I have now been to Italy several times and each time have travelled around this fabulous country by train.
Once you get the hang of it, train travel in Italy is easy. It is also a great way to see the beautiful countryside on the way to your next destination.
I have travelled a couple of times using a rail pass, but the last couple of visits have just purchased tickets for each individual trip as we went.
That said, we often have purchased tickets a day or two in advance - particularly if the particular train requires a seat reservation, or if it is a busy time of year.
Purchasing a little in advance also means that you don't miss the train you want to catch due to a huuuuuge queue for tickets...
Last trip we used the automatic ticket machines at the stations and found them excellent.
Also, I have travelled both first and second class, and didn't really find much difference - travel second class and you can use the extra money to buy more wine/food etc
Just remember with all tickets that you need to validate them in the small yellow ticket machines before you board your train.
Well have to praise the Italian for the ability to keep the train fare at a rather low rate compared to England or even France.
If you are in Florence , you might want to drop by the Leaning tower at Pisa. Its just one hour train from here. Get your ticket at Santa maria Novella Station for to and fro for only Euro 10. Its an open ticket , so you can hope on any train that goes to Pisa or Firenze when you are coming back !
NOTE - You have to punch/validate the ticket at a small yellow box at the platform. Some of them are not working or either you dont know how to punch properly. Do it like 5 to 10 minutes before you train arrives, if you ticket is found not validated by the conductor, you will be fined !!!
Some trains going through Firenze don't stop at the main station Firenze Santa Maria Novella [Firenze S.M.N.], but rather at Firenze Campo di Marte.
For example, many overnight trains to/from places like Sicily, Vienna, Munich, Nice, Geneva, Zurich, and Paris stop at Firenze Campo di Marte instead of Firenze S.M.N..
Also, some fast day trains to/from Roma, Venezia, Trieste, Milano, Genova, and other places to/from Firenze stop at Firenze Campo di Marte instead of Firenze S.M.N.
Don't let this discourage you from taking one of these trains to/from Firenze.
Trains go between Firenze S.M.N. and Firenze Campo di Marte about every 15 minutes, even early in the morning or late in the evening. And, the journey takes only about 8 minutes.
Also, bus#12 stops in front of the Firenze Campo di Marte station and goes to Firenze S.M.N.
Upper right corner of map shows Bus#12 route at Firenze Campo di Marte
[tip created 1/07, modified 1/09]
You can take the daily train from Rome to Florence. Florence is Tuscany's rail hub, with connections to all the region's major cities. To get to Florence from Rome, you can take the Pendolino (4x daily, 1+3/4 hr.; make sure it's going to Santa Maria Novella station! Must reserve tickets ahead), an EC or IC train (24 daily, just under 2 hr.), or an interregionale (seven daily, around 3 hr.).
Most trains roll into the Stazione Santa Maria Novella, which you'll often see abbreviated as S.M.N. The station is on the NW edge of the city's historic center, 10-minute from the Duomo and 15-minute from Piazza della Signoria and the Uffizi.
The ticketing room (Salone Biglietti) is located through the central doors at the train station; at sportelli (windows) from 9.00 to 18.00 hours, you can buy ordinary unreserved train tickets. The automatic ticket machines have taken some pressure off the ticket windows, but still attract long lines (when they aren't out of order). Around the corner from the ticket windows is a smaller room where you can buy international tickets (window 7), make reservations for high-speed and overnight trains (windows 1-4), or pay for a spot on the Pendolino/ETR express to Milan, Bologna, or Rome (window 5).
Exit out to the left coming off the tracks and you'll find many bus lines as well as stairs down to the underground pedestrian underpass which leads directly to Piazza dell'Unità Italiana and saves you from the traffic of the station's piazza.
Note that some trains stop at the outlying Stazione Campo di Marte or Stazione Rifredi, both of which are worth avoiding. Although there's 24-hour bus service between these satellite stations and S.M.N., departures aren't always frequent and taxi service is erratic and expensive.
Remember: If you're leaving Florence on the train, stamp your ticket in the yellow box at the start of the track before getting on the train.
Trains are the most useful transportation for other cities. If you wanna go to Pisa or even to international lines, Santa Maria Novella is your station.
You can buy your tickets from offices or the machines at stations. Region tickets are valid for Toscana region. To Montecatini or Pisa it's the best to buy regional ticket.
Information office at the left side just after the entrance. There are staff who can talk multi-languages. And they're very helpful. You can get destinations, timetable or whatever for free.
If you want to come back to Florence again, better to buy one more ticket to not wait in a queue. Also check the timetable from Trenitalia's website.
Trains are comfortable but many of them not clean at all (depends on your train). Need to get some fresh air, open some of windows when you get in.
There are taxi and bus stations next to SM Novella.
I love this station. It's very convenient to the center of the city, both by walking and by city bus. They have automated ticketing machines that are super-easy to use, and there are plenty of places to get a drink or bite to eat while waiting for your train. Travelling by train is easy thanks to stations like this.
