Are you considering using the metro to get around Italy’s largest metropolitan area? Milan’s metro, or subway system, is efficient and easy to use once you get the hang of it.
You don’t even need to speak Italian to feel confident riding the Milan metro! But just in case, I’ve included audio of some important phrases below in my guide to using the metro in Milan.
I depended on the metro when I lived in Milan for a year in my early 20s. I have been back and used it countless times since– most recently in with my husband and two children.
I’ll give you my tips on:
- When to use the metro, and when it’s better to walk
- All about metro tickets
- Hours and the metro lines
- How to find your train
- What to expect on the metro
- How to get to Milan airports by metro
- Helpful Italian words and phrases for taking the metro
Table of Contents
WHEN TO USE THE METRO
Milan’s metro (subway) system is extensive. Even though it only has 4 lines and 1 more under construction (as of 2023), it will take you close to most of the places you want to go.
If you’re arriving by train at Milan Central station and want to go right to the Duomo, catch the yellow M3 metro line (the metro is right below the train station). It’s 4 stops to the Duomo.
The Milan metro is great for going long distances, for example from Centrale station to San Siro stadium, or Duomo to San Siro.
Dov’è la metropolitana più vicina? Where is the nearest metro station?
WHEN IT’S BETTER TO WALK
In the city center near the Duomo, it’s usually easier and more direct just to walk. And you get to see more too.
Even though Milan is a huge city, most of the city’s main sights– like the Duomo, Galleria Vittorio Emmanuele, the fashion district and Brera– are within walking distance from each other. In fact, all of the important attractions are concentrated in the center, within a 10-20 minute walk from the Duomo.
My rule of thumb in the center is walk if you’d only be going one or two metro stops. For example, from:
- Duomo to Montenapoleone (the fashion district)
- Duomo to San Babila
- Duomo to Cairoli (Castello Sforzesco)
If you’re in the center and you’d need to change subway lines, walking is probably easier and more direct. A great example is:
- Montenapoleone (the fashion district) to Lanza or Cairoli (Castello Sforzesco)
Especially at the Duomo, if you just go down into the first metro entrance you find, you may actually be quite far from the actual tracks. You can end up walking quite a bit underground, when you could have been on street level seeing the city!
Metro tickets are good for use on trams and buses, so don’t count them out when you’re considering how to get around Milan.
WHERE TO BUY TICKETS
Milan isn’t considered Italy’s most modern city for nothing. You have a couple electronic ticket options:
- buy tickets on the app of ATM, Milan’s public transport company.
- even better, go contactless by using your credit card to pay as you go directly at the turnstiles!
I haven’t used contactless yet but I can’t wait to try it out the next time I’m in Milan.
Old school? You can buy paper tickets at:
- ticket machines in metro stations
- tabaccherie (tobacco shops) and edicole (newsagents) in and near the station
Due biglietti per la metropolitana per favore. Two tickets for the subway please.
The large metro stations at major train stations– like Centrale, Garibaldi and Cadorna– have masses of people going through them, especially at rush hour. This can translate into long lines at the metro ticket machines,
Ticket machines accept credit cards (when they’re in service). I have always found the machines unreliable and confusing, even though I’m fluent in Italian!
My recommendation: so you don’t have to waste time buying tickets every time you ride, buy a bunch of tickets at once.
Remember to keep your ticket with you during your ride so you can use it to leave the station.
HOW MUCH ARE TICKETS
A single metro ticket costs € 2.20* and is valid for 90 minutes after you first use it to go through the turnstile. Within those 90 minutes you can use it on ATM’s trams and buses too.
Depending on how much you’ll be riding, you may want to consider buying a day ticket, instead of multiple single tickets. A day ticket is € 7.60*.
If you’ll be in Milan for longer, there’s a three-day ticket with unlimited rides for € 13*.
Children under 14 years old ride for free*.
*on my most recent visit – prices may change
Metro lines M1 (red), M2 (green) and M3 (yellow) are open from 5:30 am until 12:30 at night. Line M5 (light purple) is open from 5:30 am until midnight.
On Christmas and May 1 hours are reduced. For special events like concerts at San Siro, the metro has additional service and slightly extended hours.
MILAN’S METRO LINES
Milan has 4 metro lines, with 1 more in the works:
Line M1 (red) runs from SESTO 1° MAGGIO to either RHO Fieramilano or BISCEGLIE.
Line M2 (green) runs from ASSAGO or P.ZA ABBIATEGRASSO to COLOGNO NORD or GESSATE.
Line M3 (yellow) runs from COMASINO to S.DONATO.
Line M4 (dark blue) is still being constructed. It currently goes from SAN BABILA to LINATE airport (2023).
Line M5 (light purple) runs from BIGNAMI to SAN SIRO.
