Train Travel Basics
It is common knowledge that the best thing to know while traveling abroad is the native language. To help you with navigating the railways, we've listed the top ten most important Italian phrases to use at the train station or on the train. We recommend memorizing these phrases as a good starting point towards making your travel experience easier and more enjoyable.
train - treno (/ˈtrɛno/)
What platform is my train leaving from?
DA QUALE BINARIO PARTE IL MIO TRENO?
"Dah kwah-lay bee-nah-ree-oh pahr-tay eel mee-oh treh-noh"
ticket - biglietto (/biʎˈʎetto/)
Where should I get my ticket validated?
DOVE SI CONVALIDA IL BIGLIETTO?
"Doh-vay see kuhn-vah-lee-dah eel beel-yeh-toh"
train station - stazione (/statˈtsjone/)
Where is the main train station?
DOV'È LA STAZIONE CENTRALE?
"Doh-vay lah stah-zee-oh-neh sen-trah-lay"
restroom - bagni (/baɲˈɲi/)
Where are the restrooms?
DOVE SONO I BAGNI?
"Doh-vay soh-noh ee bahn-yee"
baggage check/left luggage - deposito bagagli (/deˈpɔzito baˈgaʎʎ/)
Where is the baggage check area?
DOV'È IL DEPOSITO BAGAGLI?
"Doh-vay eel deh-pah-zee-toh bah-gahl-yee"
arrival/departure - orari di arrivo/partenza dei treni (/oˈrari di arˈrivo/ - /parˈtɛntsa 'dei treˈni/)
How can I find out about train arrival and departure times?
DOVE TROVO LE INFORMAZIONI SUGLI ORARI DI ARRIVO E PARTENZA DEI TRENI?
"Doh-vay trah-voh leh in-fohr-maht-zee-oh-nee sool-yee oh-rah-ree dee ah-ree-voh ee pahr-tehn-zuh day tren-ee"
customer service/information area - l’assistenza clienti/l’ufficio informazioni (/l'assisˈtɛntsa kliˈɛnti/ - /l'ufˈfitʃo informatˈtsjoni/)
Where is the customer service/information area?
DOV'È L'ASSISTENZA CLIENTI? / DOV'È L'UFFICIO INFORMAZIONI?
"Doh-vay lah-sis-ten-zuh klee-en-tee" / "Doh-vay loo-fih-tchoh in-fohr-maht-zee-oh-nee"
express train - treno espresso (/ˈtrɛno esˈprɛsso/)
Is my train an express train?
(IL MIO) È UN TRENO ESPRESSO?
"Eel mee-oh eh oon treh-noh eh-spreh-soh"
dining car - la carrozza or ristorante (/la karˈrɔttsa/ - /ristoˈrante/)
Where is the dining car?
DOV'È LA CARROZZA / IL VAGONE RISTORANTE
"Doh-vay leh cuh-roh-tzah" / "Eel vah-goh-neh ree-stuh-rahn-teh"
self-serve ticket kiosk - biglietteria automatica (/biʎʎetteˈria autoˈmatika/)
Where is the closest self-serve ticket kiosk?
DOV'È LA BIGLIETTERIA AUTOMATICA PIÙ VICINA?
"Doh-vay leh bil-yee-eh-tee-ree-uh ow-toh-ma-tee-cah pyoo vee-chee-nah"
Many European countries have enacted laws prohibiting smoking on trains and severely restrict smoking in train stations. Smoking is not permitted on trains in the vast majority of countries in which a Eurail pass is valid, though in some countries it's more heavily enforced than others.
When in doubt, ask a ticket seller to make sure you're getting a seat in a non-smoking section if that's your preference. Keep in mind that in some countries, despite a law that prohibits smoking, many still smoke on trains and officials do little or nothing to stop them. This isn't the case in most of Europe, but in some places it's a lingering problem.
Smokers should not count on being able to smoke on board trains, and that includes in the dining cars and train lavatories. In train stations, there are typically designated smoking areas which, again, might not always be enforced to the same degree in every country.
Italy's rail network is extensive, reaching nearly every corner of the country. A comprehensive map of Italy's train routes, then, would be prohibitively large, which is why a useful paper map of every single Italian rail line doesn't exist.
