The European Union is crisscrossed with a modern, high speed rail service that provides a genuine alternative to air travel for millions of people on the continent (and for tourists and expats). Travelling internationally from Italy by train is extremely convenient and will allow you to appreciate the stunning countryside while relaxing, without having to worry about waiting for flights in airport lounges or navigating the continent by car.
I have written a few articles on train travel within Italy. One of the article focuses on the different types of Italian trains, buying tickets for domestic travel and getting to and from the airport. The other article focuses on the different reasons for taking a train in Italy and the types of train fares.
How Do You Travel To The Rest Of Europe From Italy?
Italy is one of Europe’s favorite holiday destinations and with tens of millions of tourists visiting each year it should come as no surprise that it’s international travel links are excellent.
While you can, of course, travel to or from Italy by plane with ease, the rail network on the European continent is second to none. Travelling by train is a far more common option than in many other parts of the world, including the United States. In Europe, many people rely on the rail network to commute to work but they also frequently travel by train to go on holiday, visit relatives and even for a day trip to go shopping in a nearby city.
There’s other good reasons why people tend to use trains more in Europe than in other parts of the world. One of the main reasons, something which you’ll quickly notice when you visit the continent, is that the ancient city centers were not designed with cars in mind!
This means that most city centers are full of small, winding roads and in general, there’s very poor parking facilities. Therefore, many people prefer to rely on the public transport network to get around instead of using a car and then having to spend an hour trying to find an overpriced parking spot in the city center!
Another factor to consider is that many car rental companies don’t allow you to travel across borders without paying extra insurance fees; something which can be prohibitive if you’re on a budget.
Travelling by train is the easiest, cheapest and most convenient way to get around the European continent and the new fleet of super high speed trains means that you’ll get to your destination in no time at all.
Travelling From Italy By Train – The Benefits.
- High speed, modern trains.
- Saves you worrying about parking or navigating around European city centers.
- Relaxing and enjoyable with excellent on board facilities including toilets, Wifi and restaurant carriages.
- Take in the scenery while you travel; seeing the continent from ground level lets you get a real sense of place as you travel to your destination.
- Overnight trains mean you can sleep while you’re on board so you can step off at your destination feeling refreshed and ready to go.
Which Italian Cities Should You Use For Travelling From Italy?
You can catch a train from anywhere in Italy to the neighboring countries, even if you have to make a few changes on the way. However, the main transport hubs in Italy include:
- Roma Termini in Rome.
- Milano Centrale Station in Milan.
- Firenze Santa Maria Novella (SMN) in Florence.
- Torino Porta Nuova in Turin.
- Bologna Centrale in Bologna.
- Napoli Centrale in Naples.
- Venezia Mestre in Venice.
What Is Eurail And Interrail Pass?
When you’re travelling by train from Italy you can make some excellent savings on long international trips by using a Eurail or Interrail Pass. You are eligible for a Eurail pass if you are a citizen of the European Union however if you are a foreigner then you can purchase an Interrail Pass instead. Both passes allow you to take advantage of significant savings which can really add up on long journeys or if you are a frequent traveller.
The Interrail Pass is a great option for visitors from overseas and gives you unlimited travel within Italy or else across most of Europe with the ‘Global Pass’ option, depending on what you choose.
Should You Validate Your Tickets?
When you’re travelling in Italy you need to validate your tickets. Validating your ticket means that it has to be validated either at the ticket office in the station or at one of the ticket validation machines before you board the train.
It’s important to remember that the train conductor cannot validate the ticket once you are on the train and, in some cases, may even fine you up to 200 Euros for not having validated your ticket already!
However, if you have bought an Electronic ticket, also known as an ‘E-ticket’, you don’t need to validate it before boarding the train.
NOTE: Once my friends and I booked a train ticket online from Bologna to Salzburg (Austria). There were two segments, Bologna to Innsbruck and Innsbruck to Salzburg. We thought the tickets we purchased were pre-validated but it was not. We ended up standing from Bologna to Salzburg, almost 8 hours of travel. The trains were packed and we found it difficult even to find places to stand!!
The Best Websites For Purchasing Italian Train Tickets.
Buying a ticket online is the easiest way to prepare for your journey and will save you having to queue in the station while giving you the possibility of making some excellent savings.
There are several ways that you can book your ticket online. It’s worth keeping in mind that for the vast majority of long distance and high speed trains in Italy the booking for seats only opens 120 days before the departure date.
ItaliaRail is an excellent online platform where you can easily purchase tickets for travelling from Italy to anywhere else in Europe. You can use all major currencies to buy your ticket including US dollars, British pounds, Australian dollars and, of course, Euros.
ItaliaRail offers tickets at the same cost, or lower, than Trenitalia’s website and because the site is in English it’s much easier to navigate than other local alternatives. You can also use the standard English place names when you’re booking your tickets; such as ‘Florence’ or ‘Venice’. Using ItaliaRail lets you book tickets for up to 20 people at a single time which is a superior service to Trenitalia that only allows you to book 5 tickets at a time.
