Using Rail Passes in and to/from Italy

Using rail passes in Italy
Welcome to the guide to using InterRail and Eurail Passes which are valid for train travel in Italy.

Having used rail passes to travel 1000s of kilometres around Italy by train in the past two years, we've anticipated the questions you are most likely to have - we hope.

So either click on a question to jump straight to the info you need, or spend 10 mins (ish) reading all of our insights.

They should save you save you time, money and confusion!

USING EURAIL AND INTERRAIL PASSES FOR TRAIN JOURNEYS WITHIN ITALY:

Can I hop on any train operated by Trenitalia with a Eurail or InterRail Pass?

What Trenitalia trains require reservations to be paid for prior to boarding - and how much do they cost?

How can I pay for these reservation fees prior to boarding the train?

How easy is to avoid the Frecce trains?

Will I save money if I avoid the Frecce and Intercity trains?

What about Bologna
Florence/Firenze?

What about trains not operated by Trenitalia?

What are the international train services from/to Italy that DON'T require reservation fees?


What are the international train services from/to Italy that DO require reservation fees?

How can these reservation fees for the international trains be booked in advance?

What are the reservation fees for the international express trains?


USING EURAIL AND INTERRAIL PASSES FOR TRAIN JOURNEYS WITHIN ITALY:

The 'rules' for how rail passes can be used and booked on the international trains can be different - hence the dedicated info for using rail passes on when travelling from and to Italy.

Can I hop on any train operated by Trenitalia with a Eurail or InterRail Pass?

The short answer is "sadly not" - but don't abandon your plans, using rail passes in Italy can still be great value money (and we're not being paid by anyone to say that).

You can hop on and off *nearly all of the Regionale (R/REG) and Regionale Veloce (RGV/RV) trains without having to bother with making reservations prior to boarding.
*What's becoming slightly awkward is that a few Regionale train services are now operated by regional government organisations instead of the national rail operator, Trenitalia and when that is the case rail passes aren't valid.
It's particularly worth being aware of this if you will be taking local trains to/from Bari, Bolzano and Trento.

Because seats can't be reserved on the on these two types of Regionale services (R and RV) they can be crowded in summer and around holidays, so if you'll be joining these trains at a city station, it's worth being at the station before boarding will commence.

A big plus of the Regionale Veloce (RGV/RV) services in particular is that they can cover relatively long distances.
Using rail passes in Italy

Popular routes taken by Regionale Veloce (RV) trains:

*routes operated by Trenord - rail passes are valid on Trenord trains)

(1) Milano - Arona - Stresa - Domodossola*

(2) Milano - Como - Chiasso - Lugano - Bellinzona (operated by Ticino)

(3) Milano - Torino/Turin

(4) Milano - Genova/Genoa

(5) Milano - Piacenza - Parma - Modena - Bologna

(6) Milano - Brescia - Desenzano del Garda - Peschiera de Garda - Verona*

(7) Venezia - Padova/Padua - Vicenza - Verona
Connect in Verona to travel Milano ↔ Venice/Venezia by Regionale Veloce trains

(8) Venezia - Padova/Padua - Rovigo - Ferrara - Bologna

(9) Venezia - Trieste

(10) Bologna - Verona - Trento - Bolzano - Brennero (connect at Brennero for local trains to Innsbruck)

(11) Piacenza - Parma - Modena - Bologna - Rimini

(12) Roma - Grosseto - Livorno - Pisa

(13) Roma - Assisi - Perugia 

(14) Roma - Ancona

(15) Roma - Arezzo - Firenze/Florence

(16) Messina - Palermo

---------------------------------------------------------

Popular longer routes taken by slower Regionale (R/REG) trains:

(1) Genova/Genoa - Albenga - San Remo - Ventimiglia (connect for local trains towards Nice in France)

(2) Genova - Sestri Levant - Monterosso (for the Cinque Terre) - La Spezia

(3) Firenze/Florence - Pisa - La Spezia or Livorno

(4) Firenze/Florence - Siena

(5) Firenze/Florence - Arezzo - Perugia - Assisi - Foligno

(6) Roma - Napoli/Naples

(7) Milano - Tirano (connect for RhB trains into Switzerland)

Back to the list of questions.

