Travelers to Italy often ask why they can't buy their Italian train tickets six months in advance or whether they need to buy them ahead of their train travel date. The answer is different for tickets on each type of Italian train.
Here's what you need to know about when to buy Italian train tickets for each type of train:
Eurostar Train Tickets:
Tickets for Eurostar trains, high-speed trains that run between Italy's major cities, can usually be bought within two months of your travel date but now some Eurostar tickets can be bought as far as three or four months in advance. Discounts are available on some trains for advance purchases, same day return, or for groups of three or more but note that some discounted and advance tickets may be non-refundable or non-changeable so check carefully before you buy. Eurostar tickets can be bought at any train station Biglietteria in Italy. Online e-tickets including seat reservations can be bought in US dollars through Select Italy or tickets can be purchased on Trenitalia.
Important: Seat reservations are mandatory on Eurostar trains. E-tickets or tickets that have the seat reservation on the ticket do not need to be validated but if you have a ticket and a separate seat reservation you should validate your ticket - see how to validate an Italian train ticket.
Intercity Train Tickets:
Intercity and Intercity plus train tickets currently can only be bought within two months of your travel date. There are sometimes discounts available for purchases from a month up to a day before your travel date or for group travel but note that some discounted tickets may be non-refundable and non-changeable. Intercity train tickets can be bought at a Biglietteria in any train station in Italy or online through Trenitalia.
Important: Seat reservations are mandatory on Intercity plus trains and optional on some Intercity trains. Be sure to validate your ticket before boarding the train - see how to validate an Italian train ticket. If the seat assignment, time, and date is printed directly on the ticket you don't need to validate but if you're not sure it's best to validate.
Regional Train Tickets:
Tickets for regional trains, slower trains that stop many places along the route usually within one region, can only be bought within two months of your travel date. A regional train ticket does not have a specific date or time, it is valid for two months from date of purchase for that train route. Exception: If you buy your ticket from a ticket machine at the station, it may have a date and time stamped on it. Regional trains do not have assigned seats so if you're traveling during peak commute times you may want to buy a first class ticket to have a better chance of finding a seat. You can buy your regional train ticket at a Biglietteria in any train station in Italy or a ticket machine at your departure station right up to the time of departure.
Important: You must validate your train ticket before boarding the train or you may be fined - see how to validate an Italian train ticket.
Eurail Italy Passes:
Italy rail passes must be purchased before you get to Europe, within six months from the date you plan to validate it. Check prices of or buy a Eurail Italy Pass. See Should I Buy an Italian Rail Pass? for more information about when a Eurail pass might be useful.
Important: You must have your rail pass validated within six months of purchase by a railway official at a train station. Reservations and supplements are not included in the pass and must be purchased separately.