Using the ItaliaRail site you can select your seat from those which are still available; including a table if you’re travelling as a family or group.
Another helpful site that you can use to purchase your train tickets is Rail Europe. The website allows you to buy European train tickets, including tickets from Italy to elsewhere on the continent and given that it’s published in English it’s easy for Expats and tourists to use.
The Rail Europe website site is connected with the rail networks of France, Germany, Spain and Britain so you can also book your connections in other countries ahead of time.
The Trainline website is connected to the Italian Trenitalia network and allows you to buy your tickets from it’s English language site. The site also links up with other European countries’ rail networks so you can book your tickets across most of Western Europe using their services.
Trenitalia is Italy’s main train operating company and is owned by the government. It was founded in 2000 after an EU directive which required the train network to be deregulated in Italy. You can use the company website to purchase your train tickets within Italy and elsewhere in Europe however unlike it’s English language competitors you will need to use the correct Italian names for towns and cities.
The site is fairly easy to use as long as you translate it into English by pressing the option at the top of the page you’ll find it easy to book your tickets in advance.
Travelling With Luggage On Italian Trains.
If you’re travelling from Italy to elsewhere in Europe you’re more than likely to have some luggage with you but fortunately, this is no problem when you’re going by train.
There are no extra fees or limits to the amount of luggage that you can take onto the train when travelling internationally from Italy. Essentially, if you can carry your luggage you can take it onto the train.
It surprises many visitors to Europe but unlike the airplanes, there is no need to book your luggage onto the train; it’s simply a matter of taking it on board with you! Once on the train you can store your luggage under your seat or in one of the many luggage racks on board. There are small racks overhead, above the seats, and larger racks at the end of each carriage. Your luggage should be very safe on the train although if you’re worried about theft then you should try to store it somewhere that you can keep an eye on it during the journey.
You can also store your luggage in most major train stations if it’s more convenient for your travel plans. Large stations, including Rome Termini, Venice Santa Lucia, Milan Centrale and Florence SMN, among others, either have staffed storage facilities or private lockers where you can store your things. There will always be a fee for storing your luggage but the prices tend to be very reasonable.
Are There Sleeper Trains For Long Train Trips?
If you’re travelling a long distance it’s often a good idea to take an overnight sleeper train. This allows you to rest and sleep before you arrive at your destination; with breakfast often being served on board in the morning.
Not only is taking an overnight sleeper train more efficient in terms of time management but it will also save you money on hotel bills while you’re travelling. Italian overnight sleeper trains have several different types of couchettes and compartments to choose from, which include:
4 Berth Comfort Couchette.
A perfect option to travel in style for long overnight train journeys, the 4 berth comfort couchette is an air conditioned compartment with two lower bunks and two upper bunks. Within your compartment there are clean sheets and pillows provided so you can get a good night’s sleep during your journey.
The compartments are ideal for a family of four but if you’re planning to book 1-3 tickets then you can share the compartment with other travellers. For women travelling alone they can book a bunk in an all female compartment as well.
1,2 or 3 Berth Sleeper Compartments.
You can also book a compartment on the overnight trains which can accommodate 1, 2 or 3 fold out beds, known as ‘1st Class Singles, 1st Class Doubles’ or ‘2nd Tourist Class’. These compartments have a private sink and premade beds that can also be folded up to convert into a sitting area with a coffee table for your meals. The compartments have an attendant who serves refreshments, snacks and breakfast for the travellers on board. You are also provided with a small wash kit, including toothbrushes, toothpaste, soap, cotton pads and wet wipes for your convenience.
The berths on board night trains must be purchased individually, so you can either book your own private compartment or share it with another traveller of the same gender, known as a ‘Posto Doppio’.
1 and 2 Berth Luxury Deluxe ‘Excelsior’ Compartments.
These luxury compartments have their own private toilet and shower facilities although they are usually only available on the Rome to Sicily overnight train. It’s not easy to book a place in these compartments but if you get the opportunity to then it’s certainly worth it to travel in style!
Travelling Internationally By Train To And From Italy.
Travelling by train from Italy to other parts of the European Union is a fantastic way to see the beauty of the scenery while relaxing, enjoying drinks, snacks and meals as well as having access to onboard toilets, Wi-Fi and other amenities.
There’s no limit to the amount of luggage that you can take on the train with you, provided you can carry it, and so taking the train is a great alternative to flying by plane from country to country within the EU. You can also get some good discounts on the trains if you book in advance or by making use of the Interrail or Eurail Pass, depending on your nationality.
Travelling by train is much more a way of life in Europe, and indeed Italy, than it is in many other parts of the world, including the USA. The train networks on the European continent are extremely well maintained with superb coverage and very reasonable prices.