Is there any ordeal you wouldn't go through to reach a dream destination like Italy?
It's common to save for months, plan for weeks, and finally squish ourselves into teeny tiny airplane seats next to complete strangers, one of whom is probably an incessant sneezer.
And drools in their sleep.
Planes drive you nuts. Trains in Italy are the way to go. Save time, money and (most importantly) your sanity, buy your Eurail Pass online.
Thankfully, things get better once we touch down in the land of pizza, pasta and Ferraris. We can say "no" to the woes of flying and zip between Italy's most famous cities, like Rome, Florence, and Venice, in the comfort of a modern high-speed train.
Train travel in Italy is far more comfortable than flying and has these other perks:
- It's cheaper (most of the time).
- Often faster (when considering total travel time).
- Reduces waiting time - arrive minutes before departure.
- More convenient locations - train stations are central whereas airports are on city outskirts.
- More functional seats (that include fold-away tables and electrical outlets) and more legroom.
- Big windows to admire the picturesque scenery swooshing by.
- No uncomfortable pressurized cabins.
- More generous luggage allowance with convenient storage.
- BYO food - no starving or overpriced snacks.
- Can be booked far in advance or at the last minute.
We traveled around Italy by train with a Eurail Pass and loved the convenience. It gives you unlimited access to as many trains as you like in a given number of days. And it avoids the confusion of booking tickets from non-English websites or local outlets.
Here’s how to use the Eurail Pass in Italy in 4 easy steps.
Step 1: Order Your Eurail Pass Online
The Eurail Pass is a physical document that is ordered online. Use Eurail’s shipping calculator to determine how long it will take to reach you. Try to leave a few days' wiggle room to be safe. An active passport is required because the program is only available to non-Europeans.
There are a few types of passes to choose from. If you're only visiting Italy, we recommend selecting a Eurail Italy Pass. Price range from:
- USD$142 for 3 travel days within 1 month, in a 2nd class cabin; up to
- USD$357 for 8 travel days within 1 month, in a 1st class cabin.
Otherwise, choose a Eurail Global Pass to continue traveling to nearby countries like France, Switzerland or Austria.
1st Class vs 2nd Class
The definition of "1st class" varies between routes:
- Regional trains: eg. from Rome to Florence, a 1st class Eurail Pass provides seats in the Business Class cabins with comfy leather reclining seats, dedicated fold-out tables, and electrical outlets, spacious luggage storage racks, and complimentary drinks and snacks. Often these trains have a restaurant/bar carriage where light meals can be purchased.
- Inter-city trains: eg. from Milan to La Spezia, a 1st class Eurail Pass provides slightly comfier seats in a quieter cabin with storage space for large suitcases between seats. Most seats conceal fold-out tables and electrical outlets, and a food cart provides drinks and snacks for purchase.
- Local trains: eg. between the Cinque Terre towns, all cabins are the same, and 1st class tickets don’t apply.
A 2nd class Eurail Pass provides allocates seats and luggage storage, although cabins tend to be more crowded and noisier with smaller, less comfortable seats. Depending on the train, there may be fewer electrical outlets, if any.
Step 2: Check Train Schedules and Reserve Your Seats
Some trains, usually regional and inter-city, require advanced reservations that attract a small variable fee based on the route. You'll need to show this on board in addition to your filled-out Eurail Pass.
While it's possible to make reservations at the last minute, we recommend doing this as soon as your Eurail Pass arrives to snatch up the best spots and secure your preferred train.
Train schedules and reservations are available on Eurail's website or via the Rail Planner app (iOS , Android). You'll need your Eurail Pass number handy, and a Eurail.com account.
We recommend first finding your desired routes on the Rail Planner app and jotting down the dates, times, and train numbers so all the reservations can be booked and paid in 1 transaction.
To search train times through the app, just enter your starting point, destination and preferred date and time. The search results will highlight if an additional reservation is needed.
Reservation fees range between €2 (USD$2.16) and €13 (USD$14.02) per person depending on the train line.
The reservation confirmation, containing an assigned seat number and carriage, will be instantly emailed to you. Either print or save on your smartphone or tablet to present to the ticket inspector on board. While some countries require printed reservations, Italian ticket inspectors fine with an electronic copy as long as the QR code and reservation number are visible.
Reservations are not required for local trains, simply fill in your Eurail Pass and jump onboard.
Step 3: Validate Your Eurail Pass
Before catching your first train, validate your Eurail Pass by getting it stamped and dated at the customer service office of any major train station in Italy. This should take around 5 minutes, in theory, providing there's no queue, but allow up to 45 minutes just in case. We validated our passes at the Trenitalia Customer Service Office at Milano Centrale Station.
Alternatively, if you know your exact travel dates and have your passport number available, the Eurail Pass can be pre-activated during check-out. Look for the "activate my pass" option.
Step 4: Get on Board
Once you get to Italy traveling by train is effortless. Before your journey, write the date of travel on the top half of your Eurail Pass, and the date, time, start point and destination on the bottom half.
The pass is only valid once both halves are filled in. If the pass has not been filled in before being checked by a ticket inspector, they may issue an on-the-spot fine.
To Wrap It Up
Adventurous travelers prefer to leave plans to the last minute, while more methodical people, like us, rather plan in advance. The Eurail Pass makes travel around Italy by train easy regardless of your style.
Cost savings will vary depending on how often you use the pass. But time and energy savings are undeniable. And best of all, you won’t have to squish into any tiny plane seats.