Italy’s inter-city train network is modern, efficient, and incredibly fast. We highly advise travelling around Italy by train not car. By all means rent a car at your destination if you want to enjoy exploring the countryside, but it doesn’t make any sense to drive, either financially or time-wise. More about that here.
To enjoy your own relaxing and efficient journey between cities, it helps to understand how the train system works: there are two intercity companies, called Trenitalia, and Italo, that compete against each other on major routes.
Trenitalia is the national rail company and provides both express services and stopping services. Trenitalia fast services are called “Le Freccie” (the arrows). Frecciarossa – “Red Arrow”, 190 mph, Frecciargento – “Silver Arrow”, 160 mph, and Frecciabianca – “White Arrow”, 130-160 mph depending on the line.
Meanwhile Italo is a private company that only provides express trains, though not on every route. All Italo trains run at a massive 220 mph.
To compare availability and prices we recommend a comparison site, namely Trainline.com. This allows you to input your destinations, times and dates only once, and then see all options from both train operators. Buy booking in advance, you can make huge savings over the cost of tickets bought on the day.
While it’s possible to research and book tickets from one or other of the train companies’ websites, it’s not efficient because you have to do it twice. The search and English-language content of the national websites also leave a bit to be desired.
Beware too when booking through Trenitalia that unless you specify the type of train your’re looking for, you will also be shown the slow, stopping services.
Researching and buying your train tickets through a consolidator such as Trainline.com removes all these hassles. You will then be emailed the ticket which has a QR code on it, that can be scanned by ticket inspectors.
From here you can also book trains to and around the rest of Europe too.