---------------------------------------------------------

What Trenitalia trains require reservations to be paid for prior to boarding - and how much do they cost?

The short answer is that reservations are required on ALL of the express trains in Italy - no matter how long your journey will be.

(1) Using rail passes on InterCity trains:

Cheapest, but slowest of these options are the InterCity express trains, but the reservation fee to travel by these trains is only €3 - in 1st AND 2nd class.

(2) Using rail passes for journeys within Italy on the EuroCity trains (not operated by Trenitalia):

Instead of Italian Intercity trains, the EuroCity trains that are heading to/from Germany and Austria operate on the routes between Bologna/Venezia/Verona and Brennero via Bolzano and Trento.

For any domestic journey within Italy by these trains, the rail pass reservation fees are €10 in 2nd class and €15 in 1st class - so avoid them and take the alternative Regionale (RV/R) trains.

(3) Using rail passes on the Frecce trains:
Using rail passes on Frecce trains
The reservation fees for the Frecce trains are €10 if you have a 1st OR 2nd class pass - the other prices that you may see for these reservation fees, include a booking fee, but paying that additional cost is easily avoided.

Travel by the very fabulous Frecciarossa 1000 or Frecciarossa trains with a 1st class Eurail or InterRail pass and your reservations will be in ultra-swish Business Class.

Though take care before you commit to paying these fees to travel by the non-high speed Frecciabianca trains.
On some routes including Milano <> Bologna, alternative faster Frecciarossa trains will be available - but the same fees are charged to travel by the slower Frecciabianca trains.

Because the reservation fees are a flat rate, taking a Frecce train can be good value IF you will be travelling long distances such as Milano <> Napoli; Venezia <> Roma or Torino <>Firenze.

Compared to buying tickets even a couple of days ahead, the day of rail pass use + the reservation fee, can equate to a saving of than €80 if you will be using a First Class pass and €40 if you will be using a Second Class pass.

Back to the list of questions.

---------------------------------------------------------

How can I pay for these reservation fees prior to boarding the train?

Before Arriving in Italy:

If you want to book the reservations for Frecce or InterCity OR the international DAY trains before you arrive in Italy, then one option is to purchase them on the Trenitalia website- using the desktop version - particularly because you won't be charged a booking fee.

Bookings usually open around 4 months ahead of the travel date, but we recommend booking from about 10 weeks - all departures should be online by then and no train will have sold out.
The screen shots are taken from the English language version of the Trenitalia website.

1: Look up a journey as though you were buying a ticket - you have to use the Italian names of the cities and stations.

Step one of booking Italian rail pass reservations online
Click the circled arrow to access the ticket details of the train.

2: You will then see the table/list of ticket prices for this journey. Ignore them and instead click the 'View Other Offer's button.

Booking rail pass reservations for Italian trains online

3: Once clicked you will be able to access drop down menus that you can use to book your rail pass reservation.


The first drop down you need to select from is in the service column - choose Business if you will be travelling with a 1st class pass, or Standard if you will be travelling with a 2nd class pass.

Ignore the total amount - it won't be the price that you will be charged.

4: In the drop down menu in the 'Offer' column, select 'Global Pass' - even if you have a one country pass.
Booking rail pass reservations for Italy online
5: Once you have selected 'Global Pass' a box will then appear, enter your pass number into it.
Booking rail reservations on the Trenitalia website
Note that the price has now been reduced (by more than €80 in this example!) to the price you will pay for the reservation.

Click the 'choose the seat' box and then click on continue - on the next screen a seating plan will appear.
Choose a seat and then book.

OR if you'd rather not use Trenitalia, an option is to use the Eurail or InterRail Rail Planner app to book the reservations, but check whether booking fees are being added.

