Both Trenitalia and SBB trains enable you to travel from Zurich to Milan in just a matter of hours. In just 3.40 hours you can travel conveniently from Zurich to Milan. On average there are up to 7 direct trains per day, in both directions. Another great example of how convenient train travel is, compared to flying the short hop above the alps, from Zurich Kloten Airport to Milano Malpensa. The EuroCity train connecting both important cities is operated by Trenitalia and SBB, both national train companies. Yet the travel time is already short, considering you are travelling all the way through the mountain-rich country of Switzerland, but it’s getting quite a bit shorter in the near future. How is the Zurich to Milan route getting even faster? Read more below, as well as my review of this journey operated by a Trenitalia Train from 2016 (before the opening of the new Gotthard Base Tunnel) and my experience with the Trenitalia Train from Zurich to Milan in 2nd class.
Trip Report – Trenitalia Train from Zurich to Milan in 2nd class
My 10:10 train departing in Zurich HB main station has already been ready for boarding 20 minutes before departure, bz 10.50. The train is equipped with both first class and second class carriages, as well as a restaurant/dining car. In total there are 7 carriages on this train. The connection is both operated by SBB and Trenitalia, with a change of employees in Bellinzona. A seat reservation is mandatory for the passage over the border, from Bellinzona in Switzerland to Como in Italy, therefore it’s advisable to already have a seat reservation for the whole journey if you plan on taking the train all the way from Zurich to Milano (or even onwards with the daily direct train to Venice via Verona).
Second class aboard the Trenitalia train from Zurich to Milan is in a 2 – 2 configuration, with each two seats next to each other. Some in the direction of travel, some not, with the occasional table in between creating a 4-seater out of two doubles facing each other. For comparison, the first class is in a 1 – 2 configuration, allowing more space in between individual seats. Second class seats aren’t too shabby on this EuroCity train operated by Trenitalia either.
Every seat in a double is equipped with one shared power outlet, as well as a foldable tray table, a footrest as well as two coat hooks per double on near the window. There is limited space in the overhead compartment, for jackets, coats or smaller bags, as well as dedicated areas for luggage on the floor at the beginning of each carriage or in between quadruple seats (no need to lift heavy and big luggage over your head!).
Regarding amenities onboard the Trenitalia Train from Zurich to Milan, there is not much more. The train is of course equipped with bathrooms at the end or between carriages, and one Restaurant Car per Train (which is only open in Switzerland, not in Italy). It is situated in between first and second class. You can have a look at the menu online here. And, that’s already about it.
There is no WiFI on board, hence also no entertainment like the possibility to stream from an on/board media platform or from the web directly. Therefore it’s recommended to already bring enough entertainment, like books, a good music playlist or a few podcast episodes. 3.5 hours isn’t too long, but still too long if you feel bored after 5 minutes of doing nothing.. enjoying the fantastic landscapes along the way of the train ride from Zurich to Milano is definitely recommended.
But don’t be surprised, between the stops Arth-Goldau and Bellinzona you will pass the new Gotthard Base Tunnel. For more than 20 minutes it will be pitch black outside.. and it saves you around 1 hour of travel time. The entry into the tunnel at 160 km/h is near Erstfeld (at 12:26), and the departure near Göschenen (at 12:46).
Up from 2021, you will arrive in Ticino and southwards even faster. Thanks to the newly completed Ceneri Base Tunnel, travel time will again be cut to just over 3 hours for the Zurich to Milan train journey. Read here more about the Ceneri.
You might also be interested in Train Travel in Italy and Train Travel in Switzerland.
Trenitalia Train Journey Review Zurich to Milan – EC 317
Overall, I can definitely recommend the Trenitalia Train from Zurich HB to Milano Centrale in 2nd class. The travel time is fast, the seats comfortable and if you book in advance, you will have chances on good deals (I have booked two days in advance and have paid 76 € for the single ride, including a RailPlus reduction thanks to my German BahnCard.
Corona Pandemic measures on the Train
An important matter is the Coronavirus Pandemic, in my opinion, Trenitalia has provided the necessary hygienic measures sufficiently onboard the Trenitalia Train from Zurich to Milan in 2nd class. The carriages are one-way only. You board the train via the green entry door, walk all the way to your reserved seat, and leave by following the signs on the ground to the designated exit doors. Also, the train is only running with half its capacity, as each second seat is blocked. For example, in row 1, the person in the right double can sit by the window, the other one in the left double by the aisle. In row 2 the person on the right sits by the aisle and the person on the left by the window. This ensures distance to foreign people.
Also, there are hygienic gel dispensers to your left-right when entering the carriage, great. Additionally, everyone above the age of 12 has to wear a mask during the whole journey. Of course, you can take sips of drinks or eat something, but in general, the adequate mouth-nose-protection has to stay on, properly covering both mouth and nose.