How to Travel Italy by Train: It’s Easy, We Promise

July 20, 2011

Pst! We’ve got a secret: The best way to get around Italy is by train. The Italian rail network connects just about every major city in Italy, runs like clockwork, and often includes spectacular views of the countryside. If you know a few simple tips about how to use it it’s an absolute breeze.

First, a quick look at the other options. Driving in Italy, particularly in Italian cities, can be confusing, chaotic, stressful and, for the uninitiated, even dangerous. (But if you do want to drive, you should definitely read our top 6 tips for driving in Italy.) Between the cost of car rental and gas it’s often cheaper to go by rail. Meanwhile, with all of the hassles of flying and the time required to get out to the airport, a flight often winds up taking as long, or longer, than the train — and, again, is often more expensive.

Of course, we know it’s easy for us to say that taking a train is easy. If you don’t speak Italian, even figuring out the train schedule can be tricky. That’s why we’ll walk you through how to book, and take, a train – right now.

How to find an Italian train schedule

If it’s your first time to Italy, you may find navigating the national ticket site a little tricky, so try easy-to-use ItaliaRail which provides 24/7 English-speaking customer service, facilitates multiple currency options and allows you to purchase tickets for up to 20 passengers in one booking. Oh, and it has a VIP Lounge in Rome Termini Station!

Seasoned travelers can choose between Trenitalia, or for high speed routes they can check out Italy’s new private high speed trains at Italo Treno. Take a look at both to compare dates, times and prices. Trenitalia is the national rail service, so it includes all of the national routes. (Small, local trains, like the Circumvesuviana that goes from Naples to Sorrento and Pompeii, aren’t included, but you don’t need them for most major destinations).

At the website, click the button that says “English” at the top. Then, on the left, you’ll see your options for searching routes. You can opt for one-way or for return, and you have to put in your starting point, destination, and date.

For example, let’s say you want to visit St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome then pop over to Naples for a jaunt through Pompeii. When you enter your options and click “Send,” the next page will show you a list of options around the time, and on the date, you selected. You might notice that under “Departure,” though, it doesn’t say Rome. It might say “Roma Te.” That’s because Italians call Rome “Roma,” and the “Te” is short for Rome’s main train station – Termini. Similarly, instead of “Naples,” it’ll often say “Na C.le,” short for “Napoli Centrale.”

Venice's Santa Lucia train station

Venice’s Santa Lucia train station

We know this can be confusing, so here’s a list of Italy’s major train stations and how they’re abbreviated on the Trenitalia site:

  • Rome Termini (central station) –> ROMA TE
  • Naples Centrale (central station) –> NA C.LE
  • Florence Santa Maria Novella (central station) –> Fl.SMN
  • Venice Santa Lucia (on the island) –> VE. S.L.
  • Venice Mestre (on the mainland) –> MESTRE
  • Milan Centrale (central station) –> MI C.LE
  • Genova Piazza Principe (central station) –> GE P.P
  • Genova Stazione Brignole –> GE BRIG
  • La Spezia Centrale (central station) –> SPEZIA
  • Pisa Centrale (central station) –> PISA C.

Sometimes, you might notice that one train station name at the top will be black, followed by a number of others in red. That means that there’s more than one station in the city you’ve picked, and the train stops at all of the stations on the list.

Figuring out the differences between Italian trains

Once you’ve got your destination and date down, you’ll often still have a number of options for exactly which train to take. You’ll notice clear differences under “length of journey,” with some (more expensive) trains being much faster than the other trains. You can also look at “train category.” The “Frecciarossa,” “Frecciargento” and “Frecciabianca” trains are the fastest, with speeds of up to 200-250km/hr. The “Eurostar” trains are also very fast. These are also the most expensive trains, and they connect only Italy’s most major cities. The most economical option tends to be the “Intercity” trains, which connect everywhere else, make more stops, and are slower, or the “Regional” (local) trains.

What are the price and speed differences, exactly? Well, let’s take our Rome to Naples journey as an example (one-way). On a weekday, leaving around noon, a “Frecciarossa” train takes only 1 hour 10 minutes. It costs €45 2nd class, or €58 1st class. Then there’s the “Intercity” train, which takes 2 hours 13 minutes and costs €22 (2nd class) or €29 (1st class). Finally, there’s the regional train, which takes 2 hours 34 minutes and costs only €10.50 (one class only).