---------------------------------------------------------

Booking reservations when you are in Italy:

If you're happy to make your reservations once you have arrived in Italy, then you can book them in stations at a ticket desk, or by using any Trenitalia branded ticket machine - without paying any booking fees!
This can be the best option on the routes which have fairly frequent trains, because you can be spontaneous and travel when it suits.

The queues for the ticket counters at major Italian stations can be lengthy, so our preference is to use the machines.

The trick is to click on the Global Pass button, even if you have a One Country Pass, and then follow the fairly obvious steps.

When using the ticket machines to book reservations, you will need to enter your pass number, but when more than one person is travelling together, you can book multiple reservations in the one transaction.
When a journey involves more than one train on which reservations are charged, you will have to pay the fees per train and not one fee for the entire journey.

The only bug is that you're unlikely to be given the specific seat that you have requested when using the machines.

---------------------------------------------------------

Some advice on when to book these reservations:

Because it can be relatively straightforward to book reservations at the station in Italy, it can be tempting to exploit the possibilities for spontaneous travel provided by using an InterRail or Eurail pass and refrain from booking any mandatory reservations in advance.

However, booking reservations at least 4 weeks ahead is recommended if you;

(i) need to travel on a specific train - particularly between May and October
(ii) want to take any Intercity train between May and October
(iii) want to take Intercity trains between Milano and Monterosso/La Spezia/Pisa/Livorno year round
(iv) want to take Intercity trains between both Roma/Napoli and Sicily year round
(v) want to take Frecce trains between Roma/Firenze/Bologna and Verona/Bolzano
(v) want to take  Frecce trains between Roma and any destination south of Salerno (Bari, Lecce, Villa S, Giovanni, Reggio di Calabria).

In contrast, on ​​​​​the routes with frequent Frecce services, such as Venice <> Milan or Rome and journeys between cities on the Turin - Milan - Bologna - Florence - Rome - Naples route, if you leave making a booking until the last minute, some trains might be sold out, but alternative departures will be available.

When making journeys with fairy frequent departures my preference is to find a fairly quiet Trenitalia ticket machine at the first Italian station I arrive - and then book all the reservations I need for the rest of the trip.

Back to the list of questions.

---------------------------------------------------------

How easy is to avoid the Frecce trains?

You can travel between any Italian city with a rail pass  without having to pay the more expensive reservation fees to travel by Frecce trains.

On the shorter distance routes Regionale (REG) and Regionale Veloce (RGV/RV) are usually an option - see the NON-comprehensive route list above.

Over long distances  InterCity trains can be a cheaper, but slower, option - though when they are an alternative to the Frecce trains they're generally much less frequent.
Using Eurail and InterRail Passes in Italy
However on some routes, included the two listed below  the Intercity trains are the only option:
(1) Milano - Genova - Monterosso (for the Cinque Terre) - La Spezia - Pisa - Livorno - Roma
(2) Roma - Napoli - Messina - Palermo/Siracusa
Back to the list of questions.

---------------------------------------------------------

Will I save money if I avoid the Frecce and Intercity trains?

Avoiding the mandatory reservation fees on the Italian express trains can mean that using rail passes to travel around Italy by train won't offer such good value for money.

Tickets for journeys by Regionale (REG) and Regionale Veloce (RGV/RV) trains are comparatively cheap - and if you want to avoid ANY reservation fees when travelling around Italy with a rail pass, you'll have to take these Regionale/Regionale Veloce train services.

A last minute ticket for a journey by RGV train between Firenze/Florence and Roma costs less than €22 - and this is one of the longest possible direct journeys by Regionale Veloce (RGV) train.
So once you factor in the cost per day of any Eurail and InterRail pass, it's highly likely that you will have to travel a long distance PER DAY on these trains, for your pass to be a money saver.

Though in contrast, if you compare the cost per day of using your pass against the last minute (on the day) ticket prices of LONG DISTANCE journeys by Frecce trains - you can be 'saving' more than €40 with a Second Class pass and more than €80 with a First Class pass - even AFTER paying the reservations

Back to the list of questions.

---------------------------------------------------------

What about Bologna Florence/Firenze?

