How to travel Italy by train: We promise it’s easy

Pst! Pst! It connects all major cities in Italy and offers spectacular views of the countryside. It’s easy to use if you have a few tips.

Let’s take a look at some of the alternatives. It can be difficult to drive in Italy, especially in the cities of Italy. If you are interested in driving, we recommend that you read our Top 6 Tips for Driving in Italy. It is often more affordable to travel by rail, due to the lower cost of gas and car rentals. A flight can often take as much time or longer than the train due to all the hassles involved and the time it takes to get to the airport. This is why rail travel is often cheaper.

We all know that it is simple to say that riding a train is easy. Even figuring out the train schedule is difficult if you don’t know Italian. We’ll show you how to book and take a train right now.

How to locate an Italian train schedule

It’s possible to find it difficult to navigate the national ticket website if you are new to Italy. Instead, try the easy-to-use ItaliaRail, which offers 24/7 English-speaking customer support, and multiple currency options, and allows you to book tickets for up 20 people in one booking. It also has a VIP Lounge at Rome Termini Station.

Seasoned travelers have the option of Trenitalia or, for faster routes, they can use Italy’s private high-speed trains at Italo Treno. Compare prices, dates and times by taking a look at both. Trenitalia, the national rail service, includes all national routes. You don’t need small, local trains like the Circumvesuviana, which runs from Naples to Sorrento, and Pompeii.

Click the “English” button at the top of the website. On the left side, you will see all your options for finding routes. You have the option to choose one-way or return. To do this, you will need to enter your starting point, destination and date.

Let’s take, for example, that you want to visit St. Peter’s Basilica at Rome and then head over to Naples to take a tour through Pompeii. After you have entered your preferences and clicked “Send”, the next page will display a list of options based on the time and date you selected. It might be a surprise that the heading “Departure” doesn’t include Rome. It could say “Roma Te.” This is because the Italians call Rome “Roma” and “Te” stands for Rome’s main station, Termini. It might also say “Naples” instead of “Naples”, which is short for “Napoli Centrale”.

Venice’s Santa Lucia train station

This can be confusing so we’ve compiled a list of the major railway stations in Italy and their abbreviations on the Trenitalia website.

  • Rome Termini (central station) -> ROMA TE
  • Naples Centrale (central station) -> NA C.LE
  • Florence Santa Maria Novella (central station) -> Fl.SMN
  • Venice Santa Lucia (on an island) -> V.E. S.L.
  • Venice Mestre (on mainland) -> MESTRE
  • Milan Centrale (central station) -> MI C.LE
  • Genova Piazza Principe (central station) -> GE P.P
  • Genova Stazione Brignole -> GE BRIG
  • La Spezia Centrale (central station) -> SPEZIA
  • Pisa Centrale (central station) -> PISA C.

You might notice that the name of one station at the top is black and then a number in red. This means there is more than one station in your chosen city, and the train stops at all stations on the list.

It is important to understand the differences between Italian trains

You’ll have many options when choosing which train to take once you have your date and destination in mind. There will be noticeable differences in the “length of journey” with some trains being faster than others (those that are more expensive). You can also consider “train type”: The “Frecciarossa,” the “Frecciargento”, and “Frecciabianca”, trains travel at speeds up to 200-250 km/hr. Also, the Eurostar trains are very fast. These trains are the most expensive and connect only the major Italian cities. The Intercity trains are the most affordable. They connect anywhere else and make more stops.

What are the differences in price and speed? Let’s take the one-way journey from Rome to Naples as an example. A “Frecciarossa”, a train that leaves at noon on a weekday takes just 1 hour and 10 minutes. It is EUR45 for 2nd class and EUR58 for 1st. Next, there is the Intercity train. It takes 2 hours 13 mins and costs EUR22 (2nd Class) or EUR29 (1st Class). The regional train takes only 2 hours 34 minutes, and costs EUR10.50 (one-class).

