Taking the train in Italy is the easiest way to get around, but there are definitely a few things you need to know before ever stepping on board, especially if you’re travelling alone and have a big (heavy) suitcase.
Get ready for a fabulous vacation; this is your guide to taking the train in Italy.
Benefits of Taking the Train in Italy
Taking Italian trains is an easy and cheap way to get around. And you don’t need to worry about Italian drivers, who can be aggressive. Or parking, which can be non-existent. And most train stations are in the heart of the city, versus airports that tend to be an hour away. So you can get out and start enjoying your holiday.
But even if you only plan to stay in one location, say Rome. You’ll need to take the train into town. Of course, there are taxis, but the train is definitely cheaper and easy to pre-book, so your jet-lagged brain has little to figure out.
Big Suitcases & Overpacking
Travelling carry-on with one small suitcase is ideal for train travel in Europe. Unfortunately, that wasn’t the case for me the last time I was in Italy. I had one LARGE, HEAVY suitcase, as I was travelling for three months through multiple countries and seasons.
Taking the Leonardo Express from Rome’s Airport (Leonardo da Vinci-Fiumicino, FCO) to Rome’s Train Station (Termini) wasn’t too bad. Nor was taking the metro from Termini to Cipo. But taking the train in Italy, it’s important to know the following, especially if you are a woman travelling alone:
- COBBLESTONES: Most of the streets in Rome, and in Italy for that matter, are made out of cobblestone, which takes a bit of effort and strength to drag your suitcase over.
- STAIRS: Not all metro stations in Rome have elevators and/or escalators, meaning you may have to carry your luggage up and down stairs.
- GETTING ONBOARD: The entrance to board the Leonardo Express and Rome’s Metro are flat, meaning that you simply have to drag your suitcase over a small gap to board those trains. But there are approximately three steps that you will need to haul your suitcase up and down to get on and off high-speed inter-city and regional trains in Italy.
- OVERHEAD STORAGE: When you take any of Italy’s high-speed or regional trains, it is assumed that you will store your luggage in the overhead bins. Or there are a few narrow slots between seats where larger bags may fit. My large suitcase fit in between the seats on the high-speed train from Rome to Florence. But the same bag did NOT fit on the train back to Rome, which made for a rather awkward and stressful return trip.
Booking Train Tickets
To take the train in Italy, you can take a high-speed train that connects to major cities like Rome, Florence, Milan and Venice. There are also regional trains. These trains are slower and stop more often but connect smaller cities.
If you want flexibility, you can book your tickets at the station on easy-to-use self-service ticket machines that offer Italian, English, German, French and Spanish services. Or you can head to the ticket counter to speak to someone.
I would highly recommend booking your tickets in advance online as these tickets are significantly cheaper, and many are approximately half the price. You can book on major train sites, like Trenitalia, but I strongly suggest using the Omio. The app allows you to book your ticket and compare different train companies and modes of travel, like ferry and air, to determine the best route and timing.
Tips for Taking the Train in Italy
A lot of this will seem like common sense, but when you are tired and jetlagged in a new country, these tips can help make the journey more enjoyable and certainly less stressful.
- Pack as lightly as you can!
- Book your ticket in advance to save money. The cheapest tickets usually cannot be changed or refunded.
- Use the Omio app to compare routes and times and book tickets.
- Booking for tickets is usually available four months in advance.
- All seats on high-speed trains are reserved.
- Physical tickets for regional trains must be validated at a small green machine before boarding, or you risk being fined.
- Arrive at the train station 20 minutes early and look for the departures display. You must know your train number, as the display typically shows the train’s final destination.
- The train’s platform number will appear just before boarding.
- Once you know the platform number, scan the ticket and enter where you see the green arrow.
- Italian trains are very punctual, and the stop at each station is short. Ensure you are ready to embark and disembark.
Despite my big suitcase, I found travelling by train in Italy an easy and enjoyable way to get around. If you want to save a bit of money and a lot of stress, book your tickets in advance and take the train!