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Fast and expensive: Frecciarossa - express train prices are less if you book well ahead
The main train station in Naples where all the national trains arrive and head out to the rest of Italy is Central Station. (Stazione Centrale). The station is just to the east of the city centre and a couple of miles from the ferry and cruise port at Molo Beverello.
The train station is similar to the main stations in all major Italian cities. Apart from ticketing there is a left luggage office open 7am to 11pm foreign exchange and countless cafes, bars and fast food.
There is a useful tourist office that is better than most in Italy which dispenses city maps that are useful with public transport routes and the main sights overlaid.
The bus from and to Naples Airport stops outside the station. Although in the same building there are separate platforms for the regional Circumvesuviana trains.
For the average visitor the Circumvesuviana trains are significant as the service from Naples to Sorrento is the the way independent visitors travel to Pompeii and Herculaneum.
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The Circumvesuviana trains are a private railway, not part of the national rail network and has its own separate ticketing arrangement. The Circumvesuviana platforms at Central Station are called Garibaldi Station.
Immediately in front of Central Station is Piazza Garibaldi, a large square, not particularly attractive as the centre is used as a bus terminus. However around the square are a number of the best value hotels in Naples, and all conveniently within easy walking of Central Station.
At first impression Naples has a bewildering number of different bus companies, trams and metro systems, even funicular railways.
Different operating companies run different routes, even on the rather restricted Metro network. With just a little patience the initial impression is seen through, the saving grace being that a unified ticketing and fare system works across all city transport options.
We have a dedicated page covering public transport including links to a public transport map and the Naples ticketing authority with fares and passes.
Full details of the Circumvesuviana trains that enable an independent visit to Pompeii, Herculaneum & Mount Vesuvius from Naples are on our dedicated page linked below.
The Circumvesuviana is a small independent network of lines out of of Naples that cover the region to the east of the city. The line is not part of the national railways so you cannot buy a ticket to Pompeii using the national rail network and Circumvesuviana journeys combined in one ticket. There are no seat reservations, you pay cash for tickets in advance at the stations or local newsstands and bars.
Naples Central Station is the main rail hub for the south of Italy. You can catch trains from here to many towns in the south, plus direct services north to Rome and beyond to northern cities.
The Italian railway system has options for all budgets and is comparatively great value. Cost and trip duration of the journey will depend on the class of train you take. There are three grades of train and on two there is a choice of first class or second class. There is a complex system of advance purchase and day return fares.
Frecciarossa and other high-speed trains - these are the high-speed trains, the pride of the Italian railways that only stop at major cities. Trains run on dedicated high-speed tracks and partly as a result journey times are often twice as fast as other train alternatives. This is not Switzerland but the high-speed trains are invariably more punctual than other classes of train.
Typical passenger cabin of high-speed train
Passenger experience is close to an aircraft with an open plan seating arrangement with seats in rows of two either side of an aisle but with more room and a better view. Fares are normally double that of the express intercity trains but vary depending on when you travel and how far ahead you book.
Intercity trains - these are the normal intercity trains with stops at major towns as well as cities along the way.
You are allocated a reserved seat number when you book. Typically on the older trains, in a second class carriage you will travel in a small compartment with six seats shared with an overhead luggage rack.
Fares are much cheaper than the high-speed inter city trains and journey times are slower. Trains do not have a good track record for punctuality so plan for significant delays on your itinerary with the risk of being pleasantly surprised.
If you look at a train that stops or departs in a major city that is not at the start or end of the trains route check that the train is not stopping at a station on the outskirts of the city, rather than the central city station. Florence and Rome are good examples of this.
Fares are significantly cheaper than the high-speed trains and again are highly variable in ticket price depending on when you travel and how far ahead you book ahead.
Regional/local trains - these trains are a mixed bag but are broadly the opposite extreme to the Frecciarossa high-speed trains. Trains are slow and relatively basic and seldom have seat reservations.
On longer distance routes where there is a choice against Intercity or high-speed alternatives the overwhelming reason to use is the low price, typically 10%-20% of the price of a Frecciarossa train.
Punctuality is not good, arriving on time is the exception, not the rule. Trains will typically stop at additional smaller stations than the Inter City and High Speed trains.
For the visitor to Italy who wants to tour independently, the Trenitalia website will become a second home. In Italy what scheduled coach network there is, is fragmented and piecemeal. The main alternative to rail on the longer distance journeys are the low cost budget airlines.
The Trenitalia website has English language pages and timetables and on-line advance e-ticketing where you can also reserve seat numbers. On some shorter urban journeys it is not possible to buy tickets online.
By planning in advance your rail travel needs it really does pay to look at fares and timetables at the time you are planning your trip. Even on the high-speed trains there are some fantastic fares to be had if you buy well in advance and are willing to be flexible on exact travel times.