Train Travel: Trains in Italy

Ah, summer is almost here! :)
Planning to travel to Italy? This is one of the best times in a year to do it.
And if you think of experiencing all of this beautiful Italian Peninnsula's charm - there's no better way to do it than buying a ticket, taking a comfy seat by the window in a fast train and... Enjoy the view!

Italy train travel is fairly inexpensive and reliable. Traveling by train in Italy is a good way to travel once you know the ins and outs.

The railway network in Italy is approximately 16000 km in length and is managed by Trentitalia. The network includes all the railway tracks, connecting to Italy's offshore islands of Sardinia and Sicily by ferries.

The rail network provides good transport links to other neighbouring European countries. Switzerland is connected via the Sempione Pass tunnel across Ticino Canton heading towards Milan. You can reach Austria by the Brennero and Tarvisio lines and onwards into western and central Europe. And charming France is connected by the line that runs along the Nice, Ventimiglia and Turin.

Ferries connect the country with Greece, Turkey, Tunisia, Malta, Albania, Egypt and Spain. Since air travel within Italy is not cheap, the railway system, being good and inexpensive. The trains are generally on time, clean and comfortable, but one should remember to take some cash with you - Credit Cards might not be accepted.

The common trains in Italy are:

  • the Eurostar(ES) which travels between Italy and the rest of Europe,
  • Eurocity(EC) - travelling between european and italian cities,
  • and Intercity(IC) which are, along with EC, more Italian-based and are cheaper than ES trains.

The map of the most popular train connections in Italy.


There are two types of train tickets:

  1. First class seats often recline, there are fewer seats per car, and there is more space for luggage. On some Premier Trains, the price of a first class ticket includes a meal.
  2. Second class accommodation are less expensive, but not as spacious, as there are more seats per car.

A ticket allows you to board the train, but does not guarantee you a seat. Remember to make a seat reservation to have a guaranteed seat on the train. This is especially important during the "high season" or Italian holidays (especially: August - whole month, Christmas and New Years, long weekends, etc.). If you plan to travel during that time, book your ticket early, in advance, to avoid any umpleasant surprises.

For certain trains, such as fast trains or
Inter City, there's a supplement to be added to the ticket price.
In Italy, you have to purchase your train ticket before getting on the train. It's not acceptable to buy it on the train, and if you're found without ticket you'll be fined. There are often long queues at the ticket office of the railway stations.

The train prices vary according to type of class, destination and type of train. The prices are relatively more expensive than driving across. A three hour trip can cost about 30 euro.
However, Italian Railways offer special discount prices for kilometre tickets. For example, you can buy a 3000 km ticket at a discount of approx. 20% and you can accumulate the kilometres each time you travel until you reach the maximum kilometres. You also find (and buy) special cards for very young children, elderly people (over 65) and groups. Ask for special cards and tickets at the station's Information Office.

Important Tip: Train tickets have to be timestamped for validity before entering the train. The timestamp machines are located in the train station next to the train tracks/bins.
The travellers outside of Europe might not be used to the standard of locating trains numbers, destinations and times. The train name, number, time and the track/bin number are written on the train announcement boards. The platform number should be written in white to show that it is valid for the period of your travel.
Train timetables change at the beginning of autumn and the end of winter (September and March) so make sure you are using the right train timetable.

Validate your train ticket before boarding !
Booking is an obligation but the Station Information Service does give refunds to those who missed their trips for specific reasons. An Italian dictionary or phrase book might be of good use when asking for information. An alternative is booking at the travel agent, most of them sell train tickets for all destinations. Expect to pay more for a ticket bought through an travel agency.
You must validate the ticket by stamping it in one of the gold-colored machines, located at the front of the platforms.
Ticket dispensing machines can luckily be found on the platforms of train departures sometimes, but not always.
For this reason it's more practical and often cheaper to buy train tickets or make your seat reservations before, so you can avoid fully booked trains. The simplest way to do so is online, through the Internet.

When traveling to large cities such as Rome for two or three nights we recomend you use the train, First class is not that much more and is extremly comfortable.
You'd probably like to visit the official site of the State Railway (Ferrovie dello Stato). Time-tables (in English and German, too!), railway network maps, stations. Tariffs and special offers. The Italian railway service offers an on-line buying service for Eurostar and Intercity tickets. The will be delivered to your home anywhere in Italy by an express Payment is by credit card, protected by the most advanced security systems.

Do you have any other travelling tips about Italy? If so -

Train Travel: Germany and Austria - useful tips

Traveling by train in Europe can be a lot more pleasant if you know a few tricks of the trade—particularly in Austria, Germany, and Switzerland.

European trains, including German Rail, are among the best in the world. Europe's fastest trains, the French TGV and Germany's ICE (InterCity Express), are technologically ahead of anything running on U.S. rails. The popular InterRegio express trains zoom across country borders, connecting major European cities. The normal, everyday InterCity (IC) and EuroCity (EC) trains crisscross Europe, offering convenient connections to cities inside and outside Germany.

