Milan 🇮🇹 to Geneva 🇨🇭 by tilting EuroCity train – scenic trip through the Alps!

Connecting Italy with Switzerland are the high-speed EuroCity services run jointly by the state-owned railway companies of the respective countries, Trenitalia and SBB CFF FFS. The central station in Milan is served with direct trains to Zürich, Basel and Geneva departing regularly throughout the day and served by the pointy-nosed “Astoro” pendolino trains that tilt on corners to reduce journey times – at least that was the case before the trains on the Milan to Zürich route were being replaced by newer “Giruno” trains.

Milan to Geneva retains its pointy-nosed train for now, more technically called the ETR610 in Italy and the RABe503 in Switzerland, and completes the journey in four hours.

Rather than one train with a mix of carriages owned by Trenitalia and SBB combined, like other EuroCity services in Europe, the set-up here is different – the Swiss and Italian operators both have their own identical train sets. So, whether you get a Swiss one or an Italian one for your journey will most likely be a surprise for the day.

I booked a ticket in First Class for a trip on the full route from Milano Centrale to Geneva armed with music and a good book to settle in for a relaxing ride with some nice scenery on offer throughout the journey – as promised from the map below where we’ll be passing two lakes and several mountains in the Alps.

Departure from Milano Centrale

A destination in its own right is the cathedral-like station of Milano Centrale, home to a various high-speed, sleeper trains and local services to destinations within Italy and abroad. On offer is a vast array of eateries, a ticket office, left luggage facilities and even a supermarket.

Today for my trip to Geneva, the train would be a silver Trenitalia Astoro, with the white and red SBB Astoro sitting in the platform opposite bound for Basel. The two trains can be seen together in the photo.

Onboard the EuroCity

These modern EuroCity Astoro trains offer two types of accommodation onboard, First Class and Second Class, as well as a Dining Car. Seat reservations are a must for international journeys to/from Italy and come with the ticket on purchase which can be selected on the Trenitalia app and website.

First Class Accommodation

First Class accommodation on these trains is exclusively in an open saloon with seats arranged in a 2+1 configuration. There is a variety of solo, tables for two and tables for four on offer with comfortable seats that recline. There is also ample legroom to make for a relaxing journey.

On the Trenitalia Astoro, the seats are upholstered with a smart brown leather while on the SBB Astoro, the same type of seats are upholstered in a stylish purple and blue cloth moquette. Both versions are pictured below.

First Class doesn’t come with any additional perks such as lounge access or food and drink delivered to your seat seen on some other European trains, so you’re paying extra for more elbow and legroom and quieter ambiance.

Second Class Accommodation

As per First Class, Second Class seats are also exclusively in an open saloon. Seating is less spacious, however, in a 2+2 configuration in a mix of airline style seating and tables for four – perfectly comfortable enough. The seats pictured below are the SBB Astoro, while the Trenitalia Astoro have the same seats in a brown moquette.

Dining Car

On both versions of the Astoro, trains have a Dining Car situated in the centre of the train between Second Class and First Class.

The two versions are identical, other than the menu on offer and the colour of the seating – the Trenitalia Astoro has yellow seats and the SBB Astoro has black seats. Both operators offer hot and cold drinks and cold food and snacks. Arguably, the best Dining Car is on the SBB Astoro where hot meals are also available and meals are served on china plates and drinks in glasses as opposed to paper cups.

Scenery

The scenery on this journey isn’t a quite as spectacular as some other alpine routes in Switzerland, but for a mainline railway it was nice, passing Lake Maggiore in Italy and Lake Geneva towards the end of the trip and scenery of the Alps, towns and vineyards in between. Both sides of the train had their highlights, however, overall, sitting on the right hand side of the train was the best for the views. I filmed a lot of the scenery on offer on the trip and below is a video showcasing this on YouTube.

Border Controls

Italy and Switzerland are both in the Schengen Area, however, Switzerland is not in the European Union and Italy is. Therefore, at the border station of Domodossola, Swiss border guards joined us on the train and travelled as far as Brig to perform customs checks. They asked me if I had any goods to declare and how much cash I had with me, and had a glance of my passport photo page. Quite content with me entering they thanked me and wished me a good day and moved on.

There was also a change of train crew at Domodossola from an Italian to a Swiss crew and ticket checks were repeated as a result. It was announced that the train was 27 minutes late arriving into Brig due to “an accident in another country”, a reason that wasn’t provided before crossing the border so remained a mystery for the remainder of the journey what the cause of the delay was.

Conclusion

The trip on the Trenitalia Astoro was very comfortable with nice scenery on offer on this route. The train was surprisingly quiet, quite the contrary to the route from Milan to Zürich that I’ve taken in the past and has been busy.

