On a recent vacation to Italy, I had the good fortune of being in Milan at the same time as the Italian Grand Prix, the Formula 1 event held at the Autodromo Nazionale Monza each year. Upon realizing the race day coincided with my itinerary, I knew I wanted to attend, but wasn’t sure where to sit or how to get to the event. Based on my experience, here are a few tips for international travellers looking to attend the race.
Where to Sit
This was my first Formula 1 event so deciding where to sit was a difficult decision. The Monza track is almost 6 kilometres (3.6 miles) long with lots of trees around the circuit, so you won’t be able to see much of the race with your own eyes. The cars make 53 laps so you’ll see them many times, but just in the small section of the track where you are sitting. You’ll need to decide if you want to see the cars at their absolute fastest speeds or if you would prefer to see their handling ability in one of the three chicane sections. We opted for the main straight-away in the covered grand stands (specifically stand #4 in Laterale Sinistra), and I was happy with this choice. We had a very clear view of the start and finish lines as well as the exit of the pit lane. There were large video screens set up across the track so we could follow the action in other parts of the circuit. In this area you are also immersed in the largest number of spectators, which I found to be a great part of the experience – you’ll be surrounded by many Italians clad in their red Ferrari gear, and they are very passionate about the Ferrari team.
If you decide to sit on the straight away, I would suggest that you get seats as high up as possible, which provides the best angles for seeing up and down the track. The tickets for sale on the official Formula 1 website do not allow you to select a specific row or seat, but we found an option from a third-party reseller that provided this. From our seats, which were in the very top row of the grand stand, we could see the cars as they exited the Parabolica (the big, sweeping, right-hand curve near the end of the circuit) all the way to just before Variante del Rettifilo (the first chicane, also known as Prima Variante).
Another thing to consider when selecting where to sit is whether you are comfortable without a cover overhead. With the exception of the main straight-away and the Parabolica grand stands, most of the seating at Monza is uncovered. It can be very hot at the track, so if you don’t like the idea of sitting completely exposed in the sun for 3+ hours, definitely consider one of the covered grandstands. For the race we attended in 2018 it was a relatively comfortable 25 degrees celsius, but there were a few scattered showers so we were thankful for covered seating.
In addition to the grand stand seating there are also much cheaper general admission tickets available. These tickets essentially just grant you access to the Monza grounds and it is then up to you to find a suitable viewing spot somewhere along the track. From what I could see while walking to and from our reserved seats, there were a few sections with raised grass banks that would be suitable for standing to view the race, but I assume the prime spots would get very busy so you might end up watching in groups 5 or 10 people deep. There are apparently also some general admission bleachers, but I assume these also fill up early. The general admission tickets are considerably cheaper, and give you the option to wander around during the event, but given how large and spread out the track is, I wouldn’t expect to see things from too many different spots. On the plus side, you can essentially get right next to the track in some of these spots (assuming they aren’t crowded with other fans), which would provide an incredible sense of the speed of the cars.
For specific information on what you can expect to see from each grand stand, take a look at this detailed seating guide. Also helpful is the official F1 website which shows representative photos of the view from each grand stand.
How to Buy Tickets
Tickets for all Formula 1 events are available from the official Formula 1 website and also from many resellers. By the time I actually knew I was going to be in Milan at the same time as the Italian Grand Prix, many of the tickets from the official site were already sold out. Thus, I opted to purchase from a reseller – in my case one called GooTickets.
The downside of this option is obviously the cost – the tickets were more expensive than they would have been had I been more organized and purchased from the official site when they first went on sale. But I considered this one of those “once in a lifetime” occasions and accordingly kept my practical sensibilities in check.
The upside of this option is the ability to select a special ticket category offered by GooTickets called “Premium Seat In Top 3 Rows.” This guaranteed a seat near the top of the grand stand, which in my opinion provides better viewing angles of the track. As far as I could tell, tickets purchased through the official website guarantee a specific grand stand (i.e. general location along the track) but do not allow you to select your row or seat number.
The tickets we purchased from GooTickets were couriered by DHL and arrived about a week before the start of the event. Depending when you will be travelling, this may pose some logistical challenges. It would be much simpler if there was an option to receive an electronic ticket, but at this time I believe physical tickets are the only option (both from resellers and the official website). Logistics aside, the purchase experience from GooTickets was straight forward and they delivered the tickets as promised.
