Guide on How to Travel by Train in Italy

Train travel in Italy is a cheaper transportation alternative especially if you’re planning to explore the country. It connects the different regions of Italy and offers short distance and long-distance travel. However, the process and policies can be confusing for tourists who have never been to the country and for some who are not used to train rides. Let our ultimate guide on how to travel on a train in Italy give you an idea of the basics of Italian train travel.

When did Train Transit in Italy start?

The history of the nationwide rail system in Italy dated back as early as the 1800s. During Mussolini’s Fascist regime, the railway system was developed and he was popularly known as the man who made the trains run on time. However, during World War II, the railways were destroyed. It was reconstructed as part of the Post-war Marshall Plan and was opened to public access again.

In the 1970s, the first high-speed train was introduced which was a new development in the railway transit system after a long period of dormancy. Since then, Italy has continuously made improvements, modernization, and expansion of its railway system.

Why Choose Train Travel?

Traveling around Italy via train is inexpensive, convenient, and easy. It helps locals and tourists reach their destinations in no time without having to deal with the intense city traffic. It gives people different options from the type of train to board, the seat classification to choose from, etc. If you’re looking forward to experiencing the classic Rome to Florence to Venice tour, train travel is the most recommended choice because train stations in these cities are situated in the city center.

Traveling by train when going to large or medium-sized cities in Italy is one of the best transportation options. You don’t have to worry about finding a good parking space and paying a hefty amount of parking fees, endure the bumper-to-bumper traffic, adapt to the driving policies in the country, and train stations are strategically located within the heart of the city or the city perimeters to provide quick and easy access to non-locals. However, in cities located in areas with higher elevations such as Siena, their train stations are located on lower grounds and are accessible by bus, taxi, or by foot if you have checked in the nearby hotel.

When is Train Travel Not Recommended?

Not all tourists destinations in Italy are accessible by train rides. If you’re planning to explore the countryside, the mountains, and the hilltop towns, it’s better to rent a car so you could reach your destination and enjoy your time there without having to worry about the time catching the next trip back to the city where your hotel is located. Most remote towns don’t have train stations or train stops as well. You can also use a different or combined mode of transportation such as train rides in going between major cities and car rentals to reach smaller and interior areas. And if you’re going on long-distance travel such as going from north to south, you may board a plane.

What are the different types of Trains in Italy?

The railway transit system in Italy is composed of two companies, Trenitalia and Italo.

Italo is a privately owned rail company and owns modern and high-speed fleets that connect the major cities in Italy. It has been a close competitor to Trenitalia’s Freccia trains. It flaunts clean and comfortable couches and bathrooms. It also offers different seat classes such as Smart or the standard class and Club Executive for the VIP.

Trenitalia was the first and the only railway company that served the Italian locals and tourists for years. Thus, they established a dominancy in the market and created the widest networks and routes in the country. It has 3 different types of train and each one differs in terms of speed and fare price.

  1. Le Frecce or Frecce Fast Trains

    Known as Trenitalia’s most advanced trains, Le Frecce offers the quickest travel time, exceptional comfort, and organization. It also has the highest fare price as compared to other train types. All Le Freece types of train require advance reservation and have an assigned seat assignment for each passenger. It offers transportation services to major cities such as Rome, Naples, Florence, Bari, Turin, Bologna, Milan, and Venice.

There are 3 types of Le Frecce trains which include:

  1. Frecciarossa– with its 300 km/h travel speed, it is considered the fastest and most expensive among the Le Frecce trains. It links the known largest cities in Italy namely Naples, Rome, Bologna, Turin, Milan, and Florence except for Venice.
  2. Frecciargento– ranks second to Frecciarossa in terms of speed, these trains use the traditional and high-speed lines. It takes locals and tourists to major cities including Florence, Bologna, Rome, Naples, Venice, and other southern areas in the country such as Apulia. However, it does not travel to Turin and Milan.
  3. Frecciabianca– it is the slowest in the family of Le Frecce trains and still uses the traditional train lines. It links 16 out of 20 regions of Italy except for Valle d’Aosta, Trentino Alto Adige, Umbria, Basilicata, Sicily, and Sardinia.

2. Intercity and Intercity Plus

These trains are fast enough but are significantly slower than the Frecce types because they run outside the high-speed lines. They connect the major cities and smaller towns within Italy and offer 2-class service. The first-class seats are less crowded and have access to cleaner bathrooms than the second class. Reservation is mandatory for Intercity Plus trains and reservation fees are included in the ticket cost. Unlike the Frecce trains, they don’t offer amenities such as wifi and restaurant service.

3. Regional Trains

These are composed of local trains that connect smaller towns and operate normally on school and work schedule since their target market are locals who need cheap transportation in going to school and work. Advance seat reservation is not available on regional trains thus you need to avoid rush hours or board the train early. Most couches are second class but they offer limited first-class seats.

How to Look for your Chose Destination on the Train Schedule?

You can find different schedules on train stations including the departing or “partenze” and arriving or “arrivi”. It’s often listed on a TV screen or monitor or on large boards. Once you’re certain about the schedule of your chosen destination, check the track and proceed to the correct platform.

Where to Buy your Train Ticket?


If you are planning to travel to Italy and already have an itinerary, you can book train tickets via gotoitaly. This allows you to come in prepared and had everything ready to avoid the rush or possibly forgetting to book a ticket. You can also make seat reservations through our website. If you need to buy another train ticket while in Italy, you can directly book through the website using the same process. Just print or save your ticket on your phone and you’re good to go. It’s more convenient and easy.

