Mastering the Italian Train Travel, made our two week vacation in Italy a breeze.
By learning the process and various options available to us to get around Italy, we were able to successfully travel by train, metro, bus, ferries and taxi. With the proper preparation and homework before the trip, using the public transportation system will allow you to reach most destinations economically.
Today’s post is written by J. He was the one that got us around Italy, using public transportation with no problem. I was amazed that we would get off the train and be able to go right to our destination. If this was left up to me, I would have gotten us lost. But J did a great job planning everything out before we left. I hope this will help others in getting around Italy using the Italian Train System.
Before we begin, let’s start out with a few basic facts of the Italian Rail System. If you look at most major airports in Italy, in this example we will use Milan (Malpensa Airport) for our arrival and Rome (Leonardo da Vinci Airport) for our departure. The airports are usually connected to a major rail hub, located in that city with a dedicated train system. Milano Airport (Malpensa Airport) has a train called the Malpensa Express that runs roughly every thirty minutes between the airport and Milano Centrale train station with stops in-between. Rome has the Leonardo Express that runs from Rome airport (Fiumicino or Leonardo da Vinci Airport in Rome) to the Roma Termini train station and vice versa located in the heart of Rome also about every thirty minutes with no stops. At these major train hubs a Metro station connects you with the rest of the city.
When planning the trip, get acquainted with the spelling of the city, airport and train stations names, as they differ to the way we think they are spelled. For example, the cities names are Milan (Milano), Rome (Roma), Florence (Firenze), and Naples (Napolis). The airports names are Milan (Malpensa Milano Airport) and Rome major airport (Roma Airport Fiumicino or Leonardo da Vinci are the same airport). The spelling in the parentheses is the spelling you will need to be familiar with when purchasing the train tickets or when locating a train at the train station. On the monitors the name of the destination is usually displayed on the train platform. As an example, the train at the Roma Termini will display Fiumicino on the overhead monitors which is the train going to our indicated airport Leonardo da Vinci.
When traveling by train, the train station can be confusing and overwhelming when you look up at the massive display monitor with scores of other people trying to locate the train they need to be on.
With some homework and advance preparation you can become good at reading the big board and recognize your destination. One concept which is used in most counties, is the train end point defines the direction of which way the train is traveling. It may only list stops in-between in a serial feed, on the monitor, but seeing the end point and train number are critical pieces of information that you will need.
The trains are very punctual. I would advise to arrive a minimum of 20 minutes early, as the trains leave on time. This will give you time to find the bin (Platform) that the train will be arriving/leaving from. Also be prepared to depart the train as soon as it stops, as the train only stays at the station about two or three minutes before moving on. This is where preparation is important, as you want to get off the train at the desired stop. If you have the stops listed, make your way to the exit about one stop before your stop. This will allow you to easily get off the train before others get on. This is especially important if you have a lot of luggage to get off the train or it’s a busy station.
One of the items that I recommend you have before you travel overseas, especially if you are using the public transportation system, is to obtain a phone with a DATA package plan. In this case I had an old iPhone which was unlocked. I purchased a plan that had 110 minutes of talk time within Italy or 28 minutes talk time to the US and a Data plan of 1G byte which was enough for our two weeks in Italy. I had preloaded my iPhone with the following website addresses. trenitalia, map and subway and one app called Info Treno.
This website/app will deliver information on the train location, stops, time and bin (Platform Number). In addition, you can find websites that has the metro and bus maps for the city that you visit. Load these maps in as a website/app and/or make a printed copy for use within the city and you will be ready to travel around Italy. Just a little preparation and with the proper tools will make your trip much less stressful.