Italy's rail system is quite extensive—and less expensive than most European rail systems. Your friends might tell you that the only way to see Italy is by car, but you won't be bored with the places you can see by train over a month's period.
High-speed rail as provided by Italy's new trains can get you from city center to city center in much less time door-to-door than taking a flight. You'll get to watch the scenery go by, work, or jabber with fellow passengers and tourists while the miles fly by.
For more detailed information on Italy's rail system, and to buy tickets, see the Trenitalia site. You can see timetables, get special offers, and read "Hot-News" as well as information on trains and ships. If you are planning a European trip by train, you might consult the German DB Bahn site, acknowledged by travelers as having the most comprehensive rail information for Europe.
Understanding the Train Lines
You can use the Italy rail map above to plan your Italian Vacation. It shows the major Italian Cities and the rail lines connecting them. For example, day trips to Milan and Venice from Rome are doable by train.
The lines in purple are used for the high-speed trains like the Frecce series which have mostly replaced the Eurostar Italia and IC (Intercity) trains. The orange lines are only suitable for slower trains.
Italian Rail Passes and Ticketing
In general, train travel in Italy is less expensive than other countries in Europe. Most seasoned travelers just buy point-to-point rail tickets. You would have to travel a long way each of your four travel days to make the Italy Rail Pass a worthwhile investment. Still, if you don't speak Italian, you may opt for the convenience of a rail pass.
A better deal for travelers going to France and Italy might be the combo pass. Remember, with these passes you'll have to use your pass travel days for longer journeys to make the rail pass worth the cost.
More confusing is ticketing on the fast trains like the Frecce trains (Frecciarossa, Frecciargento, and Frecciabianca), where you'll also need to purchase an obligatory seat reservation. Some travelers like to have the tickets for these trains in their pockets before they leave for their vacation without having to deal with a ticket agent who only speaks Italian. A hassle-free way of doing this is through Select Italy, where you can check schedules and buy tickets with automatic seat reservations direct.
The new kid on the block is Italo, the independent high speed rail network that gets you between major cities quickly, traveling at up to 360km/h. Rome to Florence will take you a bit less than an hour and a half on Italo Trains.
Trains on the islands of Sardinia and Sicily are generally slower than trains on the continent.