My husband and I are signed up for a RS Best of Italy tour in Sept-Oct. We'll be booking our flights soon, and I see that there are two airport choices in Milan. Which makes for easier access to the train station? How far in advance should we plan to book our flights?
The short answer is, either one works fine.
Details: Milan Malpensa airport is the only one that gets nonstop flights from the US. It is far from the center of Milan, but is connected by regular trains to both Milano Cadorna station and Milano Centrale station. You have to get on the correct train at the airport (in other words, a Cadorna-bound train will not stop at Centrale and vice versa). Which station is better depends on your hotel; both are on the Metro line 2 (green line). There are also buses to Milano Centrale station (big buses with luggage storage underneath). A taxi has a fixed rate of €90.
Milan Linate airport is very close to the city. It only gets flights from within Europe. There is daily frequent bus service to Milano Centrale station, and on weekdays there's also a bus to the San Babila Metro station (Line 1 - red line) that's even cheaper. A taxi is only €25-30 to the center.
Just for completeness, there's also Bergamo Orio Al Serio airport. This was Bergamo's airport, until someone noticed that it was about as far from central Milan as Malpensa is. It's used by budget airlines; if for some reason you arrive here, there are buses to Milano Centrale station.
The easy way to think of these, if you know the DC airports: Linate is Washington National, Malpensa is Dulles, and Bergamo is BWI.
How far in advance to book flights? No one knows, because the airlines are using computers to change prices constantly. Start checking now on Kayak or Google Flights or Skyscanner, and use MIL to search for "all Milan airports." When you see a price you like, buy right away, and then don't look again.
If you tell us your home airport(s), people will have more tips about good routes and possible sales.
I would make your decision on which flight is more economical. My wife and I went on the Best of Italy tour in Sept 2015. The most economical flight from LAX to Milan was thru Amsterdam. From Amsterdam, KLM only flew into Linate. It was a very easy bus connection that dropped us off right at the train station, non-stop and in only about 20 minutes. I would highly recommend that you plan to arrive the day before your tour begins. We had a number of tour members that flew in the day of the tour and you could see that they were a little more stressed than those who arrived the day before. We got there two days early and spent the first night in Milan and an additional night in Varenna. Milan was a very pleasant surprise. I highly recommend spending one night there before going to Varenna if you have the time.
Thanks to both of you! We've been considering leaving a day early - is there something in particular you recommend seeing in Milan? I'd love to leave two days early and spend an extra night in Varenna, but that we're already pushing the limit on time away from work.
And we'll be flying from DTW.
I fly from DTW to MXP often, I take the Malpensa Express to Milano Centrale and spend the first night at Hotel Berna or Hotel Garda, near the train station.
You can visit the Duomo (go up to the roof) via metro at the train station, see Leonardo's Last Supper (advance reservations necessary) the next morning before you go back to Milano Centrale to take the train to your tour meetup.
If you have time, Milano also has the Castello Sforzesco (with museum), as well as a few other museums.
You can check connections & travel time on trains, etc. by entering the start and stop locations in rome2rio.com It will even give you local bus info in cities if you're staying in Milan, etc.
We loved the RS Best of Italy tour! If you happen to add that extra day, you might want to consider Verona as your overnight location. We arrived a couple of days early and really enjoyed our time in Verona - easy town for tourists. It's 2 1/2 hours by train from the Milan airport.
I think you will be very tired after your flight so don't plan on doing too much in Milan. I would plan on seeing the Duomo. Be sure to go up on the roof. Also, be sure to go in the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II shopping center next door to the Duomo.
If you have any questions about the tour, you can send me a personal message and I will try and answer them. You will love this tour!
I arrived in Milan 2 days early before the 17 Days in Italy tour. I flew nonstop into Malpensa airport from Atlanta. I took the train to the Milano Centrale station and walked 2 or 3 blocks to my hotel. I stayed at Hotel Berna. When I was ready to leave for Varenna, it was easy to walk to the station to get the train. It cost 8 Euros but be sure to validate your ticket before you get on the train: I almost forgot and had to race back to find the ticket validation machine, hiding in plain sight but if you don't know what you are looking for, not easy. It was good I did that because the ticket police came on to check our tickets!
I booked 2 walking tours with Walks of Italy, the first one covered the historic sites and included tickets to the Last Supper and a climb to the top of the Duomo. The Brera Art Gallery is wonderful containing many Old Masters paintings, along with Caravaggio. There were only 3 of us on this tour so we got lots of individual attention. The guides were excellent and enthusiastic.
I toured La Scala museum on my own and Sforza castle. There are lots of other things to see and do so I suggest give yourself another day in Milan. You will enjoy it. That is, if you have additional time to spare.
I know I am giving you information you didn't ask for but perhaps you will find it useful anyway. And, I too, loved the 17 Days in Italy tour! I did it in October 2016.
Thank you for all of the suggestions - I happy to hear all of them! I think my husband really wants to see The Last Supper, so if we can arrive a day early, we'll probably prioritize that.
Don't forget to include your flight in the time planning. You'll generally arrive in Europe the day after you depart your home airport. If you want a day for sightseeing in Milan, that's important. Also keep jet lag in mind, as you may not be up to full "touring speed" for a day or two. I normally try to go at least two days prior to the start of tours.
I would also recommend Hotel Garda or Hotel Berna in Milan, as they're very comfortable and within about a five minute walk to Milano Centrale.
I would like to chime in and also recommend Hotel Berna. We stayed there 4 years ago and it was delightful. They will customize your room for you if you fill out the information online. You pick the type of pillow, and what type of juice you want in your mini refrigerator. Their breakfast buffet is wonderful. We visited the Duomo and toured the Last Supper. It was incredible. You will need to get tickets several months ahead of time.
Most of the flights we've looked at fly through JFK, but the most convenient has only a 45 minute layover at JFK before our flight to Milan. That seems a bit rushed to me. On past trips, we've either flown direct or had at least an hour between flights. Anyone had a layover this short?
Short answer: Unless you feel VERY lucky, don't do a 45 minute connection at JFK on this route - or you'll be sorry.
Details: If you have to change terminals at JFK, you have to go through security again. The time it takes to get between terminals and go through security is definitely more than 45 minutes.
If you are all in the same terminal, and if your arriving flight is on time, and if you have no problem running, you could make a 45 minute connection. But think of the consequences if you don't; most likely, you have to wait a whole day for the next flight to Milan - if there is space on that flight.
But wait - there's more.
Since you're flying out of Detroit, you're most likely using Delta for at least part of the trip. But Delta code shares with Alitalia, so you have to check who you're actually flying on each leg. The term for this is "metal"; a Delta flight number from JFK to MXP can be on Delta metal or Alitalia metal. This is important because Delta from JFK to MXP uses Terminal 4, while Alitalia from JFK to MXP uses Terminal 1. But, Delta flights from DTW arrive at JFK Terminal 2.
Now, there is a shuttle bus from T2 to T4, and taking this means you don't have to go through security again. When Delta's computer figured that 45 minutes was a "legal" connection, this is probably what it was programmed to account for. But, you have to make your way to the shuttle bus departure location, then wait for the bus, then take the bus, then make your way to your departure gate. Again, there's no way I'd count on doing this in 45 minutes - unless there were more flights on my route that day. In this case, you'd be stuck.
Short answer - you won't make a 45-minute connection in JFK. Then you'll be waiting around in JFK, be rebooked to the back of another plane and thinking about how much fun you could be having in Italy if you'd selected a reasonable connection time between flights.