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Train Tips and Manners for Your Trip to Italy

Train travel is a very easy and low stress way to get around Italy but can initially be overwhelming.  Once you get the system down you can relax and enjoy the scenery passing by without worrying about where you are going.  Trains are what most Italians use for transportation, so you get a real feeling of being with the people.  Connections are usually frequent and to all the large cities.  These tips should help you ease into train life and after a few connections you will feel like an old pro.

READING THE SCHEDULE

Intermediate stops are shown on this typical posted schedule in the middle column

This is probably the most intimidating of all.  The train schedule is posted at every station, usually on the wall.  Just like in the airport, there is an arriving and departing schedule.  You are looking for the yellow one that says ‘Partenze.’  When looking for your connection, you must know which major city the train is heading to.  For example:  if your destination is Orvieto, you must first find Firenze (Florence).  Under that main connection, each stop that train makes is listed including Orvieto.  It’s hard to believe that a worn piece of paper posted on the wall is actually telling the truth, but it is.  Many times I’ve chickened out and double checked at the ticket booth, only to receive the same information.  Train schedules are listed in military time, so a train leaving at 5pm would say 1700.  You will also need to know the Italian names for the cities you will be traveling to.

Each station will have several platforms or ‘binario.’  The posted schedule will have a binario assigned in the last column but this can change.  At every station there will be either a TV monitor or electronic sign stating which train is about to depart from which binario.  Also, in front (or at the side) of each individual track there will be a sign with the destination posted for that particular train.  When in doubt, ask a railway official (they will be in green suits) or the closest Italian.  Keep an eye on the reader board as I have missed trains because the track (binario) was changed at the last minute.  Announcements will be made prior to the trains arrival and most of the time it is repeated in English.

FINDING A SEAT

Once you find the correct binario or track and your train, you will need to make sure that you get on the right car.  Cars are divided by first and second class.  The first few cars will have a big number 1 by the door which designates them as first class, followed by cars marked with a 2 for second class.  I always travel 2nd class because there is little difference between the two except the price.  Each car will also have a number and the seats inside that car will be numbered.  This only matters when you have purchased a ticket that requires a reservation, similar to an airplane.  Connections between Florence and Venice for example are reserved seating.  Just look at your ticket.  If you have a car number ‘carozza’ and seat number listed then that is where you must sit.  Otherwise it is first come first serve and can get a little crazy.  If you hit rush hour, you may have a hard time finding a seat.  My trick…walk to the end of the train, hop on and move forward to find a seat.  Many times the first few cars will be packed while the last few are wide open because everyone has tried to get on the train at the front of the station.  Don’t panic if you can’t find a seat or find ones together.  Places will open up as people get off at their stops, just keep your eyes open.

Ladies, the choice is yours. Photo courtesy of PhotoBomb.com

Ladies:  You can’t pick who is in your family, but you can choose who you sit by.  If you are traveling alone, find a seat next to a nun or cute old lady, otherwise you may find yourself sharing a seat with a dirty old man.  NEVER pick an empty compartment or row of seats.  It is always better to choose your seat mates than have them choose you.

If you are getting nervous that the train will leave without you, you can always hop on and move through the cars from inside.  The train can’t physically leave while a car door is open, so you won’t have to worry about leaving a travel companion on the platform.  Rarely a smaller train will require a ‘reservation’ that wasn’t listed.  Don’t worry, they won’t kick you off.  Just smile and play dumb, they will just ask you to pay the difference on the spot and can even take credit cards.  Large luggage will not always fit above or under your seat and must be stored near the front of the car (storage space and racks are normally provided).  I have never had a problem with theft, but I do make sure I keep my eye on the suitcase at all stops and keep any valuables with me in my day pack.  If you are traveling in Southern Italy or on a night train keep your bags with you at all times and when you are ready to sleep attach a strap from your luggage to the rack.  Italian thieves do not want to work too hard and this is just enough to encourage them to move on.

TICKETS

You can find fast ticket machines throughout the stations.

