Was wondering what people suggest when traveling by train, should my husband and I buy our train tickets ahead of time and print them out or buy them day of in Italy?
Carolina, as a rule you do not have to purchase in advance. I would purchase any tickets for 'fast trains' at least a day or 2 in advance because reservations are required for the 'freccia rossa' express trains that link larger cities. In general, you won't have any problem day of - travel around holidays can be more crowded. Enjoy!
I'm from Italy and I hope this answer can help you.
Stations in big cities are often a bit chaotic and disorganized (queues can big quite long at biglietteria desks) and If you can book your ticket on line it is much better.
Fast trains between the big cities, "freccia rossa", "freccia argento" etc., are high speed trains, don't stop everywhere and tickets are sold according to the number of seats available on these trains. You might still find a place on the train you want to take on the day you travel but there is no guarantee.
If i were you, I would book my seat well in advance.
The web site is in english
For short distances you can only travel using regional trains and you don't need to buy your ticket in advance but during rush hour they can be overcrowed. You might find yourself standing with no space to move an inch.
ps: Remeber to print your ticket at a yellow machines situated in various points around the station.
I have travelled all over Italy by train and have never had a problem buying tickets on the day (or day before) travel. There are machines in all of the stations and also Biglietteria desks where you can buy tickets. If you are doing a lot of travel through Italy it might be cheaper to get an Interrail ticket but I have travelled for two weeks, on long journeys, and found it efficient and cheap to buy as I needed. Here's a useful link for ticket-buying phrases: http://www.theguardian.com/travel/2009/jul/13/learn-italian-phrases-tickets
When we went to Italy I bought our tickets and booked our seats from Milan to Menton via the internet well in advance. It helps as you can watch the exchange rate and buy when favourable as well as reserve a window seat. The ticket from Menton to Rome we bought at the station and all the window seats were taken. Be careful of the unsavoury characters hanging around the ticket machines that want to help you buy your ticket and relieve you of your wallet, so I would recommend that if you do not buy your tickets in advance you purchase them from the ticket office at the station.
I have always bought my train tickets for European travel ahead of time for travel that was planned ahead and involved a substantial distance. If I know I am going to travel from Rome to Florence on a certain day, I like to know when I'm traveling and that my tickets and reservations, where necessary, are purchased in advance. Frequently, there are discounts for tickets purchased that way, especially when you buy them when they first become available. I recently bought tickets on for Thalys from Paris to Amsterdam on https://www.capitainetrain.com/ for a trip in June at considerable discount when they first became available. Both that site and http://www.raileurope.com have the advantage of allowing you to book online in English and other languages.
I've also bought tickets for short travel that was spontaneous, for instance from Siena to Florence, and have not had a problem. Have a great trip.