Our guide to using Milano Centrale station includes insights into departing and arriving from here by train, including how to travel between Milano Centrale and Malpensa Airport.
It also shows why the city is an ideal base for exploring the wonders of northern Italy by train - also included is the pick of the hotels near the station with top guest ratings.
The majority (but not all) of the long distance express trains to and from Milano arrive at and depart from Centrale train station.
Though the station doesn't live up to its name with a location on the northern edge of the city centre - hence most of the commuter trains to/from the city use other stations in Milano.
Commuter trains to destinations to the north and west of Milano, including the shores of Lake Como and alternative trains to Lake Maggiore, depart from Porta Garibaldi station.
Some of the high speed Frecce trains to and from the city also only call at that station; Porta Garibaldi is also the station which the TGV trains to France depart from and arrive at.
Most of the high speed trains between Milano and destinations to the south including Firenze/Florence, Roma and Napoli now ALSO call at Milano Rogoredo station.
This station is connected to the heart of the city centre by line M3 of the Milano Metro, as well as local trains to and from these stations - Milano Repubblica and Milano Porta Venezia.
So if you will be travelling by train between Milan city centre and Bologna, Firenze, Roma or Napoli, it's likely that you'll have a faster and easier journey if you use Milano Rogoredo station INSTEAD of Milano Centrale.
Despite the relative lack commuters, Milan's Central railway station is always busy during the day, when arriving by train in particular the crowds can seem overwhelming.
That's partially because so many travellers have to change trains at Milano Centrale.
If you're heading south from Switzerland by train, the station often functions as a gateway to Italy.
Fortunately it's a comparatively easy location in which to change trains, as all of the platforms/tracks/binari used by the long distance trains are on one level.
But making your way to and from this concourse that these trains depart from can be more complicated.
Milano Centrale is also controversial, but its gloriously romantic station buildings pre-date the fascist era.
The chief legacy of that period of history are the three enormous glass canopies that cover the platforms.
Binari = platforms/tracks (plural)
Binario = platform/track (singular)
Four things particularly worth knowing about Milano Centrale:
(1) In contrast to most Italian stations, there are no paper train departure posters at Milano Centrale.
You have to rely on the electronic departure screens for confirmation on which platform/track/binario each train will be departing from - hence the concourse becoming crowded at busy times.
(2) Avoid using particularly large suitcases/bags – the lifts at Milano Centrale are solely for the use of those that require mobility assistance.
Meaning that the moving walkways are the only alternative to using the stairs.
However, there are barriers at the entrances to the moving walkways that block access to particularly large bags.
(3) Though if you don’t have luggage - then the stairs give the quickest access to/from the street level and the entrance to the Metro.
(4) If you’re heading to Malpensa Airport, ignore the signs in the main station building that have the plane symbols.
These are pointing the way to the buses to Linate Airport.
Whether you walk to Milano Centrale, get dropped off by bus or taxi, or take the metro, you will enter the station through its epic arched colonade, which spans the front of the station at street level.
At either end of this colonade are huge staircases, which lead up to the departure hall, four levels above, which gives access to the trains.
It can seem as though you need to use these stairs to head up to the trains, but you don't.
Instead follow the signs to pointing the way the ticket booking office, you will enter a huge, beautiful hall with other staircases on either side of it, it will feel as though you have entered a museum, but also ignore those staircases if you want to take a quicker route to the trains.
Because behind this hall there is a passage way that is in effect the lower level of a mall.
Here you will find a series of sloped moving walkways, which will glide you up through the building.
The large main ticket office is on the level above.
At the top of these walkways is the stunning departure hall, to one side of which is the main concourse, which provides access to all of the main line trains that depart from Milano Centrale.
Nine things worth keeping in mind when departing by train from Milano Centrale:
(1) A recent development is that manned ticket check gates have been installed between the departure hall and the concourse - which houses the binari/platforms that the trains depart from.
To access the binari/platforms/tracks from the ticket offices, the Metro and the other entrances to the station, you have to pass through the gates.
(2) The specific binario/track/platform that a train will be departing from is usually only confirmed around 15 mins before departure.
Prior to that, on the main departure screens, instead of the binario/track number, you will see the details of the gate, which provides the easiest access each specific departure.
(3) Queues at these ticket gates can build up at busy times, so aim to be at Milano Centrale at least 15 minutes before your train departs; even if you don’t need to buy a ticket.
