As Italy was the first stop of our long term travels, we realised very quickly that many things stretched our tight budget. We spent a total of around 10-11 days travelling from Milan (with a day trip to lake Como) to Bolzano, from Bolzano to Badia and finally Badia down to Venice. So one thing we tried our best, was to save as much money on the transport to and from these places as well as making the most out of the scenery in this beautiful country. Rail travel turned out to be the perfect way to maximise our budget as well as being a great way to take in some of the most wonderful scenery via this convenient method of transportation.
So along the way we discovered a great way of saving money on what could possible be an expensive trip. We managed to take a journey which should have cost 96 Euros for 26 Euros. Using the app Rome to Rio we figured out we could take several short trips on the regional trains rather than the expensive intercity trains. This is how to travel on the trains in Italy!
using the regional trains:
If you are on a tight budget then the large intercity trains can be quite expensive. What makes train travel in Italy great is that there are several options for all budgets. Taking the regional trains rather than the intercity trains will save you a great deal, often upwards of 2/3s of the price. The downside to this is that they take much longer, stop at every station, are less comfortable and often require a few changes.
When purchasing your tickets from the machines, they will typically display many options so be sure to pay attention to which one you choose. We always chose the train which had a capital R next to it which means they are regional/local trains. These were always much cheaper but probably took twice as long to reach it’s destination. This is because they are local trains so serve the small towns and villages rather than speeding from one large city to another.
Whereas the intercity trains only stops 2-3 times. The regional trains are usually a lot busier with local people using them. We found that they were much more comfortable than the local trains back home even if they weren’t quite as nice at the huge trains! They even have plug sockets next to every seat which on a long journey is very welcomed!
The route we took from Badia to Venice used only regional trains and a bus. We took a bus to Brunico train station and asked the attendant behind the desk how much it was to Venice, he quoted us 96 Euros. This was approximately 2-3 hours with 2 changes. At this point we panicked slightly as it was way above our budget! So we looked on Google maps at the best route and made our own way there. It took us around 7 hours and 5 changes but cost us 26 Euros. Definitely worth saving 70 Euros, especially when you have gorgeous views all the way to keep us distracted for the whole day! I can see the benefit of getting on the intercity trains and being at your destination much sooner, but it is great that there are options for all budgets.
how to use the train:
Before boarding the any train, you must be sure to validate your ticket. This could otherwise result in a fine. To validate your ticket, you must find one of the blue or green boxes. There are usually many of these dotted around the station and platforms. On the end of the ticket there are 2 arrows, these arrows indicate the way the ticket should be slotted into the boxes, which then prints the time and date at the end of the ticket.
I suppose this is a good thing, especially for locals. Because if you buy a ticket but then decide you don’t want to travel on that day, the ticket is open until you validate it. But they can also be easily overlooked by tourists. If you do board the train and realise you haven’t validated it, you must go a seek the conductor straight away and they will then validate it for you (don’t wait for them to come to you). We never came across anyone getting in trouble for not validating but we have heard stories of quiet high fines and not very lenient conductors, so just keep this in mind, especially when rushing for a train!
What about taking a rail holiday?
If the idea of travelling through the country on the trains interests you as it does us, then maybe a Tailor Made Rail Holiday is for you. Travelling by train has to be the most scenic, relaxing and romantic way to experience a country. Rail travel gives allows you to see the incredible scenery of places like Italy at a great pace and with so much less stress than road travel, especially if you don’t fancy doing the driving yourself. Being able to walk up and down the carriage, stop off whenever you like and make your own routes are just some of the reasons we absolutely love travelling by train whenever it is an option. Italy is the perfect place to take a rail holiday and it also easily fits in with backpacking too. The whole country is linked well with regional and long distance trains as well as international connections in the northern part of the country which links you to the rest of Europe and the UK easily. Cities like Milan are also well connected with budget airlines making it a perfect starting point. For us this is something we would love to do in the future when we return to Italy to see much more of this wonderful country.
We enjoyed travelling by train in Italy, it was relaxing and a great way to see some amazing scenery and see how local people travel. It was also a great way to save money. Regional trains are a great way to save money if you are on a budget but they do take much longer and require many changes. The larger trains are a great way to cover huge areas of the country or for going from one city straight to another. If you are on a holiday or backpacking, train travel in Italy is the perfect way to get around the country, to maximise your time, money and the experience of journeying through such a wonderful country.