Starting your Italian adventure from the Malpensa Airport near Milan is one of the easiest things for an American to do right.
The baggage area includes some of the longest conveyor belts you’ll see. Keep that patience going and watch as everyone politely gets their bags and rapidly moves out of the way with the grace of a ballet enabling you to retrieve yours.
Getting through passport control requires only patience and politeness.
Keep heading toward the exit and you’ll get a brief treat in a darkened space between the airport and the train station. It’s lit with soothing blue lights from the floor up and for some reason a mist descends from the ceiling. To cool you? Refresh you? Let me know how you feel after. I find myself giggling with the joy of a kid playing in a fountain on a hot August day.
The usicta (exit) from the airport to the train station to take you to the city is clearly marked. Tren (train) is an easy sign to recognize —especially as accompanied by the image of a train heading your way. Arrows finalize the directions. If you’ve managed to get lost already, you must be tired. Take a breath and start over.
When you reach the train biggliteri (ticket) office, look to your right. The Time Cafe always offers a good espresso and the perfect sized cappuccino—for less than E1.80 and if you need a brief snack, indulge in a fresh pastry. You can easily use the ticket dispensing machine to buy your tickets for the train to Milano Centrale. Press the British flag, apply logic (forward = continue) and you’re good to go.
First note about the trains, when you have an open ticket, (not pre-purchased on paper) make sure to validate it before you get on the train. The boxes are all over the place near the tracks and easy to use.
If you don’t fend for yourself and purchase your tickets at the self-operated kiosk, make sure to ask the ticket seller which platform the Malpensa to Milan Centrale is next departing from. Things had changed since our previous trip and we rode the wrong direction. These mistakes tend to work out okay because we made a new friend from Boston. Tony was having his first Italian adventure, meeting up with his wife. We were able to give him some Milan tips and help him get off the train at his proper stop. Don’t be concerned about making an error, the announcements are clear, the stations are signed as the train pulls into them, and the marquee tells you which station is next.
Vast choice of restaurants right in the train station!
Have you pre-purchased specific seats?
Check both the car number and the seat number assignment. We usually opt to sit across from each other with the table between us, having already sat side by side for nine hours of flight time. Verify your seat numbers before plopping down. In general, the Italians are very nice if you sit in the wrong seat, but the conductor might be a bit abrupt in straightening you out.
There is usually a drink and food cart rolling through during your journey. Prices are a bit higher than in the station, but I’ve nabbed a good cappuccino en route.
Some trains have free wifi, and there are electrical outlets, just be sure you brought your adapter along. But instead of working on that laptop non-stop, make sure you take time to look out the window and notice what’s speeding by. You’ll sometimes see artistic graffiti, often fields of hay and scattered puddles of bright flowers in multiple colors.
The bathrooms are clean, but those automatically rising toilet seats can be a bit tricky. Like on the plane that brought you here, green means it’s available while red means it’s occupied. Isn’t the universal bathroom language great?
If you have a wonderfully easy-to-roll-through-the-airports suitcase with 4-wheels, bully for you and me. But why they aren’t made with brakes is a puzzle. They fit between the seat backs, but lay them on their sides so they don’t roll away and bump into anyone. There’s also a luggage rack above your head that will hold backpacks and lighter suitcases. Be careful to stow it properly so it doesn’t get jostled off onto your head.
And the last tip for your first Italian train ride?
Make sure to press the green button when trying to exit the car or the train. Standing in front of it thinking it’s automatically going to open for you same as the grocery store? Yeah, that’s not going to work.
Milan Centrale has added a security level so if you have to exit the platform areas, be prepared for scrutiny when you re-enter. The signage board is quite simple—the train number, the farthest destination on the train line, and the bin or platform number. If you see a slew of names buzzing by—those are the stops on the line.
This is one of the prettiest, bustling train stations I’ve been in. Look down, look up and glance around. The architecture and design is ornate, making every visitor wistfully think of glamorous travel times long past.
Some beautiful places to go from the Milan Train Station! Click a picture to view a blog!
Riomaggorie, beautiful town in Cinque Terre National Park
Camogli–a beach destination on the Italian Riviera