(4) However, try to time it, so that you don't pass through the gate too soon.
Because if you do, while waiting on the concourse, for the specific binario/platform which your train will be leaving from to be confirmed, there will be limited number of places to take a seat or refreshment.
(5) On the levels beneath the departure hall, there are multiple shops, including a supermarket, that are useful for picking up travel essentials - though most of the coffee bars and cafes at the station are are at the back and the sides of the departure hall.
(6) Don't forget to stamp your ticket before boarding a Regionale (R/RV) train service, a Trenord train or the Malpensa Express.
(7) Despite it being a terminus' station, many Frecce and Italo trains now call at Milano Centrale on route to other destinations.
These trains only spend around 5-10 mins at the binario/track/platform.
So on the binari/tracks/platforms used by these trains, red electronic screens show where the coaches on each train will be located.
Check the carrozza/coach number on your ticket and match it to the number on the screens - you will then be by the door into the coach in which your seat is located, when the train arrives.
(8) Take care that you’re actually using the binario/platform to access the train.
As you enter the platform the departure screens will be above you - and you’ll be walking between the smoking areas.
If you’re in a rush it’s easy to confuse the binari/platforms with the service areas - which lead off from the concourse beside the trains - but you can't board the trains from these.
(9) Binari/tracks 1-3, used mainly by The Malpensa Express trains are some distance from the main concourse
Find them along binario 4.
Binari/tracks 22-24, used mainly by Regionale trains towards Genova, Bologna and Piaceza, are also some distance from the main concourse.
Find them along binario 21.
If you need to buy a ticket before departure, the permanently busy main ticket hall deploys a numbered queuing system - so take a number from the machine and wait your turn.
Or try using the ticket machines.
Both the Trenitalia and Italo branded ticket machines are comparatively easy to use - the English translations are excellent.
Most of the Regionale trains from Milano Centrale are operated by LeNord/Trenord - but tickets to most of the destinations served by these trains, are available on the Trenitalia ticket machines.
However, the Trenitalia ticket machines don't sell tickets for the Malpensa Express trains - but these tickets can be purchased from the dedicated Malpensa Express ticket machines, or from the main ticket office.
Milano Centrale is a terminal station so all the binari (platforms/tracks) are on one level, so if you are changing trains, you simply walk from one binario to another via the main concourse.
The main concourse will be located beyond the front of the train, so if you're in a hurry, make your way towards the front of a train before it arrives at Milano Centrale.
Six Things Also Worth Knowing About Arriving by train at Milano Centrale
(1) Binari (platforms/tracks) 1-3 and 22-24 are located further back from the main concourse than the other Binari (platforms/tracks).
The Malpensa Express trains arrive at bnari (platforms/tracks) 1-3.
(2) You will need to use the ticket gates to exit the station, so have your ticket ready in your hand.
(3) The concourse leads into the arrival hall, which is located several levels up from ground level.
So you have to descend in order to exit the station or transfer to the metro - the main entrance to the Metro is at street level, in the colonade which runs across the front of the station
(4) If you don't have luggage etc, the quickest routes down to the street, metro, taxi ranks and ticket office, is to use the stairs.
(5) If you do have luggage, then the moving walkways which lead down from the arrivals hall are an easier option.
Though the access to these walkways is protected by barriers, which prevent exceptionally large items of luggage being taken on to the walkways.
(6) The lifts/elevators at the station are solely for the use of travellers with restricted mobility.
Four Things To Be Aware Of If You will Be Changing Trains at Milano Centrale
(1) All of the other binari (platforms/tracks) at the station can be accessed via the main concourse - so make your way to it, if you will be changing trains at Milano Centrale station,.
(2) The ticket gates cut off the binari (platforms/tracks) from the majority of the station facilities.
Though toilets and some food/drink outlets at either side of the concourse, can still be accessed if you’re merely changing trains and don't want to bother with going through the ticket gates.
(3) However, if you will be spending more than 45 mins between trains at Milano Centrale, the best option is to exit through the ticket gates and then re-enter the concourse around 10 mins before your next train is due to depart.
(4) There are Trenitalia ticket machines in the centre of the departure concourse - so if you are connecting between trains and require a ticket to complete your journey, you don't have to pass through the ticket gates.
