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Train from Milan to Varenna

We will be going on the Rick Steves' "Best of Italy in 17 Days" tour this coming April. Our tour begins on April 12 in Varenna. We will be staying in Milan for a couple of days prior to the tour. We wish to travel by train from Milan to Varenna late morning on Thursday, April 11.

For anyone who is familiar with this train, can you answer a few questions:

  1. Are advance reservations necessary, or are seats plentiful so that tickets can be purchased the morning of travel? We don't want to risk missing this train as we need to be in Varenna the following day for the beginning of our tour.

  2. Can we make reservations in advance? If so, do you know the web address?

  3. How frequently does this train run? Approximate cost of tickets?

Any other advice or information would be most appreciated.

Rick Johnson

Posted by
4126 posts

Rick,

  1. Advance reservations are not necessary. You can buy your train tickets the day before or the same day of travel, albeit you may have to wait in a possibly long queue, or you can buy your tickets from a self- serve machine.

  2. Yes, you can. The official Italian Railway website: Trenitalia.com
    You’ll need to choose the station names in Italian. Departure: Milano Centrale,
    Arrival: Varenna- Esino.

  3. Check Trenitalia.com for train schedules and prices. Tickets are very inexpensive, around €6 pp.

If you buy tickets at the station, you’ll need to validate (date/time stamp) prior to boarding the train to avoid hefty fines.
Once validated, the ticket is valid for 4 hours.

If you book your tickets online, they already come validated so there’s no need to validate them.

You will be taking a Regionale train on this journey, so there are no seat assignments, you can sit anywhere on the train.

Try to sit on the left side of train for best views of the lake.

The journey takes about an hour. Once you go through the tunnel, get your luggage ready, and be ready to get off the train once it stops, since it only stops for a couple of minutes.

There are always a couple of taxis waiting at the station, or you can walk to your hotel if nearby.

Make sure you take a stroll on the lovely lakeside promenade, from the ferry dock to the town, or vice versa.

You can easily visit many of the midlake towns via ferry from Varenna. If you intend to do this, you may consider buying the day pass, instead of separate tickets.

Enjoy your trip!

Posted by
1273 posts

I believe it you buy tickets are on line you are tied to that specific train (why you have to validate)

If you buy a the station, you can take whatever train to that destination for the next couple of days. But remember to validate. A reminder that in Milan the validation stations are at the end of each track as you walk to the train.

If you forget to validate, walk towards the front of train looking for conductor. Better to find them, instead of finding you.

At the small town stops like Varenna, note the couple stops prior and move to to doors with your luaggage. I’ve seen people get to the door after door closes and missed their stop. You probably have less than a minute if there are not many people getting on/off the train.

Posted by
1273 posts

One more thing, the station is called Varenna-Esino

Trains run 20 minutes after the hour most but not every hour(weekdays, sat or Sun may be slightly different.
6, 7, 8, 10, 12, 2pm 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9

Posted by
1273 posts

We find Trainline app a bit simpler to use than Trenitalia for quick searches. No price difference

Posted by
529 posts

Rick,
I am a person that likes to plan and pay for everything in advance. So, I know where you are coming from.
However, you don't really need to do that in this instance and I would advise against it.
I went on this tour this past September. I stayed in Milan for one night. I checked the train times on one of the websites (see above). There was an 8am train and then the next one was 10 am, and then every hour. I wanted to take the 8 am train to have more time in Varenna. My hotel checkout was delayed due to a desk attendant that was in training. I left my hotel on foot ten minutes prior to the train time. I did not pre purchase my ticket. I made it to the train station, bought my ticket from a machine and still made it on the train.
If you buy ahead of time and your plans change, you will lose the money (albeit a very small amount to lose).
The process was easy. I had only taken a train twice before (in Sweden) and I didn't have any trouble figuring out what to do. Just go a little earlier than I did. I was sweating when I got on the train. : )

Posted by
31 posts

I appreciate your perspective. My only concern is that the time when we'll be in Milan is during a very popular furniture show. All the hotels in town are booked. It will be very crowded. I don't want to find the trains to be similarly crowded and somehow unable to get a ticket.

