First time traveling in France and/or Italy by train? Start with this overview guide.
Planning a train trip to France and Italy can be overwhelming. For one thing, there are so many places to go and things to see. For another thing, it can be hard to figure out the train systems. Train travel in France and Italy is relaxing, the complete opposite of air travel, but planning presents its own set of challenges — namely, figuring out what trains run where and what you need to know about each route before buying tickets online or buying them at the station.
What are the Train Networks Like in France & Italy?
The train networks in France and Italy are vast and can be a bit confusing to navigate. There are two main types of trains: high-speed and regional. High-speed trains run on dedicated tracks, so they don’t have to share the track with other trains; this means that they’re faster than regional ones (though not always more comfortable). Regional trains can travel at speeds up to 200 kph (125 mph), but will often go slower than that due to congestion on busy routes or breakdowns that cause delays.
In addition to these main categories, there are also many local lines throughout each country — these run less frequently than both high-speed and regional lines but cover shorter distances within cities or small towns rather than connecting larger cities together.
How to Buy Train Tickets
There are two main ways to buy tickets for train travel in France and Italy: online and at the train station.
- Online: If you want to buy your ticket ahead of time, you can do so through the railway website (in English) or an online travel agency like Omio. Buying online is easier because there’s no need for language skills or currency exchanges. Plus, you can save your ticket to your phone. Or you can print a PDF ticket once everything is finalized. Make sure that if there are any changes related to delays or cancellations, they won’t affect your trip. Book online at SNCF for France and Omio for Italy.
- At the Station: If this sounds like too much work beforehand, then consider stopping by one of France and Italy’s many stations where most people speak English well enough that communication shouldn’t be difficult — and hey maybe even strike up conversation with someone new! The downside is that prices may vary depending on when exactly during peak season (like summertime) and time of day (like rush hour mornings and evenings) so make sure you know what kind of ticketing options exist before making any purchases. Nowadays, most stations also have automated ticket machines with several language options, including good old English.
Trains in France
Trains in France are operated by the national railway company, SNCF. The fastest and most expensive trains are called TGV (Train a Grande Vitesse) and can reach speeds of up to 300 km/h (186 mph). They’re also usually the most comfortable and have wifi onboard. However, they can be very expensive so it’s best to book tickets early. If you’re traveling just a short distance or want to save money on your trip, then consider taking slower regional trains which will get you where you need to go at a fraction of the cost of TGV travel!
Trains in Italy
In Italy, trains are fast and efficient. There are several railway operators, with Trenitalia being the largest. Trains in Italy are comfortable: you’ll find plenty of space for luggage storage and legroom on long-distance routes. They’re also clean — this is especially true of high-speed intercity trains like Thello and all Italy’s private operators. Finally, Italian trains are punctual: 95% arrive within 10 minutes of their scheduled time.
Where to Go in France by Train
This region of southern France is famous for its beautiful countryside and charming towns. If you’re looking for an easy way to get away from it all without having to go too far from home base, this could be your destination. Popular destinations include Avignon, Gordes, Marseille and Nice.
If history is your thing (or even if it isn’t), this part of northern France will appeal directly to your interests with its rich cultural heritage and many attractions related specifically with World War II history or simply French history itself as well as natural beauty in general due largely due large amounts precipitation received each year throughout most parts thereof. Popular destinations include Bayeux, Rouen, Caen and St. Malo.
This area has been producing wine since Roman times so it’s no wonder why there are so many wineries throughout its borders today! Not only can visitors enjoy sampling various types wines during tours offered by local businesses but also take advantage of scenic viewpoints overlooking vineyards below their feet while enjoying panoramic views over entire valley lines below them too.
Known colloquially as “Capital City” since medieval times thanks/because trade routes passed through here on their way eastward towards Burgundy region where merchants would stop off before heading into Switzerland territory itself so they could sell goods offloaded onto carts driven back towards home villages near Italy borderlands instead.
No matter what time of year you visit, there’s always something going on in this city! Some of the most popular attractions include: The Louvre Museum, Notre Dame Cathedral and Sacre Coeur Basilica.
Visitors can enjoy exploring a beautiful city that’s known for its seaside views. There are also many historical sites visitors can check out while they’re there too! Such as: The Promenade des Anglais and Chateau de Nice.
The city is home to many historical sites such as The Palace of the Popes and Pont d’Avignon. The city is also known for its beautiful views of the Rhone River which visitors can enjoy while walking along it, and great shops specializing in Provencal products like lavender, linen, herbs, art and more.
Where to Go in Italy by Train
The birthplace of Renaissance art has plenty of museums worth visiting while you’re in town (and yes, they’re free!). If time permits, take advantage by wandering around Piazza della Signoria or checking out Michelangelo’s David at Galleria dell’Accademia di Belle Arti di Firenze.
This city offers so much more than just fashion — you’ll also find excellent food here! Visit the Duomo di Milano cathedral before heading over for lunch at Osteria del Gnocco Fritto or dinner at Trattoria Da Lino.
You can’t miss seeing its beautiful architecture while wandering around town; just make sure not too much water gets into your luggage when getting off the train at wondrous Santa Lucia station.
The Colosseum may seem crowded but don’t let that deter you — there are many other attractions nearby worth visiting like Pantheon (which houses one large circular opening) and Trevi Fountain (which was built using Baroque style).
Home to world-famous cuisine and wine, Italy’s Tuscan hill country is a great place to visit if you’re interested in learning more about the region’s history and culture. It also offers some of the best views in all of Italy. Popular destinations include Siena, Cortona, Florence, Pisa, Lucca and Montepulciano.
The Cinque Terre is a group of five small towns — Monterosso, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola and Riomaggiore — that are located along the coast of Liguria in northwest Italy. This region has been popular with tourists since the late 19th century and has become one of Italy’s best-known destinations for hiking, cycling and climbing.
The Amalfi Coast is a stretch of coastline on the Tyrrhenian Sea, in southern Italy. It is known for its rugged coastline, beautiful beaches and ancient architecture. The Amalfi Coast is a popular destination for tourists, especially during the summer months. The main towns on the Amalfi Coast are Positano, Sorrento, Ravello, Amalfi and Praiano.
How to Start Planning Your Train Trip in France & Italy
The first step in planning a train trip is to determine how much time you have. Will this be a weeklong excursion or an extended holiday? Do your best to stick to the same number of days, as it will make planning much easier.
The next step is deciding where exactly you’d like to go and how many cities in each country will be on your itinerary. For example, if I were going from Paris to Rome via Milan, we would probably want at least two nights in Paris and Rome and one night in Milan.
To aid in this step, we recommend first understanding the railway maps of France and Italy. This will help you see which destinations are served by the rail lines and in what you should visit them. The second step is to decide what you want to see in each city. Ideally, you will have a list of the top attractions or sites that you wish to see in each place; this way, when it comes time to plan your itinerary, it will be much easier for you to get exactly what you want out of your trip.
We hope that this guide has helped you get a sense of the train networks in France and Italy. There is so much to see and do, so we encourage you not to miss out on any opportunities! The best way to make sure your trip goes smoothly is by planning ahead and getting your tickets early. We also recommend printing out your itinerary so that if anything should happen while abroad (like losing your wallet or passport), it will be easy enough for others to help direct you toward your destination.