Transport in Italy is affordable and reasonably quick and efficient.
Train Moderately priced, with extensive coverage and frequent departures. High-speed trains connect major cities.
Car Handy for travelling at your own pace and visiting regions with minimal public transport. Not a good idea for travelling in major urban areas.
Bus Cheaper and slower than trains. Useful for mountainous areas and remote towns and villages not served by trains.
Italy offers an extensive network of internal flights. Airport taxes are included in the price of your ticket.
Airlines in Italy
Italy's flag carrier, Alitalia, flies domestically, serving cities across the Italian mainland and on Sicily and Sardinia. Several low-cost airlines also operate in the country.
Air Italy Olbia-based airline operating domestic and international flights.
Blue Panorama Operates flights from Rome and Milan to Lampedusa and from Milan and Bologna to Reggio Calabria.
easyJet Operates domestic flights to cities across the country, including Milan, Naples, Bari, Palermo and Olbia.
Ryanair Operates domestic routes to mainland airports, as well as to/from Sardinia and Sicily.
Volotea Operates international and domestic flights to Italian destinations.
Useful websites for comparing fares include: www.skyscanner.com; www.kayak.com; www.azfly.it.
Cycling is very popular in northern Italy, less so in the south. The following tips will help ensure a pedal-happy trip.
- If bringing your own bike, you'll need to disassemble and pack it for the journey. You may need to pay an airline surcharge.
- Make sure to bring tools, spare parts, a helmet, lights and a secure bike lock.
- Bikes are prohibited on Italian autostrade (motorways).
- Bikes can be wheeled onto regional trains displaying the bicycle logo. Simply purchase a separate bicycle ticket (supplemento bici), valid for 24 hours (€3.50). Certain international trains also allow transport of assembled bicycles for €12, paid on board. Bikes dismantled and stored in a bag can be taken for free, even on night trains. For more information, see the dedicated page on Trenitalia's website: www.trenitalia.com/en/services/travelling_with_yourbike.html.
- Bikes are sometimes free to transport on ferries. On some routes, you might have to pay a small supplement.
- In the UK, Cycling UK (www.cyclinguk.org) can help you plan your tour or organise a guided tour. Membership costs £46.50 for adults, £29.50 for seniors and £22 for students.
- Bikes are available for hire in most Italian towns. City bikes start at €10/50 per day/week; mountain bikes a bit more. A growing number of Italian hotels also offer free bikes for guests.
Craft Navi (large ferries) sail to Sicily and Sardinia, while traghetti (smaller ferries) and aliscafi (hydrofoils) serve the smaller islands. Most ferries carry vehicles; hydrofoils do not.
Routes Main embarkation points for Sicily and Sardinia are Genoa, Livorno, Civitavecchia and Naples. Ferries for Sicily also leave from Villa San Giovanni and Reggio di Calabria. Main arrival points in Sardinia are Cagliari, Arbatax, Olbia and Porto Torres; in Sicily, Palermo, Catania, Trapani and Messina.
Timetables and tickets Comprehensive website Direct Ferries (www.directferries.co.uk) allows you to search routes, compare prices and book tickets for Italian ferry routes.
Cabins & Seating Travellers can book a two- to four-person cabin or a poltrona, an airline-style armchair. Deck class (which allows you to sit/sleep in lounge areas or on deck) is available only on some ferries.
Buses are particularly useful in mountainous territories and remote inland areas where there's little rail infrastructure.
Routes Bus companies provide everything from meandering local routes to fast, reliable intercity connections.
Timetables These are available on bus-company websites and at tourist offices. Local coastal services are often seasonal with more buses in summer holiday periods. Conversely, in small towns and villages, there'll often be more buses in school term time.
Tickets Tickets are generally competitively priced with the train. In larger cities most intercity bus companies have ticket offices (usually at or near the main bus station) or sell tickets through agencies. In villages and even some good-sized towns, tickets are sold in bars or on the bus.
Advance booking Generally not required, but advisable for overnight or long-haul trips in high season.
Car & Motorcycle
A car in Italy only really becomes useful if you want to get away from the main cities and take to the countryside.
Italy's national automobile association, the Automobile Club d'Italia is a driver's best resource in Italy. It offers 24-hour roadside assistance, available on a pay-per-incident system, and its website has comprehensive information on driving in Italy (www.aci.it/laci/driving-in-italy/driving-in-italy-information-for-visiting-motorists.html).
