Train travel in Italy can be a great experience once you know how to navigate the logistics and understand its limitations. With the modernization of trains, Italy boasts one of the best travel systems in Europe. Italy’s two largest cities, Rome and Milan, are now connected by just a few hours on a superfast train that reaches up to 200 MPH!
While train travel can elevate your trip to Italy, there are some common pitfalls you’ll want to avoid if you choose this option. As an Italian and local expat, we’re here to help you decide whether train travel is suitable for you and have put together our top tips to make your travels as smooth as possible with our guide to Italian train travel.
How to Buy Train Tickets in Italy Online
We’ve found trainline.com to be the easiest to use overall, equipped with a timetable for all European countries, making this site ideal for you if you plan to travel outside Italy during your trip.
How far in advance should I book train tickets in Italy?
Tickets are generally released six to seven months before travel dates, so there’s no need to worry if you don’t yet see tickets available when booking your trip far in advance.
We highly recommend that you book out as far in advance as possible, especially for popular and high-speed routes between major cities, such as Rome to Milan, Bologna to Milan, Naples to Rome, or Florence to Rome.
Train tickets can get fully booked in Italy, so booking well in advance is extremely important near the Italian holidays as trains book up quickly with Italian locals and tourists competing to book their train travel during these times.
Pro-Tip: Want to know how to get cheap train tickets in Italy? Always check if any discounts are available for seniors or children!
Are you traveling to Italy as a senior? Read more on the blog on the top 7 mistakes retirees commonly make – and what to do instead!
First Class or Second Class?
Wondering whether to choose first class or second class when booking your train ticket? The truth is, there’s not as much difference between the two as you might think.
One of the only main differences between the Second class and the Executive/First Class is the food service. While First and Executive Class areas typically offer food, Second Class usually offers nothing more than a vending machine.
The fast trains, the Italo and Frecciarossa, are typically pleasant in either class, so an upgrade isn’t usually necessary. But, if you decide to book first class, we’d recommend booking a silent option, as cell phone calls are prohibited in these areas of the train. Traveling for several hours without excess noise makes for a more pleasant and relaxing ride as you travel to your next Italian destination.
Pro-Tip: Always check booking conditions. Discounted/special offers and regional train trips are typically non-refundable once booked.
Can you take luggage on trains in Italy?
You’ve arrived, and you’re ready to board the train! The last thing you want is to struggle with heavy luggage packed full of things you don’t need, especially if you frequently travel between cities during your Italy trip.
We don’t recommend bringing luggage too large for you to carry or not compact enough to fit in small spaces, as this can become a massive problem when you board and deboard trains.
You’ll often need to lift heavy luggage into an overhead compartment, so packing light may benefit you more than packing everything you could need. Instead of bringing the entire kitchen sink, pack the essentials and leave the rest behind!
Need tips for packing light for your trip to Italy? Read our Ultimate Packing Guide for Italian Travel!
Pro-Tip: WiFi is free in all classes on faster trains! Always check WiFi options before your trip to ensure you’re never caught without service.
Be Prepared for Delays
Unfortunately, delays are typical when traveling Italy by train. To avoid any missed connections, the best thing you can do is to leave at least 15-20 minutes between connections on a long trip. You don’t want unanticipated delays to cause you to miss your next train, especially when you have a trip that requires numerous transfers.
Pro Tip: Always validate your tickets before departure if you do not buy tickets online. Otherwise, you may risk fines of up to a few hundred euros. Most tickets now come with QR codes that are easily accessible on mobile devices, but printing your tickets is always a good idea to carry as a backup in case your phone dies, or you’ve inconveniently lost your charger.
Is train travel right for you?
While train travel is an excellent option for moving between larger cities and between some coastal cities, it may not be suitable for you if you want to experience more off-the-beaten-path regions of Italy.
With Italy’s many mountain ranges that run through the regions of Tuscany, Umbria, Le Marche, Veneto, and Abruzzo, train connections are only possible in the interior of some central regions of Italy. To be able to hunt for truffles, visit some of Italy’s most beautiful villages, soak up the many national parks, and experience Italy’s most underrated cities, you’ll need to rent a car and have an actual map. Yes, it’s true; Google Maps can often be unreliable in Italy, too!
If you’re ready to experience the hidden regions of Italy that have yet to be taken over by mass tourism, you’ll find it undoubtedly easier to explore these areas with the guidance of someone on the inside.
Searching for the real Italy? You’ve come to the right place! When you book with The Italian on Tour, you’ll relax by unpacking once and staying in one central location with easy access to all the amenities. While it may seem like a great idea to do the “Grand Tour” of Italy’s most visited cities, this often results in a lot of stress and time wasted on train delays.
Instead, having someone on the inside translate the Italian experience allows you to immerse yourself in local Italian culture and enjoy your time while taking the guesswork out of your Italian vacation.
On your tour with us, you can sit back and relax knowing you’re taken care of. We’ll coordinate your travel to and from activities such as exclusive private day trips to some of Italy’s most beautiful medieval villages, award-winning wineries, and more!
When you book your trip with us, you only have to worry about getting to Italy! We’ll take it from there. Tours include pickup from the airport, transfer to bus/train stations by a private driver, and ground transportation in private vehicles.
Traveling as a local in Italy is NOT straightforward. You need someone inside to take out all the guesswork – and that’s where we step in!
PLANNING A TRIP TO ITALY? SAVE THIS POST FOR LATER!