Thursday, March 13, 2014

train travel in italy...


Train Travel Italy

 Okay--time to talk train travel in Italy. It can be stressful, but it is the best and cheapest way to get around. We spent over two weeks in there in February and a little over a week of it in Florence because my husband had a work conference there. On the backend, we were able to break up our time across the cities/areas of
Venice, Sienna, La Spezia/Cinque Terre, Pisa, & Rome
 
Most of our travel was done by train, with the exception of one bus trip.
 
While planning the trip, I read so many articles and blogs on how to travel around Italy--and though they were all very helpful, I now have a few tips and suggestions of my own that I'd like to add.
 
My motto with travelling is that you need to just enjoy the journey because you're undoubtedly going to have to learn by mistake at times. And it's true, we may have missed a train (or two) but we learned our lesson and now I'm hear to share my experience with all of you Italian dreamers!
 
Here are 5 detailed tips, tricks & suggestions!
 
1. Get to know THIS WEBSITE: www.trenitalia.com
It's going to be your main source for purchasing tickets and looking up train times. By the end, I was extremely familiar with this site. I wish I had become more familiar with it BEFORE leaving on the trip. My recommendation would be to get comfy with using it, because you'll be relying on it quite often--especially if you're going to be traveling around to multiple cities like we did.
 
(Our travel schedule: Flew from Houston, TX  Florence, from Florence took round trip bus ride to Sienna, then trained from Florence to Venice, then Venice back to Florence (We had to go spend another few days in Florence for my husbands work), then trained from Florence to Pisa (stopped there only for an afternoon), then from Pisa to  La Spezia/Cinque Terre and then from La Spezia trained down to Rome)
 
2. Memorize or at least become familiar with the main train station names. Here is your key:
Rome: Roma Termini
Pisa: Pisa Centrale
Florence: Firenze S.M. Novella
Cinque Terre/La Spezia: La Spezia Centrale
Verona: Verona Porta Nuova
Venice: Venezia S. Lucia
 
I promise, keeping this information handy will save you a lot of time.
And as always, ask your hotel concierge for help. That's what they are there for and we are firm believers in utilizing their knowledge and expertise!
 
3. Cost will vary a tiny bit depending on times, but will also depend on what type of train you are taking (there are normal and high speed train options) 
*Tip-- If you are travelling on Saturdays--Trenitalia is now doing a Special 2 for the price of 1 if you purchase ahead of time (at least 24 hours) My understanding is that this only works on Saturdays, and the special is only valid until June 14, 2014.
See deal information here.
 
4. Now--travelling via bus from Florence to Siena, the better option is the bus (there is a train option but bus is the easier/cheaper way to go--we verified this with many people including our concierge) It's only about an hour bus ride with plenty of room for your luggage overhead or underneath (that was a big concern of mine about the bus--so don't worry ladies, you shouldn't have any problems with the luggage)
 
And I'll be honest, I couldn't find any great info about the bus travel online, but the bus station in Florence is right around the corner from the train station and they have buses leaving almost every hour. Ask your concierge to give you the Florence to Siena Bus Schedule and then ask when the most direct bus will leave (I think it's every other hour they have one leave that goes directly to Siena--as opposed to stopping on and off all the way there) We made the mistake on our way there of hopping on the first one to leave without asking if it was direct. It probably only added like 15 minutes to the ride, but the way back was much nicer--with the more direct route. Sorry I don't have a better website to direct you to, but I promise if you follow these steps you won't have any problems getting out there.
 
5. IMPORTANT! A few quick travel tips that WE DID NOT KNOW about Italian train travel and...lets just say, we learned the hard way.
 
a) This applies to Regional Tickets ONLY but on all Italian regional and local trains you much validate the ticket before you board the train. There are small green machines that should be on every platform. You stick the ticket in and it will punch a small hole in the corner. The tickets are technically valid for two months and do not have specific dates. If the dude comes by to check tickets and you have not validated, there is a hefty penalty fee.
 
b) Luggage will not be an issue. We travelled pretty much every type of Italian train possible, and never once had a problem fitting our luggage. It was a big concern of mine, and I saw so many different opinions and reviews on what sizes to take/not take but the truth is--you will be fine. There are no weight limits or baggage fees. I mean, smaller roller-luggage is obviously going to be easier then the larger sizes--so I recommend just packing smart, but don't stress about trains having room for your luggage.
 
c) Another concern I had was understanding the signs, but in Italy I found that most the signs were in English and Italian. And again, being familiar with the station names will be VERY helpful. Also, using the self-service machines is also nothing to be concerned about. You can choose the "English" option and it's very self-explanatory from there.
 
All that being said, getting around on the trains was extremely efficient and for the most part, inexpensive. By the end, we were familiar enough with it that it didn't stress us out as much--but it can take some getting used to. Hopefully you find these tips helpful!
 
See my full Florence Italy Travel Guide here.
 


1 comment:

  1. I think one of the more romantic cities to visit is Italy. I personally went there on my honeymoon and my wife and I loved the food and the people there! I would strongly suggest Rome and Florence. Although it can get very touristy, especially in the summer, they are very beautiful places with so much history and culture. To break free from the tourist crowd, I would suggest you to try some home-dining options. We went to dine with one of the local hosts on BonAppetour, and were treated to a fancy meal at their homes on the rooftop! It is very simple to book a dinner with the hosts on their website too! Other than that, I would also suggest you to try taking one of those Vespa tours, especially in the Florence country-side. Riding on the vespa with your partner across the green landscape is actually very thrilling and romantic! Hope this helped!

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