Rail travel in Italy is fast, efficient, and budget friendly. If you plan to see a few major cities such as Milan, Venice, Rome, and Florence it is more cost and time effective than renting a car or flying. Reservations can be made online or purchased at the station. You do not need to show up 2 hours prior, many times they do not even post the departure platform until 20 minutes prior to the train departing. We purchased tickets online so arriving at the station 20 minutes prior to departure worked well for us. When you arrive at the station consult the boards for the departure platform. A few minutes prior to departure they will let you board the train.
You have different types of trains in Italy.
Le Frecce (Frecciarossa or Frecciargento) trains which provide mostly high-speed service on the main lines. These are operated by Trenitalia and reach speeds of 250 miles per hour and offer maximum comfort.
EuroCity, InterCity (Frecciabianca) and international trains connect cities with more intermediate stops than high speed trains, reservations required
Regional trains which are not on the main lines. They connect smaller cities and towns. These do not require reservations. An example would be Florence to Pisa.
Ticket Validation: Tickets bought in Italy for Regionale and Regionale Veloce trains which are not marked for any particular time or train, become valid only when validated. If you get caught without validation you could be fined 50 euro. Validation boxes are located in the station or near the platform. After being time-stamped, the ticket is valid for the time shown on the ticket. If your ticket includes a seat reservation then validation is not required. We read online to validate all tickets no matter what. However last year we took the train from Venice to Rome, Rome to Florence, and Florence to Pisa. We had made reservations online for particular days, times, and trains and did not have to validate our ticket.
Ticketless: When purchasing online a PNR code is given. It is an alphanumeric code of 6 characters. This entitles travel without having to print a paper ticket. It completely matches the travel option purchased – day, train, carriage, seat, departure, destination, price. When asked for tickets onboard the train, the PNR code can be shown or verbally told to the ticket inspector.
If you plan on doing a lot of train travel or plan to travel to multiple countries then you might consider a Eurail pass.
What is a Eurail pass? A Eurail pass allows for unlimited train travel in one or multiple countries over a certain number of days. When purchasing the pass, you select the countries and number of days within a particular time frame. An option could be 8 days in 1 month for single country or 8 days in 2 months for multiple countires. There are extra surcharges for certain trains. (High speed, trains requiring seat reservations, and overnight trains) The cost for a single country is about $43 US per day for second class and $54 US per day for first class. The surcharge of a high speed train is around $12 US. You do get extra benefits for purchasing the pass.
- 15% discount for 2 or more travelers traveling together
- Free Child Pass (age 0-11) where applicable
- Free Eurail Travel Pack – includes Rail Map, Travel Wallet, Pass Guide, Euroail Mobile App, Eurail Survey Souvenir
- 25% off Thello Overnight train from Paris to Milan
- Ferry Discounts: 20-50% off Ferry service between Italy and Greece or Croatia
- Discounts on City Sightseeing tours in Italy
NOTE: Eurail Pass can be used on all trains run by Italian State Railway, they do not cover privately run trains such as: Thello night trains, Italo (NTVs) high speed trains, Circumvesuvianna, Malpensa Express, or Campania Express.
Our preferred reservation site is http://www.trenitalia.com/tcom-en
TIP: If you use our preferred site be sure to pick your language in the top right corner. The station names are the Italian names. Rome is Roma, Venice is Venezia, Florence is Firenze, and so on. Large cities have several train stations so know which station you need. If you prefer the names in English you can use https://www.italiarail.com/ Trenitalia is the actual train company whereas Italiarail is an agency that sells Trentialia tickets. Italiarail charges a $5 booking fee but allow the customer to pay in USD, CAD, GBP, EUR, and AUD. If you have a credit card that does not charge foreign transaction fees then paying in the local (in this case Italian) currency is usually better.
Seat TIP: Be careful when picking seats. We were traveling as a group of 6 so 4 of us chose the facing seats. You have less room in the facing seats.
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