Posted by: debrakolkka | February 15, 2011

Can anyone work out the numbering system on Italian trains?

The Eurostar trains in Italy are great. They are very fast, clean and generally on time. However, there is not enough room for luggage and the numbering system requires a university degree in train seat numbering.  There are always  groups of confused people hovering beside the seats trying to decide who sits where. I have seen fights break out. I will attempt to show you what I mean.

the interior of the train

I was sitting at the rear of the carriage in a single seat. That is my red suitcase. The number of my seat was 92. The single seat on the other side of the aisle was 96.

The 2 seats directly in front of me were 91 and 93. On the other side they were 94 and 95

In the row in front of that row on my side were 88 and 82. On the other side were 86 and 84. Do you get the picture? What maniac designed this???

Anyway, once you have found a place for your luggage and settled into your  comfortable seat, all is good. You can gaze out of the window at the passing lovliness of Italy. I try not to fall asleep on these trips, it would be such a waste. This is some of what I saw on my 1 hour 45 minute trip from Milan to Florence.

snowy winter landscape

farmhouses whizzing by

snow on the vines – it really does look like a dusting of icing sugar

a renovator’s delight rushes past

I know the photos are not wonderful, but the trains move at over 300 kilometres an hour. They are so smooth, you have no idea how fast you are going until you run parallel with an autostrada and you can compare your speed with the cars.

The trains are an excellent way to travel between major cities in Italy. The automatic ticket machines at the stations have recently been made easier to use and are a better option than lining up in one of the very long queues to buy a ticket.

The local trains are something else entirely – some are good and others, not so good. Happy travelling.

PS. Since I wrote this post the numbering system has been vastly improved and is now much more logical.


  1. Huh? That numbering is absolutely bizarre.

    I know, maybe they move the actual seats around when they do an annual clean-up of the interior?

    Or maybe, when they were allocating numbers to the seats, they handed out packs of numbers to the lads who had to fasten the numbers to the seats, and then left them to distribute the numbers throughout the carriage?

    • Perhaps they just throw them up in the air and attach them where they land. I love watching people scratching their heads while trying to find their seats. I have a morbid sense of humour.

      • Ahh! Now that’s an option I hadn’t thought of. I confess that I’d also be giggling along with you – as long as I have found *my* seat! 😉

  2. It’s good to see they improved since the night (in about 1991) that I spent sitting up on a fold-down seat in the train corridor to avoid the fumes wafting from the smokers’ compartment we’d been allocated.

    • Smoking has been banned on trains since I have been coming here – in about 2005 I think. It used to be awful climbing into a carriage thick with smoke. Now people line up, with a fag in their mouths, ready to jump off for a quick puff while the train is in the station – pathetic really.

  3. On the line I used to use, I remember that until recently the station announcements for the trains were all in Italian and English – except for the train to Pisa airport!

    I also think Italian trains are great, but I do find it difficult, and Italians themselves also seem to, when they play ‘musical platforms’. I remember once at Pisa Centrale, it happened four times with the same train, and they even let us get on one for a while before deciding we had to get off again.

    On Florence SM it is particularly difficult because the announcments are hard to hear above the noise of the trains, so you really have to keep your wits about you.



    • I love the musical platforms – I have done this. Train travel here is not for the fainthearted.

  4. Ha ha! Maybe if you say the numbers in Italian they sound better “non-ordered”? I think you should definitely ask somebody at Eurostar, and let us know.

    You definitely get the feeling of motion in those scenery shots.

    • Italian is quite musical, perhaps there is something in rhyming the numbers.

  5. I know what you mean. It was just after all the flights were cancelled when the volcano in Iceland erupted last April. It was hard enough finding the correct carriage, then climb up the steps with a heavy case, repeat same with Denise’s case. Then push- pull ourselves down the crowded isle and find our reserved seats with the seat numbering system, and finally have an arguement with a young American couple who did not see why they should move as they were there first and there was no “reserved” sign on the seat. Then find a place for the cases.

    We did not know about the volcano at the time and just thought the crowding was normal and were having second thoughts about Italian train travel. With a bit of experience we got used to the system we appreciated just how fantastic the trains and the rail system are.

    • You book your seat number. The American couple obviously didn’t know the system. The trains are always crowded here in the high season.

  6. Deb
    We had one of our best conversations with locals on Christmas Eve, travelling from Rome to Florence. Two ladies shared, in Italian, the secret of the perfect lasagne (bianco, rosso o verde!). They were on their way to Slovenia from Naples.
    Luckily Annabelle could interpret! And I did understand what they were saying–just couldn’t reply.
    But I know what you mean about poor luggage space and strange numbering!

    • I love the trains here and find the whole thing very entertaining.

  7. It seems easy Start at a number you like and sit down then for the seat in front add ten then subtract two , then for the seat next to it subtract another two. When you cross the isle you simply add seven and five respectively .

    Then if this does not work sit back and enjoy the trip.


    • I don’t know why I hadn’t thought of that.

  8. I love the ” Renovators Delight” But it is close to rail


    • No, it is close to road.

  9. Haha the Eurostar is great but I don’t remember having the same numbering issue on the London to Paris route. Perhaps it’s just certain routes!

    • Probably just Italy.

  10. Ah Italian trains… this one doesn’t look like the one I travelled on from north to south overnighter. Pull out seats to create one big type bed for 6 people (2 we didn’t know) in the middle of summer. Going back, half the way standing room only, and lots of smoking. I would have been happy with any number!
    (Love the countryside pics.)

    • I’ve been recently on an overnnight train to Germany. They put on some very old carriages for that run still.

  11. Looks like they have upgraded the trains a lot in Italy. And do they still do the pimples of coffee?? Hopefully in a land of fabulous coffee making machines, they are now getting that right! Talk about get a lot of response to this blog. We all love this story!

    • Funny, isn’t it? You never know what will interest people.

  12. So many replies to train seating!!! that says something for the system. And I think that’s the point of it, everyone talks about Italy. We had this challenge and I decided that they want the passengers to talk to each other as we did and and made friends with 2 NZ families. All good for uniting the world, except for those few agro people. Best to see the funny side as there is no patten to the numbering, my husband tried to work it out from Rome to Florence.. Just enjoy

    • Perhaps you are right, it may very well be deliberate.

  13. You just keep making this place of yours more & more attractive Deb. crazy as it sounds (& yes, what maniac invented that numbering system), I’d love a trip or 2 on that train, it sounds amazing, as good as the crazy fast jobs in Japan (only with much more romantic scenery) 🙂

    • I don’t read on these trains. I don’t want to miss anything.

  14. If we book two tickets online we are always concerned they are not together and amazingly they are – even when the numbers look odd, same in France.

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