Even though we initially arrived in Milan by air, we used the central train station on several occasions - going to and from Como, and on our departure for Padova (Padua). This Mussolini-era building and other train stations were an important part of our five week visit to Italy in which almost all of our travel was done by rail.
Two important things to know and learn regarding train travel in Italy: 1) Learn to read the big board - it will tell you what track your train is on and when it will leave. 2) REMEMBER to VALIDATE your ticket at one of the little machines on the platform BEFORE you board your train. We had no trouble with this procedure, but did hear some horror stories about poor unfortunates who forgot.
Milan’s main train station is a work of art so it was a tossup where to put this review: under Transportation or Things to Do. I decided to place it here with a recommendation for travelers arriving/departing from the city by other means to add it to their sightseeing list!
For everyone else, you’ll probably be one of the 320,000 people this 2nd largest of Italy’s rail hubs handles every day. Milano Centrale was constructed in 1912-1931 of a mishmash of styles - Art Deco, Neo-Classical, who-knows-what - that I’ve read were inspired both by Rome’s Baths of Caracalla and some of the more notable stations in the United States. The massive, arched entry halls would definitely make a Caesar happy although he’d sniff at the lack of mosaics and tarted-up statuary.
Train travel being the primary mode of transportation in Italy, major stations are more impressive and better equipped than most of the airports. Centrale is a city-within-a-city of shops, restaurants, pharmacies, lounges, post offices, banking and exchange services, luggage storage, travel agencies and other useful stuff spread over five floors. It even has a chapel. And yes, there’s an app for all of this.
A wifi hotspot is just outside the station in Piazza Duca a’Aosta: see location on the zone 2 map on the OpenwifiMilano website:
As big as it is, it’s very well laid out with helpful maps posted here and there for easy locating of services, ticket windows and platforms.This website also provides maps of all the levels including locations of restrooms, lifts and escalators: no need to haul luggage up and down long flights of stairs.
As with any heavily congested spot, light fingers will be looking for distracted tourists so keep a tight hold on your baggage at all times, don’t accept any “help" at ticket machines, and take the usual precautions with wallets and other valuables.
As the name might suggest Milano Centrale is the city's main railway station and, after Rome, Italy's second busiest. This truly is a magnificent edifice, finally rebuilt under the direction of the extravagantly pompous dictator Mussolini. However even though architecturally a bit OTT it is a very functional building. The main information board in the cavernous departures/arrivals hall with its 72 metre high vault has easy to read, up-to-date, train times and platform numbers and there are several other smaller electronic boards dotted around.
The main ticket office is in the lower level, along with the easy-to-use machines which have several language options and take both cash and most cards. When you buy your ticket from a machine it gives you train timings and other options but note that if you buy an ordinary ticket (Biglietto Treno Ordinario) this is valid for any regular service for two months from purchase and must be validated before boarding.
The station has all the facilites expected of a major city transportation terminus including shops, cafes, a post office, left luggage facilities & etc.
If you need to use the left luggage depot this is located on the lower level and fees are (June 2012): 5 Euros for the first five hours, 70 cents per hour for the next six hours and then 30 cents an hour subsequently - maximum holding period is five days. This a manned facility (as opposed to lockers), with a security scanner, and is open from 6am until 11.50pm, 7 days a week.
Centrale is linked to the rest of the public transport system with its own Metro Station, tram stops on the piazza Quattro Novembre and various shuttle bus stops out at the front where you'll also find the taxi rank.
We did two day trips by train during our trip: One to Lugano and one to Stresa.
When we went to Lugano we just went to Stazione Centrale and bought a ticket at a ticket machine. This was an EC train and the ticket was around 20€ per person. This was more expensive than the regional train, but the journey was very comfortable. The EC train is very fast and has very nice compartments.
On our way back, we bought tickets at the ticket machine in Lugano and this time took the regional train, the cost was only about 12 or 13CHF (unfortunately I forgot to write down the exact price). The journey was not as convenient, though. Although the regional train was very comfortable and clean as well, it was much slower and did a lot more stops, and moreover, we had to change trains in Chiasso. This train does not go to Stazione Centrale, but to Milano Porta Garibaldi.
One day later, we took a regional train to Stresa and the same one back in the evening, a single ticket for this journey is 7,40€. Again, we bought the first ticket at the ticket machine in Stazione Centrale, and the ticket back at the ticket office in Stresa.
While the ticket of the EC train comes with seat reservations, we did not encounter any seat reservations on any regional trains. On the EC train, we were a little confused at first - the seats in the train do not indicate at all if the seat is reserved or not. You need to have a look at your ticket and just go to your seat, but contrary to Germany or the UK, there are no indications on the seat itself.
