Planning a trip to Italy and considering taking an Italian train? Well you’ve come to the right place. I traveled all over Italy using the Trenitalia trains and want to share how easy, convenient and yes, affordable Italian train travel can be.
Featured photo by Seth Doyle.
Italian Trains aka. The “Frecc”
There are 3 different types of Italian trains:
- Frecciarossa is a high speed line going up to 300 km/h, the fastest train of the 3 types of trains. The Frecciarossa 1000 can get up to 400Km/h. The new Frecciarossa 1000 is the first high-speed train to have obtained the certification of environmental impact (EPD). Featuring 4 levels of service onboard: Executive, Business, Premium, Standard. All levels except Standard have a welcome drink and morning newspaper. There is food service onboard at your seat. In Business, there is a bistro section as well if you want to sit and eat. Disabled seating (2) onboard.
- Frecciargento trains run on both high speed and traditional train lines and can get up to 250 km/h. This line connects Rome to many cities in the North, Northeast and South. Disabled seating (2) onboard. There are 2 levels of service: First Class and Standard. There is a bar/bistro in the middle wagon/car. First class passengers get a welcome drink + morning newspaper.
- Frecciabianca trains run on the traditional train lines. Seating for Disabled available. Train magazine at seat. Restaurant service at the Corner Bar. This line is the slowest of the 3 types. While booking, you may notice this train as “Regionale”.
Booking your Italian train ticket:
Go to trenitalia.it and select the English language option in the upper right (it will have a British flag image for English).
While booking your tickets, select your seat assignments. After payment, Trenitalia sends you an email confirmation with your ticket info (names of passengers, date & time of departure and arrival, city of embarkment and disembarkment, cost, seat selections). Keep a printed copy of this when you travel on the train. I don’t recall there being a processing fee for the online ticket purchase. Once you get to the station for your departure, have your printed itinerary ready, check that you are boarding the right train, get on and go to your seats. So easy and convenient. No need to join a long line to purchase tickets, just head right onboard.
I advise to purchase a train ticket ahead of time to get a discounted price. Train pricing is similar to airline in that there are discounted fares in advance. When those are sold out, the availability is less and then your only option is a more expensive fare. In your planning, it’s better to snag a cheaper fare earlier. The conductor does make his way around to check your tickets – even for a short hop like Florence to Pisa. If you are on the train without a ticket, you will either have to buy one then and there (which most likely to be more expensive) or possibly pay a fine.
Check the Trenitalia site for specials. When I traveled, I got a 2 for 1 special on my ticket from Florence to Verona. Currently, I see specials online for Mother’s and Father’s Day 2 for 1 pricing. Keep checking but if you see a cheap fare don’t hesitate to snag it. I recommend checking the site 2-3 months ahead of your arrival day for availability. Trenitalia doesn’t release seats a year ahead like the airlines. They do so about 2-3 months out so make sure you’re on the site looking.
All the major Italian train stations also have food and shopping that you can partake if you have a connection or if you arrive at the station early. Florence and Venice in particular have really built out their retail options at the station (food, shopping). I was at Rome’s station so early in the morning I didn’t even notice. But since Rome is such a large city, I would expect they also have many options. I was able to buy coffee and snacks at SMN (Santa Maria Novella) in Florence and bring it on the train with me so that’s also an option when travelling.
I didn’t see anyone coming around with food so not sure if that’s new or if I was in a train that didn’t have that service. It may be that I had to go to a special wagon/car on the train – but I didn’t do that.
The trains are air conditioned and you can select your seats beforehand (at booking). This is very convenient if you are travelling with a family or group and want to sit together. To be honest, I didn’t really know which train I was on or which level of service. I booked according to departure time, price and length of trip. Length of trip will tip you off because the Frecciabianca trains run the slowest and you will notice the duration while booking. Double check the pricing because you may be able to get the same price for a faster train. Conversely, you may notice a higher price for the Frecciarossa trains and their different levels of service.
These Italian trains were clean, efficient and timely. All of the trains I took left and arrived on time. I had read about strikes beforehand but I didn’t encounter any. As well, the trains were silent meaning there were no humming or buzzing noises. The a/c temperature was perfect and it was pretty much a smooth ride on all my routes.
Luggage storage is no problem as there are overhead storage at your seat. There’s also additional storage at your seat and at the entrance /door of the train car. I had carry on luggage which fit overhead but larger luggage can go in the storage at the door.
FCO to Rome Termini:
You can even take the train from FCO airport in Rome to Termini metro train station in the center of Rome for $14 euros one way. Service from Rome Termini starts at 5.35 a.m. with last train departing at 10.35 p.m. And, from Fiumicino Airport, service starts at 6.23 a.m. until 23.23 p.m. Kids under 4 are free. Also, small & large pets are also free and ok to travel as long as they are in their carrying cases.
If you have been following my blog posts or my Vacation Guide for Italy, below is the recap of my Italian train travels. This includes the station names which are important to know so you end up in the right place.
- Rome Termini station – Florence Santa Maria Novella station. 2.5 hours. Make sure to select Rome “Termini” and “Firenze SMN” station. Both Rome and Florence have another station so make sure to select these as the main train station. If you’re looking ahead of time (2-3 months), you may be able to snag this route for $20 euros one way which is a great deal.
- Florence SMN station – Pisa Centrale station. 30 minutes. Most likely, this will be a “Regionale” or slower train. This was the only train ticket I bought at a kiosk in the SMN station because I was unsure of the day and time I wanted to go to Pisa. It’s $14 euros round trip. There’s no discount (that I could see) to pre-booking. The Florence-Pisa route is available every 20 minutes.
- Florence SMN station – Verona Porta Nuova station. 2-2.5 hours. There is a train changeover/ connection in Bologna Centrale. I got a 2 for 1 ticket deal on this leg – check the site as you may be able to get special deals on various routes.
- Verona Porta Nuova station – Venice S.Lucia station. 1 hour. Make sure to select “Venezia S. Lucia” station and not Venezia Mestre station or any other. Venezia S. Lucia will drop you off at the tail end of the Grand Canal and near Piazzale Roma, the bus terminal.
Hopefully, this takes some of the mystery out of Italian train travel. Italy has invested a lot of money into revamping their train system and it shows. Don’t hesitate to try it out.