Italy Train Travel Guide: Pro Tips For Traveling By Train in Italy

Kirsten Weisenburger | 25/01/2019
High speed train in Italy. Travelling in Italy by train.
High speed train in Italy

Traveling by train remains one of the most enjoyable ways to explore Italy. The country’s extensive rail network allows you to reach almost every town, village and city coast to coast. Settle in for a scenic ride: train journeys in Italy give you a leisurely front row seat to the experiencing country’s remarkable landscapes and culture. 

However, if you’re visiting Italy from outside of Europe, traveling by train may require you to make a few adjustments to the way you usually travel. Don’t sweat it — many of these changes will increase your enjoyment, helping you to fully relax and enjoy the journey.

Types of trains in Italy and how to read train schedules

There are many types of trains on the Italian train network, from cross country trains, to intercity journeys. Italy’s high speed trains — the Frecciarossa, Frecciargento & Frecciabianca — will bring you rapidly between Italy’s major cities. Intercity trains will also bring you from major to minor cities, but at a more leisurely pace with more stops in between. While Italy’s regional trains — called Regionale, InteRregionale, Diretto and Espresso — will stop at every village in between Italy’s towns and cities.

Start planning your train journey by consulting our Italy rail map; it will help you decide what kind of train you should take from one city or region to another in Italy. You may want to travel by day, or take an overnight train to your destination.

Regardless of where you’re traveling, buy your railway ticket in advance. Buying an Italy train ticket online ensures you will catch the train you want to be on, and that you will arrive at your destination on time.

To make sure you’re on the right train (you don’t want to catch a regional train if you’re travelling from one big city to another), keep an eye on the train schedule. Posted in every station, you’ll be able to see the train’s destination, type of train, platform and arrival/departure time. Learn more about how to read Italian train schedules.

How to pack for train travel

Our number one piece of advice for train travel: pack light. It’s very likely that you will need to carry or pull your bags for part of your journey. Not all train stations have luggage trolleys, and you may need to bring your bags from the station to various train platforms. 

What kind of luggage is ideal for your Italian train journey? We recommend a backpack paired with smaller suitcases or handbags that you can easily carry or pull with one hand. The ideal number of bags: three or less. Bringing three small to medium-sized bags per person means you can put one bag on your back and easily carry one in each hand. 

Having multiple bags rather than one big suitcase serves multiple purposes; not only are they easy to carry to and from the train, they are easier to store. Not all trains have large and easily-accessible suitcase storage. Packed intelligently, you can store all the things you need for your journey in one bag or backpack, and place your other bags under the seat or overhead. 

There’s another reason why multiple smaller bags are ideal for train travel: security. You want to be able to easily carry all your things yourself, at one time. This prevents you from making multiple trips to carry your things; and you won’t need to rely on the kindness of strangers to help you out. 

What to bring on the train 

Whether you’re embarking on a one-hour express train or an all-day journey to a remote village, make time the day before you travel to pack a few essentials:

  1. A picnic Not all trains have bar cars or car service. And you may not have time to dash out for snacks during stops or transfers. To travel like a true European, pack yourself a picnic: water, drinks or soda, bread, cheese or meat, fruit, and some sweets.
  2. A bottle of water Even if drinks are served on the train, save yourself some Euros and bring a bottle of water with you everywhere you go. 
  3. An Italian phrasebook You never know when you’ll need to find a word or phrase to help you along on your journey. Having a phrasebook in your pocket at all times means you’ll be able to easily ask questions and initiate simple conversations. Besides, studying your Italian vocabulary is a great way to while away the hours during your journey. Jump below to learn some key Italian phrases for train travel.
  4. A portable pharmacy Italian pharmacies are not open 24/7 like what is offered in many other countries. Bring what you need to help with any ailments you may experience on the road. At the very least, pack essentials like headache, and nausea medication. And be sure to bring any prescribed medication you may need — it may be difficult to acquire in Italy.
  5. Anything you need for personal comfort Settling down for a long or overnight train journey? Even if you have booked a sleeper car, bring everything you may need to sleep in comfort. We recommend packing earplugs and eye covers, a warm blanket, cozy clothes and your favourite book or downloaded film. 

Useful Italian phrases for train travel

Whether you’re speaking to other passengers or the train porters and conductors, it’s good train etiquette to know a few essential Italian phrases for the train. Not only will it be helpful in case you don’t meet someone who doesn’t understand English, speaking a few Italian phrases will help you cultivate friendships with fellow travelers. 

Validating your ticket

If you buy your train tickets in Italy instead of online, and especially if you are taking a regional train, it’s essential that you validate your ticket at one of the machines at the train station before boarding the train. Here’s how to ask where the validation machines are located.

Where can I validate my train ticket?

Dove posso convalidare il mio biglietto?

I am sorry, the validation machine was broken.

Mi dispiace, la validatrice era rotta.

 

Other useful phrases for boarding and riding trains in Italy include:

Which direction is the train station?

In quale direzione è la stazione ferroviaria?

Is my train departing on time?

Il mio treno partirà in orario?

How late is the train going to be?

Quanto ritardo ha il treno?

What time is the next train to Florence?

A che ora è il prossimo treno per Firenze?

What track does my train leave from?

Da quale binario parte il mio treno?

Can I please switch seats?

Posso per favore cambiare posto?

Where should I put my luggage?

Dove posso mettere il mio bagaglio?

Which way is the restaurant car?

Da che parte è la carrozza ristorante?

Someone is in my seat?

C’è qualcuno seduto al mio posto?

Is this train arriving on time?

Il treno è in orario?

Train travel safety

While most Italian trains — particularly the higher priced, high-speed trains — are secure and well-monitored, thieves can operate on Italian trains. Here are some basic security tips to help you stay safe during your journey:

  1. Keep your valuables close When you pack, keep anything of value in your pockets or in a bag that stays with you at all times (not in the bag you place overhead or in the luggage area). Talk to a train conductor or porter if someone near you is making you feel unsafe. 
  2. Never let a stranger carry your luggage Unless a helper works for the train station or a hotel, never trust someone you don’t know to help you with your luggage.
  3. Bring your electronics with you to the restroom or bar car If you’re using a laptop, tablet or smartphone on the train, pick it up and bring it with you when you go elsewhere on the train — including to the restroom.
  4. Be aware of your surroundings Both on the train, and once you disembark, stay aware of who and what is around you. Get to know where you are arriving ahead of time; do some research or ask the conductor if the area around the station is safe. Don’t walk to your accommodations if you feel unsafe — instead call a taxi or car share to bring you to your destination.

Get ready to enjoy the journey

Train travel in Italy is all about taking in the sights and sounds of the Italian countryside. The better informed you are about some of the unique aspects of taking the train, the more comfortable you will feel about settling into your seat and enjoying the journey. Buon viaggio!