Rail transport is one of the oldest in human history. And it is also one of the most fascinating.
Italy has one of the most important railway infrastructures in all Western Europe, and it has, to date, 16.781 km of working railways.
If you are wondering how to buy train tickets in Italy, you are in the right place.
Would you like to know a secret from real Italians?
In our opinion traveling by train is the perfect way to see the fantastic Italian landscapes and countryside through the window.
You will appreciate the unforgettable spiritual atmosphere of the Dolomite Mountains or the picturesque natural sceneries of Tuscany Hills.
If you are not willing to rent a car, a train in Italy is the best decision you can make to get rid of the stress and enjoy the breathtaking cities in Italy as much as you can.
Don’t listen to those saying that railway lines are not in good condition and that they are never on time.
For connections between major cities, high-speed trains are the best, fastest and cheapest solution.
And here we will give you all the information you need to buy train tickets in Italy.
Railway Companies in Italy
There are three leading railway companies in Italy: Trenitalia, Italo, and Trenord. So let’s see how to buy train tickets in Italy from these companies.
Trenitalia is the largest Italian train company both for regional and high-speed trains. It is a national company.
When you choose a Trenitalia train, you must look at the “train category.”
Frecciarossa, Frecciargento, and Frecciabianca are the fastest trains. They stop only in the main cities and have a speed of up to 200-250 km/hr.
Eurostar trains are very fast, too.
All these high-speed trains are the most expensive ones, of course. They usually connect Italy’s major cities. Intercity is a more economical option because it makes more stops than high-speed trains.
Then there the Regional or (local) trains that are the slower and cheapest ones.
Italo Treno is the major Trenitalia competitor for high-speed trains. It is a Private Service that uses the national rail track system.
And it only offers high-speed trains between select Italian cities such as Milan, Torino, Bologna Florence, Naples, Venice, and Rome.
It may be more competitive than Trenitalia, but we think that Trenitalia service is a bit better.
You can sign up for their free newsletter to be informed about their discounts and coupon codes.
Trenord is a kind of Trenitalia Spin-Off and operates only in the north of Italy, in Lombardy. So you will maybe need to take a Trenord train if you are willing to take a train from Milan to Lake Como to enjoy the beautiful Lake.
Buying Train Tickets to travel between Major Cities
We regularly travel through Italy by train in particular when it comes to travel between major Italian cities.
To travel between cities like Milan, Florence, Venice, and Naples there is nothing better than a high-speed train. In just a few hours it will take you to your destination, allowing you, in the meantime, to read your tourist guide or admire the view.
Even Italians prefer the train for this kind of trip.
A trip by plane between Rome and Milan will make you lose the same time, considering all the transfers to and from the airport and it will be more stressful and less romantic. At least this is our opinion.
So, once you have chosen your destination, how to buy train tickets in Italy?
First of all, bear in mind that, as we said, in Italy, there are both regional and high-speed trains so be careful in checking the duration of the trip. That’s critical before making your choice.
Now we can suggest three ways to buy train tickets in Italy
How to buy train tickets online: Trainline
Trying to figure out how to buy train tickets in Italy it can be frustrating if you don’t speak Italian. So Trainline is a train ticketing site that has 11 languages and also many different currencies. So you can buy a ticket in your language and in your currency as well.
Also, it offers many more features:
- Price comparison between the main Railways companies, so that you can choose the cheapest one according to your preferred dates and time
- Airport transfers from the main Italian airport to their town center
- Bus transfer as an alternative
- Use of loyalty cards if you hold one
- A very useful Italy train map so that you can have an exact idea of where the main Italian cities are.
While choosing your train, you will see the name of the company you are traveling with, and you will also be able to choose flexible rates and open returns.
You can also buy train tickets in Italy directly from the Railway companies’ websites, such as Trenitalia and ItaloTreno. But, to be honest, we usually prefer to use Trainline because we can compare prices and timetables and really get the best and cheapest options according to our needs.
How to buy train tickets in Italy: the Perfect Timing
As in many other countries, train tickets in Italy tend to get more expensive as you approach the departure date or if you are traveling during a holiday period. So, as soon as you are between 90% and 100% sure about your trip, we suggest you buy your train tickets. In this way, you can book in advance using Trainline to have the best prices and times.
Buying a ticket online also allows you to avoid long lines at the ticket windows.
Important Note: Most high-speed train tickets are only sold within few four months of the actual travel date (it can be around four months before).
That’s why you will usually not be able to purchase tickets earlier.
But you can use Trainline mobile app to get alerts when they become available.
How to buy train tickets in Italy in Person
Of course, you can also buy and pay a ticket in person.
You can do that in any major Italian train station, directly from the ticket office staff.
Also, you will always find automatic ticket machines to buy a ticket. But this may be a bit too complicated if you don’t speak Italian and you are not familiar with these machines.
Italians themselves do not like this method very much.
You can also buy tickets on the train, but it could be more expensive. I mean, you don’t have to wait for the ticket inspector otherwise you will have to pay a fine. So you need to find him/her before he/she finds you.
He or she may ask you to pay a supplemental fee of a few euros, but that is fewer than a fine when they find you without a ticket.
Sometimes you have no other choice than buying a ticket on the train. Actually, some small Italian train stations do not have a ticket office or ticket machines.
If you are not sure about that, we suggest you buy a return ticket when you are leaving a main station.
How to buy train tickets in Italy: 1st or 2nd Class
Comfort and cleanliness can vary on Trenitalia trains, especially between regionals and high-speed trains. So if you are wondering whether it’s worth it to pay the difference for first-class travel, we can say that it depends on the train.
If you are a smart traveler and are buying a ticket for a high-speed train in Italy, the second class will be fine.
But if you are traveling on long distances (for example from Milan to Naples) or with a Regional train, you may think of choosing a First class ticket. If you buy in advance, you can even find favorable offers.
How to buy train tickets in Italy: Italian Regional Train Tickets
Usually, you don’t need to purchase Regional Trains Tickets in advance. There is no discount, and they are always available.
You can buy them at the station ticket office or a vending machine. Or you can buy them online just a few days before your departure.
As we said before, if the first class is available, it may be worth the extra cost.
Important Note about regional trains tickets: If you have a printed train ticket, you must validate it in advance before you board the train. If you don’t do that, you will get a fine from the inspector.
But if you bought a Regional Ticket online, then it should have the date and time printed.
Also, in this case, you don’t need to print it out.
It is an electronic ticket (via email, SMS) and you don’t need to validate it at the train station.
the inspector on the train will only ask to see your PNR number.
How to buy a train ticket in Italy and Change it
If you are booking trains in advance, or if you miss the train you may need to change your ticket.
Well, you are allowed to do that, but in some cases, you may need to pay a fee.
When you buy a ticket online, you will be asked to choose how flexible you want it to be.
For example, if you have a Super Economy ticket from Trenitalia than you can’t change it and you can’t ask for a refund.
But if you have a ticket called “Base” or an “Economy ticket” then some changes are allowed.
A “Base” ticket can be changed an unlimited number of times before the departure of the booked train.
After train departure, for example, if you are late, you can change it only once up and to one hour after departure.
If the new ticket you are buying has a higher price than the price you paid for your first ticket, you will be asked to pay for the difference.
While if the ticket price available at the time of exchange is lower than the amount initially paid, the price difference will not be refunded.
You can change your ticket either online, at an agency or directly at the station.
If you bought your ticket from Trainline, you might find this link regarding how to exchange booking useful
We hope we convinced you to travel by train in Italy. And we hope that in this post you found all the most important information you were looking for.
However, if you have any doubts or questions, please do not hesitate to contact us.