The map on this page shows Trenitalia's high-speed rail lines in Italy*, which are the trains most visitors use. There are a few cities not included on this map in the northern part of the country, where the dots are already close enough together to prohibit any further additions, but most destinations served by Italy's Frecce trains - the Frecciarossa, Frecciargente, and Frecciabianca - are included on this map.
When you're planning a trip through Italy by train, the best way to determine whether a city or town is connected to Italy's rail network is by typing your route into ItaliaRail's search boxes. Our system recognizes both the English and Italian names for stations and cities, so no matter which you use you'll see an auto-fill option if your destination is served by Trenitalia.
If you do not see an auto-fill option for your destination, you can often find an entry for the city or town on Wikipedia. Sometimes, those include a "Transportation" entry, where you may see that a place is not on the rail lines.
If you need further assistance in determining whether your chosen route is possible via train, please contact our customer service department.
* It's important to keep in mind that routes change regularly, particularly when it comes to the constantly-expanding high-speed train lines.
We have direct, real-time connectivity to Trenitalia's schedule and reservation system, allowing us to give you the best fares and most up-to-date availability.
ItaliaRail offers more than 80,000 high-speed and regional train routes in Italy and throughout Europe, including: Eurostar, Frecciarossa, Frecciargento, Frecciablanca, InterCity, Eurocity, French TGV, German InterCity Express, Elipsos, and Lyria, as well as Eurail and Interrail Passes.
Traveling by train in Italy is easy, efficient, fast, and—for most travelers and residents alike—the best way to get around much of the country.
The rail network in Italy is robust in most areas, though in some regions only major cities have train stations. High-speed trains serve all the main tourist cities (also the most populated), and are comfortable and convenient.
Some trains have both first-class and a second-class cars (on high-speed trains these classes go by different names, but there are still grades of service), though often regional trains have only second-class cars.
Larger train stations usually have places to eat and shop, luggage storage, tourist information, currency exchange, and services for disabled travelers in addition to the ticket windows and restrooms found in all stations. In some cases you'll need to use underground passages to reach tracks further from the building.
Finally, there's nothing more enjoyable than sitting back and letting Italy's breathtaking scenery roll by—bucolic fields, charming villages, and mountain and seaside views.
Some travelers rent bikes for a few hours of riding in the Chianti countryside, or book a spot on a bike tour of a city as a different way to explore. If you're one of the more die-hard cyclists who is traveling throughout the country with your own two wheels, you should know that there are some trains that allow you to bring your bike on board with you.
What form the bike has to be in and what you have to pay for it, however, vary depending on the kind of train you're taking.
On InterCity and Regional trains, the train must have a bike icon listed on the timetable in order for you to bring your bike along. With these trains, you have a few options for transporting your bicycle:
A bike that can be disassembled enough to be put in a case is treated as any other piece of luggage—it's free to bring along with you. In this case, you can bring a bike on board any train, not just the ones with a bicycle icon. The case must measure no larger than 80cm x 110cm x 40cm.
You can purchase a 2nd class ticket for your bike on the same train you're taking (even if you're in 1st class).
You can buy a €3.50 ticket that is good for 24 hours and that, like your ticket, must be validated before boarding.
On all other domestic trains, any bicycle that can be contained in a case with the dimensions specified above can be brought on board as luggage at no extra charge. The bike must be stowed in the luggage storage area in the same car in which you're traveling. If that area is full, the bike in its case can be stored in any other area of the train as long as it's not in the way of someone or something else.
It's even possible to bring a bike along on a select few international train journeys, too, including Milan-Geneva and Venice-Munich. The bike ticket fare for international train trips is €12.
Some trains have a space meant specifically for bike storage, but in most cases bicycles must be stored in the same car in which you are traveling. That may mean keeping a bike in your overnight couchette with you, or in the luggage storage area affixed to a railing.
The general rule for traveling by train is that no more than three "easy-to-handle" pieces of luggage are premitted per passenger, though there are rarely officials checking the number of bags people are carrying. When it comes to large items like skis or snowboards, however, there are stricter regulations.
Skis, snowboards, and other large items are only allowed on board the train if there is "suitable space" in which to stow them during the trip.
If sufficient space isn't available in your train car, you must be prepared to check your skis to be carried in the baggage car.
