Heading to Florence from Milan by train? Here’s what to expect.
From getting train tickets before your trip, to what to expect at the station in Florence, I’ve got you covered step by step. You’ll find my tips and advice peppered in along the way.
I have done this trip countless times, most recently with my husband and two children in July 2023. Find out about:
- How to get train tickets
- Italy’s train companies, explained
- Amenities at Milano Centrale station
- How to find your train and track, and get on smoothly
- What it’s like on the train
- Tips at the station in Florence
- Helpful Italian words and phrases to know when you’re traveling by train
Tutti a bordo? Andiamo! All aboard? Let’s go!
Table of Contents
Both Milan and Florence have multiple train stations. For the fastest and most frequent trains, make sure you buy a ticket from Milano Centrale station to Florence (Firenze) Santa Maria Novella station.
ITALIAN TRAIN OPERATORS
For the trip from Milan Central station to Florence S.M.Novella station, there are two railway operators to choose from:
- Trenitalia is the Italian state train company. It is part public and part private-owned, and runs throughout Italy. It has both regular regional trains, and high speed service– called Frecciarossa, Frecciargento and Frecciabianca.
- Italo is a private railway company that has been operating since 2012. It has high speed service to select major and strategic cities only.
Full disclosure: After riding Trenitalia’s Frecciarossa for years, I’ve converted to Italo. I’ve found their prices to be consistently better. Look out for promo codes on their home page.
Whichever company you choose, if you want to go directly to Florence from Milan without getting off to sightsee at cities along the way, I highly recommend taking a direct, high speed train (no connections). It only takes about 2 hours.
There is a time and place for taking a local, regional train– but in my opinion, this trip isn’t it.
WHERE TO BUY TICKETS
Milano Centrale station has ticket offices but I recommend buying your tickets online or at the ticket machines.
The most convenient way to buy tickets for both Trenitalia and Italo is online. On the internet you’ll find many sites selling train tickets: I’m a fan of using the official Trenitalia and Italo websites.
You don’t need to print your tickets out. Simply show the conductor the ticket on your phone when you get on board, and they’ll scan the QR code.
Since high speed tickets at both companies include a reservation, specific train and seat number, it is not necessary to validate or stamp your ticket before you get on the train (like you used to!).
AT TICKET MACHINES
If you don’t have time to buy a ticket online in advance, don’t worry. You can buy a ticket at one of the station’s many ticket machines. They’re scattered all over the station.
Don’t worry if you don’t speak Italian– you can choose English on the opening menu.
The high speed train trip from Milan to Florence is only about 2 hours. For such a short trip, I’ve found that riding the basic class level (Standard on Trenitalia, Smart on Italo), is perfectly comfortable.
However, you may want to spring for more privacy, a quiet section, more space and other perks.
On Trenitalia the travel classes are (from basic to most luxurious):
- Quiet Business (Business Area Silenzio)
- Business Salottino
On Italo the travel classes are (from basic to most luxurious):
- Club Executive
Keep in mind: If you want to take advantage of Trenitalia or Italo’s private station lounges free of charge, you need to purchase a Business Salottino or Executive ticket (on Trenitalia’s Frecciarossa), or a Club Executive ticket (on Italo).
MILAN’S CENTRAL STATION: MILANO CENTRALE
Milan’s main train station is called Milano Centrale.
The pronunciation of Milano Centrale is: mee-LAH-noh chehn-TRAH-leh
Listen to how to pronounce Milano Centrale here:
Entering Milano Centrale is quite an experience: it’s a large, imposing, ornate behemoth.
Be prepared for the station’s hustle and bustle: it’s Europe’s second largest and busiest train station. To make sure you have time to navigate through the station and get to your track on time, I recommend getting there with at least 20 minutes to spare.
The train tracks and main hall are on their own level above the street. There are escalators as well as stairs to get up there (there is an elevator but good luck finding it).
Milano Centrale station has 24 tracks. With the trains in front of you, they’re numbered from left to right.
Finding bathrooms inside the station is quite the adventure. Follow the signs to the mezzanine level, but be warned: you must pay to enter the bathroom.
It took us so long to find the bathrooms and we were so annoyed when we found out there was a fee that we decided to hold it and look for a coffee bar outside the station.
WHERE TO WAIT
Luckily, there are benches out in the main hall on track level where you can get off your feet and wait for your train.
You can also sit down at one of the many cafes and restaurants.
Milano Centrale has 2 private lounges:
- The Freccia Lounge is on track level in front of tracks 20-21. Only Executive and Business Salottino ticket holders are allowed admittance (and members of Trenitalia loyalty programs). Sometimes during promotions, other passengers can purchase a single entrance to the lounge.
Open 8 am to 9 pm
- The Italo Club Lounge is located on track level in front of tracks 17-18. Only Club Executive ticket holders and members of Italo loyalty programs can enter, but Smart and Prima ticket holders can buy an entrance ticket to the lounge.
Open 8 am to 9 pm
FOOD AND SHOPPING
Milano Centrale is part train station, part mall (galleria commerciale). You have a variety of places to choose from if you’re hungry or thirsty, from high quality chocolates and gelato to American fast food.
Food lovers should check out Mercato Centrale, which is like a gourmet Italian food court. It’s located on the northwest side of the station (with the tracks at your back it’s to the right) and has 2 floors!
There’s a supermarket in the basement level called Conad Sapori & Dintorni. It’s open from 7 am to 8 pm and is a good place to pick up snacks for your trip.
