True Overview of Trains in Italy

Overview of Trains in Italy

Italian Trains
Welcome to our guide to travelling by train in Italy and on the international trains from and to Italy, it explains the differences between the types of train service - and includes insights into what you can expect on board.

Click the questions below to jump to the info you want or need to know.

OR grab a coffee and discover all you'll need to make your Italian train travel experience to be as fabulous as possible!

ITALIAN TRAINS:
 

Are all trains in Italy operated by Trenitalia?

What is an AV train?

What do I need to know about train numbers?

What are the different train services operated by Trenitalia?

What are the differences between the 'FRECCE' services operated by Trenitalia?

What are the key things worth knowing about Italo trains?

What type of AV train should I choose to travel by?


What is good to know about Italian Intercity (IC) trains?

What about seat reservations (whether you don't OR do have a rail pass)?

What is good to know about Regionale Veloce and Regionale train services?

Are there overnight trains in Italy?


INTERNATIONAL TRAINS FROM and TO ITALY:

Which international DAYTIME express train services operate from/to Italy?

Which international OVERNIGHT train services operate from/to Italy?

Why can it be easier to travel TO Italy by train than from Italy?


ITALIAN TRAINS:

The word that best sums up Italian trains is ‘varied’ – at one end of the spectrum are the majestic Frecciarossa 1000 trains, which are near the top of any best trains in the world list.

While at the other are trains that look as though they have escaped from a scrap yard.

But for us that contributes to the charms of Italian train travel stray away from the high speed lines and for the moment, you won’t be sure of the train travel experience that awaits you.

That’s because Italian trains are being rapidly modernised right across the country – the relics are being replaced by state of the art trains, while others are being updated.

Are all trains in Italy operated by Trenitalia?

Not all trains in Italy are operated by Italy's national rail operator, Trenitalia,.

The main exceptions are;

(i) Trains between Napoli/Naples and Sorrento.

(ii)The majority of local/regional trains in northern Italy particularly to/from Milano -  these trains are operated by Trenord.
(Eurail and InterRail passes are accepted on Trenord's trains)

(iii) The majority of local trains in south east Italy including those from/to Bari and Lecce.

(iv) Journeys by Italo AV high speed trains - these trains offer alternative services to Trenitalia's AV Frecce services on Italy's high speed lines.

Back to the questions.

What is an AV train?

AV = 'Alta Velocita' - the English translation of which is 'high speed'.

So AV trains are the trains which use the Italian high speed lines.

Note that the AV trains which use the high speed lines are operated by Trenitalia = Frecce trains AND by NTV = Italo trains.

However Frecciabianca trains, which rarely venture on to high speed lines, are also classified as AV trains by Trenitalia.

Back to the questions.

What do I need to know about train numbers?

In Italy each individual specific train departure is given a train number - on tickets you will see 'TRENO' followed by a 4-digit number.

It is different from the numbers used for the departure and arrival times.

You can use this 4-digit number to help find your train at a station

Not all departure screens at stations will show every station that a train will be calling at.

But if you match the train number - the 'Treno' number on your ticket to the Train/Treno number on the departure screens, you can be confident that you will be boarding the correct train.

More info about using the departure screens to find your train is available on our Using Italian Train Stations GUIDE.

Back to the questions.

What are the different train services operated by Trenitalia?

Trenitalia operates four different types of train services

(1) Frecce = AV trains.

Trenitalia uses four types of ‘Frecce’ branding for its AV trains - see below.

(ii) Intercity (IC) = non high speed express trains

(iii) Regionale Veloce (RGV/RV) = semi-fast trains that link larger towns and cities - particularly north of Rome.

(iv) Regionale (REG/RG) trains = local/stopping trains

Some RGV/REG trains aren't operated by Trenitalia - particularly in the Milan/Lombardy area, where Trenord is the main operator.

The Abbreviations:

Note the use of abbreviations, as they are used on many of the departure screens at stations, so can be a big help in finding your train.

On the departure screens, the abbreviations precede the TRENO* number, which will also be printed on your ticket. (*Treno = train).

So if you see AV on a departure screen it will be indicating a Trenitalia Frecce train OR an Italo train, while IC always indicates an Intercity train.

Both RGV and RV can indicate a Regionale Veloce service, while both REG and RG indicate Regionale trains.

If you are about to make a journey by Regionale train and there is also an RGV or RV train on the departure board heading to you destination - take that train.

It will be a Regionale Veloce train, so will likely reach your destination quicker and your Regionale tickets will also be valid for the faster train.

Back to the questions.


