In a country with an abundance of historical and cultural attractions and picturesque landscapes, booking a Mediterranean cruise from or to an Italian port is an excellent opportunity to extend your vacation and explore other bucket list destinations in Italy.
A cruise combined with train travel is the best way to see it all. Here are our tried and tested tips and advice on how to book train travel in Italy.
Exploring Italy, one train journey at a time
By booking a flight into one city and home from another, you can make the most of seeing as much of Italy as possible in the time you have. This type of flight ticket is called “Open Jaw,” and you may find it is just as cost-effective as booking a ticket to and from the same city.
You can connect to each city in between using the train. Probably the most popular flight combination booked by cruise travelers is a flight into Venice and home from Rome (or vice versa, depending on the starting port of your cruise). Every major city in between can be reached by train. Italy has a well-connected rail network, making it easy to get from one place to another.
The trains are clean, fast and efficient, allowing you to cover long distances quickly. And there are many breathtaking views from a comfortable window seat.
Know your trains – a quick guide
Italy’s different types of train services have unique features and pricing. All suppliers have good options for the storage of luggage onboard.
However, in our experience, such as when we travel between Florence and Rome, the most spacious and comfortable option is the Frecciarossa fast train, ideal when traveling between major cities. And often the price difference between the regional train and the Frecciarossa is not very much.
Regional trains are typically used for shorter journeys between smaller towns and cities. They are a little slower than other trains and make more stops.
They are also relatively inexpensive and run frequently everty day of the week.
We use regional trains for many of our journeys in Italy. For example, Venice island (Venezia S Lucia, located on the Grand Canal) to Ravenna (Stazione di Ravenna in the city center), changing trains in either Ferrara or Bologne.
We also use the regional trains to travel from Florence (Firenze S. M. Novella) to beautiful Monteriggioni in Tuscany. From the train station, we switch to a local bus to travel to Monteriggioni from the train station Castellina In Chianti-Monteriggioni.
And another popular train route is to travel from Milan to Lake Como, arriving at the small village of Varenna, on the edge of lake. From Varenna you can easily connect to the idyllic towns of Bellagio and Menaggio using the local ferry.
Intercity trains travel between major cities and make fewer stops than regional trains. They are faster and more comfortable than regional trains but still relatively inexpensive.
There are good options to explore other towns along the route. A popular intercity route is from Florence to Pisa and onto La Spezia to access the stunning coastal region of Cinque Terre.
Highspeed trains, such as the well-known Frecciarossa and Italo, travel at high speeds between major cities and have fewer stops than intercity trains.
They are more expensive than regional and intercity trains, offering comfortable seats, onboard services, and speed.
The Frecciarossa, operated by Trenitalia, is the fastest train in Italy, connecting major cities such as Rome, Florence, Milan, and Turin.
Italo, operated by NTV, also offers high-speed services. Both have comfortable seating, onboard services, and free wifi. They are top-of-the-line train options and the most expensive option.
Click to search, compare, and book train tickets in Italy and the rest of Europe here.
Major train stations for cruise travelers in Italy
It’s easier than you think to tie together a great trip before or after your cruise. We recommend you book your tickets in advance to secure your seat.
Depending upon where your ship originates or your cruise ends, these are the major train stations you will most likely use in Italy as part of a land and cruise vacation.
- Rome center (Roma Termini)
- Rome airport (Rome-Fiumicino Airport) express train into Roma Termini.
- Naples (Napoli Centrale)
- La Spezia (La Spezia Centrale)
- Pisa (Pisa Centrale)
- Genoa (Genova)
- Florence center (Firenze S. M. Novella)
- Florence airport (Aeroporto di Firenze-Peretola) express tram into the center of Florence.
- Milan center (Milano Centrale)
- Milan airport (Milano Malpensa Airport) express train into central Milan.
- Bologna (Bologna Centrale)
- Venice island (Venezia S. Lucia)
- Venice mainland (Venezia Mestre)
- Trieste (Trieste Centrale & Trieste Airport)
The different types of train tickets in Italy
With several classes of train tickets available, it’s sometimes a little tricky to know what difference it will make to your journey. I will add that I often book the cheapest option when traveling on a shorter route of around 1 to 1.5 hours.
There is not a vast difference between first and second-class travel, but if you are tall or on a longer journey, a bit of extra legroom in first class is always nice.
If you are a family and want a table where you can play a game of cards or have your computer out on your journey, look for a premium-class ticket where you can pre-book seat numbers.
Note that different train classes and types of tickets available may vary depending on the specific route and train operator. Check your options and the price difference when booking.
Regional trains: These trains offer a standard class of service and have a more simplified fare structure. You may not have a lot of choices when booking. However, the cheapest option has worked well in all my years traveling regional trains in Italy.
