Starting your Italian adventure from the Malpensa Airport near Milan is easy for an American to do right. 

I’ve begun most of my Italian train travel via the Malpensa Airport. There was a notable landing in Pisa once using Ryan Air, but that’s another story.

Malpensa has led me to Florence, Genoa, Bologna, Parma, The Cinque Terre, Portofino, Rapallo. Aren’t the names magical? Even pronouncing Bah-lone-ya is pretty. Am I right?

The baggage area includes some of the longest conveyor belts you’ll see. Stay patient as people retrieve their suitcases, rapidly moving away in a graceful ballet.

Getting through passport control requires only that you remain calm and speak politely.

Note about travel on Italian trains.

When you have an open ticket, (not pre-purchased on paper) validate it before getting on the train. Machines are everywhere near the tracks and easy to use.

There are simple to follow instructions for getting the airport train that runs you directly to Milano Centrale Station. 

Purchasing Train Tickets at Malpensa Airport

My first trip, I accidentally skipped the train and got on a bus to reach the city. What a ride. Er, yeah, don’t.

Procedures had changed since our previous trip and we rode the wrong direction. These mistakes tend to work out 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 at his proper stop. Don’t be concerned about making an error. The announcements are clear, the stations are signed, and the marquee tells you which station is next.

Use the self-operated kiosk to buy your tickets for the Tren (train) to Milano Centrale. Press the British flag, apply logic (forward = continue) and you’re good to go. Don’t hesitate to ask the ticket seller which platform the Malpensa to Milano Centrale departs from. 

Woman drinking Cappuccino at the Time Cafe Malpensa Airport

Near the train biggliteri (ticket) office, find The Time Cafe. Have an excellent espresso and perfect cappuccino for less than one Starbucks latte.If you need a brief snack, indulge in a fresh pastry. 

Keep walking toward the usicta (exit) for 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.

Tren signs are to recognize—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.

Did You Pre-purchase Specific Train Seats 

Check both the car number and the seat number assignment. We opt to sit with the table between us, having already sat side by side for nine hours of flying. 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 along the aisle 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. But instead of working on that laptop, 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 train 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 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 seats, but lay them on their sides to prevent an escapee from bumping into someone. 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.

The Last Tip for Your First Italian Train Ride

Make sure to press the green button when trying to exit both the car and train. Standing in front of it thinking it’s automatically going to open for you same as the grocery store? Yeah, that doesn’t work.

Milano Centrale Railway Station

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.

Milan Centrale has added a security level. 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. 

Easy departure board, Milano Centrale Train Station

You’re ready to go, aren’t you?


Read: After that train ride takes you to Rapallo, walk to Santa Margherita