The station even has clothing and makeup stores if you get there early and want to do some shopping.
Here is a complete list of the stores at Milano Centrale station.
FINDING YOUR TRAIN
To find the track where your train will be departing from, look for the big black and orange digital boards labeled Partenze (Departures). There are also monitors throughout the station.
Usually your track will only be posted about 10 minutes before departure.
Your train will be labeled according to its final stop. This may be Firenze Santa Maria Novella, but it more likely will be Roma Termini or Napoli Centrale.
Any delays are posted on these boards, with approximately how many minutes the train is running late.
Listen for announcements about your destination: Firenze Santa Maria Novella station. In Italian the pronunciation of Firenze Santa Maria Novella is: fee-REHN-tseh SAHN-tah mah-REE-ah noh-VEH-llah
Listen to how to pronounce Firenze Santa Maria Novella here:
GETTING ON THE TRAIN
Once you know what track to head to, check your ticket for your carrozza (carriage) and posto (seat number).
On the side of each train car, the carrozza (carriage) number is labeled by the door at both the front and back. Some Frecciarossa cars also tell you which seat numbers are closest to that door.
If your train hasn’t arrived yet, look up. Some platforms have signs posted above you lined up to where each car will be.
WHERE TO PUT YOUR LUGGAGE
There is overhead luggage storage over the seats in standard/smart class carriages. However, if you have bags that are too large for the overhead storage, head to the end of the car. There is a storage space in the corridor.
ON THE TRAIN
AMENITIES ON THE TRAIN
I think riding high speed trains in Italy is fun (when they’re running on time!). High speed trains have air conditioning, bathrooms (like airplane bathrooms), individual electric sockets, free Wifi and online entertainment.
If you get hungry or thirsty, Italo trains have vending machines at the end of every couple cars. Frecciarossa trains have a cafe/snack bar.
Think ahead and use the train bathroom before you get off in Florence! You have to pay to use the bathrooms at the station in Florence, and they’re a pain to find!!
VIEWS FROM MILAN TO FLORENCE
The first part of the trip from Milan to Florence goes through the flat countryside south east of Milan, through the plains of Lombardy and Emilia Romagna to Bologna. You’ll see farm fields and vineyards, as well as factories and highways.
After Bologna, the second part of the trip goes through the Apennine mountains. You can’t see much out of the window because you’re in tunnels a lot of the time.
ARRIVING AT THE FLORENCE SANTA MARIA NOVELLA TRAIN STATION
Florence Santa Maria Novella station is not nearly as impressive as Milan’s Central station. However, exit the station and Florence’s Renaissance treasures are waiting for you just a block away.
BATHROOMS AT THE FLORENCE SMN TRAIN STATION
Florence station isn’t the place to be if you have to pee. Bathrooms are few, far between, and you’ll need to pay (get your euro coin ready). If you can, use the bathroom on the train before you get off in Florence.
There is a bathroom in the west end of the station off of track 5.
To use the bathrooms in any of the stores at the train station, you need to buy something (and use a code on your receipt to access the bathroom).
There are also bathrooms downstairs in the shopping mall (galleria commerciale) under the station.
Keep in mind that bathrooms close at night after about 9 or 10 pm.
WHERE TO WAIT FOR A CONNECTING TRAIN
Unfortunately, there is no public seating in the main part of the station if you need to get off your feet and wait. A lot of people just suck it up and sit on the floor.
However, there are two private lounges:
- The Freccia Lounge, located in front of you to the right (with the tracks at your back). Only Executive and Business Salottino ticket holders are allowed admittance (and members of Trenitalia loyalty programs). Sometimes during promotions, other passengers can purchase a single entrance to the lounge.
Open 6:30 am to 9 pm
- The Italo Club Lounge, also located in the southwest part of the station on track level. Only Club Executive ticket holders and members of Italo loyalty programs can enter, but Smart and Prima ticket holders can buy an entrance ticket to the lounge.
Open 7:05 am to 9:05 pm
FOOD AND SHOPPING AT THE FLORENCE TRAIN STATION
If you arrive in Florence hungry, there are plenty of places to have a coffee, a drink, or snack (gelato anyone?). At track level there are cafes, Venchi (a chocolate and ice cream store), a bookstore, and even makeup stores.
In the mall below the station, in addition to places to buy food and drinks, there are also clothing, shoe and gift stores, among others.
Here is a complete list of the stores at Florence Santa Maria Novella.
If you want to leave your luggage at the station while you go explore Florence, there is a Kipoint luggage storage facility along track 16.
Santa Maria Novella station is in the heart of Florence. It’s a 10 minute walk from the Duomo.
If you’re heading farther afield in the city, catch a taxi in front of the station to the left (with the tracks at your back).
The T1 tram stops on the west side of the station (with the tracks at your back, take the exit to the right and walk down the steps).
HELPFUL WORDS AND PHRASES
Keep your ears open: you’ll hear these words and phrases all around you when you’re traveling by train from Milan to Florence.
|The train||Il treno|
|The station||La stazione|
|The track/platform||Il binario|
|The train car||La carrozza|
|First class||Prima classe|
|The bathroom||Il bagno|
|The suitcase||La valigia|
|La fermata||The stop|
|Alta velocità||High speed|
|Where is the station?||Dov’è la stazione?|
|Where is the bathroom?||Dov’è il bagno?|
|Where is track 5?||Dov’è il binario cinque?|
|Where are the taxis?||Dove sono i taxi?|
And if you’re doing a round-trip, check out my guide to Taking the Train from Florence to Milan!