Italy’s Regional Train Tickets: New Rules

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Italian train ticket — Creative Commons photo by jayneandd

There are many train-related stories, as I have mentioned previously. Sometimes, you might be waiting on a train to pull up at the platform when something that appears to have been introduced during the period of Italian unification pulls out. It can seem like there is no change to the Italian rail system, but that’s not what I am trying to convey.

However, this is not the reality.

This is the latest change that was brought to my attention from Rebecca. It’s a huge deal if you travel in regional trains throughout Italy.

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.

How regional train tickets worked

Tickets and reservations for regional trains have been treated as distinct things since I was a traveler in Italy. Each train required a ticket. However, not all trains required reservations. Travelers could purchase a ticket online without having to pay several euros for a reservation.

Travelers who often make the same trip could buy multiple tickets at once, so they didn’t have to stand in long lines to purchase tickets every time. They would validate a ticket prior to boarding a train and give it a date stamp which made it valid for that particular day.

It’s easy, right?

Trenitalia decided that this wasn’t working as they intended. They made some adjustments.

What Regional Train Tickets Are Now

August 2016 All regional Trenitalia train tickets are now equipped with a date and a time limit of four hours within which you can travel.

These same regional tickets can still be purchased in advance. However, you will need to select a travel date online or offline. Your ticket will be valid for four hours. However The Trenitalia website states that a traveller who decides to take a train from Pavia to Milan (R20266) departing at 12.51 from Pavia can leave between 12.51 and 15.51 the same day. This sounds like a three hour window to me.

In any case…

Online tickets will include a date and time frame. You do not need to validate the tickets at the station before you board the train. However, tickets purchased at the station at ticket windows or at machines only have the date and no time. These tickets must still be validated, which begins the four-hour validity period.

Clear as mud?

As my last act before boarding a train, I enjoy the satisfying kahh-thunk of sticking paper tickets in bright orange (or, more recently, slick emerald) machines. It feels official. It feels official. Even if you don’t require it, it can help. Did I mention the satisfying kah thunk?

High-Speed Trains are not affected

This change is only for regional trains. If you rely on Frecce high-speed trains, you don’t have to worry about any changes. Keep this in mind if you are considering a spontaneous day trip to Lucca, Florence. This would be a wasteful use of your Italy Rail Pass. You’ll simply have to pay for the tickets. This is when you will need to be familiar with the new system.

This new information has been added to my EXPLAINED : ITALIAN TRINS book! You can buy your copy now or – if it’s already in your possession (thank you!) Download the latest version to your Kindle.

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15 Responses to “New Rules for Italian Regional Train Tickets”

  • This change seems to be against the customer. A 4-hour time limit was not given by the machine when I purchased a regional ticket at a station. You could choose between a ticket that started at noon and one that started at 4pm. To make matters even more confusing, the ticket that was printed out from the machine read, “This ticket must have been validated by the appropriate validators before you depart.”

    The ticket for a regional flight I purchased from a ticket counter last week required that the ticket be validated. From the moment I stamped my ticket, it took 4 hours.

    • Jess has the following:

      Oh my goodness… Karen, thank you for sharing this information. Perhaps it’s an interim/transitional phase, and it needs to be validated? This is another reason I believe for my “when doubt strikes, validate” MO.

  • Thank you for the update. Do these mean that high-speed Freccia train tickets need to be validated?

    • Jess has the following:

      In the article, I mentioned that Frecce tickets are not changing. However, because Frecce tickets already required reservations they weren’t needed to be validated. It appears that no tickets are required to be validated.

  • Harley Arnett says:

    I bought a few Regionale tickets ahead of time and will be using them as E-tickets from my phone. According to the website, the tickets can be used for any trip within 4 hours of the time indicated. I was wondering if the ticket can be used within the indicated time. If I bought a ticket for the 5:30 train on March 1, can I still use it on the 4:30 train Mar 1 if I finish early? If so, it is a good idea to purchase the ticket for a time that is slightly earlier than what you plan to travel. This will allow you to leave an hour and three hours before your travel time.

    • Jess has the following:

      That’s a great question Harley. I don’t have the answer. It’s best to speak with a ticket agent in Italy to get the answer. Although I know you have already purchased your tickets for this trip it may be useful information for the future. Please let me know how they reply! I will try to find a response, too.

    • Alexandra says:

      Jessica wanted to hear from some of you living in Italy, Harley. If you purchased it online, it is considered pre-validated. It would be smart to choose the time you travel to so that, if I was in your position, I would get a ticket that can be used for both the earlier and later trains. Unless you are visiting a place or relying upon a bus to get there, skip the ticket and grab another cup of coffee or gelato.

      Here’s a tip if you are buying regional tickets ON-SITE. The machines will give you the hour for the train you select. You can also get a regional ticket for the day by going to the tabacco shop or window at the station. However, it doesn’t have an hour limit. You can then use the ticket at any time during that day, and it will be valid for 4 hours after you stamp it. They are not valid the next day. You can also buy the day-long tickets at the station for another day.

    • Chris Flores:

      Tickets can only be used within the 4 hour stamp time. This applies to e-tickets as well as tickets purchased at the station.

  • Steve Arden says:

    Although I’m not sure if this thread is technically new, it does relate to Harley’s question regarding taking an earlier train one hour before the four hour window.

    Online ticket buying, for example Lucca-Rome, allows you to buy the first leg on a regional train, and the second on high speed trains. The tickets I found on all the websites offer tickets that allow you to change trains in a short time (15-18 minutes). In case of a delayed regional train, or because I am 68, I may need to take more time to move my bags from one track to the next. Italiarail, trenitalia and raileurope offer more options with less time between trains.

    • Jess has the following:

      Steve, that’s a great question. These non-specific tickets used to be valid at all times on the route. You could take any train you chose. You can also request changes to the departure times if your tickets were purchased at a counter in Italy. ItaliaRail’s website doesn’t offer this option. However, I believe that if you contact their customer service folks, they might be able create an itinerary for your trip. They are incredibly helpful.

    • Carlo Irlitti says:

      You can extend the travel time by using two separate searches on Trenitalia’s website. For example, Lucca-Rome searches can be made for Lucca Florence (on a Regional train), and Florence-Rome [Freccie trains]. You’ll have more options. It doesn’t necessarily mean that booking from more than one search is more expensive. However, the price can be either lower or higher depending on which search you are using. The combination of trains, class, travel time, and purchase time during the 120-day sales window will determine the ticket price.

  • Vatsal Perekh:

    I purchased a ticket from Monrtreux, Switzerland to Milan (Italy). In 1 hour, the train will pass through Brig (Switzerland).

    Is it possible for the same ticket to be used to board train from Brig and Montreux? Do I have to change my Ticket?