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How to travel by train in Italy

train travel in italy hero

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Traveling by train in Italy is a fantastic way to get around this beautiful country. Services are efficient and fast, and tickets are affordable. When traveling between major cities, the train will take you straight to the heart of the action.

Train travel in Italy also means avoiding any parking issues as well as traffic jams. We love to travel by standard or high speed train in Italy, but navigating your way around the system can be tricky for beginners.

This guide will take you through all you need to know about buying Italy train tickets, including the best places to purchase them. We also cover making reservations and what you should consider before booking your travel.  

Pro Tip – We use Omio to book train tickets in Italy

1. Planning your travel

When planning your Italian itinerary, it’s good to know that it’s worth booking your train travel in Italy in advance. This can save you time as well as money. Big savings can be made by booking in advance. Here is all you need to know about Italian train companies, main routes and stations, types of service and ticket and how to book.

Italy train services

There are several different types of train routes and train services in Italy. Understanding the structure of the Italian train system can save you costly mistakes and wasted time. Generally, there are high speed intercity rail services and regional trains.

High speed trains in Italy

High speed services operate between the major cities like Rome, Florence, Venice, Naples, Milan and Turin and can get you to your destination very quickly. Reaching speeds of up to 300 kilometers an hour they are convenient, fast and the best way to travel between cities. Your journey on a high speed train in Italy means getting to your destination more quickly, with less stops en-route but this all comes at a higher price.  

Italian regional trains

regional italian train

With more stops and a slower pace, regional trains in Italy are also much cheaper. These services connect with smaller cities and towns and are useful if you want to discover Italy’s hidden corners. Most visitors to Italy will experience the high speed trains but if you want to go to the Cinque Terre or travel by train from Naples to Sorrento you will need to travel on the regional rail network. The most important thing to know is that if you purchase a physical ticket at the station for these journeys you MUST validate it at the machine on the departures concourse before boarding or risk a large fine.

Italian train companies and booking services

 

trenitalia

Trenitalia is owned and operated by the Italian government and is responsible for more trains in Italy than any other company. If you plan to take a high speed train in Italy, it may well belong to Trenitalia. Red Arrow (Frecciarossa) trains are the fastest and all passengers benefit from amenities like charging sockets, free WiFi, air conditioning and a food carriage. 

Prices are determined by 2 factors – the class of travel class and flexibility of the ticket. The cheapest Italy train tickets are sold in advance, and allow no changes or refunds. These are known as Super Economy tickets. Booking directly with Trenitalia is possible, but it’s not always the simplest way due to translation issues and the fact that international credit cards may not always be accepted.

 

italo logo

Italo is a privately owned Italian train operator, specializing in intercity, high speed trains. The service and prices are very similar to those offered by Trenitalia. Which company to travel with thus tends to depend on availability and when you want to travel.Again, passengers can book with Italo directly, but this isn’t the easiest way due to language barriers and website usability.

 

Omio runs a user-friendly site and smartphone app for booking train travel in Italy. They work with Italo, Trenitalia and regional railway operators – as well as airlines and bus companies across Italy and Europe. Using their app or site allows you to compare options simply and easily.  Users of Omio can easily source the quickest, cheapest and best ways to travel between Italian and European cities, villages and towns. This applies whether you wish to fly or take a bus or train and it is why we recommend Omio. Once you have installed the app, you can book Italy train tickets in advance. As the details will then be stored, it’s a lot simpler to make changes – or even to purchase tickets for trips at the last minute.

Covid Safety

At the time of writing, Italian trains are running normally. Social distancing and the wearing of a N95 face mask is currently mandatory on all services.

If you have any of the typical symptoms of acute respiratory infections such as a high temperature, a new persistent cough, loss of your sense of smell or general cold symptoms, do not board a train. You can find more information about the latest restrictions and details of the vaccination requirements on the Italian Tourism Board website.

Know the main train routes and stations

roma termini train station

Many visitors tend to follow a classic route across Italy, beginning in Rome before traveling on to Florence or Naples. They may then travel on to other destinations. Other favorite cities include Milan and Venice. Here are the major Italian train routes to help you plan your journey.

