How to Survive Italian Train Travel and Avoiding Fines

Some posts on this site contain affiliate links, meaning if you book or buy something through one of these links, I may earn a small commission (at no extra cost to you!). Read the full disclosure policy here.

The best part about traveling Europe is taking the train, especially an Italian train. I far prefer taking a train and spending hours looking out the window than dealing with airports and lines – so much so that I took the train for 49 hours to get from Spain to Italy.

That was a bit crazy.

Using the Eurail pass for the train is perfect for non-planners like me. Who may wake up one morning and decide they want to be in another town or even another country. But even I have been burned by taking the train.

Like today.

Today I landed in Rome to spend 3 weeks throughout Italy. My hope was to get a quick train straight to Modena so I could spend the afternoon in the city. All I needed to do was head to the train station at the Leonardo da Vinci–Fiumicino Airport to jump on a train to Termini station at Rome city centre where I could find a quick train to Modena.

Easy peasy.

I made a fatal flaw. As I bought my ticket at the ticket booth (in English) I saw the Italian train I wanted was leaving in 1 minute and figured I could make it. When I ran to the platform I jumped on the train and it took off.

Awesome, right?

Ayngelina on train

Except I noticed that after 30 minutes none of the signs said Roma anymore and it looked like the countryside. I waited another 15 minutes and there were no longer train stations but commuter platforms. I was not on the right train.

I got off at the next station hoping to find a ticket booth that would help me renavigate but none was to be found so I went to the other side of the platform and jumped back on another train and prayed the train police wouldn’t come find me because I don’t speak Italian.

ayngelina in Italy

I was lucky and we passed by a huge station so I exited and was able to buy a ticket to Modena. I wasted a couple of hours but it reminded me that I should share other do’s and don’ts for taking Italian trains.

Essential Italian Train Tips

Italian train validator

ITALIAN TRAIN: DO

Validate your ticket. Even if you buy a ticket for a specific time with a specific seat you need to find the machine that time stamps it. I was lucky the first time I took an Italian train because a woman asked me where the machine was and when I looked like a startled tourist she insisted I come with her. That same day I saw two Americans fined 75 Euro for not stamping it.

Even if you don’t speak Italian you can usually just gesture shoving the ticket and people will know what you want. Depending on where you go it could be this old yellow machine or newer green and grey ones. If you still can’t find it I’ve heard you can write the time and date with a pen and they’ll accept it.

DON’T

Expect Italian trains to be on time. The high-speed options are accurate but the regional trains are often late. The upside is that they are less expensive so if you have the flexibility go slower.

DO

Go get a drink and something to eat at the bar. There are photos of everything so you can just point. Expect to stand there are no seats.

iphone train app

DO

Download the travel app DB Navigator it includes all of the Italian train schedules as well as other countries and will also tell you what platform. It’s been indispensable.

 

DON’T

Jump on a train unless you are sure. On the outside of Italian trains it indicates the train number as well as the car number. They make it easy for you.

Next time I will take my own advice…1 minute is not enough time before the train leaves.

For more tips about traveling in Italy – especially eating, check out my Modena Culinary guide.

Pin it For Later: Italian Train Tips

train in Italy at station

Join the Conversation

  1. Use only cash on the machines, since there are tons of ‘friends’ or ‘helpers’ around to check your credit card pincode.

    1. Ayngelina Author says:

      That is a really good tip, and one I’ll need next time!

  2. Diana Edelman says:

    I am working on a post about Italian trains, too! One tip: don’t buy your ticket from anywhere BUT the actual train station ticket counter or machine. Places like Milan there are “ticket counters” outside the station and appear to be legit, but they cost more money.

    1. Ayngelina Author says:

      Very good tip Diana!

  3. When we were in Rome back in 2007, I had been learning Italian, and I was so proud of myself. I asked at the hotel when the trains to the airport left and he told me, all in Italian. When we arrived at the station the following morning, I realized I miss understood. We had 2 minutes to catch the next train, or had to wait another 30 minutes, cutting it close for our flight. We bought our ticket from the machines and raced to the train, getting there just in the nick of time. That is when I realized no matter how well I speak a foreign language, I always suck at understanding numbers. Eric said “next time, just speak English.”

    And, I agree on the whole stamping thing. Whenever in a train station in Europe we walk around looking for a machine to stamp just in case. In fact, we have done this in Asia too, just in case.

    1. Ayngelina Author says:

      Oh I have done this too in Spanish, but hey you have to practice somewhere!

  4. Best holiday destinations says:

    Thanks for posting nice views.

