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Monday, November 16, 2015

Stresa Train Station: Information And Common Questions

Stresa station, taxis waiting.

Over the years there are certain questions that have been asked repeatedly about train service. This post consolidates that information and the Top Questions About Trains, with the hopes of making it as easy and enjoyable as possible for you to make use of the Italian trains. Check other posts for other transportation information.

1. How do I get to and from Malpensa Airport by train?
The most frequently asked question. On this post it is described that you can get to Stresa from Malpensa in various ways. One of those ways is by switching trains at the station in Busto Arsizio, as described in that post. Now there is also the new shuttle train, Milano Express, from Malpensa to Milan. This is another simple way (not the fastest however) to arrive in Stresa by train. Take the Express train directly from Malpensa to Milano Centrale (MI C.LE) and then take a train from Centrale to Stresa. Check all time schedules carefully in advance to be sure trains are traveling at the times you need. If possible, buy your ticket (at least from Milano to Stresa) in advance of your trip, for peace of mind. You can always change it if needed due to a flight delay. The Malpensa Express runs often and tickets can be purchased on the lower level of Terminal 1, at the train station.

Even if you need to wait a short time in Milano Centrale and your trip takes a little longer overall this is an easy and relatively stress-free way to arrive in Stresa. The trouble with going to Busto Arsizio from Malpensa is the confusion regarding where to change trains, (at Busto Arsizio, not at Busto Arsizio Nord), which leads to more stress and potentially being at the wrong station in a small town with limited options. But it will get you to Stresa faster than going through to Milano.

Remember, during the summer season there is the Alibus shuttle which goes from Malpensa to Stresa. Train service is if you are traveling outside of the Alibus season, or have other reasons to take the train.

2. Do I need to buy train tickets in advance? 
This is the second most frequently asked question. The answer is usually no, in theory, you do not. But for peace of mind, as well as planning your trip, if you are planning journeys to other cities, or taking the high-speed Frecce trains, for example, you may want to buy your ticket before the trip. Think of it as you would for booking a flight, since you will be choosing seats as well as the day and time. Tickets can be bought online through the Trenitalia site for most trips. Tickets can only be purchased a certain number of days before the travel date. If you do not succeed in purchasing your tickets online, but still want to get them in advance of your trip, you can purchase all your tickets, regardless of which train line they are, at the ticket window at the Stresa (or any) station. For example, if you are traveling to Venice, you will be given a ticket to Milano, and then a second ticket from Milano to Venice. If you are making a round trip you can also buy your return tickets, and will be given those tickets as well. I have bought tickets on the same day of my trips; however, if I am traveling at rush hour or a day I expect to be busy, or taking a Frecce, I usually buy them in advance.

2a. Do I want an EC, an IC, or a R train?
For a nicer ride, if possible, take an EC (Eurocity) or an IC (Intercity) trains. These are the newer express trains. The trip will be almost half the time of the R trains, which are regional trains that make many stops at local stations. You are assigned a seat in these trains and there are some services. Take the R trains if you need to get to one of the stations not serviced on the others, or if it is a time that works better for you. They cost far less, making them an economical choice as well. R regional train tickets do not assign you a seat. They are also undated, can be used within a certain timeframe, and must be validated on the day you use them, by punching them in the (usually) yellow validation boxes. See the question below for more information on this. For longer trips between major cities, the Frecce trains are efficient and comfortable.

Helpful hint: If trying to purchase a ticket online and having difficulty booking a trip that requires a change of trains, try to put each leg of the trip into the system separately and see if that works.

3. Do I need to validate my train tickets at the station?
When you don't: If your ticket has a date, carozza, and seat number on it you do not need to validate it. Just show it to the ticket collector when asked on the train. In fact, if you bought it online you can show them your ticket confirmation on a smartphone or other device, which they will then scan.  I often travel this way now.
When you do: You do need to validate your ticket only if your ticket has no date on it, i.e., if you bought a regional ticket at a station without an exact day and time printed on it. (If you bought your R ticket online it is prevalidated; show it to the ticket collector along with an ID.)

3a. How do I find my assigned seat on the Italian trains?
As stated above, in the EC and IC, as well as Trenitalia and Frecce trains, you have an assigned seat. Regional trains, no. Look for the following information on your ticket:
The Train number: Often a two-digit or four-digit number; to confirm you are on the correct train. Ex.: EC34
The Binario number: Binario is the track your train is on. More important in large stations with many tracks.
The Carozza number: The Carozza is the carriage in the train you will be in. It is shown outside the train near the doors, as well as inside if you are walking through the cars to reach your seat.
The Posto number. This is your seat number. It is posted on the walls of the train or on the side of seats, much like an airplane.

Note that people do obey their assigned seats. Don't try to sit elsewhere unless you ask permission to exchange with someone, or if the train is quite empty.

On R trains you may sit anywhere; no assigned seats. On R trains, there is sometimes no air conditioning in summer, another consideration.

