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This guide to train travel in Italy will help you navigate the Italian railway system and feel comfortable booking train tickets for your next sightseeing adventure.

a train waiting to depart from milan central station

Train travel is a great way to see Italy’s incredibly diverse landscape, which ranges from plains and rolling hills covered in vineyards to stunning coastlines and mountains.

It’s fairly easy to travel across Italy by train, but I know it can seem a little overwhelming at first with all the different options and train types.

And since many of you have a lot of questions about train bookings in Italy, I thought I’d put together a guide that hopefully will help. So, let’s start…

Train types in Italy

First thing first, there are three main types of trains in Italy:

High-speed trains are the fastest trains that allow you to travel to Italy’s major cities quickly and comfortably. Their services include assigned seats, ample luggage storage, and wifi, and you can book tickets in advance online. Italo trains and the Frecciarossa, Frecciargento and Frecciabianca trains provided by Trenitalia fall into this category.

Intercity trains connect major cities on long distances, they’re cheaper but a bit slower. They usually have air conditioning and you get an assigned seat in 1st or 2nd class.

Regional trains are what you need if you’re planning to explore smaller towns and villages. In comparison to fast trains, they’re cheap (and their prices tend to be fixed), but they’re also much slower since they have many stops. Because the seats are first-come, first-served, you’re not guaranteed one, especially during peak travel times. Also, there’s rarely air conditioning or first class. They are identified by RV (Regionale Veloce, a bit faster) and R (Regionale, the slowest). 

Which train company shall I choose?

There are two train companies operating in Italy: Trenitalia and Italo.

The main difference between the two is that Italo only offers fast trains connecting major cities (like Milan, Rome, Venice, Turin, Florence, Naples), while Trenitalia offers high-speed, intercity, and regional trains. So, if you need to get to small towns and villages, you’ll need to use Trenitalia.

When it comes to high-speed trains, both Italo and Trenitalia offer free wifi and power outlets, as well as a seating option for four people facing each other, which is great for family trips or groups of friends.

High-speed trains in Italy

Photo: Wikipedia

Trenitalia’s high-speed fleet consists of Frecciarossa (the fastest train), Frecciargento, and Frecciabianca trains. Tickets come in four different classes – Standard, Premium, Business, Executive (more info here). There are also three main types of fares: Super Economy (no changes, nor refunds allowed), Economy (you can change it by paying the price difference, no refunds), and Base (you can change it by paying the price difference; partial refund allowed). 

Italo train in Italy

Photo: Italo SpA

Italo offers four different service levels: Smart (the cheapest), Comfort, Prima, and Club Executive (further info here). You can choose between Low Cost (no changes nor refunds allowed), Economy (changes and refunds allowed for a fee), and Flex (changes are free, while refunds come with a fee).

Italo is my go-to when visiting big cities because it tends to be cheaper and on time. In general, I guess the choice will mostly depend on where you’re going and the time schedule available. Standard class is good and comfortable with both train companies, and I usually choose the cheapest ticket with some flexibility (for example, the Standard Base with Trenitalia). 

Shall I purchase train tickets in advance?

I get asked this a lot, and my answer is always yes! Why wait if you’ve got it all planned out? Booking train tickets in advance is a wise move especially if you are traveling to popular places or during peak season.

Also, when you buy your train tickets in advance, you don’t just save time during your trip, you’ll also get some great deals. You can always opt for flex fares if you need to change plans for whatever reason.

To clarify, only high-speed trains to big cities should be booked in advance (like Milan to Rome, Venice to Florence, etc.). Regional trains, on the other hand, usually have fixed prices, so buying them ahead isn’t necessary or advantageous. In fact, buying regional train tickets in advance can be a problem since they are usually non-refundable and non-changeable.

Is it better to buy train tickets at the station or online?

Personally, I buy all my train tickets online, either on the websites or through the official apps, because it’s just so easy and convenient.  

Both the Trenitalia and Italo sites have a section in English; the option to change the language is at the top of the homepage, on the right-hand side. Just remember to type the city name in Italian (eg Venezia, not Venice).

Tickets purchased online don’t need to be validated or printed. You just have to show your phone to the conductor when you’re asked to do so.

