Airport Bologna: efficient and small
Of all the possible airports to arrive or depart from in northern Italy, Bologna is my favourite. I hate huge airports, especially when I have to walk for miles to get to gates and consequently have to wait “hours” to get my luggage. Bologna airport has the perfect size for me and moreover the shop owners don’t rip off travellers who are thirsty and hungry. Yes, that is another feature which is important to me: prices for water, coffee and a snack. The last time I deported from Bologna was in April 2011 and I paid only 1,10 Euro for my caffè and 1,40 Euro for a 500 ml bottle of water at the small snack bar near the gates (after security). In the shopping area there are several fashion shops, food shops and a bookstore. Enough to buy these little things one might forgot to buy during travels.
The airport has an intelligent website, very easy to understand and read, with excellent floor maps and additional information about the services. Similar intelligent and easy is their ”to and from airport” section with links to the respective mode of transport.
Bologna Airport G. Marconi, code BLQ, is approx. 6 km northwest of Bologna’s city centre and conveniently located at the two main motorways Autostrada Adriatica (A14, to Rimini and further south) and Autostrada del Sole (A1, to Milano or Firenze and Roma).
The airport is being served by major European airlines, which makes it a perfect alternative to Milano's Malpensa in case Milano isn't the desired destination. And it has other international flights, which can be seen on their - again - very much intelligent destination map.
Location of G. Marconi Airport, Bologna, on Google Maps.
© Ingrid D., May 2011 (So please do not copy my text or photos without my permission.)Related to:
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Driving in middle Italy, and the ZTL thing..
Italy’s train and mostly regional bus service is excellent and connects to almost every small village. But the bus services are mostly focussing on the regional connections and very often only within the province of a region, getting from one village to another can make a day quite long and time consuming, especially if the real distance between villages is rather short.
Thus, depending on the individual travel plans, destinations and the time frame, renting a car is often the better option. During all my travels in Italy so far I have rented a car (except for Venezia of course) because I wanted the freedom to travel to even the smallest village without loosing too much time. But then my preferred travel region is Italy’s middle, Umbria, Marche, Lazio, Abruzzi and Emilia Romagna in the north to be precise. And I haven’t been in Roma, Firenze, Napoli or Amalfi Coast and don’t intend to visit these. To me, driving in my preferred regions of Italy is a very much relaxed affair but I am otherwise used to German traffic without speed limits where an increasing amount of idiots believe that they are on a Formula 1 track. However, a car as means of transport comes with one minor “disadvantage” although this depends on the own perception and .. yes, on the own understanding for the host country. The smaller and the more original or historical the layout of towns is, the rarer is public parking. And since these small towns are by no means set up by Disneyland as tourist towns but homogeneously grown communities, this rare parking is to be kept for the locals. Small town communities and officials though take much care for their visitors and usually provide parking space just outside of the towns’ historical centres. These are often free of charge or accessible for a small fee (usually less than 1 Euro). Many towns with extreme hillside locations such as Orvieto, Urbino and Gubbio (and many others but these are the ones I know) even provide elevator/escalator systems to transport visitors to the higher parts of town.
In our Italy forum I often see heated debates about the limited traffic zones (ZTL = zona traffic limitato) in cities or towns. I completely fail to understand the viewpoint of the antagonists of these traffic zones because it should be a matter of respect for the country and city’s way to protect the rights of the ones who live there, the residents. And this includes that houses or areas simply won’t be torn down to provide parking space for visitors, especially from abroad. Should the locals, families with kids, elderly people, park outside at the costs that we tourists can park inside? Definitely not and we won’t tolerate such a viewpoint in our own home cities.
So my plea is: please understand the parking rules and the residents’ situation, especially in the hill towns and you will have a marvellous time in this beautiful country.
I also come across answers and remarks in the forums that "Italian cities are ZTL protected". This is simply NOT true, at least the generalisation is silly. Not every Italian town has these ZTL (zones). True is that as of now these zones have been applied in 35 Italian towns, plus in Venezia, but Venezia has no car traffic anyhow. Information about the cities, constantly updated are here:
ZTL Blogspot (in Italian, but with clickable links for each of the cities),
ZTL in Italy (a Danish site in Danish, Swedish and German, but the list of the cities is ... international of course).
