Thanks to its excellent high-speed rail system, traveling Italy by train is an excellent way to explore this amazing country. To make your trip even easier and more affordable I’ve created this guide about how to buy train tickets in Italy so you can get the best train tickets at the cheapest price.
Buying Train Tickets in Italy: A Quick Guide
The official train network in Italy is Trenitalia but dealing with their website is a hassle thanks to multiple translation issues and technical glitches when using non-Italian credit cards. In short, don’t use it as there are better options (listed below).
ItaliaRail is the official worldwide distributor of Italian train tickets so their site is designed for English speakers. It accepts credit cards from anywhere in the world so you’ll have no technical problems booking your ticket. Nearly all Italian train tickets are electronic these days so your tickets can be sent straight to your phone (they can also be printed at home or picked up at the station if you prefer).
Furthermore, ItaliaRail can often find discounted tickets if you’re buying for groups of two or more people.
Trainline is a private company that sells the exact same Italian train tickets at the exact same price as Trenitalia but they’ve made the whole buying process simple and user-friendly — no issues using a foreign credit card, no translation issues, etc. The only downside is that you pay a 3% service charge but I think it’s worth the price.
In many cases you’ll receive an e-ticket sent to your phone (via email or the Trainline App) — just show it to the train conductor. If e-tickets aren’t available, you can print/collect your tickets at the train station.
Omio is another booking service that sells the same Italian train tickets at the same price as Trenitalia but with the benefit of being user-friendly — no issues using a foreign credit card, no translation issues, etc. The main difference between Omio and Trainline is that Omio has a flat €4 booking fee.
You can use ItaliaRail, Omio & Trainline to book any kind of train ticket in Italy — from high-speed to local trains.
Important: You sometimes can’t book last-minute train tickets electronically (i.e. they won’t show up in the search results) so I suggest booking a few hours before departure.
Buying Italian Train Tickets At The Train Station
There’s also the option to buy your Italian train tickets from any train station in Italy.
The quickest and easiest way is to buy train tickets is via the automated ticket machines (the machines all have English language options). However, sometimes these machines don’t accept foreign credit cards.
You can also buy tickets from the ticket window but the lines can get long during busy times. Many of the ticket sellers will speak passable English but not always. That said, they can accept any credit card so that won’t be an issue.
IMPORTANT: Ticket windows (especially at smaller stations and on weekends) often open later in the morning so this can pose a problem if you want to catch an early train! Book the day before if possible.
Collecting Your Train Tickets
Most train tickets for Italian trains are electronic and can be sent to your email/booking app — you simply show the train conductor your reservation number on your e-ticket.
Tips For Booking Italian Train Tickets
Now that you know how to buy Italian train tickets, here are a few helpful tips on finding the best ticket at the best price.
Finding Italian Train Schedules
You can find the schedules of all Italian train tickets on ItaliaRail, Omio & Trainline — just plug in your route. These websites will give you the prices and times so you can quickly compare your options.
All major cities in Italy are connected by high-speed trains so you’ll rarely have to change trains if you’re traveling between major destinations — but you should always pay attention when booking your tickets as some routes will have multiple stops.
However, on longer routes or routes connecting smaller towns, you’ll often be required to change trains in a bigger city.
Getting The Best Price On Italian Train Tickets
Italy has a diverse train network and each train network has a different pricing structure. Don’t worry, here are a handful of strategies on how to save money on Italian train tickets.
Italian High-Speed Train Pricing
Italy has a few tiers of high-speed trains — Frecciarossas, Frecciargento, and Frecciabianc. They’re all essentially the same except for their top-speed (which ranges from around 125mph to 190mph).
Ticket prices are cheapest when booked early and get progressively more expensive as the departure date approaches — for example, tickets purchased the day of departure can be 3x more expensive than tickets purchased a few weeks early. Therefore, I recommend booking as soon as you know your travel plans.
That said, these tickets are only valid for a specific time on your ticket so there isn’t any flexibility if you have to change your plans (unless you buy the expensive flexible train tickets).
Italo High-Speed Train Pricing
Italo trains are a special private high-speed train network that operates a few popular routes. Much like the national high-speed trains, you’ll save money by booking early.
Italian InterCity Train Pricing
InterCity trains connect large cities with smaller cities. Much like high speed trains, you’ll get a better price by booking early but the price difference isn’t as much as high-speed trains.
Italian Regional Train Pricing
Regional trains connect large/medium cities with small towns and connect small towns with other small towns. These tickets are solely priced by distance so there is no reason to book early — simply show up to the station and buy your ticket.
Rail Passes and Reservations
All high-speed trains require rail pass holders to make a reservation so you can’t just hop on any train you please. A reservation costs around €10 and can be made from any train station in Italy.
More Italy Travel Tips
Here are some more articles I’ve written about visiting Italy:
- Rome Travel Guide
- Milan Travel Guide
- Cinque Terre Travel Guide
- Backpacking Europe Packing List
- The Best Travel Backpacks
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Thanks For Reading! — James