The train route between Rome and Milan is one of the most popular and frequent in all of Italy. There are dozens of trains heading out of Rome to Milan every day, making getting from city to city a relatively easy task. Still, it helps to be prepared and a little advance planning can save you time while also allowing you to relax and enjoy a classically-European method of transportation. It’s nearly always better to buy Italy train tickets in advance.
What to know about the Rome train station
Rome’s central train station, Roma Termini, is one of the busiest railway stations in all of Europe,serving around 150 million passengers every year. It’s also quite large, with both a subterranean entrance that connects to Rome’s metro transportation service as well as the main platform entrance at surface level. The building itself is a marvel, with a large hall in the front portion of the structure that features an angled concrete roof punctuated with dozens of skylights. Like everything in Rome, the place is surrounded by history, most obviously represented by the length of Servian wall outside the station that dates from about the early 4thcentury BC.
There are automated ticket kiosks on both levels, but the majority of kiosks are available on the platform level, as well as ticket counters with actual humans who can walk you through the ticket buying process. There is a tourist information desk on the platform level by the rental car area, and a smaller information booth as well, located outside the building in the Piazza dei Cinquecento, near where buses and taxis ferry passengers to and from the station.
Large boards show arrival and departure times at several points throughout the station, mostly in the central ticketing area on the main level as well as near the actual train “shed” where the rail lines depart. Signs and directions are plentiful, and it’s fairly easy to navigate the station despite its size and often-chaotic environment.
Roma Termini is mostly quite safe, although any major transit hub has its share of grifters and thieves. Keep an eye on your bags at all times, and be aware of your surroundings while using the ticket kiosks
How do I get to Roma Termini station?
For such a large city, Rome suffers from a relative lack of public transportation options. But that’s the cost of preserving the city’s huge historic center and ancient architectural treasures. Two metro lines cross the city, both of which connect with Roma Termini. Central Rome also has a decent network of buses, so depending on where you’re staying those will be an option as well. Check with your hotel’s concierge about a bus map or nearby metro options, or you can try the (not very well-designed) ATAC website for more information (ATAC is the company which runs Rome’s public transportation network). It’s usually easiest to just opt for a taxi, or a pre-booked car service like Welcome Pickups. If you opt for a taxi, be sure the driver is aware that you’d like to go to Roma Termini specifically, as Rome has a second, smaller train station, Roma Tiburtina, on the northeast side of the city. (Although Roma Termini is by far the most common departure point for Milan).
Buying train tickets from Rome to Milan
It’s easy to buy train tickets right at the station, and I’ll describe the process below. Trains between major destinations do sell out, however, so if your trip will fall during a busy travel period (summer, fashion weeks, and holidays), it’s a good idea to book ahead. We recommend to search routes and buy train tickets on ItaliaRail.com. ItaliaRail is the most comprehensive option, offering a full schedule with both the high-speed Alto Velocità (AV) trains as well as the slower regional trains if you are not in a hurry (or looking to save a few bucks). It’s common to find cheaper options buying in advance than on the actual day of travel, although that varies depending on demand.
When selecting a train, be sure to look carefully to make sure the destination is “Milan Centrale,” Milan’s central train station, and that you are leaving from Rome Termini. Some trains are direct and some stop in other towns on the way, but you can usually tell the difference by the longer travel times. Also note that you can toggle between standard and first-class pricing, and you have to select the box to see the slower/non-direct trains. More information can be found on pre-booking train tickets in Italy here.
If you choose to purchase at the station, the self-service machines are quite easy to navigate for English speakers. There are different machines for different ticketing services, but the Trenitalia machines are the most common, offering tickets for the state-run Frecciarossa lines. Italo, a privately-run transportation line, is your other option, with its own separate ticketing service. Both services and kiosk types are pretty much the same, but for the purposes of this walk-through we went with the Trenitalia machine.
- Start by selecting English as your language (you’ll click on the British flag on the bottom of the screen), and then select “Buy Your Ticket.”
- The next screen shows your itinerary; Trenitalia trains bound for Milan all go to the Milan Centrale station:
- Once you’ve selected Milano Centrale, you will then be presented with a calendar to select the day of travel, along with the available time frames for departure.
