Train Travel In Italy – Top Tips to Travel By Train in Italy

Always more travelers opt for train travel in Italy and I think it really is one of the best ways to get around the country. Traveling by train in Italy is easy, affordable, and gets you to all the major cities and many smaller towns.

This guide aims to make train traveling in Italy smooth and easy. By the end of the article, you will be able to decide what trains is best for you, where to buy your train tickets in Italy and online, and what are the most popular Italian train routes.

Image: Traveling by the train in Italy.

How to plan your train travel in Italy

Different trains in Italy

If you are planning to travel by train in Italy, the first difference you need to know is between trains. The Italian trains mainly fall into three categories: the high-speed bullet trains, the regional trains, and the InterCity.

High-speed trains in Italy

The high-speed trains are Trenitalia’s Freccia and Italo’s bullet trains. Trenitalia has Frecciarossa and Frecciabianca, which slightly differ in the onboard services.

When buying an Italian high-speed train ticket, you will have several price options depending on the fare and the class you choose. There are usually 1st and 2nd classes as well as business and premium classes.

Image: Freccia train in Italy.

Italian regional and local trains

The regional trains show either R or RV before the numeric code, with R standing for “regionale” (regional) and RV standing for “regionale veloce” (fast regional). These are the same type of train but when it’s RV, they don’t do every single stop, usually skipping the smaller, less busy stations/towns.

Italian InterCity trains

The InterCity (IC) train category falls between that of Trenitalia’s Frecciabianca and that of the regional trains. It’s the lowest among the reservation train categories. InterCity trains connect over 200 Italian cities and, unlike the regional trains, you can reserve 1st or 2nd class seats.

High-speed trains in Italy: Freccia and Italo compared

Many wonder whether they should book Trenitalia’s Freccia or Italo’s high-speed trains. Even though my preference goes to Frecciarossa, overall, they are very similar and they both run through the Alta Velocità (high-speed) railway.

Italo’s bullet trains are slightly cheaper but I find Trenitalia’s Frecciarossa more comfortable inside. Generally, if you need to take them for a short journey, you can opt for the cheaper alternative and you won’t experience much difference.

READ: Make sure you have everything sorted out with our extensive Italy travel guide

Choosing the right train

Choosing the right train in Italy comes down to a few factors: availability, costs, and speed.

High-speed trains are more expensive but get you to the destination faster because they run on a different railway and because they don’t make any stops. These are the best options if you need to get from one big city to another in a short time.

Regional trains are much slower and much cheaper. In these trains, you don’t need to book your spot in advance and you can sit wherever you find a place. They are the best solution if you need to go to a smaller town. They are very widespread and you might be surprised by how many small villages have a train station.

The Intercity trains are a good option if you want to spend less while making longer journeys without having to change trains. These are the trains you can find on night routes and you need to reserve your spot as you will have your own seat.

Image: Train tickets in Italy.

Where to buy train tickets in Italy

In Italy, you can buy train tickets in the newsagents and ticket offices present in the larger stations or from the vending machines available in every station, as the smaller ones.

Newsagents will usually have tickets for the regional trains while to book Freccia, Italo, or InterCity trains, you should go to the ticket offices or directly buy them yourself from the ticket machine.

How to book your Italy train tickets online

Another option is to purchase your Italian train tickets online. If you are planning your full Italy itinerary from home before departure, this is the best option to ensure that you have everything sorted out when you get here.

Booking your Italy train tickets online in advance is also necessary if you are traveling by Freccia or Italo because you need to reserve your seat and if you buy them last minute, you risk not finding space and having to buy for a much higher price because all the Economy tickets are sold out.

For example, if you buy your Rome to Milan Freccia ticket an hour before departure, you might have to pay more than 100€ per person, while if you book a week in advance, the price will already be down to less than 60€. The exact same trip booked a month earlier will cost less than 25€.

You can book your Italy train ticket online directly from Trenitalia and Italo websites or, if you wish to compare prices and schedules, from Omio, a very easy portal.

Book your ticket with Omio here.

Rail passes and offers

Trenitalia has some offers for different types of packages and passengers for both their high-speed Freccia trains and also the regional and InterCity ones. Here are the main offers:

  • Freccia Family. Kids younger than 15 travel for free and adults with a 50% discount.
  • Freccia Senior. Tickets for members over 60 start from 29€ for the 2nd-class seats, 34€ for the Premium seats, and 39€ in the Business class.
  • InterCity Family. These offers include 50% off for kids younger than 15 and 20% off for the other family members for the night trains.

You can check out the official website for updates and more offers.

Managing your luggage on and off Italy trains

Italian trains are great if you traveling with luggage because there is space above your head or under your seat for smaller suitcases and in between seats for larger ones.

Freccia and Italo trains also have the space for more luggage at the beginning and the end of each coach. Some regional trains also have spaces devoted to larger suitcases and always some space above your head for smaller and medium-sized bags.

Most popular train routes in Italy

Here, you can find some of the most popular train routes in Italy among tourists and locals.

