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I am travelling from Milan, Italy to Zurich, Switzerland and would like to drive, but I'm not sure how difficult the drive would be. Would someone be able to describe what it's like - the terrain, road, bends and so on?

EDIT: As @aziz asks, what about the conditions in Winter? Is the road always open? Is there a need for winter tires or even chains?

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    "How hard" is subjective unless you tell us from what aspect exactly? Commented Jul 23, 2013 at 4:35
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    it's certainly harder than taking the train
    – njzk2
    Commented Dec 19, 2023 at 14:18

2 Answers 2

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This is, for a 3+ hour drive, pretty much as easy as it can get.

It's a drive 100% over Italian and swiss highways. It is also pretty much one straight line north - on the same road, with only one single fork in the road. If you print out a google navigation beforehand and stick to the road, you basically cannot do anything wrong.

If you are willing for some sightseeing, a 1.5 hour detour and if the weather is nice, you might want to not go through the Gotthard tunnel but take the pass road instead. You can make 2 detours to the Lago di Lucendro and the Göscheneralp. Those are 2 really spectacular glacier lakes on top framed in high mountains.

In winter, appropriate tyres are required, chains should not be needed as long as you use the tunnel. The road should be open except for special circumstances. The scenic street over the pass is often closed during winter or requires chains.

If there is a traffic jam, you can take the detour via the St. Bernardino pass, it takes just a bit longer but there is usually less traffic. The signage is quite good to find it, but you have to know the traffic conditions about 1 hour before you reach the Gotthard tunnel.

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    Don't forget that you need a "vignette" for driving on Swiss highways.
    – Bernhard
    Commented Jul 23, 2013 at 7:57
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    And the routes involve quite long road tunnels, such as the Gotthard (+- 16 km) or the San Bernardino ( +- 7 km). Note so nice if you are claustrophobic. Commented Jul 23, 2013 at 17:21
  • @Bernhard What is a vignette ?
    – Simon
    Commented Sep 12, 2013 at 11:22
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    @Simon en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vignette_(road_tax)
    – Bernhard
    Commented Sep 12, 2013 at 11:30
  • As @aziz asks, what about the conditions in Winter? Is the road always open? Is there a need for winter tires or even chains?
    – Vince
    Commented Oct 27, 2014 at 21:32
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Uncovery has said it already very well.

Put winter tyres on your car. Because we had already quite some snowfall recently in Switzerland (snow has melted now), it is highly recommended that you put winter tyres on your car - as it is forbidden to drive without winter tyres in Switzerland when there is snowfall or ice on the street.

Then hit the 4 lane highway in Milano in direction to Lugano.

At entering into Switzerland, buy a highway vignette (CHF 40.-) at the border control station (Stazione doganale) which allows you to drive until the end of the year (actually until end of January of the next year) on all Switzerland's highways. If they give you already a 2024 vignette, you can drive on Switzerland's highways until end of January 2025.

Then stay on the Swiss highway in Direction Bellinzona, Zürich/Zurigo.

This will lead you finally through the Gotthard tunnel (17 km tunnel - the alternative route OVER the Gotthard is closed since mid of November 2023 because of the annual Wintersperre) and via the Axenstrasse (a short few kilometer-long non-highway passage with spectacular view to the Lake of Luzern and its surrounding mountains) to Zurich.

So the moment you pass Bellinzona, you can follow the signs on the highway which show "Zürich". You can't miss it.

If you do the driving during daylight (highly recommended) it is a very pleasant sightseeing from the moment you start approaching Switzerland until you are in Zurich.

(I did this route many times when working in Zurich and visiting my family in south France near Cannes over the weekend, driving via Genoa and Menton)

Edit: And yes, the route is always open because the problematic part (over the Gotthard) is skipped by driving through the Gotthard via the Gotthard tunnel).

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    ch.ch/en/are-winter-tyres-compulsory "In Switzerland, there is no legal obligation to fit your vehicle with winter tyres. However, drivers must always maintain control of their vehicle."
    – phoog
    Commented Dec 15, 2023 at 1:23
  • I am surprised (as I was told otherwise since I did my driver license in 1990) - but you are right. BUT: There is a legal obligation to operate vehicles only in "betriebssicherem Zustand" (cars must always be in the condition to be operated in a safe way) - which they cannot, when there is snow/ice on the road and the car has summer tyres. Your insurance will make sure that they don't pay when you get into an accident with summer tyres on snow or ice. And it can be that the police will not allow you to continue driving a car with summer tyres on a snowy/icey road. Commented Dec 15, 2023 at 11:30

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