Major Trenitalia routes

  • Venice – Padua – Bologna – FlorenceRomeNaples – Salerno
  • Turin – Milan – Bologna – Florence RomeNaples – Salerno
  • Milan – Brescia – Verona – Vincenza – Padua – Venice

Major Italo routes

  • Turin – Milan – Reggio Emilia – Bologna – FlorenceRomeNaples – Salerno
  • Turin – Milan – Reggio Emilia – Bologna – Rimini – Pesaro – Ancona
  • Venice – Padua – Bologna – FlorenceRomeNaples – Salerno
  • Verona – Bologna – FlorenceRomeNaples

The following information isa guide to the main routes, including average travel times and costs. Please note that prices, timings and frequency are approximate, and will often vary depending on the day of week and time of day. Each route can be traveled in either direction. Prices are stated in Euros. As you can see, these are far lower when tickets are purchased in advance.

Rome to Naples by train

Rome to Venice by train

Rome to Florence by train

Milan to Venice by train

Florence to Venice by train

cinque terre train

There are also some local and regional train routes that are very popular with visitors from overseas. These include trains from Florence to the Cinque Terre or Pisa, and routes from Rome to Salerno or Sorrento on the Amalfi Coast.  

Rome – Naples – Sorrento

Rome – [Naples] – Salerno (south Amalfi Coast)

  • Roma Termini to Salerno from 1 hours and 30 minutes > check timetables and prices
  • Note – Some direct services but many add a change in Naples

Florence – Pisa

  • The fastest Florence to Pisa takes around 1 hour, usually 1 hour and 30 minutes > check timetables and prices
  • Average 4 trains per hour 

Florence – Pisa – Cinque Terre (La Spezia Centrale)

  • Florence Campo di Marte to La Spezia about 1 hour and 40 minutes > check timetables and prices
  • Change at La Spezia for local routes to Cinque Terre villages

Major Italian train stations 

italy train station board

Your Italian train journey is highly likely to begin or end at one of the country’s major train stations. If you are intending to purchase tickets on an Italian booking site – or from a ticket machine at the station – you must be familiar with the Italian names.

Rome

  • Rome Termini / Roma Stazione Termini: Via Giovanni Giolitti, 40, 00185 Rome
  • Left luggage open: 06:00 – 23:00
  • Station info

Florence

  • Florence S M Novella / Firenze Santa Maria Novella / Firenze SMN: Piazza della Stazione, 50123 Firenze
  • Left luggage open: 06:00 – 23:00
  • Station info

Naples

  • Naples Central / Napoli Centrale: Piazza Giuseppe Garibaldi, 80142 Napoli
  • Left luggage open: 07:00 – 23:00
  • Station info

Venice

  • Venice Santa Lucia / Venezia Santa Lucia
  • Left luggage open: 08:00 – 20:00
  • Station info

Milan

  • Milan Central / Milano Centrale: Piazza Duca d’Aosta, 1, 20124 Milano
  • Left luggage open: 07:00 – 23:00
  • Station info

Tip – For other cities try searching for “City name” plus “Centrale” or “Stazione” to find the main train station.

Ticketing

train tickets italy

When booking tickets for trains in Italy, check the booking conditions carefully. Does the ticket type allow for any changes or cancellations? Often the cheapest fares are completely inflexible, and may make a lot of stops along the way. So compare departure and arrival times and also station. Example – we’ve been caught out expecting to arrive at the main station in Florence (Santa Maria Novella) and instead arriving at Campo di Marta where there are limited taxi services. 

Ticket availability 

While we advise booking in advance to secure the cheapest fares on high speed services, you may discover that you cannot find what you want when searching for high speed trains. This is because bookings normally open 120 days – just under 4 months – in advance of travel.  There are two major European train timetable changes per year, occurring on the second Saturdays in June and December. After this happens you may only be able to book 30 days in advance.  

Ticket classes 

There is not a huge difference between first and second class train travel in Italy. Most visitors are happy to travel in second class. Holders of first class tickets can expect a little extra space and leg room, as well as a light snack and a newspaper.  The following guide gives a little more information on the available ticket classes in Italy.

