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Italy by Train – Italy Trains, traveling Italy by train is one of the very best ways to see the country. Trains are (usually) comfortable and direct, and the central train stations are often located very near to the center of the Italian city you’re aiming to explore—meaning there’s no hassle trying to navigate unknown streets or embarking on a futile search for a parking place. It’s certainly a treat to sit back on a train and relax as idyllic Italian landscapes stream by your window.

All of the major cities, and many of the minor ones, are accessible by train. There are fast trains, slow trains, local trains, and direct trains. If this is your first time to Italy and you’re hesitant about traveling by train, or if you need some tips from a long-time Italian train rider, then read on.

Types of Trains

The first question you’ll need to ask yourself is what kind of train do you want to take. If you’re traveling to a town or a smaller city there aren’t many options, but if you want to get, say, from Milan to Rome, then you’ve got plenty to choose from. The best thing to remember is the faster you go the more you pay.

The fast Frecciarossa!

Alta Velocitá (AV): These high-speed trains are also known as the Freccia trains: Frecciarossa, Frecciargento, and Frecciabianco. They run on a separate track and ensure the rider that arrival will be faster than it would be on any other train. Because of they have separate tracks, the Freccia trains only travel the main routes through Italy. Taking a fast train is worth it, even if you’re not on a time-constrained vacation as they are comfortable and clean. It’s best to make a reservation for these trains ahead of time. You can do so on the Treni Italia Website.

Italo: This is another very good and very new option if you want to travel quickly to cities around Italy. Opened for business only this last year, the Italo Trains are also very fast and offer competitive rates with Tren Italia’s Alta Velocitá trains. These brand new trains are a pleasure to ride in and cover the same routes as the AV. Unlike Tren Italia’s rates, those at Italo vary according to date and time. An online reservation on their website is necessary.

InterCity (IC): InterCity trains travel to the same places as the Freccia and Italo trains, but for less money. Yet the ten euro savings is sometimes not worth the more than double time traveling. InterCity stops more frequently, so if you’re going to a town between major cities, chances are this is the train for you.

Regionale (R), InterRegionale (IR), and Diretto (D): These are the slower trains that will get you to Italy’s smaller towns. Often these trains don’t have air-conditioning, so if you’re traveling in summer, be prepared. You don’t need to make reservations but can buy your tickets at the station’s ticket stand, ticket vending machines, or newspaper stand. Be sure you validate your ticket before you get on. There are no reserved seats, so these trains operate on a first-come, first-served basis. If you’re taking a busy route, especially during rush hour, be prepared to stand.

First or Second Class?

If you’re looking for more leg and elbow room or need more space to store some of your luggage, you might want to think about traveling by first class. All trains but for the slower ones offer a first class option that you can make at the time of your reservation. In addition to extra space, first-class riders get a drink and snack. Often on the first-class trains in Italy, the extra price doesn’t make up for the benefits.

Train Stations

Every major city in Italy has a train station as do many of the smaller villages and towns. Most often the train stations are located in the center of the city, and if they aren’t, they’re certainly connected to the center by a local bus, tram, or metro. In each large train station is a ticket window and ticket vending machines where you can purchase your train ticket several days ahead or on the day you wish to travel. If you’re traveling during high-season, it’s best to make a reservation ahead of time.

Termini Station in Rome on an average day!

Checking the Tren Italia or Italo websites can help you plan your trip before you go. You can search schedules by route, which means you don’t have to learn how to read the sometimes confusing schedules posted throughout the trains station. By consulting the website, you will arrive in Italy knowing exactly what train will get you where, and might have even purchased your tickets already, an act that will save you a lot of standing in line, especially it it’s the busy season.

Which platform, or binaro, the train departs from is indicated on the train board usually in the main area of the station. Also posted around the stations are schedules that tell the binaro the train will be departing from. Before getting on the train you must validate your ticket in the yellow machines scattered throughout the station. Just slide your ticket in, and the machine will stamp the time and date.

If you have a reservation check your ticket for the carrozza, or car, and posto, seat number. Before you board, the Freccia and Italo trains will have indicated the carrozza on small screens along the platform that coordinate with where the train will stop. You can also check that you’re getting into the right car on the digital screen besides the door as you get on. On all other trains you can sit wherever you like, unless of course, the seat is already occupied!