Italy's trains have always been some of the least expensive means of getting around compared to just about any country in western Europe. In the recent past, a rail pass wasn't likely to save you money unless you used it for very long trips of the type few travelers make: Rome to Sicily comes to mind. I didn't recommend rail passes for Italy very often.
But today, with prices rising and faster and more expensive trains coming to a binario (track) near you, I've spent some time recalculating the costs involved. I've come to the conclusion that rail passes can save the typical traveler to Italy some serious money. In fact, on our next trip to Italy we'll probably purchase one for the first time in well over a decade.
To get the most savings out of the rail pass, you'll still have to plan right and pay cash at the station for tickets on local, regional train jaunts, but you can save substantially if you make medium trips on the Intercity and faster trains like the Frecce series, which has replaced Eurostar Italia trains. Let's work it out with some real figures.
In February of 2018, A Eurail Italy Pass good for 4 days in 1 month will cost an adult $295 dollars in first class and $238 for second. (Your kids can get a first class youth pass for $238) The price will vary a bit by the exchange rate on the day you buy (click the link for current prices and to see other bonuses you'll get with the pass).
The pass will also allow free passage on ferries to Greece, including our favorite Venice to Patras route.
To review: Since a first class ticket will cost you about $74 per day, you'll lose money an very short runs, Don't use the card, therefore, for the short Florence to Lucca route. Simply buy your regional tickets at the station. If you're in Florence and want to visit the region of Puglia before going on to Greece, use your pass to get you to a place you'd like to visit, like Lecce, the principal city of the Salento Peninsula, and then, after your visit of two or three days use another day of your rail pass to go to the city of Bari, then board the ferry to Greece on the same day. That's two days of a pass, less than $150 for passage from central Italy to southern Italy and on to Greece, A bargain.
A more frugal idea for those combining a vacation in Italy with one of the adjacent contries is to try Multiple Country Passes as train travel is more expensive in France and Germany, for example. For example, you could zip from Tuscany to Provence with a France-Italy pass.
You can check prices for point to point train tickets or order rail passes using the buttons below.
There's another reason to purchase a Eurail Italy Pass: your interaction with folks at the ticket window will diminish a bit, especially on regional trains where you just board the train and go. But with a rail pass, you'll still have to purchase seat reservations on the high-speed trains.
You'll have to go to a train station before your first train journey and have your pass validated. You'll need to write the date on the pass each day you use it. You're very likely to get fined if you don't. Then you're free to take as many trains in a 24 hour period as you like. Be aware that a rail day lasts from midnight to midnight. On an overnight train that departs after 7pm, a rail day will begin at 7PM and end the next day at midnight.