Many larger stations provide luggage storage offices for baggage storage, including ski bags, and many stations have luggage carts.
Trenitalia Offers Luggage Transport for Frecciarossa Customers
The luggage transport service available at some Frecciarossa stations allows customers to book the aid of a station porter for a given time to assist with baggage. When porters are available, they can be easily recognized by their uniform or official badge. The stations that supply this service are Roma Termini, Florence S.M.N., Bologna Centrale and Milano Centrale.
You can use the luggage assistance service simply by Calling the Trenitalia Call Center in Italy on 89.20.21 (fee paying number) up to 8 pm of the day before departure. When booking, you must give the operator details about your journey and the PNR code on your ticket; then you can coordinate over time and the place for meeting the porter. The service cost is 5 euros, which must be paid to the service porter on the spot.
Checking Baggage on Trains
Excess baggage or bulky pieces such as ski bags can be checked to travel in the baggage car if there isn't space in your car.
If you'd rather not worry about carrying skis or other bulky items on and off the train, there is a door-to-door option for sending your bags from point to point rather than carrying it with you. It's called Bagaglio Facile, and the costs start at €20 for the first bag and €15 for the second. It's available to all travelers on Frecce trains, or anyone who has a CartaFreccia card.
Bagaglio Facile is only available Monday-Friday (it only operates on weekends in the cities of Milan, Rome, Florence, Venice, Turin, Bologna, Naples, Salerno, and Bari). Arrangements for Bagaglio Facile must be made by phone at least 24 hours in advance of your departure time.
Bringing the kids along on a trip through Italy is both an exciting and rewarding adventure and, at times, challenging. We have covered some of the things that help make traveling with children by train in Europe easier in another article. Here, we want to make sure you know all about the various train ticket and rail pass options for your kids when you take the train around Italy.
Train Tickets for Children in Italy
Children under age four travel for free on Trenitalia trains in Italy. They do not get their own seat, however, when traveling for free. This can be a problem if it's a train that requires reservations and all the other seats are taken, leaving you with a child in your lap for the whole trip.
Children ages 4-11 travel at a sometimes-discounted "child fare" on most trains in Italy (including Thello). Check the adult fare for the trip, as they are occasionally less expensive than the dedicated "child fare."
On high-speed Frecce, InterCity, and ICN trains, children ages 4-14 are eligible for the sometimes-discounted "child fare."
On Italo trains, children under age two travel for free, and children ages 2-16 are eligible for a "child rate."
Seat, couchette, and other reservations must be made even for a child traveling for free, and these still require reservation fees.
Rail Passes for Children in Italy
There are rail passes for children ages 4-11, which are free of charge with the purchase of an adult rail pass. Each adult pass can have up to two children added for free, though each child must have his or her own pass.
Children under age four do not need a rail pass, but if you want to be sure of a seat you'll need to reserve one for the child as well as yourself.
Yes, you can access the internet with a laptop, tablet, smartphone, or any other portable device with an embedded wifi card when you're on either the Frecciarossa or Frecciargento high-speed trains. A partnership between Trenitalia and Telecom Italia makes this possible.
Keep in mind that the wifi signal will drop in tunnels and as the train goes through or stops in stations along the way, too.
How can I connect to the internet on board the train?
Wait for the train to leave the station. The wifi is only active after the train leaves its origin station, and may take several minutes to become active.
Launch your internet browser and you’ll be redirected automatically to the portal’s sign-in page. If you don’t see the portal’s home page, you can type in the address manually: http://portalefrecciarossa.it or http://portalefrecciargento.it.
Enter your mobile telephone number to get a wifi access code.
The system will charge 1-cent to your credit card and send an access code to your email address. This code is good for a 24-hour period, and the 1 cent charge is the only fee for using wifi on board the train.
Save the username and password, because you can log into the system later in the 24-hour period if you want to get online later in the same train trip or are taking another train in that time.
If you’re having any trouble connecting to the wifi after following these instructions, make sure any Proxy Server settings are disabled (unchecked) on your Network Settings.
Your browser must be able to support 128-bit encryption for the on-board wifi to function, and TCP/IP parameters (IP address and DNS) must be in automatic mode.