The ticket machines in Centrale are very easy to use. The instructions are displayed in several languages (you can choose one), and are easy to follow. You can either pay cash or by credit card. There are plenty of machines in the basement of the train station. There is also an information centre, but the queues there were so immensely long that I would avoid it if possible.
When you get to the platforms, there are two huge electronically information boards displaying the departing trains, the time, platform and destination, and all the stops the train will have on the way to the destination. Again, very easy to understand and very useful!
Apart from Milano Centrale, there are several smaller train stations which you might to have to go through. One we encountered was Milano Porta Garibaldi (Milano G.P.) The first time was when we went back from Lugano and just bought a ticket for the regional train from Lugano to Milan. We had to change trains in Chiasso and only then found out that the regional train was not going to Centrale, but only to Porta Garibaldi. This was not a problem, though, as P.G. is also on the Metro network, and is only two stops from Centrale, so we just bought a single journey ticket for 1,50€ when we arrived and took the next Metro train to Centrale.
We also liked Porta Garibaldi because it has a big SPAR supermarket - as we did not find any other supermarket close to our accommodation, we were happy to find this one and stocked up on water and a few groceries both times we came through this train station.
Cadorna is another train station close to Castello Sforzesco and in the past was the main stop of the Malpensa Express, however, in the meantime this train service has been extended to Centrale, but it still stops here. Of course Cadorna is also on the Metro network, and we came through here several times, when we went to Santa Maria delle Grazie, and to Corso Magenta and the Castello on our last day.
In front of Cadorna there is a big public artwork which is very prominent with its colourful appearance. It is called "Needle, thread and knot" and was constructed by Claes Oldenburg, a Swedish pop art artist who also designed the dropped cone at the Neumarkt in Cologne, as I was surprised to learn! Isn't it wonderful when traveling teaches you more about your own home? :-)
Picture 1 shows the artwork, while Picture 2 shows a view of Cadorna station.
At the front of Milano Centrale Station, there is a wide, busy road; this results in the approaches to the station being via underpass with stairs leading down and up.
At the train station side, you will find some of these stairs are also provided with luggage escalators. This negates the need for you to carry suitcases up (or down) these stairs. What a great surprise it was when we found these! I've never seen them elsewhere in the world but now wish a number of stations would install them.
Milan is a significant train hub in the north of Italy. It receives international trains from Geneva and Zurich in Switzerland as well as trains from Austria, Germany and France.
From Milan, there are high speed lines to Bologna (and on to Rome) and Turin. In addition, conventional railways connect to Bologna, Turin, Venice, Genoa, Domodossola (for the Simplon and Bern), Chiasso (for the Gotthard and Zürich Hauptbahnhof) and Lecco.
The train from Geneva to Milan is a great alternative to flying, taking your through The Alps and past the Italian lakes. Ticket prices vary but the further out you book, the better the bargain! Read my Travelogue on my own journey from Geneva to Milan.
When purchasing train tickets at Italian stations, it is important to validate your tickets at the machines. These are usually yellow and located at the start of each platform or within the walkways through to the platforms. If your platform's machine is out of service, it is important to locate a functioning machine, if ALL machines are non-functional, it is important to contact the conductor of the train as soon as you board. Italy operates few station-based ticket checks but does perform train-based ticket checks and there are no options to purchase on board; hefty fines are imposed for those found on trains without validated tickets.
I fell in love with this little bar on my first daylight day here in Milan when I was heading out to Bergamo late afternoon. I'd left my bag at my hotel whilst spending the morning doing some wandering and had gotten the Metro back to Central Station (where my hotel was). Having had a thirst-inducing day of sightseeing I needed a beer and so popped into here for a quick one before picking up my bag.
i had a bit of a laugh with the woman serving who educated me about the difference between a "piccolo", a "media" and a "grande". Having picked up my bag I dropped back in for a "secondi" - HA! Isn't my Italian just getting better and better???
Instant recollection on her part and my "media" was soon poured and my four Euros paid.
Coming back from Bergamo with another overnight stop in Milan at the same hotel I just had to drop into the same bar. And YEP - a "media" was laughingly poured.
As station bars go this is pretty chill - just the right degree of loucheness!!
While I do not have practical information here for the train system in the Milan area, I do have two important points to share.
First of all is that the trains we experienced arrived according to schedules posted. The coaches were clean and comfortable.
Secondly the plans for the main stations, directions and tickets, were relativly simple and easy to understand, even if not in English. Sometimes it took a few minutes to figure out, but it was possible, unlike others that we have experienced over the years of travel.
The photo with Itzik,Tal,Nissiem,Ziv and Zohara was taken at the Garibaldi Station where we transfered from train to metro.
Hello the easier is take the train from STAZIONE CADORNA in Milan (there is a metro line 1 and 2) to Como 1 h, after that you can take the bus leave from near the station in Como to Bellaggio 1h 20 min and cost more or less 2,60 Euro.
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