Getting Around Italy

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  • mccalpin's Profile Photo

    Rail Travel Overview

    by mccalpin Written Dec 23, 2012

    The answers to your questions depend on which type of train you are taking.

    In Italy, there are generally two types of trains: (1) regional, and (2) "premium".

    Regional Trains

    Regional trains are shorter distance trains regulated by the region (well, duh). These trains are slower, have more frequent stops, and do not take reservations - that is, if you have a ticket, you can get on, even if there are no available seats. Think: "city bus".

    Regional trains are for trips within a region (there are 22 in Italy, like Tuscany, Lazio, Veneto, etc.), or for trips that begin in one region and end in a neighboring region. Regional trains seldom cross more than two regions.

    The fares are charged by the kilometer, although since the fares are regulated by the region, the per kilometer charge will vary slightly from region to region.

    There are no discount plans for regional trains available to non-residents (i.e., you). Buy in advance, buy at the station - the price is the same.

    Indeed, it's not even easy to buy regional tickets online. The normal process is for you to go to the station, buy a ticket from the "Rete Regionale" (regional network) ticket machine (this is actually a different machine than the one for "Trenitalia" which is for the other type of train), take yourself to the right track, validate your ticket (which date/time stamps it), and get on your train.

    Your regional tickets are good for the given route for something like 2 months - this is why you have to validate the ticket, to make sure you can't reuse it. Passengers with an unvalidated ticket are treated like passengers with no ticket at all - heavy, on the spot fines (starting at 50 euro)(!).

    You can see a photo of someone validating her ticket at
    http://members.virtualtourist.com/m/p/m/229fd6/

    You can see photos of the self service ticket machines for regional trains at
    http://members.virtualtourist.com/m/p/m/22a06e/

    "Premium" Trains

    "Premium" trains are trains run by the national "Trenitalia" brand (the owner is actually the Ferrovie dello Stato, the national railways - this is why you often see "F.S." or "FS" as a reference to the rail network). These trains are generally long distance, i.e., across multiple regions. These trains have fewer stops, and are the high-speed trains that can take you from Rome to Milan in an unbelievable 3 hours, city center to city center (taking regional trains would take all day).

    All seats are reserved on these trains. You must buy the ticket in advance, although you can buy one when you walk up to the station to take the train, if seats are available (as they often or even usually are).

    These fares are market-priced, that is, like airfares, these train fares are whatever the market will bear.

    Because of this, they are much higher than regional fares, because the trains are faster, have fewer stops, and are more comfortable (newer carriages).

    There are discount programs for premium trains. Some are available only to "frequent flyers", but you will find the two discount fares of interest. There are three fare classes: "base", "economy", and "supereconomy".

    Base is the normal, walk up fare. Economy is the first level of discount. It is a healthy discount (the percentage varies). Supereconomy is an even deeper discount - up to 60%(!). HOWEVER, just like the airlines, the number of economy and supereconomy seats are limited on any given train. Thus, on popular routes, these seats will sell out, sometime a couple of weeks in advance. You can buy these fares up until the moment that the train leaves, if the discount seats are still available, but they often sell out.

    These are the trains for which it is advantageous to buy the tickets in advance, whether online or in person at a train station or travel agency (there are thousands of travel agencies in Italy that sell Trenitalia/FS tickets). However, these discounts tickets have limited ability to be changed or be refunded (like the airlines), so you don't want to buy one of these discount tickets unless you are sure that you will be taking that train on that day.

    The self service machines for these trains are not the "Rete Regionale" machines, but the other, taller, newer ones (I have a photo somewhere that I need to post). Actually, you may be able to buy regional tickets on the Trenitalia machines; I just never tried.

    FAQ

    1. is it worth booking tickets online?
    A. for regional trains, No
    B. for premium trains, a qualified Yes - see above

    2. Are there disadvantages to buying on the day of travel?
    A. for regional trains, No (in fact, there is NO point in buying regional tickets in advance, unless it's something you just want to get out of the way)
    B. for premium trains, a qualified Yes - you are less likely to be able to take advantage of discounts

    3. What about train passes?
    There are no train passes available to non-residents

    4. Is there a weekly-ticket?
    No

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  • mccalpin's Profile Photo

    To validate or not to validate your train ticket

    by mccalpin Written Dec 21, 2012

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    NOTE: you have to validate the tickets ONLY for regional trains - the tickets for "premium" trains do NOT require validation.

    "Validation" means putting your ticket into the green or yellow box (they are switching from yellow to green across the country) mounted on the wall of the station or next to the track, so that it can be date/time stamped.

    Why validate? Because your regional train ticket is sort of like a municipal bus ticket - it's good on this route for up to 2 months or more, so you date/time stamp the ticket to show that it's been used (otherwise, you'd be able to reuse it, which is a no-no in Italy). Since the regional trains do not take reservations, it's possible to do the tickets this way.