Bologna and Firenze are comparatively adjacent cities, the journey between them by Frecce trains using the high speed line is less than 40 minutes, so once you have paid a €10 reservation fee to travel this distance, using Eurail or InterRail passes will offer poor value for money.

But there is only one direct train per day between the city centre stations (Bologna Centrale and Firenze S.M.Novella) which isn't a Frecce train - and that one train is an InterCity train, which also requires a reservation fee - albeit it's cheaper at €3.

Three other Intercity trains per day operate in both directions between Bologna Centrale station and Firenze Rifredi station - and Rifredi station isn't in the city centre.
Connections by Regionale trains link Firenze Rifredi station with the city centre station, Firenze S.M.Novella - so taking those trains saves €7.

However, if you want to avoid rail pass reservation fees completely when travelling between the two cities, you can take Regionale trains, but will have to make connections in Prato.
Though plan journeys via Prato with care as the Regionale trains in both directions between Bologna and Prato aren't particularly frequent

Back to the list of questions.

--------------------------------------------------------

What about trains not operated by Trenitalia?

Eurail and InterRail passes are NOT valid on Italo trains.
Rail passes can't be used on Italo trains
Rail passes also can't be used for Thello trains for both journeys within AND to/from Italy.

Some Regionale train services are operated by companies other than Trenitalia, but rail passes are valid on MOST of these - but not all.

Although they are valid on train services operated by Trenord - this company operates most train services in Lombardy, therefore many of the Regionale services to/from Milano are operated by Trenord

Back to the list of questions.

-------------------------------------------------------
 
USING EURAIL AND INTERRAIL PASSES FOR TRAIN JOURNEYS FROM AND TO ITALY:

What are the international train services from/to Italy that DON'T require reservation fees?

The only long distance DIRECT express trains from/to Italy that don't require reservations in advance of boarding are the Railjet trains in either direction on the Venezia/Venice - Villach - Klagenfurt - Wien/Vienna route.

However, seats are NOT guaranteed on these trains if you haven't reserved - particularly in the summer months.

On the other international routes, if you're happy to stick to local/regional trains AND make connections - then it can be relatively easy to avoid reservation fees AND have a fantastic journey.

The comparatively simple journey options include:

(1) Take a Regionale (REG) and Regionale Veloce (RGV/RV) trains on the Verona - Trento - Bolzano - Brennero route.
Then at Brennero connect for the local trains on to Innsbruck
Do this and you can avoid the reservation fees charged on the EC trains between Italy and Austria/Germany.

(2) Take Regionale trains (branded TiLo) in either direction on the
Milano - Como - Chiaso - Lugano - Bellinzona - Erstfeld route.

Connect in Lugano, Bellinzona or Erstfeld for Swiss trains to/from Basel, Luzern and Zurich.
Do this and you can avoid the reservation fees charged on the EC trains between Italy and Switzerland.

(3) Take Regionale trains between Milano and Domodossola.

Then at Domodossola you can connect into Centovali F.A.R.T trains for the stunning journey to Locarno in Switzerland - and then from Locarno you can travel on to Bellinzona and connect there for Basel, Lugano, Luzern and Zurich.
Or connect in Domodossola for Swiss regional trains on to Brig and towards Bern.

This is another option for avoiding the reservation fees charged on the EC trains between Italy and Switzerland.

(4) Take Regionale trains between Milano and Tirano.

At Tirano you can connect for RhB trains on to St Moritz - and with easy connections in Pontresina and Samedan, you can travel on to Chur
From Chur you can connect into trains on to St Gallen and Zurich.

Do this and you can avoid the reservation fees charged on the EC trains between Italy and Switzerland - and you'll have a much more spectacular journey.

(5) Take Regionale trains from Genova, Albenga and San Remo to Ventimiglia
At Ventimiglia connections are available into frequent local trains to Menton, Nice, Antibes and Cannes
Do this and you can avoid the Thello trains

Back to the list of questions.

-------------------------------------------------------
 
What are the international train services from/to Italy that DO require reservation fees?

