15 Essential Tips For Buying Train Tickets in Italy Wisely

People standing out a red train ticket machine from Trenitalia

Everyone wants to get the best deal when buying train tickets in Italy. However, it can be a very confusing process if you’ve never done it before. You may end up spending a lot more on your train trip just for small details. But don’t worry, I will clarify all your doubts and worries about this topic.

There are many things to consider when booking Italian trains. So, I encourage you to keep reading if you want to do it correctly. You will find 15 useful tips to get the cheapest train tickets in Italy.

1. Book Trains In Advance

You should buy train tickets in advance in Italy. On average, it is around 30% cheaper than buying one on the day. It is possible to book high-speed trains 4 months ahead of time, but you will get a better deal if you buy train tickets 45/30 days before your trip.

Example of how much you can save when buying tickets in advance:

Route (One Adult)Ticket Price (On The Day)Ticket Price (Two Weeks in Advance)Ticket Price (One Month In Advance)
Rome to Milan€118,76€72,17€67,48
Venice to Florence€55,16€39,67€38,17
Florence to Milan€72,66€47,40€42,46
Verona to Roma€88,38€58,70€55,05
Results may vary depending on the season (based on Italo and Frecciarossa prices)

The prices of high-speed trains change day-by-day in Italy. If you book them at the last minute, you risk not finding a seat. In some cases, you will have to buy a first-class ticket if you want to travel that specific day. Trains rarely sell out, but you may not be able to get a discount.

You don’t need to book regional trains in advance to save money. In fact, there is no advantage in terms of price and conditions if you do so. Unlike fast trains, they have fixed fares and never sell out. Slow trains don’t allow seat reservations, so you can book them whenever you want. 

2. Know What Type Of Train To Take

There are several types of trains to choose from in Italy. However, you should only take the one that better fits your travel plans. The most important factors to consider are distance, speed, and fares.

Here are the primary train categories that you can find in Italy:

  • High-speed trains (Frecce and Italo trains)
  • Regionali/Regionali Veloci (R/RV)
  • InterCity/InterCity Notte (IC/ICN)

When To Take High-Speed Trains

Overall, the best trains to take in Italy are Frecciarossa and Italo. They are excellent for traveling between large cities and covering long distances. Take high-speed trains if you have a tight itinerary.

However, fast trains are the most expensive ones to use. You will have to pay a little bit more for their extra comfort, space, and speed. But it is definitely worth the cost, especially if you are a tourist. You won’t have any problem whether you choose a Frecciarossa or Italo train.

You will find other types of trains, such as Frecciabianca and Frecciargento as well. I would choose the second one with no doubt. I use both, but I prefer the Frecciargento. It can travel on standard and high-speed rails at the same time. Frecciarossa and Frecciabianca trains can only use fast and normal tracks, respectively.

Don’t get me wrong; I’m not saying that Frecciabianca trains are bad. It makes sense to book one if you want to travel long journeys for an affordable price. But don’t expect to have the same level of quality as the other Frecce.

Make sure to look for the newest Frecciarossa 1000

When To Take Regional Trains

If you are going to visit small towns, you should use regional trains. Yes, I know they are slow and not so fancy. But local trains are very effective in reaching places in the same region. They might be the only way to visit cities such as Como and Vernazza.

You may want to use regional trains if you are on a tight budget. They are one of the cheapest ways to get around Italy. In most cases, a Regionale will cost you about 39% less than a Frecciarossa.

However, you will have to wait much longer to arrive at your destination. Regional trains are very slow and stop at every train station. If time is not an issue for you, you should use them as your main transportation method. 

You can take any regional train as long as you’re traveling on the same route. Only slow trains allow you to do so. But remember that you must validate paper tickets before boarding. You have exactly 4 hours to use a train after the validation.

Also, you will find another type of regional train called Regionale Veloce (RV). It cost the same as the normal ones. But RVs are more time-efficient as they only stop at central train stations. Make sure to see if there is one available.

When To Take InterCity Trains

InterCity trains are very similar to a Regionale and Frecciabianca. They are quite useful for traveling long distances at low cost. InterCities can reach up to 125mph as Frecciabianca trains do.

The differences between InterCity and Frecciabianca are very small. On InterCities, you won’t find power outlets. They also tend to make more delays, but it is not a rule. If your main goal is to save money, InterCity trains give the best value.