    "Premium" trains, on the other hand, require seat reservations, so your "ticket" (which is often electronic anyway) is good only for a certain train on a certain day at a certain time. But can't you get reimbursed for an unused ticket if you didn't take the train? Yes, but only in the first HOUR after departure, because the train personnel can be pretty sure that you didn't take the train (since you're in the station talking to them at the time). Otherwise, more than 1 hour after departure, your ticket is no longer good.

    Make sense?

    The reason why people keep emphasizing that you need to validate your tickets is because many foreign visitors are caught by this and are fined on the spot 50+ euro (can be 100+ if you don't have the cash on hand). AND this system for trains is different than for buses, because buses have the little yellow boxes onboard the buses whereas if you board the train without validation, it's too late.

    In short, you DON'T have to validate tickets for "premium" trains...and, besides, for the premium trains, you often don't have a ticket anyway (they're electronic)!

    Bill

    Validating a regional train ticket
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  • ant1606's Profile Photo

    Winter road conditions

    by ant1606 Updated Dec 20, 2012

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    Winter tires installed OR snow chains aboard are mandatory in many areas of Italy between October and April (included).
    Not only on certain roads (listed here) but as dictated by several municipalities on all of their territory. Two topics:
    1. Being lawful: The winter tire type is designated with "M+S" text on the sidewall, meaning "Mud & Snow", and may - or not - bear a sort of snowflake logo at times inscribed inside a peak-like profile. If the car is not equipped with such tires, rent or buy show chains for that size of tires (Pxxx/yy Rzz followed by, although irrelevant, xx (load rate) and a letter (speed rate). You'll then be lawful by carrying these aboard. Rental car companies rarely equip their vehicles with winter tires. Make sure to ask for snow chains then, as it's mandatory to have them aboard. Upon police check, the vehicle may be impounded if found faulty. Especially for long rental periods, it may be less expensive to buy a pair of snow chains rather than rent them.
    2. Laws or not, safety goes first and winter tires or snow chains are highly recommended for driving in winter in most areas of Italy. Snow can be quite common in most of the Italian territory from October through April.
    NOTE: Some car models do not allow or support the installation of standard snow chains, so make sure to verify that possible condition by reading the vehicle's nicknamed "libretto di circolazione". Most of these have certain 'low-profile", "sport" type of tires. If the vehicle falls under the "no snow chains allowed" it means that only special chains can be used which are the "7 millimeters" type. These are thinner than standard ones, not much reliable and, ultimately, very expensive. It is then suggested to ask the car rental company to switch the car to a different model.
    If you own the vehicle, installing winter tires for the entire period is the suggested choice over the occasional use of snow chains. These are at times difficult to install and their effect is not too good to the general wheels settings/adjustment. It must be remembered that snow chains must be installed on the traction wheels.

    Technical note:
    "M+S" tires are always recommended for temperatures below 7C. Their higher content of silica provides better grip and handling below such temperature even in dry conditions and greatly reduces braking distances and grip in wet conditions (rain). They are designed to trap snow inside the deep thread as snow-on-snow friction is higher than rubber-on-snow. This type of tire improves performance in icy conditions. In any case, always drive with extreme caution. Thread wear marks indicate when at least 4 mm of thread is still available. Below this limit, "M+S" tires are worthless for use with snow although they are still considered legal for use (as any type of tire) in Italy where the minimum legal thread depth must be equal or greater than 1.6 mm. If doubtful, ask for professional counseling.

    Example for
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  • ant1606's Profile Photo

    Speed checks on roads

    by ant1606 Written Dec 20, 2012

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    Updated lists of speed detection locations in Italy:
    "Autovelox" (instant speed traps)
    "Tutor" (average speed between two points)

    The "Tutor" is an optical/laser system that scans speed and license plate of all vehicles transiting through an initial checkpoint, then again through a final checkpoint. If the elapsed time is under the given time at max average speed, a fine will be issued to the vehicle's owner (rental companies will charge the customer).
    This system is aimed at leaving the driver a chance to briefly exceed the speed limits in case of overtaking or if dictated by safety or other situations.
    Some think this is beautiful and simply take coffee breaks to cheat on speeding. In reality, it doesn't really work - as speed checkpoints are moved from time to time - unless one is totally familiar and updated with certain roads sections.

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  • hopang's Profile Photo

    By vaporettti in Venice

    by hopang Updated Dec 7, 2012

    Vaporetto (plural vaporetti) is a water bus most frequently used by locals and tourists to travel between various locations on the islands. Millions of passengers use vaporetti each month as Venice attracts approximately 20 millions tourists each year. It is usually very crowded during the summer months. It is the cheapest means of public transportation other than walking as no vehicular traffics are allowed inside the city of Venice. A single trip lasting an hour costs seven euros per passenger.

