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Italy Q&A: Getting from Malpensa Airport to Varenna

Here’s another of my Italy Q&A posts. Trudy left this question in a comment right here on the Italy Logue:

What is the easiest way to get from Milan Malpensa to Varenna at Lake Como? Friends are arriving earlier than we are and my husband is the driver. They would like to go to Varenna vs. waiting for our flight to arrive 5 hours later in the day?

Y’know, Trudy, I think your friends are smart to want to get the heck out of Malpensa Airport and to Varenna rather than waiting for you and your husband! I mean, as far as airports go it’s just fine… But really, Malpensa vs. Varenna? No contest. So – let’s get your friends out there without a car.

What I’d recommend is that your friends take the Malpensa Express Bus from the airport to the Milano Stazione Centrale (central station), and then hop on a train from there to Varenna. I generally prefer the Malpensa Express train to get into the city, but it doesn’t go to the Stazione Centrale – so even if there’s traffic to deal with on a bus vs. a train, it’s nicer to only have to worry about one transfer instead of two.

So, here are the details for your friends:

  • Malpensa Express Bus – There are a few buses which leave from Malpensa for the Stazione Centrale, but this is the cheapest option. It’s a €5.50 ticket which your friends will buy at the Agenzia Autostradale on the arrivals floor or, if they prefer, they can buy tickets right on the bus from the driver. The departure point at Malpensa is Terminal 1, exit 6, stop 3. The trip is roughly 50 minutes, depending on traffic, and buses run twice an hour from 06:35 through 23:35 – at 35 minutes and 55 minutes past the hour. You can read more about the bus options, including the other two bus companies which offer Malpensa-Milan service, on this page.
  • Train from Milano-Varenna – Trains for Varenna from Milan‘s central station leave about once an hour throughout the day, so there’s no need to book tickets in advance. Your friends can just head up to a ticket agent whenever they arrive at the station and book tickets for the next train out. It’s roughly a one-hour journey – they’ll just need to be sure to get on a train that doesn’t require a change midway through. Most won’t require a train change, but there are a few that do, and it’s an unnecessary hassle – make sure your friends ask the ticket agent which trains are direct for Varenna. Do note that they’ll likely have intermediate stops between Milan & Varenna, but intermediate stops are different than train changes! Tickets are cheap – second class is around €5 each, and first class is less than €8 each. Second class is perfectly fine for most travelers – you can read more in my comparison of first class and second class on Italian trains.

I hope that helps your friends, and I hope you all have a fantastic trip!