Getting around Italy by train
There’s a certain charm to traveling Italy by train. Each time I sit on my window seat, I just can’t help but look out the window. The views are spectacular. From picturesque ancient hamlets to heavenly countryside and beautiful seaside views, there’s seriously lots of scenic views to take in if you trave Italy by train.
But it’s not just for the beautiful views that you should travel by train. If you’re thinking of visiting more than one city, trains are your best transportation! Here are some useful tips on how to travel Italy by train.
Italy’s railway network is fantastic
Seriously. Italy has a fantastic railway network that will pretty much take you to any city or town. If you’re planning on visiting other Italian cities during your time in Italy, definitely move by train. There are different types of train that you can take to travel Italy:
High-speed trains in Italy
There are two high-speed train companies in Italy: Trenitalia and Italo. High-speed trains are called Frecce for Trenitalia. You will find the Frecciarossa (fastest), Frecciarento (second fastest), and Frecciabianca. These are all high-speed trains that can take you to central stations of major Italian cities. Personally, I only take the Frecciarossa or the Frecciargento when possible, because the Frecciabianca takes longer to reach cities (i.e. Roma – Milano takes 5 hours instead of 3), but they aren’t always available. Italo trains are also great. You should check their websites and compare prices.
The only downside of Trenitalia is that their website isn’t very English-friendly, but worry not, head on over to their partner ItaliaRail to book Trenitalia tickets for the same price on an all-English website!italiarail.com: if you don’t speak Italian and you’re having a hard time understanding websites like Trenitalia, go to ItaliaRail to purchase your train ticket for a 100% English website. If you’re a large group of people traveling through Italy, you can also get cheaper tickets than Trenitalia and you can book for up to 20 people, instead of just 5 with Trenitalia. You can also purchase flexible train tickets that are easy to change as well as travel insurance. There is also 24/7 travel assistance and a lounge that you can stay in if you’re in Roma Termini! trenitalia.com italotreno.it
InterCity trains in Italy
InterCity trains are trains that connect you to major Italian cities as well, as well as lesser known towns. They are fast, and can reach a speed of 200km/hour. Most trains are new and comfortable, but you may also get the occasional old train.
Regional trains in Italy
Regional trains, called Regionali, are trains that stop in different cities and towns within a region, or regions that are bordering one another. For example, if you were planning on going from Florence (Tuscany) to Pisa (Tuscany) for the day, this is the train you should take as they’re in the same region. Also, they are very cheap and there is no seat reservation, unlike the trains listed above.
Tips on how to travel Italy by train
- Buy your train tickets in advance: train tickets in Italy are cheap. But to make sure you get the best deals, buy your train tickets in advance. Plus, if you plan ahead, you’ll be able to access a wider selection of time slots. If you think your plans will change and you don’t mind spending a few extra bucks, just book through this service which allows you to book flexible tickets and also purchase travel insurance. It’ll definitely save you the hassle of changing tickets later on!
- Check the departures: Once you arrive at any train station, check the huge departure screen. To find the departures look under the “Partenze” (departures in Italian) column of the screen to find your platform. Make sure to know your departure time and train number as it will be displayed on the Partenze column. Keep in mind that next to your train number the final destination of the train will be displayed, and if you keep watching, all the train stops are going to be displayed. So if you’re going from Milan to Rome, the last stop might actually be Naples, so “Napoli” will be displayed on the screen.
- Check your carriage: apart from your train number and departure time, on your train ticket you will find your seat number and carriage number. So unless you’re about to lose the train, don’t just board on the first carriage you stumble upon, find the right carriage number (displayed on the doors of the train) instead!
Advantages of traveling Italy by train
Some of the major advantages include:
- Price: you can find trains from €9.90, €19.90, €29.90 and upwards.
- Discounts: For those that are resident in Italy, you should definitely apply to the Carta Freccia program. It’s simply a member card of Trenitalia, in which you are offered discounts and promotions. There are different types of Carta Freccia Programs, including Carta Freccia Young, for people under 30 years of age, who can get from 30% to 50% discounts on train tickets! There is also a Senior program for those who are 60 and above, and other special programs as well! Unfortunately this part of the website is only in Italian, but maybe if you’re resident in Italy you’ll know how to speak Italian: trenitalia.com. If you only speak English check out ItaliaRail, they’re a partner of Trenitalia and have the same prices and sometimes cheaper tickets than Trenitalia!
- No check-in: Just head to the train station, find your platform and get on the train. It’s fast and efficient. No need to go to remote airports with baggage limits either. I suggest you arrive 30 minutes before departure to have time to find your platform and board the train.
- The views: You will definitely appreciate the views of the Italian countryside/seaside. One of my favorite ones is when you arrive to Santa Maria Novella, and it passes by a street where you can see the Duomo di Firenze! How cool is that?
Always depart and arrive from the city’s central train station
Unless you’re living in Italy, and don’t mind going to the less central train station (for example Roma Tiburtina is great), I advise you to depart and arrive to central train stations, and to make sure you’re heading to the right one! You can’t imagine how many times people mess up and end up in the suburbs instead of in the center. I wouldn’t want that to happen to you, so let me list some of the most important central train stations in Italy, so you can be extra sure!
Roma: Roma Termini
Florence: Firenze Santa Maria Novella
Naples: Napoli Centrale
Venice: Venezia Santa Lucia
Bologna: Bologna Centrale
Milan: Milano Centrale
Verona: Verona Porta Nuova
Turin: Torino Porta Nuova
Palermo: Palermo Centrale