True Using Rail Passes in and to/from Italy

Using Rail Passes in and to/from Italy

Welcome to our guide to using InterRail and Eurail Passes which are valid for train travel in Italy.

Having used rail passes to travel 1000s of kilometres around Italy by train in the past two years, we've anticipated the questions you are most likely to have - we hope.

So either click on a question to jump straight to the info you need, or spend 10 mins (ish) reading all of our insights.

They should save you save you time, money and stress!

USING EURAIL AND INTERRAIL PASSES FOR TRAIN JOURNEYS WITHIN ITALY:

Can I hop on any train operated by Trenitalia with a Eurail or InterRail Pass?

What Trenitalia trains require reservations to be paid for prior to boarding - and how much do they cost?

How can I pay for these reservation fees prior to boarding the train?

How easy is to avoid the Frecce trains?

Will I save money if I avoid the Frecce and Intercity trains?

What about Bologna
Florence/Firenze?

What about trains not operated by Trenitalia?

What are the international train services from/to Italy that DON'T require reservation fees?


What are the international train services from/to Italy that DO require reservation fees?

How can these reservation fees for the international trains be booked in advance?

What are the reservation fees for the international express trains?


USING EURAIL AND INTERRAIL PASSES FOR TRAIN JOURNEYS WITHIN ITALY:

The 'rules' for how rail passes can be used and booked on the international trains from/to Italy can be different - hence the info dedicated for international trains further down the page

Can I hop on any train operated by Trenitalia with Eurail or InterRail Pass?

The short answer is "sadly not" - but don't abandon your plans, using rail passes in Italy can still be great value money (and we're not being paid by anyone to say that).

You can't jump on ANY train operated by Trenitalia, but you can hop on and off *nearly all of the Regionale (REG) and Regionale Veloce (RGV/RV) trains without having to bother with making reservations prior to boarding.

*What's becoming slighly awkward is that a few Regionale train services are now operated by local government and when they are, rail passes aren't valid.
This is the case in the areas around Bari, Bolzano and Trento.

Seats aren't guaranteed on these (REG) and (RGV/RV) trains and they can't be reserved, so these trains can be crowded in summer and around holidays.

A plus of the Regionale Veloce (RGV/RV) services in particular is that they can cover relatively long distances.

Using rail passes in Italy

Popular routes taken by Regionale Veloce trains:

*routes operated by Trenord - rail passes are valid on Trenord trains)

(i) Milano - Arona - Stresa - Domodossola*

(ii) Milano - Como - Chiasso - Lugano - Bellinzona (operated by Ticino)

(iii) Milano - Torino/Turin

(iv) Milano - Genova/Genoa

(v) Milano - Piacenza - Parma - Modena - Bologna

(vi) Milano - Brescia - Desenzano del Garda - Peschiera de Garda - Verona*

(vii) Venezia - Padova/Padua - Vicenza - Verona

(So connect in Verona to travel Milano ↔ Venice/Venezia by Regionale Veloce trains)

(viii) Venezia - Padova/Padua - Rovigo - Ferrara - Bologna

(ix) Venezia - Trieste

(x) Bologna - Verona - Trento - Bolzano - Brennero (connect at Brennero for local trains to Innsbruck)

(xi) Piacenza - Parma - Modena - Bologna - Rimini

(xii) Roma - Grosseto - Livorno - Pisa

(xiii) Roma - Assisi - Perugia 

(xiv) Roma - Ancona

(xv) Roma - Arezzo - Firenze/Florence

(xvi) Messina - Palermo

Popular longer routes taken by Regionale trains:

(i) Genova/Genoa - Albenga - San Remo - Ventimiglia (connect for local trains towards Nice in France)

(ii) Genova - Sestri Levant - Monterosso (for the Cinque Terre) - La Spezia

(iii) Firenze/Florence - Pisa - La Spezia or Livorno

(iv) Firenze/Florence - Siena

(v) Firenze/Florence - Arezzon - Perugia - Assisi - Foligno

(vi) Roma - Napoli/Naples

(vii) Milano - Tirano (connect for RhB trains into Switzerland)

Back to the list of questions.

What Trenitalia trains require reservations to be paid for prior to boarding - and how much do they cost?

Using rail passes on Frecce trains


The short answer is ALL of the express trains.