You can buy your tickets several ways.  Tickets can be purchased at the station at any time; you do not have to wait until the day you are ready to travel.  At the large stations, the lines can be irritatingly long so plan ahead.  A time saver would be to buy all your tickets at one stop from a local travel agent or to purchase them at a smaller station or during less busy times.  Write down the connections and dates that you need on a piece of paper to hand to the person; this makes the process much easier.  Most stations also have automated ticket machines, which work like an ATM.  You scroll through a long list until you find your destination.  This is a simple, easy and quick way to get your tickets yet they stand alone almost unused by most Italians.  Don’t be afraid, they work well but Italians just don’t trust them because they are electronic.  When asked ‘Fidelity Card?’ you must say no.

Don’t forget to validate your tickets before boarding,

Your ticket must be validated before you board.  There are yellow boxes posted all around the station, simply put your ticket in all the way to receive the time and date stamp.  If you forget, you run the risk of high penalties from the train conductors who are not always the happiest people on earth.

Each ticket will include the following: Treno (train #) Carrozza (car #) Posti (seat #)

TRAIN TRICKS AND MANNERS

Trains in Italy are not as timely as in other areas of Europe.  I find that the later in the day you get, the later the train.  If you want to be somewhere, try to get the earliest train that you can handle.  Strikes are also very common throughout Italy; the only nice thing about them is that they are planned ahead of time so you can too.  Strikes only last one day at a time and not over holidays or in August.

Opening the train door may sound simple but not always easy to do.  Most trains have a button on the side which will open the doors, similar to an elevator button.  This is the same when walking inside the train between the cars.  Older trains tend to have handles or levers.  Try rocking the handle clockwise (or counter clockwise if that didn’t work) or rotating it up and down.

The toilets empty out on the tracks and it is considered impolite to use the restroom while at a station or stop.  I know because I was an offender.

Most trains have a snack car where you can purchase over priced sodas, beer/wine or snacks.  I prefer to pack a lunch from the local market and eat that on the train.  This is very acceptable and a fun way to get to know the people you are traveling with.

NOT MISSING YOUR STOP

Each stop has several signs with the name marked in white on a large blue background and you are given enough time to grab your things and exit.  Watch for towns along the way that are before your stop so that you are ready to go just in case.  The schedule at the station will have the approximate arrival time at each stop which gives you an idea of when to be ready.

If you are getting off in a major city like Rome or Florence, make sure you don’t leave the train too early.  Most of the major hubs have stations that are dead ends and hard to miss.  If for some reason you exited too soon just grab the next train coming through.

Understanding Italian Culture | Handling Money, Shopping, Computers and Staying in Line

**I will be re-blogging my Understanding Italian Culture Series this week.**

HANDLING MONEY

Italians love correct or almost correct change.  You know that old lady at the grocery store digging through her coin purse while everyone behind her rolls their eyes?  She is everywhere in Italy and they love her.  Although they are used to us Americans slapping down a 20 Euro note (or *gasp* a 50) for bottled water, I try to get as close to exact as possible.  ATM’s seem to be out to sabotage your best efforts and tend to only give out the largest bills possible, so you can’t help but have to break a larger bill at times.  Just try not to do it first thing in the morning and be prepared for some heavy sighing.  I have once been denied the transaction.

Italians also don’t hand over the money directly as we do.  You will find at every counter a little dish or tray next to the register.  This is where you should set your money down and where they will put your change.  Do not try to hand them the cash.

SHOPPING

Italians shop with intention.  If they walk into the store, they are ready to buy.  Just watch how the women window shop, it is not with a casual interest.  The window displays are set up with great care to show off the merchandise and many are changed almost daily.  If you walk into a store (except the obvious tourist shops) the clerks are expecting you to buy.  Of course you don’t have to, but don’t be shocked if they are a little snuffy with you when you don’t.  Instead of being turned off by this, relish it because you become the center of attention in the shop when you are ready to purchase something.  You will have all the shopkeepers fussing over you while they ignore the meandering tourist.  I have a favorite handbag store that I spend quite a bit of time in each visit, even though I usually know exactly which purse I am going to buy at the very beginning.  I enjoy the whole experience and never rush through it.

