This is the national Italian rail network (headquarters in Rome).
I have found that they run an excellent, regular service which in my experience has always been on time. One main benefit is the cost-effectiveness, which I believe is almost legendary. One possible drawwback to this is the enormous equeues at ticket offices, but larger stations have touchscreen ticket machines that can be operated in several lnaguages. The ticket must be inserted into the slot at the bottom right to validate it, but note that this can only be done within 7 hours of travelling (i.e. don't do it the day before you travel, or you may face a long discussion with a ticket collector).
Announcements at major stations are made in Italian and English (they do tend to change indicated platforms a bit, so listen carefully.
We travelled from Turin down to Pisa on a normal stopping train at the cost of EUR 100 for two, which if you look at the map is pretty good, (as well as being a lovely scenic route).
This year, we went from Venice to Florence first class one way on their high-speed train (known as Eurostar). Under three hours, luxuriously appointed and everything you could wish for. Not bad for a total of EUR 90 - i.e. EUR 45 a nose)! (photobucket.com)
The fact that there still many stations with low climb-down platforms is a bit of a nuisance when you are loaded with baggage and want to get off. You can hit some minor station, the doors open and there you are, confronted by 20-plus resolute-looking locals who want 'on'. The trick is to smile nicely and say Ciao, tutti. After a while, the message sinks in and they realise Ah, if I want on, he needs to get off first. If you are lucky, some good soul might even offer assistance, especially if you sing a sad operatic song that will hit their emotions big time.
Given the scenery, the speed and the price, it's an ideal way of getting around.
In his excellent book La Bella Figura (available in English) about 'Zen, life in Italy and the Italian psyche', author Beppe Severgnini explains that on trains, you can learn so much about what makes life work by listening to the chit-chat, be it between passengers or listening to people on their 'telefonino'. It seems you can even learn more than it is legal to know. amazon.com/Bella-Figura-…
The better trains of course offer on-board catering. There may indeed be the odd reader in Germany who approves of the fact that for once, I am not depicted with glass in hand in the photographs. I must confess that we did have a glass later on the journey.
I've put the location as Rome but actually it is all over Italy that Trenitalia run their excellent service. I really can't recommend these enough (especially considering the British service!) as a way of travelling when in Italy. We used the trains from Milan to Venice, then to Verona and back to Milan and found that they were always on time, many trains ran and the fares were extremely reasonable. Booking was simple through an automated machine at each station and was no trouble at all. The trains themselves were clean and tidy, spacious and of a very high standard. Highly recommended, I would definately use this mehod of travel again!
Trenitalia is one of the worse train service in the world. It is run and operated by pickpocket thieves. I visited Italy with my family this July and traveling by train in Italy was the worse experience of our entire trip. Our trip began in Paris, who happens to have one of the best train system in the world. After being in Paris for 5 days we took an overnight "Italian" train to Venice. This trip was a nightmare. The train was cramp, dirty and hot. We began the trip in Paris and the train had air conditioning working. During the night the train stopped in some God forgotten Italian city where the train remained station for two hours with the air conditioning off. I have no words to describe how disgustingly hot and bad smelling this was. Trip was scheduled to be a 12 hour trip but it took 16 and a half hours to make the journey, with no air conditioning in the middle of one of the hottest summers in European history. The food that was served on the train was not fit for human consumption, I wouldn't even feed it to a dog. After being in Venice for 2 days, we decided to go to the nearby city of Vicenza for the day. On the train ride to Vicenza, we were fined 100EU by the pickpocket conductor who explained to us for the first time that train tickets must be validated prior to boarding the train. This was news to us since no one at the train station in Venice told us about this minor detail. There are no large signs or warnings letting tourist know of this regulation. This clearly a stunt that Trenitalia has come up with to rob tourist of their money. It is plain and simple highway robbery. Shame on Trenitalia, you are no better than the thieves roaming the train stations picking the pockets of unsuspecting tourist. This is my impression of Trenitalia.
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