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Scenic train from Switzerland to Italy

We are in the very beginning stages of planning a 2 week trip to Italy (beginning in Switzerland) for Sept. 2016. We started planning once before and had to postpone. The first time I looked into this trip I made a note about a "Scenic train" with a VIP front car that is glassed in for maximum viewing, etc. I thought that it traveled between Lucerne (where we are hoping to begin the trip) and Milan or Venice (Venice being our end destination for this leg of the journey). I am unable to find mention of a train such as this going into Italy. I looks like the one I can find just travels within Switzerland. Was I just imagining this? I would appreciate any help that anyone has to offer.

Posted by
20461 posts

I believe you are thinking of the "Golden Pass" trains between Zweisimminen and Montreux, entirely within the borders of Switzerland. Scenic trains to Italy would be the Gotthard Pass mainline between Zurich and Milan, and the Bernina Express route from Chur to Tirano. Neither of these have any such options.

Posted by
16919 posts

The Bernina Express, which goes from Switzerland ( St. Moritz) to Italy ( at Tirano), does have the panoramic cars.

But if you specifically seek the VIP seats at the front of the train, with "the same view the engineer has" according to the website, that would only be, as Sam says, the Golden Pass line between Zweisimmen and Montreux. There are eight such VIP seats in the front (1st Class ) coach. The entire Golden pass line does run from Luzern through Interlaken to Montreux, and you change several times as the three sections are operated by different rail companies ( and maybe on different track gauges).

To ride this section you will end at Montreux, so will have to head east and south to Milan and then to Venice. Take a look at the Swiss rail map and you will see how far out of your way to the west the Golden Pass route will take you:

Milan is off the bottom of the map to the south, below Stresa. The most direct route to there from Luzern would be the Gotthard pass route which passes through Chiasso ( find it on the map). The Bernina pass route is farther east! but from Tirano you must he'd back west to get to Milan --- there are no trains through the mountains to Venice from there. We are taking that route to get to Venice from Zurich ourselves this September--but we have 5 weeks in Europe and are allotting three whole days to that part of the journey.

You can look up the travel,times from Luzern to Montreux and Montreux to Venice on the Swiss rail website!
You would want at a minimum an overnight in Montreux and two days for the trains.

Posted by
30 posts

Thanks so much for these replies. This will help us make our decisions for sure!!!! I really appreciate the help.

Posted by
1971 posts

In March, after spending two days in Lucerne, we opted to take the normal run-of-the-mill train route to Milan instead of the scenic Bernina Express, which would have taken at least 4 hours longer. Figuring we'd be seeing some spectacular scenery in the Alps no matter what, we were not disappointed.

Leaving Lucerne at 9:40 on a Monday morning, we had a quick 30-minute ride on a vintage but well-kept-up train to Arth-Goldau, a tiny burg but an important hub in the Swiss rail system. We had to hustle to make the change for Milan because although the train was supposed to be waiting across the platform, a curve had been thrown and we had to go downstairs from the platform, under the tracks and out the other side to find the connecting train. Then once we boarded, the conductor informed us that this train was only going to the Swiss/Italo border at Chiasso, but that I should speak to him at that time and he would direct us to the train for Milan, which worked like a charm.

The scenery, starting on the first leg around Lake Lucerne and then a turn to the south ascending into the Alps, was absolutely breathtaking. Never seen anything like it. In one view, I could see green pastures with cows at the bottom, moving to the snow line, up to snow-capped mountain peaks. Incredible. At one point, the train traveled up into a snow squall & a white-out, and then after 45 minutes we were down, down, to 50-degree temperatures and sun in southern Switzerland, where the little towns had Italian names but flying the Swiss red & white flag.

The Bernina Express probably has more beautiful scenery than this route, but I feel we lost nothing in deciding upon this path. After an hour stopover at Milano Centrale station (watch your belongings, plenty of beggars but harmless) we arrived at Florence SMN station at 4:55 in the afternoon, ready to walk to our apartment after an exhilarating day of train travel.

BTW, cost for the entire Lucerne/Milan trip for the two of us--booked as 2nd class on the Swiss rail site about 90 days in advance--was 80 CHF total, which was about $95 USD, or about 47 bucks apiece. Can't beat it.