If you're new to riding trains in Europe, this video may help you understand the Italian rail system.
The short video will show you the inside of a station, the departure board, and how to buy a simple ticket to ride (and more importantly, how to validate it).
Note: since this video was produced, the time a regional ticket is valid has been reduced and is no longer 1 month after purchase.
Italy's fast trains are called Le Frecce, Italian for "the arrows". The arrows come in three colors. You can get tickets and seat reservations 120 days in advance of your journey. You don't have to validate your ticket because it is only valid for the date and time you specify, unlike a regional train where you can use your ticket within a limited timeframe.
A Frecciabianca train, the white arrow, will get you into smaller places and thus the journey may not be quite as fast between cities since there are more stops. A popular route is Rome to La Spezia, which takes 3 hours and 13 minutes. Why La Spezia? Well, it's the gateway to the Cinque Terre, where a regional train crammed with tourists will wobble into the first Cinque Terre stop in Corniglia in about 13 minutes from the port city of La Spezia.
A Frecciargento train, the silver arrow, also serves popular large cities at speeds up to 155 miles per hour.
Intercity trains are comfortable trains the take you between major and intermediate cities in Italy. You can book them 90 days in advance. They are sometimes considered "high-speed" trains but are hampered by frequent stops.
Regional trains take you to many smaller towns, linking them to stations that have high-speed services. You can buy tickets at the station from a ticket window or through machines in the main hall. You might be surprised at how many small communities are served by the rail system in Italy. One advantage of getting your ticket at the station is that you might see signs advising travelers of the dreaded "scioperi" or frequently occuring transportation strikes of a day or more.
You don't have to arrive much earlier than 15 minutes before departure for a train in a large station, or 10 minutes for a smaller station. If you are travelling on a regional train, validate your ticket in the machines you see in the station and on some of the platforms.
Reading the Departure Board - Here's an interactive "map" of the departure board seen in the movie. How to read it and determine which trains are arriving and departing.
Italy Train Map - Find the major routes trains take in Italy.
See our Torino to Trieste Rail Map to zoom into one of Italy's mose compelling train routes for tourists.
Italy by Train - How and when to buy point-to-point rail tickets and when you might need a rail pass.