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Getting to Malpensa from Lake Como by car EARLY-ISH

We haven't settled on exactly where we want to stay for our 2 - 3 nights on Lake Como and the end of April but it will it will be somewhere around the "crotch" area. We'd like to stay 3 nights but are wondering if its a bad idea to drive to the airport (and drop off our rental car) on the morning of our 10:20 AM flight back home. On paper it looks reasonable as its only a one hour or so drive. It seems like all we would have to do is leave by 6 AM to make it there. BUT... are the roads leading back difficult to navigate? Is there a high probability of getting lost? Will we be able to return a car rental at 7:00 AM?
It may not make a difference but we will be leaving on May 1 which is a national holiday in Italy so perhaps there will be less traffic?

Posted by
15487 posts

From Bellagio to Malpensa it's about 1 and 1/2 hour drive. There is no way to get lost, the road is along the lake shore, as long as you are driving along the lake you're on the right track. Once you reach Como just follow the directions to the Autostrada A9 to Milano. Then take the turn off on the A8 to Varese and Malpensa and follow the directions. Just make sure you exit at Busto Arsizio for the airport. Give yourself an extra 30 min. in case you get stuck in traffic inside Como or on the freeway, if you are traveling in the morning during commute time (7 to 9). If it's May 1 there will be no commute traffic. Generally the airport car rental locations, especially at an int'l airport like Malpensa, the second largest in Italy, have extended hours compared to the city locations. 7:00 am is not that early, therefore I'm sure they are already open. But you can check online if you know which company you'll be renting from.

Posted by
15 posts

Roberto, Thanks for taking the time to give me such a comprehensive answer. Much appreciated.

Posted by
1018 posts

Personally, we would drop of the car in Milano the day before and spend the last night in Milano. Early the next morning we would take the Milano Shuttle (pullman bus) or the train to Malpensa. Too many things can happen getting to the airport, so for peace of mind that is my suggestion. As for a nice hotel we can highly recommend the Hotel Berna on Via Napo Torriano;it is located about 400 meters from Stazione Centrale. You can check the client ratings on venere.com and tripadvisor.com. Buon viaggio,

Posted by
3313 posts

I disagree with RB. Dropping the rental car in Milan and transferring to a hotel there is a significant hassle of its own. It will be much easier to leave early, as Roberto suggested, and drop the car at the airport. The rental car offices are in the parking garage right by the terminal.

Posted by
15 posts

I'm glad there are a couple of people thinking the way I am! RB - Even though staying at the airport pretty much eliminates most of (if not all) catastrophic possibilities, how may people spend the night before a flight staying at the airport? Most people take some form of transport to the airport the day of, right? I am loathe to spend our very last night in italy at an airport hotel, no matter how nice. As long as its a relatively straight forward route, I'd rather spend the night drinking wine and gazing at the scenery and then get up at the crack of dawn.Given that its a national holiday, I think the risk of traffic is relatively low.
My only remaining concern ( besides my wife who thinks we should stay at the airport) is somehow getting held up returning the car. But I can't think of what that would be.

Posted by
2829 posts

Tim, the route is easy, as long as you have a GPS. You don't have to cross any major complicated area and all highway interchanges in Italy have gigantic signs even people with severe myopia can read them without glasses :O Personally, I'm always a bit iffy of getting too close to departure time to an intercontinental flight. So I'd start my trip earlier, around 5am or so.

Posted by
1018 posts

Tim, You misunderstood my post. I did not recommend you staying at an airport hotel. The hotel I suggested is in downtown Milano and NOT near the airport. You would have all of the amenities downtown Milano has to offer before departing the next morning. I hope this helps to clarify my original post. Buon viaggio,

Posted by
15 posts

RB - sorry if I came off a little defensive. I am writing what I am saying to my wife who is lobbying for us to stay near the airport which, as we know, I don't want to do so I am feeling defensive but the defensive should be directed at her. I appreciate that you took the time to offer an opinion. This is, after all, why we post here, right? You are correct; I did misunderstand your post and, if we had maybe an additional day, it might be fun to spend a evening in Milan just to check it out. But, as it is, we only have 3 nights and two full days at Lake Como and my goal is to have the two full days and not have to cut the last day short in any way. We still have so much planning to do so I don't know why we are both getting fixated on this one issue...but here we are.

Posted by
1446 posts

Tim, I think you should first find out what time the car rental company opens to see if it's doable to drive in and drop the car off the morning of your flight. I agree that the car rental places near the airport usually have expanded hours but you need to make sure that they'll open early enough. If so, I would opt to stay in Lake Como and then drop the car off the morning of your flight. We stayed in Varenna the night before our 10:30am flight home and then took a shuttle bus to the airport. We obviously didn't have the added element of having to drive in ourselves and drop the car off but as long as you leave early enough, you shouldn't have any problems. We left Milan on a Saturday morning so we didn't have morning traffic to contend with but since you're departing on a holiday, I imagine the traffic would be just as light. I would suggest leaving Lake Como prior to 6am though to allow up to 90 minutes to drive into Milan and then 30-45 minutes to return the car and take a shuttle to the terminal, etc.

Posted by
2829 posts

@Sheron: there is not shuttle to the terminal in Malpensa. You walk from the parking lot right into the rental office counters which is on floor 0. From there, you are already inside Terminal 1.

Posted by
335 posts

I can't imagine you'll have trouble dropping off the car before your flight. Most airport rental car counters open early. I've dropped off a car at Malpensa before a morning flight (10-ish maybe) and didn't have any trouble at all. You'll be fine.

Posted by
1446 posts

Andre, I think you misunderstood. We took a shuttle from Varenna directly to the airport and it dropped us off at our terminal. This won't help Tim of course since he'll have a rental car to contend with but my point is that it didn't take us all that long to get from Varenna to Malpensa for our 10:30am flight home and that he should stay in Lake Como the night before his flight and simply figure in some extra time to drop off his car and get from the car drop-off location to the terminal.