(i) InterCity trains:

Cheapest, but slowest of these options are the InterCity express trains, but the reservation fee to travel by these trains is only €3 - in 1st AND 2nd class.

(ii) EuroCity trains (not actually operated by Trenitalia):

However, in place of Intercity trains, EuroCity trains heading to/from Germany and Austria operate on the routes between Bologna/Venezia/Verona and Brennero via Bolzano.

For any journey within Italy by these trains, the rail pass reservaton fees are €10 in 2nd class and €15 in 1st class - so avoid them and take the alternative RV/R trains.

(iii) The Frecce trains:

The reservation fess for the Frecce trains are €10 if you have a 1st OR 2nd class pass.

We have just returned from Italy and confirmed that the reservation fees for 1st class pass users is €10 - the info on the InterRail and Eurail websites is incorrect.

Travel by the very fabulous Frecciarossa 1000 or Frecciarossa trains with a 1st class Eurail or InterRail pass and your reservations will be in ultra-swish Business Class.

Because the reservation fees are a flat rate, taking a Frecce train can be good value IF you will be travelling long distances such as Milano - Napoli; Venezia - Roma or Torino - Firenze.

Compared to buying tickets on the day of travel, a day of rail pass use + the reservation fee can still save more than €40.

Back to the list of questions.

How can I pay for these reservation fees prior to boarding the train?

Before Arriving in Italy:

If you want to book the reservations for Frecce or InterCity OR the international DAY trains before you arrive in Italy, then one option is to purchase them on the Trenitalia website- using the desktop version.

The screen shots are taken from the English language version of the Trenitalia website.

1: Look up a journey as though you were buying a ticket - you have to use the Italian names of the cities and stations.

Step one of booking Italian rail pass reservations online
Click the circled arrow to access the ticket details of the train.

2: You will then see the table/list of ticket prices for this journey. Ignore them and instead click the 'View Other Offer's button.

Booking rail pass reservations for Italian trains online

3: Once clicked you will be able to access drop down menus that you can use to book your rail pass reservation.


The first drop down you need to select from is in the service column - choose Business if you will be travelling with a 1st class pass, or Standard if you will be travelling with a 2nd class pass.

Ignore the total amount - it won't be the price that you will be charged.

4: In the drop down menu in the 'Offer' column, select 'Global Pass' - even if you have a one country or Eurail select pass.

Booking rail pass reservations for Italy online
5: Once you have selected 'Global Pass' a box will then appear, enter your pass number into it.
Booking rail reservations on the Trenitalia website
Note that the price has now been reduced to the price you will pay for the reservation.

Click the 'choose the seat' box and then click on continue - on the next screen a seating plan will appear.

OR use the Eurail or InterRail Rail Planner app.

Booking reservations in Italy:

If you're happy to make the reservations once you have arrived in Italy then you can book them at a ticket desk or any Trenitalia branded ticket machine.

The queues for the ticket counters at major Italian stations can be lengthy, so our preference is to use the machines.

The trick is to click on the Global Pass button and follow the instructions - even if you have a One Country or Select Pass.

When using the ticket machines to book reservations, you wlll need to enter your pass number, but when more than one person is travelling together, you can book multiple reservations in the one transaction.

When a journey involves more than one train on which reservations are charged, you will have to pay the fees per train and not one fee for the entire journey.

The only bug is that you're unlikely to be given the specific seat that you have requested.

When to book:

Booking online at least 6 weeks ahead is recommended if you;

(i) need to travel on a specific train - particularly between May and October
(ii) want to take Intercity train  between May and October
(iii) want to take Intercity trains between Milano and Monterosso/La Spezia/Pisa/Livorno year round
(iv) want to take Intercity trains between both Roma and Napoli and Sicily year round
(v) want to take Frecce trains between Roma/Firenze/Bologna and Verona/Bolzano
(v) want to take  Frecce trains between Roma and any destination south of Salerno (Bari, Lecce, Villa S, Giovanni, Reggio di Calabria

​​​​​On routes with frequent services some trains might be sold out, but alternative departures are always available - so try and be flexible with departure/arrival time and book at the station.

Our preference is to find a fairly quiet Trenitalia ticket machine at the first Italian station we arrive at - and then book all the reservations we need for the rest of the trip.

As seats on some trains can sell out in advance, in particular, try to avoid booking reservations with routes with less frequent services on your day of travel 
.
You won't pay a booking fee whether you book online, use a machine or book at a ticket office.

