Travel Information from Milan Malpensa Airport to Parma (very detailed)
I've recently returned from visiting gorgeous Parma and wanted to share detailed travel information to/from Milan Malpensa Airport to Parma, for those who are interested.
Arriving Milan Malpensa Airport...
After going through immigration, while waiting for baggage you can find information stands with maps of Milan and the Milan Metro (subway) in case you plan to spend any time in Milan. This is a good time to pick up one of those maps. (By the way... the Milan Metro system is 1 Euro per ride, or less if you buy a multiple or 1-day ticket.)
Also, before you pick up your luggage, this might be a good time to go to the toilet, you will see small signs to small bathrooms that are still inside the baggage claim area. (Make sure you do not go through the customs exit before getting your luggage.) If you wait to use the bathroom at the Milan central train station (Milano Stazione Centrale), you will have to pay €1 to use it there.
You are able to exchange money in the airport if needed, but you can get from the Milan Airport to Parma with only a credit card (then use a bank machine to get your Euros in Parma at a better rate) if you take the shuttle from the airport to Milan, and then the train to Parma, then walk to your hotel... but that's up to you.
Getting into Milan from the Milan Malpensa Airport... (and from Linate Airport?)
There are a few different ways to get into Milan (which you need to do, to get a train to Parma), but one is definitely better than the others. Take the Shuttle Bus.
By Shuttle Bus... Right outside of baggage claim you'll see a little store front (inside the airport) for "Malpensa Shuttle". It is €7.50 one way, or €12.00 for a round trip ticket (you don't have to know the exact time of your round trip to purchase it). If the "Malpensa Shuttle" office right outside of baggage claim has a big line, you can walk to your left (about 20 meters?) and find another office for the shuttle. You can purchase with Euros or a credit card. (I believe that there is a similar Shuttle from the Linate Airport, but I can't guarantee it, as I did not fly in there.)
I highly recommend the "Malpensa Shuttle". It is convenient, leaves every 15-30 minutes, and is inexpensive. It is a coach shuttle bus (not like a city bus), with large luggage areas underneath the bus, so that you don't have to drag your luggage on to the train. From the time your shuttle leaves the airport it will be 50-60 minutes until you reach the Milano Stazione Centrale.
By Taxi... if you really want to take a taxi you'll be paying €85, just to get to Milan. I'm not kidding. It's a fixed rate. If you're coming into the Linate airport in Milan, I happen to know that it is €50 to get to Milan by taxi.
By Train... There is a "Malpensa Express train" and a regular local train that go from the airport to Milan. The Express train takes about 40 minutes and costs €11, one way. However, no train from the airport will take you to Milan's Central Train Station (Milano Stazione Centrale). The trains from the airport will take you into Milan, to Cadorna Station. This is 5 Metro Stops away from Centrale Station. This is quite a hassle. I'm told that the local train may be a Euro or 2 cheaper (I don't know the exact cost), than the Shuttle Bus, but then you have to pay that Euro to get on the Metro and deal with the hassle. Completely not worth it, in my opinion. Now, if you're staying overnight in Milan, then it may not matter to you where you end up in Milan from the airport, but I'd still recommend the Shuttle Bus. It's much easier, especially if you have luggage.
Note, if you plan to take a Taxi while in Milan, it costs €6 to get into the taxi, plus mileage.
Getting from Milan's Central Train Station (Milano Stazione Centrale) to Parma...
When you get to the Station, immediately inside on the left is a ticket counter, with humans. (you may prefer the ticket machine though... see below) You can tell them "uno a Parma" or just tell them in English "one to Parma" and they will get you a train ticket on the next train you can make. They may ask if you want Express or local/regional. Local/regional will probably be about 30-40% cheaper, and will take you about 15 minutes longer. If you just want the next train, you may be willing to pay the extra cost. (the Express trains are nicer/cleaner trains with power outlets, but the regional trains aren't bad either (no power outlets that I'm aware of)).
Alternatively, go into the Train station, and take the moving sidewalk/escalators up to the train platform level (2 levels up?) and you can purchase your tickets with cash or credit cards at one of the ticket machines.
