With a little effort and research, visitors to Italy can uncover the cheapest fares between major Italian cities. Rail passes such as the Eurail pass or the the Italy rail pass are usually a waste of money for travelers with flexible travel times and dates.
Trenitalia- Website for Train Travel in Italy
Before buying a ticket, or even if considering whether a Eurail pass is a better deal than point-to-point ticket purchases, the Trenitalia website should be the first stop for information. Go to the website, make sure it is English and enter the details for your desired travel. The website then shows you a list of train times, types of trains and fares for the chosen destination. Write down the times and fares for comparison.
Also, make sure you know the Italian names for cities, i.e. Roma = Rome, Napoli = Naples. Also check the details of the ticket to see if you have to change trains at any of the stops.
Finding the Cheapest Train Fare in Italy
Having fares and times written down helps compare different times, dates, and routes for the cheapest option. Try different combinations of cities to find the cheapest fare. For example, often a train route from Naples to Rome to Florence is cheaper than the direct route of Naples to Florence. Usually ,there is one or two fares that are about half the price of the rest of the departure times in a given time period. This is because the train companies charge more for last minute tickets on more full trains.
Important tip: If you buy a cheap fare for a given destination without a seat reservation, you can usually use the ticket for a different train departure time, as long as the ticket is validated within the specific date range printed on the top of the ticket. Check with a customer service representative at the train station, but buying tickets without a seat reservation can often be a lifesaver if you miss your train, or as a way to get onto a preferred train without having to pay the higher fare.
The cheapest fares are usually the slowest trains, however, time is a small sacrifice for the world traveler looking to save money while traveling in Italy. The Regionale train is often the cheapest, slowest train, however some of the higher class trains such as the Rapido or the Eurostar occasionally have discounted fares on their less popular routes. The Trenitalia website lists all types of trains for your comparison.
Buying a Train Ticket in Italy- Train Station Only
While the Trenitalia website has the option of buying tickets online, the majority of world travelers do not have luck with this process. For some reason, Trenitalia utilizes difficult security measures for their website, which makes it nearly impossible to buy a ticket with a foreign credit card. Thus the main options for buying a train ticket in Italy are all at the train station.
Visitors can buy train tickets from the ticket office in the train station. The workers are knowledgeable, usually know some English, and will find the cheapest fare for you if you are willing to stand in a long line. If you have a list of the cheapest times and know exactly your destination, consider buying from a self-service ticket machine. Enter in your destination and departure time, push Base fare, and voila! Your ticket is printed. Most of the machines accept credit cards or Euros.
Useful Tips for a Train Station in Italy
Knowing a few key words before you get to the train station helps make the ticket buying process go more smoothly.
- biglietto = ticket
- partenza = departure
- arrivo = arrival
- treno = train
- binario = train track
Remember to always validate your ticket at a yellow validation machine before boarding. Allow at least a half hour before your train departs to allow yourself enough time to find the train departure track and to get a good seat and stow your luggage. Some trains have food carts, however, some do not, so come with a snack for long trip.
Important: Make sure you know the name of train station for your arrival. Many Italian cities have several train stations with similar names, i.e. Firenze, Firenze Santa Maria. Double check that you know which stop is yours before getting off the train.
With a little preparation, traveling Italy becomes less expensive. Visiting ancient Romans ruins, the southern Italy coast, historic art museums in Florence and the canals in Venice is certainly within grasp for the knowledgeable, flexible cheap traveler.