We will fly into Zurich and then travel south to Milan, Florence, and Pisa, then back to Zurich. What is the preferred mode of travel? If by train, please offer train travel tips, ticket purchase, etc. Thanks
Take the train. If you book well in advance (up to 90 days allowed) on the Swiss Rail site, you can get a discount fare of 32 CHF (21 EUR) for Zuerich-Milano and Milano-Zuerich.
Advance discount fares are also sold for certain trains in Italy, but the Trenitalia site doesn't accept North American credit cards. Buy your tickets for travel in Italy as you go. The ticket machines in Italian stations have an English option and do accept North American credit cards. No need to stand in line at the window. For timetables and fares in Italy, go to the Trenitalia site and click on the English link at the top of the home page.
We did basically what you plan to do except we went on to Venice, Salzburg and back to Zurich. We bought our train tickets when we got to Zurich. You can get your Milan tickets right at the airport. It is very easy to do. I would buy my tickets as I went to each place. It is not that expensive and was easier than I thought it would be. Just remember to get your ticket validated in Italy at the yellow boxes. Also, have your duty free form signed before you get back to Zurich. We did Pisa as an on - off stop during the day to give us more time in Florence.
Thanks - Bill
The standard 2nd class fare for Zuerich-Milano is 97 CHF (64 EUR). As I said above, the advance purchase discount fare is 32 CHF (21 EUR). For more than one person traveling Zuerich-Milano and Milano-Zuerich, booking in advance will result in a substantial savings.
is the discounted fare zurich-milano readily available in the summer (aug) if I book at 90 days out? also, can I get off at Lagano vs. going all the way to Milan?
Since there is no discount fare offered for Zuerich-Lugano and the standard fare is 59 CHF (39 EUR), you could save money by booking a Zuerich-Milano discount fare and getting off the train in Lugano. You are not obligated to stay on the train all the way to Milano.
Just be sure you don't book the Zuerich-Bern-Milano route. The Bern-Milano leg doesn't go through Lugano.
I expect there will be increased traffic in August, but if you book as soon as the 90-day window opens, you should be able to get the discount fare for at least one of several departure times.
How do you purchase Zurich to Milano train tickets in advance? Can you use North American credit cards?
You can book on the Swiss Rail site and you can use a North American credit card. (Click on the link I gave in my first post.)