If you travelling by car, I can only highly recommend to stick to the parking and speed rules. Even during the times outside of the typical holiday seasons, I did see many police people walking around and taking notes of wrongly parked cars. On parking areas for example it is forbidden to park caravans. When I once stopped in Cesenatico to visit the old port, I saw some policemen checking cars in the parking lot, so I asked them if I can park the car and how much it costs (there were many cars already standing there and no ticket machine in sight). The officers explained me that parking cars is free of charge, but that they are writing down the caravans’ details since it is forbidden to park them outside of designated caravan parking.
if there isn’t a sign for payment or on the road, then there is no fee. Blue lines on the ground around parking spaces mean pay parking at one of the automatic ticket booths. White lines mean that parking is free.
The same goes for driving. Police is often controlling even roads where you would expect them least, and once caught with speeding, the fees will be hefty. In addition to police controls I saw more and more of these little automatic speed control towers at the entrance of villages or anywhere in villages. They have in-built cameras and no matter if Italian or not, cars will be traced through the licence plate and the drivers will be fined. This is also the case for rental cars. And speeding tickets can be hefty. On an Italian website I found these fees for fines for speeding in Italy:
Speeding 10 km/hr: 36 – 148 Euro
Speeding 10 - 40 km/hr: 148 – 594 Euro
Speeding 40 - 60 km/hr: 370 – 1458 Euro
Speeding > 60 km/hr: 500 – 2000 Euro
Once caught, it is wise to pay the fine. The consequences if one doesn’t pay are that one will run into problems when entering Italy next time. And surely a rental car company which is informed that a customer didn’t pay a fine, will surely never rent cars to this customer.
Prices for gas/petrol per litre:
I am adding this (March 2012), because Italy has the highest gas/petrol prices in Europe since some time. Here is a website with the actual gas/petrol prices. It seems to be updated frequently and also lists the more expensive brands versus the less expensive brands. Which, with prices per litre of approx. 1,75 - 1,88 Euro can save quite a bit.
© Ingrid D., September 22, 2010 (So please do not copy my text or photos without my permission.), update March 2012: speeding rules added, gas/petrol price website added.Related to:
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Trains- Italian Dolomites
On the Trenitalia website, you will need to know this if you are visiting Trentino-AltoAdige/Sudtirol. Since this province is bilingual usually the name of the city is in both Italian and German.
For example. Bolzano is Bozen in German. You will need to enter both names in your search string to get any results. Therefore, you would enter Bolzano/Bozen.Related to:
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Day ticket for public transport in Rome
If you have a few days in Rome, and want to take it slowly. buy a day ticket or one that covers a few days.
We bought a day ticket for 6 euros per person and it allowed us to take the metro, bus and the train from Trastevere railway station to San Pietro railway station as well as from Roma Termini back to Trastevere.Related to:
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Try a Regionale Train
We would like to recommend that you seek out a local train for at least some of your travels in Italy. Is it most important that you go fast or that you experience where you are?
These slower “milk run trains” are filled with people going about their every day business. They stop often and the cast of characters changes.
We find that people on these trains are more friendly and talkative. Sometimes having a nice conversation with an Italian more than makes up for the longer trip. Remember to relax you are here to see the country not rush from site to site.
Give a Regionale Train a try you will not be sorry.
The Subway Easy & Indespensible
In both Rome and Milan the subway is cheap easy to use. In my humble opinion they are the most important thing to use during your visit.
They are simple and make visiting these busy towns easy and fun. When you learn how to use them the whole city is your oyster.
So head down those stairs and have some fun.
Eurailpass Supplements on Italian trains
We frequently discuss here on VT how Eurailpasses are not a bargain within Italy.
One reason is that to use the Eurailpass on a 'premium' train, you must not only get a reservation in advance, but also pay a supplement (which includes the reservation fee). Regional (i.e., local) trains do not require this supplement.
