How to navigate an Italian Train Station

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Do not be intimidated by the section’s title. To navigate around an Italian train station, you don’t need a map or a compass. You’ll only need some tips.

Let’s start by talking about what you can expect when you enter a train station. It is possible to find two types of train stations in Italy.

Roma Termini — Creative Commons Photo by Alessandro Capondi

One train enters the station from the front, so they are all lined up next to each other. These trains exit the station in the same direction they entered it. They just go in the opposite direction. This is why you will see engines at both ends on most Italian trains. These stations are usually located in larger cities. You’ll need to walk along the row until your train track is found.

The other layout has trains passing through stations that are located off to the side of the tracks. They stop for passengers to get on and off and then continue in the same direction. Small stations may only have one track. However, if you find more than one track at a pass-through station, you might wonder how to access the platforms that are not connected to the station. These stations often have an underground passageway, called a “SOTTOPASSAGGIO”, that gives access to other platforms. It is forbidden to cross the tracks in most cases. The “SOTTOPASSAGGIO” stairways are marked by the platform numbers to let you know when to return up.

Any platform between two tracks can be used to serve two trains.

It is Italian for track, as mentioned previously. “BINARIO” can be abbreviated to “BIN” when you get to the station. “BIN4” and “BINARIO 4” both refers to “TRACK 4”. Find your train on the schedule with its “BINARIO” then follow the track.

Bologna Centrale with its EST/OVEST side (east/west), may have different configurations that could present additional challenges. It is possible that a station may be too confusing for you to know ahead of time. If this happens, do your best to figure out which direction to take.

Italy Train Tickets

You can get your tickets from ItaliaRail before you leave the USA. This company is based in the United States and partners with Trenitalia for real-time connectivity to Italy’s rail reservation system. 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.

What is it like to work at Italian train stations?

Depending on how big the station is, there may be a combination of these services that are available during open hours.

  • Toilets
  • Information Desk/Office
  • Newsstand
  • Food Vendors
  • Luggage Storage*
  • Shops
  • Currency Exchange

* Previously, luggage lockers were available at train stations. However, many of these lockers were taken out of security concerns many years ago. Stations sometimes have “left baggage” offices. These offices are similar to a coat check at a museum, where you give your bag in return for a number ticket. The price you pay will depend on how many bags and how long your bags are stored. Some stations don’t have luggage storage facilities. However, larger stations and those that are used frequently as transfer points usually do.

Italo: What can you expect?

Erica , a friend from Rome, shared this information about traveling with Italo.

Italo’s website is very similar to Trenitalia’s, but the customer experience is much more user-friendly. Italo services every train station with “Casa Italo” service centres. These are similar to airport lounges and have multilingual staff that seem only interested in helping. The staff are friendly and well-trained, so there aren’t long lines like with Trenitalia. Casa Italo has free WiFi and automated ticket machines.

You can change your Italo ticket up to three minutes before the train departs. Depending on what fare you purchased (i.e. The change is easy and free of charge, if you are not a super-economist. Trenitalia has a reputation for making refunds and changes a difficult battle. According to what I have read, Trenitalia tickets purchased through the US provider will not be refundable and won’t allow for any changes.

“The best thing about customer service is for me the telephone. Italo is a local phone number that you can call from your hotel without additional minute charges. The staff speaks fluent English (as well French and Spanish). If they are unable to make the change within the specified time, they will call you back. They are ridiculously helpful.

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