- Once you’ve picked that, you’ll see a screen listing all the available trains and destinations; pick one, and go through the pay-by-card instructions. The machine will then give you a paper ticket.
Show your ticket to the ticket agent when you step through the gate on the way to the train platform. If you’ve purchased online, you can show them the ticket number on your mobile device (ItaliaRail will send this to you in email). If you get confused by any part of the process, there are helpers wearing Trenitalia (or Italo) uniforms who can assist you. You can go to one of the ticket buying desks and buy your ticket from a human, though there will likely be a line. If someone approaches you while you’re buying a ticket offering to “help” you and they are NOT wearing a uniform, say “no grazie” and ignore them. You will see machines around the station asking you to “validate” your ticket, but you only need to validate tickets for the regional trains. If you are on Italo or the Trenitalia/Frecciarossa lines, your ticket is already valid so you don’t need to bother.
A few other important notes:
- Seats on the trains are reserved, and so you will have the option to select your seat when you buy your ticket. However,look closely at your ticket when you receive it and note which train car and seat number you have been assigned. It’s possible your seat number will be different than the one you requested; the system doesn’t update in real time, so the seat you are assigned may NOT have been the one you picked (it should be close by, however).
- The machines only let you use cards that have a PIN number. This means that in some cases you cannot use your credit card. You’ll have to use a debit card, or a credit card that has a PIN attached to it, in order to purchase your ticket.
- Note also that on Trenitalia, children under four years of age travel for free with no ticket required, while children under 15 travel at a reduced rate.
How early do I need to arrive at Roma Termini?
While Roma Termini is fairly intuitive to manage, you will want to give yourself time to get your bearings. If you already have your ticket, arrive at least an hour before your train leaves to figure out what platform your train will be departing from and whether there are any delays or other complications. If you do not have a ticket, you will want to get there earlier to give yourself time to understand the ticket buying process (more on that below) and to evaluate your available options. The trip to Milan from Rome via Italy’s high-speed rail service takes around three hours, so if you have a time in mind for arriving in Milan, you’ll want to plan accordingly.
How do I figure out what platform my train is on?
The train number, departure time, and destination are listed on the front of your ticket. At several points throughout the main level of the station, there are large reader boards with a wealth of information, including destinations and scheduled departures, arrivals and points of origin, train platform numbers, and updates on delays. Match the information on your ticket with the numbers on the board.
Using this usually up-to-the-minute information, you’ll be able to figure out all you need to know about your train, including the platform to which you’ll make your way when the time comes. The platforms are numbered and displayed in the railway departure area by each set of tracks
Once you get to your platform, there is another sign there with information on your train; this should match the information on the reader boards elsewhere in the station, but may have slightly more updated information.
In this example, for instance, you are standing at platform 13, waiting for an Italo train (AV 9964) scheduled to depart for Milano Centrale (abbreviated as “C.LE”) at 9:10am. Unfortunately, there is also a ritardo, or delay, of 55 minutes.
What services and food options are available at the station?
Should you experience a delay, or if you just arrive early and have some time to kill, you have no shortage of eating and service options available. On both the surface level as well as the subterranean area beneath the station, you’ll find shopping options of all kinds, from grocery stores and pharmacies to clothiers and toy shops. There’s even a McDonald’s with a chunk of the ancient Roman 4th Century B.C. Servian wall jutting up inside the restaurant interior. If you’re looking for food, there is no shortage of possibilities, from grab-and-go options to proper sit-down restaurants. There’s even an open market called Il Mercato Centrale that sells high-end snacks and meals alongside mini-saloons and fancy wine bars. The Roma Termini website has the full scoop on what’s around and where to find it; be sure to check there for more information.
Picking up and dropping off rental cars at Rome train station
Rental cars are available at Roma Termini, with clearly marked signs leading to the pickup areas and rental desks. It’s a good idea to reserve a car ahead of time, especially if you require an automatic transmission. We recommend pre-booking through RentalCars.com; the website is simple to use, you can usually find a pretty good deal, and they work with reputable international brands.
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