Travelling by train in Italy


General information


Italy has some fantastic trains, amazing stations and incredible rail journeys, so this guide will show to how to make the most of exploring Italy by train

It will help you to save time and money and avoid confusion - click the links below for instant access for the info you need.

Or if you would like help with planning a train journey within or to/from Italy, or want to add some Italian destinations to a European train travel itinerary, take a look at ShowMeTheJourney's new Concierge Service.

THE TRAINS      l           THE STATIONS

THE TICKETS
      l           USEFUL LINKS

Travelling on Italian trains has its quirks - particularly if you want to travel at the cheapest possible price, but it can also be a magical experience - a feast for those who appreciate great design and/or travelling through stunning landscapes.

The 11 Things that are particularly good to know about travelling by train in Italy:

1. 
Not all trains in Italy are operated by Trenitalia - the main exceptions are;

(1) The Italo services - which offer an alternative to travelling by Trentalia's high speed Frecce services.

Tickets for journeys by Italo services are not sold on the Trenitalia website and similarly tickets for the Frecce services are not available on the Italo website.

The Italo services share stations with Trenitalia's trains but they have separate facilities - ticket machines, info desks, 1st class lounges etc.

(2) The majority of local/regional trains in northern Italy - including those to/from Milan, these are operated by Trenord.

(3) The trains between Napoli/Naples and Sorrento.

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

2. Italy has a primary high speed railway line that runs down the middle of the country on a 
Torino/Turin – Milano – Bologna – Firenze/Florence – Rome/Roma – Napoli/Naples – Salerno route.

A new high speed line has also opened between Milano and Brescia (the first stage of a Milano – Venezia high speed railway).

3. All of the train services which use the high speed lines for all OR part* of their journey are designated as AV services

AV services are operated by Trenitalia - the Frecciarossa 1000, the  Frecciarossa and the  Frecciargento trains and by NTV - it's Italo services compete with Trenitalia's services.


4. *Many AV services have their journeys extended to distant destinations not served by the high speed lines.

You won't be travelling on a high speed line if you take an AV service between these destinations:
Venezia/Venice and Brescia
Venezia/Venice and Bologna
Bolzano and Bologna
Napoli and Regio di Calabria
Lecce and Bologna

Trains also have to divert off the high speed lines in order to call at the main stations in Milano, Florence/Firenze, Roma and Napoli - meaning that the trains which stick to the direct route are faster.

5.  What is comparatively unusual about train travel in Italy is the high likelihood of being able to choose between different train services when taking a journey.

If you will be travelling between towns and cities there can be a choice of UP to four different TRENITALIA train services;
(1) Regionale 
(2) Regionale Veloce
(3) Intercity 
(4) Frecce

(i) So if you are happy to plan in advance and book ahead -then there are big savings to be made by booking in advance online for the express trains - the Frecce and Intercity trains, which are operated by Trenitalia, OR the Italo trains operated by NTV.

(ii) Or if you would rather be spontaneous and buy tickets last minute at the station -  tickets won't be any more expensive if you take the Regionale or Regionale Veloce train services.

6. If you will be travelling LONG DISTANCE you can also usually choose between travelling on the high speed Frecce trains and Italo trains, OR the slower Intercity trains, which still take the parallel, conventional older lines.

So, if you are going long distance, you can often choose between travelling by:
(a) faster, more frequent, but more expensive trains, OR
(b) slower, less frequent, but cheaper trains.

More information is available on our Italian Trains GUIDE.

7. The type of train you will be travelling by matters when booking tickets at the station.

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) valid for the Regionale trains, you can't just hop on any next train to your destination.

If the next train to leave isn't one of the two Regionale services, you will have to hang back and wait until a Regionale or Regionale Veloce train service will be departing.

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

8. Standard (non-folding) bicycles, which haven't  been disassembled, can only be taken on board the Regionale and Regionale Veloce trains -bike tickets are required.
More info is available here.

9. Trains reverse direction when calling at these main city centre stations, when on route to other destinations -  Firenze S.M.N., Milano Centrale, Napoli Centrale and Roma Termini.

10. A feature of Trenitalia timetables is that gaps in intervals between trains can be (much) greater between around 09:00 and midday
This particularly applies to the Regionale/Regionale Veloce trains when travelling away from major cities.

So it can be worth looking up the train times on the Trenitalia website, even if you will be booking tickets at the station.

11. Italian stations are bi-lingual, all signage is in English and Italian and ticket machines have excellent English translation.

At major stations the announcements re: train departures are in Italian and English – the English announcements always follow the Italian announcements.

