Taking the train in Italy connects you to the daily life of everyday Italians. In Italy, train travel is a common form of transportation between cities. High-speed trains are so commonplace now that it’s the most convenient way to travel from city-centre to city-centre— no more worrying about traffic, directions, or missing a flight.
Meet the Locals
One of the benefits of train travel is an opportunity to meet the locals. Not everyone will necessarily want to chat, but chances are you’ll be able to practice your Italian with an affable local passenger. Italians tend to enjoy a good conversation and might offer you some unique insights on your final destination. If you’re travelling to Rome, for instance, you might meet a Roman who knows the city well or an Italian who has visited the city many times.
Time is of the essence when visiting another country; you don’t want to spend it in traffic gridlock or getting lost on winding European roads. Travelling in Italy by train is ideal as the conventional high-speed train system will often get you to your destination faster than driving. If you count the frequent delays inherent in air travel, as well as the time it takes to travel to and from the airport and the necessary time before flights, high-speed train travel can often be quicker than flying as well. High-speed rail will allow you to spend your time focused on meeting Italians, enjoying meals, visiting the sites, and seeing the countryside.
What a Difference a Day Trip Makes
With Italy’s relatively small size and reliable train system, cultural opportunities will open themselves up to you. Base yourself in a major city like Florence and use the train to explore smaller cities like Pisa or Siena. If costs are a concern, you can do the opposite—stay in a smaller city that’s a bit more affordable, but zip into big cities like Milan to check out some specific attractions. Day trips open up a lot of travel possibilities. You don’t always have to be carrying around luggage or wondering if you’ll be able to find your hotel. Since most cities have many trains a day, your trip can be pretty flexible.
See The Countryside
While the high-speed trains in Italy might be a bit too fast for you to snap a lot of photos, you’ll get an appreciation for the beauty of the Italian countryside by taking the slower, regional trains. There are also special train trips designed specifically for sight-seeing. If you’re in the north, consider the famous Centovalli (100 Valleys) line, that leaves Piedmont and takes you over 83 bridges in two hours of sublime views of the Alps to Locarno, Switzerland. Consider it a day trip and take an evening train back to get epic mountain views at sunset.
There are many classes of trains to choose from. Premium options may provide reclining leather seats, plenty of foot room, and sometimes a dining car —there’s nothing quite like a 3-course meal while you’re zipping cross-country!
If you’re on a budget, Italian trains have plenty of cheaper options. You’re welcome to bring your own meals and even a few bottles of wine. Why not live the high life and crack open that bottle of red wine you just picked up in the Tuscan hills? It might not be the height of luxury, but even the cheap seats on a train offer plenty more space than you’d have on any plane.
Train travel allows you to improvise a bit more when you’re planning a trip to Italy. Intrigued by a place you heard about from a local? Is there something about the name of a small city that’s got you curious? You can get on and off the train easily with a rail pass. Otherwise, plan a journey with a break in the middle or enough of a stop in between trains to visit a smaller attraction. Longer train rides can offer sleeper cars, which can eliminate the need for a hotel.
It will also open up some unusual travel options. Have you ever travelled by train on a boat? If you decide to go to Sicily, one route will have the train cars loaded onto a ferry, which will then be taken to the island. Enjoy the ocean views then head below decks to get back on your train before landfall. When you’re in Italy, there’s nothing quite like train travel!