To figure out whether a Eurailpass is worth the cost, you need to generally plan out your trip using www.trenitalia.com/en/index.html . Note the fares for the various types of trains. Then note that if you have a Eurailpass, you will have to pay the supplements listed below over and above the pass on all 'premium' trains.
Eurostar Italia ( Frecciarossa / Frecciargento / Frecciabianca); EuroCity
* Fees - 1st and 2nd class: €10
InterCity; InterCityNotte, Expresso (only seats)
Reservation: recommended but not required
* Fees - 1st and 2nd class: €3
(for historical reasons, I'll leave the following, which is now dated. Note that the link is no longer valid.
"Supplements in Italy
Surcharges and/or reservation costs are required for these domestic day trains:
Eurostar Italia - 1st and 2nd class: € 15 (approx. USD 22,20 / AUD 8,75)
Eurostar Italia AV - 1st and 2nd class: € 20 (approx. USD 29,60 / AUD 35)
EurostarCity Italia - 1st and 2nd class: € 15 (approx. USD 22,20 / AUD 26,25)
TBiz - 1st and 2nd class: € 25 (approx. USD 37,00 / AUD 43,75)
InterCity Plus - 1st and 2nd class: € 5 (approx. USD 7,40 / AUD 8,75)
EC/IC Internazionali (domestic journeys) - 1st and 2nd class: € 5 (approx. USD 7,40 / AUD 8,75)
Cisalpino (domestic journeys) - 1st and 2nd class: € 5 (approx. USD 7,40 / AUD 8,75)
Artesia de Jour (domestic journeys) - 1st and 2nd class: € 5 (approx. USD 7,40 / AUD 8,75) "
***end of dated material)
But the regional trains don't take reservations at all, so you can just go to the station and hop on the train with your pass and go...of course, there is a small chance you might stand or sit in a pull-down seat in the aisle, but that's all part of the adventure...;-)Related to:
Cheap Airfare to Italy
I have always had luck about 6 months before departure. Try different combinations of cities to depart and land and plan your trip accordingly, the train transportation in Italy is excellant so you can be flexible. Start checking flights everyday and at different times of the day. I got my flight to Italy at 11:30pm in April for a departure in October for $1500 roundtrip for 2 people, from Reno, Nevada. That was in 2009, but it was a good deal even then. I was on a very tight budget so I really searched high and low. And by the way... that flight was booked directly through Delta. Good luck and have fun.Related to:
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Santa Lucia Railway Station, Venice
Venice has two railway stations, i.e. Venezia Mestre Station at Mestre Town Center on the mainland and Santa Lucia Railway Station at the heart of Venice. It must be noted that many trains from other European cities do not stop at Santa Lucia Railway Station. They arrive only at Venezia Mestre Station and bypass the Santa Lucia Railway Station. Nevertheless travellers can take shuttle train service between Venezia Mestre station and Santa Lucia Railway Station in Venice crossing the four kilometer long causeway. They are quite frequent too with several departure every hour.
Santa Lucia Railway Station is the gateway to the heart of Venice. It is located in northwest of Venice at Fondamenta S. Lucia with vaporetto stop just outside the station along the Grand Canal. It is also linked to the bus terminal at Piazzale Roma across the Grand Canal. Multi-storey car park facilities are also available at Piazzale Roma. There is also shuttle bus service (bus #5) linking Marco Polo International Airport with Piazzale Roma.
Opening hours of Santa Lucia Railway Station are bewteen 6.00 a.m. and midnight daily. There are lockers for luggages too at Santa Lucia Railway Station.Related to:
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Rail Travel Overview
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 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
You can see photos of the self service ticket machines for regional trains at
"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.
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?
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To validate or not to validate your train ticket
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.
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)!
- Budget Travel
Winter road conditions
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.
"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.Related to:
- Road Trip
Speed checks on roads
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.Related to:
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By vaporettti in Venice
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.Related to:
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Train timetables for Italy
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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