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With its imposing size and 1930s-era architecture, Milan’s central train station, Milano Centrale (pronounced “Chen-TRAWL-ay”), is one of the most recognizable transportation centers in Europe. Built when Mussolini’s fascist regime was in power, the structure is designed to convey strength and supremacy, filled with vast halls of arched marble and massive canopies made from glass and steel. This being Milan, it’s also filled with high-fashion boutiques and seemingly endless shopping opportunities, as well as convenient food options. While the station is imposing and often bustling with tourists and business travelers alike, it’s also reasonably user-friendly for first-time visitors arriving to and departing from the city.
Where is Milano Centrale?
Milano Centrale Station is located in the northeast section of the city, just north of Giardini Park (Giardini Pubblici Indro Montanelli). The area is a somewhat industrial and not particularly scenic; but there are a number of hotels and restaurants nearby, and the Isola neighborhood just to the west of the station has become one of the city’s most popular destinations. Note that while Milano Centrale is the largest and most frequently used, Milan has two other “central” train stations – one near Garibaldi Park just south of Centrale, and one in Cadorna, on the west side of town.
Getting to Milano Centrale
Milano Centrale is well-integrated into Milan’s high-quality public transit system, tied into a network of metros, buses, and trams that work together to get you most anywhere you’d want to go. The station is easily accessible via both the M2 (green) and M3 (yellow) metro line, which both run frequently. The metro train stop for Centrale is underground beneath the station, and is quite large with several different exits that will take you to different areas within the station; one actually exits to the outdoor parking area. There are signs in English that indicate where each exit leads, and even if you end up in the parking lot it’s just a short walk back into the building. The Milano Centrale metro stop also includes an elevator and accessibility for physically disabled passengers. Consult the official ATM transport site to see which metro line works best for your destination/departure site; the most common tourist destination – the Centro Storico area and Piazza del Duomo/Milan Cathedral – is four stops away via the M3.
The metro doesn’t go everywhere, however, which is where Milan’s extensive bus and tram network comes in handy. Tram maps are available online, but the main tram stop for Centrale, located on the west (ovest) side of the building (to your right as you head out the station’s front exit) has route stops listed and mapped, along with scheduled arrival times. There are no “real time” readers at tram stops, but the trams are generally reliable and arrive within a couple minutes or less of the posted times (as long as a transportation strike is not in progress, which happens with some regularity in any Italian city). Buses also queue in the same area, as well as in front of the station, both with posted schedules and stops.
Taxis are also available, with a designated pickup/drop-off area on the west side near the tram stop. If you are taking a taxi to the station and leaving from a hotel, ask the doorman or concierge to call you one. You can also find taxis at designated taxi stand areas throughout the city, use the Free Now app to call one yourself, or try your luck in hailing one from the street. Also, be aware that many taxi drivers speak very little English, so have an address or the name of your destination (drivers will recognize major landmarks) ready to go. If heading to the station, make sure you are clear you want to go to “Milano Centrale,” or the driver may instead drive you to one of the other central Milan stations (Cadorna or Garibaldi).
Milano Centrale to the Milan Airport
Transport to and from the Milan Malpensa airport is easy using the Malpenza Express train, with departures from Milano Centrale every 30 minutes from 5am to midnight. The train runs through Cadorna and Giardini stations as well on its way to the airport, and also makes six stops in smaller towns between Milan and Malpenza. The station is located right in the airport and costs €13 euros.
While Malpensa is by far the most common point of arrival and departure from Milan, particularly for international travelers, Milan is also served by Linate Airport and Milan Bergamo Il Caravaggio International Airport (also known as Orio al Serio International Airport). Buses and taxis are available to get you to those locations from Milano Centrale (Linate is closer to town, and will thus be cheaper). If you are traveling via one of these airports, refer to their respective websites for more information on transportation options.
Navigating Milano Centrale Station
Despite its size and generally imposing demeanor, Milano Centrale is very friendly to navigate, with good signage and prominent train departure reader boards that keep travelers up to date on any delays or cancellations.
The station has two main levels (not counting the underground metro stop), and a mezzanine. Take a moment when you arrive to orient yourself and check the latest train schedule information, which is listed on several large ticker-style reader boards in the entrance area and throughout the station. There will be another sign at your platform (the train platform area is accessible on the entrance floor); this should match the information on the reader boards elsewhere in the station, but may be more up-to-date.
When you enter the building through the main entrance, you will notice escalators heading down to a lower floor; this is where most of the shopping is located, as well as a number of ticket kiosks you can use if you have not already reserved travel. Ticketing kiosks, as well as human-run ticket purchase areas, can be found on the entrance level, as well.