What train you pick, of course, is up to you. But because the Eurostar and Frecciabianca/argento/rossa trains tend to be not only faster, but more comfortable and cleaner, if we’ve got a little cash to spare, they’re our transport of choice. That’s especially true when there are discounts on those trains – as there often are.

Taking advantage of Trenitalia’s promotional fares and discounts

When you’re looking at tickets online, don’t forget to check out Trenitalia’s deals (yes, that’s the link to their current promotional fares). You can see that right now, for example, children under 15 travel free with their Bimbi Gratis Offer.

Rail station in Salerno, Italy

Another benefit to booking your ticket online: train stations can be crowded… and there can be lines, even for the automatic ticket machines!

How can you actually book one of these promotional fares? When you get to the page with all the train options and times, select the one you’d like to take, then click “Continue.” Your various options, like a “base” or “flexible” ticket, will show up – along with any promotional fares, like the Bimbi Gratis offer, if they’re available.

Booking your train ticket: online or at the station?

You can either book, and pay for, your ticket online, or, if you’re feeling a little more spontaneous, wait until you get to the train station.

Waiting has a major benefit: If you buy a ticket online, you then have to be on that exact same train – if you’re late or miss it, you have to change your reservation online. That can be a hassle, so if you can’t be quite sure when you’ll make the train, sometimes it’s best to wait.

Board for the departures and arrivals of trains

Look for your train on a board like this one!

That said, if you book in advance, you can change your ticket if you miss the train. For the “base” tickets, which are cheapest, you can change your reservation only one time, and it has to be done within the hour after the booked train has departed; you can do it either online, at an agency or at the station, and you have to pay the extra amount if the new train is pricier (you can also get money back if it’s cheaper, but, as to be expected, that procedure is a little trickier). The “flexible” tickets let you change your reservation an unlimited number of times, but that costs you 25% more.

Of course, the downside to buying your ticket at the station right before departure is that, often, it’s too late to take advantage of any promotional fares. And, very occasionally, particularly popular trains might even be sold out completely. So if you really want to take advantage of a discounted fare, or if you’re on a tight schedule, it might be worth booking online – or buying your ticket at the train station a couple of days in advance.

Finally, be aware that, if you book your ticket online, you don’t need a printer to print it out. Instead, Trenitalia has electronic tickets, either via email or sms text message on your phone. Once you board, simply show the email with the PNR number to the conductor or the sms from your phone and you’re good to go!

Now you’ve got your ticket… but how do you actually get the train?

Once you’ve gotten your ticket and you’re at the station, look for a big, hanging board with all of the newest trains listed. (One dead giveaway for where this is tends to be the crowd of people standing underneath it!). Don’t panic if, at first glance, your train isn’t there. You might be too early, since only the soonest departures will be listed. Or you might be looking at “Arrivi” (arrivals) rather than “Partenze” (departures). It’s also often easiest to go by the train’s number and departure time, rather than your particular destination. (You can find this either when you book it, or on your ticket itself; it’ll say “TRENO” followed by the number).

Remember: trains are listed by their final destination. Often your destination isn’t the last one so if you look up at the board and don’t see your destination, don’t panic, just look for your train’s number.

Once you’ve found your train, look where it says “BIN,” for “binario” (platform). That’s your platform number. Don’t worry if this takes a while to come up – you won’t be the only one hurrying to the train, and it’s rare for a conductor to leave a crowd behind on the platform!

Don’t forget to validate your ticket. You often don’t have to do this for fast trains that required a reservation – but if you’re uncertain, it’s always best to be on the safe side. The validation machines tend to be all over the station, as well as on the platform; they’re usually yellow. To stamp, put your ticket in the slot, arrows facing in, and push until you hear the stamp. If you don’t do this and you were supposed to, you can get a heavy fine when (or if) your ticket is checked.

Machine for validating your rail ticket in Italy

To validate your train ticket, use this guy

Depending on what kind of train you booked, also check your ticket. After the train number, it might say “Carrozza” followed by a number. That’s your carriage number. Then it’ll say “posti,” which is your seat number. Many Italian trains have reserved seats, so make sure you sit in the right one. Even if there are a ton of empty seats elsewhere, you never know how many people might be getting on, and trying to sit in their reserved seats, at a later stop. (If someone’s in your seat, showing them your ticket will usually suffice for them to move).

