How To Travel (The Easy Way) Around Italy By Train

The best way to travel around Italy is by train.

How To Use Trains In Italy

Italy has the most amazing train network, it runs like clockwork, connects all the major cities and gives you high speed access to the entire country. If you are traveling in Italy the train system opens up so many opportunities to you – you can buzz around and take quick day trips that would otherwise take hours to drive. The fast trains have comfortable leather seats that allow you to sit back and enjoy looking out at the majesty of this gorgeous country through huge panoramic windows.

How To Travel Italy By Train

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The fast trains in Italy are amazing. Super clean and efficient, they glide you in comfort across the country at 280 kph. (Why don’t we have trains like this all over America???) The fast train from Rome to Florence, which is roughly the same distance as Phoenix to Las Vegas or maybe Phoenix to Los Angeles, takes an hour and 15 minutes.

There are two main train companies operating across Italy. Trenitalia and Italo. Both are excellent, but if given the choice I use Italo.

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How To Use Trains In Italy

If you can plan your train travel ahead of time you can make it super simple and save yourself lots of money.

I normally buy train tickets as soon as the online ticketing is available, 3 months ahead of the travel date. I use the Rail Europe website, because although it costs an extra $7 per ticket I find the website to be less glitchy and easier to maneuver than the Trenitalia and Italo websites. Also Rail Europe is all in English.

The one-stop shop for train travel

The trains have various classes – Executive, First, Second etc and are priced accordingly, although sometimes it makes no sense. I’ve bought first class seats before that have cost less than second class seats. Train travel is really quite inexpensive though, and is such a genius way to get around. It is much faster and much less expensive than renting a car or flying, and just so easy.

If you buy your tickets online you can just print out your boarding pass and it doesn’t need to be validated. (More on validating ahead.)

If you are purchasing your ticket in the train station you have 2 options, the self-serve kiosk or the ticket counter.

How To use Trains In Italy

The kiosk is really easy to use, but will either just serve Trenitalia or Italo. You can select English and then just follow the prompts. If you are unsure of what to do or don’t know which train company to use you can go to the counter and get help. There are also representatives of each train company in the concourse, and they are always happy to help you use the kiosk. They are always in uniform – don’t get help from non-uniformed folks hanging around, they may be nice folks or they may be pickpockets. (I actually learned the Italian train system by random people helping me in train stations  )

Once you have your ticket in hand you need to figure out which Binario or platform your train is departing from. Your ticket will have the train number on it. In this picture it is train 9521. You can look for that train number on the departure board, and  next to it will be the name of the final stop.

How To Use Trains In Italy

Let’s assume you are in Rome and are traveling to Naples, and you just bought a ticket on the 9521. Using the picture above it tells us that the 9521 starts in Milano and ends in Salerno. Even though you are traveling to Naples (Napoli) the departure board won’t say Napoli, it will say 9521 to Salerno.

How To Use Trains In Italy

The departure boards will be easily visible, and will be in several places in the station.

How To Use Trains In Italy

You need to look at the board that says Partenze this means departures.

Arrivi means arrivals. Don’t get them confused!

How To Use Trains In Italy

Remember that the name of the city will be in Italian, not English. Naples is Napoli, Florence is Firenze, Venice = Venezia etc.

In some train stations you need to show your ticket as you pass through from the main concourse to the platforms side of the train station. Others you need to show your ticket as you pass through security on the platform itself.

If you bought your ticket at the station, either at the kiosk or at the counter you will need to validate it before getting on the train.

The validation machines are all over the place and look like this.

How To Use Trains In IItaly

 

It’s a good idea to go ahead and validate it as soon as you buy it, just in case you end up running for your train and don’t have time. The train conductor will check your ticket while you are en route. If you haven’t validated it you will face a heavy fine, tourist or not.

If you bought your ticket online and printed out the boarding pass you don’t need to validate it.

Your ticket has some other important information on it. It tells you which carriage number you are on (Carrozza) and what your seat number is. (The little local trains don’t have assigned seating but the fast trains trains do.)

How To Use Trains In Italy

 

10 minutes before your train departs the departure board will tell you which platform it is departing from. Now as you make your way along the platform there will normally be screens along the way telling you where each carriage/coach number will be stopping. Your train may already be on the platform, or it may be arriving any minute. Find the number that corresponds to the carriage number on your ticket.

