The rail system in Italy

The Italian rail system (left); the high-speed Le Frecce train network (upper right); the high-speed private .italo train network (lower right), Italian rail system, Italy, Italy (Photo )
The Italian rail system (left); the high-speed Le Frecce train network (upper right); the high-speed private .italo train network (lower right)

Italy's main train lines

Anywhere in Europe, the shortest (and cheapest) distance between two points in Italy is lined with railroad tracks.

The train is the preferred mode of travel by everyone, from farmers and grannies to businesswomen and visitors.

Italian trains run on time, are clean and comfortable, and have a vast network that covers almost every major and minor city.

The Italian rail system

Nearly all trains in Italy operate under the aegis of Ferrovie dello Stato, the State Rail System. 

That covers everything from the regional Regional (R) and Fast Regional (RV) trains linking small towns and cities to the faster InterCity (IC) trains on the longer-haul routes between major towns and cities like Rome, Milan, Venice, and Florence; at night, IC trains become InterCity Notte (IN) (including the one to Sicily, which boards a train ferry to cross the Strait of Messina).

FS also runs the high-speed Le Frecce trains (formerly "Eurostar Italia"), which offer free WiFi and run at three speeds: the fastest (186mph/300kph): Frecciarossa (FR) on dedicated high-speed tracks; the Frecciargento (FA) trains which conect even more citits at slightly slower speeds; and the slowest (but still speedy) Frecciabianca (FB) connecting even more cities.

The private company, Nuovo Trasporto Viaggiatori, runs competing high-speed .italo trains between Italy’s major cities.

(There are a few other private regional rail lines—decided not high-speed. Many travelers will end up riding the EAV/Circumvesuviana in Campania, connecting Naples to Pompeii and Sorrento, which is the gateway to the Amalfi Coast; you might also encouter Trenord in Lombardy and Ferrovie Emilia Romagna in Emilia Romagna.)

Italy also connects to other countries on jointly operated or foreign high-speed trains with names like Thello (between France and Italy) and EuroNight (EN) trains also connect Italy with Austria, Germany, and Spain» more

Note: On train schedules you will often see the abbreviations FER and FES. 

FER stands for “Feriali,” which means “work days”—which in Italy means Monday to Saturday.

FES stands for “Festivi” which means “holidays”—in the technical, original sense of “holy-days”—which translates to Sundays and official holidays

What Italian trains are like

Some trains still have the old-fashioned couchette configuration: Each car has a corridor along one side, lined with windows on the outside and doors on the other. These doors open onto 10 little couchettes, or compartments, each of which seats six to eight people (or, in first-class compartments, four to six people in slightly cushier chairs—but that's not worth the added expense).

Sadly, most short-run trains and new highs-speed long-haulers are increasingly switching over to the modern straight-through cars with seats running down both sides of an open aisle. These always make me feel more like I'm at home commuting to work than traveling in Europe on a grand tour, but hey, that's progress for you.

Travel time and cost

To give you a rough sense of train travel in Italy between some of the most popular destinations, here are the rough travel times and starting cost (for the cheapest standard advance-purchase fare—ignoring the crazy low fares that of €10 ($12) that sometimes pop up on routes that normally cost art least four time that much). Note that this is the quickest you can expect to make the journey, using the fastest trains and the closest connections should you have to change trains.

   Amalfi Coast     Assisi Brindisi Cinque Terre Florence  Genova  Milan Naples    Palermo Rome Turin Venice
Amalfi Coast        
Assisi  
Brindisi     
Cinque Terre  
Florence   
Genova   
Milan  
Naples  
Palermo  
Rome  
Turin  
Venice  

• The times are for direct trains where possible. If a change is required, it will be noted as (x1) or (x2) for one train change or two train changes.

• "Amalfi Coast" means Sorrento—including the local train transfer from Naples—which is where the trains end and the coastal bus begins.

• "Cinque Terre" means Monterosso, where you can transfer for the local line connecting the rest of the titular five towns. 

