If you’re planning to travel around Italy, trains are generally the fastest and simplest way to get around…at least through the northern part of the country. The European rail systems are far more extant than those in the United States, and from Rome some of the most popular destinations can be reached in just a couple hours. Florence, for example, can be reached in just an hour and a half with a high speed train, which makes a quick trip to the Ponte Vecchio or to see the David, a possible day trip. Also Naples, is just a little over an hour from Rome, so you can pop over for a fabulous pizza, a walk by the water, the vistas from Castel dell’Ovo and back in Rome for dinner.
While traveling by train isn’t very difficult, there are a few things that are helpful to know. So we’ve put together this little guide of useful information to make traveling more hassle-free. If you’re staying at one of our apartments in the center of Rome and have any questions about day trips, excursions, or guides, drop us a line and we’re here to help!
*Note: If you’re traveling south (Puglia, Basilicata, Calabria, much of Campania, and Sicily even), flying or private/rental car may be the way to go. The most south the high speed trains can take you is to Naples, and from there it’s a labyrinth of regional trains that are less frequent, liable, and air conditioned.
Up until a few years ago, there was really only 1 train company that held a monopoly in Rome: Trenitalia. Trenitalia runs high speed trains (known as Frecce), express regional trains, and regional trains (note in some remote areas where no tracks are laid, some destinations are serviced by buses managed by Trenitalia). Then came Italo, a sleek new competitor that runs just high speed trains connecting Naples to Venice or Genoa. Italo forced Trenitalia to improve the quality of it’s services, but the newest and cleanest trains are those run by Italo. (like Trenitalia, also Italo services some of its smaller destinations with buses managed by Italo.)
For nearly any destination in Italy, Trenitalia can get you there. From the main destinations like Florence, Milan, Venice, and Naples to the smallest cities and hamlets. Regional trains from Rome managed by Trenitalia include Castelli Romani (for a day trip to Castel Gandolfo), Tivoli, Viterbo, and Orvieto (and then on to Civita di Bagnoregio), to name just a few.
Italo services the following major cities in Italy:
Among many others. Visit the official website to discover all of the cities reachable by Italo.
There are several different kinds of trains you can take and the fares reflect the speed as well as the services available.
The high speed trains are just that: high speed, and the fastest way to get from point A to point B. They make fewer stops and only at the largest cities along popular routes. Generally there are dozens of trains leaving Naples, Venice, Milan, or Genoa each day to run the course of about half the boot. High speed trains feature 1st and 2nd class cars (the difference between the classes is so marginal, I wouldn’t even take note of it really), wifi that works 75% of the time, charging outlets at each seat, a dining cart or vending machines for snacks, coffee, and cool drinks, lavatories, and more space for luggage.
Trains can be hit or miss but are generally in good condition. For the Frecce there are actually three levels: Rosso, Argento, Bianco (red, silver, white, respectively), where Red is considered the highest level and white just slightly above a regional train.
On the Trenitalia website, you can filter your results to show only “frecce” results, meaning high speed trains.
Express regional trains are like express trains on the New York subway. They may take a regional train route but don’t stop at the less popular destinations, making the route faster. They are often referred to as “Treno Regionale Veloce” (“Veloce” – ve-loh-chay, means “fast”). Express regional trains are good value for money as they are far less expensive
Regional trains are most convenient for reaching intermediary destinations just outside a big city. They are terribly inconvenient for traveling long distances as some don’t even have lavatories, wifi, outlets, or dining options. To understand the difference, a high speed train can make the trip from Naples to Rome in a little over an hour. A regional train could take up to 3 hours, without any conveniences. The price difference can be as little as €20.
The main train station in Rome is Termini Station. This the principle transport hub in Rome, the only place where the A and B metro lines intersect, where many busses start and end from, and where you’ll find the longest line of taxis. It’s the easiest train station to reach, so you’ll find most trains (both Trenitalia and Italo) depart from here.
But take notice of the itinerary you book, as some trains will leave from Rome’s other main train station: Tiburtina. Tiburtina is located in the west fringe of the historic center and less convenient to reach by public transportation. If you take the metro B to Tiburtina station, you must make sure you’re on a train headed to “Rebibbia” because trains destined for “Jonio” do not stop at “Tiburtina”.
Other stations in Rome include Ostiense, Trastevere, and Valle Aurelia. These stations offer service to regional destinations (like Fiumicino Airport, Castelli Romani, Viterbo, and Orvieto), but no high speed lines.
Train tickets can be purchased online or at any of the stations mentioned above. At Termini, Tiburtina, and Ostiense there are proper ticket offices for high speed trains. Stations serviced by Trenitalia and Italo also feature machines to purchase the tickets online.
It’s best if you purchase tickets directly from the official websites rather than a third party as it’s most secure and prices are lowest.
Booking in advance can offer big savings! The closer to the date, the higher the price is, generally. Additionally, look out for special promotions! Throughout the year the train companies are always offering special offers and promotions for trip during the week, same day roundtrip tickets, or tickets for two to certain destinations. Before booking, check out any active offers going on to get the best rate!
Here are a few points of helpful information to know before taking a train:
Browse nearly 40 quality vacation rentals in the heart of Rome managed by Rome Accommodation. Use filters to narrow your search by neighborhood, price, number of guests, and amenities!
Stay near Termini Station at the Principe Amedeo vacation apartment just steps from Termini Station on a colorful residential street. The home can accommodate up to 8 guests in 3 bedrooms and 2 baths, situated on the 5th floor (accessed by an elevator) of a beautiful 19th century palazzo. See all of the apartments managed by Rome Accommation near Termini Train Station.
Have you taken a train trip from Rome? Share your experience with us in the comments below!