When the train pulls in you will see that each carriage has a door at either end. On the door it will tell you rows 1- 13 or 14 – 28 (or whatever row configuration that carriage has.) It doesn’t matter if you get on at the wrong end, but if you are dragging luggage around it helps to get on at the end your seat is on.

Rail Europe – Train tickets

When it comes to luggage there are different options. Some trains have a luggage bay at one end of the carriage. Europeans travel much lighter than Americans do, so the luggage areas often aren’t designed for giant American suitcases. That means you need to hustle and get on the train quickly before all the space is gone!

There will be overhead racks for your carry on bags, and many trains have a space between the rows of seats where your suitcase can slide in.

In the picture below you can see the large overhead space for luggage, and if you look behind the conductor’s legs you can see the wheels of a suitcase poking out from between the space between the seats.

How To Use Trains In Italy

You need to move quickly and get you bags put away, because the train will get moving right on time. It is super annoying when you are trying to get to your seat and there are tourists in the aisles with their bags, putzing around, not knowing which way is up! Get to your seat, put your carryon on the rack above, slide your suitcase into the space between your row and the row behind yours, and get out of the way.

How To Use Trains In Italy

Keep your ticket on hand. The conductor will move from carriage to carriage checking all the tickets.

How To Use Trains In Italy

Sometimes these dudes are just ridiculously handsome!

You will be served a coffee or cold drink plus a snack on most intercity trains. There will also normally be a buffet/restaurant carriage on the train. The bigger trains stations have really good food options, so we often buy a panino or a salad to eat on long train trips. If you are in the executive or club car they will serve you a meal on longer trips.

Related Post: How To Rent Cars In Europe

I really hope you will use the fast-trains in Italy to travel between cities. It is such  fun, easy and efficient way to get around the country.

If you have any train tips that I may have missed, please add them to the comments section below.

If you felt the information in this post was helpful, please share it on your Pinterest and in your social media!

My new book Glam Italia! How To Travel Italy is now available worldwide on Amazon.com! It is full of helpful tips, guides, translations and advice for anyone traveling to Italy. I hope you will get a copy and use it to help you while you are traveling in Italy!

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I make the process simple for my Glam Italia Tour travelers (and for myself!) by using checklists. They keep everything organized, help us to stay on track, and make that drive to the airport stress-free!

I am going to share these checklists with you for free. They come in PDF form so that you can download them, print them, and check off each item as you go. You can get your free pre-travel checklists here

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Related Post: 10 Things You Absolutely Must Do In Rome

Related Post: 10 Things You Absolutely MUST Do in Florence

The one-stop shop for train travel

15 Comments

  1. Andrea
    March 26, 2018 / 9:06 pm

    hi,i want to know how much of anticipation do you have to be at the station?

    • Corinna B
      Author
      March 28, 2018 / 3:36 pm

      Hi Andrea,
      They normally announce the platform about 15 minutes before departure, but I always get there earlier, especially in the big cities where the stations get very busy. If they are checking tickets when you leave the main concourse I go through earlier and wait to see the platform number on that side of security. If they are checking them on the platform, I want to be able to get there as quickly as possible.
      If you have luggage and are going to have to move it across the station and onto the train I suggest getting there 30 minutes before. If you already have your ticket and don’t have luggage maybe 20 minutes before.
      If you have to buy your ticket it doesn’t hurt to get there early, just in case there are lines at the ticket booths.
      I hope this helps!

  2. Andrea
    March 29, 2018 / 8:07 am

    Thank you si much,you saved me !

  3. Gülşah
    April 3, 2018 / 11:44 pm

    Hi Corinna,
    I am from Turkey. Thank you for information. I am also planning an Italian vacation in summer with my family. We’re planning a train journey.
    Where do you recommend staying? We must make an economical holiday with limited budget.
    Thank you

    • Corinna B
      Author
      April 4, 2018 / 9:09 am

      Hi!
      Everywhere in Italy is wonderful! Make your plans based on the types of things you want to see and do, whether its art and churches and architecture, or shopping and beaches, or a combination of everything. If you want some beach time and are on a budget, Puglia is just wonderful!
      I always stay in vacation rental apartments, as they are very much less expensive than hotels and give you a chance to immerse yourself into local life.
      If you type “Italy” into the search bar on the blog you will see lots of posts about things to do in Italy. On Pinterest (@Corinnamakeup) I have many boards all with information on different parts of Italy. I also have a book coming out hopefully in June that is all about how to travel Italy!
      Let me know how your trip planning goes!
      Buonviaggio!

