing the date...

Your problem may be trying to buy tickets too far in advance. The SBB site will only sell tickets about 8 weeks or so in advance although it may give you schedule information beyond the valid ticket sale dates. If it is showing you a date like 08.05.2017, realize that in Europe that date would be 08 May 2017, not August 5, 2017. Try buying your tickets late April for a mid June departure.

If you try to buy tickets today for 15 June, the travel planner will reply:
Please select a date [DD.MM.YYYY] within the valid date range: 08.04.2017 to 08.05.2017.
That means you can only buy a ticket for travel between now and 08 May 2017.

Note that on the BEX (Bernina Express) the panoramic window cars require seat reservations.

Posted by
8889 posts

I just went to the SBB website, and put in Zürich HB to Milano Centrale, via Chur and Tirano on 15th June. It gave me many options.
But, the catch is, Italian trains have a new timetable starting 10th June. The Tirano to Milano trains after 10th June are not yet available, but you can assume they will be 95% unchanged.
I tried for 1st June, and got many options, including:

Zürich HB depart 07:07, Chur arrive 08:22
Chur depart 08:32, Tirano arrive 12:45
Tirano Depart 13:08. Milano Centrale arrive 15.40

There are later trains of course.
Don't worry about selling out, these are regular trains used by non-tourists to get around. The only one you can reserve sets on is the Bernina Express (Chur to Tirano), and there are plenty of other normal non-reservable trains on that route.
You see the same mountains whichever train you are on. All other trains you can't reserve seats.

Posted by
169 posts

Thanks again for all the amazing help. Just a few more questions: I found a website Rhaetion Railways, which lists all the trains from Chur to Tirano - incluing the 8:32 one that I want. (it also lists a few after that, with connections).
That website seems more "english" friendly

Since I have never done this before - and I have heard that Swiss trains run right on schedule, should I have any concerns about the 10 minute connecting time in Chur ? arriving 8:22, departing 8:32 ?

If somehow I miss the connection, are the subsequent trains from Chur to Tirano traveling the same route ?

Is the only difference on the later trains the windows ?

If we were to stop on one of the stations along the way and spend sometime until the next train, which would you recommend ?
If we did that, would there be a problem getting on the next train after, with the same ticket

Final question. 2nd class seems fine. Would there be any justification for first class ?

Thanks again for all the help.

Posted by
8889 posts

travelguymiami, Rhaetian Railway (Rhätische Bahn / Ferrovia Retica / Viafier Retica, abbreviated RhB) is the company that runs the line from Chur to Tirano. Zürich to Chur is SBB (Swiss Federal Railways), Tirano to Milan is Trenitalia.

10 minutes to change trains in Chur is no problem. the second train will be waiting for passengers from the first. This is a regular (naïve) questions from people who have never travelled by trains.

"If somehow I miss the connection, are the subsequent trains from Chur to Tirano travelling the same route ?" - Yes, there is no other route. This is not a special tourist route, it is a normal train route to connect these areas with each other and over the Alps to Italy.

"Is the only difference on the later trains the windows ?" Yes, other trains may have more stops or may require a change of trains en route. In which case, the second train will again be waiting for the first.

Stop on the way - St Moritz. but that is slightly off-route. Plus many more.
"getting on the next train after, with the same ticket" - Just buy two tickets
2nd class is OK, the mountains are still first class.

Posted by
5835 posts

should I have any concerns about the 10 minute connecting time in Chur ?

As Chris notes, no problem. We returned from Tirano to Klosters after our Bernina Express visit to Tirano via a different route. Our connection at Sagliains was only three minutes. Got off the train from Pontresina, walked across the platform and boarded the train to Klosters.

If there are a mix of 1st and 2nd class cars, if in doubt, get on and walk through the train to the car of the proper class.