Once you board the train and find your seat, be prepared to show some paperwork to the conductor when he or she comes through the train car. Failure to have the proper paperwork (or failure to have it properly validated pre-boarding) can result in a fine.
If you're traveling with a train ticket:
You must show ID (typically a passport) and your ticket (with PNRs) to the conductor the train. You can do this on your personal device, such as a smartphone or tablet, or have your ticket printed out. For trains that require seat reservations, you must also show your reservation.
If you're traveling with a rail pass:
You must show ID (typically a passport) and a rail pass that has been validated before boarding the train. For trains that require seat reservations, you must also show your reservation.
What's "best" in this case varies significantly depending on several factors - including your itinerary, budget, and travel style. Here are some things to consider when determining what's ideal for your trip.
Italian summers can be extremely hot, while winters are typically cold and wet. The heat can start as early as late April in some places, so don't count on spring being mild. November is almost universally the wettest month.
If your travel dreams include beaches, hiking, or other outdoor recreation that relies on sun, the summer months are likely your best bet for ideal weather - keeping in mind that strenuous activities should be done early in the day before the heat gets too bad.
If your travel dreams include skiing and hot spiced wine, the winter months are your best bet.
If you don't mind the potential for rain, spring can be an excellent option.
Summer is Italy's high season, when prices are usually at their highest, but the high season these days begins as early as April and runs through early October.
On the other hand, in areas where snow sports are big business, the winter months are the high season.
For most itineraries, the late fall through late winter are generally the most budget-friendly (excluding major holidays such as Christmas and Carnevale).
There are few times in Italy's most popular cities that are truly crowd-free. High seasons draw huge crowds, from summer travelers to people visiting for brief holidays.
It can be a good idea to consult a calendar of Italian holidays while planning your trip so you know if your travels overlap with any big local celebrations (which can cause not only larger-than-expected crowds but also extremely full trains).
There are 20 regions in Italy, including two islands, and every single one is served by Italian trains. The degree of service in each region, however, differs quite a bit.
Travel by train in Tuscany, Lazio, Lombardy, Veneto, Piedmont, and other heavily-touristed and more densely populated regions is easy. Cities of all sizes and many small towns have train stations, and the popular routes between regions have frequent train service. High-speed trains cover most of the major cities in these regions.
In the less-traveled regions—particularly in the southern part of Italy—train travel is still available though a bit less robust. There are high-speed train lines in some of the southern regions of Italy now, including Puglia and Calabria, but service is less frequent than in the north. Many of the smaller towns in the south or the mountainous north do not have train stations or, if they are on the train line, frequent service.
The islands of Sicily and Sardinia are two of the regions in Italy where it's most challenging to get around by train. Visitors in those regions, and in much of the south, are often better served with a rental car.
Announcements and other official business will typically be conducted in the language of the countries of departure and of arrival, though English is also sometimes added. In most of Europe, you will find English-speaking ticket agents and conductors—though learning to conduct the transaction in the local language is always appreciated.
In nearly every train station there are places where you can buy snacks or portable meals to bring on board, but if you don't get something ahead of time there are also some trains on which you can get food during the trip.
Some trains have restaurant or cafe cars, and others have the train equivalent of flight attendants who roll through the aisles with beverages and snacks for sale. Options include pre-made sandwiches, bags of chips, yogurt, and various cookies and candies. Beverages available include coffee, soft drinks, water, wine, and beer. You can browse a fuller menu here.
Separate restaurant cars are more common on longer train trips—particularly long-haul international trains—and on newer, high-speed trains. In many cases, these cafe cars don't have tables or seats, but rather have counter areas at which passengers can stand while they drink coffee or eat a sandwich. These cars are designed more for quick bites, and you can also bring what you buy back to your seat.
On trains that have proper dining cars with tables and seats, service may only be provided at certain times. Seating in these cars is extremely limited. Less formal dining cars can usually serve light meals at any time.
When trains have trolley service, the food options are typically more like snacks than meals—things like bags of chips or cookies or pre-packaged sandwiches. In first class cars of some trains, passengers will get a free “welcome drink” and a snack upon boarding. Some train systems offer more choices for in-seat dining that can be ordered from the restaurant car, including hot dishes.