However, InterCity trains don’t run very often. You will usually find a few ones per day. Trenitalia is replacing the old models with more comfortable ones. The seats are now ergonomic for the back.  

There is also a special type of train called InterCity Notte (ICN). If you don’t want to stay in a hotel, it is a good idea to book one. Some years ago, I traveled from Bari to Venice with my family using an old ICN. We only paid around €90,00 for 3 adults and 2 kids.

Red, silver, and green trains at an Italian train station

3. Understand Train Tickets Fares

In order to get the cheapest train tickets in Italy, you have to understand the types of tickets. If you don’t, you may pay for an extra service without needing it. Tourists often get confused with ticket fares. 

You will find three classes of fares: Super Economy, Economy, and Base. They are not a class of service but travel conditions. Each one has its own refund rules and policies. Basically, you are only paying for the flexibility of your trip.

DetailsBaseEconomySuper Economy
Booking changes (date/time)YesYes (for a fee)No
Ticket changesYesNoNo
Access to other trainsYes (subjected to a surcharge) NoNo
Source: Trenitalia

The Base fare allows you to change your travel plans for “free.” On the other hand, you will have to pay an extra fee with the Economy fare. If you buy a Super Economy ticket, you won’t be able to change your itinerary by any means. 

Unless you are not sure of your travel plans, it is not worth to pay more for Base tickets. You will be fine with any Economy fare. Just take care of your ticket and arrive early at the train station. Remember that Economy and Super Economy fares are limited deals.

You can travel in 1st class and still get a Super Economy ticket. This means that you will get a better service but with a strict schedule. You can choose the combination that best suits your needs.

4. Use Apps For Buying Train Tickets

It is recommended to buy train tickets directly from the operator. You will be able to choose your seat and avoid booking fees. Usually, you will find the best prices on Trenitalia and Italo websites.

I recommend you use the Trenitalia mobile app as much as you can. It is more user-friendly than the website. In fact, you don’t need an engineering degree to understand it. All the menus are very straightforward and in English. You can get the Trenitalia app on Android and iOS devices.

You can book train tickets from third party agencies perfectly fine. But be careful as some retailers may charge you more than the regular fares. If you are not 100% sure, it is best to book from the operator to avoid problems.

Important: You may find some bugs when changing the time on the Trenitalia app. If it happens, put the dates in the Italian time zone. For example, you may have to set the departure at 12:00 PM if you want a train for 6:00 PM. You can use this site to see the time difference with your country.

5. Prefer Electronic Train Tickets

Paper tickets are a thing of the past for most travelers. Now you can get E-tickets directly on your phone. You won’t have to worry about losing it or standing in long lines. If you bought a ticket for a regional train online, you don’t need to validate it.

After your reservation, you will get a PNR code in your email or train app. You only have to show it to the train conductor, and you are ready to go. It is not necessary to print your ticket unless you want to. Don’t forget to check the number of your seat.

All train tickets are nominative in Italy. You can’t travel in the name of another person. So, make sure to put your credentials correctly. The conductor may ask you to show a form of identification. After the departure of the train, you can’t make changes to your ticket.

Also, you have the option to receive an SMS with the trip summary for free. You will still get a PDF with all the details in your email address. It is just an extra service.

Italian train ticket document receipt

6. Don’t Buy A Rail Pass

Most people don’t need to buy a rail pass in Italy. You will be fine using normal point-to-point tickets. Most of the time, you won’t get a great deal with European passes. Buying train tickets in advance is probably the only way to save money on Italian trains.

It is not worth it to buy a rail pass if you are only traveling in Italy. Tickets are already cheaper than most European countries. Also, you will have to pay a €10,00 fee to reserve a seat on fast trains. You won’t see any significant cost savings with InterCities and Regionali.

Rail passes can be useful for traveling across Europe. But you have to do some maths to figure out if it is convenient for you. Probably, it is not even worth it to spend your time deciding.

7. Opt For Direct Trains

Personally, I wouldn’t book a train with transfers on my first trip to Italy. It is a hassle to get off of the carriage with all your luggage. You will spend your whole trip just thinking about the next train you will have to take.

Instead, you should book direct trains as much as possible. You won’t have to worry about catching the connecting train on time. If it is on the other side of the platform, you will have to take the stairs on an elevator. With direct trains, you can just relax and enjoy the landscape.

