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I want to travel from Munich to Rome by train. There are several routes to take, for example Munich -> Bologna-> Rome or Munich -> Bolzano -> Rome or through Switzerland, etc.. I would love to know which route should I take if I want to cross as few tunnels as possible (i.e. which route is the most tunnel-free)

Bonus question : how long is the longest tunnel between on the given route?

EDIT: I want to avoid tunnels because I am claustrophobic and hate them. I can tolerate short tunnels (>1000 -1500 m). Before I rule out travelling by train I just want to be sure if there is a route without tunnels that exceed let's say 2000 metres or not.

  • 6
    Travel via France? – MastaBaba Dec 17 '18 at 14:54
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    Are you travelling in summer or in winter? In summer, you may be able to get to the foot of the alps, take buses over the mountain passes, then continue on the other side again by train, but many mountain passes are closed in winter. – gerrit Dec 17 '18 at 16:04
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    Would the tunnels still be a problem if you are asleep? Maybe a night connection would work? Apparently there is one on your route. – Frax Dec 17 '18 at 20:29
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    You want to cross the Alps, by train, without using tunnels... For your next trip, try getting from Liechtenstein to Uzbekistan, by boat. – Oscar Bravo Dec 18 '18 at 8:55
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    @OscarBravo With rivers and canals, getting as far as the Sea of Azov from Liechtenstein (which is on the Rhine) is easy (in particular going downstream over the Rhine falls ;-)). If one can further connect with canals to the Volga basin, which one probably can, there's only 70 km or so to go from Garabogazköl to Uzbekistan. That'd be a fun journey (good luck with those visas)! However, a new question should be asked as a new question, not as a comment :-) – gerrit Dec 18 '18 at 9:32
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(I read the question title "Munich from Rome" and therefore this is a northbound description, but the route should by symmetrical in the opposite direction)

You can't do this entirely by train avoiding long tunnels, but you can take a combination of trains and buses, essentially take trains to the foot of the Alps, buses across the big passes, then get on the train again on the other side. This will be much easier in summer than in winter, as most passes are closed in winter. In either case it will require extensive planning, a long time, will probably cost more, and will give you lots of scenic views.

Via the Bernina Railway

Train Milano–Scuol (6 hours), bus Scuol–Landeck (1½ hour), train Landeck–Munich (3 hours). Three tunnels >1500 metre, longest tunnel 2350 metre.

The only railway that crosses from the Italian side to the German side of the Alps without a big tunnel is the Bernina railway connecting Tirano (Lombardia, Italy) to St. Moritz (Graubünden, Switzerland). The longest tunnel on this railway is 689 metre and it runs year round. You can get from Milano to Tirano via Lecco and Sondrio along the Tirano-Lecco railway which does not appear to have any major tunnels has tunnels, but there are alternate routes without, see jcarons answer.

From St. Moritz, you can take the train to Scuol. This section has 16 tunnels, including 3 that are longer than 500 metre, all along the 9 km between Guarda and Ftan. The longest is 2350 metre. You might be able to avoid them by switching to a bus at this section.

The railway ends in Scuol, from here you'll need to switch to a bus to Austria, where the railway continues from Landeck. The shortest and fastest car route between the two places is tunnel free.

From Landeck, you can continue by train. To get to Innsbruck along the Arlberg railway, there are two tunnels. The longest, the Zammer tunnel, is 2335 m and is immediately east of Landeck. Again, you might be able to avoid it by bus.

From Innsbruck, there is a scenic railway to Garmich-Partenkirchen, bu the Mittenwald Railway does have 16 tunnels, including 2 that are longer than 500 metre, the longest being 1810 metre. From GAP you have reached the north side of the Alps and can continue by train easily. Direct trains avoiding this route now anyway take the New Lower Inn Valley railway which is mostly built in tunnels, but local trains via Rosenheim might take the old mostly tunnel-free track — check this carefully. From Rosenheim it's easy to reach Munich.

Bus Airolo - Göschenen (summer only)

Alternately, you can take a train to Airolo, then take a bus over the summit of the pass to Göschenen (summer only), and get back on the train from there, having reached the northern side. Be careful in your planning, most buses take a tunnel. There are still tunnels on the connecting tracks, so you'd have to see if you can handle those or if you can avoid them with a bus.

Bus Domodossola - Brig

You might find a year-round alternative by taking the train to Domodossola, a bus over the Simplon Pass, then a train from Brig via Martigny to Basel. You will probably have to make some extra changes and detours in northern Switzerland to avoid further tunnels.

If even short tunnels are not an option due to claustrophobia, then taking the train is probably not a realistic alternative. Even roads will have short tunnels. You may be able to find a route by road that avoids any short tunnels, making big detours where they do happen, but it would be a long journey.