(The image to the right was taken in Parma. I selected "English", then I entered that I wanted to go to 'Milano Centrale' and it brought up this screen of the next 4 trains that would take me there. It shows the cost (first or second class... which is written on the outside of the train cars), duration, times, and then you just select the ticket you want. Very easy to use.)
These are really convenient and easy to use. You can select your language from the first screen and go from there. You enter that you want to go to Parma and it will show you the departure times, journey time, train types, and cost for the next 5 trains or so. This is actually probably better than going to the ticket agent. Select your train and how many tickets you need. Your ticket will tell you the platform number.
The escalators are a bit of a hassle with luggage, but doable. There is an elevator ("ascensore"), but I followed the signs and could not find it (I'm sure it's there... and I was just sleep deprived.).
Trains in Italy are occasionally canceled, or 'gulp', there can be a strike. If your train is canceled (like mine was), take a look at the large yellow, poster sized, train schedules on the wall (see the image at the left). You'll need to look around for them, but they're there. You'll look at it, look at the time, and see what trains have a stop in Parma. (The image to the left was taken in Parma. It shows all of the trains you can take from Parma in the 14:00 hour. It shows what time it leaves, each stop for that train, what time that train will reach each city, and the number in the blue circle is the platform number... you should double check the number on the lighted signs at the station though.) All stops are listed (and the information on the sign is for all trains starting in the station that you're standing in). Alternatively, I suppose you could look it up on one of the ticket machine. You'll find another train leaving soon, and you'll need to go to the platform.
(If you're on a regional/local train, you need to stamp your ticket at the little machines at the beginning of the platform... there are no stamping machines further down the platforms.)
I can't swear that this is always the case... but my train was canceled, I had purchased a ticket for a local/regional (cheaper) train, and I just got on the next train I found going to Parma. When the ticket agent came by (and they will ALWAYS come by), he said that I needed to pay a fare difference. It was worth it to me, I wouldn't have wanted to wait another 40 minutes for another local train. I have no idea if there was also a penalty assessed in there. (The ticket agent did not speak much English, and my Italian is non-existent.) In the end my total ticket price was just under €18.
Expect to pay about €9 - €19 to get to Parma from Milan by train.
If you want an idea of schedules from Milan to Parma and fares, you can check here:
Arriving in Parma...
Ok, so you've gotten to Parma. If you're not on platform 1, sorry but you're going to be dragging your luggage down and up stairs. There are no elevators. (If you have physical challenges there is a chair lift at each staircase which you can use to go up and down the stairs.)
When you exit the train station (which currently has a lot of construction... I don't know if it will be finished by July), you can find Taxis, or the local bus. You can purchase a bus ticket, if you want one at any place that sells newspapers or Tobacco. Look for a large blue "T". I believe in Parma the bus tickets are approximately €1.20 for a single ticket. (I believe you will need cash to buy a ticket.) I'm told that "taxis in Parma are expensive" and there aren't that many of them, compared to other cities. I don't know the price... sorry.
Alternatively you can walk to your hotel. Most hotels are within 10-25 min. walk from the train station. Keep in mind that Parma has a lot of narrow cobblestone streets, so if you're dragging your luggage, you'll need to deal with that. (Make the walk a bit more difficult, and definitely louder as you "thud, thud, thud" to your hotel.)
Be sure to print off a detailed map of where you are going. If you print off the map I've created here:
Please be sure to zoom in far enough that you get every tiny street name. I stayed at the Hotel Torino in the center city and did not have a map with every small street name. It took me a while to realize that things that looked like small alleys on the map, were actually small streets and necessary to know for navigation. Parma is small, and the streets are small. It is very walkable, but I'd recommend having a good map with you.
Bank Money Machines, Rental Cars, etc....
There are bank money machines everywhere. You can't walk anywhere without passing at least 6. If you need one fast, ask at your hotel for a "Bancomat". That's what they call them.
Rental Cars... you really don't want to bring a car to Parma if you can help it. You can't drive into the city center anyway without a special permit (which you can only get if you live there, or have a legitimate delivery purpose, as far as I know). If you want to rent a car for day trips, I'm told that there are some rental offices (Hertz, etc.), near the Starhotel du Park.
Tourist information... you can get maps and other tourist information in Parma, near the Duomo. I have them plotted on my map here:
You can find good tourist information here: