How to prepare for a train ride in Italy

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What’s the surprise? There have been changes in the rules regarding validating tickets! Please read this 2016 update about the new rules for regional train travel through Italy after you’re finished reading this article.

You have successfully bought the ticket and reserved the train ticket. Now you know where you should stand to wait for your train. You’re ready to go!

Make sure to validate your train ticket


Validating a train ticket to Italy – Jessica Spiegel (all Rights Reserved)

It is not possible to attach specific dates and times to Italian train tickets, as I mentioned earlier. To prove that you are using a ticket at a particular time and date, you must validate it by having it date-stamped by an automated machine.

It can be difficult to find validation machines, especially if they aren’t easy to identify. Italy complicates the process by having multiple types of machines and placing them in different locations in each station.

You’ll find them on a wall-mounted machine painted brightly – usually orange or red – with no lights or buttons. There is one slot in which one end of your train ticket can be inserted. You will find them near the doors. They are less likely to be on platforms. Validating your ticket is required before you leave the station. They may be marked with “Convalida Biglietti Ferroviari”, but they are almost always empty.

You can insert one end of your ticket into a machine. Sometimes the ticket will have an arrow to indicate which side you need to validate. However, it doesn’t matter which stamp is on the ticket. If you purchased a ticket and a reservation together, the ticket doesn’t need validation. It already has a date/time stamp. For example, AV train tickets don’t require validation. If you’re not sure, validate the ticket. You can validate your ticket anyway.

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.

How to find your train car and seat


Door of the Italian train car – Jessica Spiegel (all Rights Reserved)

Your last task before you start your journey is to locate your train car.

The reliability of AV trains is so high that signs are placed on platforms to indicate where each train car will stop once it arrives. These numbers are usually posted overhead so you can see where you need to stand in order to get near the correct train car.

You don’t need to make a reservation if you are on a trip without a reservation. All you have to do is ensure you board the right class car. If you have a first or second class ticket, then you will need to locate a seat in the appropriate class. Every car has a number on its doors. All cars on some regional trains will be second-class, so it doesn’t matter which train you take.

Be aware that a seat may have been reserved for someone else, who will be boarding at a different station. Sometimes reservations for later points in a trip may be displayed. This is particularly true if there is train compartments. However, you will only know that someone reserved your seat when they board the train later in the journey and show you their ticket. You will need to search for a new seat.

You will be assigned a train car and a seat on the car if you have both a ticket or a reservation. Find the car number first. These numbers aren’t permanent printed, unlike first and second class numbers. Instead, they’re usually printed-outs that are posted near or on the exterior doors of the train cars.

Once you have found the right car, locate your seat number. You won’t find the same number of seats in different rows if you don’t pay attention to which numbers. You should also be aware that if you book two reservations together, you may find yourself placed next to your travel companion (groups with four seats often face each other) instead of beside him/her.

If you board a train without reservations, but you have chosen to make a reservation, it is possible that someone who has not booked a ticket may be in your seat. You can show the ticket and reservation along with your seat number to let them know you need to move. If it isn’t crowded, they may allow you to take another empty seat.

Unfortunately, compartments with doors are not as common today as they were in the past for many of us who still picture them when we think about European train travel. Italian trains most often have individual seats or bench seats, which are slower trains that run in regional areas. If you are lucky enough to find compartments, the seat numbers and any notes are displayed outside the compartment’s door.

You can jump on any car if you are running late to your train so you don’t miss your train. Once the train has stopped moving, you can continue your journey down the train car to car until your train arrives.

It is possible for trains to split up at certain points in their journeys. This means that some cars won’t make it all the way to the destination. This is especially important if you are traveling on your own and don’t have a reservation.

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2 Responses to “What to do before you board a train in Italy”

  • Google has the following:

    Online purchase of first class Regionale train tickets. The train does not have a seat assignment. How do I get seat assignments?

    • Jessica says:

      Regionale trains do not have reservations, which are seat assignments. When you board the train, you can simply take a seat in a first-class car.