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How to take international train journeys from Italy

International Trains from Italy

Summaries of how to take direct trains from Italy to Austria, France, Germany, Slovenia and Switzerland

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Because The Alps form a barrier between Italy and the countries to the north, virtually all of the international rail routes from and to Italy are wonderfully scenic; and the one non-Alpine railway, the route through Ventimiglia, takes one of Europe's most spectacular coastal routes.

Add in the fact that some of Europe's most impressive international trains link Italy to Austria, France and Switzerland and you can see why the train is a fabulous choice when travelling from Italy.

Trains from Italy to Austria (and on to Munich in Germany)

Highlights of the Innsbruck to Venice journey by train Highlights of the Innsbruck to Venice journey by train

The trains from Italy to Austria only take one of three routes, but they're all wonderfully scenic.

the route through Brennero

The three train services which make this spectacular border crossing are:

(1) Five EC trains per day take this route:

Verona → Roverta → Trento → Bolzano → Fortezza → Brennero – Innsbruck → Jenbach → Worgl → Kufstein → Munich/Munchen
On Monday to Friday three of these trains commence their journeys in Bologna, but two trains start in Bologna at weekends.
If you want to make a daytime journey from Firenze/Florence or Roma to Munchen/Munich, you can make a connection into these EC trains in Bologna.

On Monday to Friday one of these trains commences its journey in Venezia/Venice and also calls at Padova/Padua and Vicenza; and on weekends there are two trains which commence their journeys in Venezia/Venice.

These EC trains provide the most frequent rail service from Italy to Germany; connections are available on from Munchen Hbf station to a swathe of cities which don't have direct trains from Italy including Berlin, Leipzig, Nurnberg and Stuttgart.
Other cities including Freiburg, Karlsruhe and Frankfurt (Main) are served by a daily direct train which takes a different route from Milano through Switzerland.

(2) Hourly Austrian local S-Bahn trains depart Brennero for Innsbruck and Brennero is served by

  • Regionale trains from Merano via Bolzano, and
  • Regionale Veloce trains which take a Bologna → Verona → Roverta → Trento → Bolzano → Fortezza → Brennero route

Users of Eurail and Interrail passes aiming to avoid the rail pass reservation fees payable on the EC trains can target the Regionale trains Bologna and from Verona and make connections in Brennero.
Though rail pass users should note that the Regionale trains on the route from Brennero are not operated by Trenitalia, therefore rail passes aren’t valid.

(3) A new Railjet service to eastern Austria departs from Bolzano/Bozen daily at 07:45 and also makes calls in Bressanone, Fortezza, Vipiteno and Brennero.
It travels via Innsbruck and then calls calls at Salzburg (12:03), Linz (13:14), St. Polten (14:00) before arriving in Wien Hbf, the main station in Vienna at 14:30.
Therefore this is the only direct daytime train from Italy to both Salzburg and Linz.
A connecting Regionale train typically departs from Trento at 06:40.
Rail pass users do not have to pay any reservation fees to travel on this train.

on the route via San Candido

Hourly trains travel from Fortezza to Lienz.
Fortezza is served by trains from Bologna, Bolzano, Venezia and Verona.
Lienz has a sporadic service of S-Bahn local trains to Klagenfurt via Villach, so this route is a short cut from The South Tyrol to the Worthersee resorts.

Depart Fortezza at 12:50 and in Lienz you can connect into an IC train to Vienna/Wien Hbf which travels via Villach and Klagenfurt.
However, rail pass users travelling this way should note that Trenitalia does not operate the route between Fortezza and San Candido, so rail passes are not valid on this section of the route.

on the route via Tarvisio

Day trains

Two Railjet trains per day come this way on the Venezia/Venice → Treviso → Udine → Tarvisio → Villach → Klagenfurt → Leoben – Bruck an der Mur – Wien/Vienna route.
The first of these trains arrives in Wien/Vienna in time for connections on to Budapest, Katowice and Praha by daytime trains, as well as into the overnight train to Bucharest/Bucuresti

In addition two regional trains per day travel on this part of the route: Udine → Tarvisio → Villach.
Rail pass users who want to avoid rail pass reservation fees can take these trains.

Night trains:

All of the sleeper trains, the Nightjet trains from Italy to both Austria and Germany cross the border at Tarvisio.

The Nightjet trains take three routes:

(1) Milano – Brescia – Desenzano del Garda – Peschiera del Garda – Verona – Vicenza -- Padova/Padua – Leoben – Bruck an der Mur – Wien/Vienna
This is the only direct train from Milano to Wien/Vienna

(2) Roma – Arezzo – Firenze/Florence – Bologna - Leoben – Bruck an der Mur – Wien/Vienna
This is the only direct train from both Firenze/Florence and Roma to Wien/Vienna; it is also the only international train from Firenze/Florence and Roma.