  4. Shari Cahill
    April 4, 2018 / 7:11 am

    Thank you! This is great information! My husband and I will be traveling to Italy this summer for the first time and will be going from Rome to Naples to Capri to Sorrento and back. Any additional ideas for us will be great too. Thank you again so much for posting this! 🙂

    • Corinna B
      Author
      April 4, 2018 / 9:17 am

      Hi Shari,
      How wonderful! I have many posts here on the blog about all those places! If you type “Italy” into the search bar they should start coming up, also go to my Pinterest (@Corinnamakeup) and you will see many boards specific to each region.
      Depending on how much time you have in the Naples/Sorrento area you may want to do a half day to Paestum to see the Greek temples. Hardly anyone knows about them and they are just spectacular! I have a blog post on Paestum that you can read.
      Also, you are right by Pompeii (its a suburb of Naples) so you may want to do a half day of visiting Pompeii and then Herculaneum. It gets very hot so wear a hat and take water!
      One of my favorite places on the Amalfi coast is the little know (by tourists) Salerno, a medieval town on the water at the bottom end of the coast road. You can get there by train from Naples. I have blog posts on Salerno too. I also have a book coming out this summer about how to travel Italy, so keep check back because I will be advertising it here on the blog!
      I hope you have a wonderful vacation!
      Buonviaggio!

  5. Mary
    April 24, 2018 / 11:38 am

    HI

    Thank you so much for the train info!! We are traveling this Aug for the first time to Italy and will be using the trains! Quick question…we will be there for 2 weeks so we have the large American suitcases. Looking at the picture you posted of the suitcases stashed behind the seats, they look small. Will the big ones fit in those spaces?

    Thanks for your insight!!!

    • Corinna B
      Author
      April 24, 2018 / 12:32 pm

      Hi Mary,
      How wonderful! You will love Italy. I take a 25 inch suitcase, which is the normal size case, and that fits in just fine. If yours don’t fit, there is a luggage section at the front of most train carriages on the AV/fast trains. From memory the intercity trains and the regional trains don’t normally have a luggage space, but I haven’t been on one with a suitcase so could be wrong.
      Try to pack light. It will be very hot in August, so only take lightweight clothing. Some train stations don’t have elevators, and dragging a heavy suitcase up and down flights of stairs is just hell. (been there, done that).
      Check out my Pinterest @Corinnamakeup. I have lots of boards about Italy and all the different places to go and things to see. You will find some great tips there too. They all link back to the blog, but it is an easier way to find info that is pertinent to your trip.
      I have a book coming out hopefully in July, about traveling in Italy. You will love it – it is filled with really helpful info, especially for first time travelers to Italy. If you sign up on the blue ribbon that pops up at the top of each post, or the sign up box on the About Me page, you will get advanced notice about the book and a chance to get one of the advance reader free copies.

      Have a really fabulous trip!!

      xo

  6. Sandy
    May 9, 2018 / 6:15 pm

    Hello – I will be going on a trip to Italy this September that will end in Verona and want to go to the Prosecco Road area for a couple of days after the end of the tour. I’m wondering what the best way is to get there from Verona – train, bus, ?? And then what would be the best place to return to US from, being in that area?

    Thanks so much

    • Corinna B
      Author
      May 9, 2018 / 10:58 pm

      Hi Sandy,
      This sounds like a wonderful trip! As far as I know you can do day tours of the Prosecco Road. You could contact some of those companies and get their advice on transport from Verona, or find a place to stay and ask them. There are multiple trains per day from Venice to Conegliano if you choose that as your starting point.
      Your closest major international airports would be Milan and Venice. I know American Airlines runs flights out of Venice through the end of September, and am sure other airlines do too. Another option is to route from Venice to another European airport, and fly to America from there. Most direct flights from Venice tend to be very expensive. If you are looking at Milan as your departure base remember there are 2 airports, Malpensa and Linate. Both are very user friendly and small, and you can find some fantastic flight deals out of each of them.
      All direct flights to US depart before noon, so you may need to stay overnight in your departure city, as it is really hard to get there in time for an early check in.
      Hopefully this helps?

