Train Travel in Italy in the Summer of Covid-19: What to Expect

Wed, 08/05/2020 - 03:00
Train station in Milan Italy

After the recent controversy caused by Trenitalia and Italo, the two main railway companies operating trains in Italy, announcing that trains would be traveling at full capacity again, Italy’s health minister Roberto Speranza signed a new decree that mandates that in all public indoor spaces, including means of transport, social distancing of at least one meter is mandatory as well as wearing a face mask. 

This has caused the cancellation of many train tickets (8,000 according to Italian media) that had been issued before the latest government decree. According to the news agency Ansa, train tickets from Milan to southern Italy for next weekend had almost sold out (August in Italy is when most people take their vacation).

The situation however remains confusing. The government decree seems to apply to high-speed and long- and medium-haul train travel; it looks like regional trains can travel at full capacity, or at least it is up to each region to decide. With a decision that leaves many puzzled, the region of Lombardy, the worst-hit by coronavirus, with the majority of new cases still coming from there, has announced that it will keep its regional ordinance that allows regional trains to run at full capacity in place.

In any case, this is what you can expect if you travel in Italy by train for the time being (things are subject to change):

- Face masks are mandatory at all times, from the moment you enter a train station to when you exit it. (So not just on trains for the entire duration of the journey.) Face masks are available in Italy in several shops and in pharmacies at the cost of 0.50€ each (usually sold in packets with 10 masks at the cost of €5). 

- Half the seats on high-speed and Intercity trains are not available and are clearly marked off. Because you need to reserve your seat in advance, this is not an issue as you will have your seat assigned anyway so you only need to look for your seat and car number. Even if you make one single reservation for a group of people including family members traveling together, the choice of seats shown will be every other seat. Consider booking in advance given the limited availability of seats. 

- You may be taken the temperature at certain train stations and will not be allowed to travel if your temperature is equal or higher than 37.5°C. 

- Most trains will have different doors for boarding and getting off and are clearly marked. Inside high traffic stations, you will see signs on the floor that separate the flows of inbound and outbound passengers and ensure distancing between arriving and departing travelers.

- You will find hand sanitizer on trains, and cleaning personnel on high-speed train regularly cleans and disinfects, especially after passengers have vacated their seats to get off the train. Hand sanitizer dispensers have also been placed at different locations around train stations. 

- Dining cars are closed and there’s no hot food service on long-haul trains, but you can buy beverages. On high-speed Trenitalia trains (Le Frecce), you get a bag with a mask, headrest cover, gloves and water. 

Need train tickets to Italy? You can buy them here