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Train Ticket Guides Using Rail Passes in and to/from Italy
Using Rail Passes in and to/from Italy

Using Rail Passes in and to/from Italy

All that's good to know about using Eurail and InterRail passes on Italian train journeys and on international trains to and from Italy

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A guide to using rail passes in Italy How to use Eurail and InterRail passes to travel around in Italy by train

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 kilometers around Italy by train in the past two years, we've anticipated the questions you are most likely to have - we hope.
So either use the content menu 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!

Can I hop on any daytime train?

Not quite, rail passes aren't valid on the high speed trains operated by Italo and on a few local networks of the Regionale trains

IF you avoid the fast 'Frecce' trains you can hop any of the trains provided by the main national rail operator, Trenitalia.

Rail pass reservations are available on the Intercity (IC) trains and are now mandatory when using passes from the beginning of May until then end of Septemberand on and around national holidays at any time of the year.
However, when travelling long-distance on these trains at other times, ShowMeTheJourney highly recommends making a reservation for these two reasons:
(1) These can be busy trains regardless, as most of the Intercity routes don't have a particularly frequent service.
(2) When boarding there's no way of knowing whether seats will or won't be available, so there's a high chance you'll have to move seats (multiple times) if a seat is claimed by a ticket holder.

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.

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.
*= 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.

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:

On these routes the RV train services provide an alternative to paying reservation fees on the Frecce or EC trains.

(1) Milano - Arona - Stresa - Domodossola*

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

(3) Milano - Torino/Turin

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

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

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

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

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

On these routes the RV trains are more frequent than the IC trains AND also enable the Frecce services to be avoided.

(1) Milano - Genova/Genoa

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

(3) Venezia - Trieste

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

(5) Roma - Grosseto - Livorno - Pisa

(6) Roma - Assisi - Perugia

(7) Roma - Ancona

(8) Roma - Arezzo - Firenze/Florence

(9) 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)

Which Italian trains require reservations?

The short answer is that reservations are required on all of the Frecce train services; no matter how long your journey will be; and they are highly recommended on the InterCity (IC) trains.
Reservations can typically be booked from 4 months ahead in advance of the travel date.

Using rail passes on InterCity trains:
Using rail passes in Italy on IC trains

Cheapest, but slowest, of the express trains options are the InterCity express trains, but the reservation fee to travel by these trains is only €3 in 1st and 2nd class
Paying this reservation fee is now compulsory during May to September; and it is also mandatory on and around public holidays.
At other times choosing to reserve is optional, though ShowMeTheJourney recommends making a reservation for two reasons:

  • These can be busy trains at any time of year, particularly on the routes which have comparatively few trains.
  • When boarding there's no way of knowing whether seats will or won't be available, so there's a high chance you'll have to move seats (multiple times) if a seat is claimed by a ticket holder.
    Ticket purchasers will have allocated seats.

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; see the Booking the reservations notes below).
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.
If you want to mainly travel by the Frecce trains, a 1st class pass will be better value, in terms of the money you'll save compared to a 2nd class pass.

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.

Using rail passes for journeys WITHIN Italy on the EuroCity trains heading to/from Austria

Instead of Italian Intercity trains, the EuroCity trains that are heading to/from Germany and Austria operate on these two routes:
(1) Brennero - Fortezza - Bolzano - Trento <> Verona - Bologna - (Rimini)
(2) Brennero - Fortezza - Bolzano - Trento <> Verona - Vicenza - Padova - Venezia/Venice.

For any domestic journey within Italy by these trains, the rail pass reservation fees are now €14.50 in 2nd class and €20 in 1st class; more expensive than the Frecce trains, so avoid them and take the alternative Regionale (RV/R) trains instead.

Using rail passes for journeys WITHIN Italy on the EuroCity trains heading to/from Switzerland

On the Milano <> Stresa and Milano <> Como routes the express trains are the EuroCity trains that are heading to/from Switzerland
The rail pass reservation fees are now €11 in 2nd class and €13 in 1st class, so avoid them and take the alternative Regionale (RV/R) trains.

Using rail passes on the night trains:

The night trains on routes within Italy are the Intercity Notte services.

Prior to arrival in Italy reservations for the Intercity Notte trains can be purchased, without payment of a booking fee, by using the
ItaliaRail reservation service:

The reservation fees on ItaliaRail are seemingly sold at these 'flat rates' irrespective of distance; and the same rates are available regardless of whether you will be travelling with a 1st class or a 2nd class pass:

  • Seats = €3 (not available on most Intercity Notte routes, see above)
  • A bunk in a 4 berth couchette (Cucceta Comfort) compartment = €39 per person
  • A bed in a 3 berth Vaggoni Letto Deluxe cabin = €47 per person
  • A bed in a 2 berth Excelsoir cabin (with shower) = €56 per person

These rates are approximately 50% of the cost of booking tickets for sole occupancy of the accommodation; which is a better deal for Eurail and InterRail pass users compared to how rail pass reservations are typically sold on night trains.
In particular two 2nd class per users can pay €56 per person to share a 'luxury' sleeping cabin with a shower; while on the international Nightjet trains from Italy, the equivalent accommodation costs around €100 per person.

