Getting Around Italy

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Most Viewed Transportation in Italy

  • DAO's Profile Photo

    RIMINI, AIRPORT TO TOWN

    by DAO Updated Jan 23, 2014

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    Visiting Rimini and/or San Marino? This could not be easier or cheaper. Just outside the airport terminal is the stop for Bus number 9. Simply buy a 1-Euro ticket at the snack bar inside and get on the bus. Please remember to validate your ticket with the pictured machine on board. The ticket is good for 90 minutes of travel and is cheaper than a 40-Euro fine. The bus takes about 15 minutes to take you to the main Rimini Train Station. From there you can take the no. 11 Tram all the way across Rimini, on the same ticket! And Taxis? The expensive thieves are just outside as well. On weekdays the bus service starts from the airport at 6:19am and runs until 1:10am. Weekends start around 7am and still run up until 1am. Excellent service that's economical!

    RIMINI AIRPORT TO TOWN RIMINI AIRPORT TO TOWN RIMINI AIRPORT TO TOWN RIMINI AIRPORT TO TOWN RIMINI AIRPORT TO TOWN
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    Taking the train: easypeasy

    by goodfish Updated Dec 19, 2013

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    This is where my fellow VT'ers will really be in a snicker as a few of them have experience with my ulcers over sorting out Italian rail. I am pleased to say I've finally (well, mostly anyway) conquered that beast - and so can you!

    As is the case in most of Europe, trains are the primary mode of transportation in Italy and usually the easiest, most economical way to get from Point A to Point B. Because train travel is not so common in the US, figuring out how the system works can be a source of some anxiety for Americans taking their first trips by rail in a foreign country. Here's the good news:

    • Trenitalia operates the vast majority of the country's rail system so ticketing, schedules and whatnot is usually very consistent

    http://www.trenitalia.com/cms/v/index.jsp?vgnextoid=ad1ce14114bc9110VgnVCM10000080a3e90aRCRD

    • Italo - a relatively new high-speed train service between major Italian cities - has been offering some very nice rates. Give it a look as well: http://www.italotreno.it/EN/Pages/default.aspx

    • Stations in the major cities are well-staffed and you can usually find help. Approached politely, locals are usually very helpful too.

    • In many parts of Italy taking a train is MUCH less stressful and potentially expensive than dealing with a car. Many cities have zones (ZTLs) where only locals with a permit are allowed to drive, and fines for innocently wandering into them are very steep. Cameras are posted to catch offenders, and the bill sent to lessee of the license plate on the day the snap was taken. Yes, they absolutely WILL track you down!

    • Once you get the hang of it, schedules (posted in all stations) are easy to figure out

    • It's usually not necessary to buy tickets in advance although it's well worth checking the Trenitalia site for any reduced-price tickets available for fast trains. Otherwise, tickets are easily purchased at most stations in Italy either at ticket windows or from automated machines (you may need to use cash).

    • If purchasing in advance, ALWAYS do so through the Trenitalia or Italo websites and not a broker such as Rail Europe or similar which may involve paying extra booking fees

    • If you're really nervous about purchasing from a machine or station agents, larger cities and towns also have travel agencies that sell tickets. These are often found in or very near the stations: there is one right next door to Santa Maria Novella's entrance in Florence. It can cost you a few euro more but lines for the counters are often shorter, and agents usually speak reasonably fluent English. You may either purchase tickets for a specific journey or for all of your train-travel treks in Italy at once if you know what those are and flexibility isn't a big concern. How to find these? Look for the green-and-red FS logo in the window. Generally, though, tickets are easy to purchase via machine or ticket window.

    • Central train stations in the largest cities are much like airports: they offer lots of services. See this link for a glance at shopping, restaurants, agencies, luggage storage, visitor help, etc. at Italy's busiest rail hubs:

    http://www.grandistazioni.it/cms/v/index.jsp?vgnextoid=ae2172ceeae7b110VgnVCM1000003f16f90aRCRD

    The pitfalls? Strikes that can raise some real havoc with inflexible itineraries, and holidays that cancel out the posted schedules for some regular runs. There are also some tiny stations that may either not have ticketing agents or may be closed when you need them. With the exception of strikes, most of these snags can be gotten around with some advance planning and pre-purchasing of onward-journey or round-trip tickets so it's not as bad as it sounds.

    I'll cover some of the finer points about rail travel in separate tips but some good on-line learning resources are:

    "A Beginner's Guide to Train Travel in Italy":
    http://www.seat61.com/Italy-trains.htm
    This is an excellent 'Idiot's Guide' (yes, I used it!) with some step-by-step information

    VT members mccalpin and Leics have Italian trains down to a science: post a querry in the forums and more than likely you'll get excellent help from either or from a number of our other rail experts.