Milano Centrale does not live up to its name, as it is a 20-35 min walk from the station to the city centre - the area around the cathedral (Duomo) and Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II.
Milano Porta Garibaldi station is a 15-25 min walk from Milano Centrale, but a confusing street grid results in trains being the best option for making the transfer.
It is a two-stop hop on Metro Line M2 (direction Abbiategrasso or Assago Milanofiori Forum).
Or there are also now a minimum of two local mainline trains per hour from Centrale to Porta Garibaldi, look for the trains heading for Milano Bovisa or Malpensa Airport - though don't forget to buy a ticket for these trains.
The Malpensa Express trains now provide a direct connection between Milano Centrale rail station and Malpensa Airport every 30 minutes.
However, they use platforms/tracks binari 1 and 2 at Milano Centrale - which are some distance from the main concourse; though they are at the same level as the other binaro (platforms/tracks).
There are dedicated ticket machines for the Malpensa Express trains scattered around Milano Centrale, so try to avoid joining the queues at the main ticket office, particularly as it is located several levels down from the part of the station used by the trains.
There are now two stations at Malpensa Airport;, the first station serves Terminal 1, but remain on the train to its final stop if you will be heading to Terminal Two.
Both terminals at Malpensa - One and Two are connected to Milano Centrale station every 30mins by Malpensa Express trains.
Terminal Two is served by a newly opened station that is less than a 5min walk from the Arrival Hall.
There is step free access to the platforms/tracks/binario at both T1 and T2 stations – just follow the signs pointing the way to the ‘Treni’.
Avoid taking the Malpensa Express trains heading to Milano Cadorna station - though they tend to be a better option if you're heading to Milano city centre.
The journey time by train from Malpensa Airport to Milano Centrale is around 1hr 5mins - 1hr 15mins.
One of the two trains per hour is faster because it skips some minor stations - but the quickest option is always to take the next train to depart.
If you’re heading to destinations in northern Italy, a combination of flying to Milano Malpensa Airport and then continuing the journey by train can often be a good option.
Taking the train from Malpensa and connecting in Milano Centrale is a particularly good option if you’re heading to destinations in northern Italy that don’t have airports - but DO have direct trains from Milano Centrale.
Towns and cities that fall into this category include: Brescia; Como; Colico, Desenzano, Lecco, Modena; Padova/Padua, Parma, Peschiera del Garda, Piacenza and Vicenza.
If you can book sufficiently far in advance, then a combination of a
Worth Keeping in Mind:
No matter where you’re heading to, check the train times from Milano Centrale to your final destination before booking flights.
There can be gaps of up to three hours between train departures from Centrale station, depending on your final destination.
All of the platforms/tracks/binario at Milano Centrale are on the same level, so making the connection between the Malpensa Express and your subsequent train, simply requires walking from one platform to another – ideal for wheeling cases.
However, allow a minimum of 2hrs between the arrival time of your flight and the departure of an onward train from Milano Centrale.
Add another 15mins if you’ll have checked in bags to collect.
If you need to purchase tickets for the onward connections from Milano Centrale - you can use the Trenitalia ticket machines that are located in the central area of the departure concourse (immediately behind the platforms/binario).
You can only purchase tickets for the Malpensa Express trains at the airport.
Milano Centrale station is to the north of the city centre, but it acts as a magnet for hoteliers, so there is wide range of hotels nearby.
Hotels within 5 mins walk of Milano Centrale station:
Money saving options with direct public transport links to/from Milano Centrale:
Acca Palace (near Affori Centro Metro station on Metro line M3)
Opting to holiday in Milano may raise a few eyebrows, as its beauty pales in comparison to any other city in northern Italy.
But Milano is a second-to-none base for seeing the best of northern Italy by train.
Regionale and Regionale Veloce trains, on which tickets won't cost any more when booked at the station, so you can be spontaneous, connect Milano with multiple other popular towns and cities in under 1hr 45mins.
Here are seven fabulous day-trip destinations which can be easily reached by train from Milano - though not always from Centrale station.
Head into Switzerland:
Head into Switzerland - Regional/Ticino trains now link Milano to Lugano
You can also use the city as a base for exploring two Swiss scenic railways on two epic return day trips
Try not to think of Milano just as a location for changing trains.
Not only is a great base for exploring northern Italy by train, it's also great city worth dedicating time to.
20 Amazing Things To Do (Time Out)
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