Trains to Italy
How to get to Italy by train
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The Eurostar trains make high-speed rail connections to Italy a snapItaly is well-connected to the rest of Europe by train—even with the Alps in the way. You can get much more information about train travel in Europe, plus research schedules, fares, and railpasses, online at Rail Europe (www.raileurope.com).
The Italian state railway is known as FS (stands for Ferrovie della Stato); its site is available in English at www.trenitalia.com.
Somewhat more useful for inter-European travel—no matter where you are coming from—is the German railways site (also available in English) bahn.de.
For example, the Italian state railways site claims you simply can't get to Rome from London (oddly, none of the three London train stations it offers as potential departures—even though all end up saying "sorry, no route"—is St. Pancras, which is in fact the only London station from which you can catch the Eurostar train through the Chunnel to Paris or Brussels and, hence, on to Italy).
Should I take a low-cost airline instead?
Instead of a long train ride, you can always hop an inexpensive no-frills airline. Fast, cheap, and convenient? What more could you ask? Well, carefully consider the time cost involved.
To figure out how much of your travel time a plane journey will eat up, take the flight time (usually 90 minutes to 3 hours within Europe) and then add 3.5 hours: an hour on each end to get to and from the airports, plus the 90 minutes you need to arrive at the airport before your flight.
That means most flights will end up taking, in reality, at least 5 hours—and an overnight train may still be the best option.
Conveniently enough, the aggregator Momondo (www.momondo.com) shows you both air and rail options in Europe: plug in your cities, it will find the cheapest airfares (and tell you how long the plane ride it) as well as how long/how much the train is. Nifty.All of that is a bit academic, of course, since most people these days would opt to take a no-frills airline flight from London (and perhaps also Paris and a few other cities that are more than 12 hours away by train)—see the box on the right to help you determine if this is the wiser strategy.
But if you still want to ride the rails to Italy, here's the skinny.
Travel times between major European and Italian cities
Below is a handy dandy chart to give you a sense of how long your train connections will be connecting major cities elsewhere in Europe with the big cities of Italy.
Note that this is the quickest you can expect to make the journey, using the fastest trains and the closest connections should you have to change trains.
Note, however, that sometimes the fastest option is not the best. Frequently, for some reason, faster trips involve more train changes—which is a huge hassle if you've already settled into a seat.
Plus, every train change—especially tight ones—is another opportunity to miss a connection and end up stranded for hours until the next train comes along. Unlike back in the U.S., European on-time rates for trains are excellent, but it's still a risk.
What's more, sometimes it's wisest to draw your trip out longer on an overnight train. In fact, to maximize your vacation time, I would advise using an overnight train on any journey lasting longer than five hours—rather than spending most of one of your precious vacation days simply sitting on a train, speeding past (admittedly gorgeous) scenery when you could, instead, be sightseeing in your destination.
(Note that, for runs of medium length that are kind of borderline—the journey might seem a bit too short to merit an overnight train—there is often an overnight train scheduled that goes more slowly than the speediest run of the day. In other words, the super-fast Eurostar train in the morning might only take 5:13, but the overnight run takes a more leisurely 9:45, giving you plenty of time to sleep.)
The other option, of course, is a no-frills airline, but see the box above to the right for some thoughts on that.
- Distances between major Italian cities and vacation destinations
- No-frills airlines
- Overnight trains in Italy (applies to all of Europe)
- Trains in Italy
This material was last updated February 2011. All information was accurate at the time.
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