Three Rules for Making Train Travel in Italy Painless


Travel Tip Tuesday

Or at least, less painful …

Train travel in Italy, as in much of Europe, can be a convenient method for traveling throughout the country.

Last week I read an interesting blog post at Simply on riding Italian rails. It is a cute post so read it, then come back.

I’d like to expand on the four points mentioned at Simply Leave-embarking/disembarking quickly, stashing luggage, being on the lookout for clever crooks and validating your ticket before departure-and explore ways we can be more comfortable as we cross the country on rail.

Here are three rules for making train travel in Italy less painful

Rule #1 – Pack Less

I know. I’ve said this before. But nowhere else is it more important for you to be a light packer than when traveling by train. In order to embark and disembark quickly and safely and easily store your luggage you need to have as few things with you, as possible. Trust me.

Rule #2 – Be Prepared

There is a certain old-world charm and romance associate with train travel, but when the allure wears thin, you are going to want something to do. Be prepared with books or magazines, a fully-charged MP3 player or a journal and pen. In direct contradiction of Rule #1, I usually bring all three.

Rule #3 – Be Sneaky

Wow. Did I really say that? (Gulp!) Some trains are equipped with glassed cabins that seat up to six passengers. These windows have thick curtains that are normally pulled back, allowing everyone to see inside. In my backpacking days, I’d slip into an unoccupied cabin, close the door and pull the curtains closed. Other passengers are less likely to open the door when they can’t see inside (unless it is a full load, then you are busted!) and you can enjoy the peace and tranquility of a private cabin.

Ok, you train travelers. What are your secrets? What do you do to ensure you have a pleasant voyage when you travel by train?

Until next time … Buon Viaggio!

13 Responses
  1. You’re soo right about packing light. Never take more than you can handle by yourself on a train.
    If it’s going to be a trip of an hour or more, I make sure to get a reserved seat, not just a ticket for transit to a particular place. And a window seat if possible.

    Unfortunately, from personal experience: Watch out for thieves, especially when approaching stops and near the doors. Hold onto your stuff or a thief can easily run off with your backpack or small bag that might be placed on the floor. If you’ve also got a suitcase, it’s hard to run after the thief.
    Keep your money, tickets, charge cards, passport etc. in one of those pouches hanging from your neck and inside your shirt.
    And DON’T fall asleep if you’re by yourself. You may wake up senza your belongings.
    Great tips. I’ve only been “robbed” once on a train in all of the years I’ve train traveled … it was in Italy! Mamma mia. They are good.
    Ciaochowlinda’s last blog post..Chicken Marbella

  2. And number 4… leave the kiddos with i nonni 😉

    Forget about traveling on the train with 2 kids and 2 strollers. Just forget about it. Unless you crave stress, embarassment, and standing b/w compartments because your crap doesn’t fit through the door!

    (I’m so happy both grandmas are coming this month so hubby and I can get out senza bambini- yay!)
    What a great tip for parents! lol I hope you and hubby have fun on your “time off!”
    South of Rome’s last blog post..La Festa di Sant’Agata, Catania Sicily Feb 3-5

  3. After almost 2 years of struggling with the TrenItalia website – systems down so your foreign credit card can’t be used, Italian card used, oops now you’ve used too many credit cards and they want you to fax your codice etc to them before they will let you use a credit card again! – I finally figured it out. Make the reservation on the website, choose paperless and then the option to pick it up at a ATM, Sisal or Station Kiosk – that gives you 24 hours to change your mind. Then then just give the nice people at the Sisal counter your PNR – get your receipt.

    If you decide to have lunch-dinner in the dining car don’t expect your Cartesi to work – just doesn’t happen.
    What great information for anyone who needs to purchase tickets in advance! I’ve never pre-purchased (or tried to) online, so I haven’t had this issue. Grazie mille!
    Willym’s last blog post..Signs of the Times

  4. Jean

    When I lived in Manhattan and took the train back and forth to DC, I made a rule to pack so that when I was carrying my luggage I always had one hand free. That meant backpacks, shoulder bags, and only one bag in hand. It keeps you light and really helps when you’re on stairs in a crowd and need to hang onto the rail for dear life.
    That is a great rule-of-thumb. I like messenger bags for the same reason. Free hands!

  5. Great tips – and Jean’s tip re: Amtrak is SO true. I did the DC-NYC Amtrak trip dozens of times between 2005-2008 and I always packed such that I had one hand free. Often (since we had apartments in both cities) I didn’t even pack real luggage – just a shoulder bag with essentials.
    That would be nice. It makes travel so much better when you don’t have to haul stuff with you.
    City Girl’s last blog post..It’s been a long week…

  6. When I find persons who have closed up my compartment in which my reserved seat is located I shame them and then toss them on their rear ends into the passageway. OK, I didn’t manhandle the nun, but I did make her go find her own seat. So my tip is spend the 5 euro on the reservation!
    You didn’t take down the nun? You are getting soft!

    Judith in Umbria’s last blog post..The good news

  7. Bitter Chocolate

    Train travel… I usually have to take a 6 hour long train ride 4 times a month. Guess that makes me an expert, but I don’t really have any advice on how to pass time. Usually, I sleep/chat with the weirdos in my compartment/pretend that I’m sleeping to avoid having to chat with the weirdos in my compartment 🙂
    I like the “pretend I’m sleeping” part. Headphones work well for this, too!

    Bitter Chocolate’s last blog post..roots

  8. Gosh, it’s been so long since I’ve taken a train that I almost forgot how much planning is involved to make a ride comfortable. I remember the first times I used to forget to validate my ticket. Not a good thing. Yes, you should always keep an eye on your things. Thieves are everywhere! Oh, and don’t forget to bring your own tissues/toilet paper. Train toilets are horrible!
    Great tip on TP and tissues! Learning to go standing up (for the gals) would be a good thing, too! lol

  9. j

    You guys are so lucky with the trains in Italy. Cleveland is “served” by AMTRACK. If you are going east (to New York) the only train leaves at 4 A.M. If you are going west (to Chicago) the only train leaves at 6 A.M. and of course those are the times you arrive if you are coming from those places.
    Oh yea, those are horrible times! I wish we had train options in Texas, too. So much more convenient!

  10. David B. Monier-Williams

    When traveling in Germany with large HD video camera bag and medium roll on, my German friend and I buy a second class ticket then spend the entire time in the dining car.

    I assume this sneaky trick works Europe wide.


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