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Train Ticket and Rail Pass Guides Buying and using Tickets for Italian rail travel

Buying and using Tickets for Italian rail travel

This guide to buying tickets and using rail passes for train journeys both within and to and from Italy will help you save money, time and confusion.

| Last Updated: 6 days ago
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Welcome to ShowMeTheJourney's guide to booking train tickets for journeys within and from/to Italy, the info covers the core basics of what you can expect to encounter when making bookings.

The aim is to provide context for the tickets and journey options you should encounter, in usual circumstances, when making a booking either online or at the station.
SMTJ has striven to ensure that the advice presented is as accurate as possible, but a guide such as this cannot cover every combination of journey options.

If you want to go right ahead with a booking, you can use the Content menu to go direct to the ticket booking agents, which sell train journeys both within and to and from Italy
Though before doing so, having an idea of what's available is recommended, hence the attempt to answer the questions you'll be most likely to have.

Good to know:

In summary the nine things most worth knowing about Italian train tickets for long-distance journeys are:

1. Tickets are specific to the different train services, so if, for example, you book tickets for a journey by a Regionale train service, you can't then travel by an InterCity express train.
2. You will save money by booking tickets for the express Frecce and InterCity trains in advance.
3. Trenitalia is the national train operator and bookings typically open on its website 4 - 6 months ahead.
4. However, tickets for some train services, which are managed by other operators, are not sold by Trenitalia; this includes the Italo high speed trains which compete with Trenitalia's Frecce trains on the high speed lines,
5. ItaliaRail is an independently managed ticket booking service that provides a easy means of visitors to Italy to book the same trains as those which are available on Trenitalia; though it will add a booking fee, when making a purchase
6. The Austrian national rail operator OBB's booking service now also sells tickets for Trenitalia's services; and it doesn't charge a booking fee.
7. When booking tickets on Trenitalia.com you have enter the personal details of the travellers, so for your ticket to be valid, you need to have a form of I.D. with you when travelling; so the advice is to have your passport or driving licence with you if you have booked tickets online.
8: Particularly during the summer, seats can sell out completely in advance on the most popular IC and Frecce trains; this especially applies to routes that have less frequent daily departures, so if possible buy in advance and avoid booking at the station.
9: Changes to the Italian train timetables come into effect the second Sunday in December (all services) and the second Sunday in June (only affects Regionale services and some IC routes including those to/from Sicily) and and tickets can't be placed on sale until the new timetables are confirmed, which usually occurs 5-6 weeks ahead of the new timetables.
So the periods at which tickets can be booked in advance are typically shorter when searching for journeys being taken after the second Sunday in December (all routes) and after the second Sunday in June (some routes),

Booking tickets for rail journeys within Italy:

Click the questions on the content menu jump to what you need to know, or grab a coffee and scroll through the entire page; 10-15 mins reading will ultimately save you time, money and confusion!

Will tickets be more expensive if I buy them last minute at a station in Italy?

Not if you will taking a local train; either a Regionale or a Regionale Veloce train, or if you be travelling longer distances by the Regionale Veloce trains.

In contrast tickets for the express Frecce and Intercity trains will be (much) more expensive if you buy them at the station on your travel date.

Does it matter which train I travel by if I buy tickets at an Italian train station?

When travelling between Italian towns and cities there can be a choice of up to four different TRENITALIA train services;

(1) Regionale trains

(2) Regionale Veloce trains

(3) Intercity trains

(4) Frecce trains

This matters when booking tickets at the station.

The tickets for the Regionale and Regionale Veloce trains will be the cheapest option.
If you use a ticket counter, the booking clerk may assume you want to take the Regionale and Regionale Veloce trains; and if you use a ticket machine the cheapest price will be for the Regionale and Regionale Veloce trains.
Because tickets for the Regionale and Regionale Veloce trains are cheaper they CAN'T be used to travel on Intercity or Frecce trains.

