Welcome to the guide to travelling on the Italian express trains which don't typically travel on the high speed lines.
Accessing the train
Attributes of the train
If you will be taking a journey by Italian Intercity (IC) trains, our guide will tell you the key things you the need to know, from boarding, to making the most of the journey experience.
However, between some Italian destinations, InterCity trains are still the fastest trains - they're the only direct trains between the Italian mainland and Sicily.
By sticking to the old main lines these Intercity trains often provide a much slower, but also much CHEAPER alternative to the AV high speed trains – particularly when the discounted tickets for the AV trains have sold out.
What's new is that the non-tilting type of train that had previously been used for Frecciabianca services are now beginning to be used for InterCity services.
ShowMeTheJourney's understanding of the situation is that this type of train is gradually being introduced to these two routes:
(1) Milano - Genova - Sestri Levant - La Spezia - Pisa - Livorno
(2) Milano - Genova - Albenga - San Remo - Ventimiglia.
Intercity trains are most commonly found on these routes:
(1) Milano – Genova – Albenga – San Remo – Ventimiglia (shared with Thello train services to France)
(2) Milano – Genova – Sestri Levante – Monterosso – La Spezia – Pisa – Livorno – (Grosetto) - (Roma)
(3) Milano – Parma – Modena – Bologna – Firenze Rifredi – Arezzo – Roma Tiburtina – Napoli
(4) Trieste – Venezia Mestre – Bologna - Firenze Rifredi – Arezzo – Roma (a slower, cheaper alternative to the AV trains between Venezia and Roma)
(5) Milano - Parma – Modena – Bologna – Rimini – Ancona – Bari – Taranto (a slower, cheaper alternative to the Frecce trains between Milano and Bari)
(6) Roma – Taranto
(7) Roma – Napoli – Villa San Giovanni – Messina – Palermo/Catania – Siracusa - these are the only direct daytime trains between Italy and Sicily
Boarding an Intercity train at a non-terminal station can be a somewhat fraught process.
You'll want to wait on the platform/track/binario so that you'll have easy access into the coach/carrozza in which your reserved seat is located - but this can be easier said than done.
The coach number info screens at major stations are only for the Frecce/Italo trains.
Prior to the train arriving there will be an announcement in Italian and then English as to which end of the train 1st class is located (but it can be relied upon).
There won't be any indication of which coach/carrozza numbers will be at the front or rear of the train.
So the best option is usually to wait in the middle of the track/platform/binario and then make a dash towards your coach, when the train arrives.
On some Intercity trains the coach/carrozza numbers are shown by paper labels stuck to the doors – which can be missing, so some basic counting may be necessary
Italian Intercity trains have a sense of style - and they’re the only Italian express trains that have compartment seats in some coaches with a door to a corridor, virtually all 1st class seating is in compartments.
A refurbishment program is underway for the Italian IC trains, it includes the addition of features such as on-board info screens, Wi-Fi and power sockets.
The yet to be modernised interiors don't have Wi-Fi and power sockets, hence the lack of the on-board info above,
You won't know if you will be travelling on a refurbished train when booking tickets.
The coaches that have yet to be updated often show their age, the air-conditioning, light switches and toilets can be prone to being out-of-order, or not working exactly as they should.
On the trains which have yet to be refurbished there also aren’t any electronic info screens in the seating saloons - so pay attention to the on board announcements, alerting passengers as to which station the train is about to arrive at etc.
The announcements will be Italian followed by English, but the Italian names of places/stations are used.
A new colour scheme of red and white is being applied and SOME of the trains that are now red and white are those which have been refurbished.
These repainted trains are sometimes referred to as Intercity 'Sun' trains.
Trains that are still painted blue/grey are less likely to have been refurbished.
Seats will be assigned when booking tickets online or at station ticket desks, but take care when using a ticket machine.
According to the Trenitalia ticket machines, seats DO have to be reserved on these trains if you will be using tickets.
Tickets for journeys by Intercity train are NOT valid on Frecce trains.
Rail Pass Users:
If you will be travelling with a valid rail pass, there is a €3 reservation fee available for these trains, but it is optional.
So Eurail and InterRail pass users can just hop on board, but it won't be apparent whether any spare seats that can be found, will be available for the entire journey.
Because the ticket holders all have complimentary reservations, these IC trains don't have systems which indicate to passengers whether seats are available or have been reserved.
The ticket holder will know where they will be sitting, because the seat number will be on their ticket and they will expect their seat(s) to be available, so will be entitled to ask a rail pass user to vacate the seats that they have booked.
So if you have a rail pass and occupy a seemingly available seat, it's fairly likely that you will have to give it up if it's then claimed by a ticket holder, particularly if you will be travelling long-distance.
And these IC trains make comparatively frequent station calls at busy locations.
If you will be making a fairly short journey, particularly one with no intermediate station calls, you may as well hop on board without a reservation, let the ticket holders take their seats and then occupy any that are still available.
However, if you are going long-distance the outlay of €3 will make for an infinitely more relaxing journey.
Having the peace of mind that you have a seat can be worth every cent as it's not unknown for all seats to be booked on these InterCity trains.
More info on how to book these rail pass reservations is available HERE
If you’re making a long journey by IC train take food/drink on board with you - there are NO catering facilities available on most Italian Intercity trains.
Folding bikes can be taken on board as hand luggage.
NON- folding bikes must be placed in travel cases, that need to be shown to the conductor, or platform staff prior to boarding.
They need to be stowed in a specific part of the train and the conductor/platform staff will show you where.
Trenitalia's guide to travelling on its trains with bikes is HERE (It is in Italian so use Google Translate to make sense of it).
This is one of more than 150 train 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.