We are big supporters of learning and using the public transit system in other countries, and the Italian railway is no exception. The train is safe, reliable, convenient and relatively inexpensive. It also spares you those stressful moments of trying to translate street signs and work out directions. The railway system, though, can also be somewhat overwhelming for first-time visitors, especially when said visitors come from the Midwestern United States where travel is almost exclusively by car. These are a few of our own questions, now answered, regarding travel by train in Italy:

Should we book our train tickets in advance of our trip?
Most of the travel forums say to book your tickets when you reach the train station since it allows for more flexibility. What if you miss the train? What if you change your plans? While this is important to consider, we found if you purchase intercity tickets in advance, you can take advantage of promotional fares, which offer a considerable discount [up to 60% off the base price!!], and these thrify travelers always prefers a discount. Check out Trenitalia for train schedules and prices. You’ll need to know the names of the train stations in Italian for your points of destination. Note there is no advantage to booking regional train tickets in advance.

How do we travel ticketless?
According to the Trenitalia website, ticketless "is the purchasing solution that lets you board your train without having to pick up a printed train ticket." This is essentially an electronic ticket. After your purchase, you will receive an email with a booking code (PNR). The PNR code will be your ticket. Communicate this number to the ticket inspector, or (best practice) print out the attached payment receipt with the booking code and present it to the inspector.

How do we get tickets at the station?
Buy a ticket at the ticket office or use the self-service ticket machines. The machines are easy to use; select your language and follow the directions. Again, you’ll need to know the names of the train stations in Italian for your points of destination.

When do we validate our tickets?
Regional train tickets must be validated by the ticket validators BEFORE you get on the train. High speed train tickets do not require validation since they are purchased for a specific train and reserve your seat. How do you remember? If the seat allocation is not included on the ticket, validation is required. The time stamp shows the conductor you haven't used the ticket before. Stick the ticket into a validation machine to stamp it shortly before your train arrives. If all machines are out of order, find the ticket inspector as soon as you board the train. If you do not validate the ticket, you risk a heavy fine.

How do we find our train?
At the train station, check the departure boards for your train number and departure time. Note the destination listed is the final stop and may not be your particular destination. Once you find your train number, look for the platform number (binaro, BIN for short) and then wait at the platform for your train. You can typically board when your train arrives. If you have a reservation, note the carriage and seat numbers on your ticket.

What about our luggage?
You are allowed as much luggage as you can carry. Put your smaller luggage in the racks above your seat and larger luggage in the racks by the carriage door. Keep all valuables with you at your seat.

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