Florence's main train station is called Santa Maria Novella. It is about a 10 minute walk to the Duomo from here with no luggage, just for you to be able for you to judge whether or not you need to get a taxi. It is an efficient and clean train station, as Italian stations go. The ubiquitous McDonalds is there, as well as a helpful travel agency to the left of the platforms.
I think one of the things I liked the most about Florence was how easy it was to get around by train. The Santa Maria Novella train station is located close to the city center, which makes it possible to pick a hotel located within easy walking distance from both the station and the downtown attractions. There are multiple daily trains connecting Florence to most Italian cities (Rome, Venice and Bologna are very easy to get to, for example), and daytrips to Lucca and Pisa are also easily done - you don't even need to book your ticket in advance! The Santa Maria Novella station was built in the 1930s and on top of the platforms you'll find several cafes and a small shopping centre in the basement. Tickets can be bought at the ticket booths but also from ticket machines that provide instructions in several languages. The intercity ones (Rome, Bologna, Milan...) accept most credit cards and allow you to reserve a seat, while the regional ones (Lucca, Pisa...) only take cash.
Took train from Rome Termini stazione to Florence S.Maria Novella station. When you purchase tickets either through a teller or a machine be sure what station you want to go to. Most cities have more than 1 station, you may get off at the wrong one! We bought most of our tickets using the ticket machine, they have several language options so their is no language barrier to overcome. The tellers do speak quite good english though, if you have several stations to go through or a specific need for a train, the tellers may be a better choice. Not all the machines accept cash/euro. Look for the right one, some only take credit cards and I have heard the CC companies add extra service charges. We never used a credit card in Italy! The ATM's worked perfectly Visa/AMex/MCard
I considered getting a 4 trip Trenitalia pass but, they require reservations for a certain time. We saved quite a bit of money by just purchasing tickets at the station a day before our travel. You will have no problem...even I figured it out!
While in Italy I travelled from city to city on the trains - Trenitalia. I used both the Inter City trains and the Eurostar. The Eurostar trains get between destinations faster (as they have fewer stops) and in general are kept in better condition than the Inter City ones. The trains I went on had either restaurant cars or snack bars on board.
To get to Florence (station Firenze S.M Novella) I came on a Eurostar train from Rome - very comfortable and only took an hour and a half.
I had a railpass when I was in Italy, which was very handy. Although on some trips when I wanted to book a seat I had to pay a few euro extra - but it was either that or run the risk of standing up for a few hours. If you plan on doing a bit of train traveling while in Italy, I recommend getting a rail pass as this can save you money.
The website below is very helpful, you can look up timetables of the trains, prices and even book your tickets online.
Would you believe that we were in a queu for approximately 2 hours just to buy a train ticket for a trip from Firenze to Rome. We arrived at the Santa Maria de Nouvella Centrale Train Station a little after 9:00PM (after a whole day sightseeing) because we thought that it would be easier to purchase the train ticket an hour or so before they close the counter/s. We were very wrong! There were around 10 customers in the queu in front of us and a couple of customers have to be in the counter for barely 20 minutes. Unbelievable!!!!
Then, we had our turn. Gave specific ticket order and alas.....DONE in less than 5 minutes.
For 2 hours lining up, I did not see any incident that any of the counter people smile to their customers. They did not show that they like their job or at least they enjoy the job they are doing. Customer Service in question.....And mind you, our departure time was delayed for 30 minutes. Very inconvenient!
Do take the train in Italy! It was convenient, cheap, comfortable and went everywhere. Be careful, however, to stamp your ticket BEFORE you get on the train...you can do this up to six hours prior to boarding. The ticket punch boxes are yellow boxes located on the train platforms and are very easy to miss! The first time we took the train we didn't punch our tickets and were fined 5 Euros each for the offence (Regional trains charge 5 Euros but we learned that the National trains charge 20).
Punching the ticket (thereby cancelling it) is required as tickets can be purchased a month or two in advance.
You can save between 10 to 30% on the cost of your train tickets if you travel in 3 or more. The discount is higher the lower the grade of service.
The ticket is called: MINI GRUPPO
It is suspended naturally during the summer and other peak periods of the year.
You can go from Florence to almost everywhere in tuscany and Italy with train. Florence main station is SANTA MARIA NOVELLA. Another two important stations are CAMPO DI MARTE and STATUTO. Everytime you get on the train don't forget to validate your ticket in the yellow validation machines on the tracks. If you forget you could get a fine. If the machines don't work, just write on your ticket witha pen the date and hour of your departure.
We continued on from Florence to Siena using the train. It is such a convenient way to travel and it's inexpensive too. I enjoyed being able to relax and watch the scenery go by, not to mention having enough room to stretch my legs.
It's commonplace for Europeans, but for Americans going to Italy take the train. It really is easy and enjoyable. You don't need to buy a Eurail pass either, we just bought our tickets as we needed them. You can buy your tickets at the window or just use the self-service machines. The machines are easy to use, have instructions in English and you can use cash or credit cards.