Getting around Italy: Everything you need to know about travelling by train

2018-05-06 19:00
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Train travel is an easy option in this beautiful E

Italy is one of the European cities that will have you doing a hallelujah or two when you discover how connect its public transport systems are.

Travellers will find its domestic air links, ferry, train and bus networks are efficient connectors to its main towns and cities - complete with jaw-droppingly gorgeous backdrops across the country shaped like a stylish boot.

Travelling Italy by Car

Renting a car might be a bit expensive – but not unheard of if you’re thinking about road tripping its back-road towns.   

However, some experts warn Italy’s “sweeping autostradas will often charge a toll and that regional roads and strade locali are often unpaved and unmapped.

So, google Maps won’t be much help here –  road trippers need to keep that all in mind. 

TRAVEL PLANNING: How to apply for your international Driver’s license 

Walks of Italy also suggest, that for foreigners used to driving on the left side of the road – "driving in Italy, particularly in Italian cities, can be confusing, chaotic, stressful and, for the uninitiated, even dangerous". 

Click here for more road rules and regulations in Italy.

  • Drinking and driving: in Italy, driving is not permitted with a blood alcohol content superior to 0.5 grammes per litre, in line with the European average.
  • Useful numbers and emergency numbers: Police 113; Fire Brigade 115; Ambulance 118. 

If you prefer less public modes of transport and want less of the risk and danger, Italy’s main cities offer easy access to Uber or registered taxis. Check out Uber in Italy here. 

Read More: Quick Guide: The Mamma Mia of you Italy Trip Planning

Insider Tip: Travel and explore the monumental cultural heritage of the cities and Regions of Italy with Tourist Cards! These cards also offer deals on deals on public transport – Click here for more info

Travelling Italy by Train

Italy’s train systems are made up of the slow regionale and faster InterCity rail, which makes fewer stops.

South Africans on the move will enjoy the high-tech, high-speed alta velocità services – similar to the Gautrain service. It’s important to note that you will be forming out for the speedy convenience though.

The Italian high-speed rail network lets you traverse the peninsula to various Italian cities comfortably in just a few hours. Travellers can then also make use of the numerous on-board services.

  • Free Wi-Fi,
  • Catering service,
  • Assistance for the disabled,
  • Unaccompanied children's service,
  • Pet and bicycle transport.

Similarly, Walks of Italy recommend that the best way to get around Italy is in fact by train.

“The Italian rail network connects just about every major city in Italy, runs like clockwork, and often includes spectacular views of the countryside. If you know a few simple tips about how to use it, it’s an absolute breeze.”

Here’s what you need to know about travelling Italy by Train:

How to find an Italian train schedule

Travelers can choose between Trenitalia the national rail service, which includes all the national routes. 

Or for high speed routes they can check out Italy’s new private high speed trains at Italo Treno.  Take a look at both to compare dates, times and prices

Trentitalia has a site available in English but the abbreviations of the city names can be confusing. If you notice your booking shows more than one train station name, one in black and the rest in red you will need to select the station as the city you have chosen has more than one train stations stop on its route.

So, plan carefully when making your bookings. Also, Trentitalia also offers promo discounts so it’s a good idea to keep an eye out for these when booking as the promo offers show up automatically as a seletion in the price listings. 

Here is the list of the full names per Trentitalia abbreviations:

  • Rome Termini (central station) –> ROMA TE
  • Naples Centrale (central station) –> NA C.LE
  • Florence Santa Maria Novella (central station) –> Fl.SMN
  • Venice’s Santa Lucia train station
  • Venice Santa Lucia (on the island) –> VE. S.L.
  • Venice Mestre (on the mainland) –> MESTRE
  • Milan Centrale (central station) –> MI C.LE 
  • Genova Piazza Principe (central station) –> GE P.P.
  • Genova Stazione Brignole –> GE BRIG
  • La Spezia Centrale (central station) –> SPEZIA
  • Pisa Centrale (central station) –> PISA C.

High-speed Italian train

The Frecciarossa train is one of the fastest in Italy, with speeds of up to 200-250km/h Other high-speed train options also include the Eurostar. These are also the pricier option, so budget accordingly.

Stick to the intercity trains for the more economical option.

To understand the price differences Walks of Italy break it down as follows: Rome to Naples journey (one-way) Example:

“On a weekday, leaving around noon, a “Frecciarossa” train takes only 1 hour 10 minutes. It costs €45 2nd class, or €58 1st class.

“Then there’s the “Intercity” train, which takes 2 hours 13 minutes and costs €22 (2nd class) or €29 (1st class).

“Finally, there’s the regional train, which takes 2 hours 34 minutes and costs only €10.50 (one class only).

They suggest that if you want comfort, value cleanliness as well as fast and efficient means of transport – then the high-speed Frecciabianca, Argento and Rossa trains should be your mode of choice. 

Don’t forget to check which tourist cards offer discounts for these services.

Booking your train ticket: online or at the station?

If you want to compare prices booking online would be ideal. Train stations can also be exceptionally busy during peak travel times, meaning long lines at those self-service ticket machines.  

Walks of Italy confirms booking online, while convenient does have some setbacks – such as less flexibility – which comes at a 25% increase in price if you want an unlimited open window to change dates and times as you need.

“If you buy a ticket online, you then must be on that exact same train — if you’re late or miss it, you have to change your reservation online. That can be a hassle, so if you can’t be quite sure when you’ll make the train, sometimes it’s best to wait.”

Changing reservations for base tickets booked online can only be changed once in certain instances – and must be done in the hour – conveniently this can be done at the station too, but you will have to pay the difference is the new train is more expensive.

Booking online also means electronic tickets, either via email or SMS text message on your phone. You simply show this with the PNR number to the conductor or the SMS from your phone – make sure you’re fully charged or else you’re in serious trouble.  

Boarding your train

Know your train number and platform. Also, make sure you’re on the right platform, distinguishing between “Arrivi” (arrivals) rather than “Partenze” (departures), says Walking Tours of Italy.  

“Remember: trains are listed by their final destination. Often your destination isn’t the last one so if you look up at the board and don’t see your destination, don’t panic, just look for your train’s number.”

“Once you’ve found your train, look where it says “BIN,” for “binario” (platform). That’s your platform number. Don’t worry if this takes a while to come up — you won’t be the only one hurrying to the train, and it’s rare for a conductor to leave a crowd behind on the platform!”

  • NB: Validating your rail ticket in Italy

Don’t forget to validate your ticket. You can do this at the validation machines located across the station and usually yellow in colour.

“To stamp, put your ticket in the slot, arrows facing in, and push until you hear the stamp. If you don’t do this and you were supposed to, you can get a heavy fine when (or if) your ticket is checked.”

Don’t forget to check which seat you’ve booked and be sure to sit in the correct seat as some trains offer a reserved seating service. Your ticket will detail the train number followed by “Carrozza” or your carriage number. “Posti,” is your seat number.  If you’ve reserved a seat and find someone in your seat, best to politely show them your ticket to sort it all out.   

  • NB: Always keep safety top of mind

Remember trains can be crowded spaces so keep alert for pickpocket. If you’re travelling alone – keep your valuables on you and out of site to avoid any unwanted incidents. 

Find Your Escape: More on travelling to Italy here