The truly touristic outdoor alternative

Take a train to as close to the Alps as you can get, hike over the Alps, then get onto a train again on the other side ;-) Or walk in little segments, get off the train at the last station before the tunnel, have a hike until the other side of the tunnel, get on the next or next next train. This suggestion is not entirely serious but if you make it a fun week in summer it could be a nice backpacking vacation :)

From Rome to the foot of the Alps…

I did not cover in this answer the trains from Rome to (for example) Milano. I remember the fast trains having lots of tunnels. I did not take the slow train. You've talked about length, but consider: at 240 km/h, a 2 km tunnel will take 30 seconds to cross. Is it the length or the duration that triggers claustrophobia? For your specific route, look up the Wikipedia articles describing the railway section. On the right, unfold the section where it says "Route map". This often mentions all tunnels, certainly if they are longer than a few hundred metre. You can also follow the track on Openstreetmap, Google Maps, or Google Earth and look for tunnels that way. Only you can finally judge what is acceptable for you or not. Good luck!

  • How do you know/can find out if there are tunnels? I would have thought maybe munich-vienna-Ljubljana-venice-rom might be low on tunnels. (if vienna-Ljubljana has big tunnels, then one could also go vienna-zagreb-ljubljana). But how can one check the tunnel length on these tracks? – lalala Dec 17 '18 at 18:28
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    See my final paragraph. I use the Wikipedia article "Route map". Sometimes the German language article is more complete than the English language one. – gerrit Dec 17 '18 at 19:11
  • My experience of the Alps is mainly the French side (and Swiss long ago) but you'd need to know the exact route and spend some time with a detailed map to track down the short tunnels on the bus routes. (Loosely related) – Chris H Dec 17 '18 at 20:49
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    Now I don't remember it very well (it's been years since I took it, but I used to do the Bologna-Firenze leg weekly, often on regional trains), but I think that even the regional train route from Bologna to Roma has a lot of tunnels. The Appennines are mountains, and you need to cross them... – Denis Nardin Dec 18 '18 at 10:30
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    In fact, now that I checked on Wikipedia, even the super-old Porrettana has a 3km and a 2.5km tunnel (and 18km of tunnels in total), and I'd expect those trains to be quite slow. You might have to take buses to hop over the Appennines too, even if I don't know how much service is there... – Denis Nardin Dec 18 '18 at 10:51
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Inspired by @gerrit's answer, this one has one tunnel that is 5865 m long (and can be avoided with a 30 minute bus ride), but otherwise all other tunnels are much shorter.

  • Roma-Firenze-Bologna-Milano: you will probably have to take regional trains, as the high-speed line has many tunnels: Roma-Firenze has 5 tunnels over 3 km (longest 10.5 km), Firenze-Bologna has 7 tunnels over 3 km (longest 18.7 km). Bologna-Milano seems to be relatively devoid of long tunnels. I won't go into details here as there are probably many different options depending on how much sightseeing you would like to make.

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Note that you can ride from Milano to Tirano directly, but that will take the line via Carnate with its two 2.2 km tunnels.

  • Tirano-St Moritz (Bernina Railway): 11 tunnels, but the longest one is 689 m. UNESCO World Heritage site.

  • St Moritz-Thusis-Chur (Albula Railway): over 40 tunnels, but only one is significant, the Albula Tunnel which is 5865 m long. The second longest is only 698 m, and many are just a few couple dozen meters long. UNESCO World Heritage site as well.

The whole Tirano-Chur stretch can be done with a single train, the Bernina Express.

If you want to avoid that single tunnel, you can use a bus from La Punt-Chamues-ch Railway Station to Preda Railway Station, it goes over the Albula Pass, takes less than half an hour, but only runs from end of June to end of October.

  • From Chur, there are several options, the simplest one involving just one change at St. Margrethen. There do not seem to be any tunnels around, but I haven't checked extensively.

Note that if you check itineraries on the CFF/SBB website (the Swiss Federal Railways), you can view the full route on a map, and once you zoom in enough the (OpenStreetMap-powered) map will show you tunnels.

Final note: whether you take the train all the way or use the bus to avoid the Albula tunnel, it will take you quite a while to do the whole trip. But you will have some incredible scenery on the way!

  • Hmm, I missed the tunnels between Milano and Tirano, the Wikipedia article I used did not list them, but I'm not surprised they do exist. – gerrit Dec 18 '18 at 0:16
  • I looked at the Albula Pass route first but it's indeed a summer only route, and it's December now, so I decided to look for routes that work year round. – gerrit Dec 18 '18 at 0:27
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    One would need a bit of planning to avoid the tunnels in central Milan. Arriving from the south, the best plan is probably to leave the train at Milano Lambrate and take one of the regional services to Milano Greco Pirelli, where one can change to the S7 (for Lecco via Molteno). If you get all the way to Milano Centrale, there will be precious few further connections northward from there. – Henning Makholm Dec 18 '18 at 0:41
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    Going from Lindau to Munich via Kempten (the more important town between the two cities) will pass through the Oberstaufen tunnel (160 m according to the German Wikipedia). The route via Kißlegg/Memmingen is tunnel-free and taken by EuroCity trains. – Jan Dec 18 '18 at 0:51
  • Thanks for the great answer. I have already accepted gerrits answer and I do not want to revoke it, but be assured you got my +1 for this useful info. – Sanyifejű Dec 19 '18 at 17:00
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Since the highly upvoted and currently accepted answer involves buses, a slight change in transportation mode seems to be acceptable. Therefore I suggest flying.