LINES

Should you have to wait in line for anything, be prepared to defend your position with your life and be wary of the side-cutter.  You will be able to pick out all the American and British tourists immediately; they will be the only ones standing in a straight and orderly line.  You will have to let go of your manners in this situation and be assertive.  Look for an opening and take it, if you don’t someone else always will. Make sure you have good eye contact and you are ready with your order/request.  On a visit to Rome, I spent 45 minutes standing in a line for train tickets with someone breathing down my neck…literally.  Every time they would try to sneak up to the side of me they got the elbow.  Not the most comfortable situation, but I stood my ground and felt victorious when I managed to block every attempt thrown at me.  Now, don’t get me started about those sweet old ladies you see around town because they are lethal in the market stalls.

COMPUTERS

Americans always get stumped when it comes to finding the @ sign.  On an Italian keyboard it is found by pushing the Alt and the key just to the left of the Enter button (this key will have 3 different symbols on it).

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Copyright 2014   Andi Brown,  Once in a Lifetime Travel

Travel to Italy Tip #7 | Purchase train tickets in country

Italy’s train system can be frustrating to say the least.  Between delays, cancellations and strikes a traveler can lose their cool.  My next tip won’t necessarily save you money outright, but will help hedge your bets when using the trains for transportation on your trip.

7. When possible, purchase your train tickets once in Italy

My people try to get as much taken care of ahead of time before leaving for their vacation.  While I am an avid planner and believe that setting yourself up early is important, train tickets are where I draw the line.  Except for a few exceptions, I discourage people from buying before leaving.  Here is why:

Traveling brings about the unexpected and Italy more so than many places.  Most of the time these unplanned situations are actually positive, but occasionally they can wreak havoc on a trip.  Italian trains are more often than not late, some cancelled altogether.  Strikes are common.  You can actually find out exactly when and where most of the train strikes are as the publish them each month, but prepurchased train tickets usually need to be taken care of before that final list is public.  Insurance must (should) be added to prepurchased tickets to cover these situations.  Also, you never know when you might fall in love with a place or want to change your plans.  With prepaid tickets you lose your flexibility.

There are times I would take advantage of buying ahead.  For example, if I am ever arriving in Rome but need to take the train the next day to another major city I grab my ticket.  Some of my past clients staying in Florence have wanted to day trip to Venice and for simplicity’s sake I have made pre-arrangements.

Instead, I head straight to the train station or a local travel agency once I arrive in Italy and purchase the tickets I need.  For travel between smaller towns (example:  Orvieto)  I just arrive a few minutes before hand and get my ticket from the window or the machine.  That way if I want to linger a bit longer over a meal or am itching to get back earlier I have the flexibility.

Train travel seems overwhelming but is actually quite simple and I will be running a series on my train travel tips in the upcoming weeks.  Check back this week for more tips about car rental, taxis and public transportation.

I love feedback, so leave me comments!

copyright 2012  Andi Brown, Once in a Lifetime Travel

Travel to Italy Tip #6 | Travel second class when riding the trains

Now that we have gone through some important big money-saving topics it is time for a few nitty gritty travel tips.  Today I will be talking about train travel with the biggest money-saving rule as Tip #6.

6. Travel second class when riding trains.

Who says there isn’t room in 2nd class?

More than once I have worked with clients who first went through big name travel companies to make travel arrangements and reservations.  They are almost always told to buy first class train tickets.  There is absolutely no better way to waste your money.  First class compartments are a bit roomier and have assigned seating.  That’s it.

The major train connections between big cities have assigned seats whether you choose 1st or 2nd class.  For example, anyone traveling between Florence and Venice will find their seat on the train similar to that of an airline flight.  Why pay more money?  Both classes are heading to the same spot, both have designated seating.

