I arrived early in the morning at Milan Malpensa Airport in Northern Italy for my conference later in the week. This was my first time riding trains through Italy and I was looking forward to the experience. However, I was surprised, and a bit disappointed, with the state of deterioration and lack of modernization in the ItaliaRail trains, at least compared to the trains I have ridden in the rest of Western Europe. Many stations however, like Milan, where quite modern and clean.
It’s a bit of a maze getting from baggage claim in the airport, to the train station. There are some markers on the floor, but due to construction, they go under and behind the temporary structures, so I have had to guess a bit.
Path to the Malpensa Express
Probably a good 15 minutes of walking later, I arrived at the train station in the airport. From the Milan Malpensa airport, I took the Malpensa Express for 10€, which takes about 30 min or so, and arrives around track 1 in Milan Central Station (One note, you have to go inside the Malpensa Express office to buy tickets. All the machines outside only sell tickets on the normal city Metro trains). You can also take a bus for the same 10€, which lets out just in front of the station on the ground level, though you’ll have to haul your bags up 2 floors to the level of the trains when you arrive.
Milan Centrale Station
Most of the restaurants in the station provide free Wifi, usually with a purchase, some appear better than others, and some more easily accessible than others. I never did find an international ATM, though I’m certain there must be one somewhere…
For lunch, I chose Bistro Express, mostly at random, but it did look pretty good, with a selection of sandwiches, pizza, pasta, and coffee. They also have Wifi, though it was a bit slow. I later found that the Juice Bar next door had a better connection, if you are willing to sign up (though you can give any random email address, it does not require an emailed verification key).
My train to La Spezia was a standard ItaliaRail InterCity Train, probably 50 years old and never remodeled. The first class cabin was laid out in the 6-seat individual sections with doors similar to the older Deutsche Bahn InterCity train cars. The train takes three hours to make the trip, stopping at a number of small and large stations along the way, including Genoa, then follows the coast through tunnels and bridges all the way to La Spezia. It’s quite a scenic trip.
I arrived at La Spezia Centrale train station in mid-afternoon. After a cursory walk around the platform and station building, still looking for an ATM, I went to the taxi queue out front. All the drivers where standing around smoking, but they found one that spoke some English. I asked him if there was any driver that could take a credit card (since I had, after being in the country for 6 hours, and been to an airport and 3 train stations, still not found a single ATM machine), he called out to the other drivers, who passed the question along, it wasn’t looking good. I then asked him if he knew of a cash machine nearby. He pointed me to the interior of the train station next to the ticket window. Turns out there was a small ATM, and wouldn’t you know if worked just fine with my US ATM card!
Cash in hand, finally, I was able to take a cab to the hotel, which cost €9 and took about 5 minutes. It’s actually just about half a kilometer walk, but by car you have to drive around to the other side of town, and about 5 stories up the side of the slope that the city is built on. Finally, after about 20 hours of traveling, I was at my first hotel of the two week trip!
Have you ridden trains in Italy? Are the newer Frecciarossa trains much nicer than the old IC trains?
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