Looking several weeks out, Lufthansa has several offers for under 90 EUR round trip with nonstop flights of about 90 minutes each. Even with getting to and from airports and passing security, that trip is well under a day.

The first one I checked is scheduled to use an Airbus A319 and Airbus A321-100/200 for the routes to and from respectively. The inside of the plane cabin might be bigger than the inside of a train or bus, and the specific seat area might be comparable to a bus (maybe more area if you pay more).

Actual costs will depend on when you want to go, when you're booking, and a surprisingly large variety of other factors.

Planes do even worse than you in long tunnels, so you're not likely to have any of those on the flight. The reduced remaining challenge is getting between the airports and your origin/destination without long tunnels, which seems likely easier, though the question doesn't have enough information for us to address that.

  • Thanks for the answer. Yes flying is an option. However before I decide to take the plane I just wanted to see if the is really no way to get there by train. – Sanyifejű Dec 19 '18 at 17:03
  • @Sanyifejű Thanks for the note! For future reference, it is conventional to state other options and strategies considered in the text of the question. – WBT Dec 24 '18 at 14:41
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Challenge accepted. Since you posted the question of how to get to Budapest from Munich a while ago (How to avoid the huge tunnel at Vienna when travelling from Munich to Budapest by train?), I will take it from there.

You can take the train as described until Vienna. I suggest doing this on day 1, so that you can spend the night in Vienna. This is because I will now take you through Slovenia into Italy. There is only one viable train going to Trieste from Vienna which leaves Vienna at 7:58 in the morning and gets you to Trieste with a change in Ljubljana (takes 10:55 hours). Then you can take trains as described in other answers to Rome. I doubt you will make it on that day, though. Make sure to go via Graz and not via Villach since this will mean a lot more tunnels.

The line from Vienna to Trieste only sees one bigger tunner, the Semmering tunnel which is 1500m long. Otherwise there are only few short tunnels. So the route is (Munich - Wienerwald tunnel bypass -) Vienna - Graz - Ljubljana - Trieste (- Bologna - Rome).

If you want to take this further, you can even go to Budapest and take the daily train to Ljubljana from here. This avoids any tunnel on the route (Budapest-Trieste is 14:33 hours). This would be the shortest way around the Alps avoiding long tunnels.

None of the options will allow you to make it in one day, though.

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    I don't see how to do Bologna-Rome without passing through quite a few tunnels . Maybe going all the way to Genova (crossing the Appennines somewhere with not too many tunnels) and following the coast from there? It's an insane trip anyway. – Denis Nardin Dec 18 '18 at 10:24
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    The coastal line from Genoa to La Spezia is essentially one long tunnel. The only option is to take the old single track railway line over the appennine range. There are a few tunnels, but they should not be too long. – Sebastian Dec 18 '18 at 10:30
  • Even the Porrettana has a 3km tunnel. I just don't see how to avoid them. Maybe taking the buses to hop through the Appennines? – Denis Nardin Dec 18 '18 at 10:49
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    You are right. Getting to Rome from Trieste (or Milan) avoiding long tunnels would take you all around the boot of Italy!! I checked all crossing lines. I'd call this a real detour. – Sebastian Dec 18 '18 at 11:35
  • yes, its a bit of detour but thank you for the answer anyway – Sanyifejű Dec 19 '18 at 17:08
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In case the comments to the question disappear if the OP is happy to pass through tunnels while asleep the NightJet from Roma Termini leaves at 1858 which for most of the winter is dark and arrived at München Hbf at 0819 the next day. It would be best to book a single sleeping compartment so you can be sure you can pull the blind down to avoid seeing anything while passing.

Of course this will not work if it is the knowledge that one might be in a tunnel which is the trigger rather than knowing one actually is.

  • I wish if it was that easy for me:-) I guess it would have the opposite effect. Instead of having a carefree night sleep, my panic would be triggered by the smallest breaking or even losing speed. My mind would 'convince' me that the train right now is slowing down in the very middle of the longest tunnel imaginable even if in reality there was no tunnel in sight.Thanks for the answer, anyway. – Sanyifejű Dec 19 '18 at 17:16
  • @Sanyifejű yes, I feared that might be the case. I will leave the answer as it might be useful to someone else. – mdewey Dec 19 '18 at 17:22
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You could avoid the Alps and their consequent long tunnels by going Milan-Nice-Lyon-Strasbourg-Munich. I haven't researched the details of the tunnelling on this route, but there aren't any large mountains to tunnel under. (Lots of short ones though).

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    There are actually quite a few tunnels between Genova and Ventimiglia, some of them relatively long (3 tunnels over 5 km, longest 7.8 km). There are also a few more on the way to Marseille, though not as long (4 tunnels over 2 km, longest about 3 km). – jcaron Dec 18 '18 at 8:11

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