In all cases, food available at train stations and on board trains is much more expensive than what you could get at a cafe. The best option by far for budget travelers is to visit a supermarket before arriving at the train station to stock up on some train picnic provisions. Your options are more plentiful, often more delicious, and much cheaper—and eating at your seat is perfectly acceptable.
Note that options for people with dietary restrictions are extremely limited, especially on board the train. It's not possible to order meals as you can do on an airplane, so if you have a special diet your best bet is to purchase food ahead of time and bring it on the train with you.
Your furry friends are welcome to join you on train trips through Italy, so long as they—and you—meet certain requirements.
All dogs on Trenitalia trains except for guide dogs for the blind must be accompanied by a registration certificate and a health card. Both of these requirements are met by a "pet passport" for non-Italian travelers. These documents must be presented when buying the necessary ticket for the dog, and again during the train trip if requested. Failure to have either document could result in a fine and being forced to get off the train at the next stop.
Small Cats and Dogs
Pets that are small enough to fit inside a carrier no bigger than 25.5" x 12" x 15.5" (70 cm x 30 cm x 50 cm) are permitted to travel with you for no additional fee in both first and second class as well as all levels of service on Frecce trains. Each passenger is only allowed to bring one animal carrier.
When dogs are big enough that they won't fit in the approved carrier size, the rules for bringing them on trains change. Each passenger is allowed to bring one dog on board, and the dog must be kept on a leash and muzzled at all times.
Dogs traveling this way are permitted at no extra charge on high-speed Frecce trains in both first and second class and in Business and Standard levels of service. They're also allowed on Express trains, IC, and ICN trains in both first and second class, and on Regional trains (except from 7-9 a.m. Monday-Friday). On Regional trains, dogs have to sit in the aisles or in the vestibule of the last train car.
In some situations, dog owners must purchase an additional ticket to travel with their pet. On Frecce trains in Executive and Premium levels of service, on Regional trains during rush hour from 7-9 a.mm Monday-Friday, and in any sleeping compartment passengers must buy a special ticket for their dog. It's a second-class ticket charged at half of the regular price for that train ticket, and can be purchased at any ticket office (except for online ticket sellers).
Restrictions on Animals
Pets traveling with their owners must be well-behaved and not disturb other passengers on the train. Animals must not take seats which could be used by other passengers, and no pets are allowed in restaurant, cafe, or bar cars except guide dogs for the blind.
If at any point an animal disturbs other passengers, staff on board the train may require that the pet owner and the pet move to another part of the train if one is available. If nothing else is available, the pet owner and pet may be required to get off the train at the next stop.
Guide Dogs for the Blind
Guide dogs for the sight-impaired can travel on all trains free of charge and are the only animals allowed in the Restaurant/Bar Wagons.
What you need to do before boarding your train in Italy depends on whether you have a train ticket or a rail pass.
If You Have a Train Ticket
As of August 2016, Trenitalia high speed tickets ("Freccia..." type) and regional trains that are purchased online no longer need to be validated before you board the train. This is because tickets now have a specific date and four-hour window of time in which they're valid. When you purchase a ticket online, you'll need to choose a travel date and time. This means you can simply arrive at the train station, find your train, and get right on board.
Regional tickets that are purchased at the station, however, only come with a date but no time. These tickets must still be validated using the machines typically found inside the station or on the platforms. This validation must take place before you board the train - there's nowhere to validate a ticket on the train, and you'll incur a fine if your ticket isn't validated. Failure to validate a ticket purchased in a vending machine at the station prior to boarding the train might result in a high fine to the passenger.
Note that tickets for Trenitalia's high-speed trains always come with reservations, which means they didn't need to be validated before and they still don't need to be validated.
If You Have a Rail Pass
Your rail pass functions as a ticket, and you will need to get it validated at a station ticket window before you use it the first time. This cannot be done at a machine or by the conductor, so be sure to allot enough time when you arrive at the station before your first train trip for any potentially long lines at the ticket office.
The major islands in Italy - the regions of Sicily and Sardinia - both have relatively limited train service once you're on the islands, but only Sicily has train service from mainland Italy.
The ferry crossing between mainland Italy and Sicily is so short that trains roll aboard the ferries on one side and roll off on the other side. To reach Sardinia, you must get on a ferry either by car or walking on.