However, if you will be travelling alone or in a party which can't be divided neatly by 2, 3, or 4, the terms on ItaliaRail make it clear that you will be sharing a cabin with another rail pass user(s); though the accommodation will be segregated by male/female.
ItaliarRail doesn't seemingly offer sole occupancy reservations at all.
The price info on the InterRail/Eurail reservation services suggest that the reservation fee of sole occupancy in an Excelsoir cabin is €122, so presumably they can be booked on the reservation service.
Though once you add in the daily cost of using the pass, this fee is typically more expensive than booking tickets for sole use of an Excelsoir cabin; and it will be more expensive than booking a ticket for sole occupancy of a Vaggoni Letto Deluxe cabin.

Another thing to watch out for is that presumably because these flat rate rail pass reservation fees can be good value, they're not seemingly available on all Intercity Notte routes.
In particular on the longer north <> south routes ItaliaRail only tends to offer departures which require a connection; which therefore often requires two sets of reservation fees, despite direct trains being available.
On ItaliaRail, the Roma <> Trieste InterCity Notte service isn't seemingly available for rail pass reservations at all.

Booking reservations before arriving in Italy:

When booking Eurail or InterRail passes you can opt to use a mobile pass or a paper pass.

Regardless of which of these options you book, you can use the Eurail reservation service or the InterRail reservation service to book reservations, though you will be charged a €2 booking fee per reservation, per person.

Though these €2 booking fees can now be avoided if you use the OBB, Austrian Railways, online booking service to book the mandatory reservations on Italian day trains.
SMTJ isn't going to question the logic behind this highly useful service, particularly as the bookings can be made irrespective of whether you have a mobile or paper pass.
Though the process is very much less than obvious, hence a step-by-step booking guide for the rail pass reservations, being included on SMTJ's instructions for using the OBB website.

If you opt for the paper pass, you can also avoid this booking fee for journeys within Italy, as you will then have the option to book on ItaliaRail.com,
Select the 1st or 2nd class rail pass options to correspond to the type of Eurail and InterRail pass that you will be using and then look up the journey(s) as though you were buying a ticket; all rather straightforward.
The prices you will then see are the seat reservation fees.

Rail pass reservations are no longer sold on the Trenitalia website.

OR if you happen to be travelling through Germany on route to Italy, you can book reservations with no booking fee at a Reisezentrum travel desk in a major German station, the hauptbahnhofs.

Booking the reservations at Italian stations:

When booking Eurail or InterRail passes you can opt to use a mobile pass or a paper pass.

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 without paying any booking fees, whether you have booked the mobile or paper pass.

Or if you opt for the paper pass, you can also book reservations on any Trenitalia branded ticket machine.
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, therefore our preference is to use the machines; so if you know you'll be making multiple last minute reservations when in Italy, choosing a paper pass is the better option.
You can't use the ticket machines if you have a mobile pass, as you'll need to enter the pass number into the machines and the mobile passes don't have them.

When using 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 just enter the one pass number.
You can book reservations for multiple journeys in the one transaction, so what I have done when I first arrive in Italy is find a machine that doesn't have lengthy queues, then book all of the reservations that I'll need for my future journeys.

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;

  • need to travel on a specific train - particularly between May and October
  • want to take any Intercity train between May and October
  • want to take the Intercity trains between Milano and Monterosso/La Spezia/Pisa/Livorno year round
  • want to take Intercity trains between both Roma/Napoli and Sicily year round
  • want to take Frecce trains between Roma/Firenze/Bologna and Verona/Bolzano
  • 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 convenient departures will be available.

How easy is it 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 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

Will I save if I avoid the Frecce trains?

Something to keep in mind is that avoiding the reservation fees on the Trenitalia high speed 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 InterCity (IC); 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 those 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 keep in mind the cost per day of using your pass.
A pass can be value for money if you mainly travel long-distance on the IC train services, but the prices for the longest possible journeys by the IC trains cost from €39.

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 for the reservations.

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 on a Frecce train, 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.

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.

Outside of May to September it isn't worth paying the reservation fee of €3 to travel on these IC trains for this journey, you'll be on the train for less than 90 minutes, so even if no spare seats are available (an unlikely scenario on this route), you won't be without one for long.
Though during May-Sept and around national holidays, paying the €10 fee instead to travel by a Frecce train is better value, that additional €7 means a direct train and more time to enjoy Bologna and/or Florence.