Tip: don’t register when buying your train tickets online. Registering is only for Italians and you don’t need an account to buy a ticket. So don’t try to enter your details, you might end up stuck on that registration page forever!  

Alternatively, you can get tickets right at the train station. Tickets can be purchased at the ticket counter or using the touch screen kiosks, where you’ll generally find uniformed staff helping you out.

Ticket counter at Milan Central Station

Photo: Wikipedia

Getting the names of the Italian train stations right

Like airports, Italian train stations have names. Additionally, major cities like Rome, Milan, or Venice have multiple train stations, so you need to know which one you need when you book your train tickets.

These are the names of the main stations in big Italian cities:

  • Rome: Roma Termini
  • Venice: Venezia Santa Lucia
  • Milan: Milano Centrale
  • Florence: Firenze Santa Maria Novella
  • Turin: Torino Porta Nuova
  • Naples: Napoli Centrale
  • Cinque Terre: use La Spezia Centrale, it’s the main transportation hub in the area

What shall I do when I am at the train station?

Upon arriving at the train station, look for the big electronic board with all the Partenze (Departures).

For each train that’s leaving, you’ll see the train number, the final destination, and the binario (the platform number). Say you’re traveling between Milan and Florence on Italo train 9947: the board will say “Napoli” next to the train number since that’s its final destination.

Also, the platform number usually appears only a few minutes before departure time, so if you get there early and don’t see it on the board, don’t panic.

In big stations like Roma Termini and Milano Centrale, you’ll have to go through airport-style security gates to get to the platforms – there are no scanners, just controllers who check your tickets.

Train timetable in Florence Santa Maria NovellaThe importance of validating your train tickets 

When you travel on a regional train, make sure you validate your paper ticket before boarding. There are small machines (usually green or yellow) on the way to the platforms where you can put the ticket so it’s stamped with the date and time. You’ll get fined if you don’t validate your ticket!

You don’t need to validate regional tickets that you’ve bought online and printed at home, nor intercity or high-speed tickets as these are valid only for that specific date and train.

What do I do if someone takes my seat on the train? 

First of all, remember that your seats are allocated on high-speed and intercity trains only while on regional trains, seating is first-come, first-served. However, it does happen sometimes that someone else is already sitting in your reserved seat, but most of the time you just show your ticket to prove that it’s your seat and they’ll apologize right away and leave.

In the unfortunate event that they refuse to move, talk to the conductor. Don’t forget that sometimes there’s a language barrier, and what seems rude may just be a result of not understanding each other.

Where do I find the conductor in case I need help?

The conductor is usually on the platform when you get on the train. Once the train starts moving, you can either wait for the conductor to come check your tickets or go to the first coach.

What if I miss my train?

This depends on what train it is and what ticket you have.

Regional trains give you a 4-hour window from validation. If it’s a high-speed train, you’ll have to buy a new ticket unless you booked a flexible fare that lets you change it (it’s more expensive, but it’s totally worth it for peace of mind!).

How do I change the name on a train ticket?

It’s not necessary to add the names of everyone on your train ticket, just the person booking it. And even if you are asked to add every passengers’ name, from my experience the conductor never checks them.

Interior of a train in ItalyDo train stations in Italy have luggage storage facilities?

Yep, all major train stations in Italy have luggage storage facilities. Here are the main ones:

How to avoid scams at train stations in Italy

You’ve got to be cautious walking through a train station in Italy, just like you would anywhere else. Let’s face it, a foreigner carrying luggage and looking a little disoriented is a prime target for a scam, right? Play it cool, look confident, and learn some basic Italian – it will help a lot!

Fake taxi drivers are one of the most common scams. You’ll see people approaching you as soon as you exit the station and asking if you need a taxi. I suggest you stay away from them and get in the official taxi line, even if it’s long…it’ll save you lots of headaches! Also, be sure your taxi is metered, don’t ask for a forfeit price.

You’ll also often see the soon-to-be-helpful person that will lead you to the right platform or help you at the ticket machine. These people are only after your money. Once again, stay away from them and never show your tickets to anyone (you only have to show your ticket to access the platform and to the conductor on the train). If you’re being approached by suspicious people, just say “No thanks” or “Basta!”.