    You may purchase vaporetti tickets from ticketing machines at most vaporetti stops or you may purchase them from tourist offices, train station or bus station at Piazzale Roma. Most major hotels also sell transportation tickets or tourist travel cards. It is worth considering buying tourist travel cards if you intend to make use of vaporetti frequently over several days in Venice. Remember to validate your tickets before boarding a vaporetto. Otherwise you may end up paying a heavy penalty if caught without a valid ticket.

    Actv water bus in Venice Actv water bus in Venice Actv water bus in Venice Inside the crowded Actv water bus in Venice View from an Actv water bus in Venice
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  • alucas's Profile Photo

    Train timetables for Italy

    by alucas Updated Sep 2, 2012

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    Travelling by train in Italy is easier than you might think. The time tables can be searched online, and some types of tickets can also be bought online as well.

    For train times look at http://www.ferroviedellostato.it/ and select English from the link in the top right hand corner. You can put the station names in, and the day and time of your travel, and it will give you the trains.

    You can also go to http://www.trenitalia.com/en/index.html

    Both sites will take you to the same timetable and booking page

    Another good site is www.raileurope.co.uk - I found tickets, timetables and prices there (Sept 2012)

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  • francesca79's Profile Photo

    train to venice

    by francesca79 Written Aug 29, 2012

    Hi, the train is the best solution for your route.
    You can find all train scheldules on this site www.trenitalia.it
    If you want visit the hill around Siena ( means val D'orcia)i think it's better rent a car,so you can travel freely or find some agency that organizes tours.There are several agencies that organize tour by bike.If you go to Siena you must see the hills because are pure harmony!!!
    regards

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  • angiebabe's Profile Photo

    Rental cars from Rome to see Italy

    by angiebabe Updated Aug 6, 2012

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    Hi, much of my travel around Europe has been with rental cars - and the first drive ever in Europe from driving on the other side of the road as we do in Australia and New Zealand was from the very centre of Paris - that should be on a par if not worse than Rome. Ive driven a lot of Italy but not Rome but have walked all over Rome and traffic when there never struck me as particularly worrying. but if you say look up www.auto-europe.com the rental co I found was most comparable they usually give numerous or at least several choices of pick up locations so you could look and get an idea from that.

    I prefer travelling by rental car as I find I do tend to see and do a lot more, get to interesting places enroute and more interesting places to stay. The Rough Guide for Italy and the DKs Eyewitness guide book are both particularly good for interesting pointers when travelling around Italy.

    Would be a lot easier to get to classics outside Rome too such as Hadrians Villa...

    The Amalfi coast is just beautiful and not just Positano but Amalfi and particularly Ravello are highlights to make the most of when down that way. Public buses are fairly frequent and cheap in that area but with your own cafr you can stop for that special view or sunset, get to that interesting or cheaper hostel and you can also stock up when you are handy to supermarkets etc.

    An advantage of having a car in that area would also be to go to Paestum which by public transport can be more effort to get to.

    Ive had rental cars when been to Florence and Sienna - both cities that people will say are headaches for parking but I coped fine - Sienna has plenty of parking at the city limits then enjoy the walk and the views while walkiing as you head in to the old centre. Same with Florence - heaps of parking around - maybe you have to park 15 minutes walk away, maybe you have to get up early and move it if you have overnight parking where you are staying! But it was certainly handy for getting up the where the stunning views are over the city.

    When I stayed at Bergamo I wished I had a car - the hostel was miles out and finding the bus was a pain and a wait to come back into the city for it - then though the intercity trains are cheap it was so time consuming getting from Venice to Bergamo, Bergamo to Pisa...

    I would definitely take out excess cover insurance from a separate company though and not the rental car company - then your excess is covered but also any accidents involving windows and tyres will also be covered when they are not in rental car insurance policies!

    All the best.

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  • Ewilly's Profile Photo

    stamp your trainticket

    by Ewilly Written Jul 20, 2012

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    always when your ticket is for a train that needs reservation and it has the time of departure and the date on it, you will not be able to use it for another train and so you dont need to stamp it at the station.
    stamping at the station is for tickets that are valid for lots of trains and you stamp it before you enter the train, so you cannot use the same ticket another time, when this time there is no control.

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  • riorich55's Profile Photo

    Answer to Forum Question About PDF Tickets

    by riorich55 Written Jul 13, 2012

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    The pre printed tickets with your seat assignments do not need to be put in the yellow machines. Just show your PDF ticket to the ticket taker who will scan your PDF. If you purchase tickets while you are in Italy from a station or machine you will need to validate those with the yellow machine.

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  • GentleSpirit's Profile Photo

    Leonardo Da Vinci Airport-Rome

    by GentleSpirit Written Jul 11, 2012

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    You might think that a major city like Rome might have a top of the line airport.

