From Milan to Varenna and Tirano By Trenord Regional Train

This review shows how the trip on board a Trenord regional train on the highly scenic railway line between Milan, Varenna and Tirano is like.

Milano Centrale

After a brief train ride from Bergamo to Milan, it was time to commence my journey in earnest.

From Milan, I would take a Trenord regional train to the town of Tirano on the border with Switzerland.

These Trenord trains are not only filled with passengers traveling to and from Tirano, but also with those embarking from Milan to explore the breathtaking towns along the shores of Lake Como such as Lecco and Varenna.

Located in a beautiful mountain valley, Tirano is the terminus of the standard-gauge railway line from Milan but also marks the starting point of the famous narrow-gauge Bernina Railway that winds its way into Switzerland.

The train ride from Milan to Tirano is known for its stunning scenery, with picturesque views of Lake Como and Alpine valleys along the way.

The train journey to Tirano starts at Milano Centrale, Milan’s highly impressive main railway station.

milano centrale
The impressive exterior of Milano Centrale station. ©Paliparan
milan central railway station
Grand staircases at Milano Centrale. ©Paliparan
milan train station
The platforms of Milano Centrale station. ©Paliparan
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Boarding my Trenord regional train. ©Paliparan

Inside the Trenord train

Trains on the line from Milan to Varenna and Tirano are operated by Trenord using modern rolling stock.

Italian regional train tickets, including the Trenord services north of Milan, are known for their affordability.

A one-way ticket from Milan to Varenna costs €7.10 in second class or €10.50 in first class, whereas a journey from Milan to Tirano would be €12 in second class and €18 in first class.

Ticket prices remain fixed whether purchased online in advance or at the station shortly before departure.

It’s worth noting that not all trains on this route offer first-class seating as some are second-class only.

Although there isn’t much difference in seat comfort in my opinion, first class tends to be less crowded.

With an Interrail or Eurail pass, no additional supplement or reservation is required to ride the Trenord trains, allowing you the convenience to simply hop on board any train of your choice.

As seat reservations are not offered, there is no risk of these trains being fully booked.

While you have the flexibility to take any available seat when you board these Trenord trains, it’s highly recommended to opt for a seat on the left-hand side when traveling north from Milan to Tirano in order to enjoy the best views of Lake Como.

While the train has a toilet and there are power sockets in both classes, there are no other facilities on board, so it’s recommended to bring your own water and food.

first class seats trenord regional train tirano
First class seating on a Trenord regional train. ©Paliparan
train screen trenord
Screens in the train show all the stops. ©Paliparan
second class trenord regional train milan tirano
Second class seats on the Trenord regional train. ©Paliparan
trenord second class seats train
Trenord second class seats. ©Paliparan

Milan to Varenna-Esino
rain RE 2826 –
Departure: 1.20pm – Arrival: 2.24pm
Operator: Trenord
Duration: 1h04m
– Distance: 71 kilometres

milan varenna tirano railway
The exact route of the railway line between Milan, Varenna and Tirano. ©OpenStreetMap/Paliparan

Leaving Milan

Instead of heading straight to Tirano, I had planned to make an intermediate stop in the picturesque town of Varenna during the afternoon.

After taking some time to relax on the shores of Lake Como, I would then continue onward to Tirano on the same railway line.

The views during the initial half hour or so aren’t the most spectacular.

As you leave the extensive suburbs of Milan behind, you will still pass through a highly urbanized landscape, including cities like Monza, known for its racing circuit that hosts the annual Italian Formula 1 Grand Prix.

Although my train was absolutely packed on this beautiful Monday in June, I was fortunate that the seat next to me in first class remained empty.

milano centrale sign train milan
Departing Milano Centrale. ©Paliparan
milano centrale railway yards
Riding out of Milan’s main railway station. ©Paliparan
Milano Greco Pirelli
View near Milano Greco Pirelli station. ©Paliparan
monza trenord station
The station of Monza with an older Trenord train at the opposite platform. ©Paliparan


Shortly before you arrive at the station of Lecco you will get your first glimpses of Lake Como when the train crosses a bridge over the River Adda.

At this point, the mountains that form the formidable backdrop of Lake Como come into view as well.

Lecco serves as an important railway junction, with a line branching off towards Bergamo.

While not as picturesque as Varenna, the small city of Lecco can be a pleasant stop during your journey if you have the time to spare.