During these summer and holiday periods, if you want to a avoid making any reservations at all, 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.

Trains not operated by Trenitalia:

Eurail and InterRail passes are NOT valid on Italo trains - the red trains pictured below, but Trenitalia services are available on all routes taken by Italo trains.
Rail passes can't be used on Italo trains

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

International trains on which reservations aren't needed:

On the international routes to/from Italy you can now only avoid rail pass reservation fees if you take local/regional trains across the border AND make connections to continue your journey; can be simpler than it seems and it can be a more scenic journey too.

The comparatively easy alternative journey options are:

(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 - Locarno route.
Connect in Lugano 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 the spectacular route to Basel, Lugano, Luzern and Zurich.
Or connect in Domodossola for Swiss regional trains on to Brig and towards Bern; the route on to the Swiss capital is more spectacular than that taken by the EC trains.
Between Brig and Kandersteg

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 Buchs (connect for Innsbruck and Salzburg); 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.

Taking the more spectacular route from Milan to Zurich

(5) Take the regional trains between Udine and Villach in Austria
Do this and you can avoid the the reservation fees now charged on the Railjet trains on the Venezia/Venice - Treviso - Udine <> Villach - Klagenfurt - Bruck an der Mur - Wien/Vienna route
These regional trains depart Udine at 07:14 (connection available from Treviso) and at 17:22 (connections available from Treviso, Trieste and Venezia)
Both trains have onward connections in Villach to Wien/Vienna via Klagenfurt.

International trains with mandatory reservations:

The EC trains
Reservations are required on the EC trains (€20.90 in 1st and €14.50 in 2nd) on the Bologna/Verona/Venezia - Bolzano - Brennero <> Innsbruck - Munchen/Munich route.
Or avoid paying these fees, by taking alternative journey options when travelling to Austria or Germany from Bologna, or from Venice/Venezia.

Rail pass reservation fees are also mandatory on the EC trains between Italy and Switzerland (€13 in 1st and €11 in 2nd).
Using rail passes on trains from Switzerland to Italy

This guide to alternative routes shows how to avoid to these EC trains when travelling on multiple routes including from Milan to Basel, or to Geneva, or to Interlaken, or to Zurich.

The Railjets
Fees are now also charged for cross-border journeys (and for journeys within Italy) on the Railjet trains in either direction on the Venezia/Venice - Villach - Klagenfurt - Wien/Vienna route.
(€15 in 1st and €10 in 2nd).

If you book online by using the Eurail reservation service or the InterRail reservation service - you will be charged a €2 booking fee per reservation, per person.
However, SMTJ's understanding is that if you use these services you will be assigned a seat reservation; but seat reservations are otherwise separate to the supplement on these Railjet services.

So if you pay the supplement at a Trenitalia ticket desk, you won't pay the booking fee, but a reservation won't be included, and will cost an additional €3.50: as per the info on this page.

OR if you book a seat reservation on the OBB (Austrian Railways ) website - the instructions are here, the opposite applies, it won't include the supplement fees.
So if you book the seat reservation on the OBB website, you can then either purchase the supplement from the train conductor; or prior to boarding, pay the fee at a Trenitalia travel desk.
Hence a guide to how to avoid paying these fees when travelling from Venice/Venezia to Wien/Vienna.

The Nightjet overnight trains

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)

TGV France-Italy trains

SMTJ's 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 slightly more expensive than the cheapest discounted tickets.

But if you can travel between Italy and France on this route at a weekend, and will be willing to changing trains, you can make savings when travelling from Milano or Torino/Turin to Lyon or Paris.

Booking these international train reservations:

The only online option for booking reservations for the international day trains to France and Switzerland before arriving in Italy is using the Eurail reservation service or the InterRail reservation service but you will be charged a €2 booking fee per reservation.
These reservations can't now be booked on the Trenitalia website and ItaliaRail doesn't sell rail pass reservations for international journeys to and from Italy.

For journeys between Italy and Austria, those €2 booking fees can now be avoided if you use the OBB, Austrian Railways, online booking service
Though the process isn't obvious, hence a step-by-step booking guide for the rail pass reservations, being included on SMTJ's instructions for using the OBB website.

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.
Reservations will be available from 6 months ahead on the Nightjets.

OBB is the Austrian national rail operator and provider of the Nightjet network and it now enables rail pass users to book reservations online for journeys between both Austria and Italy - how to do this is explained here.

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) = €45 in 1st; €31 in 2nd

(3) Munchen - Innsbruck - Verona/Bologna/Venezia (EC) = €20.90 in 1st; €14.50 in 2nd - these fees also apply to journeys within Italy by these trains.

(4) Vienna/Wien - Klagenfurt - Villach - Udine - Venezia/Venice by Railjet = €15 in 1st and €10 in 2nd class

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

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

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.