So once you have booked the ticket(s) you can't just hop on any next train to your destination, you may have to hang back and wait for the next Regionale or Regionale Veloce train service to depart.
Try and use tickets for the Regionale and Regionale Veloce trains, on a service on which they're not valid, and you can be fined by the on train conductor.

Similarly tickets booked at the station for Intercity trains can't then be used to travel by Frecce trains.

Will I save money when booking Italian train tickets in advance?

If you will be happy to travel around Italy at a more leisurely pace on the slower Regionale and Regionale Veloce trains then you won't save money by booking in advance online; so may as well book last minute at the station.

However, if you do want to travel by the express trains then there can be big savings to be made if you book in advance; in fact Trenitalia, Italy's national rail company, can offer a bewildering number of ways in which you can save money by booking online.
Trenitalia's core online booking path is comparatively easy to follow, but check the terms and conditions before committing to discounted tickets.

Or you can book Italian train journeys nationwide on the ItaliaRail website.
Its selling point is that it's designed to make it simpler for tourists to book Italian train tickets - and one advantage over the Trenitlia website is that it uses the English names of cities and towns in Italy.
And its ticket prices can be cheaper too, the most heavily discounted tickets don't always sell out as quickly as they do on Trenitalia.

Can any Italian train journey be booked with Trenitalia or ItaliaRail?

Not all trains in Italy are operated by Trenitalia, so its website and the ItaliaRail website do NOT sell these journeys (and more):

(1) Trains between Napoli/Naples and Sorrento.

(2) Some of the local/regional trains in northern Italy particularly to/from Milan - these trains are operated by Trenord.

(3) The majority of local trains in south east Italy including those from/to Bari and Lecce.

(4) Journeys by Italo AV high speed trains, these trains offer alternative services to Trenitalia's AV Frecce services on Italy's high speed lines - the Italo trains are operated by a different company, NTV
Tickets for these trains can be booked on the Italo website.

On all of Italy's high speed routes these Italo trains compete with Trenitalia's Frecce trains, providing a choice between the two high speed (AV) services.
However, the Trenitalia website does not sell tickets for the Italo trains and NTV mirrors this, by not selling tickets for Trenitalia's Frecce trains on its Italo website.

Between many Italian cities, there can be a choice of

  • Trenitalia's high speed 'Frecce' trains
  • Other non high-speed express trains operated by Trenitalia
  • Italo high speed trains.

The Trainline ticket booking website SHOULD list all three of these journey options, so you can also use it to compare the prices and departure/journey times of both the Trenitalia AND the Italo trains.

When are tickets for the journeys by the express trains placed on sale?

Tickets for journeys by Frecce (AV) trains are now typically made available online 6 months ahead of the travel date.

However, tickets for journeys by Intercity trains and the InterCity Notte night trains are typically made available online up to 4 months ahead of the travel date.
Something to watch out for is that if you look up a journey on a route taken by InterCity trains more than 3 to 4 months ahead, you will likely see journey options available involving a combination of Frecce + Regionale trains.
However, when they are ultimately placed on sale the journeys by the Intercity trains will be cheaper and easier.

The use of 'up to' is because the ticket booking periods for the Intercity day and night trains, typically don't straddle the end and beginning of a month
For example, tickets for journeys up until September 30th are released for sale on June 1st, but tickets for travel on all dates in October are released for sale on July 1st.
So in this scenario if you want to travel at the end of September you will see tickets on sale for your journey if you look it up in the first week of June = up to 4 months ahead.
But if you want to travel at the beginning of October and look up a journey in the last week of June, you'll only find tickets on sale for travel until the end of September = around 3 months ahead.

Also keep in mind that the booking windows can be shorter when searching for journeys for travel after the second Sunday in December (all routes and trains) - and for journeys by the IC trains, this can also apply to some routes when travelling after the second Sunday in June.
Timetables are updated on both of these days and tickets can't be placed on sale until the new schedules are confirmed.