Being an important regional hub, Lecco offers a local vibe distinct from more touristy towns on Lake Como such as Varenna and especially Bellagio.

river adda lake como bridge
Crossing the River Adda just south of Lake Como. ©Paliparan
trenord milan lecco train
Stop at the station of Lecco, with a modern Trenord double deck train at the opposite side of the platform. ©Paliparan
lecco train station
The station of Lecco. ©Paliparan
lecco main street
The main street of Lecco (picture taken on a previous trip). ©Paliparan
lecco lake como
Lecco has a beautiful location on the shores of Lake Como. ©Paliparan

Along Lake Como

After the stop at Lecco, the train journey becomes increasingly scenic.

At this point, the railway line hugs the eastern shore of Lake Come, so do make sure you are sitting on the left-hand side of the train when travelling north to Tirano.

The views over the mountainous shores of Lake Como are among the best you can experience in Italy.

lake como milan varenna train
View from the train over Lake Como. ©Paliparan
train view
At this point, the railway line runs parallel to the main road. ©Paliparan
Abbadia Lariana
Passing through the village of Abbadia Lariana. ©Paliparan
mondello del lario station milan varenna
Mondello del Lario station. ©Paliparan
lake como view
Lake Como view from the train. ©Paliparan
Church of Saint Euphemia Olcio milan varenna train trenord
Passing by the Church of Saint Euphemia in Olcio. ©Paliparan
lake como
Riding along the eastern shoreline of Lake Como. ©Paliparan
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The lakeside village of Lierna. ©Paliparan

Approaching Varenna

A few minutes before reaching Varenna, you can already catch a glimpse of the town jutting into Lake Como ahead of you.

As the train passes through a railway tunnel, it slows down and directly enters the small station of Varenna-Esino as it emerges outside.

At this point, I disembarked from the train along with several dozen other passengers.

From Varenna-Esino station, the town center of Varenna is just a 10-minute walk away along a clearly marked path.

varenna train
You can already see the town of Varenna in the distance if you approach it from the south. ©Paliparan
varenna-esino station trenord milan tirano train
My Trenord regional train has arrived at the station of Varenna-Esino. ©Paliparan


In my opinion, Varenna is the most pleasant town to stop over when traveling by train between Milan and Tirano.

I will provide detailed information about my experiences visiting Varenna in the next chapter of this trip report.

varenna lake como italy
The beautiful town of Varenna. ©Paliparan

Varenna station

After a couple of hours in Varenna it was time to continue my train trip to Tirano.

Arriving early at the station of Varenna-Esino is hardly a crime as there is a charming bar located inside the station building.

As I waited for my train to arrive, I treated myself to an Aperol Spritz on the outdoor terrace of the bar.

varenna-esino train station trenord milan tirano
Varenna-Esino station. ©Paliparan
varenna station bar
The Varenna station bar. ©Paliparan
varenna train station aperol spritz
Enjoying an Aperol Spritz at the station of Varenna. ©Paliparan

Varenna-Esino to Tirano
rain RE 2832 –
Departure: 5.25pm – Arrival: 6.52pm
Operator: Trenord
Duration: 1h27m
– Distance: 84 kilometres

Onward to Tirano

Although the platform of Varenna station was full of people, it turned out that most of them were waiting for the southbound train back to Milan.

When the train from Milan to Tirano emerged from the tunnel and stopped at Varenna station, only a handful of passengers boarded the train.

Fortunately, the train was only about half-full, which allowed me to easily secure a good window seat.

Up until the station of Colico you can still enjoy some beautiful views over Lake Como from your left-hand side.

varenna station
Passengers waiting at Varenna station. ©Paliparan
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View between Varenna and Colico. ©Paliparan
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Approaching Colico. ©Paliparan
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A Trenord train full of graffiti at Colico station. ©Paliparan

River valley

Once the train departs from the town of Colico, the railway line follows the course of the River Adda all the way upstream towards Tirano.

At the beginning of the journey, the river valley is quite wide.

However, the mountains at both sides of the valley do offer some pretty views.

adda river valley
The Adda river valley. ©Paliparan
adda valley
Although it’s not as spectacular as the ride along the shores of Lake Como, the Adda valley does offer some scenic views as well. ©Paliparan
mountain valley tirano milan train
At first, the valley is quite wide. ©Paliparan
morbegno station
Stop at the station of Morbegno. ©Paliparan


Between Morbegno and Sondrio, the valley narrows and the mountains rise in height.

From the window, you can catch glimpses of quaint mountainside villages, each with its own tall church tower.