Back to the list of questions.

How easy is to avoid the Frecce trains?

You can travel between any Italian city without having to travel by Frecce trains.

On the shorter distance routes Regionale (REG) and Regionale Veloce (RGV/RV) are usually an option - see the NON-comprehensive route list above.

Over long distances  InterCity trains can be a cheaper, but slower, option - though when they are an alternative to the Frecce trains they're generally much less frequent.

Using Eurail and InterRail Passes in Italy

However on some routes, included these listed below  the Intercity trains are either the only or most frequent option:

(i) Milano - Genova - Monterosso (for the Cinque Terre) - La Spezia - Pisa - Livorno - Roma
(ii) Roma - Napoli - Messina - Palermo/Siracusa

Back to the list of questions.

Will I save money if I avoid the Frecce and Intercity trains?

Tickets for journeys by Regionale (REG) and Regionale Veloce (RGV/RV) trains are comparatively cheap.

A last minute ticket for a journey by RGV train between Firenze/Florence and Roma costs less than €22 - and this is one of the longest possible direct journeys by Regionale Veloce (RGV) train.

If you want to avoid ANY reservation fees when travelling around Italy with a rail pass, you'll have to take these Regionale/Regionale Veloce train services.

So once you factor in the cost per day of any Eurail and InterRail pass, it's highly likely that you will have to travel a long distance PER DAY on these trains, for your pass to be a money saver.

Though if you compare the cost per day of using your pass against the last minute (on the day) ticket prices of LONG DISTANCE journeys by Frecce trains - you can be 'saving' more than €30-40.

Back to the list of questions.

What about Bologna Florence/Firenze?

When trying to plan a rail pass itinerary around Italy, while avoiding reservation fees, the train journey between Bologna and Firenze/Florence can be a stumbling block.

There is only 1 x direct train per day between the city centre stations (Bologna Centrale and Firenze S.M.Novella) which isn't a Frecce train.  - and that one train is an InterCity train.

Three other Intercity trains per day operate in both directions between Bologna Centrale station and Firenze Rifredi station.

Connections by Regionale trains link Firenze Rifredi station with the city centre station, Firenze S.M.Novella.

If you want to avoid rail pass reservation fees completely when travelling between the two cities, you can take Regionale trains, but will have to make connections in Prato.

Though plan journeys via Prato with care as the Regionale trains in both directions between Bologna and Prato aren't particularly frequent.

Back to the list of questions.

What about trains not operated by Trenitalia?

Eurail and InterRail passes are NOT valid on Italo trains.

Rail passes can't be used on Italo trains
Rail passes also can't be used for Thello trains for journeus within (and to/from) Italy.

Some Regionale train services are operated by companies other than Trenitalia, but rail passes are valid on MOST of these.

They are valid on train services operated by Trenord - this company operates most train services in Lombardy, so many of the Regionale services to/from Milano are operated by Trenord.

Back to the list of questions.
 
USING EURAIL AND INTERRAIL PASSES FOR TRAIN JOURNEYS FROM AND TO ITALY:

What are the international train services from/to Italy that DON'T require reservation fees?

The only long distance DIRECT express trains from/to Italy that don't require reservations in advance of boarding are the Railjet trains in either direction on the Venezia/Venice - Villach - Klagenfurt - Wien/Vienna route.

However, seats are NOT guaranteed on these trains if you haven't reserved - particularly in the summer months.

If you're happy to stick to local/regional trains AND make connections - then it can be relatively easy to avoid reservation fees AND have a fantastic journey.

SOME popular options are:

(i) Take Regionale (REG) and Regionale Veloce (RGV/RV) trains on the Verona - Trento - Bolzano - Brennero route.

Then at Brennero connect for the local trains on to Innsbruck.

Do this and you can avoid the reservation fees charged on the EC trains between Italy and Austria/Germany.

(ii) Take Regionale trains (branded TiLo) in either direction on the
Milano - Como - Chiaso - Lugano - Bellinzona - Erstfeld route.

Connect in Lugano, Bellinzona or Erstfeld for Swiss trains to/from Basel, Luzern and Zurich.

Do this and you can avoid the reservation fees charged on the EC trains between Italy and Switzerland.

(iii) Take Regionale trains between Milano and Domodossola.