What are the differences between the 'FRECCE' services operated by Trenitalia?
 

There are four types of ‘Frecce’ (AV) trains operated by Trenitalia

(1) Frecciarossa 1000
Frecciarossa 1000 train

Newly introduced and rather fabulous trains that tend to operate the fastest services of all on the main Torino -  Milano - Bologna - Firenze - Roma - Napoli - Salerno high speed line.

So if you take one of the non-stop services between Milano and Roma, it's likely that you will be travelling on a Frecciarossa 1000 train.

They're also used on some of the trains between Roma/Napoli and Venezia, but NOT on the Milano -Venezia/Venice route.

Two Frecciarossa 100 trains can be joined together on some departures to make a train an exceptionally long train of 16 coaches/cars.

Note that 'Frecciarossa 1000' and 'Frecciarossa' are different trains.

(2) Frecciarossa
A frecciarossa train


These trains operate some services on the Torino - Salerno high speed line, mainly the slower Trenitalia high speed services that call at both Bologna Centrale AND Firenze S.M.Novella.

In addition to the services on the Torino – Salerno high speed line, Frecciarossa trains now also operate on these routes;

(i) Trieste - Venezia – Padova - Vicenza - Verona - Brescia - Milano - Torino
They have replaced the Frecciabianca trains on this route

(ii) Venezia – Bologna – Firenze – Roma - Napoli

(iii) Milano – Bologna – Rimini – Ancona – Bari – Lecce.
1 x train per day on this route

(3)  Frecciargento
A Frecciargento train


These are trains that use the high speed lines for a part of the journey only.

As a result the Frecciargento trains provide some of the services on the (Trieste) - Venezia – Padova - Bologna – Firenze – Roma route.

They’re also the fastest trains on these routes:
(i) Rome/Roma – Verona – Trento – Bolzano
(ii) Rome/Roma – Bari
(iii) Rome/Roma – Napoli - Reggio di Calabria.

(4) Frecciabianca

These are trains that rarerly use the speed lines at all, but are faster than IC trains


There are two main types of Frecciabianca train.

(1) Frecciabianca trains that tilt so that they can take corners in the track at higher speeds:
A tilting Frecciabianca train

The tilting trains (pictured above) are used on these routes:

(i)  Roma - Livorno - Pisa - Genova - Milano/Torino route - they're the fastest trains on this route.

(ii) They also operate on the Rome/Roma – Napoli - Reggio di Calabria route.

(2) Non-tilting trains:
A Frecciabianca train
The non-tilting Frecciabianca trains are now mainly found on the Bologna – Rimini – Ancona – Pescara – Bari – Lecce route.

They aloso travel beyond Bologna to and from Milano, Torino and Venezia/Venice to provide direct trains between these cities and Lecce and Bari.

Common features of all Frecce trains:

(i) Wi-Fi is available - but it can be unreliable.

(ii) No restaurant cars/coaches are available - instead the trains have bar counters which serve drinks, snacks and hot/cold light meals.

These bar counters can be a tad disappointing - we strongly recommend taking food on board with you for longer journeys.

(iii) Complimentary drinks and snacks are served in 1st class.

(iv) All seats are reserved, so what ISN'T indicated on the trains is between which stations a seat is reserved for.

When boarding, if you want to change seats ask the conductor first - don't assume that a spare seat will be available for your entire journey.

If you prefer to face forwards, note that all trains reverse direction when they call at these stations -  Firenze S.M.N., Milano Centrale, Napoli Centrale, Roma Termini and Venezia S. Lucia.

Travelling 1st class on Frecciarossa 1000 and Frecciarossa trains:
 

Unlike Frecciargento and Frecciabianca trains, both of these trains offer three levels of 1st class service, namely
 

(1) EXEUCUTIVE – lounges on the train that are akin to 1st class on airlines
 

(2) BUSINESS – more typical of the 1st class ambience on non-Italian high speed trains.

If you have a 1st class Eurail or InterRail pass and purchase a reservation to travel on a Frecciarossa 1000 or Frecciariossa train - this is where your seat(s) will be located.

For longer journeys this can be worth every cent of the €15 reservation fee/supplement!
 

(3) PREMIUM – more comfortable than standard class, more leg room and smarter seats, but less spacious than typical European 1st class coaches.

Back to the questions.

What are the key things worth knowing about Italo trains?
Italo trains

Italo high speed trains also operate on many routes taken by Frecce trains.

They are operated by NTV and not by Trenitalia, so rail passes CANNOT be used on Italo services.

They share stations with Trenitalia’s AV trains but have their own ticket desks, ticket machines and lounges.

