Getting to Como from the USA:
You will of course need a passport. If you even think you might want to do this seminar, start getting a passport now, it will take between 4-6 weeks through normal channels, you can get it faster for an extra fee. They are good for 10 years and cost about $110 + $25 execution fee for first time applicants. For American citizens you do not need a visa to visit Italy and there are no fees for entering the country.
Milan is a major business center in Europe, so getting flights to & from anywhere in North America is not difficult. If you live near any major city you can get either a non-stop flight or you may have to change planes once, 2 at the most. Your flight should cost between $1000-$2200 round trip. The best Milan airport to fly into is Malpensa, but Linate or Bergamo are also options.
Getting from Milan's Malpensa airport to Milan or Como:
Como is about 25 miles (40 KM) north from the center of Milan. It is served by 2 train lines, an International station that from Como will take you to Milan's main train station, Stazione Centrale & a commuter station that will take you to the Milan North Railway's, FNM (Ferrovie Nord Milano) Cadorna station.
From Malpensa airport, Milan's main airport, you can get the train, take a cab, arrange for a private car to pick you up or rent a car & drive yourself to Milan or Como. Make SURE you either have a GPS with Italy or eastern Europe installed or rent one at the airport from the rental companies.
The train: The Malpensa Express - this train goes from Malpensa to Milano and will always let you off in Milano at the Cadorna station on either track 1 or 2. This is the last stop and you will know because everyone will exit the train.
If you are traveling light and are comfortable with finding you way around a train station in a foreign country do this if you want to go to Como:
1. After clearing passport control and customs at the Malpensa Airport, exit into the arrivals hall and take the elevator one floor down to the train station. The large glass elevators are wonderful. You walk into one side, and exit the other side, so no turning around in the elevator. Follow the signs to the train ticket office. You will walk through some glass doors then a darkened passage way. From there bear left & the ticket office will be in front of you or slightly to your left.
2. Purchase a one-way through ticket to Como Nord Lago from the train station ticket office. Make sure to specify that you're going to Como Lago (The name of the station) and not Milano.
3. Stamp the ticket in the yellow machine at the top of the down escalator, which will take you to the train track. (Very important! If you do not stamp the ticket you can face a fine.)
4. Board the Malpensa Express Train headed towards downtown Milano (Cadorna Station), but GET OFF at the SARONNO Station (20 minute travel time) (This is the town where they make Amaretti di Saronno and cookies with the same name). Be prepared to exit the train quickly, as it stops in Saronno for less than one minute. NOTE: There is only one other station in between (Busto Arsizio), but not all trains stop there.
5. If needed, use the underground tunnel ("sottopassaggio") to connect to the northbound commuter train bound for Como Nord Lago. Connection time is usually ONE MINUTE, so don't dilly dally! Travel time to Como Nord Lago (the final stop) is 38 minutes or less (a few trains make the run in 30 minutes). The connection at Saronno (which is a very small station) is extremely easy.
The reason I say if you are "traveling light" this is a good way to go is, in most Italian train stations, in order to change trains you will need to take the stairs down and then back up. If you have several heavy bags you will get a real workout. From Como you either walk to your hotel or take a cab which will be outside in front of the train station. I take the cab, you can go almost anywhere in Como for about €15. The Saronno train station may have an elevator, but having lived in Italy I can tell you it may not work and there is no sense of urgency to fix it.
NOTE: Not all trains from Malpensa will stop in Saronno, so be sure you get on the correct train. Some trains go non-stop to Cadorna station in Milan. Some stop once or twice but not in Saronno.
Traveling heavy or are not comfortable changing trains - this is how I get to Milano or Como:
1. After clearing passport control and customs at the Malpensa Airport, exit into the arrivals hall and take the elevator one floor down to the train station. The large glass elevators are wonderful. You walk into one side, and exit the other side, so no turning around in the elevator.
Follow the signs to the ticket office. You will walk through some glass doors then through a darkened passage way. From there keep walking and bear left & the ticket office will be in front of you or slightly to your left.
2. Purchase a one-way ticket to Milano Cadorna and another ticket from Milano Cadorna to Como Lago from the train station ticket office. Make sure these are two tickets and not having to change in Saronno. NOTE: If you just say you want to go to Como Lago they will sell you a ticket to change trains in Saronno, a big pain if you have a lot of luggage.
NOTE: The entire Malpensa Express Train is one class only. The train from Milano to Como will have 1st class (prima class) or second class (secondo class). If you are tall (6' or more) buy the second class ticket as the 1st class seats are very uncomfortable for tall people.
3. Stamp the ticket in the yellow machine, just stick the ticket in, at the top of the down escalator, which will take you to the train track. (Very important! If you do not stamp the ticket you can face a fine.)
4. Board the Malpensa Express train headed towards downtown Milano Cadorna, which will be the last stop.
5. When you arrive in Milano Cadorna you will need to change trains. Beause this is the last stop there are not any underground passages. Sol platforms are all on the same level making the change almost painless. You will get off the train & move towards the front of the train, (just follow everyone else) & when you are in front of all the other trains look up to your left & look for Como on the electronic signs. Normally it is Binario 3 (Platform/Track 3). The Cadorna station is not a huge train station so going from the Malpensa Express, Binario 1 or 2, to any other track will take a minute or so. It is busy so there will be a lot of people but it is not normally packed. Look for the yellow ticket validators.
The trip from Malpensa to Milano will take between 25-35 minutes and the trip from Milan to the Como Lago station will take about an hour. The Malpensa Express costs about €11 and the train to Como from Cadorna is about €4 for a second class seat. First class might be less crowded but most international flights arrive in the morning and going from Milan to Como in the morning the train is not normally crowded. The exception might be if it is a holiday or on the weekend. The Malpensa Express train is all the same class.
From Como you either walk to your hotel or take a cab which will be outside in front of the train station. I take the cab, you can go almost anywhere in Como for about €15.
Taxi, private car or renting a car & driving.
You can take a taxi for about €100 - €150 (about $120.00 to $205.00 depending on the exchange rate) or a private car can be arranged for about the same fee. This will take about an hour. Note: If you want to pay with a credit card, be sure to ask the driver if he takes a credit card, many do not. If you do not speak Italian, I would suggest you take your credit card out and point to it & say "Como?".
You can also rent a car & drive to Como. This is how I normally get to Como if I do not go to Milan first. Once you are in the car & on the Autostrade (like our Interstate highways), it takes about 45-60 minutes, depending on traffic. It is an easy drive but you will need to pay two tolls. Just get out your credit card and get in the lanes that says "card" or has a sign showing credit cards. Normally these are the shortest lines. Or you can pay cash, get into the longer line. If you decide to drive, having a GPS with a European map installed will make this much easier. Note: For about $130 you can rent a car from Hertz for a day and for $250 for 4 days. (These prices fluctuate.)
NOTE: It has been my considerable experience that you are MUCH better off buying a GPS that has North America AND Western Europe pre-installed as the "Add on Maps" have NEVER worked reliabily. A very long and sad story, but I learned my lesson. Garmin can't quite fix their problem.
However, as in just about every Italian town, parking can be a nightmare and/or expensive. But it will give you freedom to drive by the lake and explore if you wish. If you have the time and feel adventurous, it is what I would do. But after a long flight and fighting jet lag it may be better to do this after the seminar, if you elect to stay an extra day or two. You can also rent a car in Como the day before you leave & drive it back to the airport too.
I have been asked from time to time are Italians unfriendly towards Americans. The answer is no, Italians do not just like Americans, they love Americans.
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