Booking in advance with Italiarail

Italiarail has launched an 'early bird' pre-booking service for journeys by Frecce trains.
Tickets can be booked up to a year ahead of travel at a flat-rate price per route, before the tickets have been released for sale by Trenitalia.
If when they are placed on sale, the price is cheaper than what you have already paid to Italiarail, it will automatically refund the price difference.
Conversely, if the price is more expensive, you won't be charged the price difference.
You can also have the peace of mind of securing your seat(s) on the Frecce train(s) when you are first planning a trip.
If before the tickets are placed on sale, you decide to change your plans, you can request a refund; but once the tickets are released for sale, you will then be bound by the terms and conditions of the ticket(s) you have booked.

What should I be looking out for to save money when booking Italian train tickets

Limited numbers of discounted tickets are made available online for journeys by Frecce and Intercity trains and by Italo trains.

The discounted tickets for the Frecce trains are:
(1) Frecce Special. Tuesday to Thursday only
(2) 'Super Economy; the cheapest tickets on the other days of the week.
(3 'Economy' tickets.

The types of ticket

Four core types of ticket will be available for advance booking:

(1 Frecce Special tickets can be booked for journeys for the three types of Frecciarossa trains (the 500, the 700 and the 1000) as well as journeys by Frecciargento trains.
They give discounts of up to 70% of the 'Base price' when travelling on Tuesday to Thursdays, and up to 60% when travelling on Friday to Monday.
Though they are made available in limited numbers so can sell out on popular departures more than a month ahead of the travel date.
Regardless of how popular a trains is, they are only available up until 14 days ahead of departure.

(2) Super-Economy tickets are the cheapest option for journeys by the Intercity IC trains and they are also made available for journeys by Frecce trains, but tickets for the most popular trains can also sell out months in advance particularly in the summer.
They'll usually be available on alternative departures leaving later or earlier on your preferred travel date
They need to be booked more than five days ahead of a travel date.

(3) 'Economy' tickets are mid-priced.

(4) Base tickets are more expensive, but they are more flexible.

Base tickets are the only tickets which will be available when booking last minute long distance journeys at the station, but the price of the Base tickets is cheaper when booking in advance of the travel date online.

Good to know

It's good to be aware of the terms of conditions of each type of ticket and keep them in mind when booking; double check them when using ItaliaRail or Trenitalia.
The five things particularly worth being aware of are:

(1) Special Frecce and Super Economy tickets can't be refunded or transferred to another departure at all, so if you subsequently abandon your travel plans completely or can't make the train you selected when booking, you'll lose your money.~

(2) Economy tickets can't be refunded if you abandon your travel plans, but they can be transferred to another departure up to two hours before the train you were originally booked on to is due to leave.
However, you will need to pay the price difference if tickets for the train you have swapped to are more expensive (they likely will be).

(3) Base tickets can be refunded if the price per person is more than €10 and they can also be transferred to another departure up until the time of the of your original departure; meaning that you can go to the ticket counter and swap them to an earlier or later train.
You will have to pay any price difference, but the advance price of Base tickets aren't heavily discounted.
You can also transfer them to another departure online, but this needs to be done at least two hours before the original departure time, if it's less than two hours you'll need to use a ticket counter at the station.

(4) Note that if you get to the station after the departure time on your ticket, because of a delayed flight arrival or a taxi getting stuck in traffic, you will have to re-book no matter which type of you ticket you have booked online,

(5) When you look up a journey on Trenitalia on which the high speed Frecce trains will be used, you may see a 'Cartafreccia Special' price, which will be cheaper than the 'Special Economy' price.
However, this is the fare which holders of Cartafreccica cards will pay, but only Italian citizens can apply for the Cartafreccia Program.

Five other money saving tips:

1: Before using the search engine on Trenitalia to look up a journey take a look at the ‘Offers’.
Trenitalia tends to constantly offer a series of money saving promotions, particularly when two or more people are travelling together.

2: Different prices will be available for 'Special Frecce' ‘Super Economy’ and ‘Economy’ tickets depending on the specific train.
So if you can be flexible re: departure and arrival times, search through the departures on your travel date to find the cheapest fares.

3: 1st class ‘Super Economy’ ticket prices are usually cheaper than 2nd class ‘Economy’ tickets; so when 2nd class ‘Super Economy’ tickets are sold out, 1st class can be the cheapest option.