Don’t let scammers discourage you from taking trains in Italy – this could happen anywhere. And remember, there are people out there who are genuinely trying to help.

What to do when there’s a train strike in Italy 

No matter how much you plan ahead for your train travel in Italy, you might run into a sciopero dei trasporti (transportation strike). But luckily, strike plans aren’t a secret and they’re often announced well in advance. There’s even a website that lists all upcoming transport strikes. It’s in Italian only, but it’s not so hard to read – just filter for Trasporto Ferroviario under the Settore column.

Also, a sciopero can last from a few hours to all day and can involve the whole local transport system. However, minimum service is usually guaranteed during peak hours (6 am – 9 am and 6 pm – 9 pm).

Milan central stationWhere do I put my suitcases when traveling on Italian trains?

First of all, there’s no luggage fee and no weight limit, and you can take your own suitcases on the train.

On regional trains, you can put your suitcases on the racks above your seat or just on the floor next to you.

On high-speed trains, you can put carry-ons and medium-sized suitcases on the shelf above your seat, but anything larger should go on the luggage racks at the end of each coach. You may also find a spot between two sets of seats.

I’ve never had a problem with my suitcases on trains, but if you’re worried, try seating close to the entrance of the train coach or buy a wire lock to secure your bag to the rack. Honestly, though, there’s no need for that.

 

I hope this guide will help you navigate the Italian train network and buy tickets with confidence. Now, why don’t you take a look at these day trips from Venice by train and start planning some sightseeing adventures?

 


Pssst… Pin this article for future reference and get in touch if you have any questions about train travel in Itay!


Ciao for now,

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32 Comments

Hazel Joy 29 June 2019 at 15:12

Very good summary of train travel in Italy, Valentina. Good tips especially the explanation regarding the types of tickets. When I visited Italy I was surprised at how inexpensive train travel was compared to my own country.

    Val 1 July 2019 at 09:29

    Thanks so much Hazel, glad you find this useful!

Sarah 29 June 2019 at 17:04

I’m surprised to see an Italian recommend train travel in Italy.
I’ve done several train journeys in Italy over the years and I always found them relatively reliable and convenient. However several of my Italian colleagues look at me in utter disbelief if I dare suggest taking a train in Italy to them. In their opinion this is the worst thing one could ever do (as I said, I never had a bad experience with trains in Italy).
Very comprehensive guide, thanks a lot for sharing all those details. Especially when you don’t speak the language it can sometimes get a little confusing and overwhelming (well again, nothing compared to trying to find your train in france though) 😉

    Val 1 July 2019 at 09:31

    I love travelling by train in Italy! Ok, trains are not perfect everywhere, especially in the south train connections are not great, but still, I would recommend it to anyone 🙂

Ann 30 June 2019 at 07:03

Oh yes, trains are the best way to travel in Italy, I do agree 🙂

    Val 1 July 2019 at 09:31

    Thank you Ann! 😀

Emman Damian 1 July 2019 at 13:32

I love riding the trains in Italy! I forgot which one I rode in Rome when I was there 2 years ago. In any case, I want to try Trenitalia and Italo again. It looks like very comfortable. It’s very easy to buy tickets too. Very efficient!

    Val 2 July 2019 at 20:35

    Both train companies are very good, although I tend to use more Italo lately 🙂

Emily 1 July 2019 at 14:08

Excellent review of the train system in Italy. While reading your article, it strongly reminded me of the train system in Japan. There are local, express, and the Shinkansen (cross-country). Additionally, the tip about validating your ticket I found especially useful. I’ll definitely keep this post in mind during my upcoming trip!

    Val 2 July 2019 at 20:36

    Thank you Emily, glad you found it useful! 😀

Brooke 1 July 2019 at 16:14

I still remember my first train travel in Italy 13 years ago when I was a young college study-abroad student of course we had no idea about validation because nothing like that exists in the US so we took a couple train trips before we realized we had to validate our tickets and got caught out and given a ticket for it! Definitely all US or Australian visitors should be alerted to this when entering country!🤣🤣

    Val 2 July 2019 at 20:37

    It’s one of those things that you would never think of, right? And instead it’s key if you want to avoid being fined ;-D

Martha 2 July 2019 at 00:37

During my first trip to Europe, the train system was very confusing to me. I definitely could’ve used this article back then! I thought the most helpful part of this article is that you translated the stations into what the locals know them as. That was the most confusing part for me. I can’t tell you how long I was looking for Prague when it was really Praha in Czech, ha! It’s also great to know that seats are the first-come-first-serve basis. A lot of travelers do not know that and it causes a lot of commotion on trains. Great tips!

