Italian Word of the Day: Treno (train)

The word for train in Italian is, you guessed it, treno (masculine, plural: treni). It entered the language via the French word train, which in turn comes from the verb traîner meaning to drag.

/ˈtrɛ.no/

Some common verbs you will see used with treno include:

  • andare in treno = to go by train
  • viaggiare in treno = to travel by train
  • prendere il treno = to take the train
  • perdere il treno = to miss the train
  • salire sul treno = to get on the train
  • scendere dal treno = to get off the train

Viaggiare in treno può essere veloce quanto prendere un aereo.

Traveling by train can be as fast as taking a plane.


interior o passenger train
L’interno di un treno passeggeri. = The interior of a passenger train.

If a train is on time, you would say it is in orario, and if it is late, you would say it is in ritardo. On the rare occasion that a train actually arrives early, you would say it is in anticipo.

Mi scusi, quando arriva il treno per Milano? – È in ritardo di 15 minuti. Dovrebbe arrivare alle sei e trentacinque.

Excuse, when does the train for Milan arrive? – It is 15 minutes late. It should arrive at 6.35.


In Italy, there are three high-speed train services operated by Trenitalia, the primary train operator in Italy. The Frecciarossa (literally, Red Arrow) is the fastest train, travelling at a maximum of 300km/h, followed by the Frecciargento (literally, Silver Arrow) at 250km/h, and the Frecciabianca (literally, White Arrow) at 200km/h or 250km/h.

Some other kinds of trains include:

  • treno locale = local train
  • treno regionale = regional train
  • treno regionale veloce = fast regional train
  • treno rapido = fast train
  • treno diretto = direct train
  • intercity = intercity train (fast lines between big cities, the name is used in various European countries)
  • treno passeggeri = passenger train
  • treno merci = freight train
train arriving at platform with sunset in the background
Finalmente arriva il treno! = Finally the train is here!

Note that Italians often omit the word treno when talking about a specific category of train that is arriving or leaving. That includes the automatic announcements on the station platform. For example:

Il regionale delle undici e dieci è in arrivo sul binario due.

The 11:10 regional train is arriving at platform 2.


Other types of specialised trains you might hear about are:

  • treno corazzato = armoured train
  • treno navetta = bilevel rail car / double-decker train
  • treno ospedale = hospital train
  • autotreno = road train

An attraction that draws in visitors and trainspotters (amanti / fan dei treni) from all over the world are steam trains (treni a vapore), most of which operate exclusively on special occasions. For example, back in the October of 2012, we had the chance to ride the steam train that travels between Torino and Bra.

Steam Train on Glenfinnan Viaduct, Scotland in Autumn
Il treno a vapore passa sul viadotto. = The stream train travels over the viaduct.

If you are passionate about trains, you might also be interested in railway modelling (modellismo ferroviario), a hobby in which trains and other locomotives are modelled at a reduced scale. An alternative name is trenino (little train) which can also refer to a toy train for kids.

Treno has other meanings. For example it can refer to a set of objects (un treno di gomme = a set of tyres for a car).

The expression treno di vita (lit: train of life) refers to one’s style or way of life in an economic sense.


Idioms with the word ‘treno’

Andare come un treno

Literal meaning: to go like a train
English translation: to go / move very quickly


Arrivare con l’ultimo treno

Literal meaning: to arrive with the last train
English translation: to be late or slow to understand something or propose a solution


Perdere il treno

Literal meaning: to miss the train
English translation: to miss out on an opportunity

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