If you choose to purchase at the station, the self-service machines are relatively straightforward to navigate for English speakers. There are different machines for different ticketing services, but the Trenitalia machines are the most common, offering tickets for the state-run Frecciarossa lines. Italo, a privately-run transportation line, is your other option, with its own separate ticketing service. Both services and kiosk types are pretty much the same.
Milano Centrale Luggage Storage
There is a baggage storage area, which the Italians call “left luggage” (deposito bagagli), accessible on the ground floor (the first floor below the train platform), with prominent signage leading you there. The fees are €6 per bag for the first five hours, €1 for each hour after that up to hour number 12, and then the price drops to a half euro (€0,50) for every additional hour. It’s open every day from 6am–11pm.
What other services are available?
Many amenities are available at the station, including car rental, personalized ticket services, and a post office. There’s also a farmicia (pharmacy/drug store) and banking services where you can change currencies or get cash from an ATM.
There’s a very helpful tourist desk on the west (ovest) side of the main entrance staffed by knowledgeable workers from the Frecciaviaggi company, who can tell you just about anything you need to know about the station.
Free and reasonably fast WiFi is available throughout the station, so you can always consult your phone for more information.
How Far in Advance to Arrive at Milano Centrale?
If you already have your ticket, arrive at least 45 minutes to an hour before your train leaves to get your bearings, figure out what platform your train will be departing from, and whether there are any delays or other complications. It’s easy to search and buy tickets in advance online at the Italiarail website.
If you do not have a ticket, you will want to get there earlier to give yourself time to understand the ticket buying process and to evaluate your available options. Consider arrival and travel times (Milan from Rome via Italy’s high-speed rail service takes around three hours, for instance) so if you have a time in mind for arriving at your destination, you’ll want to plan accordingly.
How Reliable are Train Schedules?
Milano Centrale is Italy’s second-busiest station next to Roma Termini in Rome, and with over 300,000 passengers and 600 trains per day, there are inevitably delays, particularly on bad weather days. There are also worker strikes that occur throughout Italy which can affect schedule reliability.
The Milano Centrale website tracks information for train schedules including delays, but the only truly reliable information is at the station itself, listed on the departure reader board.
How do I change trains in Milan if I’m transferring to another city?
Both Trenitalia and Italo train services require a minimum of 15 minutes for transfer time, but you will likely want to give yourself more than that, mainly to guard against a missed connection from a delayed arrival. The trains are all on the same level at Milano Centrale, so it’s usually fairly quick to jump off the train, find a reader board with platform information, and then to make your way to your next train. Access is easy from platform to platform, and you can do so without having to go through a ticket check.
What are the best places to eat in a hurry, or to relax at if my train gets delayed?
There are many food and drink options at the Milano Centrale station, both for those on the go who need something quick, and for others who have time to settle in as they wait for a delayed train. In the former category, there are a number of coffee/panini stands and familiar fast food options, as well as pizza from the omnipresent, Naples-based Rossopomodoro chain. For those who can stay awhile, the Bistrot Centrale on the second floor above the train platform is essentially a high-end food court with a variety of Italian favorites. There’s even a wine bar with outlets under the counter for those who need to charge a cell phone. Another option is the Obica restaurant, also on the upper floor, which offers a view of the train platform and departure times so you can keep track of your train while sipping a glass of wine.
It’s fun to kill time exploring the many shops and boutiques in the station, mainly on the first floor beneath the train shed. Famous brands like Guess, Zara, and Swarovski are represented, along with many other specialty shops, gift stores, and even a toystore. The Milano Centrale website has a full list of vendors you can reference if you find yourself with time to spare (and money to burn.)
The Best Hotels near Milano Centrale
It is quick and easy to get to Milano Centrale station from most hotels in central Milan. But for those travelers who wish to stay close to the train station to ensure the easiest access, we recommend the following hotels:
Is Milano Centrale Safe?
Milano Centrale was once considered one of the easier places to get robbed in the city, but while theft and scams are still a problem to be aware of, the station has become safer as Milan in general has boosted its tourism profile following its 2015 Expo. Still, safety is a concern and it’s important to keep an eye on your belongings at all times. Be particularly diligent while at an ATM machine or buying tickets from a kiosk. If someone approaches you while you’re buying a ticket, offering to “help” you, and they are not wearing either a Trenitalia or Italo uniform, it’s best to say “no grazie” and ignore them.
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