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Public Transportation Milan Malpensa Airport to Venice

One of the most common questions raised in travel forums is how to travel from Milan Malpensa Airport (MXP) to Venice quickly and cheaply. This posting addresses this issue.

Since there is no direct transportation, I break the journey into its two constituent parts: MXP Airport to Milano Centrale train station; and Milano Centrale to Venezia S. Lucia train station.

Getting from MXP to Milano Centrale Train Station

1. Airport Train: Aside from a very expensive taxi or private car (cost nearly 100 Euros), there are frequent airport trains and buses. The Malpensa Express train departs from the airport train station (across from the arrivals area) every 30 minutes from 5:43 a.m. to 22:43 (Terminal 1 departures) (there are later trains which require a connection at Milano Nord Cadorna). A one-way ticket costs 13 Euros, travel time is 52 minutes (from Terminal 1), and the train makes about 7 stops.

All seats are unreserved. There are no lower fares with an advance purchase, and I discourage purchasing the ticket in advance over the internet. Children up to age 12 years, 0 days get a 50% reduction in fare on the airport train, while toddlers up to age 4 years, 0 days travel free without a ticket.

You can board this train either at the main Terminal 1 (used by most carriers) or the original Terminal 2 (used by charters and some low cost carriers). Departure times are six minutes apart from the two terminals. YOU MUST VALIDATE YOUR PAPER TICKET IN THE STAMPING MACHINE AT THE TRACK HEAD BEFORE BOARDING.

www.trenitalia.com (enter “Malpensa Aeroporto T1”)

2. Airport Bus: The Malpensa Shuttle Bus departs from both Terminal 1 and Terminal 2 every 20 minutes from 5:00 a.m. to 01:20 a.m. and takes just under one hour (subject to traffic delays). The one-way fare is 10 Euros, but lower promotional fares are advertised on the website from time to time. As with the train, I discourage advance purchases of tickets. You can purchase the ticket from the bus driver. Buses depart from directly outside the arrivals area of the terminal building. Children under age 12 get a 50% discount, while toddlers under age 2 travel free without a ticket.

www.malpensashuttle.it (PDF of schedule)

NOTE: There are two other airport bus operators to Milano Centrale: Terravision (lower fare) and Autostradale. You can take any of these bus operators going to Milano Centrale station (although tickets are not interchangeable).

Connection Time: It is important to allow at least 15 minutes of connection time between the airport train and the onward train to Venice. Allow a longer connection time if arriving by airport bus, as traffic delays may result in a late arrival at Milano Centrale. If you have a short connection time, definitely take the airport train rather than the cheaper but slower airport bus.

Buy all train tickets at the MXP Airport Train Station: I strongly recommend buying all your train tickets together at the MXP Airport train station, so you won't waste valuable time at Milano Centrale Station looking to buy your onward ticket from an electronic ticket machine or manned ticket sales windows (and risk missing your connecting train to Venice).

Getting from Milano Centrale Train Station to Venezia S. Lucia Train Station

At the moment, only Trenitalia connects Milan with Venice by train. There are fast reserved Frecciarossa trains roughly every hour, taking 2.5 hours and costing 45 Euros in "standard" class (traditional second class) at the regular "BASE" fare. The Frecciarossa makes six stops between Milan and Venice, and there are no non-stop trains on this route.

Trenitalia has removed all Frecciabianca and direct Regionale trains from this route (which were cheaper), making it more difficult to find a less expensive travel solution (but see further on).

Occasionally, the Frecciarossa train goes only as far as Venezia Mestre station (on the mainland), where you must connect to a local regionale train to reach Venezia S. Lucia. The Trenitalia website identifies these trains, which you would usually want to avoid for this reason.

The typical Frecciarossa ETR 500 convoy on this route has 11 railcars with 574 seats: 5 cars of “standard” class (traditional second class); 1 car of “premium” class (second class with leather seats, glass partitions between rows, and a complimentary beverage and snack on departure); 4 cars of “business class” (traditional first class, with complimentary beverage and snack service); and 1 car of “Executive” class (designed for well-heeled business travelers looking for luxury). A portion of one of the business class cars has a restaurant/bistro area where beverages, snacks and meals are sold. Characteristics of each class of service are described here: www.trenitalia.com/tcom/Le-Frecce/Frecciarossa-ETR-500

Most travelers select “standard” class (unless sold out), while “business” class is not really necessary on this short trip. Business class seats are typically 8.5 centimeters wider than “standard” and “premium” class (but have the same leg room), and one side of the business class railcar has a single seat, while the other side has two seats. Nevertheless, seats in “standard” and “premium” class are wide enough (55.5 centimeters) for most people and adequately comfortable. All seats recline “Premium” class costs 6 Euros more than “standard” at the “BASE” fare and is somewhat of a waste of money, considering that seats are the same dimensions as in “standard” class.