Second class seating might fit more people depending on the style and age of the train you are on.  I have occasionally had to work my way through several cars to find a seat (see my train tips article coming soon) but that has been during peak travel times.  Also, I find I love traveling second class because I have a chance to ride with the locals like a local.  I always bring a make-shift picnic and use the sharing of my food as an ice breaker for meeting others.

If you are a hard-core first class traveler, then by all means feel free to throw your money away.  Just remember that train travel will not be like that on the airlines and don’t expect warmed towels with an aperitif waiting for you.

Check back this week for more tips about train travel, car rental, taxis and public transportation.

I love feedback, so leave me comments!

copyright 2014  Andi Brown, Once in a Lifetime Travel

Travel to Italy Tip #7 | Purchase train tickets in country

Italy’s train system can be frustrating to say the least.  Between delays, cancellations and strikes a traveler can lose their cool.  My next tip won’t necessarily save you money outright, but will help hedge your bets when using the trains for transportation on your trip.

7. When possible, purchase your train tickets once in Italy

My people try to get as much taken care of ahead of time before leaving for their vacation.  While I am an avid planner and believe that setting yourself up early is important, train tickets are where I draw the line.  Except for a few exceptions, I discourage people from buying before leaving.  Here is why:

Traveling brings about the unexpected and Italy more so than many places.  Most of the time these unplanned situations are actually positive, but occasionally they can wreak havoc on a trip.  Italian trains are more often than not late, some cancelled altogether.  Strikes are common.  You can actually find out exactly when and where most of the train strikes are as the publish them each month, but prepurchased train tickets usually need to be taken care of before that final list is public.  Insurance must (should) be added to prepurchased tickets to cover these situations.  Also, you never know when you might fall in love with a place or want to change your plans.  With prepaid tickets you lose your flexibility.

There are times I would take advantage of buying ahead.  For example, if I am ever arriving in Rome but need to take the train the next day to another major city I grab my ticket.  Some of my past clients staying in Florence have wanted to day trip to Venice and for simplicity’s sake I have made pre-arrangements.

Instead, I head straight to the train station or a local travel agency once I arrive in Italy and purchase the tickets I need.  For travel between smaller towns (example:  Orvieto)  I just arrive a few minutes before hand and get my ticket from the window or the machine.  That way if I want to linger a bit longer over a meal or am itching to get back earlier I have the flexibility.

Train travel seems overwhelming but is actually quite simple and I will be running a series on my train travel tips in the upcoming weeks.  Check back this week for more tips about car rental, taxis and public transportation.

I love feedback, so leave me comments!

copyright 2012  Andi Brown, Once in a Lifetime Travel

Travel to Italy Tip #6 | Travel second class when riding the trains

Now that we have gone through some important big money-saving topics it is time for a few nitty gritty travel tips.  Today I will be talking about train travel with the biggest money-saving rule as Tip #6.

6. Travel second class when riding trains.

Who says there isn’t room in 2nd class?

More than once I have worked with clients who first went through big name travel companies to make travel arrangements and reservations.  They are almost always told to buy first class train tickets.  There is absolutely no better way to waste your money.  First class compartments are a bit roomier and have assigned seating.  That’s it.

The major train connections between big cities have assigned seats whether you choose 1st or 2nd class.  For example, anyone traveling between Florence and Venice will find their seat on the train similar to that of an airline flight.  Why pay more money?  Both classes are heading to the same spot, both have designated seating.

Second class seating might fit more people depending on the style and age of the train you are on.  I have occasionally had to work my way through several cars to find a seat (see my train tips article coming soon) but that has been during peak travel times.  Also, I find I love traveling second class because I have a chance to ride with the locals like a local.  I always bring a make-shift picnic and use the sharing of my food as an ice breaker for meeting others.

If you are a hard-core first class traveler, then by all means feel free to throw your money away.  Just remember that train travel will not be like that on the airlines and don’t expect warmed towels with an aperitif waiting for you.

Check back this week for more tips about train travel, car rental, taxis and public transportation.

