‘I’m part of this crazy history’: Finding inspiration in the middle of Italy’s second wave

What's it like to live through one of Italy's strangest years? Cartoonist Adam Rugnetta, now weathering his second lockdown in Milan, shares his observations.

'I'm part of this crazy history': Finding inspiration in the middle of Italy's second wave
What have you been doing to get through Italy's second Covid wave? Image: Adam Rugnetta

Everyone in Italy has felt the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic. 

For Adam Rugnetta, an American teacher living in Milan, they've shaped his life for much of the past year.

As an author and illustrator, one of the ways he found to process the situation was to draw – at least the first time round.

“I was able to weather the first lockdown because I was writing my book, Beyond Choice. So while I was saddened for the suffering, inside my home everything was going well,” he tells The Local.

“This lockdown, however, things seemed darker. The American election, the second wave, the Covid burnout was getting me down.” 

Milan lies in one of Italy's 'red zones': high-risk regions under maximum restrictions, with only essential travel permitted, most shops and restaurants closed and schooling moved online.


Seeing infection rates and death tolls climb again, then returning to lockdown after months of relative freedom, has been tough.

“I was starting to sink, so I decided to inspire myself,” Rugnetta says.

With individual exercise one of the few outdoor activities still permitted, he has been using his runs around Milan to break the monotony and observe the city. On one recent outing, he was struck by an argument near the Navigli, the famous canals lined with bars and restaurants that are currently forbidden from serving customers.

“I was sitting there listening to chill-out music from a takeout place while guys were preparing to murder each other. The irony of the moment and the fact that I could see it clearly made me think it was time to start cartooning again,” he says.

“Luckily, it worked. Running and cartooning brightened my days. This project, along with some better news, are making me really feel the light at the end of the tunnel.”

See the illustrated version of the story: 

Originally from Buffalo, New York, Adam Rugnetta is a teacher and author living in Milan. You can find more of his work on his website, on Twitter and on Instagram. His graphic novel, Beyond Choice, is available to buy online.

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Member comments

  1. No matter how tough it is now, please pick up a history book and read what life was like in Italy between September 1943 – April 1945 for perspective.

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Metro, bus or tram: Milan’s tickets, passes and apps explained

Whether you’re moving to Milan or just visiting, getting to grips with the city's public transport system will be one of your first priorities. Here's what you need to know.

Metro, bus or tram: Milan’s tickets, passes and apps explained

Public transport in Milan is efficient, reliable and relatively cheap. 

However, navigating the dense network of trams, buses and metro lines servicing the city might not exactly be a piece of cake at first, especially for foreign nationals. 

So here’s a guide to help you get to grips with Milan’s public transport system sooner rather than later.


Milan’s urban area is serviced by four metro lines (M1, M2, M3, M5) – a new one, M4, is currently under construction and is expected to be fully operational by late 2024 – and over 130 bus routes and 19 tram lines. 

Milan metro lines

All metro lines and stops in Milan. Source: ATM Milano

All of these services are conveniently managed by a single operator, ATM (Azienda Trasporti Milanesi). This means that a single ticket or pass will allow you to hop on any given means of transport in the city and freely switch from one to the other without additional costs, provided, of course, that you haven’t exceeded your ticket’s validity time. 

Aside from your ticket’s duration, you should also always pay attention to the city’s fare zones. 

READ ALSO: What are the best Milan neighbourhoods for international residents?

Standard tickets and passes only cover the three first zones (Mi1 to Mi3), so a journey to any location outside of those zones (Mi4 to Mi9) requires a different ticket or the addition of a supplementary fare to your pass (tariffa integrativa). 

Be advised: travelling on the wrong ticket will cost you dearly as fines for transgressors start at 120 euros. Also, ticket inspectors in Milan are famously unreasonable.

Tickets and passes 

ATM offers a wide range of tickets and passes to customers, so you’ll never be short on options. Here’s a brief overview.

Standard single ticket (zones Mi1-Mi3): A single ticket is valid for 90 minutes and allows for unlimited journeys within the given time window and, of course, only within the relevant fare zones. Each ticket costs 2.20 euros.

