Italy Travel Tips – Getting around

Photo of map of italy from Wikimedia commons is in the public domain
Photo of map of italy from Wikimedia commons is in the public domain

Here are a few useful notes that I have compiled about transportation services in Italy

Cars

During my last trip in Italy, I was driven by my friend on some errands. I felt obliged to mention to him his excessive speed in foggy conditions, and he confidently replied to me: ”Do not worry. The kids here know to stay away from the street when it’s foggy”. I guess that many people would object strenuously to that statement. The point is that the driving mentality in Italy is likely quite different than in your country.

Notwithstanding the heavy honking and finger-signals you will experience regularly when driving in Rome and throughout Southern Italy, driving in Italy challenges even the most skilled driver’s ability. To this, add the very expensive gasoline price (in the range of 5+ Euro/Gallon), lengthy time wasted looking for a parking, and the road signals that are unfamiliar and you may find that the choice of driving in Italy becomes a nightmare. During my last trip to Italy, 3 hours in Milan cost me 5 euro in parking fees and a car burglary from the trunk in spite of the fact that I had hidden everything pretty well at the airport before leaving the car rental office ( this is a case where I followed my own sound safety rules and still lost to the local thieves!)

Flights

The real cost of the flights in Italy is reaching the airport. You have some options in Milan Malpensa and Roma Fiumicino with trains and buses that take you from the main train station to the main airport in a very safe and precise timetable, but they are expensive. When booking a taxi, always ask them to plan the pick-up time rather than trying to calculate it yourself. The taxi driver knows best and is familiar with the traffic and difficulties involved in reaching the airport. I have found Italian taxi drivers are pretty accurate on this point. Never calculate your own transit time and then later force the driver to speed up to meet your estimate.

Trains

For long distance in Italy I would suggest fast trains, which I have personally tried and found to be very comfortable. In Italy, train transportation used to belong to the Government, which did not perform very well in the past. Although they have improved their service recently, the regular train service (Locale, Regionale, Espresso, etc.) still need some improvement. Pay attention to the fact that ITALO is a private train service that often stops at different train stations.

Bus Service

Forget about being on time with buses in the region from Rome throughout the Southern part of Italy. Furthermore, I personally experienced several “skipped pick-up stops” in Rome, and up to 2 hours of waiting at bus stops in Caserta before giving up with using the buses in Southern Italy. In Northern Italy, in city like Turin, the buses are very frequent and on time. Therefore I would suggest buying the tickets before going to the bus stop. For short distance, use bus services. Remember that they are pretty often packed, and then also the favorite place for lift-wallet. I rather walk long time to avoid buses. Walking is the best way to enjoy Italy and its people. If you want to buy a bus ticket, they are available at any Tobacco Store (Tabaccheria) or Bar which now they sells everything else but Tobacco items

Taxi

Unfortunately, some of them try to play some tricks on unsuspecting riders. Do not plan your taxi ride to the airport at the last minute. What I found very useful was to search for a tax on the internet and then sending them an email asking for details and price. I’ve found that the ones that reply on time with price details and name/number to contact for information have always been the best, so sending an email seems to be a good way to check them out ahead of time. Do not trust the travel blogs they are mostly paid (note: our blog is educational, not paid). The last time I selected Samarcanda Taxi in Rome for being very responsive and caring about my route through email. In fact, I found that they provide outstanding service at very low price.

Enjoy your day with a little break of Italian Dolce Vita,  Matteo Silvestri

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