First Class on the Trenitalia Astoro had comfortable seats and a nice onboard ambiance, however, I would’ve probably have been just as happy travelling in Second Class on this train.

Booking and Fares

The fares on this route are dynamically priced according to demand, although I didn’t find the price escalated too much from booking until the week before departure, probably because this particular train had a low demand.

Journey LegFirst ClassSecond Class
Milan to Genevafrom 34,00€from 75,00€

Book with Omio.com

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If you book via the below link with Omio, Rail-Away earns a small commission that helps to support the running costs of the site – this is greatly appreciated.

Alternatively the trip can be booked via the Trenitalia or the SBB websites and apps.

This article was first published in February 2023.

Poland 🇵🇱 to the UK 🇬🇧 exclusively by train in less than a day! More interesting than flying.

I can’t start this blog with just the journey. I have to say how much I loved Poland… what a beautiful place.

My trip involved travelling from Gdańsk to Wroclaw to Warsaw. Three cities affected by the war, but the former two built back up again with their facades repaired. They boast charming streets and the milk bars are perfect for solo travellers and warm, hearty food.  Please see my blog here of Poland itself https://gdtravels.co.uk/2017/11/26/route-of-the-amber-road-gdansk-to-wroclaw-poland/

Trip summary: Warsaw🇵🇱-Berlin🇩🇪-Basel🇨🇭-Strasbourg🇫🇷-Paris🇫🇷-London🇬🇧

The journey home

For those tight for time there is a faster route to travel from Warsaw to London via Paris with one train change using the Russian Railways EuroNight service from Moscow to Paris departing Warsaw Wschodnia at 13:05 on Wednesdays and arriving into Paris Gare de l’Est at 09:33. Paris Gare de Nord is a short 8-minute walk from Paris Gare de l’Est where you can pick up a Eurostar direct to London through the Channel Tunnel.

As it was cheaper for me I worked out a different and certainly more fun way to travel to London. On 5 trains. The journey time was 23 hours, 30 minutes to cover 2,878km but this did not bother me: I would make lots of friends along the way, be able to read that book I’ve been carrying around for weeks and see the landscape change through the window… bliss. Plus, a couple of hours to enjoy Paris.

Train 1: Warsaw-Berlin (PKP IC and DB)

A rather elderly train using PKP IC coaches exclusively, this train consisted of mainly seated compartment carriages but did convey an open saloon carriage too. Much to my delight there was a seated bar carriage and it was well occupied, mainly with business travellers travelling from Warsaw to Poznan. Its popularity was justified with its food and drink offering – I enjoyed Smoked Salmon and a Savignon Blanc or three. Soon enough we crossed into Germany, the train crew changed and arrived on time to the impressive multiple-story station of Berlin Hauptbahnhof.

Train 2: Berlin-Basel SBB (OEBB NightJet)

Recently, Austrian Federel Railways (OEBB) have taken over this convenient north-south route from Hamburg to Zurich via Berlin and have rebranded the service as NightJet with other routes. I opted to travel as far southwest as Basel in order to allow enough time to sleep – yes I didn’t opt for that bargain seated carriage and in fact the most budget bed option, still not badly priced at €59 for this six-berth couchette (public Adult fare).

This was a pleasant enough way to travel – I shared with a middle-aged German lady and gentleman and three late-20s friends from Switzerland travelling home from a weekend in Berlin. We did have to make up our own beds since the carriage converts from seated accommodation early evening. It is normal however to have to place your own sheet on the bed and position your pillow, top sheet and blanket.

Soon enough we were able to settle and the Swiss friends kindly shared some of their peppermint liqueur.

Interestingly there was a knock at the door early morning upon entering Switzerland: the police wanted to know whose bag was whose. Lots of peppermint liqueur was handed over… shame we didn’t have a bigger party the night before.

Arrival in Switzerland for the first time. First impressions of Basel- very clean and modern.

Train 3: Basel-Strasbourg (SNCF TER)

Soon I was into France, before I got on this train technically, through Basel’s dedicated rail border area to the French platforms.

This journey involved chugging through the French countryside on a comfortable regional train. What a delight.

Train 4: Strasbourg-Paris (SNCF TGV)

Following an hour’s break in Strasbourg, enough time to walk the streets and enjoy a croissant or several at a French café, I returned to the gare de Strasbourg.

I was graced with a TGV Duplex and a seat upstairs with a window view… perfect.

Train 5: Paris-London (Eurostar)

After a few hours to enjoy Paris, Gare de Nord was in sight for me to enjoy my final leg home.

Arriving at the station 45 minutes before departure to check-in I was soon whisked away to London via the Chunnel on the super speedy Eurostar train with complimentary food and wine in Standard Premier. Heaven.

Trip took 23 hours, 30 minutes but didn’t feel long at all.

This article was first published in January 2018.