Train is a very convenient way to get to Venice, especially if you land in another big city like Milan and Rome. The best train to take is the so-called "Eurostar". These train have mandatory reservations, i.e., each time you buy a ticket for a Eurostar you have necessarily to choose the train you want to take (and, accordingly, you will be assigned a seat on it, just like on airplanes). In case you have trouble, you can change the reservation, but, of course, before the departure of the train (better at least the day before).
Reservations are of the form wagon ("carrozza") number, seat ("posto") number; so for example, carrozza 2 posto 14 means you should enter wagon n.2 (look at the number outside each wagon, usually placed close to the doors), and once inside, look for seat no.14 (like in an airplane).
For more generic infos on trains in Italy, see also my Italian transportation page.
There is no train from Venice airport to Venice island: if you land in Venice, you'll have to get a bus/boat/taxi instead.
Eurostars can be also conveniently booked online (see enclosed link, and also my Italian transportation page), with a nice bilingual (Italian/English) website that allows you to look at the schedules, and to buy the ticket using your credit card.
Note for smokers and non-sm okers: from 2005, you can't smoke on *any* train in Italy. No smoke compartments at all, like on airplanes. Sorry!
Finally, when getting to Venice, all the tourists I have met are always baffled by the fact there is a station called "Venezia-Mestre", as they don't know whether to go out or not: this is *not* Venice island (the one you, in all likelihood, want to go), but it is the ground part of Venice (Mestre). Venice (island) is the next stop, so sit on that train, and relax, you can't miss it (it's after Venice-Mestre, it's the last stop, and you have to pass a very long bridge before getting into it!).
If you come to Venice by train, you will arrive at the Santa Lucia Railway Station, a large building located at the beginning of the Grand Canal in the Santa Croce area of the city. It is easy to reach the city center on foot walking down the Strada Nuova or by taking the water bus from one of the jetties that are opposite the station.
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.
The main train station, S. Lucia, is on the Grand Canal -- there's a vaporetto stop right outside the main entrance.
Beware the exchange offices in the station -- very high commission charges.
There's a travel bureau in the station and an accommodation agency.
After enjoying our days in Venice, we took the train to Florence. The train schedule has several departures per day, for the 3 hour journey. We booked our tickets in advance with Select Italy. We may have paid a little more for them, but it was one less line to get in, and one less thing to worry about. When we arrived at the train station we just had to validate our tickets in the yellow box, and watch the boards for our train number. Our tickets were marked with the car and seat number. Very convenient!
Most trains arrive at Santa Lucia station in the northwest corner of island Venice, though a few will only take you as far as Mestre on the mainland, where you will need to change to a local train (every five minutes or less during the day) for the ten-minute hop across the lagoon.
If arriving just for the day and need to leave luggage at the station simply go to platform 14 to the left luggage counter. Here you will be given a receipt when you habd over your 3 euros - abit extra if its left over 12 hours. Opening/closing hour are up til midnight and then then open again at 6am. Alternatively luggage lockers (various sizes and prices) can be used.
I took the train to Venice from Padova. It only cost a few Euro and took about 40 minutes. It beats driving there.
it takes approximately 4 hours from milano centrale [milan] to venezia santa lucia [venice] by train.
Here I am at Venice Santa Lucia Station. I spent 5 days here and was ready to head back. Expect delays but all in all, it's a very user friendly station despite being crowded.
Be sure to get off at Santa Lucia, there are two train stations for Venezia - that some trains stop - the first is called Mestre, Venezia.