Rail route of the month: a dramatic ‘back door’ into Switzerland through the Italian Alps

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Our slow travel expert alights from the express train in Domodossola to discover a rural route through the hills into Switzerland

Frequent Eurocity trains dash north from Milan via the Simplon Tunnel to Switzerland. On the way to the tunnel, those express trains speed by Lake Maggiore, affording fine views of the Borromean Islands. For Switzerland-bound trains, the last station stop in Italy is at the small Piedmont town of Domodossola. The station here is remarkably grand, as befits what was once an important gateway into Italy, with all the paraphernalia of customs and immigration. From Domodossola, it is just another half-hour through the Simplon Tunnel to Brig, an appealing Swiss town that guards the northern end of the Alpine tunnel, before trains head on to Berne, Basel and the north.

If you don’t mind missing the gorgeous scenery around the Swiss-Italian border, then travelling via the Simplon Tunnel route into Switzerland is fine. Simplon darkness is no different from the darkness on the London Underground, though the Eurocity trains that ply the Simplon route are far more comfortable than anything the tube has to offer. But those not in a hurry can do much better by turning right at Domodossola, then heading east into the hills to find a beautiful back-door route into Switzerland by using a cross-border rural railway.

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