Oh my god, am I really here writing this article?! I must tell you that I was a total zero when it came to public transportation something like 4 0r 5 years ago because I was used to travel by car with my parents, the only public thing I used was the bus transporting me to the city centre but slowly, slowly I grew up and I learnt how to move around Italy. Before I learnt the bus system in my city, then the train system running through Cinque Terre towns and my travels around europe allowed me to get to know even better about how to move in big cities and how the public transportation works. Then, last year, I started university in Siena, which is something like 3.30 hours away from my hometown by train so I had to get used to go back home using the train and all the secrets have been revealed! I will pass my knowledge onto you so that when you will find yourself travelling in Italy, you already know what to do in order not to get lost/get crazy because the signs are all in Italian/get fined…the worst that could happen I guess :,) let’s embark on this hellish journey in Italian public transportation :3
AHAHAH I am sure that Trenitalia is famous europe wide for its endless delays and shitty trains :,) I remember there was a Czech guy that a friend of mine got to know in Germany and often came to Italy. He used to go around using trains and he knew the pains of travelling with Trenitalia ahah I tell you an experience of mine just to make you understand the hell you can go through in Italy: once I was with a friend of mine in Manarola and we were waiting the train after a nice visit to the town. Suddenly the train station speaker announced that our train was in late of 20 minutes..okay, fine, we can survive, there are also other trains that are headed to La Spezia so we can just hop on one of those….the voice kept on announcing delays and delays…every train was delayed! Ours was even something like 130 minutes in late ahah I thought I was going to stay there forever but a miracle just occurred and a train out of nowhere appeared! The light of God! We, of course, did not lose the chance and got on. This is one of the many bad experiences I had with trains but it is not always like this. I do not want to scare you but just warn you to be extra careful when it comes to trains in Italy 😉
Some rules you have to know about Italian trains:
- You can buy your ticket at the train station queuing up at a ticket office where you will speak with a trenitalia employee or you can buy it from the ticket machines you find scattered around the station.
- Another possiblity is that you can go to a Tabacchino, which is something like a small shop selling anything: cigarettes, magazines, newspapers (either in Italian or other languages), manga, porn magazines and of course, our beloved train or bus tickets.
- I do not usually buy ticket on train and I did not even know you could but apparently, you can. I do not know how it works but I guess you can stop a Trenitalia employee, who could be wandering around the train, and ask him/her.
- Very important!!! Always VALIDATE YOUR TICKET before boarding. You can find validating machines everywhere in the station but they cannot always be found on the platforms so make sure you have validated before reaching the platform and boarding. If you did not have time but you have the ticket, you can try to stop a Trenitalia employee on the train and explain him/her the situation. It is always better not to get fined, right?! I saw many people getting fined for this, even though they had bought their tickets and this saddens me
- The strikes always occur on Friday…yes, it is pretty mean because the weekend starts and many people go back or embark on a new holiday but yeah, they often strike on Friday. Bear in mind that the strike always affects Regional and Intercity trains but never the Frecce so if you have booked one of those trains, do not worry, your journey is saved. If you validated your ticket on a strike day and then, your train did not leave, you can get a refund. Just go to a ticket office and explain the situation. You can either get a money refund, which is a harder and longer process, or get a new ticket to use for the next journey.
- Trenitalia is evolving too so you can book your tickets online. If you are a foreigner and want to book everything in advance, do not worry, just visit Trenitalia website and book your ticket: Trenitalia.
- There are 4 types of trains:
- Regional train, which is the slowest and the cheapest;
- Speedy Regional train, which is a bit faster than the Regional because it skips some stops and the price is the same;
- Intercity, which is quite fast and a bit more expensive but it all depends on the date you book. If you book in advance, you can get a good price (here you already have assigned seats);
- Frecce (Frecciabianca, Frecciarosa, Frecciargento), which are the fastest and most expensive. I do not really know the differences between these three types but one thing is sure, book in advance to get a good price! I once booked a train from La Spezia to Milan at 9,90 and I even got the first class!
- Extra Train: Italo is the high speed train that connects the whole italy: from the deep north to the far south. It is not part of Trenitalia so you must consult another website: Italo.
- Thello: it runs between Genoa and Marseille (25 euros) or Nice (15 euros)
- Eurocity or Euronight: it runs between Milan and many Swiss cities like Bern, Luzern, Zuerich. Or from any Italian big cities like Milan, Venice, Verona to Vienna, Munich or Innsbruck. For further information, please check the website: Travelling to Europe from Italy by train
- Just like the train, buy your ticket in a Tabacchino and VALIDATE it. It is never nice when you get fined on holidays. The validating machines are usually yellow and always located at the entrance or at the bottom. If it does not work, do not hesitate to ask the driver, he will validate it for you.
- DO NOT BUY the tickets on board! Yeah, it is not like in Germany where you get on and buy your ticket there. The price of a ticket bought on board is something like doubled: instead of 1,30 will be 2,3o. Drivers sometimes are not even provided with tickets so you can risk being fined because they do not have.
- Italian buses do not usually have the electronic voice telling you the names of the streets and there are no maps indicating the various stops. Well, this is valid for many places in Italy like small villages (Cinque Terre are included) but in big cities like Florence, you have the electronic voice helping you decide what stop is better and you even have a map. I do not know much about other Italian cities but I am sure Milan has too. Rome…in Rome you do not even know if the bus comes, they do not have timetables.
- At the bus stop you can find the timetable but if you want to have it on your phone, so that you can consult it whenever you want, you can visit the website of the bus company. If you are travelling in La Spezia’s area, here the website for you with everything you need to know ATC La Spezia.