(3) Venezia/Venice – Treviso – Udine - Tarvisio - Linz - St Polten - Wien/Vienna.
Note that this train takes a different to the other two services and calls in Linz and St Polten.

All of these trains are divided on arrival in Salzburg or Villach and the other part of the train travels to Munchen/Munich.
So Munich/Munchen is also served by overnight trains from Firenze; Milano; Roma and Venezia.

Note that these overnight trains to Munich/Munchen take a different route than that taken by the daytime EC trains.

Trains from Italy to France

These TGV trains link Milano and Torino to Paris These TGV trains link Milano and Torino to Paris

The Alpine mountains and their foothills straddle the Italian-Franco border, hence there are only two routes between the two countries travelled by trains

the Mediterranean route from Ventimiglia to Menton

Now that the direct Milano to Nice/Marseille trains have been withdrawn the only remaining rail connection between the Italian and French Rivieras are the 1 or 2 x local TER trains per hour on the the Ventimiglia → Menton → Monte Carlo → Nice → Antibes → Cannes → Grasse route.
There are four express trains per day from Milano to Ventimiglia which connect with these local trains on to France; the evening departures from Milano arrive too late in Ventimiglia to make a connection.

Ventimiglia also has Regionale trains from Genova, Albenga and San Remo, which connect into these trains to France.

If you will be travelling on to destinations to the west of Cannes, making a connection in Antibes is easier than at Nice-Ville station, because all trains which head west from Antibes use the same voie/platform/track.
Antibes (and Nice) has direct trains to Lyon, Marseille and Paris.

the Alpine route from Bardonecchia to Modane

Three x TGV France/Italy trains per day take this route; Milano-Porta Garibaldi → Novara → Torino-Porta Susa → Oulx → Bardonecchia → Modane → Chambery → Paris Gare de Lyon

Note that these trains depart from Porta Garibaldi station in Milano and not the city's primary rail hub, Milano Centrale.
The TGV trains are the only trains to France which call at the station named, Oulx-Cesana-Claviere-Sestriere.

Two x Frecciarossa 1000 trains operated by Trenitalia now also take this Milano to Paris route, but they depart daily from Milano Centrale at 06:25 and 15:53.

The departure at 15:53 has taken over from the TGV services as the direct train from Milano to Lyon.

Travelling with rail passes:

Eurail and InterRail passes are not valid on these international Frecciarossa trains and the TGV trains are at top of the, relatively short, list of train services with particularly expensive rail pass reservation fees.
However, there are no alternative local train services which take this route across this border.
On Monday to Friday only there are buses, on which rail passes are not valid, depart Bardonecchia for Modane at 08:00, 12:00, 15:00 and 19:00; local trains link Torino to Bardonecchia and there is a comparatively infrequent service of French TER trains on from Modane to Chambery.

Though if you plan ahead, it's possible to travel from Milano to Paris and only pay the €10 reservation fee on the French TGV trains and have a more spectacular journey by taking this route:

  • Regioanale 'Ticino' trains from Milano Centrale to Lugano
  • take a train from Lugano to Basel
  • take a TER train from Basel to Colmar, Mulhouse or Strasbourg
  • take a TGV train from Colmar, Mulhouse or Strasbourg to Paris

on the local route via Limone

2 x trains per day usually take a Cuneo → Limone → Tende → Breil sur Roya → Ventimiglia route, which cross the Italian-Franco border twice.
There are connecting trains from Torino-Porta Nuova station to Cuneo and at Breil sur Roya connections are available into trains to Nice.

This is a route which needs to be planned with care, but efforts to do so will be rewarded as this is one of Europe's most spectacular international rail routes.
And for rail pass users who want to visit Turin, it offers a means of travelling into France without paying any reservation fees.

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Trains from Italy to Germany

A train to Munich awaits departure from Verona A train to Munich awaits departure from Verona

The direct trains from Italy to Germany either travel through Austria or Switzerland.

the daytime trains which travel through Austria

Five EC trains per day take this route; Verona → Roverta → Trento → Bolzano → Fortezza → Brennero – Innsbruck → Jenbach → Worgl → Kufstein → Munich/Munchen
On Monday to Friday three of these trains commence their journeys in Bologna, but two trains start in Bologna at weekends.
If you want to make a daytime journey from Firenze/Florence or Roma to Munchen/Munich, you can make a connection into these EC trains in Bologna.

