If you're traveling to Italy, chances are you'll be traveling to more than just one city. Chances are also that you've heard of fast speed trains in Italy. The benefits of using high speed train travel in Italy are vast and cost a lot less than you think. Here are some travel tips to help you better understand train travel in Italy.
HOW TO USE TRAINS IN ITALY
All aboard, right? Not so fast. If it is your first time traveling to Italy, navigating the train system and train systems will be daunting, even if they have English options on the kiosks. You can buy train tickets in the trainstation or at the ticket offices, but I do not recommend it. I can't count how many times I have seen the kiosks out of order or seen lines at the ticketing office longer than a concert line. My first bit of advice is to get familiar with the national train service Trenitalia and their website: http://www.trenitalia.com. Try your best to buy tickets online, in advance and get the tickets on your smartphone to show to the train staff. There are a few options for TrenItalia and that is Regional, Regional "veloce", Intercity, Night, Frecciarossa and Frecciargento. The fast speed trains are Frecciarossa and Frecciargento (Freccia means arrow) and they are the ones that are generally the most user friendly. If you book enough in advance (2 weeks or more) you can generally get pretty good deals on the Freccia "arrow" fast speed trains with Trenitalia. There is a competing private train company named "Italotreno" so when you are looking for your train or need to speak to the customer service desk, be sure you are not going to Italotreno services.
If you are traveling from city to city within the region like Florence to Lucca or Siena (always in Tuscany), you can generally get train tickets at the newsstands inside the train station. Honestly, I only recommend this is if you were unable to purchase your ticket online because the lines can get long in peak travel times. Tickets from newsstands are for Trenitalia tickets only and are regional tickets that need to be stamped by the stamping kiosks at every train platform. More on ticket validation to come.
The instances in which you should book a fast speed train is when you are traveling from Florence to Rome which have considerable distances. When you book a fast speed train, you are reserving a seat and generally do not have to validate your ticket at the stamping machines.
Trenitalia is good for those who want to jump on a train to stop off at little tiny cities or when going to destinations like Cinque Terre from Florence but to be completely honest, Italotreno is the most user-friendly train system that I recommend. Trenitalia's website expects you to know every Italian city name in Italian and it is a little hard to get the full schedule unless you know the little tricks of navigating the website like locals do. Plus, you have to stamp your ticket and if you're running late and the machines are busted, it's kind of a headache. Italotreno tickets are all reserved so there is no need to stamp tickets. The website is user-friendly especially for English speakers and they have a waiting room in the trainstations they service which are air-conditioned and have plugs for chargers. It might sound silly but having an air-conditioned refuge from the brutal Italian heat can be a deal-breaker in some cases. If Italotreno serviced more destinations in Italy, I would use it all the time. Hands-down.
Italotreno services: Milan, Turin, Padua, Florence, Rome, Naples and Salerno. If you are going to be traveling between those cities, use Italotreno whenever possible.
Safe and happy travels!