I remember when T.R. and I were first researching about our trip to Italy. I couldn’t find enough information on public transportation. I had no idea what I was doing! The only experience I had using public transport was the Salt Lake City Frontrunner. As you can imagine, I was nervous. Our trip to Italy rested on the use of trains and buses. I needed step-by-step explanations, but never found them. So I thought I would help the unfortunate soul stuck in the same predicament. 🙂 Here is my step-by-step guide to mastering the Italian train system.
Step 1: Research train routes two months before your vacation.
I’m SO grateful I did the work of finding train routes before we left for Italy. This took a huge stress load off my shoulders. Through my research I found that about 2 months before your trip is best for prices and reliability.
Trenitalia.com is the best place to research and buy major regional and national tickets in Italy. There are a few pass options if you are traveling between many European countries, or if you will be using the train often. My tip to you is to research prices without a pass. Yep, you read that right. After researching the major routes we would be taking it was actually cheaper to buy tickets without a pass. Who woulda thunk?! This is because we took a train every 3 or 4 days and many of them required an extra “reservation fee” not included with the pass.
Step 2: Purchase train tickets online.
This step might not be for you if you are a free-willed traveler who likes all the flexibility in the world. This is not so for me. I like to have everything planned out so I know exactly when and were to be each day. Luckily my husband is the same way, otherwise I don’t know what I would have done. 🙂
I DID purchase lodging, train tickets, and some admission tickets online before our trip. This helped me relax and have fun while traveling. Just print everything out before you go and have a copy on your phones. Hurray, you are all set!
I DID NOT plan out everything we would do in a day. I made a list of things we could do around what was already planned ahead of time.
Here is an example of my itinerary:
Step 3: Find Train Stations On Google Maps
It’s good to remember how to get to and from the train station from your lodging place. You might need to find a bus or take a taxi to get there. Give yourself plenty of time to get to the train station. If we hadn’t left early we would have missed our train a couple of times.
Step 4: When you are at the train station look for a large screen or board with lists of trains DEPARTING.
There are usually two different screens or boards listing train information. One will be ARRIVING and another will be DEPARTING. Look for the screen that says partenza/departing. This is where things get tricky. Trains will be listed in order by time to departure with the soonest listed first. Don’t fret if you don’t see your train on the screen, most of the time it lists only the trains leaving in the next 15 minutes.
I found it easier to look for the train number rather than the destination. Most screens list the trains last destination. Here are some examples of where to find your train number:
If you purchased a ticket at the station make sure to stamp the ticket in one of these machines before getting on the train.
Step 5: Find your train track
After you’ve found your train on the screen look to see if the track number is listed. If it is, hustle to find it. If not, wait and it will appear. This is the hardest step. So many tracks, so little time! Ahh! I found that most train stations were numbered left to right (lowest number on the left, highest number on the right) If you are not sure, ask!
Keep reading to the final step!
Step 6: Get on the right coach and find your seat
There is assigned seating on most major train routes. Sort of like an airplane. Your coach and seat numbers will be found on your ticket. If not, then find an empty seat. You’ve successfully completed my guide to mastering the Italian train system!
What is something you learned while traveling by public transportation in Italy? Am I the only one who was super nervous about it?