Popular high-speed train routes in Italy

  • Milan to Venice. This is a very popular route because many international flights land in Milan and usually Milan is visited for a day before heading to more famous cities. The ride with the Freccia takes around 3 hours and a half and it’s very convenient because you are still in northern Italy before heading south.
  • Milan to Florence. If you decide to skip Venice or to leave it as the last destination before flying back home, in around two hours with Frecciarossa, from Milan you can reach Florence.
  • Florence to Bologna. This is a very short ride. It takes, in fact, only half an hour to reach Bologna from Florence by high-speed train. And obviously the same on the way back. Both are very popular routes as both cities are often included in classic Italy itineraries.
  • Rome to Florence. The Rome-Florence-Venice itinerary is always one of the most popular in Italy and the Rome to Florence train is a very common one.
  • Florence to Venice. The Florence to Venice train is the final leg of the classic Italy itinerary.
  • Rome to Naples. This short train ride is the most common for those who want to reach Pompeii from Rome because first, you need to get to Napoli Centrale and then change trains.
  • Bologna to Venice. If you are willing to make a stop between Florence and Venice, Bologna is one fascinating destination to explore. It takes an hour and a half with the bullet train or 2 hours and 10 minutes with the fast regional train (RV). The route is covered by both Trenitalia’s Frecciarossa and Italo.
  • Rome to Bologna. If you are not taking the classic route, this train is handy for a short trip of one day in Bologna.
Image: Torre degli Asinelli and Garisenda tower in Bologna, Italy. Photo by Fearlessly Italy

Popular regional train routes in Italy

  • Florence to Siena. The Florence to Siena day trip is one of the most popular day trips from Florence and this is an easy and short train ride.
  • Florence to Cinque Terre. The Italian Riviera is often included in a classic itinerary and taken as a stop before heading further north. The Florence to Cinque Terre train journey is not direct and involves at least one change.
  • Naples to Pompeii. This is one of the most popular train routes because most travelers to Campania stop in Naples mainly to visit Pompeii and unless they are joining a private tour, they need to take the Circumvesuviana train to reach the ruins.

My best tips for smooth train travel in Italy

Plan ahead

The train schedules come out around four to five months before and planning ahead is essential especially if you are booking a high-speed train. Whether it’s Italo’s or Trenitalia’s Freccia, you are required to reserve your seat. If you book ahead, you will find more room and more options, making it more convenient if you travel in a group.

Planning ahead your Italian train journey will also make you save quite some money.

READ: Our best tips to plan a perfect trip to Italy

Pack light

Train travel in Italy with luggage is easy and requires little effort. There are dedicated spaces for suitcases on board most trains but there are also many travelers so I suggest you pack light to be able to keep your luggage always close to you.

Double-check your offer

There are many packages and offers when you buy Italian train tickets, but they all have conditions, especially the extra discounted ones. Regional trips are usually non-refundable and the tickets are not changeable but so are special offers even when booked on high-speed trains.

Get to the station early

Getting to the station early is recommended especially when your departure is from a big station like Roma Termini. In Termini, there are many platforms and some are quite far from the entrance and from the underground metro so you need to have the time to navigate to avoid missing your train.

Check the time between connections

When you book a journey that requires changing trains, try to keep your time between connections between 20 to 30 minutes. This applies especially when your connecting station is a large one but also in case your first train is not entirely on time.

Keep an eye on train strikes in Italy

Train strikes in Italy are actually a thing. They happen more often in winter and rarely in summer. To be updated, you can check this list of strikes in Italy. On the “filtra per settore” menu on the upper left, you can select either “ferroviario” or “generale” because when the strike is general, often the transport sector joins.

In case there is a railway strike, check out which railways are taking part in the protest because often it’s limited to local regional trains and Freccia trains are not involved. However, if the strike is general, most trains won’t be traveling.

Some time slots are guaranteed by law. These are peak hours in the morning and in the afternoon. Those trains, however, sell out quickly in the case of high-speed Freccia and Italo or get very crowded with commuters going to work or going back home in the case of regional trains where you don’t need to book your seat.

Per my experience, even in the guaranteed time slots, not all trains show up, making it even harder to catch or be able to enter one. If there is a large general strike, I suggest you make alternative plans such as hiring a private driver.

Should you or should you not travel by train in Italy?

Pros of train travel in Italy

City to city

Unlike the airports that are out of the city, traveling by train you will arrive very close to the city center and reaching your hotel or the local landmarks will take less time.

The view

Traveling by train you can enjoy the view from the window and in Italy, usually, the view makes for a great part of the trip!

Frequent trains

Between regional, high-speed, InterCity, and local trains, there are a great number of options you can book making it quite easy to adapt to your schedule.

Cost-effective

Traveling by train in Italy is not expensive. Regional trains are very affordable and high-speed trains are much cheaper when booked a few weeks in advance.

Cons of train travel in Italy

Slower travel

While slow travel might be the dream of many, some might need to get faster to a certain destination so in this case, flying would be your best option.

Crowds

You might not meet large crowds on high-speed trains because all travelers need to have their seats booked, but regional trains can get very crowded, especially those used by commuters during rush hour.

WANT TO READ THIS LATER? PIN IT TO YOUR BOARD!

1 thought on “Train Travel In Italy – Top Tips to Travel By Train in Italy”

Leave a Comment