A Train Trip Through Italy Is Belissimo — Just Don’t Make These Mistakes

Italy train travel

It’s understandable many Australians haven’t considered travelling Italy by train. The train infrastructure in our country is… less than ideal. In Italy, though, it’s a completely different story.

There, trains connect major cities and smaller towns, making accessing even the most remote destinations easy, not to mention that train travel eliminates having to navigate unfamiliar roads and find parking.

“While rail journey times may appear to be slightly longer than flying, the point-to-point journey is often shorter, as you save time on and avoid the hassle of airport security and check-in,” says Emanuele Attanasio, Country Manager, Italian National Tourist Board of Australia and New Zealand.

Italy train travel
Image: Getty Images

“Also, when you arrive at a train station in Italy, you are usually not far from the city centre. Train tickets can be more affordable, especially if you book in advance or use rail passes or travel on regional trains.”

Other perks of travelling through Italy by train, or anywhere by train, really? They’re more environmentally friendly than planes or cars. Travelling by train can help reduce your carbon footprint, while still allowing you to explore Italy comfortably. Many locals also use trains, so the ride can make for a unique cultural experience that’ll allow you to observe the Italian daily life.

Depending on your route, you’ll have the opportunity to experience some of Italy’s most scenic landscapes, including the Italian Alps and stunning coastlines, right from your train window.

“Exploring Italy by train really does give you an opportunity to relax, unwind and enjoy the journey itself, not just the destination,” says Attanasio. “You can easily overload your itinerary with so many amazing experiences in Italy — train travel forces you to slow down and take a break on your travels. The train journey itself becomes an integral part of the adventure.”

That said, train travel in Italy can be overwhelming. So, ahead, we, along with Attanasio have put together a comprehensive guide to it for you.

What Major Italian Cities Are Connected By Train?

The Rome to Milan trip is around three hours, while the Milan to Venice journey takes around 2.5 hours and passes through Brescia, Verona, and Padua, as well as Franciacorta, the home of Italian sparkling wine. You could choose to split your journey to enjoy the sights of the cities along the way, or simply watch them pass by as you head toward Venice.

Italy train travel
Image: Getty Images

The route between Florence and Rome was Europe’s first high-speed line, connecting two of Italy’s largest cities in an hour and a half and offering a picturesque trip through the rolling hills of Tuscany and the countryside of Lazio.

Note that some major cities have more than one main station, so ensure you arrive or depart at the correct station.  If you’re not sure, most booking platforms allow you to search by a city name and will show results for both city terminals.

Where Else Can You Go in Italy via Train?

The fastest trains reach speeds of up to 300 km/h. In addition to high-speed trains, Italy has an extensive network of regional trains, which can take you to smaller towns, coastal pockets and mountain regions, as well as other off-the-beaten-path destinations. These trains are more leisurely, allowing you to enjoy the countryside at a relaxed pace.

When Should You Buy Your Train Ticket?

All train travel in Italy requires a seat reservation. It’s recommended you pre-book tickets on popular routes, particularly during high season. Bookings can open as early as four months prior to departure, but this can vary to as close as 30 days beforehand, so it’s worth checking options closer to travel if no schedule is available.

On regional services, there is no cost advantage to purchasing ahead of time — apart from saving time buying tickets on the day — though, for high-speed, intercity and sleeper services, you must book in advance. Dynamic pricing, similar to what’s used on airlines, means advance tickets are cheaper and more flexible, while those bought on the day of travel are more expensive.

Note that all regional and local train tickets (not high-speed, long-distance services) must be validated before you board your train by putting your ticket into the ticket validation machines at the entrance to every platform. There’s a fine if you don’t.

Can I Check-in a Bag?

You don’t check bags in and there is no baggage car, you simply take bags into the train with you, and use racks above your head or larger luggage racks at the end of each car.  There are no baggage fees or weight limits on Italy’s trains — if you can carry it, you can bring it.

What Can I Expect at the Train Station and On-Board?

At stations, finding your platform and train is easy as signs are usually in English and Italian, or pictograms are used. On high-speed trains, announcements are usually repeated in English.

Most long-distance trains have a bar or even a restaurant car. Italians are relaxed about passengers consuming their own food and drink, and you are free to bring your own —even a bottle of wine if you like — onto the train.

Related: Italy Has Approx. 8000 Beaches, But These 9 Are the Ones You Should Visit First

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