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Train travel For Members

Five clever ways to save money on train tickets in Italy

Giampietro Vianello
Giampietro Vianello - [email protected]
Five clever ways to save money on train tickets in Italy
A high-speed Freccia Rossa train in Milan's Centrale station. Photo by Gabriel BOUYS / AFP

Train tickets in Italy aren't always cheap, especially in the case of longer, interregional journeys. Here are five essential tips to get the best available deal.

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Though images of decrepit trains slowly trundling across the Italian countryside may still be vivid in the minds of many, rail travel in Italy is now much different from what it once was.

Some areas of the country are still significantly underserved, but overall national rail services have improved significantly over the past two decades. 

With nearly 1,500 kilometres of high-speed line, trains are now faster and more comfortable than ever before.

READ ALSO: Five easy day trips to make from Rome by train

This better overall service has however resulted in higher fares for passengers. And, while train tickets are nowhere near the sky-high prices recently seen in the air travel sector, they can be fairly expensive, sometimes exceeding €100 per trip.

Book well in advance

While you may be thinking ‘Gee, thanks for the eye-opener, The Local’, this is the single most essential piece of advice you’ll want to follow when booking your train journey in Italy and we can't stress enough how important it is - and how much money you can save.

Purchasing tickets at least one month before the date of your trip will not only give you access to lower fares but will also allow you not to miss out on deals or special offers as these are often time-limited or have limited availability. 

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Take advantage of deals, but beware the ‘terms and conditions’

Booking in advance will allow you to snap up the best offers, and you’ll find no shortage of those, especially in the warm months.

Deals offered by national rail operators Trenitalia and Italo may include anything from heavily discounted fares for families or groups of friends to discounts of up to 60 or even 70 percent for people under 29 or day trippers.

But, before going full steam ahead with the purchase, it’s always advisable to check the relevant offers' ‘terms and conditions’ (termini e condizioni in Italian). 

Milan's centrale station

A view of Milan's Centrale, one of Italy's biggest train stations. Photo by Filippo MONTEFORTE / AFP

In fact, while some promotions may appear to be incredibly advantageous on paper, they may ‘hide’ fairly unfavourable caveats. For instance, a certain offer may be non modificabile and non rimborsabile, meaning you won’t be able to change the time or date of the journey (not even by paying a penalty), nor will you be reimbursed in the case you can’t make the trip.   

These conditions can generally be found on the same website page as the deal they refer to and are definitely worth checking beforehand.

Use price comparison websites to snap up the best fare 

Comparing prices and promotions from different companies is technically something that you could do on your own, but why go to such trouble if someone or, in this case, something else can do it for you. 

READ ALSO: The best websites for cross-Europe train travel

Train fare comparison websites have mushroomed in recent years, with Trainline and Omio being generally considered the most reliable ones in Italy. 

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They both are intuitive, easy to navigate and are available in a number of different languages, including English.

Loyalty cards and travel packs

While this may not be as valuable a tip for short-stay visitors, it’s advisable for residents or those on longer stays to get the loyalty card of the company they travel with more frequently.

Besides getting immediate access to discounts on future journeys and special membership offers, you’ll also have loyalty points added to your card after every trip, which you’ll be able to cash in in exchange for a free journey after some time.

Freccia Rossa train in Rome

A view of the first class area on a Freccia Rossa high-speed train in Rome's Termini station. Photo by Gabriel BOUYS / AFP

People travelling frequently between the two same destinations can also buy 10- or 20-ticket travel packs (known as carnet in Italy). These can allow for savings of up to 50 percent. 

However, it's always best to check how long the relevant travel pack will be valid for before purchasing. 

TrovaunPosto for last-minute tickets

Life is known to throw the odd curveball every now and then, which means you may at some point find yourself having to buy a train ticket at the very last minute. 

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In that case, TrovaunPosto may be your only possible chance of getting a cheap (or cheaper) eleventh-hour ticket.

READ ALSO: Yes, train travel across Europe is far better than flying - even with kids

TrovaunPosto ('Find a seat') is an online marketplace where people who can’t make their planned trips sell their tickets at prices which, under website regulations, must be lower than the price they originally bought them for.

You might not get lucky, but it’s definitely worth a shot.

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