When it comes to traveling in Italy, there are plenty of things I’ll waffle about – but not when it comes to transportation. I regularly recommend, without hesitation, taking the train to get around Italy. Old-timers may complain that “Mussolini made the trains run on time” (an urban myth, by the way) and it seems everyone’s got a story about getting stuck due to a train strike in Italy, but I’m convinced that for most journeys and most travelers the train is absolutely the correct first choice.
Train travel in Italy is not, however, without its quirks.
In my ebook, Italy Explained: Italian Trains, I go over everything you’ll need to know to ride Italy’s rails like a pro. Getting the ebook means you take the information with you wherever you go, on any device, whether you’ve got internet access in Italy or not. It’s a small investment that can make a big difference in your trip.
Here’s some of what you’ll learn in my book.
It sounds strange, but “train tickets” are not the same things as “train reservations.” For some train trips, you’ll need both a ticket and a reservation. For others, you’ll need only a ticket, and a reservation may be optional or not even available. I know. But I promise, it does make sense when you understand the purpose of each one. Kind of.
Yes, the ticket agent at the window of the train station will tell you what you need – but if you want to buy your tickets before you leave home, are trying to decide between a Rail Pass and tickets for your trip, or don’t want to wait in a half-hour-long line if all you need is a ticket from the automated machine, then the ticket vs. reservation distinction is one you’ll want to understand sooner rather than later. I think it’s important enough that it’s the first chapter of my ebook.
I’d like to think that once upon a time that train called a “Rapido” really was the fastest option. Today, not only is it one of the slower trains you can choose, it’s not the only slow train that’s got a speedy-sounding moniker.
There are several kinds of trains in Italy that you can choose from, including the most modern (read: “fastest”) and the most archaic (read: “slowest”). Faster is typically better, unless you’re on a budget – those are also the most expensive tickets – although the fastest trains don’t serve the whole country. Weighing your train options requires understanding them first, and I go over all the different train types – including the brand new Italo trains – in my ebook.
There used to be a time when you didn’t need to know anything more than “it’s always cheaper to buy tickets as you go in Italy.” The common wisdom then was that buying a Rail Pass was always going to be a waste of money. Now, it’s not so simple. The prices for tickets on Italy’s faster trains have made it so a Rail Pass can sometimes save you money over buying tickets as you go – but you can’t count on that, either.
As much as this math-o-phobe hates to admit it, there’s a bit of number crunching involved to figure out whether a Rail Pass or point-to-point tickets are the cheaper option for your particular trip. But don’t worry – even if you’re not a numbers person, I go over the math step by step in my ebook so you know how to figure out what’s best for you.
All sorts of things can be baffling in an Italian train station, which is precisely what you don’t want to hear when you’re rushing in to get on a train. How do you read the schedule to find out which train stops where? How do you determine at which platform your train will arrive – and then how do you get to that platform? And where in the heck did they hide the ticket validation machine?
This is all stuff you’ll want to read about before you get to the train station so you can move confidently from the entry to your train car, and it’s all included in my ebook.
While train strikes are an inevitabibility in Italy, they don’t need to screw up your entire trip. Since most Italian strikes are planned and announced in advance – yes, you read that right – you can find out before you even leave home whether a strike will happen that could impact your vacation. Not only that, you’ll probably have time to plan around it.
This part can get a little tricky, since all the announcements of Italian train strikes are in Italian, but there’s information in my ebook to help you navigate the strike announcements – and suggestions on how to deal with them should they happen.
Want to find out what else you’ll learn from the Italy Explained: Italian Trains ebook? Here’s the table of contents.