Capture Italy’s northern charm on a rail trip from Milan to Venice
A trip from Milan to Venice allows you to see two very different faces of north Italy. Venice (Venezia) has been attracting visitors for centuries, and its picturesque squares, canals, and gondolas are famous around the world. Milan (Milano), Italy’s cosmopolitan business capital, sees fewer tourists than the celebrated Venice, but the city is a major rail hub and is also worth a stop on your European itinerary. The two cities are well-connected by rail, and your Eurail pass allows you to make the most of the smaller but noteworthy cities en route.
How to get from Milan to Venice by train
After an early-morning stroll through Milan’s atmospheric Monumental Cemetery (yes, I’m serious), hop on the Frecciabianca high-speed train to arrive in Venice by lunch. To stop at your choice of historic cities in the Veneto Region, choose Italy’s regional trains.
By high-speed train
Every half-hour starting at 6:35 a.m., a high-speed Frecciabianca train departs direct to Venice. A few late-morning trains require a change in Bologna (which makes a nice layover for a few hours), and the direct hourly service to Venice resumes at 1:05 p.m. All trains depart from Milano Centrale Station. The speedy Frecciabianca whisks passengers to Venice’s central Santa Lucia Station in 2 hours and 35 minutes. Reservations are compulsory and require a 10-Euro fee.
By regional train
Trenitalia regional trains offer you a slightly slower service, but they are free of reservation and give you the option of stopping off at a number of interesting cities along the way. These trains also leave from Milano Centrale and only take about an hour longer than the Frecciabianca. Note that only three daily regional trains cover this route all the way to Venice. However, if you break up the journey to stop at one of the cities described below, you have the option of departing for Venice about once every two hours.
Getting to Milan train station
Nearly all trains leave from Milano Centrale. You’ll want to arrive a little early to take in this masterpiece, one of the most impressive stations in Europe. Milano Centrale is a blend of different architectural styles, especially Liberty and Art Deco. It’s located just north of the center and is reached by all forms of public transport, the easiest of which are probably the tram (lines 5, 9, 33) and the underground metro (line M2 and M3). The station is a 35-minute walk north from the Duomo.
Arriving at Venice train station
Most trains arrive at Venice’s Venezia Santa Lucia train station on the west side of the city; make sure you don’t get confused with Venezia Mestre, which is the last stop on the mainland. Left luggage (6 a.m. – 11 p.m.) is found on the ground floor by platform 1. Water buses (vaporetti) and water taxis transport visitors to hotels or other locations in Venice, but walking is probably your best bet. It takes about 30 minutes by foot to reach St. Mark’s Square (Piazza San Marco), but be careful not to get lost! If you arrive at Venezia Mestre station, just wait for the next train that will take you to the final stop, Venezia Santa Lucia, across the causeway.
Top 3 stop-overs on the Milan to Venice route
The regional train traces a classic Italian route, passing through stations at the foot of the Alps. Your Eurail pass allows you the flexibility to make a pit stop along the Milan-Venice route and explore some smaller historic cities of the Veneto Region in just a few hours. The stops listed below are a few of the highlights that will prove a welcome break on the journey from Milan.
1. Padua (Padova)
The small but lively university city of Padua has a couple big sites that merit a visit. Start your trek across the city by following Catholic pilgrims to the relics of Saint Anthony’s Basilica. Don’t leave without viewing Giotto’s magnificent frescos at Scrovegni Chapel, considered by many to be the birthplace of modern painting. (It’s wise to book a ticket for Scrovegni online in advance.) In between, you’ll enjoy walking through the atmospheric grid of arcaded streets that open into large piazzas. There are only three regional trains per day that go directly to Padua, so plan ahead. Both high-speed and regional trains make the journey without transfers.
Made famous as the setting for Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, Verona has a couple other attractions that make it a legit stop on the way to Venice. The highlight is the impressive 1st-century Roman Arena, the world’s third-largest amphitheatre to survive from antiquity, which is still in use today. Besides Juliet’s house, which you shouldn’t take too seriously, a stroll around the World Heritage-designated city reveals some outstanding urban structures and architecture, including preserved ancient Roman monuments and a multitude of Romanesque buildings.
Another ancient city in Italy’s Veneto region, Vicenza makes an exceptional stop. The old town is an easy 5-minute walk from the train station. Vicenza is known as “the city of Palladio” because of the many villas designed by Andrea Palladio, the 16th-century Renaissance architect who gave us the Palladian style. The town is a draw for architecture buffs for sure, but the rest of us will still appreciate its brilliance. The city center, including the exquisite Teatro Olimpico and commanding Basilica Palladiana, is a good place to start. Venice is only 1 hour and 15 minutes from Vicenza by train. Regional trains from Vicenza leave every 1-2 hours for Venice.