 
 
 
Trains links
Travel comfort links

Tips

Know the Italian name for major cities

To read Italian train schedules, it helps to know the Italian name for major cities and towns. Most are pretty obvious, but a few are a bit trickier (plus, in these big cities you need to known the name of the main central station), so in the interest of clarity:

Rome Roma Termini
Florence Firenze Santa Maria Novella
Venice Venezia Santa Lucia
Milan Milano Centrale
Genoa Genova Porta Principe
Naples Napoli Centrale
Leghorn Livorno
Turin Torino Porta Nuova
Useful Italian phrases

Useful Italian for rail travel

English (inglese) Italian (italiano)  Pro-nun-cee-YAY-shun
Where is? Dov'é doh-VAY
...train station la ferroviaria [or] la stazione lah fair-o-vee-YAR-ree-yah [or] lah stat-zee-YO-nay
ticket un biglietto oon beel-YET-toh
first class prima classe PREE-mah CLAH-say
second class seconda classe say-CONE-dah CLAH-say
one way solo andata SO-low ahn-DAHT-tah
round trip (return) andata e ritorno ahn-DAH-tah ay ree-TOUR-noh
Just the supplement Soltanto il supplemento soul-TAHN-toh eel sou-play-MEN-toh
Just a seat reservation Soltanto una prenotazione soal-TAHN-toh oo-nah pray-no-tah-tsee-YOH-nay
I have a Eurailpass Ho il Eurailpass oh eel YOO-rail-pahs
sleeping couchette una cucetta oo-nah koo-CHET-tah
berth in a sleeping car un posto nel vagone letto oon POH-sto nell vah-GOAN-nay LET-toh
track binario been-AR-ree-yoh
train treno TRE-no
car (carriage) carozza ka-RO-tza
seat posto PO-sto
departures partenze par-TEN-zay
arrivals arrivi ah-REE-vee
information informazione in-for-ma-tzee-OH-nay
left luggage deposito bagagli day-PO-zee-toh ba-GAHL-yee
     
punch your ticket timbrare il biglietto teem-BRA-ray eel beel-YET-toh
Is this the right platform for the Rome train? E questo il binario per il treno à Roma? ay KWAY-sto eel been-AR-ree-yo pair eel TRE-no ah RO-ma? 
delayed in retardo een ree-TAR-do
strike sciopero SHO-pair-oh
     
Mon-Sat Feriali fair-ee-YAHL-ee
Sun & holidays Festivi feh-STEE-vee
Daily Giornaliere joor-nahl-ee-YAIR-eh
City / Train station names
English (inglese) Italian (italiano) Main station
Rome Roma Termini
Florence Firenze Santa Maria Novella
Venice Venezia Santa Lucia
Milan Milano Centrale
Genoa Genova Porta Principe
Naples Napoli Centrale
Leghorn Livorno Centrale
Turin Torino Porta Nuova

Basic phrases in Italian

English (inglese) Italian (italiano) pro-nun-see-YAY-shun
thank you grazie GRAT-tzee-yay
please per favore pair fa-VOHR-ray
yes si see
no no no
Do you speak English? Parla Inglese? PAR-la een-GLAY-zay
I don't understand Non capisco non ka-PEESK-koh
I'm sorry Mi dispiace mee dees-pee-YAT-chay
How much is it? Quanto costa? KWAN-toh COST-ah
That's too much É troppo ay TROH-po
     
Good day Buon giorno bwohn JOUR-noh
Good evening Buona sera BWOH-nah SAIR-rah
Good night Buona notte BWOH-nah NOTE-tay
Goodbye Arrivederci ah-ree-vah-DAIR-chee
Excuse me (to get attention) Scusi SKOO-zee
Excuse me (to get past someone) Permesso pair-MEH-so
     
Where is? Dov'é doh-VAY
...the bathroom il bagno eel BHAN-yoh
...train station la ferroviaria lah fair-o-vee-YAR-ree-yah
to the right à destra ah DEH-strah
to the left à sinistra ah see-NEEST-trah
straight ahead avanti [or] diritto ah-VAHN-tee [or] dee-REE-toh
information informazione in-for-ma-tzee-OH-nay

Days, months, and other calendar items in Italian

English (inglese) Italian (italiano) Pro-nun-cee-YAY-shun
When is it open? Quando é aperto? KWAN-doh ay ah-PAIR-toh
When does it close? Quando si chiude? KWAN-doh see key-YOU-day
At what time... a che ora a kay O-rah
     
Yesterday ieri ee-YAIR-ee
Today oggi OH-jee
Tomorrow domani doh-MAHN-nee
Day after tomorrow dopo domani DOH-poh doh-MAHN-nee
     
a day un giorno oon je-YOR-no
Monday Lunedí loo-nay-DEE
Tuesday Martedí mar-tay-DEE
Wednesday Mercoledí mair-coh-lay-DEE
Thursday Giovedí jo-vay-DEE
Friday Venerdí ven-nair-DEE
Saturday Sabato SAH-baa-toh
Sunday Domenica doh-MEN-nee-ka
     
Mon-Sat Feriali fair-ee-YAHL-ee
Sun & holidays Festivi feh-STEE-vee
Daily Giornaliere joor-nahl-ee-YAIR-eh
     
a month una mese oon-ah MAY-zay
January gennaio jen-NAI-yo
February febbraio feh-BRI-yo
March marzo MAR-tzoh
April aprile ah-PREEL-ay
May maggio MAH-jee-oh
June giugno JEW-nyoh
July luglio LOO-lyoh
August agosto ah-GO-sto
September settembre set-TEM-bray
October ottobre oh-TOE-bray
November novembre no-VEM-bray
December dicembre de-CHEM-bray

Numbers in Italian

English (inglese) Italian (italiano) Pro-nun-cee-YAY-shun
1 uno OO-no
2 due DOO-way
3 tre tray
4 quattro KWAH-troh
5 cinque CHEEN-kway
6 sei say
7 sette SET-tay
8 otto OH-toh
9 nove NO-vay
10 dieci dee-YAY-chee
11 undici OON-dee-chee
12 dodici DOH-dee-chee
13 tredici TRAY-dee-chee
14 quattordici kwa-TOR-dee-chee
15 quindici KWEEN-dee-chee
16 sedici SAY-dee-chee
17 diciasette dee-chee-ya-SET-tay
18 diciotto dee-CHO-toh
19 diciannove dee-chee-ya-NO-vay
20 venti VENT-tee
21* vent'uno* vent-OO-no
22* venti due* VENT-tee DOO-way
23* venti tre* VENT-tee TRAY
30 trenta TRAYN-tah
40 quaranta kwa-RAHN-tah
50 cinquanta cheen-KWAN-tah
60 sessanta say-SAHN-tah
70 settanta seh-TAHN-tah
80 ottanta oh-TAHN-tah
90 novanta no-VAHN-tah
100 cento CHEN-toh
1,000 mille MEEL-lay
5,000 cinque milla CHEEN-kway MEEL-lah
10,000 dieci milla dee-YAY-chee MEEL-lah


* You can use this formula for all Italian ten-place numbers—so 31 is trent'uno, 32 is trenta due, 33 is trenta tre, etc. Note that—like uno (one), otto (eight) also starts with a vowel—all "-8" numbers are also abbreviated (vent'otto, trent'otto, etc.).

 

More on Trains

A classic train couchette sleeping six (Photo by DB Autozug GmbH)

Sleeping in couchettes on overnight trains

 
 (Photo courtesy of AIGA)
Trains
Florence: Santa Maria Novella

Trains to Florence pull into Stazione Firenze-Santa Maria Novella (don't accidentally get off in suburban stations Firenze-Rifredi or Firenze-Campo di Marte).

