Why not watch the fabulous Italian countryside zip by from a seat on the train? Even when I am in Italy with a car, I use the train to get to any large city where parking is likely to be a problem and I need to be dropped off in the historic center (centro storico)
The red lines indicate both fast and slow train lines, the orange lines indicate sections of track only for slower trains (or fast trains throttled back to slower speeds).
Remember that faster lines are being built all the time, so the routes can change. The map should give you an idea of the major tourist centers accessible by rail.
Frecce and Eurostar (ES or Treni Eurostar Italia) - Frecce are Italy's fast trains that run only between most major cities. Seat reservations on Frecce trains are mandatory and usually included in the ticket price. Eurostar Italia trains have mostly been replaced by the Frecce series that serve major cities and you'll see them designated on the Trenitalia web site as Frecciarossa, Frecciargento, and Frecciabianca.
Intercity and Intercity Plus Trains stop only at the major cities, as shown on the map. Seat reservations are compulsory on the Intercity Plus trains, and the fee is included in the ticket price.
Regional Trains - Regionale are the slower, local trains. A ticket you buy will be good for the short time, which makes them a flexible and inexpensive way to travel, but requires that you validate your ticket in one of the green and white (or ancient yellow) validation stampers near the tracks. On the crowded routes at peak times you might want to consider first class tickets, which will add only about 30% to the fare and give you a much better chance to get a seat if the train is overcrowded.
Italo is a privately owned railroad built to compete with the state run trains. You'll need to be able to print out an e-ticket to get access to the trains; you can also use Rail Europe's ticketing services while you're still at home: Book Italo Train Tickets. Rail passes are not valid on Italo trains.
You can, of course, just line up at a ticket window at any Italian train station and buy tickets just like everyone else. There are also ticket machines when the lines are long (and some smaller stations rely exclusively on machines, so have some cash handy). But some people like to have their "big" tickets for faster trains or longer journeys in hand while in the United States. This will usually cost you more than just buying them at an Italian train station, but if you find it convenient, check times and costs of European train travel using the buttons below. You can also order rail passes and some attraction tickets from these links to Rail Europe.
If you're unsure of when and why a traveler might buy a rail pass, we have some tips: Italy Rail Passes: Do They Save You Money?
To learn about one of northern Italy's main lines and a compelling itinerary for tourists, see our Torino to Trieste Rail Map.
Many of you on your first trip to Italy will be traveling between Rome and Florence. Don't forget, there are many interesting towns to visit in between these two tourist cities, Here are our favorite Italian cities between Rome and Florence.
Take a look at our interactive demonstration of an Italian departure board, where you'll learn how to deal with trains at the train station.
Find out more about Italian Rail Passes and when you do and don't need them: Italy Rail Passes.