Tips for Navigating the Italian Train System

If you are traveling to Italy, you might be wondering which airport should you fly into, should you arrive by train, should you rent a car?

Here are some tips to help you understand train travel in Italy by Katie Greenaway.

Trains are so easy to use in Italy. I was nervous the first time riding it alone but once you know the ropes, you will be a confident train traveler. First, we must discuss the differences in the train types.

Regionale trains are the slow trains that travel only in each region, like Tuscany or Umbria. They stop in smaller towns which is why the trains are slower.

Then there is the Intercity which nowadays are few and far between. They require a reservation and travel, you guessed it, between bigger cities. These trains travel between regions as well. But now that there are le Frecce trains, there are only a few Intercity trains that travel on a daily basis.

The Frecciarosso, Frecciaargento and Frecciabianca are the faster version of the Eurostar. Eurostar is now similar to the Intercity train. These don’t run as often as the Frecce trains. They are faster, more convenient, but more expensive. They travel to only the main cities, Florence, Milan, Venice, Bologna, Rome, Naples, to name a few. These trains also require a reservation.

Now that you know which train is which, how to do you purchase a train ticket?

It is quite easy.

The automatic machines like this one cater to the regionale trains only. So for example if you were departing from Florence to arrive in Pisa, this is the machine I would use.

There is never anyone at these ones either.

The machine shown in the top picture is the one that everyone lines up behind. But if you are just traveling to a town in Tuscany I suggest taking my advice and using the first automatic machine.

Now if you are traveling all over Italy and would like to ask questions to the tellers, you must wait in a long line. They are helpful (sometimes) also if you want to practice your Italian, give it a go.

You must remember to validate your ticket before stepping onto the train.

This is the machine you validate your ticket in. If you forget to stamp your ticket you will be fined around €50.

Sciopero is a word that travelers should be aware of when in Italy. Sciopero, which means strike, happens quite often. And when it does it is pure chaos, especially if it is rush hour. Be calm usually there is a back up train that will take over for the original train scheduled to depart. Be aware that these trains will be very crowded as well. Regionale for sure. They pack people in the trains like sardines. I would suggest once you know which track the replacement train is arriving on. I would race to last car of the train just so you can get a seat. People always rush to the first train.

While traveling by train, be courteous when you see someone in your seat, point to your seat number and they should kindly move. When there is an elderly person looking for a seat be kind and offer your seat up. Remember to arrive in the right carrozza or car when you are searching for your posto or seat. Sit back, relax and enjoy the ride along the seaside, through mountains and among the sunflower beds.

Any questions about the trains, head over to the Trenitalia site. You can change the language to English.

Traveling south? Click here to see how I can help you plan your trip to Calabria or southern Italy.

3 Responses
  1. JP

    OHHH, so that’s how it works, lol. I just spent 20 hours of my trip on trains without knowing how they work. But everything worked out fine 🙂

    He he, glad to hear it, JP.

  2. All very good information! I remember a very loooooong train ride Bari-Brindisi, all because I didn’t know the different kinds of trains.


  3. the map you have on the viaggia treno site is GREAT
    i only take the train in itay and wish to explor puglia and sicily this year.
    is there a similar map avaialable for local trains no run by the government?

    i need to travel to Petina south east of salerno and cant find any information.

    I usually recommend travelers rent a car when traveling in the south-it is much faster/easier to get around with a car, instead of the train. You might need to check train / bus combinations to get you where you want to go.

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