    Val 2 July 2019 at 20:39

    The names of train stations can be really confusing even for an Italian sometimes, because one city can have multiple train stations and you need to know the name of the central one if you don’t want to end up in the middle of nowhere 😛

Vanessa Ball 2 July 2019 at 04:30

It can be a bit confusing getting trains in a foreign country so this is super useful when travelling to Italy. I did get a train there once to Malcesine, pleasant experience. Great advice about buying tickets online and where to do this. Validating your ticket is something most people wouldn’t know about either. Helpful article!

    Val 2 July 2019 at 20:40

    Thank you Vanessa!!

Amar Singh 2 July 2019 at 20:33

I have had the opportunity to travel in Italy and use trains which I think are absolutely fabulous way to travel. I used it to travel to the Capital Rome from Amalfi and must admit the service and facilities were spot on. The intercity are affordable and if booked in ad ave can get you some great bargains. This is a very informative post to help choose the right trains and an overview to people who are looking to use the train in Italy. Thanks.

    Val 2 July 2019 at 20:40

    Thank YOU Amar!

Lisa 3 July 2019 at 20:18

This is an excellent guide to train travel in Italy. I’ve only ever taken TrenItalia, and quite enjoyed it! I’ve not heard of Italo, so will look out for it the next time we’re back. Great tips on getting them online too, it makes it much easier.

    Val 8 July 2019 at 11:27

    Yep, try Italo, I love it!

Yukti 5 July 2019 at 13:29

Thanks for sharing a very informative guide on Italian trains with all information about how to purchase tickets and different types of train. During my 1 week tour to Italy, I took Trenitalia for commuting and it was very comfortable and on time. I too agree that stations of Italy are named in Italian and therefore for non-Italians, it is very confusing and therefore to know some stations in advance would be preferred.

    Val 8 July 2019 at 11:25

    Thank you Yukti!!

Tea 5 July 2019 at 17:10

This is such a useful post! I recently travelled from Verona to Trento by a train. And it would have been very useful if I read your post before.

    Val 8 July 2019 at 11:24

    I hope you managed to see something of Verona before boarding the train 😉

Sarah 27 July 2019 at 09:14

I recently used the train to visit both Lake Garda and Venice whilst staying in .Verona and found it an excellent service, far better and cheaper than UK trains. I definitely want to see more of Italy using the train. How is the train service in Sicily?

    Val 8 August 2019 at 10:26

    In the south of Italy train connections (and public transport more in general) can be less frequent and with with fewer lines/connections. That’s why I tend to suggest to rent a car instead.

Shreya Saha 2 August 2019 at 15:43

This is a really informative blog on trains in Italy. I think buying tickets online is a better idea than getting them in stations. Thanks for the tip for not trying to register online as only Italian citizens can do it. I would rather buy them online without getting bothered about registration.

    Val 8 August 2019 at 10:32

    It’s really easy to buy all the tickets online and saves you sooo much time!

xoso888 22 August 2019 at 07:30

Excellent post. I used to be checking continuously this blog and I’m impressed!
Very helpful information particularly the remaining phase 🙂 I care for such information a
lot. I was seeking this particular information for a very lengthy time.
Thanks and good luck.

    Val 10 September 2019 at 10:20

    So glad you find this useful and thank so much for your kind words 😀

Joanne Kooy 2 December 2019 at 04:44

Hi If I book an Italobus connection from Rome to Sorrento can I go from Sorrento to Pompeii the next day with Italo?
Thanks
Joanne

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Ciao! I'm Val, an Italian blogger with a huge passion for my country, its culture and traditions. My Italian Diaries is the online space where I share itineraries, activities and off-the-beaten path places to help you experience the best of Italy like a local!

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