Typical train ticket

Typical train ticket – this one’s for an Intercity train, base fare, from Salerno to Rome’s Tiburtina station

So you made your train. Now what?
Relax! Just don’t forget where you put your ticket, as it may be checked by the conductor (you can get a stiff fine if you’re found riding without a ticket!). Also be aware of those around you: Both train stations and trains themselves are a favorite haunt for pickpockets, particularly on the major lines, like from Rome to Naples. Know where your things are at all times, be careful of putting your bag or purse on the ground where you can’t see it, and never fall asleep with your purse next to you if you’re traveling alone.

by Walks of Italy

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Show Comments

487 responses to “How to Travel Italy by Train: It’s Easy, We Promise”

  1. Brandon says:

    Very informative! Thank you

  2. Martin Morici says:

    Great article Jason on the train system in Italy !!!!

  3. planeters says:

    The Frecciarossa looks pretty sweet.I bet it is a great experience to travel in it

  4. Colette says:

    I’m curious, it says that if we book online we can use the “nifty ‘ticketless’ option.” But if we do that, how do we validate our ticket and show it to the conductor on the train?

    Our schedule is fairly set and I’d love to get our tickets ahead of time so we don’t have to spend vacation time in ticket lines, but I’m still fuzzy about how that actually works once we get to to italy.

    Grazie! Looking forward to see you guys in Rome.

    • walksofitaly says:

      Hi Colette,
      We’re looking forward to seeing you too! With the “ticketless” option, you’ll receive a booking reference number, called a “PNR code”; just jot that down (or, if you’ve received it as a text message, you don’t even need to do that!) and it’s all you need to give to the conductor. No validation necessary 🙂
      Let us know if you have any other questions!

  5. David Grech says:

    My girlfriend and I are planning to visit ortisei, dolomites next month. We will be landing at venice airport, treviso. However we are completely lost on how to get from treviso to ortisei! From what we gathered online, we have to take a train from treviso central to bolzano. We looked online at trenitalia (your blog was extremely helpful!) and found an option. however there is only a 9 minute difference to switch between the second and third train!! Is it possible to make it in 9 minutes? what if we cannot find the platform and miss the train? Do you suggest to buy the tickets online or at the station? Is it much more expensive if we buy the tickets from the station at last minute?
    And do you know how to get from bolzano to ortisei?

    Thank you in advance 🙂

    • walksofitaly says:

      Hi David,
      We’re happy to help! Nine minutes should be enough to switch, but regardless, you can use this ticket—because it’s not for the high-speed line, the Frecciabianca (that’s the 2nd train)—on a later train if you miss that one. You can sometimes save if you buy your tickets in advance online, so if that’s a consideration then we’d recommend doing so :-). As for getting from Bolzano to Ortisei, it looks like the bus is your best option. The timetable is here:
      Let us know if we can do anything else!

  6. Ditzzeechick says:

    thank you so much for this info. we have requested a quote to be driven from Rome to Florence but this information will be invaluable for our trip!

  7. tripmom says:

    Been researching train from Rome to Lamezia Terme to take with my kids this July. Since my daughter is 12 I am trying to clarify child fares, maybe you can help. Trenitalia lists her as child fare for National trains but not Regional. I want to take her on the Intercitynotte or Intercity train. Do u know if those are National or Regional?

    • walksofitaly says:

      Hi Nicole,
      We’re happy to help! Intercity trains are national trains (not regional), but you still can select “child” from the drop down menu of participants and the updated amount will come up. Also, take note that the following discount offer might help you:

      Offer intended for journeys of family groups of 3-5 persons composed of at least 1 adult and 1 child of under 12 years. It includes the ticket booking (free) and provides the following discounts:
      50% (30% for Couchette and Wagon Lits) for children under 12
      20% for the other persons
      Net of the discount, the minimum price is at least 10 euro for each passenger aged over 12, subject to the minimum fares for the train used.
      The offer has limited seats availability, the numbers of which vary depending on the day, train and class.
      Trains you can use this solution on:
      AV, ES*, ES* City, IC, ICN, Express, couchettes and WL. The Familia offer cannot be used for journeys on the Excelsior and Excelsior E4 carriages, or for single journeys on the regional trains. The discount extends to the Regional trains too only for journey solutions that allow the use of Regional trains connecting with trains for which the offer is valid.