  5. I’m sure you would have been fine if the train police had caught you! So many times on trains I’d forgotten to stampare my ticket and been caught. Usually it just involves me pretending not to speak any Italian and therefore ending up listening to a debate about how pretty I am (I’m not, but any blonde girl in Italy has the exotic card on their side!) and how long they’re going to make me beg before they let me off.

    I absolutely love Italian trains. Train fares in the UK are so confusing, it’s nice to experience a system where everything is so simple. A ticket from X to Y on Train Z is always the same price, and it will be a reasonable price and a fast train to boot!

    Now they just need to stop the English language announcements from rhyming “TrenItalia” with “genitalia” and we’d be all good. I cringe every time I hear it- hey, Italians! We pronounce it the same as you guys!

  6. To your defense on arriving with a minute to spare, there’s a good chance that train was going to be late…

  7. Janice @ Californian in Exile says:

    This is giving me flashbacks of the near-nightmares we experienced on the Italian trains last summer, especially the ticket validation and the lack of punctuality of the trains themselves. Luckily we ran into people who could speak both English and Italian, so that if we had a problem, they could usually help us out.

  8. Victoria | DigitalNomadHub says:

    DO: always press the button “all solutions” (“tutti soluzioni”) if you buy a ticket from a ticket machine or online. Otherwise only the most expensive options are displayed.

    DON’T: when buying a ticket from a ticket machine NEVER let anyone even TOUCH the screen. Even after 1 year of living in Italy I hesitated just for a second above the screen, which resulted in the immediate “help” from a gypsy lady and losing couple of euros. However, these guys are really afraid even of the word “police” and disappear immediately the moment you say it.

    DO: check up if there is a strike before you go anywhere. If so – stay it home. It’s better than to stay at some station for ages waiting for a train finally to go ANYWHERE. Just a week ago it took me 9 hours to get from Bologna to Treviso – instead of normal 2.

    DON’T worry if you speak Italian or not. If you have a ticket and it’s validated – you don’t need to speak Italian. If there’s any problem with your ticket – you don’t need to speak Italian either. The controller will fine you anyway πŸ˜‰

  9. I’m a train lover too, though I almost never travel in Europe, where they seem to be most prevalent. I have taken a 27 hour train ride from Illinois to Montana — gorgeous!

  10. I needed this two years ago! Italian trains are an adventure, I tell ya’. I’ll be back in Italy in October, so this will serve as a refresher course.

  11. I’ve been living in Italy for more than five years now. The trains are always an adventure, especially for tourists trying to use them.

    DO: If the validation machines are out of order (Servizio Fuori), immediately find the conductor to let them know. They will write on your ticket to validate it. If you don’t find them, they will be more than happy to fine you.

    DO: Have cash or have a PIN and chip credit card. This is especially important for North Americans because within the last year, all machines have been upgraded and use this type of card. A regular strip card won’t work 90% of the time.

    DO: Make sure you have small bills and coins for the ticket machine.

    DO: When using the fast trains, you have an assigned car and seat. Don’t just sit anywhere.

    DON’T: Sit in a first class car (marked 1 on the doors) if you bought a second class ticket. That will also get you a fine.

    1. Funny you have been living in Italy for many years and still say “Servizio Fuori”…
      maybe you meant “Fuori Servizio” πŸ˜€

      1. Thanks for correcting me Giulia. I don’t speak much Italian. Call it a casualty of traveling for a living and not having an Italian to practice speaking Italian with.

  12. Sometimes I wonder how I got around all over Europe by myself in my 20s with no real train problems…I think I used to ask about 10 people in the span of about 2 minutes “Roma?” (or wherever I was going) and point at the train. And I used to go to the ticket counter with the name of my destination written on a piece of paper. I’ll be in Europe next summer and will use these tips if I spend time in Italy.

  13. Katie @ Domestiphobia.net says:

    This post could NOT be more timely since I’m headed to Italy for the first time ever this October and have to get myself (by myself) from Naples to Florence! I’ve kind of been sweating this one out, so this is invaluable. I would’ve had NO clue about the validation. Thanks so much!

  14. Jeannette says:

    Oh God! I did this EXACT thing going from Verona to Milan (well I was trying to go that way). Unfortunately for me, by the time I got on the right train, I missed the flight I was trying to catch and had a nice adventure: hunting down a new ticket last minute, spending the night in the Barcelona airport, etc.