Luggage should be stowed either in the overhead rack, or wedged in-between the seat rows directly in front of your seat, or placed in the oversized rack at the end of the railcar. Don’t bring any luggage too heavy to lift or too bulky to roll down the narrow central corridor of the railcar. There are no weight limits beyond your personal capacities, and no limit to the number of pieces allowed.

Strategies to save money on the train from Milan to Venice

With the removal of all Frecciabianca and direct Regionale trains between Milan and Venice, it is more challenging to find a low fare, and the regular “BASE” fare for the Frecciarossa train is a steep 45 Euros in "standard" (second) class!

There is one Eurocity train from Milano Centrale at 12:05 p.m. with a “BASE” fare is 39 Euros. Travel time is only 10 minutes more than the Frecciarossa, and this train is essentially just as good as the others. However, the Eurocity train saves only 6 Euros, so it’s nothing to focus on.

1. Buying an Electronic Ticket for the Frecciarossa Train in Advance: The most common strategy to save money, albeit with risks, is to purchase a discounted electronic ticket for the Frecciarossa train on the Trenitalia website, at the lowest possible fare, which is 19.90 Euros for the SUPER ECONOMY fare in "standard" class. There are other discounted fares, such as the ECONOMY fare, the BIMBI GRATIS fare, the 2X1 fare (Saturday only), the 3X2 fare, and a few others, all described on the Trenitalia website.

Because purchasing a ticket at one of these discounted fares results in a ticket FORFEITURE if one MISSES the reserved train for any reason apart from a missed connection from the incoming airport train (where the official connection time is at least 15 minutes), I have some personal “strategies” for reducing the risk to what many might consider to be a tolerable level. First of all, allow a minimum connection time of THREE TO FOUR HOURS between scheduled aircraft arrival and scheduled train departure from Milano Centrale Station. Secondly, do not book a discounted fare which gives you a savings of less than 50%. This in practice means aiming for either a SUPER ECONOMY or a 2X1 fare. This is because you don’t want the cost of potential forfeiture to exceed the amount of savings if you are able to take your reserved train (on the theory that you have a 50/50 chance of success). For example, if you buy a ticket at the SUPER ECONOMY fare of 19.90 Euros, you are potentially saving 25 Euros, but also potentially forfeiting 20 Euros (if you miss the train).

Children up to age 15 years, 0 days, get a 50% reduction in fare on the reserved Trenitalia trains. Toddlers up to age 4 years, 0 days, travel free without a ticket and without a guaranteed seat.

2. Taking the Unreserved Regionale Trains all the way to Venice: Some people are uncomfortable even risking to lose 20 Euros per ticket, so they won’t buy an electronic ticket in advance. Nevertheless, there is yet another way to save money, although it requires taking two unreserved regionale trains with a connection at Verona Porta Nuova Station. In fact, the total cost of the two regionale trains is 12.75 + 8.85 = 21.60 Euros, and total travel time is 3 hours and 17 minutes (plus connection time at Verona Porta Nuova). There are hourly regionale trains from Milano Centrale to Verona Porta Nuova (makes 9 stops), and hourly regionale veloce trains from Verona Porta Nuova to Venezia S. Lucia. It is important to take the regionale veloce train from Verona to Venice (makes 5 stops) and NOT the much slower regionale train, which makes 18 stops (even though the fare is exactly the same)!!!

Since there are no discounts for these UNRESERVED trains, you should NOT buy the tickets electronically in advance, but wait until you arrive at the MXP airport train station.


Note that this travel solution saves over half the cost of the full fare for the faster, direct Frecciarossa train, WITHOUT INCURRING ANY FORFEITURE RISK. If you miss your connection in Verona, just take the next regionale or regionale veloce train to Venice (NOT the reserved Frecciarossa, however). Because these are unreserved trains, your paper ticket from Verona to Venice is valid for ANY such train departing before midnight of your travel date. If you board each train (in Milan and in Verona) promptly, you should have no problem finding a good seat. While these train do not have on on-board catering, they do have air conditioning and heating.

Children up to age 12 years, 0 days, get a 50% reduction on the unreserved Trenitalia regionale trains. (NOTE the lower cutoff age for the unreserved trains). Toddlers up to age 4 years, 0 days travel free without a ticket.

Do I risk not finding a seat on the Trenitalia Frecciarossa train to Venice?

Travelers are naturally concerned that they may not find a seat on their first choice of train, unless they reserve in advance (and incur the forfeiture risk described above). Fortunately, this does not occur often, and when it does, there are subsequent Frecciarossa trains leaving for Venice every hour or less. HOWEVER, do be aware that the Frecciarossa train departing Milan at 11:45 a.m. MIGHT be sold out, for two reasons: (1) there is no train at 10:45, and the 11:45 train originates in Turin, so it will probably already be heavily booked.

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