Recently, my husband and I spent a week in Florence. I used cash to book us cheap round-trip tickets on an Emirates economy flight from New York (JFK) to Milan (MXP). Since we had been to Milan a couple of years ago, we decided to explore Florence instead. In this article, I want to share my experience and provide a guide on how to get from Milan Malpensa Airport to Florence by train.
First Step: Getting From Milan Malpensa Airport to Milan
This was not our first time taking trains in Italy, nor was it my first flight to Milan’s Malpensa airport. We knew what to expect, and are kind of pros at this point.
Someone had the not-so-brilliant idea to build the airport 30 miles outside of town, so it does take a good chunk of time to get there. Fortunately, there’s a direct train between Milan’s central train station, Milano Centrale, and Malpensa airport. The train takes about 45-50 minutes, but it’s clean and comfortable, so it’s not bad, all things considered.
Finding The Malpensa Train Station And Buying Tickets
At the airport, the train station is just a short walk from baggage claim. You won’t have any troubles finding it, just follow the signs overhead.
To get to Milano Centrale on its own, you can buy tickets online ahead of time or at the airport for €13. You can also buy tickets all the way through to Florence here too. I usually recommend buying train tickets in Europe ahead of time, but it’s not necessary for these trains that run quite frequently.
We tried to buy the tickets at the machine, but they only accept chip and PIN cards or cash, so my Chase Sapphire Reserve card didn’t work. Thankfully, the line at the ticket counter wasn’t long, and the representative spoke excellent English, so we bought tickets all the way to Florence.
After you purchased your tickets, take an elevator or an escalator to the platform. Before you board the train, validate your ticket at one of the yellow machines on the platform . If you purchased the tickets ahead of time online, just board the train, there’s no need to validate or go to the ticket office.
The train ride into Milan is pretty uneventful. The train makes a few stops in various suburbs, and the views are not very special. So if you are feeling jetlagged, it’s totally okay to take a nap — you won’t miss much and Milano Centrale is the last stop, you can’t miss it. The train is comfortable, there’s no first or second class and no dining car, all cars are the same. The seats are grouped into bays of four (two front facing and two back facing) on each side of the aisle with plenty of legroom. The luggage racks are located at the ends of each car and the bathrooms are located in every other car.
The few times I took the train from Malpensa airport, the train departed and arrived exactly on time.
Side Note: No Chip and Pin Cards For Chase Yet
I hope to visit Italy again soon, so when I got home I sent a secure message to Chase about obtaining a PIN for my card. Turns out, Chase doesn’t have chip and PIN cards yet. I called Citi Premier and they were able to sent me a PIN number in a matter of days. Next time I need to buy train tickets in Europe, I’ll be using my Citi Premier card.
Second Step: Getting from Milano Centrale Train Station to Florence
We usually buy train tickets for fast intercity trains ahead of time because they are much cheaper when bought about 30-45 days out. The only time we don’t buy tickets in advance is for the day of arrival. If the flight is delayed, we’d lose the tickets. If you are only traveling on regular, regional trains, there’s no need to purchase the tickets in advance.
When the train from Malpensa airport arrives at Milano Centrale train station, check the departures board to see which platform your Florence train departs from. You might have just a few minutes to transfer trains and the station could get very crowded. The platform numbers are posted on the departures board about 10 minute before the train leaves.
If you bought the ticket for the intercity train in Malpensa, validate it at one of the yellow machines on the platform. If you bought it online, there’s no need to validate. Just board the train and show the printout to the ticket inspectors when they come through later.
The same train from Milan to Florence stops in Bologna, about 30 minutes before it gets to Florence. So if you’d like to do a day trip to Bologna and want to take a fast train there, plan ahead, you’ll save a lot of money by buying your tickets in advance.
Florence is a wonderful city with so much to see and do and flying into Milan is a great way to get there inexpensively. Florence is a great idea any time of year, but it’s especially nice during the “shoulder season” in spring and fall. We visited at the end of March and the weather was perfect for sightseeing. The city could get crowded, but if you leave the major central streets, you’ll have Florence to yourself.
Train travel in Italy is very convenient and the trains are comfortable and easy to navigate. If you can, book your long distance trains ahead of time to save money. Use your Chase Sapphire Reserve card to pay for train tickets to take advantage of the $300 annual travel credit.
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