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Riding Rails: Should you Travel Italy By Train? Absolutely Yes!

Updated: Feb 27

Negroni at Mercato Centrale in Roma Termini

We have tried a few different ways of experiencing Italy. We had done a tour bus once and didn’t care for it, because we spent more time bussing than exploring. We also flew from city-to-city Florence, Venice and the like. Although the Italian airports are fine, the process of and commitment of getting to and from seemed like a waste of time and it was nerve racking keeping our fingers crossed that the flights would be on time. We’ve consumed a lot of Campari and Aperol in due course.

Finally, this time around we settled on using Italy’s high speed train system. Here is our itinerary.

We flew into Rome (coming from San Diego direct options are limited so our choices were Los Angeles or Fly to Dallas, we chose Dallas). From Rome we took the train to Modena, Venice and Florence.

Overall, the process to book and take our trip via the high-speed rail was simple. We looked at the train schedule and selected our seats and purchased our tickets in advance. It was easy to get to the train stations, and navigate the stations. The trains were generally on time – no more than 10-15 minute delays. There was zero hassle getting our luggage onto the train, as there were no limits to liquids or strict enforcement of luggage weight and size. Once our train arrived and the track was announced, we scanned our tickets at the gates and boarded the appropriate train car and took our seats.

Coordinating Train Times, Buying Tickets and Picking Seats was easy.

We booked our tickets several months in advance and printed copies of the tickets as well as stored electronic copies on our phones. Our train times depended on excursions, hotel check out times, meal reservations or ticket times for art exhibits. (i.e. wanting to get to Pompei before 9AM) We recommend booking all of your tickets in advance. If you’re skittish about timing, you can book a refundable fare or one that permits changes.

The waiting area/tracks at Firenze Santa Maria Novella

Managing your Tickets:

Managing your tickets are simple, download the Trenitalia app available here (apple) and here (android). Then you can easily buy tickets on the fly, as well as modify your tickets in case you are running late. We opted for the ticket upgrades to ride in business class so that our group could sit together either in a face-to-face setting or a 2 by 2.

Unfortunately, if you’re particular about the direction you face while in motion, there isn’t a great way to determine whether your seat will face the appropriate direction. We were traveling as a group of four, so we picked two seats facing either direction to give us flexibility.

Getting to the train stations

Getting to Roma Termini Station was easy from Rome Fiumicino Leonardo da Vinci International Airport which is a very modern and easy to navigate airport. Upon we landing, our plan was simple, follow the signs to the express train to Roma Termini (there are plenty of signs for it after you leave the secure area of the airport). It goes about every 20 minutes and is less than 15 euros per person. It takes about 30 minutes to get to Termini station, which is the main hub. It is easy to buy tickets right then and there. 

In Florence we stayed at an Airbnb 20 minutes away from the train station, so we walked. And because we travel with just hand luggage it was a quick walk.

In Venice we arranged a water taxi to take us to and from the train station to our hotel, this cost 50 Euros each way for a total of 100 Euros. This was worth the splurge because it’s Venice, and walking up and down stairs with luggage is not a fun way to start a trip’s leg.  

In Modena we took a cab to the hotel which cost us 30 Euros each way for four passengers.


Florence Train Station at Rush Hour

Navigating each train station.

Each train station is easy to navigate. The busiest stations were Rome and Florence. The trains in Italy are interesting because to Rome, Florence, and Venice (I’m sure there are others where they do this) the train terminates at the station and then it runs backwards to get to its next destination.


Overall impressions

If you’re coming from the United States like we are, it’s a foreign concept to ride trains places because our train services are unreliable (sorry Amtrak and Metrolink). The trains in Italy (and Europe as well as Asia – particularly Japan) are excellent. They are comfortable, quiet, and reliable. The trains in Italy are as we said, generally on time. On the Frecce trains (these are the fastest trains run by Trenitalia) if you’re between 30 and 49 minutes late to your destination you’re eligible for a 25% credit which can be used on a new train booking within 12 months. If your Frecce, intercity and sleeper “Notte” trains are over 59 minutes late you’re eligible for 25% of your ticket or if your train is really late meaning you’re over 2 hours delayed, you are eligible for 50% of the ticket price. These can be used on a new ticket or refunded in cash or credit card – depending on how you paid for the original ticket.

So are you ready to book your next Italian adventure by train? Here is our complete itinerary and link below to resources we found helpful in our planning and execution of this trip.

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