      If you put in your participants and you are eligible for the fare, and the fare is still available for your travel dates, then this option should come up automatically as one of the options in the drop-down.

      Please let us know if we can help with anything else!

  8. tripmom says:

    Thank you! I’m keeping an eye on the family and supersaver fairs. Good stuff! Another question please: I will be traveling with my daughter age 12 and son age 8 in an overnight sleeper train that only offers the 4 person sleeper option. I really don’t want to pay for the whole compartment. I thought I read somewhere that I could book into a female only sleeper compartment because my son is young. I feel a little safer if the stranger sleeping with us is female, so prefer this option. Do you know if I can book the “donna” option for the 3 of us??

    • walksofitaly says:

      Unfortunately, that one we don’t know right off the bat! Easiest would probably be for you to call (they will speak English), which from abroad +39.06.68475475. Let us know how it goes!

  9. Elaine Elward says:

    Wondering about how much it would cost to visit Italy. I would like to stay at low key Abbeys or, convents. $$ also, how much would it cost to take the train from place to place if I plan to visit mostly the churches and incoruptables, in about 14 to 16 days? $$ A ballpark figure? Looking for a low cost trip. I plan to mostly eat power bars, enjoy the country, churches etc… tks!

    • walksofitaly says:

      Hi Elaine,
      As you might expect, that very much depends! However, farm-stays can cost between about 30-50 euros/night, while a convent or monastery in a city center is about 60-100 euros/night. (Check out our post on budget accommodation in Italy for more help). Trains very much depend on where you’re going and how far you’re traveling; you might want to put in some possible destinations on for an idea. Churches are free to enter, while museums are generally quite cheap (outside of the major museums in the major cities). Food also very much depends on where you are. We recommend sitting down and figuring out where exactly you would like to go, and then figuring out transport and hotel costs from there. Let us know if we can help with anything else!

    • Lisa says:

      Elaine, did you go?
      This is what I like to do too! Visit churches & stay in religious guesthouses.

  10. Trisha says:

    My husband and I will be traveling to Italy in April. Our flight arrives at 7:30 a.m. in Rome. We plan to go to Avellino (Servino?) to visit relatives and they told us to take the train to Naples or Sorrento. What is the best way for us to do this?I am afraid to pre book in case our flight is delayed and we miss the train. Would we lose our ticket if this happens? Also, how do we get from the airport to the train and how long does it take? I want to allow enough time for us to get to the train station.

    • walksofitaly says:

      Hi Trisha,

      Personally, we’d probably wait and get a ticket when we get to the station. There are lots of trains between Rome and Naples, and generally speaking, they won’t sell out (if they do) until the last minute. Otherwise, you can book a ticket in advance, but as you say, if your flight is delayed, or your baggage comes late, or anything else, you will miss your train. That said, if you miss your train, you don’t “lose” your ticket—you can change it, either online, at an agency or at the station, up to 1 hour after the train has departed, for normal fares. Still, it can be a bit of a hassle.

      It takes a half hour on the train to get from the Fiumicino airport to Termini station, and trains depart every 20-30 minutes or so.

      Let us know if we can help with anything else!

  11. Florence says:

    Hi thanks for the great article!! Just wondered, when taking train tht require a change, is it easily done? Do you need more than one ticket? I’m planning on taking the florence to pescara train which I believe means you have to change in bologna… So do I board any train heading to bologna and then go from thee to pescara? Sorry if its a silly question.

    • walksofitaly says:

      Hi Florence,
      If you book your ticket from Florence to Pescara, then that’s the only ticket you need. Train changes are usually quite simple—at your change station, just look at the list of trains departing from the various platforms to find yours, to Pescara. Good luck!

  12. aman sodhi says:

    Great article!
    I have a question. Can I easily take a train to NAples and find an excursion to Pompeii from there rather than paying a large amount for the excursion from Rome. WE are 2 adults and 2 kids 11 and 15
    Thanks for all your help!

