With Malpensa Airport being a hot spot for long-haul international flights, many international travelers find themselves landing in Milan and then needed to get elsewhere ASAP – be it by train, a car or just into Milan. I was in this situation in August, when I flew into Milan (due to Emirates fabulous flight deals!) and needed to catch a train to the Cinque Terre (Italy’s Charming & Colorful Destination!). Even as a seasoned traveler, having visited Italy several times in the past, I had a difficult time figuring out how to get from the airport to where I needed to go, and a few of our friends did, as well. As such, I decided to write this post on the Malpensa Express – a much easier-than-it appears-online means to get where you need to go!
By way of background, Milan’s Malpensa Airport is located about an hour outside of Milan. If you are renting a car or hiring a driver, this is not a problem. But if you are traveling by train (which I recommend), to get from the airport to the Italian train lines (to go else where in the country), you have to get from the airport into Milan. To do this by train, the Malpensa Express is your answer! Alternatively, you could take a taxi, but that would just be super expensive and a traffic jam waiting to happen!
The Malpensa Express
As you likely gathered, I took the Malpensa Express from the airport to Milano Centrale, and then on to Monterosso in the Cinque Terre. This was very easy, much cheaper than hiring a car and driver, and much quicker than I anticipated. For example, I took the Malpensa Express to Milano Centrale (52 minutes), had about an hour to relax and eat a surprisingly declicious lunch at Bistrot Milano Centrale and then caught a direct, 3 hour train to the Cinque Terre. If you are planning to take the Malpensa Express, follow my directions and most importantly, plan out your time line, as you will need to ensure that your Malpensa Express train lines up with your next train.
The Malpensa Express is a train that runs between Milan’s large train stations and Milan’s Malpensa Airport. The Malpensa Express is run by the Trenord company and is also referred to by that name. The actual train is large, resembles a local Trenitalia train and has ample room for luggage storage. They also have bathrooms (FYI).
To And From The Airport
The ride between Milano Malpensa and Milano Centrale ride takes 52 minutes and runs two times an hour (every hour on the 14 and 43 minute mark between the airport and Milano Centrale train station and and every hour on the 25 and 55 minute mark between Milano Centrale and the airport). There are a few stops in suburbs between the train station and airport, but rest assured that either the train station or the airport will be your final destination. Announcements are made in English and Italian.
Tickets can (and should) be pre-purchased online though this website. The cost is approximately €12,00 per person per journey between Malpensa Airport and Milano Centrale. However, tickets go on sale 60 days in advance and there are often sales or deals, including for buying a round trip ticket. The website is in English and easy to use. As always, I recommend signing up for an account in case you need to change or access your ticket after purchase.
The tickets do not require validation (in contrast to most other Italian train tickets!) and there are no seat or class assignments. You just print your ticket and show it to the conductor when he comes around during the ride, so keep these tickets handy – I always pack my first ticket with my plane ticket paperwork so that it is readily available when I land. There is nothing worse than being exhausted from a long flight and having to dig through your luggage to find a single page train ticket!
Where Is The Train?
From the airport, follow signs for the airport exit and then look for signs for train/Malpensa Express (it very easy to find, and it is the only train leaving the airport!). Once you find it, check the monitors for your train’s departure platform and make sure the train is going to the correct train station. NOTE – the Malpensa Express runs to Milano Centrale and Milano Cadorna – on different tracks! Most people will want to go to Milano Centrale, the largest and most central train station in Milan. However, some, depending on where you are hearing, will want to go to the Milano Cadorna station. In any case, check the schedule and confirm that your train is going to the correct station. To get to the platform, there are elevators and escalators (so no worries with luggage) and the train arrives well before (10 minutes plus) its departure, so you will have plenty of time to load your luggage and settle in.
From Milano Centrale, enter the main entrance and go into the boarding area (where the platforms are located). The Malpensa Express comes in and leaves from tracks 1 and 2 (“Bin” 1 and 2 in Italian). If you are facing the trains, tracks 1 and 2 are located all the way over on the left hand side. Milano Centrale has 25 tracks, so if you are catching another train or coming in on another train, be sure to leave time to get between tracks with your luggage. For inexperienced travelers, I always recommend a 30 minute layover between trains in large stations. Once you arrive at the airport, you are dropped off right at Terminal 1’s check-in area.
Milano Centrale (Milan’s major train station)
Milano Centrale is Milano’s main train station, and likely where you will take the Malpensa Express to or from. If this is the case, then there is a good chance that you will have at least a little time to kill in the train station. Lucky for you, Milano Centrale has a number of restaurants and shops to pass the time. To access these, you must leave the platform area.
On my way in, we had about an hour to kill and had a lovely lunch at Bistrot Milan Centrale – a superb train station restaurant. The Bistrot is set up in an Eataly fashion, with several counters making sandwiches, pizzas, pastas and full meals to order. There is also a dessert station, a wine bar and not-super-tacky souvenirs for those last minute gifts! Dan and I enjoyed freshly prepared proscuitto sandwiches and Italian wine.
If you have a long stopover (5 + hours) you can go into Milan to see a few sights. To do this, you can check your luggage at the train station (Deposito Bagagli) and take the metro yellow line (direction San Donato) four stops to Duomo. There, you can visit the famous Duomo and the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele. There are stores and cafes all around this area. Keep a close eye on time to do this, and remember that collecting your luggage may take longer than anticipated. NOTE – if you want to see The Last Supper painting, it is not in close proximity to the Duomo. Also, you need to reserve your precisely timed tickets MONTHS in advance. I saw it a few years ago, and much, much prefer the Duomo!!
STEAL OUR TRIP
Malpensa Express – Buy tickets and find information on this English website.
Milan Centrale – Solid information on Milan’s central train station.
Bistrot Milan Centrale – Open daily 6:00 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. Tel. 02 67481995. No reservations. You can order food to go.
Milan Centrale Baggage Storage (AKA Deposito Bagagli)- Open daily from 06.00 a.m. – 11.00 p.m.; Tel. 02 39622425. Cost is €6,00 for the first five hours and then increases by the hour. Remember that if you check your luggage, you will need extra time to re-collect it before boarding your train.
Milan Metro – Milan’s Metro website. It has a trip planner, but I find it just as easy to look at a map when you arrive.