If you miss your connection due to a delay, you can get on the next train. However, it is best to talk with the crew and explain your problem first. Usually, staff members will allow you to take a lower category train. You can’t get to the next train if you booked from different operators.

In some situations, you may not be able to book any direct train at all. If that happens, make sure to check the layover time. You should have at least 15 minutes to take the next train. I recommend you get the app Train Timetable Italy to see all the schedules in real-time.

8. Don’t Worry About Luggage Fees

You can travel with as much luggage as you want on Italian trains. Train companies don’t have restrictions on the number of baggage you can carry. Also, you won’t get charged if your luggage is overweighted or oversized.

However, it is best to stick with two suitcases per person. This is because trains have limited space to store luggage. But in most cases, you will find a way to carry your stuff.

Bikes travel for free on both regional and high-speed trains. However, you must disassemble or fold it. You will have to put your bike in a bag no bigger than 80cm x 110cm x 40cm with the other baggage.

On regional trains, you can carry your bike in a wagon for €3.50. You can bring it assembled for 24 hours if you see a special symbol. Also, you have the option to get a regular pass for your it in 2nd class. As for international journeys, the bike ticket fare is €12,00.

If you want to learn more about traveling with luggage in Italy, make sure to check this post. You will find what to expect in every situation.

9. Pay Attention To Train Station Names

Most Italian cities have multiple train stations. If you are a tourist, you may get confused about which one to use. Train station names are only available in Italian when booking. Usually, they start with the name of the city. 

You should book a train that stops as close as possible to your hotel. If you don’t choose the right one, you may have to get a taxi or walk with your luggage. Don’t use the option “Tutte le Stazioni” without doing some research first.

You can use Google Maps to see which train station is more efficient for you. Simply type the address of your hotel as a starting point. Then, find out the name of each train station in the city and compare the distances. It doesn’t take too long. 

Here are some of the main train stations in Italy to help you save some time:

  • Milan: Milano Centrale
  • Rome: Roma Termini
  • Venice: Venezia Santa Lucia
  • Florence: Firenze S. M. Novella
  • Verona: Verona Porta Nuova
  • Bari: Bari Centrale
  • Turin: Torino Porta Nuova
  • Bologna: Bologna Centrale

The chances are that your hotel is near to a central train station. But it is better to check before buying your train tickets. Just imagine that your hotel is located across town. For example, don’t book a train that stops in Roma Tiburtina if you stay in the center.

10. Consider Getting A Loyalty Card

Both Trenitalia and Italo have a loyalty program. However, only Trenitalia allows foreigners to get a fidelity card. You can join for free to it without any restrictions. 

Basically, having a CartaFreccia allows you to earn points. You can use them to claim price reductions on train tickets. It is very useful to have one, especially if you use Italian trains frequently. You will save a big on train rides.

If you want to apply for a CartaFreccia, you need to fill out this form on Trenitalia’s website. Next, you have to send it via email to Trenitalia with your signature. Make sure to read all the conditions before applying. 

After you register for the program, you’ll get a User ID. You will have to put it when buying train tickets on the app or website. Then, you must show your CartaFreccia to the train conductor. If you don’t have the plastic, you will be fine using the printed version. Remember that Cartafreccia is personal, so each passenger must have their own.

Green, red and white card with the sky as a background

11. Remember to Claim Special Offers

Italo and Trenitalia run special promotions mainly on holidays. You only have to enter a code at the time of purchase. Usually, you will find the discount codes on the site of train companies. But only the fastest ones can take advantage of them.

You will also find other offers throughout the year. However, you may have to meet some travel conditions. For example, the offer may only be valid in certain days or groups of people. Italo and Trenitalia have similar promotions.

Examples of train ticket promotions: 

  1. Speciale 2×1 (Trenitalia): You buy two tickets for the price of one when traveling on Saturday. Regional trains are not included in this promotion. Also, the offer is only applied to the full Base fare.
  2. A/R In Giornata (Trenitalia): Essentially, you get a discount if you make a round trip in a single day. You will pay a €69,00 fare regardless of the distance. It is a perfect option for trips longer than 370 miles.
  3. A/R Weekend (Trenitalia): A/R weekend is very similar to A/R In Giornata. But you have to buy the ticket for Saturday and return on Sunday. The fixed fare is €69,00 for a pass in standard class.
  4. Bimbi Gratis (Trenitalia): If you can’t find Economy tickets, Bimbi Gratis is a solid option for families. If you travel in a group of 2 or 5 people, children under 15 years travel for free. Adults must pay the full Base ticket.

