I am almost convinced it was that train ride in August that brought us back to Italy in November.
|Milan's train station|
That summer taste of Italian train travel from Venice to Milan was what made us want to return for more this fall. To our way of thinking, half the fun of Italian travel is getting to ride their trains!
|Rome a mind-blowing number of tracks and trains|
Italy was one of the first European countries we visited oh-so-many-years-ago, and our introduction to train travel began in Rome. I recall being overwhelmed by the enormity of the station, the bustle and the number of tracks and trains there.
|Our train arriving in Cortona, Italy|
On subsequent trips to Italy we've tried to include at least a train trip or two. Trains played prominently in our last, pre-Covid, trip to the Tuscan town of Cortona (yes, the one Frances Mayes put on the tourist map). We took the train both to and from the small village with its equally small train station. There was no confusion about getting the right train there ~ there was only one!
|Masks are required in Italian train stations/trains and distancing encouraged|
When finally last month we decided to return to Italy, we made train travel key to our 10-day adventure. We began by spending a few days in Bologna then we hopped a train to Verona for an overnight stay. Another train transported us o Venice where we spent the remainder of our time.
That Amazing Italian Train System
|Waiting to board the train to Verona|
Italy, a country about 3/4th the size of the state of California, has a railway system of 24,227 kilometers, or 15,054 miles. And with high speed trains that can reach 300 kph, or 186 mph, it has come a long way since its first railroad was constructed in 1839. That line between Napoli and Portici was built to connect the Royal Palace of Naples to the seaside. Now rail lines lace the country and trains travel with such frequency that picking a time to travel isn't difficult.
|Trenitalia ticket offices|
We purchased our Trenitalia tickets at the train stations.. Self-service machines also dispensed tickets but we took what we consider the easier route and used customer service. Staff spoke fluent English so we could ask questions about the options available to us and not guess using the self-service machines..
In what we assumed was an attempt at maintaining distancing, customers waited outside the ticket office until their number (generated by a small machine at the entry) was posted on the sign (to the left in the photo above). It isn't unlike the process used at cheese and meat counters in Greece.
|Ticket to Venice for less than 10 euro|
The tickets are easily understood. Using our trip to Venice as an example, the ticket showed both our destination and from where we were departing. Estimated times of departure and arrival were also provided. Perhaps the most important thing on the ticket was the type of train and its number. Tracks can change at the last minute so it is important to know which train you are looking for.
The class of travel and the price paid is also printed on the ticket. The QR code, that ubiquitous part of travel, I wrote about in an earlier post, was scanned by the conductor as he made his way through the car.
|Second class on this modern train looked like this|
We were impressed that certain of the cars were designed with space to park bicycles and included charging ports for electric bikes.
|A train car with space for bicycles|
Dogs, cats and other small domestic animals are welcome on board Italian trains. For a portion of our journey to Venice we watched this four-footed passenger be assured, kissed and caressed by his human who sat on the floor with him. (His owner muzzled him only when the train started and removed it the minute they stepped off the train.)
|Pet-friendly train system|
One tricky thing to remember is that the train you are riding might have started long before the station from which you are departing and may be traveling beyond your destination. You need to pay attention to the screens in each car showing the next destination and listen to the announcements made in Italian and English, prior to each stop.
|Monitors throughout the car show 'next stop'|
This photo of one of several monitors in our car was taken on the train from Bologna to Verona, and shows the train began in Rome and was ending in Bolzano. We were riding just a segment of the trip and needed to be alert to when the train arrived in Verona.
|Binario or platform may be outside or inside|
The good news is you don't check your bags on Italian trains.
And the bad news is you don't check your bags. So you'd better be able to lift and carry and stow the baggage you have with minimal effort. You may need to hoist the bags up or down when entering the train car while balancing on a narrow step that doesn't quite fill the gap between the platform and the train. (Fellow passengers don't sympathize with those who block their way.)
Train stations, the larger ones, are built like subway stations in the U.S. with trains and tracks at ever increasing depths. The track you want may be many levels below the ground level. Escalators and elevators are easing movement but still there is the occasional need to haul your bags up and down stairways the old-fashioned way, as we've too-often found when the one going the direction we are is not working.
|Our travel juices flow when riding trains. . .|
Train travel, for us, is a much more relaxed way of traveling. There are no security checkpoints to clear, no emptying pockets and pulling electronics out of hand baggage. You need not arrive hours in advance of departure as you can board the train right up to departure. You don't need to turn off mobile devices and you are free to get up and move around.
|Countryside views from the train window can't be beat|
Much like airports in Europe, you are required - during this time of Covid - to wear a mask in train stations and while aboard the train unless drinking or eating. You must also show proof of vaccination (our CDC issued cards were accepted) or proof of a negative Covid test.
We'll bring this journey to a close and be back next week with another Italian tale. Until then our wishes for safe and healthy travels. Thanks for being with us today! And welcome to our new subscribers!!
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