Trains in Italy – Here’s How to Use Them
Trains in Italy, and throughout Europe really, are commonplace. You will definitely want to have them at your disposal if traveling very far from your arrival point into the country or your “home base” while in Italy. After your first ride you’ll have the hang of it and it will open tons of possibilities for you while in Italy.
The train stations can be quite intimidating when you first use them. One of the problems for us Westerners is that we expect this process to be as complicated as getting onto a plane. It’s not even close. You’ll be surprised how easy it is.
You will need a ticket. You can buy them at the train station or online. I bought them online to avoid having to figure it out at the train station on the fly. About two days before traveling to our next destination I would go online, pick the train schedule that suited us, and purchase it. Simple as that. You can use the scan code on your online ticket to show to the conductor when you get on the train.
Italiarail.com is the site for buying your tickets. Here is a screenshot of the home page. Just pick your departure city and arrival city (ie. Rome to Naples), the date of travel, and how many travelers.
The next screen after you click “Find Tickets” will give you several selections for trains (slow and fast) and their departure times for the entire day that you selected. Prices will be next to each one, including prices for upgraded business and first class seats. Select which one you want, enter your card info, and voila you have your ticket. (Tip: It will give you an online version of your ticket but I would always screenshot it and put in my photos so I could show it to the conductor in case we had Wifi issues or otherwise couldn’t get online.)
Makes sense so far. Going into the train station is where perception is not reality. The perception will be a chaotic mess, especially in Rome (Roma Termini). But there are only two things you have to do at this point: 1) Check the Departure screen and find your train number and platform (track) where it is located; 2) Go to the train and board. Yes, that is it. Your luggage will go onboard with you and you will put it above your seat like an overhead bin on a plane, or some cars have areas to slide them under seats. (Tip: The overhead bins are large enough for your large luggage.)
Here is the unnerving part and why us Westerners have a bit of a freak out the first time. They suggest you arrive at least 30 minutes ahead of time for your train. So when you get there 30 minutes early you find your train and platform and go there and start boarding, right? Uh, no. Thirty minutes prior to departure your train will be nowheresville. It is not even close to the station yet. You look at the departure board and your train is on there but there is not a platform assigned. You wait. Now you are 15 minutes from departure. Still no platform assigned. What is going on?!?! Relax. This is all normal. Most of the time, for the fast trains anyway, they will arrive 10 minutes or so before your departure time and everyone is expected to be waiting in the departure area and then will walk to the platform once it is assigned on the departure board. And in a few minutes you depart. It certainly sounds like you are cutting it close but trust me the system works beautifully. You just have to know what you’re dealing with when you get to the station.
So, no passports shown. No TSA. No body frisking. No luggage check. You just go and get on the train. Once you are on board the conductor will come by and ask to see your ticket on your phone, or printed out if you selected that option. Your ticket is scanned and that’s that.
So I hope you use the trains while in Italy. Be sure and check back and let me know about your experiences there and any tips you can pass along!