4: Intercity trains are (generally) cheaper than Frecce trains.
However, on certain routes on which both of these types of train operate, the IC trains tend to be much less frequent than the Frecce trains.
So you may need to search through the day’s departures if you want to compare prices between these two types of train service; the ‘View All Solutions’ button on the Trenitalia website doesn’t seem to work.

5: Tickets for Regionale (REG) and Regionale Veloce (RGV) trains used to be made available online only 7 days ahead of the travel date, but this is no longer the case (generally).
They can usually be booked online around 3 months ahead of the travel date; so prices can be compared online with Frecce (AV) and IC trains.
However, tickets for Regionale/Regionale Veloce trains are not discounted online, so if you want to travel by these trains, the price will be the same if booked at the station.

When using Trenitalia how do I select the stations I will be departing from or arriving at?

Keep these three things in mind:

(1) Trenitalia only uses the Italian names of cities in its search engine, even when using the English language version of the website; Florence = Firenze; Venice = Venezia, Naples = Napoli etc, Muenchen = Munich etc.

(2) Also some Italian cities, including Firenze Milano, Roma and Venezia/Venice have more than one station used by long distance trains
So it can be worth looking up on Google Maps (etc) which of these specific station(s) will suit you best before searching for tickets.

(3) For cities with multiple stations, Trenitalia gives the option of selecting ‘Tutte Le Stazioni’ as Departure or Arrival stations.
In theory this enables all trains between cities with multiple stations to be captured by the search results.
However, the ‘Tutte Le Stazioni’ facility can have bugs, so using this option and then ALSO searching using the specific stations that you will be travelling from is recommended.

What about seat reservations?

Reservations are not available for journeys by Regionale (REG) and Regionale Veloce (RGV) trains.

For journeys by the IC trains and the AV trains, both the Frecce trains operated by Trenitalia and the Italo trains operated by NTV, seats are automatically assigned when booking tickets online and at stations.
On your ticket the 'carrozza' number is the coach/car number and the 'posti' is the seat number.

When booking Frecce or Intercity trains, but on the Trenitalia website, the page on which you select the ticket also has a ‘choose your seat’ option
If you use this facility you can select specific aisle, window, or table seats, but Trenitalia now charges a €2 per seat fee, for this service.
What you can't select is direction of travel, partially because most long distance trains reverse direction when calling at stations in Firenze/Florence, Milano, Napoli/Naples and Roma.

A new service is that on the Frecciarossa and Frecciarossa 1000 trains 'Quiet Coaches' are now also available in Standard Class; they had previously only been an option when travelling Business Class.
If travelling in these coaches would be your preference, look out for 'Standard Area Silenzio' when booking tickets.

If you're not happy with the seat you have been assigned when boarding, you can ask the conductor if you can move to another seat, but avoiding assuming that what you think is an empty seat will be available.

What are the terms and conditions for child tickets?

On Italian trains, regardless of operator, children aged 3 and under travel for free.

The terms below apply for booking child tickets for journeys within Italy by Trenitalia trains:

Children aged 4 - 11 receive a 50% discount on Regionale (REG) and Regionale Veloce (RGV) trains.

Children aged 4 -14 receive a 50% discount on long distance express trains including any journey by Frecce or Intercity trains and on the 'Treno Notte' overnight trains.

However, on long distance Frecce (AV) and IC trains these 50% child rates are calculated against the full 'Base' ticket price.
But adult 'Super Economy' tickets can often be discounted by more than 50%; so if these tickets are still available for your journey, it can be worth paying the adult rate for a child aged 4 - 14.

On Frecce and Intercity trains, the adult price applies to those aged 15 and over.

For journeys by Regionale (REG) and Regionale Veloce (RGV) trains, the adult ticket price always applies to children aged 12 and older.