Trenitalia branded ticket counters and machines don’t sell tickets for Italo trains.


However, if you look up Italian train times and tickets on Trainline or Loco2, you can make a direct comparison between the prices and departure times of the Frecce and Italo trains.

First/1st class on Italo trains.

Similar to Trenitalia's AV 'Frecce' trains, Italo trains have four classes of service, but according to Italo's website it doesn't offer classes of services -  instead it offers 'on board ambiences'

(1) 'SMART' is the equivalent of 2nd class (Standard class on Trenitalia's AV 'Frecce' trains).

(2) 'COMFORT' is Italo's most basic superior service - seats are wider than those in Smart Class 

It compares favourably to the intermediate 'Premium' Class on Trenitalia's Frecciarossa and Freciarossa 100' trains.

The seating is 2 x 1 in Comfort class on Italo, compared to 2 x 2 in 'Premium class on the Frecce trains.

(3) PRIMA has power sockets, superior seats to Comfort - and complimentary drinks and snacks are provided. 

Trenitalia has evidently risen to the challenge of the Italo trains - the Business Class on its new Frecciarossa 1000 trains is in a different league to the Prima class on these Italo trains.

(4) 'EXECUTIVE CLUB' - comparable to club class on airlines and 'Executive class Frecciarossa and Freciarossa 100' trains.

The seats are superior to those in Prima class and the seating saloon is much more spacious.

Some seats are arranged into lounges - so up to 4 people can have business meetings on the move.

Back to the questions.

What type of AV train should I choose to travel by?

If ticket price is a factor then look up journeys on Trainline or Loco2 - Trenitlia's Frecce trains can be more easily compared with Italo services on these two booking sites.

Frecce or Italo:

If you will be travelling 2nd class the differences btween the two services are more minimal - particularly when the choice is between a between a Frecciargento train and an Italo train

Though in our humble opinion the differences are more noticeable when travelling in the equivalent of 'first class'.

Business class on a Frecciarossa 1000 or Frecciarossa train is more spacious than Prima class on Italo trains.

Freccirarossa 1000 or Frecciarossa or Frecciargento.
 

When booking tickets online on Trenitalia, between many big cities you will have a choice of Frecciarossa 1000 OR Frecciarossa OR Frecciargento trains.
Comparing Frecce trains on Trenitalia.com
The type of train won’t affect the ticket prices - it is demand for each departure that will influence whether the cheaper discounted tickets are still available.

But if you don't need to arrive at your destination at a specific time and different departures are similarly priced, the choice of train can matter to the journey experience.

(i) Frecciargento trains can feel less spacious than Frecciarossa 1000 or Frecciarossa trains.

(ii) If you will be travelling Business or Executive Class and want to experience the ultimate in high speed train travel, then choose the Frecciarossa 1000 trains.

But travelling in these classes on a standard Frecciarossa train is still a delight.

(iii) If you will be travelling 1st class (the equivalents) with luggage, then our preference is to choose a Frecciarossa 1000 or Frecciargento and not the Frecciarossa trains.

In Business Class the Frecciarossa trains don't have luggage racks, but the Business Class on the Frecciarossa 1000 and Frecciargento trains does have them.
 

(iv) However, if you have luggage and will be travelling standard/2nd class, it can be worthwhile to target the Frecciarossa trains.

They have slightly more luggage space in standard/2nd class than the Frecciarossa 1000 trains.

Large sized bags/cases won’t fit in the spaces between the seat backs in Standard Class on these Frecciarossa 1000 trains - so you have no choice, but to heave large bags up on to the overhead luggage spaces above the seats.

Back to the questions.

What is good to know about Italian Intercity (IC) trains?
Italian Intercity trains
Intercity trains are slower (and generally cheaper) than Frecce trains because they're conventional express trains and rarely use the high speed lines.

Intercity trains are most commonly found on these routes:

(i) Milano – Genova – Albenga – San Remo – Ventimiglia (shared with Thello train services to France)
 

(ii) Milano – Genova – Sestri Levante – Monterosso – La Spezia – Pisa – Livorno – (Grosetto) - (Roma)
 

(iii) Milano – Parma – Modena – Bologna – Firenze Rifredi – Arezzo – Roma Tiburtina – Napoli (a slower, cheaper, alternative to the AV trains)
 

(iv) Trieste – Venezia Mestre – Bologna - Firenze Rifredi – Arezzo – Roma (a slower, cheaper alternative to the AV trains between Venezia and Roma)
 

(v) Milano - Parma – Modena – Bologna – Rimini – Ancona – Bari – Taranto (a slower, cheaper alternative to the AV trains between Milano and Bari)
 

(vi) Roma – Taranto
 

(vii) Roma – Napoli – Villa San Giovanni – Messina – Palermo and Catania – Siracusa  - these are the only direct daytime trains between Italy and Sicily.

