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Train from Paris to Milan

  • 15 January 2024
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We are planning to travel from Paris to Milan on June 3rd. We were originally going to travel from Paris directly to Rome, but with the landslide that is impacting train travel on this route, we decided to overnight in Milan, and then continue to Rome the next day. I’ve seen that by the time we travel, there will be a 'direct' route that includes a bus, but we'd prefer to travel by train the entire route.

We’ve seen the recommendation on this site to travel from Paris to Zurich and then Zurich to Milan. We want the fastest route, and since it’s a special vacation, are happy to reserve and pay for business class.

My question: when I try to book this route, it doesn't appear that all of the trains are available to book yet - is this correct?

We are trying to balance booking early enough to get the seats and timing we’d like, but fear booking too early and missing more desirable trains that may not be scheduled yet.  We had heard that booking 4-6 months out would be ideal, is this correct?

Any suggestions and advice is most appreciated! Thank you.

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Best answer by thibcabe 15 January 2024, 01:50

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Bookings generally open 3-4 months in advance, rarely earlier. French and Italian timetables aren’t published yet but they’ll be soon. Check the current ones, it won’t change much.

First things first : are you planning to get the Eurail Global Pass (1st class) ? With a pass, reservation fares are fixed most of the time so you have more flexibility. On the other hand advance tickets become more expensive closer to travel date. The following prices are Eurail 1st class seat reservations.

From Paris to Milan I’d consider 3 routes : via Geneva, Zurich or Strasbourg. Here are itineraries with ideal timings I’d say. Of course feel free to add a longer break.

Option 1 :

  • TGV Paris Gare de Lyon - Geneva 08:18 - 11:29 39€
  • break, have luch nearby. The lake is a 10 min walk too
  • EC Geneva - Milano Centrale 13:39 - 17:40 13€

Option 2 :

  • TGV Paris Gare de Lyon - Zürich HB 07:22 - 11:26 39€
  • EC Zürich HB - Milano Centrale 12:33 - 16:50 13€ -> new train, maybe a little bit more scenic*

Option 3 (fastest/cheapest) :

  • TGV Paris-Est - Strasbourg 07:58 - 09:59 10€ limited fare, then 20€ (not available until early February so don’t worry)
  • TER Strasbourg - Basel SBB 10:21 - 11:38 or 10:51 - 12:08 (200 km/h regional train, incredibly comfy seats)
  • EC Basel SBB - Milano Centrale 12:28 - 16:40 13€

*the Gotthard Base Tunnel (57km, longest in the world) is currently closed so all trains are taking the older scenic route

This journey will be beautiful, whichever option you choose. First fully high-speed at 300-320 km/h through the French countryside and then slower through the Alps. Questions welcome. :)

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