Among the railway networks in Europe, I think the railway network in Italy is one of the best railway networks, the intuitive ticketing interface of train ticket websites is easy to use, quick payment, tickets can be bought at very cheap prices if you plan hunting for tickets early (sometimes only EUR9/trip). Italian railway are available in most cities across the country and can reach the most remote villages and countrysides with train ticket price among the lowest in Europe. The secret to buying cheap train tickets in Italy is simply: be patient and hunt for tickets early! So, how to get around Italy by train on a budget? Let’s check out our guide to rail transport in Italy (Italy train guide) on how to travel around Italy by train, how to travel in Italy by train, travel through Italy by train, travel within Italy by train and best way to travel in Italy by train to find out answer!
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How to travel around Italy by train? General information about buying tickets and taking the train in Italy
- www.trenitalia.com: This is the official website of Trenitalia, the largest railway company in Italy, almost people uses this site to book train tickets to get to cities in Italy and also including international train routes. This website is very intuitive, friendly interface, easy to use, loading fast and can use international credit cards to buy, reserve in advance without fee.
- www.italiarail.com: This site is similar to Trenitalia, the ticket price is almost the same as Trenitalia, although sometimes it is cheaper to buy tickets at this site, but there will be an additional charge of €3.50 and sometimes I see this website has errors, cannot book tickets.
- www.loco2.com (Now merged with www.raileurope.co.uk): If you depart from the UK, the price is equivalent to Trenitalia.
Buying tickets at the stations
You can go to the train stations to buy train tickets at the ticket vending machines, using credit cards with “chip and pin” to buy. The ticket vending machine has an easy-to-use English interface, selling both short and long distance routes tickets. When you get the ticket, remember to validate it at the Validation machines located in front of the station near the train tracks.
Should I book in advance or not?
The answer is yes and no, with short journey in the same region like going from Florence to Pisa, Milan to Como or Tirano you just need to go to the train station to buy tickets and get on the train. For long journeys like going to Milan – Venice – Florence – Rome, you should book tickets in advance because tickets can be sold out and the ticket price close to the departure time is often very high. Sometimes it is not necessary to book in advance because there is a trip I go from Florence to Rome with the whole cabin is only me sitting, but booking in advance is still better. In addition, booking in advance helps you get an overview of all routes, and when you want to change the schedule or miss a train, it will be easy to cancel or change tickets online.
Quality of service
The train in Italy is very beautiful, comfortable, fast, takes some medium and short routes only takes 1-2 hours. On train there is a bar, food and drink, beautiful furniture and clean toilets.
Guide to rail transport in Italy: How to buy tickets in Trenitalia?
To book tickets at Trenitalia, simply go to www.trenitalia.com, following the steps to book tickets, a few notes as follows:
- Change interface to English from drop-down menu at the upper right corner of the screen or directly access this link https://www.trenitalia.com/en.html for convenience of booking online.
- Enter exactly which railway station you want to go, for example, from Venice to Rome you determine which station you go to and from in those two cities because there are many different stations in each city. Usually you will depart from the central station, Rome’s central station is Termini, Florence’s is Firenze S.M.N, in Venice if you book hotel in the city center (main island), it is Santa Lucia station, in the mainland is Venezia Mestre station. Then, fill the date and time, choose the round-trip or one-way, number of passengers for adult and children… and then press “Search” button.
- There are 2 types of tickets: The first (1st) and the second (2nd) class tickets, of course the 2nd class ticket is cheaper.
- When you enter the name of the place you want to go, remember to write in Italian, if you enter English, it will not show. For example Venice is Venezia, Florence is Firenze, Rome is Roma.
- After press “Search” button, a list of train routes of the day will appear, select the trip you want to go, then fill in personal information (can register an account or not), payment method (credit card or paypal). After paying you will be chosen seats without fee, so you should choose a seat near the window to enjoy the view along the trip.
Some Italian names and central stations in Italian cities, save these names to make it easy to book tickets as well as find locations on the map:
- Rome: Roma Termini (central station) –> ROMA TE
- Naples: Napoli Centrale (central station) –> NA C.LE
- Florence: Firenze Santa Maria Novella (central station) –> Fl.SMN
- Venice (island): Venezia Santa Lucia (on the island) –> VE. S.L.
- Venice (mainland): Venezia Mestre (on the mainland) –> MESTRE
- Milan: Milano Centrale (central station) –> MI C.LE
- Genova: Genova Piazza Principe (central station) –> GE P.P.
- Genova: Genova Stazione Brignole –> GE BRIG
- Pisa: Pisa Centrale (central station) –> PISA C.
Before booking train tickets at Trenitalia, make sure to check the Trenitalia’s deals at the time of booking, such as traveling with children under the age of 15 will be free, go with 2 people will only pay 1 ticket every Saturday, buy 10 tickets get 20% discount, … Remember, you can change the ticket for free with unlimited number of times before departure time, after the departure time, change tickets is still free but only at the counter, or if you want to return tickets before departure time will be refunded 80%. See details here: The base ticket.
Tickets after successful purchase will be sent to your email including confirmation of the ticket you have booked on Trenitalia and a PDF file with barcode, as below:
Note that this ticket is booked online, paid (equivalent to check-in already), meaning that you will not need to validate this ticket at the ticket validation machines anymore, just save the ticket in the smartphone and get on the train. If a ticket checker on the train asks your ticket, you only need to give this ticket from the phone to let them see is ok.
How to travel within Italy by train? How to buy tickets and taking a train in Italy?