3b. Why can't I get to _______ directly from Stresa by train?
Because you can't. You cannot get to everywhere from everywhere via a direct train, just as with airplanes. That said, it is so easy to get to so many places from Stresa by switching in Milano Centrale. Think of Milano as the center of a wheel with many spokes on it. Spokes that go to wonderful places, such as Firenze, Venezia, Lake Como, Roma, the Adriatic Sea, etc., etc. And Stresa is one of those spokes as well. Yes, it would be a perfect world if we could get onto a train, sit, and arrive at our destination. But it's an almost perfect world by being able to get to all these wonderful places from Stresa by making a change of trains at Milano Centrale.

3c. Do I want Milano Centrale (MI C.LE) or Milano Porto Garibaldi (MI P.GA)? 
Generally speaking, unless you need to get near the Garibaldi station, Centrale is the center of the wheel and has the majority of the trains. Also know that the stations are about one mile from each other in Milano, and so, if truly necessary, a taxi could bring you from one station to the other. Note that Milano Centrale is written MI C.LE on tickets, monitors and elsewhere. Milano Porto Garibaldi is written as MI P.GA.

4. Can I get tickets for the Lago Maggiore Express at the train station? What about the other tickets for the trip?
Yes, you can get tickets for this train/boat combination trip at any of the train stations, boat stations included on the trip, or at many tourist offices in town. Any of these places will ticket you for the entire journey and explain the trip and schedule to you. The Stresa Tourist Office at the main boat dock will also be very helpful in explaining how this enormously popular excursion works. I do recommend getting your information and tickets a day or two in advance, only if to understand what to expect and bring. This post has good information on it:

5. What does the information on the signs tell me? 
The screens in train stations list arrivals and departures (partenze). If a train is arriving later than expected it will be listed as "in ritardo", and the number of minutes late it will be. If it is listed as "soppresso", that is the bad news that the train has been cancelled. If you have a ticket for a train and this happens return to the ticket booth where they will exchange it for another train.

Compare the train number on your ticket with the signs to find your train. Your destination may not be listed; trains are listed with the final destination of the line.

6. Can you tell me if it is a level walk to the railway station, the main ferry departure point and the centre of town as we have a person with a wheelchair in our group.
This is a very good question. Stresa is flat along the lake and has a wide path that runs the entire distance of the lakefront between the two imbarcaderos, a distance of one mile.  Piazza Cadorna, the center of Stresa,  is just a couple of streets in from the lake and is also flat and very accessible. However, a little bit further inland Stresa begins to travel uphill very quickly and steeply. The train station is located here, about a 15 minute walk from the lakefront, but a bit uphill. Therefore, choosing a hotel along the lake and using ferries keeps one on flat ground. Many of the private water taxis are also wheelchair accessible. If you must use the train perhaps it would be best to arrange for a taxi or private car, which your hotel should be able to assist you to do. Taxis can also usually be found at the train station and boat dock.

Extra Question: And where is the train station? I can't find it on my map. 
Put this address into your map search online to find the train station. The station is about a 20-minute walk from the lakefront, the boat dock, and the main piazza. Note that the walk is downhill from the station, therefore, uphill back to it.

Ferrovie Dello Stato

1 Via Carducci, Stresa, VB 28838


Below follows the original text of the post from 2009, which offers more descriptive information of the Stresa train station. Some helpful links to other posts follow it at the bottom of this page.

Located on via Carducci , Stresa's train station is a short walk from the lakefront (about 15 minutes) and the majority of the hotels, and if you don't feel like walking, there are usually taxis waiting for you. Outside, the structure has a bit of a Swiss feel; trains do come and go here from Switzerland after all, less than an hour away to the north.

The main room inside, where there are the ticket windows, is older, marble countered and wood trimmed. There are large framed photographs on the walls, sepia toned, historical photos from long ago.

There is a bar; it is large and the cappuccino is good. They offer free seating both inside and out. A TV is mounted high on one wall, usually is showing the news. There is also a full-service restaurant, with a curved glass wall serving as a divider in the center of the room. I've noticed at lunchtime this restaurant gets very crowded.

Un cappuccino per favore, prima di partire... A cappuccino please, before leaving.
(   Continued ...)

And then there is the newsstand. This may be, hands down, one of the best-stocked little news shops I've every been in. With magazines, books, and newspapers in several languages, as well as some music, games, postcards, and a variety of other items, this is one-stop shopping for any reading materials you may want. They also carry a great selection of tour guides for the region. What I like to do is choose a variety of Italian magazines to bring back to the U.S. to share with other friends learning Italian. In this shop, it's hard to choose which.

The restaurant at the station.

When you walk through the station to the tracks, the track directly in front of you is the track heading to Milano. If you are heading north, you'll need to walk down the stairs and under the tracks to the other side.
The side of the track that I am standing on is the side heading to Milan.

The regional ticket I bought is not dated. Therefore, when I'm ready to board the train I'll punch the ticket into the yellow box to be stamped with the current date, validating it for my trip.

All the information is here, on this wall outside the station near the track. A poster with the schedule, a monitor announcing trains, and the yellow box to self-validate your ticket.

By compiling information from various train posts here I hope you have a better understanding of the trains, and more confidence to use them. They are truly easy, efficient, and pleasant.  

And here's the Trenitalia site,, (this is the link to the English version).

And this is the post about traveling from Malpensa to Stresa

This is information about temporary luggage storage at the Stresa train station, a service I believe is still available as of this writing. 

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