  13. KennyB says:

    This is probably a stupid question, but Do trains stop at all stops regardless of whether there is anyone supposed to be stopping there? And I’m assuming you can exit a train at an earlier stop than ticketed. Specifically, we will be travelling on the Thello night train from Paris to either Bologna of Florence, but we won’t decide which until a day or two beforehand. So I plan to buy a ticket to Florence but may want to get off at Bologna. Thanks!

    • walksofitaly says:

      Hi Kenny,
      Not a stupid question at all! Yes, trains stop at all the stops, even if no one is ticketed to get off (although that would be very unlikely, especially for a stop like Bologna!). And yes, you can get off at an earlier stop. So you’re all good. Safe travels!

  14. sk says:

    Hi All, I intend to buy the ticket online for Milan to Rome on FrecciaBianca (9717) on second class, and I was given the choice to select the seat. As I have a big luggage with me, I will like to select a seat that is next to the luggage racks. Are these racks located at both ends of the coach/cabin/carriage? As I also heard of pickpocket in train, so which seat is best or preferred since i have a choice now to choose. I am travelling in mid-Apr, and need to book the train ticket tonight. Thanks in advance for your reply.

    • walksofitaly says:

      Hi Shirley,
      Racks are usually located at both ends of the cabin, but in all honesty you don’t have to worry much about someone making off with your bag… it can always happen, but we’ve never heard of it happening hear! You also don’t have to be very worried about pickpocketing on the train; that’s a bigger concern on the subway or on the local, urban trains in the cities. Just keep the same awareness about you that you would traveling anywhere else in the world, and you’ll be fine! Let us know if we can help with anything else!

  15. sk says:

    sorry, is Milan to Venice (not on Rome) on FrecciaBianca 9717

  16. dana says:

    I’m going on a Mediterranean cruise, with a stop in port city Civitavechhia. And, from there, I’d like to take the Trentalia train to Rome.

    But, I’m a bit confused because I see two trains, R and RV. Are the same price even though the RV trains are faster, and would the RV be covered by BIRG ticket?

    • Hi Dana,
      We’re happy to help! There isn’t really much difference between the R (regionale) and RV (regionale veloce) trains—the RV trains are slightly faster because they skip some stops. The BIRG ticket does include R and RV trains, but not the high-speed trains.
      Let us know if we can help with anything else!

  17. Bri says:

    I have a question/concern. I arrive in Rome on 6/7/13. I would like to take a day trip to Florence; I have found tickets for 6/8/13. I am concerned since I will have just arrived in country if it is so wise to take a train that early in the trip. I have no problem asking for help. Thanks for any input. Your info was so informative keep it up.

    • Hi Bri,
      The only reason we can think of as to why it might not be wise is that you might be a little jet-lagged 🙂 OTher than that, we can’t think of anything that would stop you! Let us know how it goes (or if you have any other questions!).

  18. Kris10 says:

    This ongoing post has been really helpful, but I have one question. My husband and I are flying into Naples and then traveling straight to Positano (not sure how yet). I’m nervous about NOT purchasing train tickets in advance because things will fill up, but at the same time I’m nervous to pre-purchase tickets in case our flight is delayed or we don’t make it out of the airport in time. The same goes for taking ferries.

    I don’t want to be stranded in Naples or another connection (Sorrento, Salerno or Capri) and not be able to make it to our hotel by night.

    Any advice? Thanks!

    • Hi there Kris,
      To get to Positano, you’d take the Circumvesuviana train to Sorrento and then the ATAC bus to Positano. No need to book in advance, as the Circumvesuviana leaves very frequently and we’ve never seen people not allowed to get on it for lack of seats. In fact, we’re not even sure you can book a Circumvesuviana ticket in advance (it’s different from the Trenitalia train network).
      We hope that helps! Let us know if we can answer anything else!

      • Kris10 says:

        Thanks for your help, but I should have been more clear. We are trying to avoid the Circumvesuviana and bus as we will have been sitting in a plane all night (and I am prone to carsickness). We wanted to try either a 100% ferry route or take a highspeed train to Salerno and then a ferry to Positano. What is your advice for reservations/tickets?

        I really appreciate your help!

        • Hi Kris,
          In that case, yes, either option works. We’d recommend reserving both the ferry and train in advance online, if you know there are particular ferry/train times you want. You can book the train at and find out more about ferry lines in our post here. Let us know if we can do anything else!