Using rail passes on trains from Switzerland to Italy

(1) Reservations are required on the EC trains (€15 in 1st and €10 in 2nd) on the Bologna/Verona/Venezia - Innsbruck - Munchen/Munich route and on the EC trains between Italy and Switzerland (€13 in 1st and €11 in 2nd).

(2) Thello trains are an exception because rail passes are NOT VALID on these trains.

Instead rail pass users have access to discounted tickets - but these are more expensive than the very cheapest advance tickets.

(3) Reservations are also required for all the accommodation (seats/couchettes/sleeping cabins) on the Nightjet trains between Italy and both Austria and Germany
(There are no overnight trains between Italy and Switzerland)

(4) However, rail passes are NOT valid on the Thello overnight trains which operate on the Venezia - Verona - Milano - Dijon - Paris route.

(5) Our advice is to avoid if possible the TGV France-Italy trains on the Milano - Torino - Chambery - (Lyon) - Paris route.

On these trains the reservation fees are more expensive than discounted tickets - however, there are no local trains between Italy and France on this route

Back to the list of questions.

-------------------------------------------------------

How can these mandatory reservation fees for the international trains be booked in advance?

Booking the DAY trains online before you arrive in Italy (or Switzerland):

If you want to book reservations for the direct EC trains to OR from Austria, Germany and Switzerland OR the Railjet trains to OR from Austria you can book then online on Trenitalia 
The instructions are here.

Booking these resevations online is the best option if you want to take the EC trains from Switzerland to Italy.
That's because you'll have to pay fairly expensive booking fees (11 CHF) for these trains if you book the reservation(s) at a Swiss station.

-------------------------------------------------------

Booking reservations when in Italy:

International reservations CAN'T be booked by using the Trenitalia branded ticket machines.

If you want to book reservations for the EC or Railjet trains* in Italy you have to use a ticket office - but no booking fees are charged.

*The ticket desks at Italian stations will not sell reservations for the TGV France - Italy services - they can be booked at a dedicated ticket desk in Milano Porta Garibaldi station.

-------------------------------------------------------

Booking rail pass reservations for the NIGHT trains:

If you want to travel in a sleeping cabin or couchette on a Nightjet train to Austria or Germany, it's best to book the reservation before arriving in Italy.
Couchettes and sleeping cabins can sell out on these trains weeks in advance.

However, rail pass reservations for the Nightjet trains from AND to Germany can no longer be booked on the DB (German Railways) website, so use the Eurail or InterRail booking services.

Rail passes are NOT valid on the Thello night trains.

Back to the list of questions.

-------------------------------------------------------​​​​​​

What are the reservation fees for the international express trains?

The fees on the popular routes include:

(1) Basel/Bern/Geneve/Luzern/Zurich – Milano (EC) = €13 in 1st and €11 in 2nd class

(2) Paris - Torino/Miano (TGV France/Italy) = €89 in 1st; €62 in 2nd

(3) Munchen - Innsbruck - Verona/Bologna/Venezia (EC) = €15 in 1st; €10 in 2nd - these fees also apply to journeys within Italy by these trains.

Note those eye watering rail pass fees for the TGV France/Italy trains - the discounted tickets for this service are (much) cheaper than these reservation fees.

Back to the list of questions.

-------------------------------------------------------​​​​​​

The Concierge Service can help with planning a rail pass itinerary, both for using one-country passes to travel around Italy and for including Italy on a multi-country Global Pass itinerary.

Our other GENERAL info for Eurail and InterRail Pass Users?

Our introduction to using Eurail and InterRail Passes:

Which DAYTIME train services require reservations for rail pass users AND which don't:

How to use Eurail and InterRail passes in most European countries -  including on which trains you do and don't have to reserve:

What are the routes taken by international trains in Europe:

Our money saving tips for Eurail and InterRail Pass Holidays:

How to Get The Most of Using Rail Passes and Minimize The Stress:

Tips for PLANNING  your own journey around Europe - make your trip as easy as possible:

Fabulous Itineraries - Save the bother of working out which trains you need to take and where: