12 Tips for Train Travel in Italy – From a Local

I moved to Italy at the age of 29 to have my Italian citizenship recognized and to have a new experience (background story here). I set a goal to travel to all 20 regions of Italy, a goal I’m proud to have achieved. Since moving to Italy, I’ve taken over 100 train trips around the country, amounting to over 16,000 miles (26,000 km), one thing I learned is that I absolutely love train travel. I gushed about it and gave an overview of Italian train travel, including a cost comparison with car travel here.

seats on modern Trenitalia Regional train

Here’s some things I’ve made note of while riding on trains in Italy that I want to share with you.

For a more detailed look at Italy train travel including the different types of trains, where to buy tickets, and more, check out this article.

Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links. If you use these links to buy something I may receive a commission. I will only recommend products and services that I would [or currently use] myself.

1. Buy tickets with an app. Forget about the machines.

I suggest people going on vacation use Trainline because it puts everything in your language and aggregates the train options for the main train companies (Trenitalia and Italo). If you will be in Italy long term, it’s worth instead using the apps to buy tickets direct (Trenitalia and Italo). The machines are only good when a) your phone is dead and b) it’s within 5 minutes of the train departing and the app won’t let you buy the ticket.

2. You probably don’t need to upgrade your tickets  

If it’s a regional train (Trenitalia Regionale), then upgrading to first class will get you a table at your seat, and that’s about it. 

Image showing seat and table space on Trenitalia Frecciarossa train

If it’s a high speed train (Trenitalia Freccia line) or Italo, then upgrading your seats will get you either an included snack, leather reclining seats, or some combination of the two. I never upgrade, and think the basic seats are plenty comfortable. Everyone has access to the train car with the bar and the same amount of luggage space. 

picture of bar/cafe on Trenitalia high speed train
The bars on high speed Trenitalia trains are a good place to stretch your legs and have an espresso. The mobile dolce vita.

3. For larger stations, give yourself more time.

For big stations in major cities like Roma Termini, Roma Tiburtina, Bologna Centrale, Milano Centrale, Napoli Centrale, Firenze Santa Maria Novella, etc. give yourself extra time for the platforms. They often are so big that they have separate sections of train platforms (like platform 21 EST or 21 east), that take an extra 5 minutes to get to. In the case of Bologna, your train could be downstairs.

If you’re planning a trip to Italy and want recommendations based on my experience, check out the articles here.

4. Keep the seat next to you open

For trains without assigned seating, leave the seat next to you clear when the train is moderately full. In 2023 when most of our communication is digital and we’re afraid of interacting with humans, I can’t tell you how often I see people on a nearly-full train selfishly put something in the seat next to them. 

interior view of old-style Trenitalia regional train
Old-style Trenitalia regional train. Plenty of space for luggage on the top racks.

If you are the one looking for a seat and someone has an open seat next to them, it’s customary to ask “posso?” (“can I?” in Italian) before sitting down.

5. Check the bathroom water

When using the bathroom, make sure the sink water works before putting soap on your hands. On regional trains, the water works about 60% of the time. 

view of a Trenitalia Regionale bathroom
The Trenitalia Regionale bathrooms are the most basic of basic.

6. Lend a helping hand

Help people get their bags on and off the train if they look like the could use help. Men, women, young, old. The delta between the train floor and the platform can be up to a meter. You go down first, turn around, and grab the other person’s big suitcase for them (ask first). It will be appreciated. 

7. Let people off before you get on

This is mainly targeted at Italians, many of whom don’t understand this concept, but it will be easier for all of us if you let us off the train before you force yourself on. 

Planning a trip to Florence? Check out my Florence Recommendations!




8. Double check the train platform number

I rely pretty heavily on the apps to tell me the train status and platform number. They are usually accurate, but if there’s a last minute change, it will show first on the digital board at the station, and the app information may take longer to update. 

picture of train platforms at Roma Tiburtina train station
Platform 4 or 5? Check the app – but also the digital board at the station

9. Watch for train strikes

If there is a train strike (“sciopero” in Italian), it will be on a Monday or a Friday. By law, train companies are required to operate guaranteed minimum transport lines during commuter hours (6 am to 9am, and 6pm to 9pm Monday through Saturday). Strikes are announced in advance, and your ticket app will let you know if there will be disrupted service the day of travel. If this happens, I suggest looking at backup options via bus (Google Maps is your friend here), or FlixBus

Planning a trip to Italy? Check out my resources page to see all the sites I recommend for booking trains, rooms, tours, and more.

10. Plan late trains the smart way

If making a day trip somewhere where it would be a severe disruption if you got stuck, plan on taking the second-to-last train back, not the last train back. That way in case you miss it, you still have the last train.

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11. Buy tickets in advance, but only sometimes

It depends – as a tourist on vacation, probably. The two train companies that most tourists will deal with in Italy are Trenitalia and Italo. Italo is only high-speed trains. Trenitalia has high speed (the Freccia lines like Frecciarossa, Frecciabianca, etc), Intercity, and Regionale.

For normal/standard regional trains (Trenitalia Regionale), you do not need to buy far in advance. Though if I know my plan, I’ll usually buy them the day before. The prices for Trenitalia Regionale (regional) trains will not increase closer to departure date, and they rarely sell out (however during peak season it’s possible).

Trenitalia Passenger Train - Train travel in italy

For high speed trains (Italo or Trenitalia Freccia lines) and Intercity trains, you should buy tickets in advance if you know your travel dates. For example, if you know you’re going from Rome to Florence in 3 weeks on a specific day, go ahead and buy the tickets here. Tickets can sell out, and the prices will increase closer to the departure date. Note that tickets are usually released a few months in advance. If you’re trip isn’t for another 6 months, check back in about 3 months. 

12. Have some 1€ coins with you

Most train station bathrooms are not free. If you don’t have coins, you can hold it for the train. High speed train bathrooms are pretty clean. Regional train bathrooms are hit or miss.

That’s All for Now

I sincerely hope you’ve enjoyed or got value out of reading this. Please check out some of my other content like some of my recommendations pages. Additionally, if you’re planning a trip to Italy and need one-on-one support or guidance, check out my services page where you can get in touch with me.

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