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Rail Travel

Italy - Rail Travel

Train travel is one of the easiest ways to get around Italy, be it between cities or from one region to another. Those who are in no rush to get to their destination and would like to see a bit of the countryside generally opt for trains over flights. The main types of train services in Italy include High-speed trains, Regional trains and Intercity trains. Passengers in this country can also travel on overnight trains, which include the Sleeper, Couchette and Sleeperette accommodation.

There are mainly two train companies operating these different rail services in Italy: Trenitalia and Nuovo Trasporto Viaggiatori (NTV). Trenitalia belongs to the national rail system and operates on regional and high speed routes. NTV is a private operator, which has its services on two high-speed lines. Other train operating companies, for local journeys, include Trenord (Lombardy) and Ferrovie Emilia Romagna (Northern Italy). Contact information for all the Train Operating Companies in Italy include:

Tel: +39 06 422991
URL: http://www.ntvspa.it/en

Customer Service: +39 06 6847 5475
URL: http://www.trenitalia.com

Contact Center: +39 02 7249 4949
URL: http://www.trenord.it

Ferrovie Emilia Romagna
Tel: +39 840 151 152
URL: http://www.fer-online.it

Types of Trains

High-speed trains connect the main cities in Italy. They travel at a speed of 300km/hr, without many stops. These trains run on specific tracks which keep them quite. Some high-speed trains travel on regular tracks that have a special suspension to help them run smoothly. Any passenger who plans to travel on a high-speed train should make a reservation in advance. This also includes the rail-pass holders. Trenitalia and NTV always issue discounted high-speed advance fares. Passengers should bear in mind that while these fares are cheaper, they are also nonrefundable and have certain prohibitions or restrictions on changes. The two Trenitalia high-speed trains are named Frecciarossa and Frecciargento. There is almost no difference between these two trains; they just operate on different lines. In case of NTV, all their “Italo” trains are high-speed.

Regional trains (Treni regionali) are like local trains, which run around school and work schedules, connecting the stations in different towns and cities. They are slower and have many more stops than high-speed trains. Most of the Regionali trains operate within certain regions. The trains that run on longer routes are known as diretti and interregionali. Treni regionali trains are cheap but prone to delays. They offer mostly second class seating and there are no provisions for reservations or advance bookings. Rail pass holders can travel on regional trains without paying any additional charges. Passengers buying a ticket at the station should make it a point to validate the tickets before boarding the train. The types of cars may vary from rickety old trains to modern double-decker compartments with electronic information displays.

Intercity trains are relatively fast; they run length of the country, stopping only at large towns and cities. Both first and second class seats are available on these trains. Seat reservations can be made in advance. Many of these services duplicate the high-speed trains, but at a slower pace. They also connect those cities that are not covered by high-speed trains. Intercity trains are cheaper than the high-speed services.

An intercity Plus service also runs on certain lines. It is mandatory to make a seat reservation in advance on these trains.

Passengers who prefer traveling though Italy in a cost effective, relaxing way through the night can opt for the Overnight or Hotel Trains. These trains are ideal for traveling from one country to another. They offer both first and second class carriages. The accommodation range on Overnight trains includes Sleepers, Couchettes and Sleeperettes.

Sleeper coaches are the most comfortable way of traveling, as the berths come with pillows, duvets, blankets and sheets. The compartments have lockable doors, offering the passengers a high level of privacy. People also have access to their own towels, washbasins, soap and plug-points while traveling in a sleeper coach. The stewards present in these cars help the passengers with various border crossing procedures. While making a booking, travelers get a compartment according to their gender, unless they are traveling in a large group or as a family. Passengers pay first class fares to travel on sleeper coaches. First class rail pass holders can also make a booking for single, double or triple sleepers.

Couchettes are coaches that have between 4 to 6 berths. Each berth comes with a pillow, blanket and sheet. There are no washbasins in the compartments and the common washrooms are at the end of the car. Passengers can make individual or group bookings for their berths in advance. The compartments aren’t gender-specific. Passengers pay first or second class fares to travel on couchette coaches.