I love feedback, so leave me comments!

copyright 2012  Andi Brown, Once in a Lifetime Travel

Best towns to homebase in Italy without a car | Part Two

If you missed my first post, click here.  Below are a few more of my favorite towns to home base in without using a rental car and relying only on public transportation.  These are places with quick and easy transportation connections.  Again, I believe there is no better way to get to know Italy while saving money than staying put in one location for an extended period of time.

SIENA

Siena is the best of both worlds in my opinion.  It has the heart of a small town, but the energy and variety of sites like a bigger city.  Many people stay in Florence and day trip into Siena, but  I prefer doing the exact opposite.  Siena is busy during the day but the evening is absolutely magical.  Easy connections to Florence, San Gimignano, Montipulicano, Montalcino and Pienza.

italy travel

SORRENTO

The Amalfi Coast is one of the highlights of most travelers’ itineraries.  Sorrento as a home base makes seeing the surrounding area an absolute breeze.  While this is the biggest town on the coast, it still holds much charms and beauty!  Easy day trips include Naples, Pompeii, Capri, Amalfi Town, Ravello and Positano.

sorrento italy travel

 

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Copyright 2012   Andi Brown,  Once in a Lifetime Travel

Best towns to homebase in Italy without a car

I love finding a place in Italy and parking it there for an extended period of time.  I believe this is THE best way to connect with the people and have as close to a true cultural experience as a tourist.  Not to mention this is a great way to save money, decrease travel time and get to actually relax.

I will be listing a few of my favorites towns to home base in for travelers that are using public transportation only.  Unlike the US, it is fairly easy to get around using just the train systems.

CORTONA

I love Cortona.  One of my favorite restaurants is here.  Also my favorite weekly market.  And wine store.  And antique store.  You get the idea.  The town itself can keep you busy for a few days.  Florence, Assisi, Orvieto, Spello and Perguia are all within easy train distance.

cortona italy

ORVIETO

My very first hilltown I visited when I was 19.  You can never shake your first love.  Orvieto gets loads of attention because of its location near the autostrada, but it still maintains its beauty and charm.  Evenings are exceptional here.  My favorite handbag store in within the walls of Orvieto.  The views are some of the absolute best.  Easy connections from Orvieto by either bus or train are Rome, Florence, Cortona, Civita, Bolsena, Chiusi and Montepulciano.

orvieto italy

VERNAZZA

If you are planning time on the coast, stretch it out and really make a vacation out of it.  So many people rush in and out of this area.  Vernazza is my favorite home base for seeing the other four villages of the Cinque Terre.  There is more to be visited in the area by easy train connections like Portofino, Portovenere and Sestri Levante.

Cinque Terre

To be continued…….

I’m obsessed with feedback, let me know what you think.

Love it??  Pass it on!

Copyright 2012   Andi Brown,  Once in a Lifetime Travel

Understanding Italian Culture | Handling Money, Shopping, Computers and Staying in Line

HANDLING MONEY

Italians love correct or almost correct change.  You know that old lady at the grocery store digging through her coin purse while everyone behind her rolls their eyes?  She is everywhere in Italy and they love her.  Although they are used to us Americans slapping down a 20 Euro note (or *gasp* a 50) for bottled water, I try to get as close to exact as possible.  ATM’s seem to be out to sabotage your best efforts and tend to only give out the largest bills possible, so you can’t help but have to break a larger bill at times.  Just try not to do it first thing in the morning and be prepared for some heavy sighing.  I have once been denied the transaction.

Italians also don’t hand over the money directly as we do.  You will find at every counter a little dish or tray next to the register.  This is where you should set your money down and where they will put your change.  Do not try to hand them the cash.

