If you’ve had a chance to visit Trenitalia‘s website over the last month, you’ll notice the site is not just updated with bettery navigatability, but it’s also listing constantly updated offerte, fabulous travel offers for train travel in Italy and Europe– such as MINI (fares up to 60% discounted) and Promo Paris Fun. For most non-Italy (and non-Europe) based travelers, train travel in Italy is more than just discovering a new city, but also a whole new world of varying trains, stops and offers. Guest writer Pete McQuilton of LazioExplorer.com explores Italian trains, purchasing, offers and travel.
Traveling by train is a great way to see Italy. It’s quick, takes you from city center to city center, and gives you a constantly changing smorgasbord of beautiful scenery. Italian trains are fast, convenient, and relaxing. Rome is an excellent ‘jump off’ point for exploring Italy, with major tourist attractions in Naples, Florence, and Venice only a few hours away.
Trains. Trenitalia’s top-of-the-range trains are the Eurostar Italia Frecciarossa (red arrow) high speed trains, which travel at 175mph and the Eurostar Italia Frecciargento (silver arrow) tilting trains, that travel at 125mph. These are the most expensive but can give you journey times such as Rome-Naples in 1 hour 10 minutes or Rome-Venice in 3 hours 45 minutes. All seats have power sockets for laptops & mobiles (2-pin, 220v) and each train has a buffet car and air conditioning.
The next level of train is the Eurostar City (EC) or Eurostar Italia (EI) which are still pretty good, with air conditioning and plenty of luggage space. The Italian high-speed network links Naples, Rome, Florence, Milan, Turin & Venice, with trains hourly or better.
One step below the EC is the IC, or intercity train. These are cheap but still of a good standard and are pretty quick, going 100-125mph. These trains also go long distances overnight, such as Trieste-Naples, and coaches often have six-seater cabins that can convert into three (very close) beds for overnight trips. Tickets for these trains all include seat reservations, and can be bought months in advance.
The lowest level of Italian train include the Espresso and Regionale trains, which can be a bit more variable. They are very cheap for the distances involved but can sometimes be in a bit of a state, so I’d avoid these if you can (unless you’re really on a budget). All Regionale and Espresso train tickets must be validated immediately before boarding using one of the small yellow machines at the entrance to every platform.
Note: You do not need to validate Eurostar Italia, EC or IC tickets- although theoretically you have to inform the train officials when you board, and obviously, sit where you’re meant to.
Choosing your train is quite easy at trenitalia.com, you pick specific trains as well as seat and carriage choices but more importantly, you can also benefit from great deals on ticket prices, such as MINI- up to 60% off the standard price, and Sabato Italiano 2 x 1 (two for one Saturday travel) that are currently available. Once you’ve chosen your tickets, you can register (e-tickets are sent your e-mail account) and pay. At this point, you may struggle.
Problems? For whatever reason, the trenitalia website experiences some problems with some non-Italian card circuits, such as Visa credit cards (but not Visa debit cards) or American Express. Sometimes this is because your bank thinks the transaction is dodgy, since, as it’s on the trenitalia site, it appears as if suddenly you’re spending money in Italy, so you may need to inform your bank in order to get the transaction processed.
If you are in the US, Trenitalia tickets can be purchased at Why Go Italy. For more comprehensive information on train travel in Italy, peak into the magnificent seat61 website, which has everything you need to know about train travel, tickets, left luggage, train stations etc., around the world.
So what are you waiting for?
~ Through a chance meeting with a Roman, his future wife, Pete McQuilton, @LazioExplorer, discovered the secret world of North Lazio. His website, lazioexplorer.com details his journey into Lazio, along with hints and travel/culture tips on how to survive off the tourist trail in ‘real’ Italy.
Photos by Pete McQuilton