The main island of Venice is connected to the Italian train network, but the other islands of the lagoon are not. Most other islands throughout Italy are not connected by train to the mainland, nor do they have train service once you're on the island.
When you should get to the train station in order to catch your train varies depending on a couple factors. As a general rule, it's a good idea to arrive 20-30 minutes before your train's scheduled departure time so you can get familiar with the station, find the information monitors as well as find your platform without being in a rush.
Note that for any of the following situations, you'll need to allot additional time to visit a ticket window or a self-service machine:
- If you've got an e-ticket PNR that requires a printed ticket as instructed
- If you've got a ticket or rail pass and need to buy a seat reservation
- If you've got a rail pass that hasn't yet been activated
The configuration and type of seating you'll find when you get on a train in Europe can vary quite dramatically from one country (or one train) to the next. You may encounter an arrangement that differs from the examples below, but we hope that this information will help you find your seat more quickly.
To find your seat number, first find the correct car number indicated on the outside of the car. Then make your way down the aisle until you see your seat number. Numbers are displayed above seats in a similar fashion to those on airplanes.
On some train cars, many of the seats are facing each other, with a small table in between. Ticket vendors assume that, for instance, a couple traveling together will want to sit across from one another. The numbers for the seats are usually consecutive for adjacent seats, however, so when you look at the reservations for you and your partner's seats it may look like you're not sitting together. You are - you're just sitting across from each other. The numbering system for this reason can be a cause for confusion even before you get to the train platform - especially if you're traveling with another person or in a group.
If you'd prefer adjacent seats, make that clear to the vendor at the ticket counter beforehand. Note that ItaliaRail cannot change seat assignments, as right now they come automatically from Trenitalia. You can attempt to change them at the station prior to getting on the train, assuming there are open seats to which you can be moved.
The same potential confusion exists with sleeper compartment bunk numbers, too, so don't worry if the numbers for you and your partner appear to be in different compartments. When you book two seats or bunks at the same time, the assumption on the part of the ticket seller is always that you want to be together. Confirm or clarify if it makes you feel better, of course.
Some trains require seat reservations, and on other trains it's optional. If you're riding a train on which reservations are only recommended or completely optional and you don't have a reservation, you can sit in any available seat in the appropriate class you have booked.
Note that in these trains there is often a spot for reservations to be posted at each seat, even if the seat is reserved for later in the trip. If your journey has you getting off the train before the reservation's starting point, then, you're welcome to take that seat.
Compartments vs. Open Train Cars
In an open-saloon style car, seats are clearly numbered once you get on the train, usually overhead (similar to where the numbers are on an airplane). The aisle seat is often depicted with a person standing next to it, and the window seat with a rectangle representing the window.
Some open-saloon cars also have bench-style seating as opposed to individual seats. In this case, they're typically not reserved, so you can sit wherever you like.
In compartments, numbers are typically on a diagram outside the door of the compartment, and may also be inside at each seat (but don't count on it).
There is typically one bathroom per train car on Italian trains. On newer trains, and especially high-speed trains, they are more spacious than what you might find on an airplane and offer the same basic features as those of a plane lavatory - a flushable toilet, sink with running water, soap, and paper towels.
On older trains, bathrooms can be significantly less accommodating. And, of course, there's no guarantee of any individual bathroom being clean or well-stocked when you use it. It's a good idea to carry a packet of tissues and hand sanitizer with you just in case.
In case of a travel emergency, please call our direct local number in Italy: (+39) 06 9763 2451.
ItaliaRail customer service phone lines are open are Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. and 9 p.m. ET, and 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday.
The main railway in Italy is Trenitalia, run by the Italian government. Trenitalia handles the vast majority of passenger train travel in the country, including the high-speed Alta Velocità (AV) trains. There are also some cross-border trains operated at least in part by Trenitalia, serving cities in Switzerland and France.
Italo is a much newer railway in Italy, currently operating only high-speed trains to a limited (but growing) number of cities. Italo and Trenitalia sometimes use different stations in the same cities.
The Thello railway is a joint venture between Trenitalia and a French railway, and it serves solely to connect cities in the two countries. TILO serves a similar purpose between Italy and Switzerland.
There are also smaller regional railways, including Trenord in Lombardy, which is partly owned by Trenitalia, and the Circumetnea that runs along the base of Mt. Etna in Sicily.