All EU driving licences are valid in Italy. Travellers from other countries should obtain an International Driving Permit (IDP) through their national automobile association.
A licence is required to ride a scooter – a car licence will do for bikes up to 125cc; for anything over 125cc you'll need a motorcycle licence.
- Staffed filling stations (benzinai, stazioni di servizio) are widespread. Smaller stations tend to close between about 1pm and 3.30pm and sometimes also on Sunday afternoons.
- Many stations have self-service (fai da te) pumps that you can use 24 hours a day. To use one insert a bank note into the payment machine and press the number of the pump you want.
- Unleaded petrol is marked as benzina senza piombo; diesel as gasolio.
- Prices vary from one station to another. At the time of writing, unleaded petrol was averaging €1.46 per litre; diesel €1.29 per litre.
- Prebooking costs less than hiring a car once you arrive in Italy.
- Online booking agency Rentalcars.com compares the rates of numerous rental companies.
- Renters must generally be 21 or over, with a credit card and home-country driving licence or IDP.
- Consider hiring a small car. Doing so will reduce your fuel expenses and make it easier to negotiate narrow city lanes and tight parking spaces.
- Check with your credit-card company to see if it offers a Collision Damage Waiver, which covers you for additional damage if you use the card to pay for your car.
- The following companies have pick-up locations throughout Italy.
Auto Europe (www.autoeurope.it)
Italy by Car (www.italybycar.it)
Agencies throughout Italy rent motorbikes, ranging from small Vespas to large touring bikes. Prices start at around €35/150 per day/week for a 50cc scooter; upwards of €80/400 per day/week for a 650cc motorcycle.
- Drive on the right; overtake on the left.
- It's obligatory to wear seat belts (front and rear), to drive with your headlights on outside built-up areas, and to carry a warning triangle and fluorescent waistcoat in case of breakdown.
- Wearing a helmet is compulsory on all two-wheeled vehicles.
- Motorbikes can enter most restricted traffic areas in Italian cities, and traffic police generally turn a blind eye to motorcycles or scooters parked on footpaths.
- The blood alcohol limit is 0.05%; it's zero for drivers under 21 and for those who have had their licence for less than three years.
Unless otherwise indicated, speed limits are as follows.
- 130km/h on autostradas
- 110km/h on main roads outside built-up areas
- 90km/h on secondary roads outside built-up areas
- 50km/h in built-up areas
Italy has an extensive network of roads. Most are in good condition but a lack of maintenance in some areas means that you should be prepared for potholes and bumpy surfaces, particularly on smaller, secondary roads.
- Autostrada (Italy's toll-charging motorways). On road signs they're marked by a white 'A' and number on a green background. The main north–south artery is the A1, aka the Autostrada del Sole (the 'Motorway of the Sun'), which runs from Milan to Naples via Bologna, Florence and Rome. The main road south from Naples to Reggio di Calabria is the A3. To drive on an autostrada pick up a ticket at the entry barrier and pay (by cash or credit card) as you exit.
- Strade statali (state highways) – Represented on maps by 'S' or 'SS'. Vary from four-lane highways to two-lane roads. The latter can be extremely slow, especially in mountainous regions.
- Strade regionali (regional highways) – Like SS roads but administered by regional authorities rather than the state. Coded 'SR' or 'R'.
- Strade provinciali (provincial highways) – Smaller and slower roads. Coded 'SP' or 'P'.
For information about distances, driving times and fuel costs, see https://en.mappy.com. Additional information, including traffic conditions and toll costs, is available at www.autostrade.it.
Limited Traffic Zones
Many Italian cities, including Rome and Florence, have designated their historic centres as Limited Traffic Zones (ZTL). These areas are off-limits to unauthorised vehicles and entry points are covered by street cameras. If you're caught entering one without the necessary permission you risk a fine. Contact your hotel or accommodation supplier if you think you'll need to access a ZTL.
Major cities all have good transport systems, including bus, tram and metro networks. In Venice, the main public transport option are the vaporetti (small passenger ferries) which ply the city's waterways.
Bus & Metro
- Extensive metropolitane (metros) exist in Rome, Milan, Naples and Turin, with smaller metros in Genoa and Catania. The Minimetrò in Perugia connects the train station with the city centre.
- Cities and towns of any size will have an urbano (urban) and extraurbano (suburban) bus network. Services are generally limited on Sundays and public holidays.