SHOPPING

Italians shop with intention.  If they walk into the store, they are ready to buy.  Just watch how the women window shop, it is not with a casual interest.  The window displays are set up with great care to show off the merchandise and many are changed almost daily.  If you walk into a store (except the obvious tourist shops) the clerks are expecting you to buy.  Of course you don’t have to, but don’t be shocked if they are a little snuffy with you when you don’t.  Instead of being turned off by this, relish it because you become the center of attention in the shop when you are ready to purchase something.  You will have all the shopkeepers fussing over you while they ignore the meandering tourist.  I have a favorite handbag store that I spend quite a bit of time in each visit, even though I usually know exactly which purse I am going to buy at the very beginning.  I enjoy the whole experience and never rush through it.

LINES

Should you have to wait in line for anything, be prepared to defend your position with your life and be wary of the side-cutter.  You will be able to pick out all the American and British tourists immediately; they will be the only ones standing in a straight and orderly line.  You will have to let go of your manners in this situation and be assertive.  Look for an opening and take it, if you don’t someone else always will. Make sure you have good eye contact and you are ready with your order/request.  On a visit to Rome, I spent 45 minutes standing in a line for train tickets with someone breathing down my neck…literally.  Every time they would try to sneak up to the side of me they got the elbow.  Not the most comfortable situation, but I stood my ground and felt victorious when I managed to block every attempt thrown at me.  Now, don’t get me started about those sweet old ladies you see around town because they are lethal in the market stalls.

COMPUTERS

Americans always get stumped when it comes to finding the @ sign.  On an Italian keyboard it is found by pushing the Alt and the key just to the left of the Enter button (this key will have 3 different symbols on it).

I’m obsessed with feedback, let me know what you think.

Love it??  Pass it on!

Copyright 2012   Andi Brown,  Once in a Lifetime Travel

Train Tips and Manners for Your Trip to Italy

Train travel is a very easy and low stress way to get around Italy but can initially be overwhelming.  Once you get the system down you can relax and enjoy the scenery passing by without worrying about where you are going.  Trains are what most Italians use for transportation, so you get a real feeling of being with the people.  Connections are usually frequent and to all the large cities.  These tips should help you ease into train life and after a few connections you will feel like an old pro.

READING THE SCHEDULE

Intermediate stops are shown on this typical posted schedule in the middle column

This is probably the most intimidating of all.  The train schedule is posted at every station, usually on the wall.  Just like in the airport, there is an arriving and departing schedule.  You are looking for the yellow one that says ‘Partenze.’  When looking for your connection, you must know which major city the train is heading to.  For example:  if your destination is Orvieto, you must first find Firenze (Florence).  Under that main connection, each stop that train makes is listed including Orvieto.  It’s hard to believe that a worn piece of paper posted on the wall is actually telling the truth, but it is.  Many times I’ve chickened out and double checked at the ticket booth, only to receive the same information.  Train schedules are listed in military time, so a train leaving at 5pm would say 1700.  You will also need to know the Italian names for the cities you will be traveling to.

Each station will have several platforms or ‘binario.’  The posted schedule will have a binario assigned in the last column but this can change.  At every station there will be either a TV monitor or electronic sign stating which train is about to depart from which binario.  Also, in front (or at the side) of each individual track there will be a sign with the destination posted for that particular train.  When in doubt, ask a railway official (they will be in green suits) or the closest Italian.  Keep an eye on the reader board as I have missed trains because the track (binario) was changed at the last minute.  Announcements will be made prior to the trains arrival and most of the time it is repeated in English.

FINDING A SEAT

Once you find the correct binario or track and your train, you will need to make sure that you get on the right car.  Cars are divided by first and second class.  The first few cars will have a big number 1 by the door which designates them as first class, followed by cars marked with a 2 for second class.  I always travel 2nd class because there is little difference between the two except the price.  Each car will also have a number and the seats inside that car will be numbered.  This only matters when you have purchased a ticket that requires a reservation, similar to an airplane.  Connections between Florence and Venice for example are reserved seating.  Just look at your ticket.  If you have a car number ‘carozza’ and seat number listed then that is where you must sit.  Otherwise it is first come first serve and can get a little crazy.  If you hit rush hour, you may have a hard time finding a seat.  My trick…walk to the end of the train, hop on and move forward to find a seat.  Many times the first few cars will be packed while the last few are wide open because everyone has tried to get on the train at the front of the station.  Don’t panic if you can’t find a seat or find ones together.  Places will open up as people get off at their stops, just keep your eyes open.

