Italy Transportation

Trains in Italy
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Getting to Italy

Get started with your Italy travel planning by searching for flights to Italy. Indeed, there are other ways to get there (luxury steamliner?) but this is how most Italy travel dreams start.

Italy’s most popular airports for international travelers are Roma Fiumicino (FCO), also known as Leonardo da Vinci International Airport; Milano Malpensa (MXP); Venice International Airport (VCE), aka Marco Polo Tessera; and Pisa International (PSA), aka Galileo Galilei International Airport.

Ciampino Airport (CIA) in Rome and Linate Airport (LIN) in Milan are those cities secondary airports, often used for intra-Europe travel, particularly among budget airlines.

But these are hardly the only airports in Italy. Nearly every region has its own commercial airport. So you may want to check this list of Italy airports for ideas on where to fly into.

Getting Around Italy

Once you have figured out where to go in Italy and when to go to Italy, it’s time to learn how to get around. Italy has myriad transportation options that range from high-speed trains to overnight ferries. Finding the right, most cost-effective option for you will depend on where you want to go and how much time you have.

There are several useful websites to help you book transportation in Italy, including trains, buses, ferries, and even car-sharing.

  • Comparabus, which has more than just buses in its database, aggregates all of the local transportation options into an easy-to-understand list.
  • OMIO lets you search flights, trains, buses, and ferries in and out of Italy.
  • Save a Train is yet another search engine, but just for trains.

I can’t say for sure whether these travel search engines offer different deals or if they are all serving up fares from the same database. Still, it’s nice to see all the schedule options arranged in an easy-to-understand grid.

Train Travel in Italy

Trains in Italy

If you are sticking to the bigger cities in Italy — Rome, Florence, Milan, Naples, Venice, Turin — you can take a high-speed train. Trenitalia’s Freccia trains (run by Italy’s national train system) and Italo Treno (a high-speed-only private competitor) travel between the big cities daily.

Some high-speed train travel times:

  • Rome to Florence: 1.5 hours
  • Rome to Naples: 1-1.5 hours
  • Rome to Milan: 3-3.5 hours
  • Rome to Venice: 3-3.5 hours
  • Rome to Turin: 3-3.5 hours

High-speed trains between Rome and Milan, Rome and Venice, and Rome and Turin typically stop in Florence and/or Bologna on the way.

There are other train options to get you where you want to go. InterCity trains are slower than high-speed trains and are usually cheaper. Regional trains, which connect cities large and small, are predictably slow, but very inexpensive. There are no assigned seats on regional trains, but you can choose between first and second-class berths.

Air Travel Within Italy

Air travel in Italy
ITA Airways is Italy’s flagship carrier

Taking a plane to travel within Italy is always an option, if not more expensive. It is not necessarily faster either, given that you will have to find transport to and from the airport.

However, air travel is something you may want to investigate, especially if you are traveling to Sicily or Sardinia. A flight from Rome to Olbia or Cagliari in Sardinia or from Rome to Palermo or Catania in Sicily takes a little over an hour (1 hour to 1 hour and 15 minutes). The alternative to getting to those islands is onboard a ferry (see ferry info below).

Bus Travel in Italy

A COTRAL bus in Lazio / photo Alessandro Antonelli

Traveling by bus is sometimes the only option if you want to get to a very small town, and I recommend it for short distances. However, you should know that bus companies are regional in Italy, making it tedious to search for routes that cross two or more regions. One fairly new option in this arena is Flixbus, a German company that operates bus routes across Europe and Italy.

Traveling By Car in Italy

Traveling by car in Italy

It may not be the most environmentally friendly way to go, nor is it particularly inexpensive once you pay for your rental and gas. But car travel in Italy can be delightful, getting you to those far-flung villages as well as giving you the opportunity to come and go on your own time.

Highways—most of which are toll roads that take credit cards—are well-maintained. The A-1 Autostrada, Europe’s oldest highway which is also known as the Autostrada del Sole, runs along the Tyrrhenian (western side) of Italy, passing through Milan, Bologna, Florence, Rome, and Naples. Similarly, the A-14 runs nearly the length of the Adriatic (eastern side) of Italy, from Bologna to Bari (Puglia).

A Few Questions to Consider When Renting a Car in Italy

Where is the best place to rent a car in Italy?

As is true elsewhere, the best place to rent a car is from a transportation hub, such as the airport or train station. But you will also be able to locate rental car agencies in neighborhoods. Familiar agencies such as Hertz and Avis operate in Italy, as does Europcar. You can check AutoEurope for locations and rates.

Remember: that returning a car to a different place than where you picked it up always incurs an extra fee.

What Kinds of Cars Are Available to Rent in Italy?

Most Italians drive manual transmission cars. Make sure to ask for a standard admission if you don’t know how to drive a stick shift or feel uncomfortable driving one.

How Big Are Rental Cars in Italy?

You may want to rent a car that is one size bigger than you think you need to account for luggage and extras you may be traveling with. Italian cars in general run on the smaller side and American travelers tend to run on the bigger side. Sorry, but facts are facts!

Traveling by Boat in Italy

Traveling by ferry in Italy

Some destinations, such as the Tuscan islands and the islands in the Bay of Naples (Capri, Ischia, Procida), necessitate travel by boat. Then, of course, there’s Sicily and Sardinia.

Traghetto is the Italian word for ferry and there are usually a number of ferry options from the mainland to the islands during the summer months.

There are several companies, including OK Ferry and Ferryscanner, that let you book berths on ferry routes to Italy’s big and small islands.