However, Italian place names aren’t translated into English, Florence is always Firenze etc

More information is available on our Italian Stations GUIDE.

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12 other things that are good to know about travelling on Italian Trains:

1. Each individual train service has a unique 4-digit 'TRENO' number that is preceded on departure screens with an abbreviation of the type of train service -  AV, IC, RGV or REG.

These train numbers are used on the departure information at stations - and if you have booked a ticket for a specific Frecce or Intercity departure, then this TRENO (train) number will be printed on your ticket.

The easiest means of working out the specific departure details of your train can be matching the train number on your ticket with the train number on the information screens.

2. Intercity (IC) trains are slower (and generally cheaper) than Frecce trains because they're conventional express trains and very rarely use the high speed lines.

But because they don't take the high speed lines, a journey by Intercity trains can be more scenic.


3. Reservations are compulsory on 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, but rail pass users will need to reserve prior to boarding a Frecce service or an IC service - rail passes are not accepted on Italo services

4. On your ticket the 'carrozza' number is the coach/car number and the 'posti' is the seat number

5. As all seats are reserved on Frecce and Italo and Intercity services, the destinations between which seat is reserved for is not indicated on the trains.

6. When boarding, if you want to change seats ask the conductor first - don't assume that a spare seat will be available for your entire journey.

If you prefer to face forwards, note that all trains reverse direction when they call at Firenze S.M.N., Milano Centrale, Napoli Centrale, Roma Termini and Venezia S. Lucia.

7. Regionale Veloce (RV) and Regionale (R) are similar, but different train services.

Regionale (R) trains are predominantly local trains, while Regionale Veloce (RV) trains link towns and cities over longer distances and skip some stations.

So when travelling between larger towns, Regionale Veloce (RV) trains CAN be faster, but tickets cost the same price as the slower as Regionale (R) trains.
So look for RV/RGV trains heading to your destination on the departure screens.

Many destinations in Italy most popular with tourists are only served by these trains - on which you can't save money by booking in advance

8. Multi-lingual announcements are made on the majority of trains, though the list of stations, which a train will be calling at, always switches back to Italian.

More information about how to board and use these trains is available on our Italian Trains GUIDE.

OR for more info on a specific train/train service click the orange 'Trains' button below

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Travelling on the high speed AV trains:

9. AV trains are the high speed trains which travel on the high speed lines for all ot part of their journeys.
They are operated by both Trenitalia AND a private company NTV.

So if you want to make a high speed journey, you can nearly always choose between a Frecce train service operated by Trenitalia, or an Italo train service operated by NTV.

10Trenitalia uses three types of Frecce train on the high speed lines – Frecciarossa 1000, Frecciarossa and Frecciargento trains.
On some routes there is a choice between different types of Frecce trains.

The journey times will be similar and it won't affect the ticket prices either, but the on-board ambiences can be different, particularly in the premium classes.

If you will be travelling in the premium classes and have a choice between travelling by a Frecciarossa 1000 train or a Frecciargento train - ShowMeTheJourney's recommendation is to take the Frecciarossa 1000 train.

11. On the Italo trains, the Frecciarossa 1000 trains and the Frecciarossa trains, you can choose between travelling in four classes of accommodation.

12. Trenitalia's Frecciabianca trains are given AV train numbers, but they don’t travel on the high speed lines - usually.

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Italian Stations - Five things that are good to know:

1. Many Italian cities, including Genova, Firenze, Milano, Roma and Venezia, have more than one station that long distance express trains call at – and the names of these stations are often more fanciful than logical.

So when planning a journey, booking a ticket or before boarding a train - try to work out which station suits you best, for accessing your final destination.

2. Italo trains share stations with Trenitalia’s trains but have their own ticket desks, ticket machines and lounges.

Trenitalia branded ticket counters and machines don’t sell tickets for Italo trains and vice versa - Italo trains have their own ticket desks and machines.

3. Trenitalia's ticket machines can be a good alternative to the queues that can build up at the ticket office.

They have excellent English translations and are comparatively easy to use - though watch out for the fact that some machines are cash only, others are card only and some are both.

When there is a choice of different train services - and therefore different tickets prices, these options are clearly shown on the machines.

The departure times, arrival time and journey time are shown, so you can work out which train will get you to your destination faster - and decide if the time saving is worth the extra cost.

Also be aware that only journeys by Trenitalia trains WITHIN Italy can be purchased from the machines.

4. Italian stations don't have left luggage lockers, instead some* of the larger stations have staffed left luggage offices. 

