USING THE TRAIN IN ITALY
While moving from place to place in Italy the Italian Train System is a great option. The trains in Italy are normally on time, clean (some holidays you will find the train with some trash) and comfortable to travel on. To have a successful vacation using the Train all you need to do is; understand how to use the system, have a general knowledge of the Geography of Italy, and be able to read the train schedule.
Italian trains leave on the time posted on the departure schedule so always be at the station in time to buy your ticket and walk to the appropriate track. Stations in larger cities you will need more time than the out of the towns. There are times trains can be delayed or there is a scheduled strike, you can always get information at the ticket windows.
I normally plan my trip by going to the 'Train Italia' web site, see what the general train schedule is for my destinations (daily schedules are based on seasonal, times are adjusted with spring and fall daylight saving time), and then by the tickets at the train station as I travel.
Things to Consider
1. Know the name of your destination - To read Italian train schedules, it helps to know the Italian name for major cities and towns. Most are pretty obvious, but a few are a bit trickier (plus, in these big cities you need to known the name of the main central station), examples:
Roma - Roma Termini
Florence - Firenze Santa Maria Novella
Venice - Venezia Santa Lucia
Milan - Milano Centrale
Genoa - Genova Porta Principe
Naples - Napoli Centrale
Turin - TorinoPorta Nuova
Almost all Italian trains operate under the control of the Ferrovie dello Stato, the State Rail System. You can get detailed timetables and ticket prices at www.trenitalia.com. Be sure to use the Italian spelling for city names in the search engine, along with the name for the central, main station you'll want in the big cities.
2. You do NOT need to book train tickets ahead of time. At least, not before you leave on your trip. Just buy as you go; it gives you more flexibility with your schedule. It is, however, sometimes useful to pop into the station and buy a ticket a day or two before you leave town if you must have a seat on the high-speed trains that require seat assignment otherwise you could find it full.
3. Most train stations in Italy now have automated ticketing machines. These use touch-screens, have an English-language option, are intuitive, make selecting all your options easy, and accept cash (euros) and credit cards. Failing that, there's always the ticket window, though lines can be long, and they now only open at specific times. Small stations are now closing after 19:30 and re lie only on automatic ticket machines.
4. Always travel second class. The first class cars don't get there any faster; all they do is provide a bit more seat padding—but at 20%–30% increase in price. The only time I use the First Class, is if my travel day is a holiday and I know the 2nd class section is going to be full.
5. Be sure you stamp one end of your train ticket at one of the little yellow boxes usually located in the passageways leading to the tracks and strapped to a column at (or near) the head of each track. If you do not, the conductor will fine you (they sometimes give tourists a stern warning, but more and more they are simply imposing the fines regardless).
6. Every station has two types of time schedule posters displaying, on one, all departures (partenze; on the yellow poster) and on the other, arrivals (“arrivi”, the white one). It will mention which “binario” (track) you need—though this can change (check the automated boards, and listen to announcements). The slot for each train on the poster lists all intermediate stops in tiny type and only the terminus station in bold; your train to Vicenza will probably be heading to Milano or Verona if you are leaving Venice (Venezia) so you will find the time the train stops in Vicenza in the smaller destination listings. Many of the faster trains save you time not by speed but by making fewer stops.
7. Railpasses can be useful if you'll be taking several long rides or exploring more of Europe beyond Italy. If you plan to work your way across Italy in small sprints from town to town, it will probably make more sense to buy tickets as you go. However, for the most typical trip—one that hits the major cities plus a few days exploring hilltowns—the Italy Rail n' Drive Pass· might be perfect. Jot down your intended itinerary, do some quick calculations on prices, using www.raileurope.com to research railpass options and www.trenitalia.com for point-to-point tickets, and see what will work best for your trip. If you use a railpass, be sure you purchase any seat reservation (indicated by an "R" on the schedule posters) and pay any high-speed supplement due. This will usually on the order of $10 or less each (long rides maybe up to $20).
8. You do not save that much time on the Eurostar trains for the extra cost if you are traveling a short distance. If you are travelling from Venice to Roma and want to catch an afternoon train the Eurostar is a great option, but if you are going from Venice to Verona, the Eurostar may offer more departure options but you pay three times as much for the ride and save 20 minutes of travel time.· Plus the Eurostar does not stop in minor townships.
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