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Beginner's Guide to Riding the High Speed Trains in Italy

Beginner's Guide to Riding the High Speed Trains in Italy

  After bringing travelers on a small group tour to Italy and riding the high speed trains, the most common comment The Traveling Professor hears is, "why can't trains in the United States be this good?"

Forget flying from one city to another in Italy.  High speed train travel is the only way to go when traveling within Italy:

  • Stations are centrally located in historic city centers
  • Trains are comfortable and quiet
  • Fares are economical
  • There are several classes of fares, from standard to luxury
  • Trains can travel at speeds up to 186 miles per hour
  • All seats are reserved seats
  • Multiple daily departures
  • WiFi is available

There are two fast train operators in Italy:

  • Trenitalia:  this is the state-owned railway company.  The high speed rail is called the Frecciarossa or "red arrow".  Some of the major service lines are as follows:
    • Rome to Naples: 1 hour
    • Rome to Milan: 3 hours
    • Milan to Venice: 3 hours
    • Rome to Florence: 1 hour 40 minutes
    • Florence to Venice: 2 hours 15 minutes
  • .italo:  this is a privately run high speed train rail.  Although service is not as frequent as Trenitalia, it offers service to major cities at competitive fares.  Some classes have superior services.  It is identical in almost all other ways to Trenitalia especially in terms of speed of trains. The Traveling Professor has traveled extensively on both rail companies and recommends both of them.  In fact, The Professor recommends the rail company that offers the schedule most convenient for you. 

Standard seating, business class and first class is offered on most trains.  Fares can be significantly less expensive if purchased on-line and in advance and is highly recommended especially if traveling on Sundays and holidays.  

Tips and things to know for riding the high speed rail in Europe:

  • Check schedules and buy tickets on the app  or website for Trainline.com. 
  • Purchase tickets well in advance.  Prices are least expensive and ensure availability.  It is also possible to find first or business class tickets priced very close to standard seats if purchased far enough in advance.  Also, it is essential to purchase seats in advance on popular travel days (Sundays and holidays).
  • For quick on/off select seats near doors in front of and in back of cars.
  • Baggage storage is available at end of each car, on luggage rack above, or behind seats. 
  • Although food is available on trains, there is nothing wrong with bringing a picnic meal with you.
  • In Rome, the central station is Roma Termini.  In Florence it is Firenze SMN (Santa Maria Novella), in Venice the station for the historic area is Venice SL (San Lucia).  In Milan, the station in the city center is Milano Centrale. 
  • A terrific website for describing train travel in Italy (and the rest of Europe) is The Man in Seat 61.

Here is a tip you won't find anywhere else:  Flights from North America into Milan Malpensa airport (MXP) are some of the least expensive flights to Europe to be found.  Over the years, the average savings per person is about $500 each.  What we often do, even if we are starting a trip in Rome, Venice or Florence is to fly into Milan instead to save the $1000 (for 2 people) on airfare.  We then take the train for about $75 per person to our other destination in Italy.   It works out well since flights from North American into Italy arrive early in the morning, too early to check into our hotel.  So, what's the difference if we enjoy a relaxing train ride from Milan instead of waiting in the hotel lobby for our room while saving a net of about $850? That's a travel tip you won't find anywhere else. 

Join The Traveling Professor on a small group tour to Italy.

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