In and Out of Malpensa

Updated: Sep 8, 2020

Counting backwards to 1999 when we made our first trip to Italy to reconnect with our family in Milano, we have through effort and osmosis acquired a lot of information and experience traveling with our Italy family and friends. And because our cousins live in and near Milan (Sesto San Giovanni) and in the Veneto (Montecchio Maggiore near Vicenza) and Portogruaro (near Venice) most of those trips have been through Northern Italy. We do travel on road trips into the central region to visit friends in Emilia, Tuscany, Umbria and of course Rome in Lazio but our point of departure has always been north. So for the most part, we fly into Malpensa.

Milan Malpensa Airport (MXP) is the largest international airport in the Milan metropolitan area that services Lombardy, Piedmont, Liguria and the Swiss canton of Ticino. Over 20 million passengers pass through its terminals every year. Our favored flight to take from Chicago O'Hare (ORD) is on Swiss Air by way of Zurich. Their planes are clean, attendants are detailed and professional, seats are comfortable, flights are on time, food and snacks are of good quality with Swiss chocolates and cheeses! Like any major international airport MXP has the typical bars, restaurants, shops, lounges and business facilities but for us the best part of the airport is passenger pickup where we meet our family (abbiamo aspettando per voi).

The history of MXP began in the early 1900's when prototype "flying machines" took off from an uncultivated field near Cascina Malpensa. Early biplane gliders developed by Gianni Caproni and Henri Coanda were tested and perfected at Malpensa and Caproni together with his brother (a recent graduate of Bocconi University in Milan) and other collaborators built a hanger and began designing a piloted aircraft for a test flight in May of 1910. The Caproni.1 (Ca.1) had to be towed to the runway by a donkey. The flight itself lasted about 30 minutes and ended with a rough landing that heavily damaged the aircraft although the pilot was unharmed and the flight considered a success. The original Ca.1 is on display at the Volandia Aviation Museum not far from the Malpensa airport.

In 1943 the airport was taken over by the Nazis when Northern Italy was invaded by Hitler. After WWII manufacturers and politicians from Milan and Varese restored the damaged airfield and in 1948 Malpensa Airport officially opened for commercial flights.

Because MXP is about 30 miles away (NW) from central Milano we often stay at the First Hotel at the Malpensa Airport the night before our flight back home. It is near Terminal 1 & 2 with a 24 hr shuttle service. Well-priced and positioned with free parking and close to where we drop off our rental car, it is the most convenient place to spend the night before an early departure.

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