You might occasionally hear the old story that some Italians say “At least Mussolini made the trains run on time,” but that’s been largely debunked as an urban legend. You’ll still hear complaints that the train schedule in Italy is more of a suggestion than anything else, although things have improved over the years. There are newer and faster trains connecting many of the major rail hubs in Italy, and there are plans to expand those high-speed rail lines further. Because things are always changing, however, it’s a good idea to figure out where to look for (and how to read) an Italian train schedule.
If you’ve bought a rail pass for your trip, you may have received a printed train timetable for Italy (and probably other countries in Europe) as part of the package. These are good to start with as reference points for the bigger cities, but they certainly won’t include every city in Italy that has train service, nor will they include the most up-to-date information. Your best bet is to use any printed Italy train schedule you get to plan generally – noting the time it takes to get from one city to another, for instance – and confirm specific details elsewhere.
You don’t have to wait until you get to Italy to look up more detailed Italian train schedules and fares, however, because the Italian rail system is online. Most of the site is available only in Italian, but the timetable for Italy’s trains is also in English. From the front page of the site, you can plug in your departure city and arrival city, the date you want to travel, and the hour you’d like to make the trip – the system will give you your train options on the next page, and although you have to be registered in order to purchase tickets online you can at least get a better idea of the current Italy train schedule.
Your other option is to go to the nearest train station in Italy and get the latest information there. There’s typically a big yellow poster with a printed schedule (again, this won’t necessarily include the most current information, but it will include all the routes from that station), and as long as you’re visiting during business hours you can ask a ticket agent for details if you’re confused or have additional questions.
The other Italy train timetable you’ll want to pay attention to when you get to an Italian train station is the big overhead board with the letters and numbers that flip constantly, revealing new trains, destinations, and track numbers. These boards only have the listings for the most recent arrivals and departures that are coming up in the near future, but if that includes your train then you’ll be able to find your train’s track number on this board – it’ll be under “BIN,” for “binario.”
Reading an Italian train timetable on the Trenitalia website is relatively straightforward, as you’re looking up a particular route – but if you’re looking at a printed Italy train schedule before your trip or the printed schedule posted in Italian train stations, here are a few things you need to keep in mind.
- When looking at the printed Italy train timetable, make sure you’re looking in the right section – “Arrivi” is for trains arriving at the station you’re currently in, and “Partenze” is for trains leaving the station you’re currently in.
- The city you’re going to may not be the final destination of the trains you’re looking at, so be sure to look at the list of intermediate stops for each train as well.
- While the online schedules may have the most current published information, they still won’t have information about delays or rail strikes. For that, you’ll have to pay attention to the news, ask someone at your hotel, or talk to a ticket agent at a train station.
photo by stezano