Train travel in Italy

Trains in Italy are an efficient, inexpensive and comfortable way to get to Italy from other northern European countries, and to get around the country. International connections with France run along the Nice-Ventimiglia-Genoa coastline and through the Frejus tunnel via Turin. coming from Switzerland, the lines run through the Sempione Pass tunnel, and from Chiasso into Milan. The main lines run north – south along the flanks of Italy, converging in the centre in Bologna and Rome. The main cities and most of the tourist spots can be reached by train, which also leaves you free to not worry about parking when you get there.

There are five classes of trains in Italy, each with varying levels of service and costs:

Eurocity – EC

All trains used in international rail service are Eurocity trains. Eurocity trains are the most expensive and fastest of the Italian rail network. You There are business, first and second classes available, and there are bar and restaurant services. The trains are fully air-conditioned, and there are lounges at the main Eurostar stations for travellers on the Eurostar. You must reserve to travel on the Eurostar.

Intercity – IC

The Intercity trains are fast, comfortable express trains for domestic and international travel. First and second class seating is available, and first class is air conditioned, which some would consider essential during the hot summer months. Many IC trains require payment of a supplementary fare, though holders of Eurail passes are not charged this supplement. Seats may be reserved if desired, but there is a supplement for reserving.

Espresso – EXPR

The Express trains usually carry both first and second class cars and they generally stop in fewer stations than the local trains. Reservation is not necessary, unless you are travelling during a peak holiday season. These trains are not usually of the same standard as the Eurocity or Intercity trains but they are efficient and conveniently priced.

Diretto – DIR

These trains stop in most stations and mostly offer only second class seating only, which is perfectly comfortable for short journeys. Be aware that during peak travel times (8:00 – 9:30 am & 5:30 – 7:00 pm) these trains can be very crowded.


Local trains stop in every station, are often the only way to get to out of the way places. They are the most economical but the slowest of Italy’s national train network. Bear in mind that if your train is late, there are no refunds for late trains, or for costs incurred missed connections.

Travellers with Disabilities

Trenitalia offer the CAD, which roughly translates as the Centre of Assistance for Travellers with Disabilities. These service centres are located in 196 stations around Italy to provide assistance to travellers in the form of; information, reservation of seats and special equipment, wheelchairs, assistance with baggage, guides within the station and to the train, and from the train to the station exit at the destination station. If you require assistance with your train journey you must book 24 hours in advance. Check the website Trenitalia for contact details, or if you are calling from within Italy you can call the general information number 892021.

Each train has seats near the doors that are reserved for travellers with disabilities but these are not accessible if you can’t move from your wheelchair to the seat. First class wagons have accessible compartments and toilets. Only some stations have wheelchair lifts.

Baggage Deposits

If you plan to stop off to explore a city before continuing your trip, you can check your luggage at the station baggage deposit, or Deposito Bagaglio, for a small sum per bag which is usually charged by 12 hour periods. The first 12 hours are paid in advance. Often you get a token, or a numbered slip which you will need to reclaim your baggage. Remember to check the hours of the baggage deposit as these are not 24 hour services.

Taking your bicycle on the train

Regional trains can carry bicycles in designated carriages for a small fee. Train timetables show the trains on which you can take your bike with a small bicycle symbol. You can take one bike per person, and if travelling during the high season it is advisable to book in advance as space is limited. If you do not book a space for your bike in advance, talk to the ticket inspector when boarding the train and he or she will show you where to put your bicycle.

Tickets and reservations

Rail tickets can be purchased from ticket offices in the train stations – biglietteria, automatic vending machines in the major stations which accept credit cards and cash, and authorised travel agencies. Tickets may also be purchased online at Trenitalia though this requires registration, and e-tickets are only available for Eurostar trains, Intercity and Intercity Plus.

If your Italian is good you can also buy tickets from the Trenitalia call centre.
Dial from a landline within Italy: 89.20.21 (then choose option 2)
Dial from a mobile within Italy: 199.166.177

Then you pick up your tickets from the self-service machine at the station. It is not particularly convenient using the telephone service, and often it is much easier to make a trip to the train station in advance to buy your tickets.

For Eurocity, Intercity, Eurostar Italia you will need to reserve seats and this costs a bit extra. There is no big price advantage in buying your ticket well in advance, though reserving seats is highly recommended during the summer months, June though September when it seems like all of Italy is on the trains. Reservations can be made three hours before departure, however some train services accept reservations up to 30 minutes before departure.

Note: Please remember that before boarding the trains, you must validate (stamp) your tickets in the special yellow boxes which are located along the station platforms and in the train station foyers. Once stamped the tickets must be used within six hours for journeys of up to 200km or 24 hours for a journey over 200km. Not validating your ticket can result in a hefty fine and boarding a train in Italy without a ticket will incur a fine of at least € 25.00.

Travelling on Italian trains with Eurail Passes

Eurail, Europass and InterRail passes are valid on Italian trains and the national rail company Trenitalia offers the Trenitalia Pass.

Italian trains are considerably cheaper than in northern European countries, and there are no huge discounts if you buy your tickets in advance, so it may be worth your while to buy individual tickets instead of using up your rail pass, particularly if you wish to travel at night when there are great deals on train travel.

Trenitalia Pass

The Trenitalia pass gives four to 10 days of train travel within a two month period on Trenitalia trains in all of Italy. Italy. No supplements are payable on IC and EC trains, but they are required for Eurostar Italia trains. The pass is only offered to foreign tourists in Italy, and must be validated within six months if purchased outside Europe or within two months if purchased within Europe. It comes with a calender and at the beginning of each day’s train travel you have to mark the day’s date. If you take a night train that leaves after 7 pm you don’t have to mark the date until the next morning, which gives you a free day.

Discounted Travel on Italian trains

Groups, travellers aged over 60 or under 26 years of age, and families are entitled to special reductions on rail fares.

Check the promotions on the Trenitalia website as there are often excellent deals, particularly if you wish to travel at night, or off-peak. Occasionally there are also good deals for travel to neighbouring countries such as Switzerland, Germany and Austria.

Commenti (2) | March 9, 2010

2 Responses to “Train travel in Italy”

  1. Pennie Hardacre Says:
    October 24th, 2010 at 10:18

    finally found somewhere with helpful details. thanks and keep it coming :)

  2. Julissa Says:
    December 2nd, 2011 at 13:43

    Why does this have to be the ONLY reliable suroce? Oh well, gj!

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