We’ve spent weeks testing websites to find out how to efficiently book the cheapest tickets for Italian train travel.
We tested all kinds of routes and options, and looked at overall end purchase prices as well as the complaints about and defects with the national operator’s website, Trenitalia and to the competing private train operator, Italo. We compared these to various private ticket booking systems for Italy.
The winner is a train booking site that’s better for both foreigners and Italians that enables one to get the same prices while reducing exasperation with the official websites.
The Best Way to Book Italian Train Tickets
Loco2 helps avoid the obvious challenges of these sites, such as poor translations (and untranslated portions of the sites, such as place names), foreign credit card denials, surprise re-directs, incomprehensible options, and technical bugs that cause you to restart your purchase process. Plus Loco2 searches both Italian train systems at once.
In our tests, Loco2 also has a smarter search engine that comes up with cheaper and better route options than private competing portals. Customers are also generally reasonably satisfied with the level of customer service.
The other excellent private portal for Italian train tickets is Trainline, and for long, complex international trips it may even outperform Loco2. What keeps it from being our first choice for Italy is that it sometimes charges a few-percent booking fee to users outside of Western Europe. But for those inside Western Europe at the time of booking it’s just as good as Loco2 if not better, and even for those outside of Western Europe booking complex international trips, it may be worth a look.
Update History of This Article
Why Search for an Alternative to the Italy’s Rail Operator’s Websites?
Ha! With just one experience with either of those sites you probably will too.
Trenitalia: The government’s national rail service, Trenitalia, has a site so full of errors that we devoted an entire separate article to it. Those issues include poor translations (and untranslated portions of the site, such as place names), foreign credit card denials, surprise re-directs, incomprehensible options, and technical bugs that cause you to restart your purchase process.
Italo: The private competing rail service has a website that is a bit better than Trenitalia’s, but still suffers from usability problems and incomplete translations. Since their service is much more limited, it’s only relevant for certain routes. It’s much easier to search both train services at once using our main train portal pick Loco2, which offers the same prices as both and is more user-friendly.
While Loco2 isn’t perfect, it’s easily better and charges the same for Italian train tickets as either of these services at any given moment.
The Advantages of Loco2 for Italian Train Tickets
There are a number of options out there and we tried all of them for multiple routes both within Italy and entering and leaving the country. Here’s why Loco2 came out on top.
- You get the same prices (and sometimes a bit cheaper) as when booking directly from Trenitalia or Italo: Base prices for any Italian route are the same as the rail operators themselves. (The same is true with its tickets for Germany, Spain, Eurostar (Paris to London), France and more.) Other private booking options have booking fees or markups.
- Loco2 works out even cheaper than the official national operators for complex trips: When you cross out of Italy during a trip, Loco2 can be even cheaper than Trenitalia, for example if going from Bari to Zurich. This is because Loco2 can do combinations directly with other countries’ ticketing systems (in France, Germany, and Switzerland) and so offers routes that Trenitalia either doesn’t have access to or charges more for.
- Loco2 works non-Italian international credit cards, accepting Visa, MasterCard, and PayPal. Payment is as smooth as on any secure modern website, and you are immediately issued a completely comprehensible email with your itinerary and receipt.
- Compare Trenitalia and Italo options side-by-side: The private competitor Italo runs limited services on a few of the same routes as Trenitalia and can be quite comfortable and in certain cases more convenient. With Loco2 you’ll automatically see both options when relevant, so you don’t have to visit both sites separately to comparison shop. Loco2 also automatically suggests a few limited bus options.
- Snappy, clean website: Loco2’s website is a nice bit of design and easy to use. It doesn’t have the grating clutter of Trenitalia, nor the incessant advertising of other private options. We also love that there’s a little map shown on Loco2 when we make searches so that we can get a very visual idea of our trip options.
- Quality and speedy customer support: Loco2 excels as a hand to hold and mediator between customers and the complex and frustrating European train systems. Trenitalia is legendarily difficult to get ahold of, let alone deal with, should problems with your booking come up. Loco2’s support comes from normal humans who respond quickly.
Indicate your seat preference: Loco2 offers this option for long-distance trains (no such choice exists on Trenitalia regional trains). Some competing portals do not offer this option at all for Italy (though Trainline also does).
- E-tickets: Loco2 means no waiting for paper tickets to be mailed to you. You can print your tickets, show them on your phone, or even just give your confirmation code. There are more details on Loco2’s delivery options here.
- Easy cancellations: If you’ve purchased tickets that are refundable or changeable, you can take care of this right from within Loco2.
A Few Disadvantages of Loco2 — But They Don’t Derail Us
Here’s where we think Loco2 could still stand to improve.
- There is no flexible dates option. We’d love to see this, but neither Loco2 nor any other platform is currently offering the ability to see which date would be cheapest to travel on if you’re flexible in Italy.
- There’s not much in the way of bus options. To compare bus with train offerings as well as with combination bus/train routes, try Trainline. And for the broadest array of bus options, head to Omio.
- No Age Discounts: Trenitalia sells discount cards for youth (12 to 26 years old) and seniors (60 years and over) — though they are only worth purchasing if you travel very frequently via the Italian rail system. If you have these cards, you can get the relevant discounts when purchasing via competing portal Trainline or with Trenitalia, but not with Loco2.
- Rounding up of conversions: If you’re paying in dollars, the conversion is fair enough but seems to always round up to the nearest $0.50 or $1. Select euros instead at the top right and let your credit card do the converting.
Other Private Platforms for Booking Italian Train Tickets
Trainline: This site comes in a very close second. It is actually slightly better than Loco2 in terms of offering tickets for complex routes across borders in and out of Italy. And it offers better access to senior discounts (if you have a senior card) and it has better coverage of buses and bus-plus-train options.
Trainline used to be our main pick, but started charging a booking fee to users located outside of mainland Europe. While this is a small fee of generally about 3%, it was enough to make us prefer Loco2 for Italy, as the above advantages of Trainline are unlikely to apply to most of our readers.
Trainline’s booking fee does not apply to you if you are already in Italy, so if you’re already enjoying your vino rosso and pasta, go and enjoy Trainline too. We also use it and love it.
Omio.com: Our third-favorite site is very clean and easy to use. It isn’t as clever with suggesting complex train routes as our main pick, nor does it offer as many options about seating and the rest. It also has search functions for buses and planes so that you can see all options side-by-side. There is a small additional booking fee.
ItaliaRail: This is a private booking portal that sells Trenitalia tickets with a website that is a bit smoother for foreigners to use than Trenitalia’s. The design is simpler and the English version is more complete. However, unlike our main pick, it tacks on an extra fee, and its options aren’t always quite as good.
Rome2Rio is a cool search tool that compares everything at once: driving, buses, planes and trains. But it doesn’t actually sell the tickets itself, doesn’t show very good/cheap train routes, and it seems to have rather incomplete coverage of Italy.
Wrap-up: Our Favorite Train Portal for Italian Tickets
We now generally head to Loco2 for train tickets for Italy.
For simple tickets, prices are the same as the carriers themselves, and the booking process is much, much smoother. There is no booking fee.
For complex and international trips in and out of Italy, Loco2 almost always offers us cheaper routes than Trenitalia and other private portals. But on occasion it can be worth comparing your results to those you get from competing private portal Trainline.