If you are planning a trip to Italy, or anywhere in Europe for that matter, you should consider taking a train. Trains on an Italian trip are fast, economical, clean and efficient, allowing you to see the countryside while moving from one location to another. Most trains take you directly from the city center to the city center, giving you proximity to the location as well as lodging and eating places. You don’t need to fight local traffic (a truly awful experience for the most part) or waist time at the airport.

A big side benefit is meeting with locals. The Italians are warm and expressive people and they really love their city, region and country. You will get great tips about places to eat and sites to see on your trip. You can even practice in Italy. If you prefer, just sit and enjoy rural Italy when you travel between your vacation sites.

Train travel is very easy if you know only a few important things:

• Plan your vacation and determine if you need an individual ticket or one of the various road permit cards available for Italian train travel. After knowing your best value, you can buy tickets from the ticket window, ticket kiosk, online at Trenitalia, or through your travel agent (where there will be a handling fee)

• Before you get on the train, validate your ticket. Un-validated tickets can lead to stiff penalties. Validation is fast and easy. Look for the yellow box at the track and place the end of your ticket into the slot provided. Your ticket will be stamped with the time and date, presto, your ticket is validated, board your train and relax

• Trains are widely used in Italy and can get crowded during commute time. Travel off peak where possible and when possible reserve your seat

• As with anywhere in the world, watch your wallet and baggage. There is no need to be paranoid, just be conscious of your surroundings. We use money belts for our passports, credit cards, and cash reserves. To make travel easier we all travel with one bag and a carry on

Most stations are located in the center of town with lodgings close by. There are also baggage lockers in larger stations and baggage checks in all to make day tripping or finding a hotel easier. You can safely leave your bag at the station and wander until you are ready to go to your hotel.

When planning whether to use the train or a rental (or leased) car decide what your travel goals are. Trains are great for hitting towns but will force you to take tours to reach the events in the smaller communities and countryside. On the train you will not worry about parking costs or fighting traffic, but you will be on someone else’s schedule and routes. A train will cost more for families (each having to buy a ticket versus all sharing in the cost of the car). You really need to match your travel needs with the style of travel you prefer.

So whether you are a seasoned traveler, or on your first adventure to Italy, trains are a great way to get around. As stated above, trains are economical (about $55 from Rome to Venice), fast (4h30m to travel the 330 miles), relaxing and fun.

Ciao