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Trains in Italy: Train Network

Alice Twain

The National Network - Trenitalia

The main Italian railway "carrier" is Trenitalia (www.trenitalia.com). This is the State-coordinated and State-controlled railway society (although not anymore technically State-owned). Trenitalia owns the 95% of Italian tracks and trains. Having only one society dealing with practically all the trains means that Italian railways, despite a few problems when it comes to quality and comfort, are extremely well coordinated and efficient.

The map in below is the scheme of the Italian railways main lines. As you can see, while northern Italy has lines that crisscross it oriented north-south and east-west, central and southern Italy have two main lines, the first (and most important, since it includes Rome) in the west running along the coast of the Tirrenian sea, the other that runs along the coast of the Adriatic sea, in the east. The general network is much more complex than this, but this scheme will give you a good place to start from for planning your train movements.

Other Train Networks

A few other companies run smaller regional networks. Most of them are not very important to a tourist traveling in Italy. Probably the only one of these networks that may interest you is Ferrovie Nord Milano (www.ferrovienord.it), which runs the Malpensa Express service from Milano Malpensa airport to the center of Milano and a convenient and scenic railway to Como from Milano.

Railway Station in Big Cities and Small Towns

Trenitalia stations come in a variety of sizes and with a varying range of services. The main stations of the main cities are usually also a hub for local transportation and collect a wide number of commercial services. Trenitalia is currently planning a complete restyling of a dozen of these stations - the restyling of Roma Termini, the main Rome station has already been completed - turning the stations in a mall.

Cities' and towns' stations are usually placed conveniently close to the center, since the railway was built to connect them. Yet, sometimes villages and (very) small towns have railway stations that are placed quite far from the center, because the village or town is so small that it could not justify modifying the railway path to reach it. If you plan to reach some really small village, check out where the station is placed in advance (if possible), and arrange a way to reach the place where you are staying (be it either in the countryside or in the village center) so that you are sure not to be stranded in a tiny station. Sometimes these very small villages don't even have a taxi service.

Smaller stations still usually offer a few services: one or two bars, a newspaper seller, sometimes a few shops. Only very small towns have stations that offer only a ticket selling window (sometimes open only n the morning) and a waiting room. In case you are staying in a very small town, and you are planning to leave by train, check out the opening times of the ticket selling window and buy the tickets in advance, just to make sure that you will have the tickets on the day of the departure.

Rome Central Station (Roma Termini)

The photo below shows the Roma Termini. The mall shops are behind and the photo is looking at the Arrival / Departures boards with the numbered train tracks beyond.


Written by Alice Twain, a regular on the Slow Travel Forums. Alice is Italian and lives in Milan. Read her blog in Italian: A Typesetter's Day 3.0. See her Slow Travel Member page.

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