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Train Travel in Italy - How to Use Italian Trains, Buy Rail Passes and Tickets

Train travel in Italy is fairly reasonable by the rest of European standards and the service is usually efficient and well run. The state lines are run by the Ferrovie dello Stato (FS), and there are some private railway services throughout the country.

Prices of fares depend on the type of train you choose for your travel and the length of the journey.

The cost of a train ticket to Italy from Europe may not be that much cheaper than a plane ticket, especially if you are coming from the UK. However, once you are in Italy, train travel throughout Italy is reasonable and the trains themselves are modern and very comfortable. Only in the south of the country will you experience slow service and sometimes trains that are not as frequent as they should be.

Fares are calculated by the kilometer and the return fare (andata e ritorno) is exactly twice as much as a single ticket (andata). However, if your journey is greated than 250 km (155 miles) you will get a 15% discount on your return leg.

To save yourself fretting about missing a train due to long queues buy your tickets either online or the day before your travel.

If you are forced to reserve a ticket on the day reservation offices on the stations accept reservations up to 3 hours before departure. You can really only do this off-season without having to worry about whether you are going to get a seat or not.

Children aged 4-12 get a 50% reduction on train fares.
Children under 4 years of age travel free and do not need a ticket.

Train travel in Italy uses the Trenitalia trains.

Train Travel in Italy: Explanation of the Different Types of Trains

There are different types of trains, and even different class fares sometimes.

Eurostar Service (Super-Rapido)

There is the Super-Rapido or Eurostar services  a high speed train in Italy that has  only a luxury first class and travels between the main Italian cities.

You have to reserve a seat on this type of train and your seat is automatically allocated to you. The number of your seat will tell you which carriage you are in and which seat. If you don't pre-book you won't be able to travel. There is a booking fee for this service.

The Super-Rapido trains that travels through Milan, Bologna, Florence and Rome are the Settebello and the Ambrosiano. The Vesuvio continues its journey down from Rome to Naples. There is also a service that runs from Milan to Venice.

Eurostar Travel Times between Italian Cities:

Florence - Rome: 1 hour 35 minutes
Milan - Venice: 2 hours 23 minutes
Rome - Naples: 1 hour 10 minutes
Rome - Venice: 3 hours 20 minutes

In the main cities such as Milan, Rome, Naples, Genoa and Turin there are 2 railway stations. Make sure that you head for the right station and know which station you will be disembarking from.

Inter-City Plus (Rapido)

The Rapido known today as Inter-City Plus, are fast inter-city trains. There are some first class carriages which again will charge a supplementary fare for the privledge. Here again you will have to reserve your seat, and again you will pay a surchage.

Inter-City (Espresso)

The Espresso known today as Inter-City, are long-distance express trains only stopping at some main stations and first class and second class passengers exist on this type of train.

Diretto

The Diretto are trains that have both 1st and 2nd carriages and stop at most, but not all, stations.

Locale

Locale or Regionale trains that have both 1st and 2nd carriages and stop at all stations. There is no point in pre-booking one of these tickets online.

Train Travel in Italy: When to Travel

Trains can be very busy, especially during the holiday or peak season, particularly Fridays and Sundays, and during Easter, August and Christmas holidays.

Train Travel in Italy: Where to Buy Train Tickets

A train ticket  (un biglietto) can be bought at:
  • Some travel agents
  • Station ticket office (la biglietteria)
  • Automatic ticket machines
  • Newsstands and Station tobacconists for journeys no longer than 250 km (155 miles). This ticket is known as un biglietto a fascia chilometrica.
  • Some bars for short trips

What is a Eurail Pass? 

If you are traveling from Europe to Italy or if you are traveling around Italy extensively, and you haven't got a car, then the next best thing is to get a rail pass which will give you good value for money if you are traveling long distances and often. There are several rail passes available depending on whether you are traveling to or around Italy.

Train Travel in Italy: Eurail Global Pass including Italy

If you are traveling thoughout Europe, and visiting countries that include Italy, then you should look into the Euro rail pass known as the Eurail Global Pass. This allows you unlimited 1st class travel through the following 23 countries:
  • Austria (including Liechtenstein)
  • Belgium
  • Bulgaria
  • Croatia
  • Czech Republic
  • Denmark
  • Finland
  • France (including Monaco)
  • Germany
  • Greece
  • Hungary
  • Ireland
  • Italy
  • Luxembourg
  • The Netherlands
  • Norway
  • Portugal
  • Romania
  • Slovakia
  • Slovenia
  • Spain
  • Sweden
  • Switzerland

Who can buy a Eurail Pass?

You can buy a Eurail if you live in the USA, Canada or the rest of the Americas, Australia, New Zealand and most of Asia and Africa. 