Tickets for Seniors when holidaying in Italy

Becoming a CartaFreccia member

The Italian national rail company, Trenitalia, offers free membership of the CartaFreccia program which enables discounts of up to 50% on the price of 'Base' tickets* for journeys by Frecce, Intercity and Intercity Notte trains.
The only exceptions are tickets to travel in:

  • Executive class on the Frecce trains,
  • bed in the Excelsior carriages on the Intercity Notte trains;
  • booking a private sleeping compartment for sole use the Intercity Notte trains.

For those aged 60 and over it doesn't cost anything to join the scheme and it is open to non-Italian residents, so it is highly recommended for anyone who meets the age criteria and will be taking one or more long distance train journey in Italy.

When looking up journeys to book tickets on the Trenitalia website, you can select the Senior price.
Though limited numbers of Senior tickets are available per departure and they can sell out more than a month in advance on particularly popular trains.
*= it's not unknown for the cheapest type of ticket for journeys by 'Frecce' trains, the 'Super-Economy' tickets, to be discounted by more than 50%, so it's typically a good idea to compare the prices between the cost of these tickets, and the senior rate.

Note that Senior prices are not available when looking up journeys with ItaliaRail.

The Silver Card

The Italian national rail company, Trenitalia, offers a Silver Card for seniors, for those aged 65-74 it costs €30, but there is no charge for those aged over 75 and over.
The cards can be purchased / obtained at station ticket desks but have your passport with you, you'll also need to take it with on journeys by Frecce and Intercity trains, which are Trenitalia's express trains.

However, when booking tickets online or at stations for journeys by these express train services, the Silver Card holder can only obtain a discount when booking 'Base tickets' and these are the most expensive type of tickets to travel by these trains.
The Silver Cards enable a 15% discount on Base, tickets, so if you will be making a few long-distance journeys, joining the the CartaFreccia program instead will almost certainly be the cheaper option, particularly if you are aged 60-74.

However, the CartaFreccia program doesn't enable a discount on the journeys by the R and RV regional train services.
So where the Silver Card can pay off is for these journeys. as they are only sold at a base price.
Though with tickets for travel for fairly long-distances by these trains costing less than €30, if you're aged 60 -74, you're going to need to be taking more than seven such journeys for the initial investment in the card to pay off.

Do I need a ticket for my dog?

If you can take your dog in a container or basket measuring 70x30x50cm no ticket will be required, but tickets are required for larger dogs.
On the express, Frecce and Intercity trains operated by Trenitalia, the tickets cost 50% of the Adult 'Base' rate, which is the non-discounted rate for train journeys, but as the cheapest adult Super-Economy tickets can be discounted by more than 50%, the ticket for the dog may cost more than your ticket!
Dogs can be taken in any class on the trains as long as you and the dog both have the appropriate ticket.

Because the dog tickets can't be booked in online and aren't discounted, you can buy your ticket in advance in order to save money, but can then buy the ticket for the dog at the station; or you can buy a ticket from the conductor when you are on the train.

On the Regionale (R and RV) trains a dog not in a basket will be charged at 50% of the adult rate.

How will Trenitalia send tickets to me?

Using tickets and boarding trains in Italy can differ from what you're used to.
When booking on Trenitalia tickets will be emailed to you; they will be attached as PDFs.

If you will be travelling by Frecce (AV), InterCity (IC) or EC train you can print off the attachments and/or save them to your mobile device.

You don't need to download the Trenitalia app in order for tickets saved to your phone to be valid; what the conductor will want to check is the PNR number on your ticket.

At major stations, an option is to show a ticket saved on your mobile to the staff at 'last minute Frecce' desks and they will then print your ticket.

However, if you have booked a ticket for a Regionale (REG) /Regionale Veloce (RGV) train online, you will need to print it off; you cannot save it to your mobile.

Do I need to stamp tickets in those machines before I board the train?

Tickets valid for Regionale (REG) and Regionale Veloce (RGV) trains must be stamped in the green/grey machines prior to boarding a train.

There is no need to stamp the ticket if you will be travelling by Frecce (AV) or IC trains.

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Booking tickets for journeys by train to and from Italy:

Particularly worth knowing is that the Trenitalia booking service does not sell tickets for international journeys that involve a change of train outside of Italy.

