10 Tips for Train Travel in Italy

10-tips-for-train-travel-in-italyI can’t think of anything as romanticized as a train ride through Italy. There’s something about the lull of the train over the tracks, its smooth pitter-patter vibrating through the train, the subtle scent of espresso lingered on the melodic Italian words that fill the cabins. I let out a sigh as I stare out the window at the Italian landscape; its rugged cliffs, Alpine mountainscape and charming villages along the way. Now this is the way to travel. While the overly romanticized moments fill my heart, my head is full of the real moments. These moment make me realize that this is not a daydream. I am in fact riding a train through Italy and while train travel is not as strict as air travel, there are still rules. Aside from the rules, there are many things to be done to make your train ride smoother and to experience the quintessential Italian train ride. Learn from my mistakes and the mistakes of others to make the best out of your trip with Trenitalia

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  1. Buy your Ticket for the Right Day: I watched two girls get on a train to Rome and argue with people who were sitting in “their seats”. When the conductor got involved, it was devolved that the girls bought tickets for the wrong day. No one was sitting in their seats because they didn’t have a seat. The girls weren’t kicked off the train yet they did have to stand for 3 hours between the two train carts. Pay attention to the details. Buying your ticket for the right day is very important.
  2. Buy your Ticket in Advance: For regional trains it isn’t necessary to buy your ticket ahead of time. However for long distance trains you should always buy your tickets ahead of time. Ticket prices rise the closer you get to the trip. The same ticket could cost €25 if you buy it in advance or €100 if you wait until the last-minute.
  3. Validate your Ticket: I know, it seems redundant but just do it! After purchasing your ticket you have to bring it to a machine to get it validated. Validating your ticket is basically a time stamp. Many local train tickets are not for a particular time, meaning that if you don’t get the ticket validated, you could easily use your ticket again. I didn’t even know validating your ticket was a thing my first time on the train. After that I was pretty lackadaisical about it. Half the time I was too impatient to wait for the machine or I didn’t have enough time to find a machine before my train arrived. On our train  La Spezia to Genoa, we didn’t get our tickets validated. When the conductor saw our tickets, he scolded us in Italian then explained in English how important it is to validate your ticket. To our luck, he validated the ticket for us. The embarrassment alone will make me remember to always validate my train tickets in Italy.
  4. Platforms Change: The platform number that is on the departure board and printed on your ticket may not necessarily be the platform the train will arrive at. Platforms are subject to change so you must pay attention. Sometimes the platform will change minutes before the train in scheduled to arrive. Keep an eye on the departure boards so you don’t have to sprint from one platform to another to make your train on time.
  5. Trains Arrive Late: You may have heard about Italian time before. It is real. Italians are laid back people and that extends to train etiquette. They never seem to be in much of a hurry to depart on time. Yet, the five extra minutes at each stop can back up the time schedule for the final destination. Don’t panic if you train isn’t on time. I waited two hours in the beach town of Santa Marinella for my train to come. All the foreigners, including myself, were panicked. I started to think that the worst had happened. How could a train possibly be two hours late? The Italian passengers didn’t seem concerned at all. They must have been used to late trains. Finally the train did come and be were en route from Santa Marienella to Rome, only a couple of hours behind schedule.
  6. Watch your Belongings: There are thieves, gypsies, bag snatchers and bad people. Watch your belongings and hold onto all your important items such as money, passports and cameras. I luckily didn’t experience any theft in Italy but I also held onto my bag for dear life on trains. If you are in a train station, you are a traveler. That makes you an easy target for pickpocketers because they know that you are traveling with all your belongings.
  7. Get the Train Attendants: If you’re having any issue, get the train attendants. On our trip from Genoa to Rome, we had an issue where a girl took our seat on the train and refused to move.  She told us to go sit somewhere else because she needed to use the outlet. Mind you, we bought our tickets last-minute so our only option was to buy 1st class tickets. I did not spend €100 on a train ticket for someone to take my seat. We got the train attendant and he sorted out the situation for us.
  8. Pay Attention: Relax and enjoy the ride yet pay attention to the stops. You don’t want to miss yours. Know how many stops there are before yours so you are prepared for when you get to your destination. And always look at the signs as your train arrives at each platform. The conductors also announce what station is coming up next in both Italian and English. Just pay attention so you don’t have to waste time and money to backtrack to your destination.
  9. Don’t Sneak On: This might seem obvious but people do sneak on. Typically on al regional trains, the conductor will come around to check your ticket. On some local trains, they don’t always check. Yet, you don’t want to be caught without a ticket. Paying for your train ticket is way better than paying for the fine you’ll receive if your caught.
  10. Get a Window Seat: The best part about train travel is the view. You are traveling to beautiful places through beautiful places. Whenever I traveled by train, my eyes were glued to the window, taking in the Italian landscape.

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