Travel Tips

Booking Italian Train Tickets

By on March 28, 2016

I was in Italy last month and once again I was reminded of how easy and cheap it is to travel in Italy by train. Don’t get me wrong, hiring a car is great for exploring the countryside. But, traveling Italy by train is convenient, fast, relatively cheap and a fun way to get around. Sadly, most Americans don’t have enough time to get outside of the Rome-Florence-Venice route. So, if you are trying to connect the dots between the bigger cities, I recommend traveling by train in Italy. Even exploring regions like Lombardia and the Veneto can easily be done by train. 

How to Book in Advance

For most regional trains, it is completely unnecessary to book your train in advance. For example, Milano-Como, Florence-Siena and even Como-Lugano do not require advance booking because seating is open and no seat reservations are given. You can easily book them at the train station.

Major city-to-city journeys like Rome-Florence, Florence-Milan, Milan-Venice, require seat reservations. Trains on major routes are called Frecciarossa, Frecciargento, Frecciabianca & InterCity and require reservations. There are many seats available so the issue is usually getting the best price. Booking usually opens 120 days ahead for most high-speed & long-distance trains. The Trenitalia website is now straightforward, has an English button and accepts payment with US credit cards. Booking online with them has never been easier. There are several deals and offers available depending on when you book. I have found their prices to be super cheap and very reasonable. At the time of booking, you will either be assigned a car and seat number or choose to select one for yourself. The best part is, for most journeys on domestic Italian trains, you don’t even need to have your paper ticket. All you need is the PNR code or show the conductor the confirmation email and you are all set. Remember to note your train car number and your seat. The process is super easy and stress free. Booking online in advance on Trenitalia can save you serious cash especially if you take advantage of one of their sales or cheap fares. The cheapest fares online are available on a first come first serve basis.

Train numbers and car numbers are always located on each train car

Train numbers and car numbers are always located on each train car

Typical 2nd class high speed train in Italy. After locating your car, find your seat.

Typical 2nd class high speed train in Italy. After locating your car, find your seat.

Buying at the Station

For most regional trains, it is completely unnecessary to book your train in advance. For example, Milano-Como, Florence-Siena and even Como-Lugano do not require advance booking because seating is open and no seat reservations are given. You can easily book them at the train station.

If you want to be flexible with your dates and travel, you can always buy tickets at the train station. In train stations throughout Italy, there are self service machines for purchasing tickets. For regional trains (that don’t require reservations) or short journeys, this is a perfectly acceptable option. Trust me, I’ve been to Italy every year for the last 4 years and the trains hardly ever sell out, even on popular routes, so finding tickets even on the day of travel isn’t a problem unless you hit a major holiday period.  The issue is the price you pay. Each traveler has to determine what is more important: time/flexiblity or money?

The machines take US credit cards (with Chip) and have English language button. Just follow the prompts and it is straight forward.

Regional trains have an open date and don’t require seat reservations. Don’t forget to validate a ticket on a regional train! Stick it into on the machines at the platform to validate. Trains with reserved seats do not need to be validated and are only valid on a specific date.

In any Italian train station, there will be self service machines that speak English and take US credit cards

In any Italian train station, there will be self service machines that speak English and take US credit cards

Don't forget to validate regional train tickets that don't have reserved seats.

Don’t forget to validate regional train tickets that don’t have reserved seats.

Tickets on regional trains have open seating and dating. Travel anytime and sit in an open seat.

Tickets on regional trains have open seating and dating. Travel anytime and sit in an open seat.

Open seating on regional trains

Open seating on regional trains

Luggage on Trains

There is hardly any room for luggage on Italian trains. If your bag is carry on or moderately sized, it can be stored in one of the two luggage storage racks on your train car. You can also store bags, if they are small enough, in between seats or overhead. Packing light and having luggage you can lift at least waste high will help make the experience hassle free. Big, heavy or oversized luggage can be burdensome, hard to store and very difficult to get on and off the trains.

Pack light and board early to get luggage space

Pack light and board early to get luggage space

Some small bags or carry on size luggage fits in between seats

Some small bags or carry on size luggage fits in between seats

Not a lot of room on each car for luggage

Not a lot of room on each car for luggage

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1 Comment
  1. Reply

    Karen Rogerd

    March 28, 2016

    Like to take train from Vancouver to tornado what to do? Do not need to sight see want a direct train

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Angel Castellanos
Pasadena, CA

I'm a US based travel expert and spend my time teaching people how to travel well, smart and often. I'm passionate about travel and helping people save time & money. This blog, or travel lounge, is a collection of my practical travel advice and experiences from traveling 8-10 weeks internationally each year. I believe that travel has never been easier and that everyone can achieve their travel dreams. Happy Travels!

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