Getting To and From Monza
Given the language barrier and the heavier reliance on public transportation than private vehicles in Italy, getting to and from the Monza race track, especially on the main Sunday race day, can be a bit of a challenge. If you are dead set on driving yourself, there are parking lots around the track, but none of them will be very close. Most of the local roads around the track will be closed and you will have to park and then walk to the track, or potentially take a shuttle depending where you are ultimately able to park.
Instead of driving or relying on a Taxi or Uber (any of which could get caught in traffic), I recommend taking a train from central Milan to the race track.
On Sunday (the main race day), there is special train service from Milano Centrale station run by Trenord, which for €5 gets you a round trip ticket to and from Biassono-Lesmo Station, which is located at the Northwest corner of the Monza raceway. The tickets can be purchased online from the Trenord website or from an attendant right on the train platform before you board. In my opinion the special train service is the most straight-forward option as it doesn’t involve any transfers to shuttle buses and the direct trip only takes about 25 minutes, but it does involve a fair bit of walking once you arrive.
If taking the special train on race day, keep in mind that it only runs between certain times, with the last train leaving Milano Central station about 2 hours before the race starts. Here’s a copy of the 2018 special train schedule for reference. One important nuance of this special train service is that on your way to Monza you board at Milano Centrale station, but on the return trip, the train stops at Milano Porta Garibaldi station. Not to worry, your return ticket is also valid for a free transfer at Milano Porta Garibaldi, so you can connect to one of the many trains that go on to Milano Centrale – just look at the electronic boards for the appropriate train and an indication of which platform it will be arriving.
When you arrive at Biassono-Lesmo station, you will have a short walk to the Northwest entrance (labelled Ingresso D on the Monza map) where you will go through a standard security screening. Just follow all the other people that get off the train.
If you are attending events at the track on Friday or Saturday, or if you would prefer to enter the Monza grounds from the East side instead of the Northwest corner, you can catch a number of regular trains from either Milano Centrale or Milano Porto Garibaldi:
- From Milano Centrale: look for trains headed to Lecco, Tirano, or Chiasso
- From Milano Porto Garibaldi: look for trains headed to Lecco, Bergamo, Chiasso, Molteno, or Chiavenna
The trip takes around 20-30 minutes, trains run quite frequently, and tickets cost around €2 each way. Disembark at Stazione di Monza at which point you will need to walk about 45-60 minutes (despite sharing a name, the Stazione di Monza and the race track are actually quite far apart) or catch a black-line shuttle bus (tickets are €4 euros return). The shuttle bus unfortunately still drops you off a fair distance from the race track, so expect to walk about 20 minutes from the bus to the Eastern entrance gate (labelled Ingresso A on the Monza map) near the Parabolica portion of the track. Also allow additional time to then walk from the entrance gate to your seats.
Other Helpful Tips
Here are additional tips to make your visit at Monza more informed and enjoyable:
- The security check at park gates consists of a metal detector and bag check. You are permitted to bring in your own food and non-alcoholic drinks, but any beverages must be in plastic bottles not exceeding 500 ml. Before attending, I saw that the website mentioned no glass bottles, but at the security screening my 500 ml insulated metal water bottle was also confiscated. If this happens to you, take a photo of your bottle and at the end of the event exit from the same gate, as they actually kept all the confiscated bottles and made them available for pick up. Thankfully mine was still there and I got it back.
There was bottled water and Heineken beer (the title sponsor) available for purchase from vendors walking up and down the grand stands at somewhat reasonable prices (i.e. €2.50 for 500 ml bottles of water)
There were several food vendors spread out across the park grounds, but the lines looked long. I didn’t purchase any food so I can’t speak to its cost or quality. To keep things simple, consider stopping somewhere before your trip to Monza and pick up snacks to bring with you.
There is a fighter jet flyby at the start of the race, but if you are in the covered grand stands you won’t be able to see them. You’ll definitely hear them though!
The Formula 1 cars are loud so I would definitely recommend bringing ear plugs with you. I didn’t see any for sale on-site, but I didn’t look particularly hard either. Better to err on the side of caution and bring your own if you want to be sure you have some form of protection with you.
There were lots of volunteers positioned along the network of paths in the park leading from the entrance gates to the various grand stands. While some could speak better English than others, I found it pretty straightforward to just show my ticket to any of them and they could then direct me with hand motions toward my grand stand. They were all helpful and friendly in my experience.