 A refurbishment program is underway to update the interiors and exteriors of Italian Intercity trains.

A new colour scheme of red and white is being applied - and SOME of the trains that are now red and white have been refurbished.

Trains that are still painted blue/grey are less likely to have been refurbished.

You won't know if you will be travelling on a refurbished train when booking tickets.

The refurbishment includes the addition of features such as on-board info screens, Wi-Fi and power sockets.

Back to the questions.

What about seat reservations (whether you don't OR do have a rail pass)?
 

Reservations are compulsory on IC trains and the AV trains, but seats are automatically assigned when booking tickets online and at stations.

On your ticket the 'carrozza' number is the coach/car number and the 'posti' is the seat number

As all seats are reserved on Frecce and Italo and Intercity services, what isn't indicated is the destinations between which the seat is reserved for.

When boarding, if you want to change seats ask the conductor first - don't assume that a spare seat will be available for your entire journey.

If you prefer to face forwards, note that all trains reverse direction when they call at Firenze S.M.N., Milano Centrale, Napoli Centrale, Roma Termini and Venezia S. Lucia.

Travelling with a Rail Pass;

Because all seats are reserved on Frecce and Intercity trains RAIL PASS users have to pay reservation fees prior to boarding,

If you have any type of EURAIL or INTERRAIL pass valid in Italy, the reservation fees for any journey, no matter the distance, are:

All Frecce trains = €10 for 1st AND 2nd class pass users (this info is incorrect on the Eurail and InterRail websites).

Intercity trains = €3 for 2nd AND 1st class pass users.

These reservations can be purchased from Trenitalia branded ticket machines or a ticket desks - without paying booking fees.

Reservations are not required for journeys by Regionale Veloce  and Regionale services and rail passes CANNOT be used on Italo trains.

Much more info is available on our using Rail Passes in Italy GUIDE.

Back to the questions.

What is good to know about Regionale Veloce and Regionale train services?
Italian Regionale Trains
Regionale Veloce (RGV) and Regionale (REG/R) trains are similar, but different services - note the use of the word 'services', multiple different trains are used across Italy on RGV and REG/R on the routes taken by these trains.

For some reason Trenitalia tends to use some of its oldest trains for Regionale Veloce services – though brand new trains are being introduced.

The trains used for Regionale services can vary between some of the oldest trains in Europe and brand new single and double-deck trains.

Tickets for Regionale Veloce train services cost the same price as the slower Regionale trains - when both types of service are available.

Tickets have to be stamped in machines before boarding Regionale REG/RGV trains – but not when boarding express trains.

The difference between Regionale Veloce and Regionale services:

Regionale (REG) trains are predominantly local services, while Regionale Veloce (RGV) services link towns and cities over longer distances.

Regionale Veloce (RGV) services can be much faster than Regionale (REG) services because they call at fewer stations.

On some routes Regionale Veloce trains provide a cheaper (and not much slower) alternative to Frecce and Intercity services,

Most Regionale train services are 2nd class only, but 1st class is an option on the majority of Regionale Veloce services.

It can be worth paying a few €s extra for 1st class tickets on Regionale Veloce services, seats can’t be reserved on these trains and they can be very crowded, particularly in the summer months.
You’ll have more chance of finding a seat in 1st class.

Back to the questions.

Are there overnight trains in Italy?
Treno Notte trains

Trenitalia operates 'Treno Notte' overnight trains on these routes - the ↔ symbol indicates which part of the journey is overnight.

(1) Roma Trento - Bolzano

(2)
Roma Venezia/Venice - Treviso - Udine - Trieste

(3) Roma - Napoli Messina - Palermo and Siracusa

(4) Milano - Genova - La Spezia - Pisa - Livorno
 Messina - Palermo and Siracusa

(5) Torino
 - Milano - Genova Napoli - Salerno

(6) Torino
 - Milano - Bologna - Firenze - Roma Villa San Giovanni - Reggio di Calabria

(7)Torino and 
Milano - Piacenza - Parma - Modena - Bologna - Rimini Bari - Lecce

When looking up some early morning journeys on Trenitlia, an option can be to travel on an 'Trennno Notte' as they have ordinary daytime style coaches.

However, avoid if possible, as it's not that unusual for Trenno Notte trains to be running more than an hour late.

