The Lost Art of Italian Train Travel

25 Aug The Lost Art of Italian Train Travel

There was once a time when a Eurail Passes was the Golden Ticket for any study abroad student in Europe.  Barred some reservation restrictions, you were given the freedom to show up at any train station you like, and catch any train to any city that caught your fancy. You’d stand in the station, watching the ever spinning Departure board update the list of train destinations, groaning as a 10’ minute delay pops up next to your train of choice, but not really caring because the people watching was so good.

Alas, flimsy printer-paper eTickets from low-cost airlines such as Easy Jet and Ryan Air have replaced the thick romantic train tickets of the not-so-distant past, and yes you can go farther for cheaper, but I hate to hear about students who go a whole semester without taking a train somewhere within Italy or Europe.

Taking the train allows for a lot more interaction with locals and fellow travelers. Unlike an airplane, on a train you may find yourself face to face in a travel cabin for five hours as you traverse the Italian Riviera on your way from Rome to Cinque Terre.  The likelihood of striking up a conversation is high, and this is great opportunity to practice your Italian, or ask about local travel tips and regional food/drink specialties. Italians also love hearing about your home country and more often than not, have a slew of questions for you about your new life in Italy.

Trains are also great for catching up on reading and schoolwork as you travel to and from your destination (that is if you can keep your eyes off the gorgeous scenery out the window). I encourage the idea of train travel more and more these days, because it inspires students to stay closer to their home city, gaining a better feel for their region and its people. There are countless destinations from all major study abroad cities that are less than a three-hour train ride away, and to be honest, in the time it sometimes takes to get from a city center to one of the boondock low-cost airports, plus go through security + flight delays, you could already have trained it, and be walking through the historic center of a hidden Italian gem, chomping down on a pizza that cost 25% less than in the big cities.

Train Travel Take-Aways:

  • Trains usually drop you off RIGHT near the city center of your destination. If all you have is a weekend or one night, why waste half your travel days taking shuttle busses to and from low-cost airports.
  • Train travel offers more flexibility in your schedule. There may only be one or two flights a day, and if they’re mid-day or early morning (which they usually are), that whole day is devoted to travel and not traveling.
  • Trains facilitate more social interaction! Meet locals or other travelers going to the same destination. The train ride home is a great way to meet fellow students from other study abroad programs in your same city you may not have met otherwise.
  • Trains are less stressful! There aren’t security lines, baggage fees, and you can bring your own food and more than 3oz of liquid!
  • Trains schedules in Italy don’t run perfect,ly but some of my best travel memories take place on stalled trains and in hectic train stations. Training around Italy a quintessential Italian experience, so give it a try!
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