Lines M1 and M2 split into branches. Make sure you get on the right branch if you’re going out past the fork where the line splits.
HOW TO FIND YOUR TRAIN
First things first: find the entrance to the metro station! Look for a sign with the metro logo: a white M in a red square.
Once you’ve gone downstairs and through the turnstiles, look for your metro line. If you’re in a station with more than one line, use the line’s color to guide you. You’ll see signs on the walls and even along the floor.
To figure out which train to get on, follow signs for the train heading towards the last stop in the direction you need to go.
ATM, Milan’s public transport company, is working on making the public transportation system more accessible, especially because the city will be hosting the 2026 Milan Cortina Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games. On paper, there is either an elevator or stairlift in most metro stations.
In reality, services are often broken. Use this link to check if the elevator or stair lift is working at your station. Furthermore, no more than 1 wheelchair is allowed per train car at a time!
Milan has a ways to go. In the meantime, the message unfortunately seems to be: don’t count on the metro being accessible.
Funny thing: the official metro map doesn’t show which stations have bathrooms (servizi igienici). Does that mean there aren’t any bathrooms in the subway?
Luckily, there are plenty of metro stations with bathrooms in Milan, but you have to pay to use most of them. Who knew?
I’ve never been brave enough to use them, so I can’t attest to how clean they are. But a good rule of thumb in Italy is always carry tissues and hand sanitizer with you.
WHAT TO EXPECT ON THE METRO
- Milan subway cars are generally well equipped with handrails and places to hold on (especially the newer cars).
- Displayed inside the metro car there are maps of the line you’re on, so you can follow along and be prepared to get off at the right stop. Even more, the stops are announced in Italian and English.
- Remember to keep your ticket so you can get out of the station, and transfer to trams and buses.
- Keep up with the flow of people, and keep your wits about you. Especially when on a metro line with platform screen doors, move on board quickly: when the doors shut, they shut. Keep your children close to you.
- As for safety, watch your purse and wallet like you would when riding the subway in any city.
Before their stop, locals usually get up from their seats and move near the door so they don’t have to do it at the last minute and risk missing their stop. You will hear them ask Scende alla prossima? (Are you getting off at the next stop?) and Permesso (Excuse me) as they maneuver through the crowd.
It is polite to say prego (go ahead) and make way for them if you are not getting off at the next stop.
Scende alla prossima?
HOW TO GET TO THE MILAN AIRPORTS BY METRO
The Milan area has 3 international airports: Malpensa, Milan Bergamo and Linate.
There is finally direct metro service to one airport: Linate! Take the M4 (dark blue) line to LINATE AEROPORTO.
Otherwise, you can get to Milan’s airports by taking the metro part way, and then train or bus the rest of the way.
The metro station with the most connections is CENTRALE station (M1, M3). which is right below Milan Central train station.
Here are your options from Milan Central station:
Malpensa Airport (MXP) is 49 km northwest of Milan.
- The Malpensa Express train leaves Milan Centrale station every 30 minutes (approximately 1 hr ride).
- Four bus companies run service to MXP from Milan’s Central train station, leaving every 20 minutes. (approximately 1 hr ride, subject to traffic)
Bergamo Airport is in Ora al Serio, 45 km from Milan.
- Terravision bus runs about every 30 minutes (50 minute ride)
- Orio shuttle bus runs every 30 minutes (50 minute ride, subject to traffic)
Linate Airport (LIN) is just 7 km east of Milan.
- By metro: take the M4 subway line to San Babila
- Linate Shuttle runs every hour (25 minute ride, subject to traffic)
Garibaldi (M2, M5) and Cadorna (M1, M2) metro stations also have ground transportation connections to airports.
TAKING THE METRO TO MILAN’S TRAIN STATIONS
Ready to explore the rest of Italy? From Milan Centrale you can get pretty much anywhere you want to go by train. Take a high speed train to Florence, Venice, Rome, Naples and beyond. Or use the regional trains to get to smaller cities and towns.
Milan’s other major train stations with metro service are Garibaldi (M2, M5) and Cadorna (M1, M2).
HELPFUL ITALIAN WORDS FOR USING THE METRO
Here are some words and phrases that will come and handy when you’re taking the metro:
|i mezzi pubblici||public transportation|
|il treno||the train|
|la metropolitana||the subway|
|la metro||the subway (nickname)|
|il binario||the track|
|la direzione||the direction|
|la fermata||the stop|
|il biglietto||the ticket|
|Vorrei due/tre/quattro/cinque biglietti.||I would like two/three/four/five tickets.|
|Dov’è la metropolitana?||Where is the subway?|
|Qual’è la prossima fermata?||What is the next stop?|
|Scende alla prossima?||Are you getting off at the next stop?|
|Scendo alla prossima.||I’m getting off at the next stop.|