Trenitalia – high speed services

  • Second Class / Standard: Standard: WiFi, air-conditioning, power sockets, tables, food service and cafe bar, entertainment portal
  • First  Class / Premium: As Standard PLUS large leather seats,  newspapers and welcome drink 
  • Business Class: As First PLUS extra leg and elbow room and table service
  • Executive Class:  As Prima PLUS 10-seat carriages, station club lounge access, gourmet meals and 6-seat meeting room access

Italo

  • Second Class / Smart: WiFi, air-conditioning, power sockets, leather seats, snack area and table service
  • First Class / Comfort: as Smart but with extra space / larger seats
  • Prima: As Comfort PLUS lounge access, fast track, less seats per carriage, personal screen, in-seat catering and newspapers
  • Club Executive :  As Prima PLUS dedicated catering and entry to Club lounges at major stations 

Trenitalia – regional and slower intercity services

  • Standard: cafe bar, tables and power sockets
  • Premium: as standard plus seat reservations and more space

How to book Italy train tickets online

The simplest way to compare train times and ticket prices is to use Omio. Their site and app displays both Italo and Trenitalia options plus regional train services so you can pick the best one for your travel plans. You can also refine your searches according to departure time, journey duration and price.  

 Intercity Trains

Advance booking is recommended. Huge savings of up to 50% are available when buying Italian train tickets in advance. If you do this, though, you must be certain about the times and dates of travel and it’s wise to work on the assumption that this kind of ticket is completely non-refundable and non-changeable. 

On the majority of intercity routes, tickets can be bought on the actual day of travel. However this does not guarantee seat availability. During periods of peak demand, we recommend purchasing your Italy train tickets in advance to secure seats.The busiest times are in the mornings between 06:00 and 10:00, and between 15:00 and 19:00 in the afternoon on weekdays. The Christmas, Easter and summer holiday period (mid August) are among the most popular times to travel.

Regional trains 

It is not often necessary to book in advance for regional or local services – unless you plan to travel during the busiest holiday periods mentioned above.

2. At the station 

milano centrale train station

Here are some general guidelines regarding what to do when catching trains in Italy. In general train stations are busy places with lots of services including places to buy food, drinks and reading materials. 

  • Arrive about 20 minutes before your scheduled departure time
  • Buy a ticket if you didn’t pre book one. This can be done via a machine or in person
  • If traveling on a regional train, you need to validate your ticket before boarding or you risk a large fine
  • Check the departure platform (called partenze in Italian). Often the display will only show the final destination, so do check the train number on your ticket to make sure
  • There is no security, just a ticket check, at Italian rail stations
  • Be aware that trains will only stop for a couple of minutes for a changeover 
  • Check the location of your carriage so you are in place and can board on time – the train will not wait
  • Store your luggage overhead or in the luggage compartments at the end of each carriage.

3. On board

italy train interior

  • Italian trains tend to have small luggage racks, making large cases a bit of a burden when traveling by rail
  • You can buy coffee, drinks and snacks on intercity services
  • Expect free WiFi, a power socket and a tray table, even in second class
  • Some seat configurations have a table
  • Basic bathroom facilities are available on board

4. Arriving at your destination

When you arrive at your destination be aware that if the train is continuing on to another stop there may be only a few minutes available to disembark. 

  • Prepare your belongings and be ready to disembark well before (at least 5 minutes) your scheduled arrival 
  • There are taxi ranks at all the major Italian train stations
  • Left luggage facilities are also available

5. Italy train travel FAQs

train travel in italy

  • How far in advance should I book my tickets?

Tickets may be released anywhere between 3 to 6 months before travel. As mentioned earlier, this time may be reduced to 30 days after the major European timetable changes in June and December. It also depends on the operator. Thus there is no set schedule. We recommend booking 1 or 2 weeks before travel for any intercity high speed train in Italy if you know the dates and times you wish to travel

  • Do I need to print my tickets?

Intercity train tickets do not require printing, as you will simply be asked to show your booking reference. If you have the Omio app, you can use this, or alternatively show an  email booking confirmation. If you have purchased tickets for regional trains online and printed a copy, you do not need to validate these. They can be used for the selected train – or any that departs within the following 4 hours.

  • Should I buy an Italy rail pass?