    For my flight home I flew out of Rome. First I was sent to another desk to check in. The initial agent offered to get me on an earlier plane to Paris, perhaps totally slipping his mind that I would still have to go through the terribly inefficient (AND HOT) line for security. By the time I cleared security the plane and my bags were already on their way to Paris.

    Rome Airport has a fame for being one of the worst in Europe (some might say the world)
    the lines for security are understaffed (and the area is frightfully hot)
    timeliness doesnt seem to a be a strong suit.

    after all the horror stories i heard....I would much rather go on the trains if there is time.!

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  • GentleSpirit's Profile Photo

    TrenItalia

    by GentleSpirit Written Jul 11, 2012

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    The Italian train operator, Trenitalia, is really quite good. Trains on the major lines, Eurostar particularly, run on time. Trains were clean and stations were generally run quite well.

    In general I found train travel in Italy to be timely, clean and comfortable and CHEAP.

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  • mccalpin's Profile Photo

    New Fare Classes at Trenitalia

    by mccalpin Written Jun 20, 2012

    On June 20th, 2012, I noticed that Trenitalia had changed its fare classes (including discount fares) once again, so for the benefit of everyone, I'll state them here (NOTE: the English text on the Trenitalia website has NOT been updated, only the Italian has):

    Base - the standard fare with the following features:
    1. unlimited changes to the date and time of a reservation, before departure.
    2. change of ticket (itinerary, number of travelers, class, etc.) is free for an unlimited number of times before departure and once up to an hour after departure; you will have to pay any difference in fare, though. In other words, this allows you to apply an unused ticket to another rail trip.
    3. you can get an 80% refund on tickets before departure and a 50% refund on tickets after departure.
    4. you can directly board another train of the same (or lesser) class with a ticket of this fare, if you see the train personnel immediately. You will pay a supplement of 8 euro. The fare description doesn't say what happens if the train you board is sold out (i.e., no free seats)...

    Economy - first level of discount fare with the following features:
    1. only one change allowed to the date and time of a reservation, before departure.
    2. no change of ticket (itinerary, number of travelers, class, etc.) is allowed.
    3. there is no refund allowed.
    4. there is no ability to directly board similar trains.

    Super Economy - the deepest discount fare, with the following features:
    1. no changes to reservation allowed (date and time).
    2. no change of ticket (itinerary, number of travelers, class, etc.) is allowed.
    3. no refunds are allowed.
    4. no direct access to other trains is allowed.

    BIG DIFFERENCE! You can buy any of these fares up until the moment of departure, if the seats in that fare class are available. Usually, of course, the discount fares will be sold out at the last minute, but I noticed just a few minutes ago that a last minute Economy fare was still available for the Rome to Florence train that was about to leave.

    ANOTHER NOTE: the above fares are ONLY for "premium" trains, the Freccia*, the Eurostars, the InterCity, etc. - any train that requires reservations (there are some exception for certain international trains). Regional trains still have only one fare class: "ordinary". The ordinary fare is priced per kilometer, unlike the fare classes listed above which are based on market demand.

    YET ANOTHER NOTE: the above list of fares didn't include the "flexible" fare. The fare class still exists, but I haven't read the fine print to see why it's better than the new Base fare. Note to tourists: the flexible fare is for local business travelers and of no interest to you...because it costs more than the Base fare.

    Bill

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  • amiya's Profile Photo

    Hop on Hop off bus

    by amiya Written Jun 16, 2012

    Using this bus to move around in Verona is definately worth it. It covers all the tourist attraction.
    However, i suggest you look at the timetable for the buses if you need to change lines. You dont want to have to wait long (like us) and waste your valueable time in beautiful verona.

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  • annahill's Profile Photo

    Buying Train Tickets in Advance

    by annahill Updated Jun 5, 2012

    When I went to Italy, I was worried about not having my train tickets in advance too, but I listened to everyones advice on VT and purchased them once I got to Italy and everything was fine.

    On our arrival at the train station in Rome I bought tickets for all of the long trips that I knew we would be taking for instance:Rome to Pisa, Pisa to Assisi, Pisa to Venice and Pisa back to Rome. I even got some discounts, because we were there for a month.

    I aslo traveled from Pisa to Florence, Lucca, etc...then Rome to Sorrento. Those tickets I just bought at the train station as I took the trips. Sometimes I would by the ticket the night before if we needed to get an early start, otherwise be at the station about an half an hour before you need to leave.

    The arr/depart times are listed on a schrolling board inside of the train station and near the tracks.if you need to buy tickets for the next day you can simply look at the times for today and tommorow's will be about the same. The ticket machines in the station are easy to use and have english options. It is really a lot easier than you think. Also most employees at the station speak some english of you need to ask questions.

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