Friday, February 13, 2009

How to Use the Trains in Italy

Train travel in Italy is the way to go.  Here are a few tips to guide you.

1.  Plan your trip from start to finish.  Make sure you get your reservations confirmed for the museums you want to visit like the Accademia, Uffizi, and Borghese.  Reservations are a must for these museums.  

2.   Next decide on how many train travel days you'll need.  For a 14 day trip it usually lands around 4.

3.  Go to and buy your 4 day rail pass.  2nd class is the way to go.  No need to pay extra for first.

4.  You'll get your Rail Pass in the mail in a couple of days.  Be sure to look in the schedule book to decide on which trains you'll be taking to get from A to B.  This is important because trains between the major destinations often require a reservation.  Rome to Florence is a reservation route.  You don't want to risk not getting on the train you want to avoid waiting in the station for an extra couple of hours while you're on vacation.

5.  About 12 weeks out go back to and book your reservations.  It costs money to book it, but it is well worth it.

6.  Pack light.  You don't want to lug extra baggage through the stations and cobbled streets of Italy for no reason.  One carry-on for 2 weeks is plenty...I've done it.  So can you.

7.  Don't ever leave your bags unattended in the station even for a second.

8.  Be sure the keep your money and credit cards tucked away in different pockets so if you do get picked it won't ruin your entire vacation.  Keep the numbers to your credit card companies handy so if you have to call them you can do so quickly to get replacements and cancel your cards.

9.  Don't ever give your passport up to plain clothes officers.  Make them take you into the police station at the train station.  They won't get mad and it will avoid a scam.  People fake that they are officers and ask for you passport and off they go with it leaving you empty-handed.

10.  You have to get your ticket stamped on your first day of travel by waiting in line at the ticket counter.

11.   Each subsequent day of travel you have to add the date of travel on the ticket in the space provided.

12.  Don't forget to sign the ticket and add your passport number.

13.  If you're caught without a ticket it is a 50 Euro fine.

14.  If you want to take an extra train ride, but run out of days simply buy a ticket at the biglietteria in the train station.  They aren't expensive and this allows you to enjoy an unplanned side trip.

15.  You must stamp your ticket at the yellow box.  You'll see them at the top of each Binari (track).

16.  Use the sottopassagio (underpass) to get from the station to your track.

17.  Never cross the tracks.  You'll get a fine.

18.  WC = toilet

19.  The track isn't posted until 10 minutes before departure so be ready to dash to get your seat for the popular routes...another reason less baggage is better.

20.  Listen to my radio show or podcast on train travel to get the most out of your trip.

21.  If you're really ambitious you can watch my video on using the trains on Youtube.

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