How to determine if trains are your best option for getting around in Italy

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It is recommended that most tourists visiting Italy take the train. However, this may not be the best option for all. These are some things to consider when deciding if trains are the right option for you.


Network of train tracks — Creative Commons photo by ghedo

Italy Train Tickets

Get your tickets from ItaliaRail before you leave. This US-based company partners with Trenitalia in order to provide real-time connectivity to the Italian rail reservation systems. This allows you to get the lowest fares and the most current availability without needing to translate your itinerary into English. ItaliaRail offers online customer support and most tickets can be downloaded instantly.

Italy Explained is an ItaliaRail affiliate partner. This means that if I refer you to ItalyRail for tickets, I will get a small commission. It doesn’t cost anything extra. We appreciate your support.

Which cities/towns should I visit?

If you are concentrating on larger cities and medium-sized towns and your trip is mostly in northern parts of the country, it’s possible that there will be trains stations in all places you want to go.

Many tourists to Italy, especially first-time travelers, travel to Rome, Florence, Venice and Florence. If this sounds like your mainstay, then the train is the best choice for you.

It’s easy to double-check if a train station exists in a particular town by looking at the Wikipedia article on transportation. If there is, it should mention its existence.

The south’s rail network is less complex, so renting an automobile in Italy would be a better option. You can only get to smaller towns in the country by bus. Others are not accessible unless you have your own set.

Keep in mind, however, that you can still take the train from Florence to Rome if there are some things you want to do. You can take the train most of your journey and rent a car in Florence to stay for a few more days. You don’t have to choose one type of transportation.

What number of people are in my travel group and how many?

Traveling by train is a great way to travel, whether you are solo or with a couple. You can travel by train even with large groups, provided you have a competent leader.

You may be able to compare the cost of renting a car and taking the train if you have at least one driver. While renting a car and pitching in with others may be cheaper, it can make your trip more flexible and offer you greater flexibility. However, driving through Italy’s historic cities and trying to find parking is something many tourists would rather avoid.

When comparing costs, it’s worth noting the “Saver Pass” rail pass that is available for groups that will travel together.

Which do you have more of: money or time

That’s the big question. It’s hard to get both, especially when you are on vacation.

If trains can go anywhere you want them to, they are a great way to travel around the country. However, the fast trains aren’t inexpensive. If you have a tight budget, it is worth comparing the cost of trains in Italy with bus tickets. Or, at the minimum, looking for cheaper and slower trains between cities. Buses that travel from one part of Italy to the other aren’t very common so cross-country adventures may require navigating many bus transfers.

Flying is better than riding the train.

Flying within Italy and the rest of Europe is much cheaper thanks to the many super-budget airlines in Europe. It’s worth checking out flights to find the best deal from Milan to Palermo.

Keep in mind that all the major cities of the north can be connected by high-speed trains. They travel from Milan-Rome in less than two hours. Since train stations are located in the center of the city (which is a claim that airports cannot make), your transit time is essentially the time spent on the train. There is no need to check in, go through security at the airport, or collect your luggage. Before I would consider taking the train to Italy, a trip must be very far.

Italy Explained: Italian Trains

Want the inside scoop on how to travel Italy by train? My book ITALIA EXPLAINED: ITALIAN TRINS is available on Amazon.com

Although Italy might seem small compared to other countries, getting around in Italy can be difficult if you don’t know how to navigate the rail system. This guide will help you answer all your questions about the Italian rail system. It also covers questions that you may already know answers to.

  • What the difference is between reservations and train tickets, and when you will need them both
  • How to choose between a Rail Pass and point-to-point tickets
  • How to read an Italian train schedule
  • How to book train tickets and reservations before you travel or after you arrive in Italy
  • How to handle Italian train strikes

There are many more!

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6 Responses to “How to Determine if Trains are Your Best Option to Get Around Italy”

  • Clarise says:

    This is very useful. As someone who has never traveled by train, I look forward to it. Is there a map showing where the trains run? We will be traveling from Padua towards Talamello and trains don’t appear to run between these towns.

    • Jess has the following:

      I have only seen maps of major cities and not the entire rail network. You can start by looking up train routes between cities. If one of those cities doesn’t appear on the list, that could indicate that there isn’t a station. Sometimes, you can find out the answer by searching Wikipedia for a specific town and then looking under “infrastructure”, or “transportation” sections.

  • Jessica, thank you! It is so much easier to use the train system than driving in Italy. It is possible to travel to any small town in Italy via train. The high-speed system makes it easy to move from one city to the next.

  • Greg Speck said:

    Thanks, Jessica. We are planning our longest trip to Italy, and I realized that I didn’t want to drive the entire leg from Rome to Lago Di Garda. I will be sure to check your links. Our 13 previous trips. We have driven all across the country, from Sicily to the Amalfi Coast and up to the north. Although I was looking forward to being taken from Fiumicino station to Rome Termini station and the route to Garda, Now I have some concrete.information.

  • FrancCAR says:

    The book was very enjoyable. Simple, thorough. A good reference, especially for people not familiar with the system. This is a smart purchase for those who are first-timers or others who travel alone.