- Purchase bus, tram and metro tickets before boarding, then validate them once on board or at metro entry barriers. If you're caught with an unvalidated ticket you risk a fine (between €50 and €110).
- Buy tickets at tabaccai (tobacconist's shops), newsstands and ticket booths, or from dispensing machines at bus and metro stations. Tickets usually cost around €1 to €2. Many cities offer good-value 24-hour or daily travel cards.
- You'll find taxi ranks outside most train and bus stations. Alternatively, phone for a radio taxi. Radio taxi meters start running from the moment you call for them rather than when you're picked up.
- Charges vary from one region to another. As a rough guide, most short city journeys will cost between €10 and €15. Generally, no more than four people are allowed in a single taxi.
- Uber is not widespread in Italy – only Uber Black is available and that only in Rome and Milan. An alternative app is MyTaxi.
- Trains in Italy are convenient and relatively cheap compared with other European countries. The better train categories are fast and comfortable.
- Most trains are run by Trenitalia, Italy's national train operator.
- Privately owned Italo runs high-velocity trains to/from Turin, Milan, Verona, Venice, Bologna, Florence, Rome, Naples and Salerno.
- Tickets for regional trains must be validated in the green machines (usually found at the head of platforms) before boarding. Failure to do so could result in a fine.
- You do not need to validate tickets printed at home or tickets for Frecciarossa, Frecciargento, Frecciabianca, Italo, InterCity and EuroCity trains as these are valid for a specific train and include a seat reservation.
Italy operates several types of trains.
Regionale The slowest and cheapest trains. They generally stop at all or most stations.
InterCity (IC) Faster services operating between major cities. Their international counterparts are called EuroCity (EC).
Alta Velocità (AV) High-velocity Frecciarossa, Frecciargento, Frecciabianca and Italo trains, with speeds of up to 300km/h and connections to major cities.
Classes & Costs
- Ticket prices vary according to the type of train, class of service, time of travel and how far in advance you book.
- Most Italian trains have 1st- and 2nd-class seating; a 1st-class ticket typically costs from a third to half more than 2nd-class.
- On Frecciarossa trains, 1st class is known as Business Class and 2nd class as Standard.
Popular High-Velocity Routes
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- Seat reservations are obligatory on InterCity, Frecciabianca, Frecciargento and Frecciarossa trains.
- Reservations can be made on the Trenitalia and Italo websites, at railway station counters, and self-service ticketing machines, as well as through travel agents.
- Both Trenitalia and Italo offer advance purchase discounts. Basically, the earlier you book, the greater the saving. Discounted tickets are limited, and refunds and changes are highly restricted. For all ticket options and prices, see the Trenitalia and Italo websites.
Trenitalia offers various discount passes, including the Carta Verde (€40, for 12- to 26-year-olds) and Carta d'Argento (€30, for over-60s), but these are mainly useful for residents or long-term visitors, as they only pay for themselves with regular use over an extended period.
More interesting for short-term visitors are Eurail and InterRail passes.
Eurail & Interrail Passes
Generally speaking, you'll need to cover a lot of ground to make a rail pass worthwhile. Before buying, consider where you intend to travel and compare the price of a rail pass to the cost of individual tickets – get prices on the Trenitalia website (www.trenitalia.com).
InterRail (www.interrail.eu) passes, available online and at most major stations and student-travel outlets, are for people who have been a resident in Europe for more than six months. A Global Pass encompassing 31 countries comes in 10 versions, ranging from three days' travel within a one-month period to three month's unlimited travel. There are four price categories: youth (12 to 27), adult (28 to 59), senior (60+) and child (4 to 11), with different prices for 1st and 2nd class. The InterRail one-country Italy Pass can be used for three to eight days in one month. A Premium Italy Pass also exists which includes free seat reservations. The standard Italy Pass doesn't cover reservations which are required on all Italian trains except for slow regionale trains. See the website for details and prices.
Eurail (www.eurail.com) passes, available for non-European residents, are good for travel in 31 European countries. They can be purchased online or from travel agencies outside Europe. The Eurail Global Pass offers a number of options, from three days of travel within a one-month period to three months of unlimited travel. The Italy Pass allows three to eight days of travel in Italy within a one-month period. Like the InterRail pass, Eurail passes do not cover seat reservations, which are necessary on most Italian trains.
Note also that neither InterRail or Eurail passes are valid on Italo trains.