Central Station, Milan
Another nightmare when you are in a hurry to catch the train! No matter which station I've been to (Milan, Turin, Genoa, Vicenza), there where very long lines to the ticketing offices.
And long lines in this case means more than 20-30 persons and even an hour or more in line.
Luckily the ticketing machine was invented and in most of the stations are at least a couple of these wonderful discoveries. (see my Transportation tips)
I thought I'd share an event that happened to me at the Stazione Centrale, so that you can watch out for it and not fall victim to the same trick.
Travelling alone, I had just got on board my train (Milan - Brig, Switzerland) and had one trolley bag, my computer backpack and my handbag with me. I put the trolley bag in the baggage section (usually located at each end of the coach), there were quite a few other suitcases there as well. I went to my seat, putting my PC bag on the window seat and sat down in the aisle seat, facing the baggage section so that I could keep an eye on my trolley bag.
About a minute before departure, some guy comes on to the train and hovers around the baggage area like he's looking for something. He then starts gesticulating wildly and speaking in some strange language, everyone's looking at him... and then I realise he's looking right at me. Then he actually reaches for my trolley bag! Of course I jump up to ask him what the hell he was doing. When I take a couple of steps towards him, he puts my trolley bag down again and jumps off the train. A bit shaken, I turn back to my seat but find that while I was distracted by this guy, his accomplice had come from behind me and grabbed my computer bag and ran off in the other direction, It happened so quickly that the other passengers didn't even know what was going on! I now didn't have a choice but to grab my trolley bag and jump off the train with like 20 seconds to go before it pulled out. I asked the conductor on the platform if he'd seen anything, but of course he didn't. So I had to make a police report and take a later train.
The thing is, they must have been following me to be able to identify the trolley bag with the owner. They also chose to strike just before the train left so that I might probably not have had time to get off the train to ask for help.
It is all just extremely sickening, but at least they didn't get my passport.
Having read so many horror stories about Stazione Centrale Milan I think it's a good idea to make a tip about it.
Context: I am a solo middle-aged female traveller. I am European.
Milan Centrale is no more and no less 'dangerous' than any similar-sized station anywhere in Europe. The only 'danger' is of pickpocketing and petty opportunistic theft. It is your responsibility to be aware of your surroundings and to stay alert. All the following apply to all large, busy places anywhere in Europe (and elsewhere):
Do not make eye contact with beggars, touts or hawkers. Ignore people who approach you for whatever reason and keep walking (distraction whilst someone picks your pockets).
Ignore anyone who offers to 'help' with ticket machines (happened to me twice, seems to be a common ploy): a firm 'No!' will soon send them on their way. You don't need any help at all: ticket machines for overground trains and Metro all have English language options.
Keep your baggage close, and your valuables inside your clothing. Do *not* use a bum-bag/fanny-pack....this makes you an obvious tourist (no-one in Europe uses them apart from cyclists) and an obvious target..
Do not assume that you can tell a pickpocket/petty thief by the way he/she looks. You can't. If it was that easy they would not still be on the streets. Pickpockets and petty thieves are extremely skilled at their jobs. Appearances are deceptive.
There is a police/security presence at Milan Centrale. You need not be concerned that you will encounter any physically threatening situation.
Do not be disturbed by the sight of streetpeople nearby, or sleeping at the side of the station. They are sad souls who deserve your pity (not your money)...they pose no threat to you.
Above all, stop worrying. This is not a 'dangerous' place in any way, shape or form. It's just a large, very busy and crowded area which offers lots of opportunities for pickpocketing and theft.
And enjoy Stazione Centrale itself...it's a magnificent example of 'wedding-cake' architecture, with some superb frescoes, sculptures and murals...
Milan Central Train Station is a wild place. It it huge with all kinds of people. Watch out for pick pockets, especailly women and children (they teach them young there). Keep close eye on your luggage, put your wallet in your front pocket and keep your eyes moving on eveyone.
Central Station is loud and confusing. Just get your day ticket at a tobacco store, go to the Duomo and get out of there ASAP. If you hang around there long enough, something will go wrong. Keep an eye on your baggage on the train also. I have heard of people walking off with it.
Milan is big and worth seeing, but keep your guard up at all times.
Just a little warning that when I travelled to Milan in March this year I had my suitcase stolen. I was flying from London to Bergamo (Ryanair) and we had to then get a coach from Bergamo airport onto our hotel in Milan. At Bergamo I bought my coach ticket, placed my bag in the luggage department as instructed and then got on the coach. When we got to Central Station, Milan I got off the coach to get my bag and it was gone. I reported it to the police, who weren’t very surprised I must say, and whilst I was filling out my form another young girl came running in saying that her bag had been stolen off her coach from Bergamo airport. This seams to be an organised crime. I was lucky I had insurance but I still would’ve preferred my luggage!!!
Women shouldn't go the the Centrale Stazione area alone a night. Unfortunately it's where you catch the Eurorail so if your train stops here in the late hours try to find a buddy or ask someone to walk you to a taxi or whatever.
