Do I really need to join the Discord server?
Kinda. This is where attendees initially get to know each other, where recommendations for hotels are shared, and where official announcements from the organizers are shared.
Unless the event dates and/or location changes, you will not get any notification via email.
Last but not least, the Discord server has a channel dedicated for coordinating activities, which is a very low-fricion way of joining other people for breakfast, dinner, drinks, …
How do I reach Milan from the airport?
Milan is served by three airports: MXP, LIN and BGY.
In short, we recommend either LIN or MXP as first choice, and BGY only in case you have better flights than the alternatives.
Linate (LIN) is the airport closest to the city of Milan. It used to be less convenient than Malpensa (MXP) but now it has a metro line connection making it equally convenient as MXP.
Malpensa (MXP) has the second easiest access to Milan: once you exit the arrivals area, follow the sings pointing to the train station, from there you will be able to catch fast trains to the city center. Some will take you to Cadorna, others to Centrale. Both stations are in the city center and are connected to the metro system, so you’ll probably want to just catch the first one available.
To board the train you will need to buy a ticket (about 13 eur). If you find it convenient, know that you can also buy the ticket by using a contatless payment terminal (they also support Google and Apple Pay).
Bergamo Orio al Serio (BGY) will require you to use a a transport method on wheels to reach Milan. Buses headed to the city center will depart regularly and you will also find plenty of taxis.
How does public transportation work in Milan?
Milan has a well-developed network of buses, trams and metro lines that will easily allow you to move around.
All those systems share the same ticketing system. In practice it means that a basic 90min ticket (1.50 eur) will allow you to use all surface and underground transport systems for the full duration of the ticket.
This is also a good moment to mention that if you see ATM written somewhere, that’s the name of the company that operates public transport systems in Milan, so if you need cash (see the related FAQ), you will need to look for a Bancomat terminal instead.
Buying a ticket
Tickets can be bought inside metro stations from automated vending machines. Those vending machines will also let you buy other special kinds of tickets, including a ticket valid for 3 days, which might be worth it depending on how much you plan to travel.
If you’re unsure, you can also just tap your card (see ‘Contactless tickets’ below) and let the system upgrade you automatically to the best class of ticket.
ATM Travel card
You might be temped to get a travel card, especially if you’re from London and used to Oyster cards. Don’t. The process is not nearly as straightforward as it is with Oyster cards, and there is no real need for it. Consider getting a 3 day ticket instead.
If you don’t like fiddling with paper tickets, all metro stations will also have contactless payment terminals at every entrance. This will allow you to just use your card (or phone) without needing anything else. The machine will lock some money on your card (around 10eur) on first use and it will automatically upgrade you to a better ticket type based on usage. Note that this type of ticket will also work on surface transport but be aware that most buses an trams will not have a contactless payment terminal, meaning that you will be able to use a ticket you purchased by entering the metro system, but you won’t be able to buy a new one on a bus or tram.
If you want to use a mobile app to purchase tickets, we recommend the Trenord app, which will allow you to get ticktes both for the city center of Milan, and also for locations further away like Monza.
Some attendees have used it also in the past and found it convenient especially for out-of-conference activities (like visiting the best ice cream shop in all of northern Italy :^).
It will require you to create an account and it will also require you to pass metro gates by showing a QR code. QR scanners used to be very finnicky in the past but the city has recently upgraded to a new version that is much more responsive.
Activating a ticket
Buying a ticket doesn’t automatically activate it. To activate a ticket you will need to validate it on first use. Entrance to the metro system is gated so you will be forced to validate your ticket to enter, but make sure you don’t forget when boarding buses, trams or trains.
After first use you won’t need to validate the ticket anymore but be aware that exiting from (almost) all metro stations will ask you to present your ticket to exit the station.
Note that all tickets are valid for a given duration of time. This means that you will be able to enter and exit the metro system multiple times and board how many buses you want, as long as you’re within the time limits written on your ticket, starting from the moment you first activated it.
Is google maps going to give me good routes?
Mostly. I think it’s on par with the rest of the major cities in the world but it is not perfect. I personally have a strong bias towards using the metro system over surface transport (because of traffic, weather, …) and Google doesn’t seem to share my same love for staying away from smog and rain.
If you’re used to dealing with public transport with more autonomy, I recommend keeping a picture of the metro line on your phone. If you have Citymapper, know that it both supports Milan and it also has the aforementioned map bundled in it.
What about electric scooters and bikes?
Yes, we have those and you might also recognize some of the companies. Milan has some bike lanes, but in my opinion you will have a better time using those to get around in areas where cars aren’t allowed (eg the Duomo square and the nearby shopping streets).
What about Uber, Lyft and Taxi services?
Full blown Uber-style services are not allowed in Italy, so if you get the Uber app you will only be able to get Uber Black (which basically connects you to local taxis and similar services). It’s still worth it maybe in terms of convenience, but expect to be charged more (i.e. they will charge you the Uber fee on top of their normal rate).
You can usually find taxis roaming around major train stations in Milan and you can also call (+39) 024040 to get one to your location. Note that if you need to book a taxi for, say, your return to the airport, I recommend talking with the receptionist at your hotel to make the arrangement, especially if you have to leave at like 3am.
Will I need cash?
As long as your credit/debit card works in Europe, you won’t need any cash while in Milan. Italian businesses are required by law to accept card payments and pretty much every shop in Milan will comply. If you move outside of the city you might encounter places that will not be happy with you paying with card for a single coffee. Also sometimes the PoS system might also be broken, meaning that the merchant has genuinely no way to process card payments.
Having a 20 eur bill might be a good way to ensure you can deal with any situation, especially if you plan to travel away from the city center, but you should consider it an optional thing.
Be aware that ATM in Milan refers to the public transport company, while Bancomat refers to what is known in the US as ATM.
How’s public WIFI in Italy?
Nowhere near as common as it is abroad. If have an European number, you won’t have to worry, since your normal data plan will work across all of Europe (sorry UK!), but if you come from outside of the EU, I highly recommend you make sure to either have an international data roaming offer by your carrier, or get a SIM that offers you that.
A simple way of getting a new SIM is to get a digital one (eSIM). A returning attendee recommends checking out https://www.airalo.com/italy-esim which offers 10gb for $12 at the moment of writing.
Will people understand me if I only speak English?
In central and turistic areas, for sure. You will occasionally find shops and restaurants where not every employee speaks English. While they will certainly try to do their best to understand you, one trick is to try to get a local to join your group when going out for lunch or dinner, as they will also be able to provide assistance past translation.