On Monday to Friday one of these trains commences its journey in Venezia/Venice and also calls at Padova/Padua and Vicenza; and on weekends there are two trains which commence their journeys in Venezia/Venice.

These EC trains provide the most frequent rail service from Italy to Germany; connections are available on from Munchen Hbf station to a swathe of cities which don't have direct trains from Italy including Berlin, Leipzig, Nurnberg and Stuttgart.
Other cities including Freiburg, Karlsruhe and Frankfurt (Main) are served by a daily direct train which takes a different route from Milano through Switzerland.

Users of Eurail and InterRail users looking to avoid what are now comparatively expensive rail pass reservation fees on these trains can take this route:

  • Regionale trains from Bologna or Verona to Brennero;
  • Local trains from Brennero to Innsbruck:
  • Taking these EC trains on from Innsbruck as rail pass users don't have to pay reservation fees on this section of the journey.

the overnight trains which travel through Austria

All of the sleeper trains, the Nightjet trains from Italy to both Austria and Germany cross the border at Tarvisio.

The Nightjet trains take three routes:

(1) Milano → Brescia → Desenzano del Garda → Peschiera del Garda → Verona → Vicenza → Padova/Padua → Villach → Salzburg → Munchen/Munich.
This is the only direct train from Milano to Munchen/Munich.

(2) Roma → Arezzo → Firenze/Florence → Bologna → Villach → Salzburg → Munchen/Munich.
This is the only direct train from both Firenze/Florence and Roma to Wien/Vienna; it is also the only international train from Firenze/Florence and Roma.

(3) Venezia/Venice → Treviso → Udine → Tarvisio → Villach → Salzburg → Munchen/Munich.
Note that this train takes a different to the other two services and calls in Linz and St Polten
Note that this overnight train takes a different route than that taken by the daytime EC trains.

the route through Switzerland

One EC train per day takes this route:
Milano → Stresa → Domodossola → Brig → Visp → Spiez → Thun → Bern → Olten → Basel → Freiburg → Karlsruhe → Mannheim → Frankfurt (Main)

This the only direct daytime train service from Milan to Germany and it typically scheduled to depart from Milano Centrale at 11:20, but if its timings don't suit there are are alternative EC trains which travel from Milano to Basel and to Zurich.
German ICE trains link Basel and Zurich to multiple German cities including Frankfurt (Main), Hannover and Hamburg; and there also direct trains from Basel to Koln/Cologne.

Trains from Italy to Slovenia (and on to Vienna via Graz)

Travelling through the Sava River gorge in Slovenia east of Ljubljana Travelling through the Sava River gorge in Slovenia east of Ljubljana

The most significant new addition to the European rail timetable in 2021 is the new direct EC express train which is scheduled to depart from Trieste Centrale daily at 13:03 on a journey to Wien/Vienna via Ljubljana, Maribor and Graz.
It is due to arrive in the Austrian capital just after 22:00.
It's possible to take this train and connect in Ljubljana for Zagreb, though you'll have more than two hours in which to explore the Slovenian capital between trains.

A 'Freece' train which departs Milano Centrale at 07:45 and Verona Porta Nuova at 09:00 is due into Trieste around an hour before the departure of the EC train.
A connection into this EC train is usually scheduled to depart from Venezia S. Lucia at 10:39.

Two Italian regional trains also now travel from Trieste at 09:02 and 19:07 to Villa Opicina, where there connect with trains on to Ljubljana
They depart Trieste at 09:03 and 19:09; this second train of the day commences its journey in Udine at 17:54.
The daily Intercity train from Roma (10:22) and Bologna (14:47) and Venezia Mestre (16:40) is due into Trieste at 18:37, so should also offer a good connection on to Ljubljana.

Trains from Italy to Switzerland

The spectacular view of the Zugersee between Zug and Arth-Goldau The spectacular view of the Zugersee between Zug and Arth-Goldau

Trains from Italy to Switzerland follow one of four inevitably spectacular routes:

travelling through Chiasso; The Gotthard route

These four train services all take this route from Italy to Switzerland:

(1) There are up to 10 x EC trains per day which take a Milano → Como → Chiasso → Lugano → Bellinzona → Arth-Goldau* → Zug → Zurich route.
*= Connect in Arth-Goldau for trains to Basel via Luzern and Olten; if the timings of the direct trains to Luzern and Olten don't suit (see below).
Connect in Zurich for Chur, Frankfurt (Main), Hamburg, Innsbruck, Munchen/Munich, Salzburg, St Gallen and Stuttgart.