Travel within Italy by train
- Tickets are available for sale from 3 to 4 months before the departure date, so be sure to planning your itinerary as soon as possible to hunt cheap tickets. Usually, the cheap fares are at the prices of €9, €19, €29, €39, and the earlier you buy, the better you get the chance to book €9 ticket regardless of the short or long routes between cities. If you watch early and still do not see cheap tickets are sold, do not rush, sometimes cheap tickets appear just over 1 month before the departure date. Remember to check the offers as mentioned above.
- Booking at www.italiarail.com, sometimes more convenient than www.trenitalia.com because ItaliaRail is a private company with good service. Sometimes, Trenitalia has language problems, having to enter the name of the station in Italian, while ItalianRail is entirely in English but there will be an additional €3.50 service charge. In addition, ItaliaRail allows you to book tickets for 20 people at the same time instead of 5 people as at Trenitalia. And when you book a ticket if there’s only one cheap ticket for that route, ItaliaRail still allows you to book for the rest people at that price, while Trenitalia is not allow because the tickets are out of stock.
- There alsway are full of domestic trains running within Italy during the day, so you don’t have to worry about running out of tickets, only worry about running out of cheap tickets if you book late.
- There are many types of trains that appear when you book a ticket, usually Frecciarossa train is the fastest train but also the most expensive. Besides Eurostar trains are also fast but these trains mainly run through the big cities. The slowest train is Intercity or Regional (local) train, but it can goes to most locations throughout Italy, and the ticket price is cheapest.
- When you arrive at the station, you have to look carefully the booking code, train code and train track number to take the right train and know the platform to catch the train. Some large stations like Roma Termini is very large (there is a large shopping mall in this station), with a lot of number of rails and trains here, so you need to locate exactly which area that your train stop to easy to find it. The train information will be displayed on the station’s electronic board: the train number, the train schedule (the train arrival and departure time)… You can check the train schedule at www.viaggiatreno.it, most trains in Italy will be a bit faster or slower (only about 5-10 minutes).
- • Tickets that purchased at a ticket vending machine you will have to validate at the ticket validation machine, if found to be not validate will be fined, while if you have booked an online ticket, means you already have a reservation then you do not need to validate anymore (similar you have already checked-in for the flight).
- • Night trains in Italy: There are many night train routes in Italy that you can take advantage of sleeping on the train to save hotel costs such as Venice to Rome route, Milan or Rome to Sicily, or from Venice, Milan to Naples.
With international routes to other European cities from Italy you can still find and book tickets through the websites www.italiarail.com or www.trenitalia.com. But we recommend you should use www.captaintrain.com or www.loco2.com for Milan – Turin – Paris routes and www.bahn.de to get to Munich or other cities in Germany.
Normally, with long journeys like from Rome/Venice to Paris, you will have to change trains in the middle of the route, transfer to Frecciarossa, Eurocity train, etc. Many routes do not even have tickets to book directly via the websites, therefore you will have to book many times. For example, going from Venice to Prague will not has no direct tickets, you must book tickets from Venice to Vienna first and then continue book tickets from Vienna to Prague, or you can choose another city depend on your preference.
Buying tickets via Trainline.com
In addition to Trenitalia and the above websites, another train booking website that you should consider when traveling between cities within Italy or to other European cities and vice versa is Thetrainline.com. This website is extremely convenient, especially if you want take the long routes complicated that other websites cannot do.
For example, if you want to go from Milan, Venice to Lucenre, Zurich and vice versa. On these routes, you will have to change trains many times, you do not know how to arrange? Trainline will help you do that.
Take the Italo train
In addition to the famous Trenitalia, when traveling in Italy you also have another option: Italo train, book tickets on their homepage: www.italotreno.it. This is a private railway company in Italy but the quality is very good, the facilities are not inferior to Trenitalia train, the Italian domestic routes that Italo serves:
- Turin – Milan – Bologna – Florence – Rome – Naples – Salerno
- Venice – Bologna – Florence – Rome – Naples
Some characteristics of Italo train that you need to know are:
- Tickets: Buying tickets early will also have the opportunity to find cheaper tickets. This is another alternative good option if you cannot buy cheap tickets from Trenitalia. Italo has a variety of train tickets, not just 1st class and 2nd class as Trenitalia. Sometimes you can find cheaper tickets than Trenitalia from Italo.
- Station: Italo has its own station called Casa Italo, usually in major cities and as the main station. Casa Italo Station looks very modern, has ticket vending machines, and many staffs at the information counter ensure the best service. Previously they did not have many routes to the central stations in the city but now it has plenty of route.
- Timetable: Currently, Italo does not have many regular routes running throughout the day like Trenitalia, but they are still developing very fast. Italo’s schedule are sometimes interspersed with Trenitalia so you have an another option if you want to go during the hours that Trenitalia trains do not available. You can refer to here.
Some best day tours, trips, activities and transfer services, tickets in and from Rome you can refer to
- Private Fiumicino Airport (FCO) Transfers for Downtown Rome
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- Day Trip to the Ruins of Pompeii
- Positano and Amalfi Coast Day Tour
- I Love Rome Hop On Hop Off Panoramic Bus Tour
- Rome Hop-On Hop-Off City Sightseeing Bus Tour
Are you looking for more Rome travel guide: Tours, activities, attractions and other things? Read more: Rome travel blog — The fullest Rome travel guide blog & suggested Rome 3 day itinerary on a budget. And top things to do in Rome here.