Travelling by train in Italy – Paradiso Ceramics Australia | Handmade in Italy

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Travelling by train in Italy

Italian trains run pretty much on time, are air conditioned, have comfortable seats and useful little tables. It’s 2008, and several Australian friends have planned to join us in Assisi during this longer stay in Italy and most will arrive by train. The following is a collated account of their experiences catching a train at Rome Central.

Firstly, you must find out which platform your train will be leaving from. Not easy. Eventually you manage to locate this information and heave your 25kg suitcase and juggle assorted hand luggage up and down unfriendly stairs to reach the appropriate platform. You receive pitying looks but no one offers assistance.

Finally arriving at the platform and you sit amongst your luggage waiting for the train to arrive. There’s an announcement. The voice says your train will now be leaving from the opposite platform - but it’s in Italian, so you do not understand. You continue to wait. Another announcement. This time you hear the name of the town you are travelling to. Fear strikes your heart. Could that be about your train? Someone notices your panic-stricken face and takes pity on you. They point towards the stairs and make hurry-up hand movements. Your level of anxiety increases several notches.

Hastily you scoop up your luggage and struggle up the stairs, sure that your bags are 10kg heavier than before. Finally arriving on the platform where your train is waiting, you find you have another problem. For some inexplicable reason, Italian train platforms are much lower than the train steps. As the conductor gestures frantically for you to get on the train, you wonder how you will get your heavy bags up the three steep steps.

You finally haul the last bag up onto the train, the doors close, you squeeze your bags into the luggage storage space near the door, and stagger down the aisle to find a seat as the train speeds away from the platform.

Another thing. Just because you have a train ticket, don’t think you can just hop on the train. Oh no! You must validate the ticket before you board. Of course, first you have to find a ticket validating machine. Just look for a crowd of people huddled beside a wall muttering Italian expletives because the machine won’t accept their #%@* ticket. Or is out of order.

Make sure you only validate your ticket for this trip. If you validate a return ticket which is for another day, you’ll render it useless when you come to try to use it.

Beware! If you don’t get your ticket stamped with the day’s date, there’s a good chance a ticket inspector on the train will catch you and hand you a heavy fine. They are unlikely to accept ignorance as an excuse.

Travelling by train? Like driving in Italy, also not for the fainthearted!