Transport in Italy – Trains
Train travelling is fascinating on his own so why not use it as mean of Transport in Italy? Italy offer a spending scenery as it is already but what if you build a train line that can cross even the more remote and beautiful corner of the country? Would that not give the perfect blend of travelling and beauty? A perfect union of the need to go from A to B while admiring one of the best panorama that the country can offer.
With this article Repitaly appealing to train aficionado want to show also the other that travelling by train can be the experience in itself but a beautiful way to go to work in the morning.
Is it really only a mean of transport?
Train travelling is a fascinating way of moving from one place to another but when it come into a beautiful country with beautiful landscape is it really only a mean of Transport?
Let us introduce about the general travelling system in the country. On a regional level there are what is called the Regional train service. Those are smaller train that it tend to connect smaller station to the capital. It tend to stop frequently and so its journey time can be long. Sometimes even too long. It is used by mainly by the commuters and so has pick time in the morning and in the evening. You can just pop in (provided that you have a ticket and that you have validated it) and no reservation is required.
Travelling in Italy by train is generally cheaper that in other part of Europe, most definitely cheaper that in UK. In fact sometimes Interrail passes are not of much use because a single trip ticket from A to B can be cheaper, unless you are planning to travel a lot. The fare is calculated by distance.
You will than have the service called Inter-regional or Inter-City and as the name as to say it connect two major cities between two region or more. It tends to do less stop and only stop for the mid station. Journey time is also reduced. They are less used by commuters because they do not stop into the smaller station but commuters from the larger town will use them in the morning and in the evening. They also cover longer trait from North to South too and often they travel at night. There is generally a supplement to pay, which is for the faster speed but also for reserving the seat. The supplement is on top of the normal ticket fare. They are not provided with “Wagon Lit” so even if they also run at night spending the night in one of those might be uncomfortable.
You than have Night Train. Those are doing the big leg journey, over 8 hours connecting area of the country from North to South and West to East. Commuters in some cases are not allowed to jump in so they can be quiet. Although it was not like this not long ago. Before the Low Cost flight enter our life those trains represent the connection between the country and so were heavily used by the season commuters or by the holiday seekers. It is required to have a reservation supplement to be paid on top of the normal fare but considering that the train fare in Italy is not too expensive sometime those train can be used as a night accommodation between one stop and another from your trip. By doing so your budget will reduce considerably.
The Regional Rail Network is the one we are most interested on. Forget about the train running in the middle of an industrial area or rather in the middle of nothing. We are talking about those little trait of rail which are actually a treat for the heart and for the mind. Some of those connection in fact run, and let you see some of the most scenic and astonishing part of the country.
Levanto – La Spezia
Most commonly known as the Cinque Terre rail line this is part of the normal train link but, being part of the regional service, it serves the five little villages of the coast line between Liguria (the region of Genoa) and Tuscany. Every stop along the way it deserve you to get off and the explore every village but bear in mind that your ticket it is valid for a period of “Six” hours and therefore with one single train fare you can have this beautiful experience.
TIPS: Re-connecting to our post about Airport, why not to choose an early flight to Genova, than a small train journey to La Spezia and from there you have 6 hours to explore. Coming off the train, walk to the other village, take again the train and so on for the day. At the end another, very short, train connection to Pisa where you can book your first night accommodation after a mesmerising Italian daytrip. And don’t forget, tomorrow you’ll wake up in the beautiful Pisa!
Genova – Casella
Still in the same part of the country the small connection between the city of Genoa and the village of Casella. Made by a narrow-gauge railway from 1929. An ancient carriage that climb his way up hill between creaks and squeaks passing by beautiful valleys stopping at villages turned out into main destination of a 25km journey. It will let you enjoy Genoa as you have never seen it.
Trieste – Miramare
Trieste Station was built by the Austro-Hungarian emperor as the city was the port town of the Empire. Therefore this was and end of the line station that connected the border to Venice and the rest of the country. Few kilometres from the station the train line start to follow the coast line and therefore a beautiful view throughout the Adriatic Sea, the Miramare Castle (that actually have a station on its own but is no longer in use by the train services) and than approaching the city a spectacular view of the city. Once arrived at the station you are in the middle of the city and Piazza Unita D’Italia is just few minutes away.
Saline Di Volterra – Cecina
If you want to experience the balance and harmony of the Tuscany’s Hills while on the way to the sea and the beach, this service would simply astound you. A harmony of green colours on the way to the blue of the sea this 30km train stretch arrange with an older version of a Diesel carriage preserve a sense of heritage very difficult to find in these modern days.