    "Train Travel in Italy":
    http://www.italylogue.com/train

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    Regional Trains (Regionale)

    by ddevronn Written Nov 21, 2013

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    *This is only about the Regional Trains*

    Train travel is the probably the best way to get around Italy. It's actually quite straight forward, but does take a little time to get used to the system.

    Regional trains usually take longer, but are a great way to see the scenery. So if you're not in a rush, they're worth the time. Plus they're much cheaper.

    You can buy your Regionale train tickets online or from the stations :

    Online from http://www.trenitalia.com. It's possible to switch the page to English, but you will still need to search for your destination under its Italian name (ex: "Firenze" instead of "Florence")

    At the stations you can buy them from the self-service machines or at ticket booths (bigger stations have very long lines for these so the machines are much better). The machines do have language choices, but again, search for your destination under its Italian name. The system is very easy to use. You can pay in cash or credit card (although, most of the time we had to use our credit cards because the cash choice was unavailable) http://tinyurl.com/nhwqg6c

    You will get only one ticket, even if you have selected and paid for more than one passenger. So if there is a chance that someone will change their plans, buy the tickets separately.
    Regional train tickets do not assign you a seat.

    Right before you board your train, you will need to validate it at the green validation boxes (see image: http://tinyurl.com/ow9ve6g) There is fine if you don't. Some locations may still have yellow ones, but most have changed to green.

    The Regionale tickets can be used for two months from your date of purchase. (stated with dates on the ticket) So don't worry if you have a last minute change of dates.

    However, once you validate your ticket (the green validation boxes) the ticket is valid for 6 hours. This is useful if you miss your train after validating it. Trains are usually quite often, so you can still take the next one (within the time limit)

    The only hard part of using the Regionale tickets is knowing which train to get on. Since they are valid for 2 months, a train number is not stated. Also, the train destination may not be the same as the one stated on your ticket since the train only states the final destination and not the stops in between. There were two ways we got around this; one was to ask the info desk (only at small stations because there was no line) or to check the time of the train from the self service ticket machines and look at the times on the departures board.

    If there is a train change on your route, asking the info desk may be better, because different train times may have different stations where you will need to change trains.

    Don't worry about what to do with your luggage. Most bags (including large backpacks) easily fit in the overhead racks. Or you can keep your luggage between the seats.

    Just a tip for anyone with ear problems: If any windows are open when entering the tunnels, the pressure change may be a bit too much for some. My friend found this out the hard way (earache for the rest of the day), and afterwards made sure he was chewing gum whenever we got on a train, which seemed to help a little.

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    ZTL: limited&controlled car traffic, several towns

    by Trekki Updated Aug 13, 2013

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    Travelling through Italy with a car is fun, but some important things must be considered, otherwise one has to learn it the hard way: hefty fees.

    I am talking about ZTL (zona traffico limitato), or restricted traffic zones in town and city centres. This has nothing to do with traps especially set up for tourists, because Italians without permission are also fined. Locals can get permission (= either a sticker or the licence plate number was listed in the police’s records), so one should not assume that “someone passes the signs, so everyone can pass it”. It is like at home. Rules are rules. The sign – the round one with the red circle around are universal, so no police officer would believe a tourist’s “oh, I didn’t understand it” pretext.
    The zones have been established to protect the historical centres of towns, which are mostly very narrow and where it is difficult to turn around. Also, visitors of course would park cars in the centres if it would be allowed to enter, thus stealing valuable parking space of the locals. Imagine an old lady who is not anymore a good walker. Imagine she would be your mother or grandmother. Would you want to let her walk all the way with her groceries shopping because you stole a parking spot in front of her house which she could use otherwise? I hope not.

    So be good, use the public transport in bigger cities with ZTL or park outside in smaller towns with ZTL. Usually large parking spaces, often without fee, are being provided in these towns.

    And learn before your trip where these ZTL zones are. Most naturally they are in the tourist (Italians and non-Italians) overflowing cities like Firenze, Roma and Milano. But there are more, as it can be seen on a website/blogspot with ZTL list Italy. It is constantly expanded, well, it should be. It contains links for the cities and towns, often with further links and maps where the zones are.

    Abruzzo: Pescara,
    Puglia: Bari
    Calabria: Reggio Calabria
    Campania: Napoli (Naples),
    Emilia Romagna: Bologna, Ferrara, Forlì, Modena, Parma, Reggio Emilia, Rimini,
    Friuli: Pordenone, Trieste
    Lazio: Gaeta, Roma (Rome), Viterbo,
    Liguria: Genova, Riomaggiore,
    Lombardia: Milano (Milan), Brescia,
    Piemonte: Torino, Asti, Novara, Alessandria
    Sardegna: Cagliari,
    Sicilia (Sicily): Messina, Palermo,
    Trentino-Alto Adige: Bolzano,
    Toscana (Tuscany): Firenze (Florence), Lucca, Pisa, Sesto Fiorentino, Siena,
    Umbria: Assisi, Perugia, Spello,
    Veneto: Padova, Verona (and of course Venezia/Venice, but it goes without saying that cars don’t drive in Venezia...)