I don't know how we'd get to Varenna if we were unable to get a seat on the train. I don't know how far it is or what our options would be.

Posted by
7684 posts

I don't want to find the trains to be similarly crowded and somehow unable to get a ticket.
I don't know how we'd get to Varenna if we were unable to get a seat on the train

You will never be "unable to get a ticket". The tickets on regionale trains are "open", you can use them on any train. That is why you have to validate (time stamp) them, to stop people using them twice.
You just stamp your ticket (if necessary), get on the train and find any empty seat. In the unlikely event you cannot find a seat, you just stand and hope one comes free further down the line.

A Furniture show in Milan is unlikely to significantly affect train occupancy, except perhaps in the immediate area of the show. Varenna is too far for people to be staying there for the show.

Posted by
1230 posts

It seems you are missing the point: most trains from Milano to Varenna-Esino are Regionale and Regionale trains CAN'T sell out because they have no reserved seats.
During the furniture fair You could not find a seat and be forced to stand, but getting a ticket in advance wouldn't make any difference.

Not that there are many hipster designers going from Varenna to Milan and back...

Posted by
31 posts

Thanks, Dario.

Can you elaborate on what you mean that the trains can't sell out. Do they add more cars if there are lots of passengers?

Posted by
122 posts

No, they do not add coaches...people just stand in the aisles, sit on their luggage or take the next train.

Posted by
122 posts

It happens, though rarely.

Of the scores of rail journeys I've taken in Europe, it has only happened to me one time.

Posted by
31 posts

I appreciate all the information. Sounds like this won't be any problem at all.

Thanks to everyone who responded.

Posted by
7684 posts

To reiterate. the seats ARE NOT assigned. A ticket is valid on any train. The railway company doesn't know how many people are going to get on get on the train, they just provide enough seats for the average daily load, plus a few more.
You get on, you find a seat and sit in it. If you can't find an empty seat, you either walk through to the next coach, or you stand.

Posted by
807 posts

Yes, make sure you are standing by the door ready to get off at Varenna-Esino.
We didn't, and had to hustle to get there before the train left with us still on it!
It's an easy walk, all downhill, to the town and ferry dock.

Posted by
2653 posts

To make one point clear, pre-purchasing tickets for a regional train doesn't guarantee you a seat on the regional train. I took the train from Milan to Varenna during a busier time of year and it wasn't full, so I suspect you'll have no problem finding seats.

Posted by
1230 posts

I doubt there is a busier time in Milan than during the Salone del Mobile furniture fair, but it's the trains to/from Turin and Rome that may sell out/fill up, not the slow locals from tiny villages like Varenna.

Posted by
14421 posts

Another tip, since the train originates at Milano Centrale, it will be spotted on the platform 10 to 15 minutes before scheduled departure. If you get there early with a validated ticket, you could be among the first to board the train and get your choice of seats. Locals will probably know what platform the train normally departs from, but it may not be announced or show up on the master train board until 10 minutes before departure.

Posted by
4646 posts

Be sure to speak distinctly, so 'Varenna' does not get mistaken for "Verona"

Posted by
4126 posts

Hi Rick!

If you’re interested in seeing ‘The Last Supper’, when you’re in Milan, you need to book your tickets now.
Here’s the official website for booking tickets:Vivaticket.it

Posted by
30010 posts

"If you buy a the station, you can take whatever train to that destination for the next couple of days."

As I recall, all Regionale tickets must specify the day of travel, and can only be used on the day listed on the ticket. If the ticket is purchased at the station, it must be validated prior to boarding on the day of travel. If the ticket is purchased online, it does not need to be validated but must be used within four hours of the departure time specified on the ticket.