We don’t think that rail passes for Italy are cost effective or very helpful. Though you may make a saving upfront, the €10 fee for each seat reservation cancels this out. A Eurail pass, however, can be useful when you will be visiting other parts of Europe – especially if you are eligible for the under 26 discount.

  • Are there discounts for seniors and children?

Children under 4 may travel free when sitting on your lap. If you want a seat for them, you can pay 50% of the base fare. On Trenitalia trains, children aged between 4 and 15 (or 12 on regional trains) also pay 50%. On Italo routes, infants under 3 years travel free when sitting on your lap. Both Trenitalia and Italo have family offers, where children traveling with paying adults go free. These offers are usually applied automatically when booking. With Italo, the adults have to buy a flex ticket in Smart class. The Bimbi Gratis offer from Trenitalia applies to families comprising 2 to 5 people. Under 15s travel for free when the older other members of the group pay the base fare. 

Seniors can buy a Silver Card (Carta d’Argento) from Trenitalia. It costs 30 euros for a year and is available for those aged between 60 and 75. For those over 75, it is free. With the card, seniors can save 15% on most journeys. Italo offers seniors a 40% discount on the usual Smart class flex fare.

  • How much luggage can I take on trains in Italy?

Try to avoid taking large pieces of luggage on trains in Italy. There is no space for large suitcases and things could get very awkward on a busy service. You can easily fit carry on luggage above and between the seats. The largest luggage we recommend that you take is a medium sized suitcase. You can read more about our recommended luggage for travel in Italy in this article.

  • When is the best time to travel by train for cheaper train tickets?

Off peak periods are in the middle of any weekday – from late morning to early afternoon. Weekends can be very busy because ticket prices are cheaper.

  • Can I choose my seat?

On regional trains, you cannot pre-book a seat, so simply take one that is available. On faster intercity routes booked via Omio you can specify a preference for an aisle or window seat. If you book directly with Italo or Trenitalia, you can choose your seat. Seats are allocated at the time of booking. So if you want to sit together, make sure you book together via one transaction. 

  • How many tickets can I book?

This does vary by operator and route. Omio will typically let you book up to 9 passengers, for example. A larger number is considered a group, and specialist departments deal with group bookings. This is standard for all types of travel, and across the world. 

  • What happens if there is a train strike? 

In the event of a strike affecting trains in Italy, the first thing to know is that strikes are always planned in advance, So there’s no need to worry about one taking you by surprise. Also, Trenitalia guarantees minimum services, even on strike days. You can find out more about how Italian train trikes could affect you here 

  • Are there night trains in Italy?

If you are travelling a long way – such as between Venice and Naples or Milan and Sicily – you may consider using a sleeper train. As you travel overnight, this saves the cost of accommodations.There are various kinds of seats, couchettes and sleepers on Italian overnight trains. We recommend booking a sleeper or couchette, as you will sleep within a compartment with a safety lock and can also lie flat. 

  • Where can I find a train map of Italy? 

We like to use this Italy train map that shows high speed and regional train routes

6. When is Italy train travel not the best option? 

italy car rental

Sometimes train travel in Italy is simply not the best option available. This particularly applies when you want to get off the beaten path, exploring those hidden corners that are not part of the main tourist trail. Regional trains can be very slow and may not reach the places you want to go. A great example of this is in Puglia where the services are extremely limited. 

This might also apply when you have limited time. If you want to see a lot in a short space of time, booking a rental car may be a better option. A hire car may also be more cost effective when there are more passengers and you have a lot of people and luggage to transport. In this cast you might consider hiring a driver for a private tour of Italy. 

If you want to travel long distances, then flying can be a much better option. It is far quicker, and might even be cheaper too. When you’re planning to visit the Italian islands of Sicily or Sardinia, booking a flight also makes more sense.  

Summary – Where will you travel by train to in Italy? 

italy train luggage

We hope this guide has answered all your questions about how to travel by train in Italy. Trains in Italy provide travelers with a great way to see this wonderful country, especially when you are visiting more than one city. If you have any further questions about traveling by train in Italy, please join our FREE Italy Travel Planning community where thousands of Italy loving travelers help others plan their trips.

 

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