Sulmona – Isernia
Russian artic landscape, wooden carriages coming out of a western movie, magnificent views, this and much more is what you will find on the Sulmona – Isernia Line, or as the Italian like to call it, The Italian Transiberian Line. 129 Km originally build to link the west and the east coast of Italy went through a closing after the WWII, reopened in the 60’s. Closed in 2011 but after local citizen association and many NGO pushed for the complete restoration and re opened in 2014.
Calabria – Sicily
Earlier on I was mentioning the long leg journey that connect the North with the South. In Italian we called them “Viaggi della Speranza” (Hopes Journeys) called like that for when the economic boom happen in the 50’s and 60’s many left the south to move into the north. Some of the reader might recollect but on the way back to the south the feelings that people felt from the middle of Calabria till Palermo, this feeling was unparalleled. 4 or 5 hours more and you would be home re-aquainted with your family and friends. Most of all was the scenery. In Calabria you are in the middle of the high mountains looking down extremely high gorges with the sea on the horizon. Then it was the approach of the train station of Reggio Calabria. There the train was prepared to board a ferry to cross the Sicilian Channel. The ferry trip itself, a little less than one hour was already an emotion for the passenger returning to their native land. The golden Madonna on straits was a virtual border mark.
Messina came after and from there the air change the smell, the blossom flowers the sun, the sea, the Etna on the horizon, they all contribute to fill up ones hearth. And than it was the last leg of the train ride. All following the coast line with sea and the Aeolian island on one side and the Madonie mountains on the other. Every stop was the world for the few passengers left on the train that vent. One of the most beautiful approach was arriving to Cefalu station. From the earlier stop is a 20 minutes rides with few tunnel in the dark and every time you come out a marvellous scenery on the horizon. And than from afar you’ll spy the “Rocca” and a point of the cattedral one tunnel after another you are getting closer and then is there. The station. The end of journey of a life time.
The Special Train trips
The earlier trips describe journeys that happen almost every day and local as much as tourist enjoy in their entirety. The trips that follows are instead for the aficionados of the train trips with a mix of breath taking landscape where the scenery as much as the train are the main part of the Journey.
From Milan is just a short ride to Tirano. Within the Italian territory this is the starting station of the Bernina Express. A panoramic modern and comforted train that from this little cute town run to get till Chur on one branch and Lugano on the other. Is a little rail track famous for its engineering for the many bridges, for climbing up to a stunning hight of more than 2000 mt passing bay the wonder of the alps, Switzerland and all that stand in between. A trip to be added in your 101 trip to do before you die.
A similar experience but of a smaller scale is the Renon line. From Bolzano climb up the mountains linking the city with the Renon Plateau. A little piece of machinery made to promote tourism towards the mountains for the rich and wealthy of the early 1900 but it soon became a greatly appreciated mean of transport for the local alike. It is now being restored in 2009 to its original splendour and right after that it prove popular as it was in the earlier days.
Apart from the scenery the Treno Natura from Siena to Val D’Orcia will mesmerize you for the vintage Steam train locomotor that is pulling the whole train. The track would also allow to be first witness of some of the most iconic prospective of the Tuscanic Panorama. While on it you can also detrain and make your way to the little villages where splendid beautiful churches and building architecture will wait for your best shot!
TIPS: Try to be in this area during the famous Palio (July and August) as the Palio show is in the afternoon/evening the TrenoNatura can be the perfect day activity for a fun day out with the family.
We now move to the Island of Sardinia first and Sicily After. Treno Verde is a rarity of beauty and mechanical precision that will lull in the Sardinia hills. In a mix of 5 routes all around the island one more iconic than the other but all worth a try. The landscape rich in vegetation encountered along the way give the train its name.
Everybody would know, or would have heard of the tallest volcano in Europe which is the Sicilian mount Etna. There are many ways to go to the top but we dare anybody to find a more attractive rich of scenery and fascinating landscape than the little round in circle train line called CircumEtnea. Opened first in 1898 the 110 km the line is notorious among tourist but this is an active line among local that are still using as mean of transport. The line in fact connect many small villages and is used as connection between those. The Volcanic landscape will do the rest to win you over.
TIPS: This is a line still used as mean of transport but for the best tourist experience look out on the timetable for the special services with vintage carriages.
With the many miles that we have been running with all this train trips we could have easily crossed the world at least once………..almost. But this is exactly our point. These are all within one country that represent the world and in itself contains beauties, sceneries, attractions, experiences. And don’t forget we are only talking about all of the one that you can catch on board of a train.
If you rather have a different experience you can follow us and read our post about the “Cruises Travel”