Sleeperettes are just reclining seats in an open car. These do go all the way back so that passengers can sleep a bit more comfortably. They have a small, attached pillow but travelers aren’t given a blanket. Passengers pay first or second class fares for these seats. While there are no additional costs for sleeperettes, some trains have a higher reservation fee.

Passengers who’d like to travel a long distance during the night with the privacy, security and comfort of a hotel should opt for a Hotel Train. All the compartments on these trains have lockable doors and dining car access. Passengers can choose to travel in the Luxury Class, First Class or Tourist accommodation, according to their budget. The Luxury class accommodation has one or two beds (with pillows, blankets, sheets, etc) in each compartment with a private toilet and shower. The First class accommodation has one or two beds but the toilet and shower facilities are outside the compartment. The Tourist class accommodation comprises of 4 beds in a compartment. The shower and toilets are located outside. Certain hotel trains also have 2nd class sleeperette seats. Reservations on these trains should be made in advance.

Buying a ticket

Unlike the US and the UK, most train operators in Italy sell single tickets. Passengers who ask for a return ticket generally receive single tickets for each let of the journey.

They easiest way to purchase a ticket in Italy is from the machines at the station. Most of the machines are multi-lingual and accept cash as well as cards. Because there is a row of machines at each station, passengers hardly ever have to queue up.

Those who are not very tech-savvy can purchase train tickets from the assistant seated at the station window instead.

Many Italians buy tickets, directly from the train company’s website. After making a reservation passengers can print their tickets from anywhere. In order to book tickets online, log on to http://www.trenitalia.com or http://www.italotreno.it/EN/Pages/default.aspx. These sites generally accept all major credit and debit cards. However, in case a foreign card isn’t accepted by the Trenitalia website after several attempts, passengers can book their tickets through http://www.italiarail.com, a website that quotes the prices in US Dollars, Canadian Dollars and Pound Sterling. Since passengers get an e-ticket, there is no additional charge for delivery.

Very often, foreigners in Italy get a rude shock on traveling by train for the first time when they realize that a train ticket only gets them on a train and not necessarily a seat. Seat reservations should be made in advance.


In Italy, tickets bought for Regional trains aren’t marked for a particular train or time. These only become valid when they are stamped by a validation machine. This is absolutely essential before boarding the train. Travelers caught without validated tickets are fined heavily.

Disabled Passengers

The trains and stations in Italy are quite well-equipped to assist individuals with disabilities. The station staff helps people on wheelchairs board and alight the train. However, this service should be booked at least 24 hours in advance. In addition to seats and compartments, most trains have toilets that have been specially designed for disabled people. There is no additional cost for utilizing the disabled service in Italy. The nation-wide contact number for disabled passenger assistance is 199 393 060.

Pets and Other Services

Passengers can take a dog or similar domestic animals on the train, as long as they make a booking in advance. While traveling, the animal should be muzzled and in a carrier container (depending upon its size). There is no extra cost for traveling with a pet in the first and second class. However, no seats are allotted for pets unless the owner books an extra ticket. All dog owners have to carry the certificate of registration (certificate di iscrizione all’anagrafe canina) to prove that the animal is registered with the local canine registry office. Taking a dog on the train without this certificate may result in a fight.

Most trains have space to allow travels bring a bicycle on board. While making a booking, this needs to be mentioned so that some extra space can be reserved for the cycle.


A few cities in Italy have the Metropolitaine, which is the underground train system. Metro services can be found in Rome, Naples, Milan, Turin, Genoa and Catania.

Rome has two metro lines, Line A (Orange) & Line B (Blue), with 50 stations spread across the city. The other cities have one line each, with 69 stations in Naples, 93 stations in Milan, 21 stations in Turin, 7 stations in Genoa and 6 stations in Catania.

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