One of these trains commences its journey in Venezia/Venice and also calls at Padua/Padova – Vicenza – Verona – Peschiera del Garda – Brescia.
While another of these trains now starts from Genova Piazza Principe at 16:12, which provides a convenient connection between the Cinque Terre villages, which are to the the south of Genova, and Switzerland.
Another one of these EC services to Zurich now commences its journey in Bologna at 17:26.

Note that these trains from Genova and Bologna to Zurich call at alternative stations in Milano other than Millano Centrale; so eight trains per day to Zurich depart from Milano Centrale.

(2) Two x EC trains per day takes this route; Milano → Como → Chiasso → Lugano → Bellinzona → Arth-Goldau – Luzern → Olten → Basel; thereby providing direct trains from Milano to Luzern.
One of these trains departs from Milano Centrale at 08:10, but the other train departs from the city's other main station, Porta Garibaldi at 10:05.

(3) Hourly regional services branded 'Ticino' now take a Milano → Como → Chiasso → Lugano → Locarno route.
For users of Eurail and InterRail passes these trains provide an alternative to paying the rail pass reservation fees charged for international journeys on those EC trains.
Fast Swiss IC trains link Lugano to both Zurich and Basel on the same routes as those taken by the EC trains.

Or connect in S. Antonio for Swiss IR trains to Basel and Zurich, which travel on the even more spectacular older Gotthard route via Faido and Airolo.

(4) Hourly local trains take this route Chiasso → Lugano → Bellinzona.
These trains connect in Bellinzona to Swiss IC trains to Zurich via Zug or Basel via Luzern.
Hourly Regionale trains to Chiasso depart from Milano Porta Garibaldi station.

travelling from Domodossola to Brig: The Simplon Route
From Italy to Switzerland by train

These three tain services all travel through The Simplon Tunnel when making their way from Italy to Switzerland:

(1) Four EC trains per day take this route: Milano → Stresa → Domodossola → Brig* → Sion → Montreux → LausanneGeneva

One of these trains commences its journey in Venezia/Venice and also calls at Padua/Padova → Vicenza → Verona → Peschiera del Garda → Brescia.
*Connect in Brig for Zermatt.
Connect in Geneve for Lyon.

(2) Three EC trains per day take this route:
Milano → Stresa → Domodossola → Brig → Visp – Spiez* → Thun → Bern → Olten → Basel
One of these trains, the 11:20 departure from Milano continues beyond Basel to call at Freiburg, Karlsruhe, Mannheim and Frankfurt (Main).
Connect in Basel for Berlin, Dijon, Frankfurt (Main), Freiburg, Hamburg, Koln/Cologne, Mulhouse and Strasbourg
*Connect in Spiez for Interlaken.

There are now also two daily EC trains from Milano to Basel which take the Gotthard Route through Lugano, see above.

(3) Every two hours, in the odd hours, local trains from Domodossola are usually scheduled to travel through The Simplon Tunnel to Brig. Some of these continue on to Bern using a particularly spectacular route through Kandersteg, before calling in Spiez; where connections are available to Interlaken and Zweisimmen, and in Thun.
These regional trains are a useful option for rail pass users looking to avoid paying the rail pass reservation fees on the EC trains; Domodossola has Regionale trains from Milano.

the route through Camedo:

There are hourly ‘Centovali Express’ trains during the day, operated by F.A.R.T which take this route from Domodossola to Locarno.
Domodossola is served by trains from Milano and Locarno now once again has direct trains to both Zurich and Basel, which take an especially spectacular route!

the route through Campocologno:
The most beautiful railway route from Italy to Switzerland

Up to 11 trains per day, which are operated by RhB, depart Tirano for St Moritz via Poschiavo and Pontresina on the most beautiful railway route between Italy and Switzerland; and Tirano has trains from Milano.
Easy connections are available in Pontresina into trains to Scuol-Tarasp via Samedan and in Samedan another connection can be made into trains heading to Chur.
Or as an alternative to the regular trains you can travel direct from Tirano to Chur on The Bernina Express.

Connect in Chur for trains to Zurich and for trains to Buchs, from where transfers are available into trains heading to Innsbruck and Salzburg; so this is a spectacular way to come when travelling from Milano to western Austria by train.
If you have a 'global' InterRail or Eurail pass you can experience a stunning day of rail travel by taking this route to Zurich, before returning from Zurich back to Milano on an evening EC express train.

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Author

Simon Harper

I wanted to share my passion for train travel and explain how anyone can take the fantastic journeys I have taken.

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This is one of more than 100 train travel guides available on ShowMeTheJourney, which will make it easier to take the train journeys you want or need to make. As always, all images were captured on trips taken by ShowMeTheJourney.