*Stations with no left luggage facilities include Torino Porta Susa, Messina Centrale, Roma Tiburtina, Modena, Brindisi, Lecce, SanRemo and Milano Porta Garibaldi.

You hand your bags to the staff and then pay in advance when depositing your bags - pay attention to the opening times, you will only be able to return and retrieve your luggage when the office is open.

If you subsequently leave your bag for longer than planned, you can pay the balance when you collect it.

However, be aware that because you will receive a personal service, long queues can build up at busy times at the popular stations - we have waited more than 45 mins to deposit bags at Venezia S. Lucia and Firenze S.M.N. stations.

The queues tend to move quicker when collecting rather than depositing, but be at the station a miminum of 30 mins before your train leaves, if you have bags to retrieve.

5. At major stations red electronic screens are being installed along the length of the platforms/binari that are used by the Frecce and Intercity and Italo trains.

Around 5-10 mins before departure, these screens will display the numbers of the carrozza/coach, which will be located beside each screen when the train arrives.

So use them to know where to wait on the binario/platform for ease of boarding into the carrozza/coach in which your assigned seat is located – match the number on the screen to the carrozza number on your ticket.

When these screens aren’t available it can be best to wait in the middle of the platform and then make a dash towards the coach that your seat is located in – but don’t delay, if need be, board the train by the nearest door and walk through to find your seat.

More information, including how to make sense of the departure screens, is available on our Italian Stations GUIDE.

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Italian Train Tickets: 15 things that are good to know: 

1. The Trenitalia website does not sell tickets for the Italo trains or show their train times and in turn, the Italo website only sells tickets for its trains and has no information for the Frecce trains.

2. The Trainline and Loco2 booking sites enable comparison between Frecce and Italo trains - find the links to both of these services in the 'Ticket Agents' listed below.

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

4The discounted tickets on TRENITALIA are:
(i) 'Super Economy; - the cheapest tickets of all, and
(ii) 'Economy' tickets.

5Neither 'Super Economy' or 'Economy' tickets can be refunded - if YOU subsequently abandon your travel plans.

Though reservations can be transferred to an alternative departure if you have booked 'Economy tckets', but NOT if you have booked 'Super Economy' tickets.

6. The full price tickets are the 'Base' tickets - and these can be refunded if you subsequently change your travel plans.

They will also be the only tickets for sale when both the 'Economy' and 'Super Economy' tickets have sold out.

If you will be booking last minute at station for journey by Frecce or IC trains, you will in effect be purchasing a 'Base' ticket.

7If you are travelling 'Super Economy' and miss the train you are booked on for any other reason than a delayed connecting Trenitalia service - you will have to buy new tickets.

8Tickets for journeys by Frecce (AV) and  Intercity (IC) trains are available online up to 4 MONTHS ahead of the travel date.

Italo tickets CAN be available earlier than Frecce trains.

This information seems vague because there seems to be flexibility re: when Trenitalia and Italo will place tickets on sale

9On popular departures, 'Super Economy' tickets can sell out more than 2 months ahead - particularly in the summer.

10. Reservations are compulsory on Frecce and Intercity trains and by Italo trains. – but seats are automatically assigned when booking tickets online and at stations.

Look out for the carrozza (coach) number and posti (seat) numbers on your ticket.

11. Tickets for local and longer distance journeys by Regionale Veloce (RV) and Regionale (R) trains are not discounted online - so if you want to travel by these trains, the price will be the same if you buy tickets last minute at the station.

12. Seats cannot be reserved on either type of Regionale train service, so the availability of seats is not guaranteed on these trains.

13Tickets have to be stamped in machines before boarding Regionale REG/RGV trains – but not when boarding express trains.

14. Tickets purchased for journeys by either type of Regionale train (RV and R) cannot subsequently be used for journeys by Intercity or Frecce train.

15. Trenitalia.com also sells tickets for international trains to/from Italy, but only for DIRECT trains.

More info is available by clicking the green 'Tickets & Passes' buttons below.

USING RAIL PASSES summary:

1. Rail pass users need to book reservations (seats) on Frecce and Intercity trains before boarding.

These can be purchased at stations from the Trenitalia ticket machines or ticket counters, or online on the Trenitalia website.

The Trenitalia ticket machines do not sell rail pass reservations on the international trains from Italy – these can purchased from ticket counters (with no booking fees).

2. Rail passes cannot be used on Italo trains.  

Much more information, including step-by-step instructions for booking reservations online, is available on our GUIDE to using rail passes in Italy.

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