Also, I suggest you subscribe to Italo and Trenitalia newsletter. Often they send promotional codes and coupons. You will be the first to know if there is any new offer as well.

12. Choose The Right Seats

It is crucial to choose the right seats for Italians trains. This is why booking train tickets from the operator is better. Some people may not believe it, but it’s a huge advantage to be able to pick exactly the place you want. There are some seats you should definitely avoid. 

My family and I had to learn it the hard way. Usually, we travel from Bari to Milan once a year. We didn’t pay attention to the seats until one of our last trips. After 7 hours of traveling by train, we felt almost destroyed. It wasn’t for the duration of the trip, but for the seats we chose.

Firstly, you should not reserve the ones near the transit doors of the carriage. You will hear every five minutes the noise of the doors. This is because toilets are located at the end of each coach. Also, you’ll feel cold every time the doors open in the winter. I would avoid the first and last 3/5 rows.

If you want to see the landscape, you should book a seat with the letter A or D. Though you may have some issues with the air conditioning. Trains often put the temperature too hot in the winter and too cold in the summer. 

The seats on the rows B and C have a little more space. If you travel alone, the best places are in the Carriage 3 (row A) of Frecciabianca trains.

Finally, it is better to avoid the seats in the last carriage. The safest coaches are the ones in the middle of the train. Collisions are not frequent, but they can happen.

Train seats selection menu

13. Check For Any Strike

You are very unlikely to face a train strike in Italy. And if something happens, some trains are always guaranteed to work. The Law 146/1990 assures minimum transport services during shutdowns. You can check all the guaranteed trains on the Trenitalia Strikes document. Essentially, you will always find a train during peak hours (from 6:00 AM to 9:AM and 6:00 PM to 9:00 PM).

Even if train strikes are not frequent, it is better to be prepared. Thankfully, you can track train shutdowns several months ahead. Simply visit the Ministry of Infrastructure and Transport website and look for” Ferroviario” or “Trasporto Pubblico Locale.” Strikes don’t affect the private company Italo.

Most of the time, a train strike won’t change your travel plans. Trenitalia will try to find a solution for you as soon as possible. You can ask for a refund of your ticket if there isn’t any alternative. Then you may have to take another means of transport or an Italo train. Still, train strikes only happen a few times a year, and most of them only last 24 hours.

14. Consider Other Means Of Transport

Trains are not the only way to get around in Italy. In some cases, it is better to take other means of transport. For example, renting a car is a better option if you visit the countryside. You won’t be able to do so if you travel by train.

Buses are also an excellent choice for savvy tourists. They can be more efficient than regional trains. Most of the time, you will get to your destination faster for less. Make sure to book a Flixbus if you don’t want to use high-speed trains.

Also, you could take a flight to travel between Italian cities. However, airlines have strict luggage rules. You will have to pay very high fees for overweight baggage. But if it doesn’t scare you, taking the plane can be cheaper than fast trains on some routes. 

Trains are still an excellent choice for traveling in Italy. But it is always a good idea to know all your alternatives. 

If you can’t decide whether to rent a car o take the train, make sure to check out this post. You will find all the factors that you must consider to make the right choice.

15. Understand Refund Policies

You can ask for compensation on the price of your ticket in case of delays. Usually, slower trains make more delays than fast ones. But expect your train to be 7-10 minutes late. Italo has about the same refund policies as Trenitalia.

If a Regional or InterCity delays up to 59 minutes, you can’t ask for a refund. You won’t get compensation for any reason. 

Frecce trains don’t give compensation for delays up to 29 minutes. Trenitalia considers it as a normal thing. But if the delay is between 30 and 59 minutes, you will get a refund of 25% on the ticket price. You can only use the bonus to buy another ticket within one year.

As for delays between 59 and 119 minutes, you can always claim a refund. It doesn’t matter if the train was a Regionale or a Freccia. You have the right to get 25% compensation on the ticket cost. You can use the bonus on your next trip or just get your money back. For delays of at least 120 minutes, the compensation is 50% of the ticket.

You can claim compensation after 24 hours of the problem. However, you have 12 months to ask for it after the date of travel. You can go to a ticket office or use the official website.

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