For shorter journeys there are numerous trains ranging from local commuter runs to fairly fast D-Züge (through-trains) that are sometimes just as speedy as InterCity trains. The recently discontinued Eilzug will not be missed. Although eilen means "to hurry," an Eilzug wasn't really that fast. The regional trains are now designated: RB (RegionalBahn, stops everywhere), RE (RegionalExpress, faster, does not stop everywhere) and SE StadtExpress (semi-fast connections connecting cities to their outskirts), not available in all parts of Germany. Learning to read the train codes (RE, EC, IC, ICE, etc.) on German schedules can help you find the fastest train to your destination.

Since all big or medium-sized cities, as well as many smaller communities in German-speaking Europe have a train station (or two or three), train travel is convenient and efficient. The main train station ( Hauptbahnhof) is usually located in the center of town, from which commuter trains, taxis, streetcars, and buses can take the traveler straight to a final destination. The weakest link in this otherwise efficient chain is often the station ticket office, where it seems there are always too few ticket agents for too many passengers. Long lines and long waits are all too common.

Credit card problems

Although the "new" Deutsche Bahn AG has finally entered the 20th century by accepting credit cards, bearers of Visa, MasterCard, or American Express cards must be wary. Look for logos and/or a sign (sometimes handwritten) that mentions " Kreditkarten" or "credit cards." You can't just walk up to any ticket window and expect to use your card, even though that is common practice in most of the world. (The Austrian and Swiss railroads are a little better in this regard.) Recently, even in Frankfurt's busy main station, only a limited few ticket windows offered credit card acceptance. And don't assume you will be able to use a credit card to purchase train tickets at every one of the over 5,000 rail stations in Germany, although it has become more common. You should even ask in advance at a German travel agency to be sure they accept credit card payment for rail tickets.

First and second class

All European trains are divided into first and second class. Look for a large "1" or "2" painted on the car near the door. Some special trains (EC, IC, ICE, etc.) also have a surcharge or Zuschlag of six marks added to the price of the ticket, whether it is first or second class. If you have not paid the surcharge, the conductor will require payment (in cash) when checking your ticket. The surcharge for ICE trains varies, depending on the connection.

Special train passes

One big advantage of having a Eurailpass, Flexipass, Europass, or German Rail Pass, besides any cost savings, is you can avoid any ticket-buying hassles. You'll only have to confront a DB ticket window to make reservations if you want them. (This is advisable during peak travel periods in the summer or on popular trains.) But remember that these special tickets have to be bought in advance and may have restrictions. A Eurailpass, for example, may only be purchased in North America. Austria and Switzerland have their own rail pass offers. (See a travel agent for details on rail passes.)

Another good idea, if you will be using the train regularly over a period of time in Germany, is the BahnCard. It won't spare you the task of buying train tickets, but the BahnCard will give you a 50 percent reduction in the cost of any tickets you buy during a one-year period. (See the Deutsche Bahn Website for current pricing.) There are special lower cost versions of the BahnCard for students, teens, married couples, young children and families. The card is not valid for special reduced-priced tickets, and any supplementary charges have to be paid in full. But the BahnCard is valid on every day of the year, including holidays. The card is issued to you in your name, and is also a Visa credit or debit card.

Sorry - reserviert

When you are looking for a seat without having a reservation, notice the orange-colored reservation ( Reserviert) cards slipped into holders on the luggage racks above the seats. If you have a reservation, you're looking for your own card above your designated seat(s). If you don't have a reservation, you are looking for the cards so you can avoid sitting in a reserved seat. The card will tell you which segment of the train's route has been reserved for that seat. If you are getting off before or after the reserved segment, then you can sit there without worry. If you happen to be sitting in a reserved seat, the person entitled to that seat will ask you to relinquish it. When the conductor comes by to check tickets, he will verify the seat reservation if there is one.


Some rail enthusiasts have come to appreciate couchette travel, while others use it only as a last resort or never. Offered by almost all European railways, a couchette car ( Liegewagen) has compartments that have regular seats by day and sleeping bunks by night. Intended for longer journeys such as Paris to Frankfurt, Hamburg to Munich, etc., the couchette seats on each side of the compartment magically transform into four or six bunks. The porter drops off a blanket, a pillow, and a pocket-like sheet for each person. After some clever unfolding and the snapping of a few latches, the bunks are ready. There is no real privacy, and you probably won't know most of the people in the compartment. Your traveling companions may be male or female, young or old, and from any part of the world. Couchette travel is not for timid souls. It can be a fascinating adventure, a sleepless night, or both. You must make reservations for a Liegewagen, and there is an extra couchette charge (which is usually much less than staying in a hotel).


This article in an extract from "When in Germany" by Hyde Flippo, a practical guide to German life, language, and culture.

Bored with all those old and well-known travel destinations?
Enjoy the fresh travel ideas, find a new great place just for you.