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.
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 four 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.
6. The Austrian national rail operator OBB's booking service now also sells tickets for Trenitalia's services.
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 on December 12th and June 12th and tickets can't be placed on sale until the new timetables are confirmed, which usually occurs 10-12 weeks ahead of the new timetables.
So the periods at which tickets can be booked in advance are typically shorter when searching for journeys more than three months ahead in Sept/October and Feb/March.
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!
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.
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 are 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.
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
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.
However, it now charges a booking fee for Italian rail journeys.
SMTJ can't be more precise as Trenitalia does not seemingly have fixed booking periods, so the advice is; if you're booking more than three months ahead and can't see trains listed on your travel date, keep checking back until you can see them.
Also keep in mind that the booking windows can be shorter when searching for journeys in Sept-Oct and Feb-March; and not when travelling during these periods.
Three core types of ticket will be available for advance booking at least one day ahead of travel:
(1) Super-Economy tickets, which are cheapest, but tickets for the most popular trains can sell out months in advance particularly in the summer, but they'll usually be available on alternative departures leaving later or earlier on your preferred travel date.
(2) 'Economy' tickets are mid-priced
(3) Base tickets are more expensive, but there 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.
But 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 core terms of the tickets which can be booked online in advance are:
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.
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 ‘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.
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.
Seats will be automatically assigned 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.
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:
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.
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.
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.
I wanted to share my passion for train travel and explain how anyone can take the fantastic journeys I have taken.
This is one of more than 100 train travel guides available on ShowMeTheJourney, which will make it easier to take the train journeys you want or need to make. As always, all images were captured on trips taken by ShowMeTheJourney.