  15. And they are not that bad…I suppose you have tried trains in Eastern Europe or, say Africa?

  16. Forgot to stamp my ticket one time on the way to Pisa. That didn’t work out so well. I could have used your tips!

  17. Oh, I do not miss trying to buy train tickets in Italy. Or sprinting for trains. *starts to sweat at the mere thought*

  18. Pay attention to the number on the wagon (1 or 2) that indicate the class of the wagon, so you can enter in the right door! πŸ˜€

  19. I had a very similar ‘adventure’ taking the train from the Cinque Terre to Venice last winter. We had travelled Florence-La Spezia-Manorola on the way there, and about 30 min into the return trip we were starting to wonder why we didn’t recognize any of the scenery – and why we were stopping every 15 min at another commuter platform. When we finally figured out our mistake (we had a change in La Spezia where we got on the wrong train) we jumped off at the next station – where we had a very long wait.

    Hope I do a better job with the trains in Spain in November.

  20. DON’T expect the standard of train to be the same – rolling stock age and quality varies a lot in Italy compared to other European countries in my experience, and definitely DONT expect them to run on time – allow time for late trains, missed connections and sundry delays – especially if you are travelling to get to a flight

  21. Best holiday destinations says:

    Such a nice blog. thanks for posting nice views.

  22. Angie Away says:

    Totally relate to this post! I can’t count the times I’ve rushed to hop on a train only to find out way too late that I was on the wrong one. Great tips for newbies & veterans alike!

  23. Chanel | Cultural Xplorer says:

    This came just in time for my trip to Italy in about a week! I have to remember this validation thing! πŸ˜€

  24. That darn stamping of the ticket gets me every time! I have gone the wrong direction on trains many a time- when it happens, don’t get mad at yourself just enjoy it and get off at the next stop! This post reminded me to write about a misadventure I had on an Italian train, lets just say it involved a very creepy man plopping down next to me and proceeding to do things to himself that one should never do in public!

  25. I love Europe for the train travel – exactly how you’ve described it. The ability to country and city hop at a moment’s notice. I thankfully didn’t have any issues with trains in Italy, but I think it was more luck than actual planning ha!

  26. Tez Ferguson says:

    Fantastic write up, must confess our first experience in Italy using the trains was an experience. Was our first experience on a double decker train let alone in a new place

  27. This are great tips for everyone going to Italy. I am planning to use the bus when i go in October, but you never know, i may need a train ride sometimes. Thanks for the great article.

  28. I’ve been to Italy last year and I wish this post was live back then… hahaha! I’ve lived this madness too, and I didn’t know where to validate the ticket and of course the train police came, but luckily they understood my confusion and showed me where to validate it immediately!

  29. Great write up of the do’s and don’ts of riding the train in Italy. Good to know for next time I head back there πŸ™‚

  30. Really awesome tips especially for first time travelers. I’ll surely be using this one in my future Italian trip! πŸ˜€

  31. Totally able to connect w/ your train experience- Traveled via trains within my Germany trip this year, was painful (esp transit) yet fresh experience.

    Jason | Jasonhan.blogspot,sg

  32. Italian train journey is very interesting as a part of tour. I like traveling. So for that I read this article and try to get detail knowledge about train journey.

  33. Luggage Scale says:

    Taking a train ride can be confusing as well as frightening experience. Thus, it pays to research first before deciding to do it.

  34. Bethaney - Flashpacker Family says:

    Thanks for these tips! We’re doing our first ever rail trip around Europe in May so I need all the help I

  35. I just got back from a backpacking trip around Europe. We did a eurail pass so we could ride any train we wanted for our whole time there. Italy was one of the easiest places to use them but the trains themselves we had some problems. One of our cars caught fire and couldn’t get out. When we finally did they only spoke Italian so we had no idea what happened and finished our trip to venice. I also had some friends who had their trains stopped due to protests by farmers in the tracks. Other than that though it was really enjoyable and the views were beautiful!

    1. Ayngelina Author says:

      Sadly Italy is prone to strikes and protests, like other countries in Europe, and so even with a train pass there will be times the train isn’t running. I’ve been to Italy 5 times now and always lucky in that I’ve never encountered a strike but I’ve heard many stories.

  36. My daughter, myself and two friends traveled to Italy year and half ago. We were clueless! We got sucked in by a “helper” who of course wanted a generous tip at the end. However, they were very helpful otherwise we wouldn’t have been able to navigate our way through the process s I considered it money well spent. Be aware of “helpers” offering to lift your luggage onto the train or overhead storage. More than likely it will be followed by an open hand looking for a tip. If you say “no” you will probably be the subject of an angry retort. Everyone is trying to make a living!

  37. Grazie mille! My 8yo son and I are travelling around Italy by train this Easter – 7 cities in 14 days!

  38. Henry Phillips says:

    I wish to Italy, have never been before or to Europe. I have learnt a lot from the comments and other peoples experiences. Well worth reading them all. I will certainly be a lot better informed and prepared to cope with any problems.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Close
Β© Copyright 2021. Bacon Is Magic. All rights reserved
Close