Whenever the name Italy is mentioned, most people would automatically think of Rome and the sovereign Vatican City within it. To a certain degree, it can’t be helped. The Eternal City and the Holy See are some of the world’s greatest travel destinations. However, Italy has a lot of other great locales that you shouldn’t miss when you’re there for a Vacation. Places like Florence, Venice, Tuscany and Milan all have their unique charms, culture, food and art that are distinct from the rest of Italy.
The problem is getting from one tourist attraction to another. There’s plenty of distance between these sites and the cost of car rentals and gas in Italy are usually higher than those in the US. You also probably don’t want to do any long driving during a vacation, so touring Italy by car may not be the best option for you.
If you want a faster, more relaxed and more practical way of getting around, trains are your best bet. Italy has an extensive rail transport system and they connect most vacation areas to each other. You can literally be having breakfast in Rome and hop aboard a train to see Tuscany at lunchtime. The best part about it is that you won’t have to study road signs written in Italian and there will be no need to look for parking space once you get to your destination. So, here’s a quick guide if touring Italy by train is on your bucket list.
There are two options to choose from if you would like to travel in Italy by train; Trenitalia and Italo.
Trenitalia is the state-run train service and has the most extensive network. It’s been around for a while and it connects large cities and smaller towns.
For speed and reliability, your best choice is a Frecce train. There are three different fast trains of this type which allow you to travel from Rome to Venice in just over 3 hours.
Frecciarosso - This is Italy’s fastest train, reaching speeds of up to 350 kilometers an hour. The Frecciarosso service follows a Turin-Milan-Bologna-Rome-Naples-Salerno route. Its amenities include a nice café car and WiFi Internet access.
Frecciaargento – Just like the Frecciarosso, this train links Rome to Venice and stops over at every key point in between. It has most of the same features as its faster counterpart.
Frecciabianca – While it’s not technically a fast train, this service still hits a top speed of 200 kilometers an hour and connects Milan to Venice, Udine and Trieste; Genoa to Rome; and the main cities of the Adriatic coast: Ancona/Pescara/Bari/Lecce/Taranto.
The advantages of Frecce trains are assigned seating and guaranteed departures in case of a strike. If you want to ensure a fast, safe and comfortable trip, this is the way to go.
For all Frecciarossa and Frecciargento travellers, Trenitalia has partnered with TNT delivery service in case you’d like to have your bags delivered door to door. You just need to reserve this service 24 hours in advance and they’ll take care of the rest. In major train stations there are porter services available for a fee.
Frecce trains are pretty easy to book online and big discounts can be found if you book early. Do your homework months in advance and have a well-defined travel plan. This saves you money not just on trains but on accommodations, too.
For smaller towns and less expensive fares, look for intercity and regionale trains. Just be aware that these services are slower and they make more stops. They can also be difficult to book online. Also, note these routes are not guaranteed in case of a strike. Make sure that you validate your ticket before boarding an intercity or regionale train. Look for a machine along the platform to do just that.
The brand new and very swanky Italo train service is the most stylish way to travel by train in Italy. This high-speed rail company was started by chairman of Ferrari, Luca Cordero di Montezemolo. There are three classes of service; Smart, Prima and Club. All offer free WiFi and electrical outlets. The seats are covered in Poltrona Frau leather to make them cozier and the food service is provided by Eataly. There’s even a cinema car that shows movies. Don’t want to deal with your luggage? Italo has partnered with DHL, allowing you to have your stuff picked up and delivered door to door for an additional fee.
Italo trains connect Turin-Venice-Milan-Bologna-Florence-Rome-Naples-Salerno. Deep discounts are available if you reserve in advance.
Below is a list of names of major train stations in English and Italian to help you with your planning.
Roma Tiburtina (on B metro line – 3 metro stops from Termini station)
Roma Ostiense (on B metro line 3 metro stops to Termini station)
Firenze S.M Santa Maria Novella
Firenze Campo di Marta
Venezia S.L. (Santa Lucia) Located on the Grand Canal
Mestre (one train stop away from pedestrian access to the city of Venice)
And on that note, we’ll disembark from this post. When touring Italy, keep in mind that public transport is usually the best way to get around. It’s great if you have limited time and you’re watching your budget. Trains here are never lacking in quality, so don’t worry about your comfort. Happy travels!