When navigating through a country where you aren’t exactly sure where you are going and you definitely don’t read or speak the language, it can be intimidating! I thought it would be helpful to break down train tickets to attempt to help you navigate your way! The examples provided in this post are from my most recent trip to Italy, but this does not just pertain to Italy-just because it’s in Italian. Many trains throughout Europe operate the same way and provide similar tickets, so this knowledge can be applied throughout many of your trips! Hope you find it helpful!
Here is an example of one of my train tickets. At the top left corner it says Self Service, because I bought the ticket from a ticket kiosk by myself. These kiosks (sorry I forgot to take a picture) are big machines located in a row at the train terminals and typically have flocks of people at them. At some stations they may be lined up against a wall, and other stations they may be freestanding in a group, with a rope around them. The kiosks have options to change the language based on the flag of your country in the lower left hand side. If you’re American-click the British flag. From there, you can pick your destination (Arrivo) as your departure (Partenza) is the station you purchase the ticket from. You can choose one-way or roundtrip, purchase one ticket or multiple, and pay by cash or card.
You always have the option of purchasing a ticket through an agent at a counter or online, but it’s typically easier and faster to purchase through a self-service kiosk. I have also come across difficulties purchasing online if I am not from Europe or do not hold a European credit card, therefore I prefer purchasing in person.
This ticket was from the Termini station in metropolitan Rome, to get to the Fiumicino Airport. When you purchase a general ticket like this there is no date or time listed (data/ora).
In the case of a general ticket, it is extremely important to make sure to validate your ticket!!! If you do not validate your ticket you will be fined-regardless of being a tourist and “not knowing any better.” My validation is seen on the top right corner in the faded black lettering, vertical to the ticket information. Your ticket is only good for a certain time after validation which is noted on the lower left hand corner of the ticket-for instance this ticket shows validation good for 90 minutes after validating.
Validating Your Ticket
The validation machine is located around the self service kiosks and train platforms. To validate your ticket, stick your ticket into the machine as far as it will go, and to the left as far as it will go. You will hear the machine stamp your ticket, and will see the stamp upon removal of your ticket from the machine.
In the image below, you will see the validation stamp from the Tuscolana station-1804170826. This was validated on 04 (April) 18th, 2017 at 08:26 am. Therefore it is valid 90 minutes-until 09:56 am. Once validated, you may choose to catch any trains within your validation time frame and choose your seat once on the train. If someone approaches you that you are in their reserved seat, simply find an empty one.
Easy, peasy right?! Now let’s take a look at scheduled tickets! To purchase a scheduled ticket, you have multiple options to purchase. You may purchase online and print your ticket, purchase with a person at a counter, or purchase through a self-service kiosk at the train station.
As mentioned above, I always prefer to purchase in person at a self-service kiosk, unless there are issues with the kiosk, then I purchase through a person at a counter.
A scheduled ticket has more information printed on it. In many countries, seats are not reserved, but in Italy, they are. Your ticket will provide information on what date you will be departing, what time you will be departing, what carriage you are reserved in, and your seat reservation along with information such as what train number you will take and the train company, . It will also provide the date and time of your arrival. For a scheduled ticket you do not have to validate as this information is already printed on your ticket.
Date and Time of Departure
Remember how we talked about there not being a date and time for a general ticket? For a scheduled ticket, there will be a date and time printed. This is in the same spot as the general ticket. This ticket shows the train leaving on 17.04. In Europe, the day always comes before the month. So, the departure date (Data) is April, 17th. The departure time (Ora) is 13.08, or 1:08 pm.
Italians hold true to seat reservations, so it’s very important that you pay attention-or you will be kicked out! And vice versa-if someone is in your seat, tell them to find their own so that you don’t get in trouble for sitting somewhere you aren’t supposed to. The first step in finding your seat reservation is by looking at what carriage number you are located in. Your train carriage (Carrozza) is the physical train compartment (or coach) and on this ticket, it shows carriage 08.
To find carriage 08 on the train platform, there are two places you can look. The first is on the physical platform. On the platform, there are screens which indicate the carriage numbers. To reach carriage 08 for this train, we had to walk along the platform until we found this sign, located on the upper left corner of the picture.
The second place you can find your carriage number is on the outside of the physical train. As the train pulls into the platform, you can read the card listed by the door. There is the train which lists the carriage next to the door, and the digital sign which lists the carriage, the seats within the carriage, the train, the train number, destination, and destination time.
To find your seat number, the information is located next to the carriage number. Your seat (Posti) will be a number and a letter. On most trains in Italy this was 1-15 and A-D. For this ticket, your seat assignment would be 14A.
You will need to identify your train number on your ticket so that you can locate which platform to find your train. Luckily, all the information is blocked together! The train number (Treno) is next to the carriage and seat numbers. Therefore, on this ticket, the train number is 9525.
You may or may not be interested in which train company you are taking. Sometimes this helps confirm that you are indeed on the right platform, based on the company and how the train looks. To find your company, simple look at the top of your ticket, in the middle. The train company will be listed. For this ticket, the company is Frecciarossa.
So, now that we understand how to interpret our scheduled tickets, what happens when we are given two tickets and have to change trains in the middle of our journey?!
Scheduled Tickets with Train Transfer
So sometimes we cannot get a direct ticket to our destination. In this instance, we purchase our ticket and are given two or more tickets. You will need to use all the skills I just taught you and find out where your ticket is going and where you need to transfer trains. Although you can feel flustered, I can assure you that you will not be the only one making a transfer and typically there is about 10 minutes at the station to make the transfer, with the transfer physically taking about 2 minutes to complete. You will have time, and you will figure it out!
In the tickets pictured above, notice that the first ticket is scheduled with carriage and seat assignments, but the second picture is a general ticket. What this means is you have a specific date, time, train number, carriage number and seat assignment for the first train (everything we just went over). For the second ticket, you have to validate at the second train station and find the next available train to that destination, sitting wherever there is an open seat.
Scheduled Ticket Before Transfer
Let’s break this down and focus on the first ticket. When interpreting, put all the information I have shown you and work from left to right across the ticket. Again, this ticket will show you that the date of departure (Data) is on 14.04 (April 14th) at the time (Ora) of 07:30 am. It departs (Partenza) from Florence Train Station (Firenze S.M.N.) and arrives (Arrivo) at Bologna Train Station (Bologna Centrale). The date of arrival (Data) is 14.04 (April 14th) at the time (Ora) of 08:05. The assigned carriage (Carrozza) is 011, and the assigned seat (Posti) is 7A. The train (Treno) is 9502 and the company is Frecciarossa.
Great job! However, our final destination is Venice, not Bologna! So, now let’s break down that next ticket. This ticket is not scheduled like the first one, but is general. There is no date of departure (Data), no time of departure (Ora), no carriage or seat assignments, no train number or train company. However, it shows that the departure (Partenza) is from Bologna Train Station (Bologna Centrale) and the arrival (Arrivo) is at Venice Train Station (Venezia S. Lucia). This ticket also shows that it is valid for 4 hours after validation (Vale 4H da convalida). So if worse comes to worst, you miss the next train, you can catch the next one.
So, when arriving at the second station in Bologna, simply depart from the train and validate your second ticket in a machine, find your platform, and board the next train. Some trains will announce or provide information aboard about connecting trains and their platforms. At the platform, there are signs listing train and platform information.
Now go forth and ride trains!
How was this tutorial? Did you find it helpful? Are you feeling confident and excited to see the world? What information was not helpful or misleading? Please let me know, in the comments below, or feel free to contact me with the form on the main page!
Looking for things to do in Italy? I’ve got lots to tell you about!