Ladies, the choice is yours. Photo courtesy of PhotoBomb.com

Ladies:  You can’t pick who is in your family, but you can choose who you sit by.  If you are traveling alone, find a seat next to a nun or cute old lady, otherwise you may find yourself sharing a seat with a dirty old man.  NEVER pick an empty compartment or row of seats.  It is better to choose your seat mates than have them choose you.

If you are getting nervous that the train will leave without you, you can always hop on and move through the cars from inside.  The train can’t physically leave while a car door is open, so you won’t have to worry about leaving a travel companion on the platform.  Rarely a smaller train will require a ‘reservation’ that wasn’t listed.  Don’t worry, they won’t kick you off.  Just smile and play dumb, they will just ask you to pay the difference on the spot and can even take credit cards.  Large luggage will not always fit above or under your seat and must be stored near the front of the car (storage space and racks are normally provided).  I have never had a problem with theft, but I do make sure I keep my eye on the suitcase at all stops and keep any valuables with me in my day pack.  If you are traveling in Southern Italy or on a night train keep your bags with you at all times and when you are ready to sleep attach a strap from your luggage to the rack.  Italian thieves do not want to work too hard and this is just enough to encourage them to move on.

TICKETS

You can find fast ticket machines throughout the stations.

You can buy your tickets several ways.  Tickets can be purchased at the station at any time; you do not have to wait until the day you are ready to travel.  At the large stations, the lines can be irritatingly long so plan ahead.  A time saver would be to buy all your tickets at one stop from a local travel agent or to purchase them at a smaller station or during less busy times.  Write down the connections and dates that you need on a piece of paper to hand to the person; this makes the process much easier.  Most stations also have automated ticket machines, which work like an ATM.  You scroll through a long list until you find your destination.  This is a simple, easy and quick way to get your tickets yet they stand alone almost unused by most Italians.  Don’t be afraid, they work well but Italians just don’t trust them because they are electronic.  When asked ‘Fidelity Card?’ you must say no.

Don't forget to validate your tickets before boarding,

Your ticket must be validated before you board.  There are yellow boxes posted all around the station, simply put your ticket in all the way to receive the time and date stamp.  If you forget, you run the risk of high penalties from the train conductors who are not always the happiest people on earth.

Each ticket will include the following: Treno (train #) Carrozza (car #) Posti (seat #)

TRAIN TRICKS AND MANNERS

Trains in Italy are not as timely as in other areas of Europe.  I find that the later in the day you get, the later the train.  If you want to be somewhere, try to get the earliest train that you can handle.  Strikes are also very common throughout Italy; the only nice thing about them is that they are planned ahead of time so you can too.  Strikes only last one day at a time and not over holidays or in August.

Opening the train door may sound simple but not always easy to do.  Most trains have a button on the side which will open the doors, similar to an elevator button.  This is the same when walking inside the train between the cars.  Older trains tend to have handles or levers.  Try rocking the handle clockwise (or counter clockwise if that didn’t work) or rotating it up and down.

The toilets empty out on the tracks and it is considered impolite to use the restroom while at a station or stop.  I know because I was an offender.

Most trains have a snack car where you can purchase over priced sodas, beer/wine or snacks.  I prefer to pack a lunch from the local market and eat that on the train.  This is very acceptable and a fun way to get to know the people you are traveling with.

NOT MISSING YOUR STOP

Each stop has several signs with the name marked in white on a large blue background and you are given enough time to grab your things and exit.  Watch for towns along the way that are before your stop so that you are ready to go just in case.  The schedule at the station will have the approximate arrival time at each stop which gives you an idea of when to be ready.

If you are getting off in a major city like Rome or Florence, make sure you don’t leave the train too early.  Most of the major hubs have stations that are dead ends and hard to miss.  If for some reason you exited too soon just grab the next train coming through.

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