Tips for Train Travel in Italy

FrecciarossaTrain travel is one of the most popular ways for getting around Italy, both for tourists and local Italians. If you are visiting Italy for the first time, train travel may be a little intimidating. From my experiences on trains  in Italy I have learned a few things,so I decided to pass them on in the hopes that you may not make the same mistakes that I have. Here are some tips for traveling on trains in Italy. I hope that after a few rides you may feel like an experienced train traveler.

Rome Termini Train Station
Rome Termini Train Station
  •  Use the same door to exit as the one you entered. Some trains in Italy are very old and sometimes a door may not open. Believe me, I have had personal experience with this and ended up taking the train to the next town, only to get off, purchase another ticket, and take the next train back. Rather than being left to helplessly watch as the train leaves the station while you are still onboard, use the door that you know will work.
  • Place luggage where you can watch it. If your luggage can fit in the overhead compartment of the train, sit in a seat close by where you can keep an eye on it. If you have a larger bag, then you can store it between compartments, and try to sit in an end seat, so you can watch it. If you are lucky enough to be on an uncrowded train, then you can set your bag next to you without worry that another passenger will need the seat.
Inside a Newer Train in Italy
Inside a Newer Train in Italy
  • Be aware of the train stops prior to your destination, since many trains do not have an announcement or screen informing you of the next stop, or prossima fermata. In each train station there is a departures and arrivals list posted, where the train stops and the times are listed. If you have a chance to check this prior to getting onto your train,  you will be prepared to exit the train when necessary.
  • Be ready with your luggage to exit the train a minute or two prior to arrival at your destination. Trains in Italy attempt to run on time, particularly in the northern Italian cities, and they do not stay long at a station. Sometimes the stop is only for a minute, and Varenna in lake Como is an example of that.

  • Stamp your train ticket at the yellow boxes, which are posted inside the station or on the platforms. The tickets with reserved seats do not require a stamp, and also electronic tickets ordered online obviously cannot be stamped in a machine. For these, you will show the train personnel when they ask to see your ticket onboard. A hefty fine will be charged if you forget to stamp the ticket.
  • Once on the train, you can move from car to car to find a seat of your choice. If you have a reserved seat, then you are expected to occupy that specific seat on your specific car. This is important, especially if you do not want to engage in an argument with another passenger. I learned this the hard way.
Milano Centrale
Milan’s main train station

Train travel in Italy can be fun and efficient especially once you have implemented some of these tips. Soon you too will be an expert at train travel in Italy and points beyond. Buon viaggio!

18 Responses

  1. Anonymous

    Hi Margie,
    Did you travel to Tuscany??I am planning to visit Italy this July.Always wanted to see the sunflowers in Tuscany.Just wondering if I can travel by train or have to drive.Thank you so much

  2. greeneyewitchygirlbree55

    I am so very happy for you that you are enjoying Italy and Sicily. I am just very jealous of you. lol Enjoying your blog with all the information and the beautiful pictures.

  3. Taylor

    Wonderful post, sister! I marvel at your photos on every post! The girls and I had the same issue in Ireland. We couldn’t get off in time and had to make the full circuit before coming back. Bicycles were in every walkway.
    Enjoy your trip, sister! Looking forward to your pics and posts.

  4. Sherry

    Great tips especially for first timers or people like me who haven’t done it in almost 40 years. My how things have changed! Thanks, Margie!

  5. bonniegm

    Since it is becoming more of an issue I think it would be very useful to mention that you must be aware at all times of “helpful people”. They are the ones who come up to you at the ticket machine and offer to help you use it. When your ticket comes out they might ask, or demand, payment for this “service” or they may just grab your change and take off. There may also be an assistant ready to grab your suitcase as you are both dealing with the ticket machine. This is distinctly an occurrence at the big city stations like Florence, Milan, Bologna, Rome,etc.

    • imarancher

      Thanks for the warnings. Big cities attract the worst in all parts of the world. In small towns the crooks are well known and are soon run out of those towns. Or so I have found.

  6. Joe LaPanna

    And don’t forget, you can meet some very interesting people on trains in Italy 🙂

  7. Jen Leslie

    Another informative blog! I learned by trial and error (lots of errors- ha!). Once, in Cinque Terre, we discovered there would be no train for a trip listed on the departure board. And, it took me about two weeks to figure out that there are numbers on train cars designating class. Have you read Tim Parks’ book about the Italian railway system? It was really good. Dolly’s response was intriguing – I’m not familiar with .italo. Also, I found the locals extremely helpful. My first train ride was from Perugia to Todi. A woman from Todi helped me, and, has become a friend. What an added benefit! And, at a later date, as I kept looking at my watch on the way to Firenze, a man asked me about my next connection. Once we arrived in Firenze, he grabbed my hand, and, took me quickly and directly to my connection – made it with only seconds to spare. Look forward to many more rides!

  8. dollygoolsby

    Very good train information, Margie. I have really enjoyed using the new train system, .italo. Much easier to get tickets for that train than for Trenitalia now, since Trenitalia has now instituted a system for buying tickets which works well for Trenitalia, not so much for the customers. On entering the station to buy a ticket, one must obtain a ticket from a machine, much like going to the deli. Then one must wait until that number appears on the lighted board, then go to the appropriate window and make the purchase, I was not aware of this, in Rome, and missed two trains while waiting for the number to come up. I waited over 2-1/2 hours. After that experience, I always went to the station a day or more ahead of time to buy my ticket. Since I am a tour group leader, I could not risk missing a connection. Unfortunately, .italo trains only go to the major cities: I.e., Milano, Roma, Napoli, Venezia. But I use those trains whenever I can. They are new, well organized, comfortable. To travelers, just be aware of these things. And like Margie says, always watch your luggage. I lock mine when traveling, but thieves will steal the whole suitcase, not just items from it,

  9. composerinthegarden

    Such great advice, Margie. Most of my travels in Italy were by train, but they looked nothing like the new ones in your photo! I remember carrying (foolishly) 2 bags onto the train. I almost didn’t make it up the steps into the car; fortunately someone behind me gave me a helpful butt shove and up I went, while everyone around me smiled in amusement and relief.

  10. Debra Kolkka

    A couple of the older Frecciarossa trains don’t have anywhere near enough luggage space. I was on one recently and I had to sit with my knees under my chin and my feet on my bag. Even the new ones can be a bit meagre with luggage space. It is a major failing in an otherwise good system. Fortunately the numbering system has been improved lately. Previously almost nobody could work out the system, even Italians, and I have witnessed many squabbles over seats.

  11. jennyandstephenmilan

    Margie, your first point about train doors occasionally not opening is one I’ve also experienced. That is a great tip about using the same door to enter and exit. Also, it’s really important to know the number of your train when you read the large platform signs in Milan or Rome, as some destinations are not always immediately visible. Finally, I’m always conscious of the time the journey will take as another way to know when to start getting my bags ready to move to the doors. We use the trains in Italy all the time and have found that 95% of the time, they run to schedule, but we are in the north.

  12. imarancher

    Everyone knows that Italy is beautiful and filled with historical art of momentous importance. That is why it is such a popular destination. What they need to know before traveling is how the trains work! That is why your blog is the best around. No kidding! Thanks for all the work you put into it Margie. And I also note that you mention watching your luggage without being pejorative toward the local citizenry. I hate it when an entire group of people are blamed for the sins of the few.

  13. Francesca

    Another small irritation when dismebarking from the train, especially with a suitcase, is to get to that exit/entrance door quickly, given that boarding passengers will climb right over you to get on and ignore the fact that you are trying to get off.

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