Then at Domodossola you can connect into Centovali F.A.R.T trains for the stunning journey to Locarno in Switzerland.

From Locarno you can travel on to Bellinzona and connect there for Basel, Lugano, Luzern and Zurich.

This is another option for avoiding the reservation fees charged on the EC trains between Italy and Switzerland.

(iv) Take Regionale trains between Milano and Domodossola.

Connect at Domodossola for a local train on to Brig in Switzerland - though these trains are infrequent so plan this connection with care.

At Brig direct connections are available on to virtually all Swiss cities including Bern, Basel, Geneve, Lausanne and Zurich.

Do this and you can avoid the reservation fees charged on the EC trains between Italy and Switzerland (particularly on the trains between Italy and both Geneve and Lausanne).

(v) Take Regionale trains between Milano and Tirano.

At Tirano you can connect for RhB trains on to St Moritz and Chur via Pontresina and Samedan.

At Chur you can connect into trains on to St Gallen and Zurich.

Do this and you can avoid the reservation fees charged on the EC trains between Italy and Switzerland - and you'll have a much more spectacular journey.

(vi) Take Regionale trains from Genova, Albenga and San Remo to Ventimiglia

At Ventimiglia connections are available into frequent local trains to Menton, Nice, Antibes and Cannes

Do this and you can avoid the Thello trains.

Back to the list of questions.
 
What are the international train services from/to Italy that DO require reservation fees?

Using rail passes on trains from Switzerland to Italy


(1) Reservations are required on the EC trains on the Bologna/Verona/Venezia - Innsbruck - Munchen/Munich route and on the EC trains between Italy and Switzerland.

(2) However Thello trains are the exception because rail passes are NOT VALID on these trains.

Instead rail pass users have access to discounted tickets - but these are more expensive than the very cheapest advance tickets.

(3) Reservations are also required for all the accommodation (seats/couchettes/sleeping cabins) on the Nightjet trains between Italy and both Austria and Germany

(There are no overnight trains between Italy and Switzerland)

(4) However, rail passes are NOT valid on the Thello overnight trains which operate on the Venezia - Verona - Milano - Dijon - Paris route.

(5) Our advice is to avoid if possible the TGV France-Italy trains on the Milano - Torino - Chambery - (Lyon) - Paris route.

On these trains the reservation fees are more expensive than discounted tickets - however, there are no local trains between Italy and France on this route.

Back to the list of questions.

How can these reservation fees for the international trains be booked in advance?

THE DAY TRAINS:

Booking online before you arrive in Italy (or Switzerland):


If you want to book reservations for the direct EC trains to OR from Austria, Germany and Switzerland OR the Railjet trains to OR from Austria you can book then online on Trenitalia 

The instructions are here.

If you want to take the EC trains from Italy TO Switzerland - you have to pay fairly expensive booking fees (11 CH) for these trains if you book the reservation(s) at a Swiss station

Booking reservations when in Italy:

International reservations can't be booked by using the Trenitalia branded ticket machines.

If you want to book reservations for the EC or Railjet trains* in Italy you have to use a ticket office - but no booking fees are charged.

*The ticket desks at Italian stations will not sell reservations for the TGV France - Italy services - they can be booked at a dedicated ticket desk in Milano Porta Garibaldi station.

THE NIGHT TRAINS:

If you want to travel in a sleeping cabin or couchette on a Nightjet train to Austria or Germany, book the reservation before arriving in Italy.

Couchettes and sleeping cabins can sell out on these trains weeks in advance.

Rail pass reservations for the Nightjet trains from AND to Germany can be booked on the DB booking service without paying booking fees.

Rail passes are NOT valid on the Thello night trains.

Back to the list of questions.

What are the reservation fees for the international express trains?

Some popular fees are:

(i) Basel/Bern/Geneve/Luzern/Zurich – Milano (EC) = €11 1st and 2nd class

(ii) Paris - Torino/Miano (TGV France/Italy) = €89 1st; €62 2nd

(iii) Munchen - Innsbruck - Verona/Bologna/Venezia (EC) = €15 1st; €10 2nd - these fees also apply to journeys within Italy by these trains.

Note those eye watering rail pass fees for the TGV France/Italy trains - the discounted tickets for this service are (much) cheaper than these reservation fees.

Back to the list of questions.