    One important word about rental cars: in case you rent a car and have booked an accommodation within a ZTL zone: check with your accommodation if they have reported your licence plate to the police. Don’t do it by phone, do it by email so that you have proof in case they said so but didn’t.

    © Ingrid D., April 2012 (So please do not copy my text or photos without my permission.)

    Spello - drive here ... NOT!!!!!
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    Airport Bologna: efficient and small

    by Trekki Updated Aug 13, 2013

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    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.)

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    Driving in middle Italy, and the ZTL thing..

    by Trekki Updated Aug 13, 2013

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    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.

    Parking rules:
    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.

    Speed control:
    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.

    Limited traffic, here in Spello, Umbria Speed control machines in Italian towns and roads
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    drive to Airport Bologna

    by gwened Updated Aug 4, 2013

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    the nice airport G Marconi at Bologna is a nice drive and nice complements, the photos were taken from my blackberrry and came out fuzzy sorry.

    Via del Triumvirato, 84 40132 Bologna Tel +39 051 647 9615

    I came by car of course ::) on the A1 nice road easy to drive on and little traffic if you avoid like I the rush hours.
    You have parking P1 P2 P3 and you can book a space by email Parcheggi@bologna-airport.it
    valet parking is available by asking carvalet@bologna-airport.it
    an additional long term parking at P4 can be ask space by email parkquattro@bologna-airport.fr
    you can also do express premium if need to drop off somebody a quick parking can cost you 3,50€ up to an hour.
    you pay at borne or ticket machines at parking and can pay with credit cards.
    you have many choices in coming and going from to the airport here in English
    http://www.bologna-airport.it/uk/airport-and-services/to-e-from-the-airport/?IDFolder=977&LN=UK

    shopping areas
    http://www.bologna-airport.it/uk/airport-and-services/shopping-area/?IDFolder=1000&LN=UK

    VIP lounges available
    http://www.bologna-airport.it/uk/airport-and-services/mbl---vip-lounge/?IDFolder=1244&LN=UK

    overall airport services
    http://www.bologna-airport.it/uk/airport-and-services/youfirst/?IDFolder=1430&LN=UK

    if you need special services you can use this guy I use a lot there
    Auto Blu Noleggi, tel +39 339 3846496 email autoblunoleggi@tiscali.it with great service by my driver Giacomo Franchetto, you wont go wrong using him all over Italy, he is GPS ready.

    going toward airport bologna A1 turning into the A1 autostrada coming to airport parking areas the shopping inside the airport Bologna
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    Trains- Italian Dolomites

    by GentleSpirit Updated Jun 27, 2013

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    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.

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    Day ticket for public transport in Rome

    by pepemorris11 Written Jun 1, 2013

    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.

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    Try a Regionale Train

    by RoscoeGregg Updated Apr 29, 2013

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    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.

    Waiting For A Regionale Train Just Enjoy the day Barbara's Favorite Activity on the Train Mike Chillin out on the regionale to Pisa Mike taking a hint from Barbara

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    The Subway Easy & Indespensible

    by RoscoeGregg Updated Apr 29, 2013

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    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.

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  • mccalpin's Profile Photo

    Eurailpass Supplements on Italian trains

    by mccalpin Updated Feb 10, 2013

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    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.

    "Italy

    Eurostar Italia ( Frecciarossa / Frecciargento / Frecciabianca); EuroCity

    Reservation: compulsory

    * Fees - 1st and 2nd class: €10

    InterCity; InterCityNotte, Expresso (only seats)

    Reservation: recommended but not required

    * Fees - 1st and 2nd class: €3
    See http://www.eurail.com/plan-your-trip/train-reservations/reservation-fees
    "

    (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) "
    (see www.eurail.com/1_reservations_supplements_domestic)
    ***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...;-)

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    Cheap Airfare to Italy

    by annahill Updated Jan 28, 2013

    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.

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    Santa Lucia Railway Station, Venice

    by hopang Updated Dec 26, 2012

    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.

    Santa Lucia Railway Station in Venice Santa Lucia Railway Station in Venice Santa Lucia Railway Station in Venice Santa Lucia Railway Station in Venice
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    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

    Related to:
    • Budget Travel
    • Business Travel
    • Trains

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