Italy is extremely well connected by its railway system, so there is truly no reason why any traveler would go through the hassle of renting a car and dealing with the inevitable migraine-inducing traffic jams, poor street signs, and scarce parking. Unfortunately there are still areas, especially in the mountains and countryside, where trains cannot get to. Still, trains should be the first option for independent travelers, especially when connecting between major city centers. To make sure you choose the right type of train to reach your destination, review the following guidelines and you'll be on your way to an easy and stress-free ride.
TYPES OF TRAINS:
EUROSTAR also called by the names Frecciarossa, Frecciargento, and Freccia Bianca.
Intercity/Eurocity (also marked as IC and EC) – These trains stop in all the major cities, but not every single town - it's a less expensive, slower, and less fancy option than the Eurostar.
Espresso (E), Diretto (D), Regionale (R), and Interregionale (IR) – These trains make ALL the stops, will get you to the small towns and big towns. The slowest, but these trains are also the cheapest. They are more similar to a light-rail type of transportation for commuters and students.
IMPORTANT: If you purchase a ticket on trains OTHER than the Eurostar, you MUST stamp your ticket prior to getting on the train in one of the YELLOW machines within the train station. Don't forget as failing to do this will ensure an expensive penalty by the onboard ticket agent! Purchasing a ticket for the Eurostar includes a reservation and assigned seat, while seats on other trains are on a first-come first-served basis.
PURCHASING YOUR TRAIN TICKETS:
- STEP 1: Know your train station names.
- STEP 2: Choose your train and purchase your ticket.
When you purchase your Eurostar ticket, you’ll have a reservation for a specific train as well as assigned seats. If you don’t have access to a printer, you can simply take note of the TRAIN NUMBER (marked as Treno ES Italia AV + the number), the Departure Time, the Coach (or Carrozza in Italian), the Seat Number (or Posti in Italian), and the PNR or Ticket Code.
To check train schedules and purchase your tickets ahead of time: <http://trenitalia.com/homepage_en.html>
- STEP 3: Get on the right train!
PAY ATTENTION! When you are looking for your train, be sure to look at the electronic timetable (PARTENZE – departures) and search for the train number and the time it is scheduled to leave. DO NOT LOOK AT THE DESTINATION! The destination indicated on the timetable for a certain train may NOT necessarily match your final destination. Your train may be directed to Naples, but your destination may be a stop along the way, like Rome. So make sure to get on the right train! Also, you will need to look for the correct binario (BIN) which is the track where the train is stationed. Then, look at your ticket and look for the number next to the word CARROZZA (that is the train car number you want to board). Next, you want to look for your seat number, marked on the ticket after the word POSTI.
A word of caution: Train stations are usually crowded, so watch your belongings as there can be pick-pockets and pan-handlers.