Long distance international train services that can be booked on Trenitalia are:

(1) The EC trains between Italy and Switzerland (and Germany via Switzerland)

(2) The EC trains between Italy and Austria (and Germany via Austria)

(3) The Railjet trains between Italy and Austria

(4) The Thello DAY trains between Italy and France.

(5) The Nightjet trains between Italy and Austria/Germany

It's worth making the effort to compare prices between Trenitalia and the websites in the countries you will be travelling to and from; using the links below.
Particularly if you will be travelling with children, as Trenitlia.com does NOT discount child tickets when booking train journeys by daytime express trains to Austria, Germany and Switzerland.

Though when travelling FROM Italy, Trenitalia usually has the cheapest tickets for the Nightjet trains

What international train journeys CANNOT be booked on Trenitalia.com?

The TGV France-Italy trains in both directions between Italy and France
Tickets for these trains also aren't sold at Italian stations.
There is a dedicated booking desk at Milano Porta Garibalidi stationl or book journeys by these trains on Oui.SNCF or Trainline, using the links below.

Booking agents in neighboring countries:

Explore Italy with Bookmundi

The Ultimate Italy tour The Ultimate Italy tour
The Jewels of Italy The Jewels of Italy
The Tuscany Escape Tour The Tuscany Escape Tour
On the Rome to Amalfi tour On the Rome to Amalfi tour

Most Popular Tours

1: The "Tuscany Escape" tour starts and ends in Florence.
It is an art and architecture guided small group tour that includes accommodation in hotels, transport, meals and others, that takes 7 days.
Tuscany is brimming with secluded valleys, magnificent rolling hills and majestic medieval villages boasting bustling restaurants, piazzas and ancient narrow cobble-stoned streets. Its rich landscape is complemented by towns overflowing with Reinassance art and architecture.

2: The "Ultimate Italy" is a guided small group trip that includes accommodation, transport, meals and others, which starts from Rome and ends in Venice.
It is a cultural, religious and historic sites tour that takes 14 days taking you through Venice, Cinque Terre, Montepulciano and 3 other destinations in Italy.
This is an adventure for those looking to indulge in all of Italy’s delights.
Stroll the canals of Venice, and float past villas on Lake Como, marvel at the ancient grandeur of Rome and the Renaissance masterpieces of Florence.

3: The "Rome To Amalfi" tour is a guided small group tour that includes accommodation, transport, meals and others, which starts from Rome.
It is a city sightseeing trip that takes 8 days taking you through Amalfi, Rome, Amalfi Coast & Campania and 3 other destinations in Italy. . Acquaint yourself with Italy's 'Eternal City' of Rome and learn about the catastrophic fate of Pompeii.
Soak up the sunshine in the coastal town of Sorrento and explore the beautiful Amalfi Coast.

4: The "Jewels Of Italy" tour is an adventure trip that takes 7 days taking you through Rome, Florence and Venice in Italy. "Jewels Of Italy" is a guided group tour that includes accommodation in hotels, transport, meals and others.
This exciting journey will deliver a multitude of memorable experiences that will linger long after you’ve returned home.
Take a walk down memory lane – one that spans centuries of tradition, heritage and culture, as you encounter such iconic sights as the mighty Colosseum, the Leaning Tower of Pisa and Florence’s spectacular Duomo.

Many more unique tours and experiences are available.

Author

Simon Harper

I wanted to share my passion for train travel and explain how anyone can take the fantastic journeys I have taken.

ShowMeTheJourney

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This second version of ShowMeTheJourney is exciting and new, so we are genuinely thrilled that you are here and reading this, but we also need your help.

We’re striving not to let anything get in the way of providing the most useful service possible, hence a facility has been set up with DonorBox which can be used to support the running costs and make improvements.

Instead of advertising or paywalls, your financial support will make a positive difference to delivering an enhanced service, as there’s a lot of ideas which we want to make happen.

So if you have found the info provided here to be useful, please consider saying thank you.