Intercity trains: Here, you will find standard and premium options. If the price difference is acceptable, go for a higher class offering more room and extra luggage rack space.
High-speed trains: Trenitalia offers several ticket options with different amenities:
- Standard is the most basic, also called second-class. This is a perfectly comfortable seat in an air-conditioned carriage. You’ll have wifi and power sockets.
- The Premium option is also called first-class or comfort. Expect slightly more legroom and a dedicated carriage. Plus the wifi and power sockets.
- Business, Prima, and Executive class tickets offer the above, plus extra legroom, wider seats, and onboard service. Executive classes often provide drinks within the price of the ticket.
8 tips – what to consider before you book your train ticket in Italy
We recommend booking train tickets in advance if you travel during peak season.
Train travel is popular in Italy, with visitors and locals enjoying their holiday too. It can get hectic, especially on high-speed trains.
Best of all, there are often better deals online than purchasing at the train station on the day of travel.
- Consider if you want to book a specific seat number; you may want that window view to see the scenery on your journey. Or, more importantly, be sure that you and your friends and family get seats close to one another.
- Choose the shortest route with as few stops as possible. Journey times can vary widely between different routes.
- Turn up at the train station in good time and find the right platform. You will need time to climb aboard and find space for your luggage on the racks available in each compartment.
- Read the conditions of booking carefully before purchasing your ticket. Sometimes the least expensive option is less flexible, like buying a flight ticket. Travel plans can change, and a flexible ticket will allow you to change the travel time and route or even get a refund if you need to cancel.
- Check you book the correct station for embarkation and disembarkation. For example, are you staying in a hotel on mainland Venice or Venice island? There are two different train stations. Choose the one closest to your hotel.
- Most train tickets can be booked around 40 days before your travel date. So don’t despair if you cannot find a journey for your vacation later on in the year, the schedule most likely is too yet published, and tickets are not bookable. Check back at a later date.
- Validating a paper ticket is necessary before boarding a train in Italy. If you forget, you could be fined. Find the yellow or red ticket validating machines in all train stations and insert your ticket so it is stamped. Most often, but not always, online tickets do not need validation. But you must always have them available to show the onboard conductor. Check the rules of your ticket when you purchase it, so you know what to do.
- Compare prices across various train travel suppliers before you book to ensure you get the best deal. Our favorite price comparison site, which lets you do this quickly and easily is Omio. It allows you seamlessly plan your complete journey.
How and where to book train travel in Italy
There are two leading operators for train tickets in Italy, Trenitalia, and Italo.
When you book online, you can download your digital ticket to your cell phone or print out a hard copy and take it with you.
Choose a flexible ticket, even if it costs a few more euros. If your plans change, you can easily change your ticket online.
Italo is a private train provider in Italy. It operates on the main rail lines connecting major cities such as Rome, Florence, Milan, and Venice.
Italo trains offer a variety of service classes. The company was founded in 2006 and began operations in 2012, becoming Italy’s first privately owned train operator.
Italo’s trains are notable for their distinctive designs, featuring a sleek, modern aesthetic. They are known for their punctuality, speed, and comfort, which makes them an appealing option for travelers in Italy.
Italo’s website for direct bookings is here.
Trenitalia is the primary train operator in Italy. It is a state-owned company that operates regional and long-distance trains throughout the country.
Trenitalia’s services include high-speed trains like the Frecciarossa, Frecciargento, and Frecciabianca, slower regional trains, and international connections to other European countries.
Trenitalia is known for its extensive rail network and is considered one of the most reliable options for traveling in Italy. They are known for their punctuality and excellent connection networks.
Trenitalia’s website for direct bookings is here.
Always compare prices to get the best deal
It is essential to check and compare prices for train travel before you book, just as you do before booking a cruise, flight, or hotel.
Most of us have our favorite price comparison site that we use and trust to get us the best deal. For example, we use booking.com for accommodation and Momondo for flights.
Compare transportation prices to see which supplier offers the best deal. Our favorite price comparison site to quickly search, compare, and book train tickets in Italy is Omio.
- Convenience: Omio allows you to search and compare prices and schedules for multiple train providers in one place, making it easy to find the best option for your trip.
- Time-saving: Omio allows you to book tickets directly on the website, which saves time and hassle booking tickets on multiple websites.
- User-friendly: The website is easy to navigate and provides all the necessary information about your ticket.
- Multiple currency options: Prices and payments can be made in your currency.
- Language support: Omio’s website is available in multiple languages, making it easy for non-Italian speakers to book train travel.
- Customer support: You can create an account free of charge and sign up for news and reminders. It’s easy to manage your bookings on the website, and customer support quickly answers any queries.
- Reviews and ratings: Omio provides reviews and ratings for different trains and providers, which can help you make an informed decision about your purchase.
Click to search, compare, and book train tickets in Italy and the rest of Europe using Omio.