 
 (Photo courtesy of AIGA)
Trains
Venice: Cannaregio

How to get to Venice, Italy, by rail—The Venezia-Santa Lucia train station

 
 (Photo courtesy of AIGA)
Trains
Cinque Terre

Trains to the Cinque Terre

 
 (Photo courtesy of AIGA)
Trains
Citadella di Verona

Trains to Verona

 
 (Photo by Andrew)

A cheat-sheet of the most important things to know when riding the Italian rails

 
An .italo train arriving at Napoli Centrale (Photo by Hoff1980)
Trains
Naples: Centro Storico

Trains to Naples

 
Trains
Amalfi Coast

How to get to the Amalfi Coast by train and the Circumvesuviana commuter trail line from Naples

 
Autobus (bus) (Photo icon made by Freepik from www.flaticon.com)
By train
Cinque Terre

How to use the rail system in Cinque Terre

 
Rail travel (Photo by Don Burgess)

Rail travel in Italy

 
Italian ticketing machines in the Venezia-Santa Lucia train station (Photo by Richard, enjoy my life!)

How to get the cheapest fares on Italian trains

 
Explore all of Italy-or all of Europe—with a rail pass (Photo by Akwa)

Unlimited train travel in Italy, or Italy and some neighboring countries, or even all of Europe—Is a Eurail pass worth it?

 
A private .italo high-speed train (Photo by CAPTAIN RAJU)

High-speed trains in Italy—IC, La Frecce, .italo, TGV, Thello, EN, and more

 
Discounts on Italian trains (Photo courtesy of FS)

Young adults, families, seniors, and couples can get 25%–50% off all trains

 
Roma Termini train station (Photo by Ingolf)

Like the trains themselves, Italian train stations tend to be clean and user-friendly—with tourist info, hotel booking service, left luggage lockers or offices, and decent snack bars (in case you forget to pick up train picnic supplies in town)

 
Beware of pickpockets (Photo by Cory Doctorow)

Sleeping on an overnight train is a relatively safe endeavor, but take a few sensible precautions to avoid pickpockets and thieves and sleep more soundly

 
Trains
Downtown Sorrento

How to get to Sorrento by train using the EAV/Circumvesuviana commuter trail line from Naples

 
Trains
Rome: Termini train station

How to get to Rome by train and Rome's Stazione Termini train station

 
Trains
Downtown Salerno

Trains to Salerno

 
Trains
Vietri sul Mare

Trains to Vietri sul Mare

 
The Paestum rail station (Photo by Ubegrænset)
Trains
Paestum

Trains to Paestum

 
Trains
Pompeii

Trains to Pompeii

 
Trains
Ercolano

Trains to Herculaneum

 
Trains
Caserta

Trains to Caserta

 
Trains
Santa Maria Capua Vetere

Trains to Santa Maria Capua Vetere

 
Trains
Ercolano

Trains to Mt. Vesuvius

 
Public transit
Campi Flegrei—The Phlegrean Fields

How to get to the Campi Flegrei by public transportation—The Naples Metro, local trains, and buses

 
 (Photo courtesy of AIGA)
Trains
Downtown Tivoli

Trains to Tivoli

 
 (Photo courtesy of AIGA)
Trains
Lazio lake district

Trains to Lazio lake district

 

How to get to and from the Venice train station and the main cruise port

 
 (Photo courtesy of AIGA)
Trains
Milan: Stazione Centrale

Trains to Milan

 
 (Photo courtesy of AIGA)
Trains
Siena

Trains to Siena

 
 (Photo courtesy of AIGA)
Trains
Pisa: Pisa Outskirts

Pisa is 45–60 min from Florence, 3 hr from Rome; Pisa Centrale station is S of the city center; San Rossore station is in the NW corner, near the Leaning Tower

 
 (Photo courtesy of AIGA)
Trains
San Gimignano

Trains to San Gimignano

 
 (Photo courtesy of AIGA)
Trains
Lake Como

Trains to Lake Como

 
 (Photo courtesy of AIGA)
Trains
Perugia

Trains to Perugia

 
 (Photo courtesy of AIGA)
Trains
Mainland Siracusa

Trains to Siracusa