  19. Ken Neo says:

    Hi, my wife and I are thinking of taking train from Milan to Interlaken in Oct but I don’t see any train available in May I know is there any other website that we can book with ticket that is also ticketless? Thanks in advance for your reply.

  20. Neha says:


    My husband and I will be traveling to Italy in June. We’re planning to travel from Cinque Terre to Venice – Monterosso-Milan-Venice seems to be the best option. However, there’s only 15 minutes available in Milan for us to change trains. Is that time period sufficient?

  21. Kate says:

    This is the best info I have seen re:train travel in Italy, thank you. I have a question regarding how much time I’ll need to get through Roma Termini to make the train for Firenze S.M. Novella. I am planning on taking the Leonardo Express from FCO to Roma Termini. How much time should I allow between trains? Also, can I buy my ticket for Firenze at the Roma FCO train station when I buy the ticket for the Leonardo Express train?

    • Hi Kate,
      Thanks for the kind words! The platforms likely won’t be far from each other, so give yourself at least 10 minutes to switch and you’ll be fine. And yes, you can buy your ticket for Firenze at the Fiumicino airport train station, where you’d buy a ticket for the Leonardo Express. Let us know if we can help with anything else!

  22. Charles says:


    I am finishing the final leg of my trip in Italy but I am running into a major block getting from Genoa to Florence on May 20th. The only train is at night. They can’t possibly be completely full at this time. Is there a regional option instead of the main site. Otherwise do you have another suggestion ? I need to get back to Bologna for a 16h return flight on the 22nd of May

    • Hi Charles,
      We see a number of options and seats available for May 20 from Genova to Firenze. Are you sure you’re in the right section of the website? You want to click “Tutti i treni” (all trains), to give you options other than just the high-speed one. Let us know if we misunderstood, or if that works!

  23. mohammad says:

    Hi, thanks for the great info.
    My flight arrives into Naples at 2:25pm and originally wanted to go see Pompeii using the Circumvesuviana train, I am worried I will not have enough time to get there and see every thing. it is wiser to go to Ercolano instead because is smaller in size and better preserved?

    • Hi Mohammad,
      If you’re pressed for time, yes, we think Ercolano is a great alternative to Pompeii. Its more compact size means it’s easier to visit on your own, even though the ruins are just as fantastic (and there are skeletons!).
      Please let us know if we can do anything else!

  24. Gary says:

    Hi, we have been waiting a long time to book train from Pisa Centrale to Santa Margherita Ligure for 20 july 2013 and also some other trains in Italy after that but can’t get the Trenitalia website to come up with options. Thought it was to do with new timetables coming out for June 9th onwards, but getting worried as time gets closer. Can you help please! Gary

    • Hi Gary,
      Believe it or not, you’re looking too far in advance 🙂 Timetables only appear to be loaded up for trips for the next few weeks. Check back sometime in early July. (And don’t worry about not getting the ticket—the only time we’ve seen trains sell out is in the half hour before departure). Let us know if we can help with anything else!

  25. Stephanie says:


    I am taking a tour that drops me off in Naples and from there I was going to go to Pisa to visit family. I am going to Italy in June. I would like to pre book but when I go to look for a train there are only there and we would arrive late. I am looking to leave early in the day is it still to early to book?

    • Hi Stephanie,
      Most of the trains should already be listed for June, but yes, perhaps check back later. Unfortunately, though, it might simply be a case of not many trains on the day you’re looking for.
      Please let us know if we can help with anything else!

  26. Marjorie says:

    Great blog – thank you. I’m just trying to put together a trip from Scotland to Sicily with my daughter and a dog. It seems she would age 11 qualify for free travel before the end of August, does that include overnight trains too? Also are there any trains that I can’t take the dog onto? Thanks so much in advance for any help.

  27. Kelly says:

    We will be travelling to Florence for a few weeks this summer, home exchanging. Fares from the US seem to be cheapest flying into Rome, so I think we’re looking to take the train from Rome to Florence. We are 2 adults and 6 children (ages 1-11). We are well versed in travelling with all our kids, but train travel would be new to us. I am worried can we manage this, with our luggage in tow?

    1 x-large suitcase
    1 large suitcase
    1 pack-n-play cot
    2 strollers
    1 large backpack

    Thanks in advance for all your help!