Just like any major city be smart and don't get carried away with the charm of the Italian men. I, being a single female, never felt weary strolling around the city center at night. I was approached many times by men asking me to accompany them for some wine or espresso, and they can be quite persistant, but I never felt scared just tired after repeatedly explaining no I do not want to join you for a bottle of wine.
Italian ... (sorry to say) are not very polite ppl especially when they talk with tourist. They dont smile, they like to throw a things to you either money or ticket, sometimes they can shout to you. I have many exp. at train station here (coz I travel every wkd). There are one old staff sitting inside the information booth, but when I want to ask him, he show me with his fingers (sign like NO), and he shout non parlo inglese! and then he show me to go another side. Its very rude for us, Asian ppl but maybe for European its normal (but not when I travel to Norway or Holland!?)If he cant speak English, he not supposed to sit in info booth. Normally, I can see many travellers found a problems to find a correct train. Ex: if you travel to one city, the train shown at info booths only show the last destination! If you plan to go to Verona, you can find that your train heading to Vicenza, but actually thats is your train! bcoz Verona is middle btw Milan and Venice. So, they only show last destination in a board. What you have to do is:
1. check your departure time at departure timetables. this schedule you can find in all train station in Italy. (departure in yellow, arrival in white)
2. check your train number and try to find it from schedule board (you easily can find it based on time).
3. then, you can found terminal number (write as BIN, in italian).
4. The good things in Italy is, all train following the schedule and BIN. Unless, the are mark at signboard, sometimes they can change the BIN. BUt with all these, you will not miss your train.
5. After you find departure time, train number, BIN number... you can see the last destination of your train. Also what a first stop, 2nd stop, your stop and last stop.
Bring a few sheets of your own toilet tissue, kleenex, or napkins with you just in case. If you use the restroom in the train station, they charge you for the toilet paper. (or at least they used to when I was last there back in 2002)
..in Duomo square.
Milan is not that dangerous, but most of the pickpockets' victims are tourists.
There are few chances you'll end up in an unsafe area of the city, but pickpocket can rob you even in a "safe" place..
Be careful in the metro and in crowded buses or trams.
Don't bank on the trains departing according to the schedule!
*** I was sure it would, thus enabling me to catch my connecting bus to Bratto that only had a 5 minute slot between the changes. However, that was not to be!!!
The train departed 10 minutes late, causing me to miss my Bratto bus. Of course, there was a half-baked option: taking a bus to Clusone, and then walking the 11 miles to Bratto! This is something I had to do, but, the story takes a lovely twist and ends on a pleasant note.
To learn more, read my tip on Clusone!
Be careful: Groups of pickpockets are constantly positioned around the metro ticket vending machines at the main station (Centrale). As soon as a person starts a ticket demand process they arrange themselfs around this person and start to grab your change, not afraid to attack you physically. The security vanishes immediately. This is well known for years and the city of Milan is obviously not fighting it. You better get your ticket in advance or at the ticket office.
I was actually on board a CE train from Milan to Bern. My 'carry on' bag was immediately above me. I went to get some reading matter from the case and it was "gone" As I exited the train to the platform a conductor/train manager walked past. As I was not speaking Italian he said he would not speak to me. I found the police office. One policeman spoke English. Told me to get back on the train and report it when I reached my final destination .... Germany ... 11 hours away. No one did anything to help.
I arrived at Milano centrale around noon with my wife and two kids. We had arrived couple of hrs ahead of our train. We were coming directly from a Mediterranean cruise so were feeling relaxed. My wife went to look at couple of shops and I was checking trains on the ipad. Suddenly saw a white guy in his 20s gesticulating near a first aid cabinet. He was showing his phone and gesticulating. I did not pay much attention. My elder son who had gone to the restroom came back and said where is the computer bag! To my dismay I realized that the bag with about a lot of money, a computer, old passports and a lot of other stuff was gone. Went in search of the police, was told to go to 2nd floor. I saw a huge que of all people who had lost wallets, suitcases, bags and so on. Anyway got the complaint registered. Since I still had a lot of time, I just roamed around on the station. I could very easily see a lot of suspicious character everywhere, near the ticket vending machines, near benches, toilets etc etc. Later read many reviews of people who had been robbed at this station. To me it was very simple if the police really want to make this station safe. These characters stand out like sore thumbs but then maybe the police really does not want to get this done!!! I really wonder why!!!!
My advice - do not go there more than 15 minutes ahead of your train. Go straight to your platform. Do not look at or talk to anyone.
As usual in big cities avoid the Central Station & others stations areas after 9-10pm ...
Generally speking Milan is not a 'walking' city late in the evening, just take a taxi and go wherever you wanna go but I think it is not advisable just to hangin' around ...
Beware of anyone who approaches you at the ticket machines in central station - especially in the metro. They do things like steal your change and tickets from the dispensing slot. Not serious, but highly irritating.