It is entirely up to you which train you choose. But because the Eurostar and Frecciabianca/argento/rossa trains tend to be not only faster, but more comfortable and cleaner, if we’ve got a little cash to spare, they’re our transport of choice. This is especially true if there are discounts for those trains, as they often are.

Trenitalia offers promotional fares and discounts

Trenitalia’s current promotions are worth checking out when you are looking for tickets online. As an example, children younger than 15 can travel free with their Bimbi Freebie.

Another benefit to booking your ticket online: train stations can be crowded… and there can be lines, even for the automatic ticket machines!

How do you book these discounted fares? Once you reach the page listing all available train times and options, click “Continue” to select the one that interests you. If you have any promotional fares such as the Bimbi Gratis, they will also appear.

Book your train tickets online or at the station

You have two options: either you can book and pay online for your ticket or you can wait until you reach the station.

Waiting is a great way to save time. If you purchase a ticket online you must be on the exact same train. You can’t miss it or arrive late so you need to cancel your reservation online. It can be frustrating, so it is best to wait if you aren’t sure when the train will arrive.

Look for your train on a board like this one!

If you book ahead, you can still change your ticket in case you miss the train. The cheapest tickets are the “base” ones. You can only change your reservation once and must do so within an hour of the train departing. If the train leaves early, you will have to pay extra. However, you can get your money back if it is cheaper. This is more complicated than you might think. Flexible tickets allow you to change your reservation unlimitedly, but it costs 25% more.

The downside to purchasing your ticket at the station before departure is that it can often be too late to benefit from any promotions. Sometimes, trains that are very popular might be completely sold out. If you want to get a discount on your train fare or are on a tight schedule, you might consider booking online or purchasing your ticket at the station a few days before.

You don’t need to have a printer if you book your tickets online. Trenitalia offers electronic tickets via email and sms text messages on your phone. You can simply show the email with your PNR number or the sms to the conductor once you board.

You have your ticket. But how do you get there?

After you have gotten your ticket, you will find a large, hanging board listing all the latest trains. The crowd of people under it is a good indicator of where it is. If your train doesn’t appear to be there, don’t panic. It is possible that you are too early as only the earliest departures will be listed. You might also be looking at “Arrivi”, which are arrivals, rather than “Partenze,” which are departures. It is often easier to look at the departure and arrival times of the train than your destination. This information is either on the ticket or in your booking. It will say “TRENO” and then include the number.

Trains listed by their final destination are trains. Sometimes your destination is not the last. If you don’t see your destination on the board, don’t panic. Just look for the number of your train.

After you have found your train, locate the “BIN” sign for “binario”. This is your platform number. It doesn’t matter if it takes some time to get to this number – there will be others who are also hurrying to catch the train. And, it’s not common for conductors to forget a crowd on the platform!

Validate your ticket. Fast trains do not require reservations so you don’t often need to validate your ticket. However, it is always safer to be safe than sorry. You will find the validation machines all around the station and on the platform. They are usually yellow. You can stamp your ticket by placing it in the slot with the arrows facing out. Push until you hear the stamp. If you do not follow this procedure and are required to, you could face a severe fine if your ticket is confiscated.

Check your ticket depending on the type of train you booked. It might have a train number followed by a number. This is your carriage number. It will then say “posti”, which is your seat number. It is common for Italian trains to have reserved seats. Make sure you are in the right seat. Even though there may be a lot of empty seats elsewhere on the train, you never know who might be getting on. If someone is in your seat, they will be able to move if you show them your ticket.

Typical train ticket – this one’s for an Intercity train, base fare, from Salerno to Rome’s Tiburtina station

You have now completed your train. What now?

Relax! Don’t forget to put your ticket where it is needed. You could be fined if you are caught riding without one. Be aware of others around you. Pickpockets love train stations as well as trains, especially on major lines like the one from Rome to Naples. If you are traveling solo, make sure you know where your stuff is at all times.

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