I’ve been booking trains in Italy for many years, and oh, the problems. Trenitalia’s official website is buggy to say the least, and the ticket machines in train stations are as confusing as the humans at the ticket counters. Worse, using foreign (American, French, etc.) credit cards can cause even more headaches.
Italians have these problems too, and as much as they love train travel they’re constantly cursing the national train company and especially its booking system. The website is ugly and very quirky to use even its original version (Even those of us who speak fluent Italian can’t fathom what it’s getting at sometimes).
We’ve previously tested out all of the platforms for European train booking and in this article we catalog some of the problems we and others have come across specifically with Trenitalia and what to do them.
But the short answer is to just book on more functional sites that offer the same prices. Our top pick is just below, and we discuss all of the rest in our treatise about the best train booking platforms for Italy.
Trainline also allows you to sidestep Trenitalia’s nonsensical translations, iffy customer service, and billing issues with non-Italian credit cards.
In addition, for complex and international routes with stops, in our tests Trainline’s smarter routing engine delivered even cheaper trips for entering and leaving Italy than Trenitalia itself. We also love Raileurope for Italy, but Trainline was a bit better than RailEurope in this regard, and it shows lots of bus alternatives.
The only drawback: Trainline charges a booking fee to most users, depending on your computer’s IP location and other factors that Trainline is opaque about. (Boo, Trainline!) But the fee generally amounts to 1-4%, usually just a couple of euros, and for avoiding Trenitalia’s website headaches, it’s well worth it. It’s by most counts the cheapest private train booking option.
Update History of This Article
What Are the Latest Problems with Trenitalia.com?
Italy’s national train company’s website simply sucks. Italians complain about it. Foreigners complain about it. Among the main gripes:
- For trips starting or ending outside of Italy, prices can actually be higher on Trenitalia than when buying through certain resellers like Trainline, as Trenitalia doesn’t have as complete access to non-Italian networks.
- Trenitalia’s website often has billing problems with foreign credit cards, and even errors in accepting Italian credit cards and Paypal. It also sometimes can’t accept non-Italian addresses.
- Random parts of the Trenitalia website remain untranslated. Parts of pages show up in Italian, and you must use Italian (not English) place names in searches. Sometimes you need to know which train station is served for which route in order to perform the search.
- Trenitalia offers a hilariously useless 25-page guide for English speakers attempting to use their site, which explains the obvious stuff in excruciating detail (“continue” means “to go on”) but doesn’t explain real questions that users might have about the site’s bizarre options and oddball terms (such as “typology of the carnet”). (If you really want to buy from Trenitalia, one blogger does a decent job of explaining such options, incidentally.)
- Technical glitches often force you to restart your search or your purchase process.
- Customers often report problems reaching Trenitalia’s customer service, for example, when purchased tickets are not actually generated.
- Routes that you know are available sometimes do not appear in search results at all, particularly complicated routes and those leaving Italy.
All that said, people do manage to use Trenitalia and the site often works OK once you’re used to it and know what to do and what to avoid. But of course there are easier options.
Trainline: Our Favorite Alternative to Trenitalia’s Website
Trainline allows you to avoid the obvious challenges of Trenitalia.
There are other private portals too, but this is why our top pick for Italy is to book trains with Trainline:
- Trainline’s English is snappy, flawless, and includes comprehensible explanations of Italian ticketing options. (There are 16 other language options as well, at last count.)
- No matter where you are in the world, the site accepts your Mastercard, Paypal, American Express, and Apple Pay.
- There aren’t surprise redirects or pop-up or pop-under ads for hotels.
- Put simply, the site’s technology works. We’ve always been able to get through the purchase process fast without having to restart.
- Customers are also generally reasonably satisfied with the level of customer service. You can return or exchange tickets (if you purchase tickets with this option) within the Trainline interface without any haggling with Trenitalia.
- You can show your tickets from your phone or (recommended, in case your phone should have issues) print them yourself.
In our tests, Trainline also has a smarter search engine that comes up with cheaper and better route options than Trenitalia or private competing portals, which we discuss here.
Wrap-up: Our Solution for (Avoiding) Trenitalia’s Website
We’ve switched to Trainline and we think it’s better for just about anyone for Italy train bookings.
It offers the same prices as Trenitalia and Italo on the same routes, but for any complex trips finds even better routes in most cases. For this service, you do have to pay a couple of euros booking fee. But it’s worth it to just get your train tickets without the headaches of the carriers’ own buggy websites and reviled, screwball customer service.
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Trainline is absolutely horrible, why are you recommending them? They advertised an adult ticket, sent me a child’s one and refused to give me a full refund- they stole 10 pounds from me (claiming “terms and conditions”) in spite of calling them and emailing them. They are utterly atrocious and unethical. People should book their tickets directly and avoid such companies. Worst company I’ve ever dealt with in my life
Trainline is charging a booking fee now. This is copied directly from their site based on a Rome – Florence ticket:
Total to pay $29.04
This includes $0.85 booking fee.
Like Omio (formerly GoEuro) they may be charging it in only certain currencies. I searched using USD.
Thanks, you’re right, this has changed for the United States. We’ll be nailing down exactly for whom this applies in what situations, and recommending Loco2.com in some cases, which doesn’t charge this fee for the States…
Trainline is more expensive than the online Trenitalia site, even though the later charges a service charge of over 10%.
Trainline refuses to release the specifics of its new booking fees but in our tests booking from various countries they generally come out to about 3%. Definitely check Loco2 instead!