Who cannot buy a Eurail Pass?

If you are a European citizen or if you live permanently in Europe, Turkey, Russian Federation, Morocco, Algeria or Tunisia, you cannot buy a Eurail pass, but you qualify for an InterRail pass instead.  Eurail passes should normally be bought before leaving your home country.
There are several different periods of validity. There is a pass for unlimited train travel over 15 days, 21 days, 1 month, 2 months and 3 months.

There is also a Eurail Saverpass which is a 15-day pass for 2 or more people traveling together.

If you are under 26 then there is also the Eurail Youthpass for unlimted travel for 1 or 2 months of second class travel.

Who can buy an InterRail Pass?

You can buy an InterRail pass if you are a citizen of any of the following European countries:  UK, Republic of Ireland, France, Spain, Portugal, Switzerland, Italy, Greece, Germany, Austria, Belgium, Netherlands, Luxembourg, Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Finland, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary, Croatia, Slovenia, Poland, Romania, Bulgaria, Macedonia, Serbia, Turkey.

You can also buy an InterRail pass if you can prove you have been resident in any of these countries for at least 6 months, or resident for 6 months or more in Iceland, Russia, Ukraine, the Baltic States, Malta, Morocco, Turkey, Algeria or Tunisia.

Who cannot buy an InterRail Pass?

You cannot buy an InterRail Pass if you live in  the USA, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, Africa, Asia. You need to buy a Eurail Pass.

What trains can you not travel on with a Eurail Pass?

If you have a Eurail pass you will not be able to use it to travel free on underground or metros in Italian cities.

There are also some limitations with some smaller, private train operators such as the Circumvesuviana railway that travels between Naples-Pompeii-Sorrento in Italy.

Always check to see where you can use your pass if you are not sure.

Train Travel in Italy: Italy Rail Passes

Train travel in Italy certainly has its advantages. You can enjoy the views without having to worry about traffic or finding parking spaces in small towns that are overcrowded and  cost as much as a meal.

There are a number of rail passes in Italy available so take advantage of discounted fares by buying one of the following Italy rail passes:

1) Eurail Italy Pass

This Eurail pass is a Eurail Single Country Pass, specifically for train travel in Italy will give you unlimited train travel on the local network for 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9 or 10 days within 2 months.

Rail passes must be validated within 6 months of purchase date at the train station by a railway official and passports must be shown when the pass is validated. All travelers must be present at the time.

2) Train Travel in Italy: Rail Tourist Passes for Italy

i) Italy Rail Pass: Italian Tourist Ticket

The Italian Tourist Ticket (BTLC) is the ticket you need to buy for unlimited travel around the whole of Italy, including Sicily.

ii) Italy Rail Pass: Italy Flexi Railcard

There is a variation of the BTLC called the Italy Flexi Railcard. This is not as good as the Italian Tourist Ticket but will give you 4 days unlimited travel out of 9, 8 days out of 21 or 12 days out of 30.

iii) Italy Rail Pass for Families and Groups: Italian Kilometric Ticket

The third type of railway pass in Italy is the Italian Kilometric Ticket which is perfect for families or groups. This pass allows you 20 days of travel over a 2 month period or to a maximum of 3000 km (1,875 miles) for a maximum of 5 people - related or not. Children under 12 are counted for only half the distance and children under 4 travel free.

iv) Italy Rail Pass for those between 12 - 26: Carta Verde

For those of you who are 12 years to  26 years old and not that organized to have pre-bought your train passes while still at home, there is the Carta Verde which you can purchase in Italy. This card allows you 1 year of unlimited train travel with 20% off all first and second class published fares.

v) Italy Rail Pass for Families: Carte Famiglia

The Carte Famiglia will give you a 20% reduction on your normal train fares for up to 4 family members.

vi) Italy Rail Pass for Families: Rail Europe Family Card

Rail Europe Family Card allows you a 50% reduction in fares for adults and a 75% reduction for children.

vi) Italy Rail Pass for those over 60: Carta d'Argento

For travelers over the age of 60 you haven't been forgotten. You can buy the Carta d'Argento that has similar discounts.

If you are confused as to which train pass you should buy go to Rail Saver and within minutes you will know which one suits your needs best.

Travel Italy Grapevine Tip: Some passes are not valid during Christmas and in certain times over the peak summer holiday period. Always ask if there are any restrictions in using your pass when you purchase it.


Train Travel in Italy: Where to Buy Train Tickets and Passes in Italy 

Rail passes allow you unlimited travel within a given timeframe and you can usually get them in either 1st or second class type travel. Some of these rail passes cannot be bought in Italy, but must be purchased in your home country before you leave.

