Getting around Italy by train is, in my opinion, the easiest way to travel the country.
I managed to navigate a few of the rail lines and transfers with ease and little stress. Here are a few of my top tips on travelling Italy by train.
Book Tickets in Advance
This isn’t exactly a golden rule as you can get tickets at the stations. But if you can avoid it, I would. You can often save money by booking ahead and you get to pick a seat. All of the trains I caught could have been booked earlier than we did but even the day before worked out cheaper than booking on the same day as you wish to travel. The earlier you book, the cheaper it will be of course!
Wifi, don’t rely on it!
Every train I travelled on advertised free wifi, however not one of them worked. If your looking to get online during your land travel, I’d suggest getting a SIM card with a data package. You can tether from your phone to your laptop and the signal during journeys isn’t too patchy.
Leave plenty of time for transfers
After a couple of close calls, I realised 10 minutes is the minimum you should leave between train transfers. Especially in large cities as the stations can be bigger than you would initially think. When you book your tickets you’re given a range of options for transfers when you need one. This gives you a lot of flexibility, perhaps even enough for a lunch stop off somewhere.
Frecciarossa, Frecciargento, Local Trains And More.
Anyone who’s done a little digging around can soon become a bit lost in all the different train options to go from A to B. I wanted to try a few and a couple of the journeys we could only go one option. Heres a little break down of each one so you can pick the one that suits you best:
Frecciarossa (FR) – High speed trains that connects the main Italian cities from north to south.
Frecciargento (FA) – Another high speed train that connects Rome to the main cities in the northeast and south of Italy.
Frecciabianca (FB) – Connects Turin and Milan to Italian cities in the northeast of Italy and another high speed train.
InterCity or Regional Trains – Will travel across the country with many stops along the way. This is what you will need to get through Cinque Terre and Amalfi coast if you wish to travel by train to these locations.
Who should I Book With?
You have 2 main train companies in Italy, Italo and Italia Rail. Very much alike, I travelled both just so I could compare. My conclusion, there very much the same. For me it would come down to price and the travel times when choosing a train in the future. Every train I caught was on time, no unexpected cancellations and always got a seat. Maybe we got lucky but both companies seem to look after their passengers.
Don’t Accept Everyones Help.
Something I only encountered once, is a unofficial helpful stranger looking to make a quick buck in exchange for ‘helping’ you out. This particular stranger seemed to prey on those looking like a tourist and unsure what train to catch or what platform the train is going from. They approach you saying he would escort us to the platform. Luckily, I needed to grab a ticket so waited in line while he approached his next unaware tourist. While I was in the line I saw him being guided out by security, however that didn’t stop him. 5 minutes later I saw him helping another couple with their bags onto the platform and of course hand out ready to be paid.
This may all seem not too bad, but be aware. They may take you to a platform that is not your train and not leave until you give them and unknown amount. I’ve also heard stories of duo’s working on pick pocketing you as your distracted. My advice, ignore them and find an official to help you with your trains. It’s not worth the risk.
First Class, Is It Worth It?
I only did this once with Italio trains, on a short journey from Rome to Florence, my last train trip. However, I’d recommend spending the extra for the additional comfort. They also give you a light meal or snack with some tea or coffee just to add to a little bit of luxury. Of course it all comes down to price to determine if it is actually worth it but I thought they gave me a little bit of added luxury to my trip making it oh so worth it.
Overall, training around italy was a fantastic way to see the country. They’re fast, reasonably priced and reliable. It took the stress out of driving and there were no problems getting to and from the stations in each destination. I bought individual tickets however there are rail passes available for Italy through Eurail that may be better suited to your trip.