Train travel in Italy can be a fast, efficient, and affordable way to get around the country and see multiple destinations within a small amount of time, but be sure you know what to expect before you go.
Train Travel in Italy: A Beginners Guide to Train Italy with Confidence
Italy is one of my favorite countries. We’ve visited nearly every big city and lots of little ones in between. It is so large and diverse with an incredible history that has given us so much of our modern culture today.
Some of my favorite places in Italy like Rome, Venice, Lake Como and Cinque Terre can be accessed easily by train. Train travel in Italy can be a fast, efficient, and affordable way to get around the country and see multiple destinations within a small amount of time, but be sure you know what to expect before you go.
If you still don’t know where you’re going in Italy, check out this incredible list of the best places to visit in Italy! There are so many options from you to choose from and thankfully they are almost all easily accessible by train. These 5 Italy itineraries are great for a train tour of Italy
How to Pick Your Train Route in Italy
Figuring out how to get from point A to point B can be one of the most challenging aspects of train travel in Italy! There are several apps I like to use to help me decide where I need to be.
- Google Maps: Google Maps is always my go-to when I’m trying to navigate public transport around Europe. Enter your destination and be sure to select the train icon when looking at directions.
- Moovit App: I’ve recently discovered the Moovit App and am really loving it. It only deals in public transportation, encompassing metros, trains, ferries, buses and more.
Download on Apple Download on Android
Once you’ve selected your desired route, you can either head to the train station or purchase your tickets online. But before purchasing your tickets, read on…
Italy Train Map
Things to Consider When Using Train Travel in Italy
Before jumping online to buy your Italy train tickets, you need to take a few things into consideration. There will be many options for purchasing tickets. There are so many different times, classes, connection numbers, and prices that it can all be a little confusing. Decide which of these things is most important to you before you even begin looking for tickets.
- Number of Connections
Italy Rail Pass vs. Point to Point Tickets
“Should I buy a Europe Rail Pass?” I often get asked if it is worth it to buy a Europe Rail Pass in Italy. Honestly, I’ve done the math, and for every trip we’ve taken to Italy, it hasn’t been worth it. Train travel in Italy is so affordable, and kids tickets are heavily discounted, so it has always been cheaper for us to just buy train tickets separately.
The Italy Rail Pass covers only trains that are run by the Italian State Railway. And you’ll probably want the freedom to travel on other private train lines in Italy. The Rail Pass does not cover Thello (the overnight train), Italo (high-speed trains), or other regional trains that are highly used in Italy. However, if you’re traveling between multiple countries, I DO think it’s worth it.
Train Travel in Italy with Children
Children under the age of four travel for free on Trenitalia trains in Italy. If they are traveling for free, they will not have their own seat. This can sometimes be a problem if it’s a train that requires reservations and all the other seats are taken, leaving you with a child in your lap the whole time.
For shorter trips, this may not be a problem, but for longer trips, you may want to consider purchasing a ticket. Many times, the trains are not full, and if there is an empty seat your child can sit there. Children using train travel in Italy have a discounted child fare on most trains in Italy, even the private train lines. A child is considered age 4-11 years old.
Rail Passes for Children in Italy
If you’re traveling with lots of kids, buying a Rail Pass may be worth it. Rail passes for children ages 4-11 are free of charge with the purchase of adult rail passes. You can get two child passes for every adult rail pass. Each child must have their own pass.
How to Buy a Train Ticket in Italy
If you’ve chosen to buy your Italy train tickets a-la-cart, there are a few things you need to know first. There are two ways to purchase tickets for train travel in Italy:
Option 1: Purchase Train Tickets at the Station
You can easily purchase your train tickets at any train station in Italy. The machines are simple to use and there is an English language option. The machines will guide you through selecting the right ticket. There are many ticket machines at bigger train stations so you will hopefully not even need to wait in line. The Machines will say TreinItalia and Biglietti on them. When you first step up to the machine, it will yell at you “Beware of Pickpockets!” This is not a joke! I almost got robbed in Milano Centrale last year. It was a very scary experience, so be aware of your surroundings, do NOT put your bag down or let go of your suitcase.
Pickpockets will be loitering around the machines either pretending to buy tickets or pretending to help you buy a ticket. Do NOT accept anyone’s help buying a ticket from the machines, unless they are clearly an employee. Even then, be cautious!
The machine will give you several options for tickets. Be sure to check the number of connections, duration, price etc. to find the best option for you. Remember These Steps:
- Select English or your preferred language
- Select Destination (Be sure to know the name of the train station you want, many cities have several train stations)
- Select Date of Travel
- Select Time Onward
- Select Amount of Passengers (adults and children)
- Decide if you want 1st or 2nd class. Sometimes the 1st class tickets are only a few euros more, so if it’s a longer ride, I will pick those. Usually it means you have guaranteed seats next to each other versus open coach seating.
- Check the best times for you
- Check duration of the journey
- Check the number of connections (the fewer the better)
- Purchase Tickets: All machines accept cash, credit cards, and debit cards.
- Print Tickets
- Collect Tickets
- VALIDATE TICKETS! Do not skip this step. Once your train tickets are printed, head to the green validation machines and stick your ticket in for a stamp! If you do not do this, your ticket is not valid and you will be susceptible to heavy fines on the train! I ended up with a 220 Euro fine on a 4 Euro Ticket because of this!
Option 2: Buy Train Tickets Online
This will be the easiest and cheapest option for train travel in Italy! There are many websites that you can use to purchase train tickets in Italy. I like to use Rail Europe to purchase my train tickets. They have great rates and the site is easy to use, unlike some of the more local websites.
Enter your date, time and passengers, and pay online. You can use an electronic ticket on your phone which will be mailed to you. I have found booking online to be a little bit cheaper versus purchasing tickets at the machines, however, there are usually booking fees about $1 USD/ticket. You also don’t need to stress about pickpockets, validation, or anything else.
Getting on Your Train in Italy
Find your platform on the screen and head to your train. Ask an employee if you need help. This might be the trickiest part of your journey. Look for your train number instead of your destination.
Getting on the Train and Finding your Seats
This seems like a no-brainer, but I’ve made this mistake twice! Be sure to check your ticket because often you will be assigned a coach number, either with seats or with open seating. There’s nothing worse than unloading all your bags and getting comfortable in someone else’s seats, then having to move! The carriage number will be labeled carazzo with a number by it. Watch your bags closely until the train departs. Pickpockets are known to loiter on the trains and grab bags right as the train is leaving, hop off and run!
Enjoy the Ride
Once you’ve found your seats, get comfortable and enjoy the ride. It is wonderful to watch the Italian countryside roll by. Most seats will have outlets, so you can charge your phone, and also subpar wifi. I get a lot of work done on train rides through Italy.
Almost all trains in Italy have bathrooms, although their sanitation is questionable. Bring hand sanitizer! Train travel in Italy can really be enjoyable when you know what to do! Stick to these tips and you will stay safe and have a great time.
Do you have questions about Train travel in Italy? I’m happy to answer them! Connect with me and we can figure it out together!