Back to the questions.

INTERNATIONAL TRAINS FROM and TO ITALY:
 

Which international DAYTIME train services operate from/to Italy?

Note that Bologna is the southern most Italian city served by international daytime trains from/to Italy.
 

All trains operate in both directions and all services marked with an asterix require a reservation - automatically included when buying a ticket online or a station.

Destinations in brackets have less frequent services - usually only 1 x train per day.
 

(1) EuroCity* (EC) trains, operate on these routes:
 

(i) (Venezia - Verona) - Milano Centrale - Como - Lugano - Bellinzona - Arth Goldau - Zug - Zurich

(ii) Milano Centrale - Como - Lugano - Bellinzona - Arth Goldau - Luzern - Basel

(iii) Milano Centrale - Stresa - Domodossola - Brig - Visp - Spiez - Thun - Bern - Olten - Basel (- Freiburg - Karlsruhe - Mannhein - Frankfurt (Main*)

*These trains take a different route between Basel and Milano in the opposite direction from Germany TO Italy.

In that direction the route is Frankfurt - Mannheim - Karlsruhe - Freiburg - Basel - Luzern - Bellinzona - Lugano - Como - Milano

(iv)  (Venezia - Verona) - Milano Centrale - Stresa - Domodossola - Brig - Sion - Montreux - Lausanne - Geneve
 

(2) EuroCity* trains formed of Austrian IC trains operate on these routes:
 

(Venezia - Padova) and (Bologna) - Verona – Trento - Bolzano - Brennero - Innsbruck - Kufstein - Munchen/Munich
 

(3) Austrian Railjet trains perate on this route:

Venezia - Treviso - Udine - Villach - Klagenfurt - Wien/Vienna
 

(4) Thello* trains operate on this route:
 

Milano Centrale – Genova – Albenga – San Remo – Ventimiglia – Menton – Monte Carlo – Nice – (Antibes – Cannes – St Raphael – Toulon – Marseille)
 

(5) TGV - France-Italy* trains operate on this route:
 

 Milano Porta Garibaldi – Torino Porta Susa – Chambery – (Lyon St Exupery) – Paris Gare de Lyon

Tickets for this TGV France-Italy train service are not sold by Trenitalia at stations or online.

Also note that these trains depart from Milano Porta Garibaldi station and NOT from Milano Centrale.
 

(6) Swiss IC trains operate on this route:
 

Domodossola - Brig - Visp - Spiez - Thun - Bern - Olten - Basel
 

(7) Regional (Ticino) trains operate on this route:
 

Milano Centrale – Como – Chiasso – Lugano – Bellinzona - Erstfeld (connect for trains to Basel and Zurich)

(8) Local trains operate on these routes:
 

(i) Chiasso – Lugano – Bellinzona

(ii) Domodossola – Brig (infrequent trains)

(iii) Domodossola – Locramo (Centovali, narrow gauge mountain railway)

(iv) (Bologna - Trento) - Bolzano - Brennero - connect for trains to Innsbruck

(v) Ventimille/Ventimiglia – Menton – Monte Carlo – Nice – Antibes – Cannes – St Raphael – Grasse

(vi) Udine Villach (infrequent trains)

Back to the questions.

Which international OVERNIGHT train services operate from/to Italy?

(1) OBB Nightjet trains operate on these routes:
 

(i) Roma - Firenze - Leoben - Wien/Vienna

(ii) Milano - Brescia - Desenzano - Verona - Leoben - Wien/Vienna

(iii) Roma - Firenze - Innsbruck - Munchen/Munich

(iv) Venezia/Venice - Treviso - Udine - Linz - St Polten - Wien/Vienna

(2) Thello trains operate on this route:

Venezia/Venice - Padova - Vicenza - Verona - Brescia - Milano - Dijon - Paris

Back to the questions.

Why can it be easier to travel TO Italy by train than from Italy?
 

It CAN be easier to travel TO Italy by train than from Italy by train on SOME international routes, the reasons being:

(1) Two of the three daily TGV - France-Italy trains from Milano to Paris depart from Milano before any long distance trains have arrived in Milano from other cities.

As a result daytime connections from virtually all other Italian cities, are reliant on the one other daily train service - which doesn’t arrive in Paris until late evening.

(2) The direct daytime train from Venezia/Venice to Muenchen/Munich arrives too late in Munchen for connections into ICE trains to many other German cities.

(3) The direct daytime train from Venezia/Venice to Geneve doesn’t arrive in Geneve until after 23:30.

Back to the questions.