The Italian train system allows travelers to quickly move through the country, from city to city, from region to region, without much hassle at all. Because they link the centers of virtually every large town and city, trains are arguably the easiest way to get around Italy. Especially people who like city-hopping will appreciate the convenience of the Italian train system. And of course, train travel is the most sustainable transportation method for long distances!
When journeying across Italy by train, you’ll get to enjoy the country’s famous landscapes and countryside. From the Cinque Terre villages to the Tuscan hills, Italy’s marvelous scenery is crisscrossed (and accessible) by railroads.
Below, we answer the most common questions about the Italian train system to travel with ease along the peninsula.
A Small and Practical Guide to the Italian Train System
The Italian train system is a network consisting of various train types and railroad companies. This may seem to make things a little complicated, but they really aren’t. Once you understand the different types of services, the system actually makes a lot of sense. It’s also very easy to use.
What are the main Italian train companies?
There are basically two main train companies that operate within the Italian train system.
The main train company in Italy is Trenitalia, which is the national railroad company. Trenitalia has both regional and high-speed trains that cover towns in essentially the entire country. It operates a variety of different services, depending on speed and stopping locations: Frecciarossa, Frecciargento, Frecciabianca, InterCity and regional trains.
Italy’s second main train company is NTV, which operates its Italo high-speed train service on about 10 different routes, many of which are in northern Italy. With these high-speed trains, you can easily travel between major cities like Venice, Milan, Turin, Bologna, Florence, Rome and even Naples, as well as several other towns in between.
What types of trains are there and what’s the difference?
Between both companies in the Italian train system, there are various different train types you can use. As a rule of thumb, the faster the train, the fewer stops it makes. Here are the main types of trains you’ll find in Italy:
- Frecciarossa: high-speed train, stops only in the largest cities
- Frecciargento: high-speed train, stops in several major cities
- Frecciabianca: main train with some services, stops in big cities
- InterCity: main train without any special services, stops in big cities
- Regionale: regional train, stops in all local stations
- Italo: high-speed train, stops in most major cities
What is the official Italian train website?
Trenitalia is the national railroad company in Italy. Its website is: https://www.trenitalia.com/en.html.
Italo’s official website is: https://www.italotreno.it/en
How reliable are Italian trains?
Generally speaking, the Italian trains are pretty reliable. It’s worth considering, however, that the more stops a train makes, the more prone it is to delays. Trains with fewer stops, such as high-speed trains, are typically more reliable than regional trains.
Can you take luggage on Italian trains?
Yes, absolutely! There is no fee to bring luggage with you on the train and the vast majority of Italian train system trains have storage in overhead shelves above the seats, underneath the seats and at the end of a train car, often near the bathroom.
Large bags are best left in the storage area at the end of your car or in the overhead space, while smaller items like backpacks and purses can be put underneath the seat.
Should I buy Italian train tickets in advance?
That depends on which type of train you’re planning on taking. If you’re hopping on a regional train, there’s absolutely no need to buy your tickets in advance. The only benefit of purchasing regional train tickets beforehand is saving some time at the ticket counter or machine in the train station. These trains never “sell out.”
However, if you want to take a high-speed train or long-distance train, you usually do have to buy your tickets in advance. Seats on these trains are reserved, so it’s possible for them to get fully booked. This includes all seats on Frecciarossa, Frecciargento, Frecciabianca and InterCity trains. Although there will usually still be a few seats left, it’s best not to risk it. Just get your tickets in advance, they may actually be cheaper, too!
Is it cheaper to buy train tickets online or at the station in Italy?
For regional trains in the Italian train system, it doesn’t really matter whether you buy your tickets online or at the station. Oftentimes, prices will be similar, although there may be a small increase in price at the station. Basically, it’s worth getting a ticket in advance just to avoid having to queue at the station.
For InterCity, long-distance and high-speed trains, on the other hand, you should always get your tickets online beforehand. This ensures you actually have a reserved seat, while they’re often also (significantly) cheaper when booked in advance.
How do I buy train tickets in Italy?
As mentioned above, you can get tickets at the train station itself. This applies to all companies, routes and train types, all of which will have a ticket counter, booth or machine available.
If you’d like some peace of mind and want to get your tickets beforehand, you can purchase them online. Both the Trenitalia and NTV websites allow you to book your tickets, but the most convenient online hub to get Italian train tickets for English-speakers is ItaliaRail.com.