How to read an Italian Train Schedule

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The old saying, which is often repeated but is not true, is “At least Mussolini made trains run on schedule.” This is an Italian saying that is still popular among older generations, who long for a sense of order. But the truth is that Italian trains have never been more reliable. There are sometimes delays and strikes, but the overall schedule for the Italian trains is quite reliable.

As long as you can read it.

Another article on this website discusses how you can use the Trenitalia website. This is the best place to start when researching train schedules. You can search for different routes and days in English, and even find price information.

Even if you do your research before you travel to find out how long it takes and when you can expect to reach the stations, it is always a good idea double-checking the schedule once you arrive in Italy. Sometimes that means reading the large printed schedules at every station. There is no English translation.

Two large posters with small writing are found on the walls at an Italian train station. One is usually white, one is black. Sometimes, they are in bulletin boards with glass enclosures. This is a close-up view of one side of a calendar so you can see how they look.


Close-up of an Italian train schedule printed in a graphic — creative commons photo courtesy rjp

Like the Trenitalia website, the times are listed as a 24-hour clock format on the left-hand side. While the different colors and symbols can mean different things, don’t get too caught up in trying to decode the whole poster. These are the main points you should be looking for:

    • Time of departure – This information is listed in the left column
    • Car classes available – Indicates which car class is available by using either a 1-2 (if both 1st- and 2nd-Class cars are available) or just a 2, if only 2nd-Class cars are available.
    • Reservations are required – Indicates by an R in the same box with the car classes and a square around.
  • Destinations served – The start station is not listed (it is the one you are standing in). The final stop is listed big, but each intermediate stop is listed between the column with car class and the listing for final destination.

Make sure to look at the section marked “ARRIVI”, (arrivals), and not “PARTENZE”, (departures).

The track number of your train’s departure is not included in these printed schedules. Regular routes use the same tracks so people may know which track is which. However, they are not listed on the printed schedule to make it easier for them to be changed if needed. Track numbers can be found on many stations’ digital displays, and – if lucky – on one those old-timey train board that clacks every time the numbers or letters have to change… It’s that sound that makes people dream of travelling.


But I digress. But I digress. Ah, yes. Numbers of tracks for trains.

Track is spelled “BINARIO” and you’ll see it often abbreviated to “BIN”. Once you have the train number, you can search for the BIN that corresponds with that train.

If you’re able to ask questions and have time, you can find all the information you need by asking a friendly ticket agent.


Another example of an Italian printed train schedule (different format, same information but this one shows track numbers). Creative commons photo by Glen Bowman

The online schedules for AV and Italo trains are very reliable. Monitors and big boards at stations are the best places to find the latest schedule for slower trains. They are always updated with arrival and depart times. Not so with printed schedules.

Italy Train Tickets

ItaliaRail is a US-based company which 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.

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5 Responses to “How to Read an Italian Train Schedule?”

  • C James-Airey says:

    Can tickets be purchased in UK pounds? Can they be bought in Canadian dollars

    • Jess has the following:

      Although I don’t know which website you are referring to ItaliaRail, the currency there is US dollars. It’s an American company. Trenitalia’s site shows the currency as the euro (it is an Italian company).

  • Michael has the following to say:

    All! This is some very useful information. Another website I came across, but it is only in Italian! http://www.oraritreniitalia.com

  • LauraH says:

    Thank you so much for the detailed information. This is exactly what I need to know to plan my trip to Italy.