Any of the Eurail Passes can only be bought in your home countries. Their validity begins on the first day of their use which must be validated by a station official.

Although you probably won't be charged a booking fee if you have to make a seat reservation for a certain sector of your journey even with the rail pass you are still obliged to make the reservation to guarantee a seat.

It's easy to buy a Eurail pass online, however, depending on where you live around the world, you will be directed to a different website.

If you live in the USA: www.raileurope.com
If you live in Canada:www.raileurope.ca
If you live in Australia:www.raileurope.com.au
If you live in New Zealand, South Africa, Africa, Asia, South America or elsewhere:
 www.raileurope-world.com

Buy train tickets in Italy 0r your home country at Trenitalia where you can buy and book your train tickets online.

Train Travel in Italy: How to Buy a Ticket at the Station using a Ticket Machine

If you are catching one of the local lines then head for the station and use the train ticket dispensing machines found on the stations. They are not difficult to use. It is operated using a touch screen and translates the instructions into a number of foreign languages, including English, Spanish, French and German. Chose the red, white and blue British flag for English.

These are the same ticket machines where you also collect and print off your ticket if you have bought your ticket online and need to put in the PNR code.
Press "collect your ticket" for this option.

Press "Buy your ticket" if purchasing a new ticket. The machine is pre-set for the departure station so you just need to enter the arrival station. If you are departing from a different station you will need to change this manually. Press the "Modify the Departure" button.

After arrival station comes up press this and a number of options will come up with various departure times. Choose the one that has the least stops. After pressing "Select" the following will come up:

  • Base
  • Flessibile
  • Familia
  • Promo
  • Global Class
If you are going to buy a ticket then select base for immediate departure as flessibile is for business travelers. Economy and Super-Economy fares are only available in advance and not on the day that you are traveling.

Once you have made your selection then enter the number of people traveling with you.

If you want to make a rail pass reservation then select Global Pass. This then will start a ticket reservation for either a Eurail Pass or an InterRail Pass.

Pay options are either with cash, a credit card or an Italian bank card. A chip or PIN number is not required.

Train Travel in Italy and Traveling with Children on Italian Trains:

Children under 4 travel free with no ticket necessary. Children aged 4-11 (inclusive) travel on a child rate ticket which is normally 50% of the adult fare. Children over 12 pay the adult fare.

Travel Video on How to Buy a Train Ticket in Italy from the Automatic Ticket Machine



To make a railpass reservation, select 'GLOBAL PASS'.  This makes a reservation to go with a Eurail or InterRail pass.


Train Travel in Italy: How to Read Italian Train Timetables

Train tables are posted at all train stations and there are often information booths or computerized information facilities for you to use. Tourist offices can also give you information on the train systems.

If you are doing a lot of train travel in Italy than you should invest in a train timetable (un orario) for the country.

The FS timetable is very comprehensive, but fairly heavy and sells out fast. There is another alternative which is smaller and issued twice a year. This is the Pozzorario and is available from  station kiosks and newsstands.

At train stations there are timetables displayed showing the departure times (partenze)  usually in yellow and the arival times (arrivi) usually in white

You will find that there are some notes on the timetable telling you that certain services only run between certain dates (si effetua dal ....al...) or that a service is seasonal (periodico).

You will also see the term giornaliero which means that the service runs daily.
If you see the word fierale it means that the service runs weekly from Monday to Saturday.

Festivi means that the service runs on Sundays.

Binario means track, and binari is the plural in Italian for tracks. This is abbreviated to bin following the number of the track where you can find your train rather than the word platform that we would be more familiar with.

Train Travel in Italy: Before you Get on to an Italian Train

If you have bought a ticket online while still in your home country you will need to get a paper ticket once at the train station you are traveling from by using the self service vending machines that you will see at the stations.

Type in the Trenitalia PNR code that you were given as part of your intinerary. Each person traveling with you will have their own PNR code. Then type your first name and surname and the paper ticket will be issued to you from the machine.

In the event that your station does not have a machine, tickets can be printed at the Italian ticket counters that operate during normal Italian business hours.

Train Travel in Italy: Validating your Train Tickets on Italian TrainsA green validation machine for tain tickets in Italy.

Make sure that you stamp your ticket at the green machines on the platforms before you embark on your journey. Some stations still have the old yellow machines. If you can't see a green machine, then head for the yellow one.

Only validate the one half of your journey, not the return ticket until you are ready to use that ticket. Failing to stamp your ticket can result in an on-the-spot-fine. This could be anything from Euros 25 - 150!

Once validated trips up to 200 km are valid for 6 hours. Trips over 200 km are valid for 24 hours. Children 4-12 pay half-price. Children under 4 travel free.

It is only paper tickets that you need to validate, not e-tickets that have a reservation number and a seat allocation.