As the train nears the station of Sondrio, you can spot the Convent of San Lorenzo and two castles towering above the town.

tartano river
Crossing the Tartano River. ©Paliparan
adda valley railway line tirano
The railway line runs parallel to the main road through the Adda Valley. ©Paliparan
church mountain village adda valley milan tirano train
From the train you can easily spot the church towers of the mountain villages. ©Paliparan
view tirano train
View between Morbegno and Sondrio. ©Paliparan
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Approaching the town of Sondrio. ©Paliparan


Soon after leaving Sondrio, you’ll notice the mountainsides becoming much steeper.

A number of slopes have been terraced and converted into vineyards, adding to the picturesque scenery along the way.

View over Poggiridenti from the train to Tirano. ©Paliparan
vineyards train tirano
Vineyards around the town of Poggiridenti Piano. ©Paliparan
vineyards railway
The railway line passes directly through vineyards. ©Paliparan
View towards the town of Chiuro. ©Paliparan
terraced vineyard tirano train
More terraced vineyards on the mountains. ©Paliparan

Arrival in Tirano

While the sun was gradually setting behind the mountains, the train slowed down as it approached the outskirts of Tirano.

As the train rides into Tirano, you can already see some Rhaetian Railways narrow-gauge trains parked in railway yards on the left-hand side.

My Trenord train eventually came to a halt at the terminus station of Tirano, arriving right on schedule.

tirano arrival view
Approaching Tirano. ©Paliparan
tirano italy
View over Tirano from the train window. ©Paliparan
Rhaetian Railway yards tirano
Passing by the railway yards of the Rhaetian Railway, the company which operates the narrow-gauge trains from Tirano into Switzerland. ©Paliparan
trenord train milan tirano
My Trenord train has arrived at the station in Tirano after a beautiful journey from Milan. ©Paliparan

Tirano stations

The Trenord station in Tirano for trains to Milan is conveniently situated right next to the Rhaetian Railway station, where you can catch narrow-gauge trains heading into Switzerland.

Indeed, many travellers come to Tirano by train specifically to experience the famous Bernina Express, a scenic railway operated by the Rhaetian Railways that runs between Tirano in Italy and Chur in Switzerland.

After a night’s sleep in town that would also be my plan for the following morning!

tirano train stations trenord Rhaetian Railway
The Trenord station in Tirano (left) is located directly next to the Rhaetian Railway station for narrow-gauge trains into Switzerland. ©Paliparan


Taking the train from Milan to Varenna and Tirano makes for a scenic railway journey along the shores of Lake Como and through the mountainous valley of the River Adda.

The Trenord trains operating this route are cheap and surprisingly modern and well-equipped for a regional service.

However, during weekends and the peak summer season, these trains can become quite crowded.

Whether you are traveling directly between Milan and Tirano to connect to the Bernina Express or exploring the picturesque towns along Lake Como, this train journey will surely be a memorable experience.

Trip report index

This article is part of the ‘Scenic Trains Around Switzerland and the Italian Lakes‘ trip report, which consists of the following chapters:

1. Bergamo: A Visit to Lombardy’s Beautiful Hilltop Town
2. Travelling From Bergamo to Milan by Train
3. From Milan to Varenna and Tirano By Trenord Regional Train (current chapter)
4. A Varenna Visit: A Day Trip to Lake Como’s Most Beautiful Town
5. Tirano: The Italian Gateway to the Bernina Railway
6. Bernina Express Train: Guide to Switzerland’s Most Scenic Railway
7. Review: Swiss InterCity (IC) Train Chur to Zurich and Basel
8. From Zurich to Geneva on a Swiss ICN Tilting Train
9. Cheap Geneva Hotel: Stay Across the Border in Annemasse!
10. Around Lake Geneva by Train: From Geneva to Montreux
11. A Visit to Montreux and the Freddie Mercury Statue
12. Golden Pass: Guide to a Scenic Railway Route Across Switzerland
13. Swiss Chique: The MOB GoldenPass Belle Époque Train
14. From the Mountains to the Lake: Zweisimmen to Spiez by Train
15. Spectacular Spiez: A Visit to a Scenic Swiss Town
16. Spiez to Interlaken by Train: A Trip on the Lake Thun Railway Line

** rest of the chapters to follow soon **

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Koen works as a freelance journalist covering south-eastern Europe and is the founding father and editor-in-chief of Paliparan. As a contributor to some major Fleet Street newspapers and some lesser known publications in the Balkans, he travels thousands of miles each year for work as well as on his personal holidays. Whether it is horse riding in Kyrgyzstan’s Tian Shan mountains, exploring the backstreets of Bogotá, or sipping a glass of moschofilero in a Greek beachside taverna, Koen loves to immerse himself into the local culture, explore new places and eat and drink himself around the world.

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