Getting to Italy from the United States is a breeze. Alitalia, American, Continental, Delta and U.S. Airways all have direct flights to Italy, while the options multiply greatly when you add in a stop in Northern Europe. I've always found that the cheapest way to fly between North America and Italy is to get a cheap ticket to London or Dublin or another airport that has a low-budget carrier, and switch to Ryan Air, EasyJet, etc.
Italy: By Air Gallery Photos
Italy: By Air
Besides giving Milan a 20th-century alternative to the tiny Linate airport downtown, one reason that the Malpensa airport, by the Swiss border, was opened was that it was supposed to be less affected by the area's notorious fog. Advertisements at the airport claim that Malpensa has a gleaming record on that front, but ask anybody who has been held up for more than 24 hours there until the fog cleared, and you'll get a picture of just how meteorologically cursed northern Italy can be. The problem is most urgent at Linate. On one foggy day in November 2001, Linate saw the worst airport accident in the nation's history when a small private plane wandered into the path of a Scandinavian Airlines flight taking off for Denmark, killing more than 100 people. Visibility was partly to blame.
Due to the fog, well-documented baggage thefts, and the interminable strikes by airline and airport staff, flying in and out of Milan can be a headache. Most of the time, though, it really is convenient. Malpensa has a built-in railway station with modern trains leaving for downtown every half hour. It can take as little as an hour between clearing customs and stepping off the train next to Milan's downtown castle. Linate is even better situated, just a 20-minute taxi ride from the city's epicenter, the Duomo. And since the bulk of international traffic has been redirected to Malpensa, Linate is often quite deserted. It makes Milan look more like a provincial outpost than the nation's financial capital. Rome's airport in Fiumicino, named after Leonardo da Vinci, is also relatively convenient, if slightly outdated. The trains there are not as modern as in Milan, but only take about 40 minutes to reach downtown. Weather is rarely a problem, and except for the crowds that are common in any national capital”especially in late spring and early summer”it is no more chaotic than the city itself.
Several minor airports in Italy have now found a niche market in serving low-cost airlines. If you are flying from within Europe on that sort of carrier, be prepared to make one of the following cities your gateway to Italy: Ancona, Bergamo, Brescia, Pisa, Pescara, or Venice. Just about every city in Italy has at least a small airport, but most domestic air travel in Italy is concentrated on flights to Sardinia and Sicily, or between the North and the South. The Milan Rome shuttle is certainly the most popular for business travelers, though many people who work in the North have family in the South, and so flights between Turin and Bari, for example, often sell out over the holidays.