See a Travel Video on How to Validate your Eurail Pass





See a Travel Video on How to Make a Train Reservation




Train Travel in Italy: How long is my Ticket Valid for?

International Single or return tickets are valid for up to 2 months after the date of purchase as long as you haven't stamped them through the validiation machine on the station.

Domestic tickets are valid up to a maximum of 6 days after purchase.

If you made a seat reservation with the ticket, however, the date you wish to travel will be stamped automatically on the ticket.

Undated tickets for up to 250 km (155 miles)  must be validated on the day of travel.

Train Travel in Italy: Food Services on Italian Trains

If you are travelling long distance the trains will have a mobile food cart from which you can get food and something to drink. It is not part of your ticket price, and you will have to pay extra, a lot extra.

You won't get value for money and the coffee is pretty foul. Buy whatever food and drinks you think you will need for the journey and save some money where you can. Pack a book or a couple of magazines too as the windows are not always that clean and you may not be able to enjoy the views especially if it is raining.

Train Tarvel in Italy: Getting to Sardinia and Sicily

There are train ferries that you can catch that travel to the two main islands of Sardinia and Sicily. They leave from Civitavecchia  in the province of Lazio, and Villa San Giovanni, in the province of Calabria.

Train Travel in Italy: Sleeper Carriages for Night Travel

Depending on what time your train leaves during the day could mean that you end up sleeping on the train before you get to your destination. Sleeping carriages have different categories of accommodation.

There are the following classes:

  • tourist
  • double
  • single
  • special single
A couchette service, for which you have to book, is also available on some routes. This service is when ordinary seats are converted into couchettes during the night for you to sleep on.

In order to secure your seats and beds for night travel in Italy you have to show officials both your booking details and a copy of your passport of similar ID to show that the person who made the booking is the person sleeping in the carriage.

Train Travel in Italy with your Pets

Yes, Fluffy and Fido can travel with you but there are certain restrictions.  
  • Firstly, if you have arrived from outside Italy you will need to show train officials your pet's passport when purchasing it's ticket - if needed, or showing officials the passport when asked. If you cannot produce this, you will be asked to disembark with your dog at the next train stop.
  • If your cat, dog or other small pet is small enough to fit into a container that measures 70x30x50 cm then your pet can travel for free if you are traveling 1st or 2nd class. However for trains operated with ETR 450 carriages, the container must remain on your lap throughout the journey. Only one container per traveler is allowed.
  • If you are travelling on the Espressi (Express), IC and ICN trains in both first and second class on regional trains  then you can travel with a dog of any size as long as it is muzzled and on a leash. The dog may only travel in the last carriage and can sit in the aisle.
However, during rush hour, between 7:00 a.m. - 9:00 a.m. Monday to Friday dogs are not allowed on the trains for free. Instead, if you want to travel with your dog during these times you will have to purchase a 2nd class ticket that will be sold to you at 50% of the published fare.

This is the same case for those traveling on the Excelsior and Excelsior 4 carriages, or with a couchette service.

  • At no time can the pets take up any space that would be used for other passengers and if your dog can't behave itself and becomes to nuisance to other travelers then you can expect to either be moved elsewhere, if you are lucky, or thrown off the train, if you are not.
  • If you are traveling with a guide dog then you can travel on all trains free of charge with no restrictions.

Train Travel in Italy : Transporting Bicycles and Cars

Bicycles:

Bicycle symbol found on some Italian trainsIf you are wanting to take your bicycle on board a train in Italy you can do so, but only on certain trains that  show the bicycle symbol seen left in the timetable can be used for this.

On these one can transport one bicycle per person, up to the limit of places available, and on specific days according to the timetable.

There is a daily supplementary charge for this service, on top of the regular passenger ticket for taking your bicycle on the train.

As 2012, the cost of taking a bicycle on a regional train is Euro 3.50 and on International trains Euros 12.00. On a domestic train it is free of charge.

Cars:

You can also take your car on trains in Italy between a limited number of stations shown in the timetable. Charges for cars is based on the distance traveled as well as the length of the vehicle.

Bookings for transporting cars can be made 2 months before you travel, at certan train stations or though travel agencies authorised to handle this service.


Train Travel in Italy: Left Luggage

Main city stations have a left luggage office which saves you dragging bags all over the city if you are just visiting for the day. The offices are manned but on smaller stations you may find that they only have self-service lockers where you can lock your bags up.

If you are using the manned booths you may need to show your passport when depositing and collecting your bags.

There is a fee for this service which is usually calculated on the number of bags depostited.

Happy travels!



Other Train Travel in Italy Resources:

A comprehensive guide on how to travel from Malpensa Airport to Venice on the train.

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