Daily ticket (zones Mi1-Mi3): A daily ticket will get you unlimited journeys within a 24-hour window for just 7.60 euros. The time window starts when first validating the ticket.

Fare zones in Milan

Fare zones in Milan, from Mi1 to Mi9. Source: ATM Milano

Three-day ticket (zones Mi1-Mi3): A three-day ticket will cost you 13 euros. As for daily tickets, the time window starts when validating for the first time.

10-ticket bundle: A 10-ticket bundle will set you back 19.50 euros. Each ticket is valid for 90 minutes. 

Monthly and annual passes: While tickets are the best option for visitors, getting a monthly or yearly pass would be the best course of action for a resident. 

Monthly passes for Milan’s urban area cost 39 euros, whereas annual urban passes go for 330 euros. In both cases, a number of generous discounts are available for under-30s, low-income residents and the elderly.

READ ALSO: Five things you’ll only know if you live in Milan

It’s worth noting that, unlike standard tickets, monthly or yearly passes must be loaded onto a personal ATM travel card. To get one, you’ll have to submit a request through the relevant ATM web page and then ask for the card to be delivered to your address or pick it up yourself at one of the given metro stations. 

Where and how can I buy tickets?

From paper tickets to contactless payments, there’s no shortage of ways to pay your public transport fare in Milan. Here are your options.

Paper tickets

They might not be the most eco-friendly option but paper tickets are still around in Milan. 

The best way to get them is from a self-service machine at your nearest metro station – card payments are accepted – though you can also find them at a number of edicole (newsagents) or tabacchini (tobacco stores) across the city. A full list of authorised sellers is available here.

READ ALSO: Moving to Italy: How much does it really cost to live in Milan?

Validating paper tickets is fairly straightforward as you’ll only have to insert the ticket in the appropriate slot (you’ll find one on every metro entrance gate and on brightly-coloured boxes on buses and trams) and wait for it to be stamped. 

A passenger waiting for a train in a Milan metro station

Milan has four metro lines but a new one is currently under construction. Photo by Gabriel BOUYS / AFP

However, you should keep in mind that you’re meant to validate your ticket every time you switch to a different means of transport. Also, when using the metro, you’ll need the ticket to both get in and out of the underground, so make sure you don’t lose it during the journey. 

RicaricaMI card

All types of tickets except monthly or yearly passes can be loaded onto a RicaricaMI travel card. 

The card can be bought at any ATM point in the city or at any of the above-mentioned authorised sellers. 

This is a good alternative to paper tickets, not least because you’ll only have to tap it against the given reader to validate it.

ATM app

The quickest (and possibly the easiest) way to get a ticket is through the ATM Milano app.

No registration is required and you can pay for tickets with your credit card, PayPal or Satispay. 

READ ALSO: Six essential apps that make life in Milan easier for foreign residents

After validating your ticket, a QR code will appear on your screen and you’ll have to scan this to get through the metro barriers. However, scanning isn’t required on buses and trams. 

The app can be downloaded here


Finally, all metro lines and three bus lines (56, 70 and 73) allow travellers to pay their fare via a contactless bank card – Mastercard, Visa, American Express, Maestro e VPay are all accepted – or any other contactless device (phone, smart watch, etc.).

You’ll always be charged the cheapest available fare (find out more about this here) and there are no extra costs or commissions.

Linate Airport just outside of Milan

ATM’s bus 73 connects central Milan to Linate Airport. Photo by Miguel MEDINA / AFP

That said, ATM recommends that people use the same card (or device) to tap in and out of metro stations so as to avoid being charged twice. 

Airport travel

ATM’s bus 73 connects central Milan (Via Gonzaga, behind Piazza Duomo, to be exact) to Linate Airport and a standard single ticket will be enough for the journey.

Naturally, there are other ways to get to Linate, including the Linate Shuttle and several Autostradale coaches, but these are not managed by ATM so you’ll have to get your tickets elsewhere.

As for Malpensa, all services between central Milan and the airport are managed by companies other than ATM. 

However, prices are still very affordable: the Malpensa Express costs 13 euros, whereas a one-way journey on the Malpensa Shuttle is 10 euros.