If you’re travelling to Italy, and you want to see more than one city – then travelling by train is your safest bet. Not only are the main cities well-connected between one another, but they’re also connected to smaller, sometimes more authentic towns close-by.
Travelling by train in a new country might sound pretty daunting – there are numbers to remember, platforms to find, and suitcases to carry. However, here are a couple of tips that will make your journey much smoother and hassle-free!
Booking your train
There are a number of ways to book your train ticket. One way of doing it, even before travelling to Italy, would be through the websites for the two main train companies: Trenitalia, the national rail service, or Italo Treno – a relatively new private company which connects Italy’s main cities. Booking this way also means you can save a digital version of your ticket – which saves you the hassle of carrying (and risking to lose) another sheet of paper. Booking online also means you can book way more in advance – which usually means cheaper tickets.
You could also buy your ticket at the actual train station prior to departure – however this way you either run the risk of not finding a place available on the train you wanted to catch – or finding just the most expensive seats available.
You can find several machines throughout the train stations where you can buy your ticket, or else you could also buy your tickets from authorized stands found in the train station. If you need help, make sure you ask for help from a member of staff – as in some of the main train stations you might find some individuals who offer their help and then ask (or in some cases, help themselves) for money in return.
One last tip, when booking your train make sure you give yourself more or less 15-30 minutes of allowance from the actual time you want to be in a city – especially if you intend to join a tour or check-in your hotel. Usually trains depart punctually, but delays also happen.
Finding your train
There are a couple of terms you need to know. “Partenze” means departures, “arrivi” means arrivals, “binario” means platform, “carrozza” means carriage, and “posto” means seat number.
High-speed trains (Frecce Rosse, Frecce Argento and Frecce Bianche as well as Italo Treni) usually come with a fixed seat and departure time. Tickets for these trains will also usually tell you which exact train you’re meant to catch, its code – which you can then find on the screens spread throughout the cities.
When purchasing tickets to slower trains (Intercity or Regional), which connect smaller towns and cities, you might find that the ticket has no departure time, no train code, or no seat assigned. This usually means that it’s an open ticket – so you can find which train you can take to your destination using the schedules spread throughout the train stations, or by asking a member of staff.
Make sure you always validate your ticket – as you might incur a huge fine if you don’t.
After finding your assigned seat, or a seat in case of unassigned seats – there’s not much to do aside from enjoying your trip and the panoramas. Most trains also have power outlets so you can also use that to charge any electronics.
As always, keep your belongings safe and make sure you get off the right train station. When in doubt, ask – more often than not, locals are more than happy to help!
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