However, you can also buy train tickets via Trenitalia or Italo and save the ticket on your smartphone or print it and bring the hard copy with you. Show it to the conductor for verification. You can also track your tickets, travel time, and your trip’s progress in real-time via the mobile application.

Ticket Window

At the train station, you can buy your train ticket in the ticket window. You need to provide the cashier information of the time of departure, destination, number of tickets, and seat class that you want to purchase.

Train Ticket Machine

You can purchase your train ticket through the ticket machine. They are easy to use and help you avoid the long line of ticket buyers in windows. However, you need to bring in some cash with you as you can only purchase through the ticket machine with cash.

When using regional trains, there is a high chance that the train seats might be full of passengers. Your regional train ticket is your access to transportation and if all seats are taken, you need to endure it. But you can also upgrade your ticket to first-class even after boarding the train. Just ask for assistance from the conductor.

Which Class Should I Get?

Modern trains generally offer standard, premium, business, and executive classes. Depending on budget and preference, you can choose any of the available couch classes. If you want to enjoy peace and privacy, choose the upper class. But don’t forget to book advance seat reservations to avoid hassle and delays.

For regional trains, there are only 2 classes available and very limited seats are offered in the first class.

What do I need to do when boarding the train?

Once you have secured your ticket and had your copy ready, you can go to your train. You need to be mindful of the tracks or “binari” and check the track numbers which are indicated on the departure board. In smaller stations, you can find tracks that are not track number 1 or binario uno by going into the underground locally known as sottopassagio.

In larger train stations such as Milano Centrale, you will find information about the track, the next scheduled train, and the time of departure through the train’s heads-on.

If your printed ticket does not contain a specific train number, date, time, and seat number regardless if it’s a regional or small private company train ticket, have it validated through the machine before boarding your train. Look for the green and white machine or the yellow machine for old models. It’s a ticket validating machine where you need to insert the end of your ticket. The machine will print the date and time when the ticket was initially used.

For electronic tickets or e-tickets, PDF, printed tickets with QR codes, you don’t need to undergo the validation process. Just make sure to show it to the conductor for checking.

Remember: You will pay a hefty fine for not validating your ticket so don’t forget to validate it first.

What should I do if my train trip is canceled or delayed?

When you travel, you should always condition yourself that not everything you planned will go smoothly as planned. Be calm, breathe, and be patient.

There are various reasons as to why your train travel was canceled or delayed. It could be because of a strike, accident, railway repairs, etc. According to the Trenitalia website, here’s what you need to know:

Once your Freccia train is delayed by 30-59 min. Trenitalia will give you a 25% bonus or reimbursement of the ticket price which you can use on your next purchase.

Once your Freccia train arrived late to the destination for more than an hour, you will get a proper compensation depending on the number of minutes of its tardiness. For 60-119 minutes late, you will get a 25% reimbursement of the ticket price and a 50% reimbursement for more than 120 minutes late arrival. The reimbursement will be given in a form of a bonus which can be used to purchase a new ticket within 12 months after the date of issuance, cash for cash payments, and a card refund if paid using card payments.

After 24 hours from the date of your delayed travel, you can request a refund, reimbursement, or bonus at ticket stations, online, on the train company website, and travel agencies. The compensation will expire if left unclaimed within 12 months from the date of travel.

What are the travel times for common Italian cities/destinations?

Rome – Florence
Frecciarossa /Trenitalia- 1 hour 31 minutes
Italo- 1 hour 23 minutes

Rome – Venice
Frecciargento/ Trenitalia- 3 hours 45 minutes
Italo- 3 hours 45 minutes

Rome – Milan
Frecciarossa /Trenitalia- 2 hours 55 minutes / 3 hours 20 minutes
Italo- 3 hours 14 minutes

Rome – Naples
Frecciarossa / Trenitalia- 1 hour 10 minutes
Italo- 1 hour 20 minutes

Florence – Milan
Frecciarossa/ Trenitalia- 1 hour 40 minutes
Italo- 1 hour 50 minutes

Florence – Venice
Frecciargento / Trenitalia- 2 hours 5 minutes
Italo- 2 hours 5 minutes

Milan – Venice
Frecciabianca / Trenitalia- 2 hours 23 minutes / 2 hours 35 minutes

Milan – Naples
Frecciarossa / Trenitalia- 4 hours 40 minutes
Italo- 4 hours 31 minutes

What are the most important train stations in Italy?

  1. Milan: Milano Centrale
  2. Naples: Napoli Centrale
  3. Bologna: Bologna Centrale
  4. Rome: Roma Termini
  5. Florence: Firenze Santa Maria Novella
  6. Venice: Venezia Santa Lucia
  7. Turin: Torino Porta Nuova

Quick Travel Tips:
1. Pack Lightly.

A carry-on or a backpack is suitable for the train trip. You don’t have to worry about where to place your luggage on the train and you would be able to skip the hassle of carrying a huge suitcase while boarding and off the train.

2. Be cautious of potential pickpocketers.

Use a money belt if possible. Place your backpack in your front area to keep it secure.
Keep an eye on your luggage. Place your luggage in between two rows of a back-to-back seat. You can also place it on dedicated racks above the seats intended for luggage or on the shelves at the nearby end of the coach.

3. There are no porters in the train station who will help you carry your luggage.

You are all alone so don’t pack too many clothes.

4. Be nice and friendly to other passengers.

If you want to ask whether the seat is taken or not, you can say Occupato? E libero?