  7. Mike
    June 28, 2018 / 4:08 am

    I have traveled throughout Italy this year by train. I used Trentitalia throughout. 2nd class is a nightmare as it is nearly always over crowded. Buting a 1st class ticket is a must if you are traveling longer distance and isnt expensive.
    The downsides:
    Italian trains leve when the driver wants so get there early ie 30 mins early.
    Trains always arrive late so be prepared to platform hop at the last minute as they slot late teains in.
    Always always double check you have the right train before bording. There are often local and national trains with the same destination. If you get on the wrong train expect a fine of €100 per person. The conductors get a commission for each fine so are red hot.
    The trains always arrive late so allow plenty of time if using connections.
    A lot of stations dont have lifts or trolleys so beware of heavy cases. They ALWAYS have plenty of stairsCar hire is rediciously cheap and Italy is easy to drive around so, if there is 2 or more traveling, compare prices. Especially when you factor in the fines you will pick up.

    • Corinna B
      Author
      June 28, 2018 / 10:12 am

      Hi Mike, I’m sorry you didn’t have a good experience! I travel Italy all the time and lead private tours there. We use the high speed/ AV trains and I have never had a problem. I just got back from a month in Italy and none of the trains were late.
      You need to use the train number, not the destination when boarding your train. I agree with leaving enough time between connections and also with being prepared to use stairs everywhere – I learned that one the hard way!
      I have driven the length and breadth of Italy and just love driving over there except in the big cities. Be aware that any traffic violations (driving in a ZTL, speeding etc) won’t show up on your credit card sometimes for as long as 18 months. Also, although the daily rental rate can be really cheap it is a good idea to get the super cover insurance. Most major rental car companies will charge 3000 euros deductible on any damage, including the littlest scrapes. I heard (on TripAdvisor) of people having their passports held until they paid the deductible, so I err on the side of caution….

  8. Rose Patterson
    September 4, 2018 / 4:58 am

    We are on a cruise, tendering into Portofino at the end of Oct. I hope to take the train to Cinque Terre on my own.
    Any suggestions very welcome
    Should I buy tickets ahead?
    First time in Italy, very excited
    Also considering taking train to Pompeii from Port of Civv…, wondering about time needed for that one
    Not familiar with public transit, but willing to give it a go
    Great website

    • Corinna B
      Author
      September 4, 2018 / 5:47 pm

      Hi Rose1
      How wonderful! You will have a fabulous time.
      First Portofino-Cinqueterre. Does the cruise ship stop by Portofino? Its a very tiny harbor. I’m not sure if there is a train station in Portofino or not but there is one in the next town, Santa Margherita Ligure. To go there by train is super easy an efficient. The train takes you to Monterosso and then you change trains to go to the rest of the Cinqueterre. If going by train I would advise going all the way to Riomaggiore first and then working your way back.
      You don’t book these trains in advance – they are the little local trains, so you just buy tickets at the station. I think it costs about 9 euros each way.
      Another option is to take the ferry. From Santa Margherita Ligure it stops at Vernazza, Riomaggiore and Monterosso Al Mare. Either way it is very very lovely.

      Pompeii is just fantastic. You can take the local train to the Pompeii Scavi stop which is immediately outside the front gate, or the cruise will probably have buses available to you.
      You should have time to do both Pompeii and Herculaneum. Do Pompeii first, then jump on the train and go 3 stops to Ercolano (Herculaneum). From the train station you walk a few blocks to get there. After seeing Pompeii and getting an idea of what happened when Vesuvius erupted, Herculaneum is fascinating because it is still vertical, so you can see how high they built and also all the frescoes are still there.
      Wear good walking shoes and also take a bottle of water and then fill up from the various water fountains inside Pompeii. It’s fresh, cold aqueduct water.

      If you go to my Pinterest @Corinnamakeup you will find boards with links to all my posts for each area. Portofino etc are in the Liguria Travel Tips board and Pompeii is on the Amalfi Coast and Naples board. There is a ton of information for you – just click on a pin, such as the one for 18 Things You Probably Didn’t Know About Pompeii, and it will open up that blog post for you.

      Have a really wonderful trip and thank you for taking the time to write to me!

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