Rome and Milan are Italy's largest and second-largest cities, respectively, but sometimes they feel like they are cities in two different countries or eras. Rome is filled with millennia-old ruins and small, winding streets, while Milan is modern and chic with huge thoroughfares and luxury brands. Both places offer a uniquely Italian je ne sais quoi, and the best way to experience that is to visit them both.
Train travel is the preferred method of transportation in Italy, and trains run often and quickly. Tickets are affordable if you purchase them in advance, but just like flying, they get more expensive as your travel date gets closer. You could also fly between the two cities, but the airport hassles make the train a more appealing option. Last-minute planners can save a lot of money by booking a seat on a very long bus ride, or if you want to rent a car, you can leisurely enjoy the Tuscan countryside on your way north.
How to Get from Rome to Milan
|Train||3 hours, 15 minutes||from $44||Arriving on a time crunch|
|Bus||8 hours||from $17||Last-minute plans|
|Plane||1 hour, 10 minutes||from $57|
|Car||5 hours, 30 minutes||356 miles (537 kilometers)||Exploring Italy|
Frequent trains run between Rome's Termini and Milan's Milano Centrale train stations. A few fast trains also leave from the Roma Tiburtina station. Trenitalia's high-speed Frecciarossa trains make the trip from Rome to Milan in as little as 3 hours, 10 minutes, although some take longer. Intercity (IC) trains take anywhere from six to eight hours but cost much less. You'll need to reserve a seat but you don't need to change trains to get between Rome and Milan. You can check current Rome to Milan schedules and ticket prices on the Trenitalia website.
Italy's privately owned high-speed rail line, Italo, also offers train service from Rome's Termini or Tiburtina stations to Milano Centrale, with some nonstop trains that make the trip in three hours. If you can plan ahead, Italo offers some great advance-purchase prices online, including for their Prima (first class) and Club (executive class) coaches.
Both Trenitalia and Italo offer dozens of daily high-speed trains from Rome to Milan (and vice-versa), with departures from around 5 a.m. until 8:50 p.m. With so many daily trains, you could just show up at the station and purchase your tickets on the day of travel, but you'll get the best deals if you book in advance online.
Both Rome and Milan have multiple train stations, so if you want to compare the schedules and prices for all stations without doing a new search every time, choose Roma (Tutte) for the departure city and Milano (Tutte) for the arrival city—tutte is Italian for "all" and will show you all available options.
Milan has three airports: the larger Milan Malpensa (MXP) with many international flights, the smaller Milan Linate (LIN) with flights mainly from other parts of Italy and Europe, and Bergamo Airport (BGY) which is outside of Milan and the farthest away. Italian airline Alitalia has several daily flights from Fiumicino Airport in Rome to all three Milan airports. Malpensa is the larger international airport, but Linate is much closer to the city center and a more convenient option for regional flights.
Flights to Milan usually cost about the same as trains, and even though time in the air is just over an hour, once you factor in all of the extra time it takes to commute to and from the airport, check-in, go through security, and wait at your gate, going by plane actually takes much longer than the train. The train takes you directly from city center to city center, and there are so many daily options you should have no problem finding a time that works for your schedule. As an added bonus, going by train is much friendlier to the planet.
If you're making spur-of-the-moment plans to go to Milan, train and flight prices may have skyrocketed, especially if you're traveling on a weekend or holiday. The bus takes much longer—usually between eight and 10 hours—but even same-day tickets could be as low as $20. It's a long ride and you'll lose either a day of travel or a night of restful sleep, so if you must resort to the bus, you might consider breaking up the trip and spending a day or two in one of the cities along the route, such as Florence or Bologna.
The most popular coach company is Flixbus, and be aware that the pick-up and drop-off points are not centrally located in either city. In Rome, the bus stops are either at Tiburtina station or Anagnina, and in Milan, most of them leave passengers at Lampugnano bus station. All of them are connected to their respective city center by public transportation, but don't forget to take that extra time into account.
If you are traveling by car, the A1 autostrada, or highway, runs between Rome and Milan and the trip can be made in about five and a half hours—although traffic in both cities can dramatically increase the driving time. Driving in the Rome and Milan city centers is not recommended and in many cases not allowed unless you're a resident. If you're arriving by car, try to choose a hotel that has parking and is not right in the historic center.
Driving in the cities is a headache, but the route itself is easy. Not only are Italian highways well-maintained, but you'll also be driving through the gorgeous Tuscan countryside. If you're in a hurry to get to Milan you can drive straight through, but the best way to take advantage of having a car is to stop along the way and enjoy the road trip. You'll drive right through Florence, Bologna, and countless quaint Italian towns that are worth your time.
Italian highways do use tolls based on the total number of kilometers you've driven, and since the drive from Rome to Milan is almost half the length of the entire country, expect to pay about 40 to 45 euros when you exit. You can pay by credit card, but foreign cards aren't always accepted, so it's a good idea to have euros on hand just in case.
What to See in Milan
Rome is the capital of Italy, but Milan is often considered the economic and cultural capital. Not only is it the center of high Italian fashion—being the home of renowned brands like Prada, Dolce & Gabbana, and Armani—but it's also seeping with history. Every large Italian city has a cathedral called a Duomo, but when anyone is talking about the Duomo, they're referring to the church in Milan. It's the largest Gothic cathedral in the world and is a must-see site when visiting the city. Another famous piece of history is nearby in the Santa Maria della Grazie church, which houses Leonardo da Vinci's painting, "The Last Supper." Apart from shopping and sightseeing, Milan puts its own spin on Italian cuisine with typical dishes from the area like risotto and veal Milanese. One of Milan's most famous pastimes is aperitivo, the local version of happy hour where locals hang out at a bar, sip on an Aperol spritz, and enjoy buffets of food set out to snack on.