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How to Travel by Train in Italy

Updated: Mar 4

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Inside of an empty train station

Trains are the quickest and easiest way to get around Italy. Though they're fairly simple to use, they can take some getting used to if you're not from Europe. That's why we wrote this guide - to talk you through the steps and, hopefully, prevent too many first-time mistakes while traveling by train in Italy.

Secure your Ticket

Man buys a train ticket

If you're traveling by train in Italy during peak season, I recommend using Trainline to book your tickets ahead of time. Trainline compiles data from nearly 300 operators to find the lowest price and quickest route available. After purchasing online, you'll receive a digital ticket with a scannable QR Code. With this, you'll be able to walk straight to your train platform.

The second-best way to purchase a ticket is from a self-service kiosk at the train station. Upon arrival, look for one of Trenitalia's red ticket machines. Simply choose your language, click "ticket issue," and select your destination. From there, you'll be prompted to select your date, time, preferred train, and number of passengers. These machines allow both cash and debit/credit card payment.

Stamp your Ticket

After buying a ticket, you must verify it at a stamping machine. These machines are usually green or yellow and located near the train platforms. To use them, simply slide your ticket into the slot and wait until it stamps. Failure to stamp your ticket can result in a sizable fine, and crewmembers are very diligent in checking.

Locate your Platform & Train

Woman reads newspaper in subway

Unfortunately, your ticket won't show you which platform to go to. Instead, you'll have to find it on computerized boards. One way to do this is by train number, which may be listed on your ticket as treno. Another way is by matching the time (ora) and destination (arrivo) listed on your ticket with the ones on the departure board. After you find out which train is yours, look to the far right side of the board for the platform number (binario). Remember, both the ticket and board list the train's final destination, so don't fret if the station on your ticket doesn't match where you're going. It just means your stop isn't the last one.

Most of the time, you'll have an assigned seat on the train. To make sure you're going to the right place, refer to the carriage (carrozza) number on your ticket. Then, walk alongside the train until you find the correct one. Once on-board, check your ticket for your seat number (posti). Seat numbers are clearly labeled above each seat.

Be Prepared to Run

Running from the Metro station

Sometimes, you get lucky and your platform number is on the screen an hour before you leave. Other times, the number isn't listed until minutes before departure. In bigger stations, platforms can span multiple floors and have sections off to the side. So, pay attention to all posted signage, and be prepared to run when necessary.

If you happen to miss your train, locate a ticket counter and explain your situation. Though you can't get a refund, you might be able to transfer your ticket for one at a later time.

Keep an Eye on your Belongings

Man with bag at train station

If you're hopping from city to city, there's a good chance you brought along luggage. Luckily, the trains have plenty of room under seats and in overhead compartments to store your stuff. Your biggest concern, however, is being pickpocketed in the station itself. This can happen while you're buying a ticket, waiting at a platform, or even walking through a crowded area. For best measures, consider packing money, IDs, passports, and other valuables in an anti-theft bag.

Though all of this information at once may seem overwhelming, I hope this guide has been helpful in teaching you the ins-and-outs of Italian train travel. If you still haven't planned your trip, check out our guide to two weeks in Italy.

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