Learn some basic Italian language about public transportation and listen to the podcast.
Traveling by train or bus in Italy, will give you an excellent chance to communicate with people, enjoying the fantastic landscape, and learn many things about the country. Italians love to talk with strangers, especially foreigners, and will give you some tips and useful information about your destination.
Allacciate le cinture, si parte. Fasten your seat belts…
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In biglietteria – Trains
Nothing exotic here…Train stations in Italy usually have a ticket counter (biglietteria) with an operator (bigliettaio) who can give you information (informazioni) about your train (il treno), timetables (orari) the connection (la coincidenza). You can ask the time of departure (a che ora parte?) arrival (a che ora arriva?), the duration of the trip (quanto ci mette il treno?).
Sometimes the train is late (il treno è in ritardo), or there’s a strike (c’è uno sciopero). Loud speakers at the station will tell you how late your train is (“il treno per Roma è in ritardo di 5 minuti”), the platform (il binario), if the train is arriving (il treno è in arrivo) or departing (in partenza). Information in large stations is bilingual but live messages from the station master are usually only in Italian.
The ticket (il biglietto) can be one way (di sola andata) or round trip (andata e ritorno). Remember to validate the ticket (convalidare il biglietto) using the yellow machines on your platform. You can get a fine (prendere una multa) if you forget to do so. You may need to do a reservation (una prenotazione) or pay a rapid service fee (supplemento rapido) on top of your price.
Pretty much all train stations have an automatic ticket machine (biglietteria automatica) and you can pay with cash (contanti) or a card (carta). It is not unusual to find it out of order (guasta).
Bus, metro and cabs
Buses in big cities (we say autobus, corriera or pullman) are usually public, but the ones covering long distances often belong to private companies. If you buy a urban single ticket (biglietto singolo urbano) you can use all public transportation for a limited time.
For example in Milano, my city, with a single ticket you can travel anywhere for 90 minutes for just 1,50 euro. Compared to other big European cities, that’s really cheap.
You can buy your tickets in any tobacco store (tabaccheria), newsstand (edicola) or bus station. You normally can’t buy tickets on board, at least in Milan or Rome. Bus stops, as well as subway or tram stops are called fermata; final destination is the capolinea; timetable is the orario.
Some Italian cities have a subway (la metropolitana). Roma has 3 lines (A, B and the brand new C line) (Roma ha tre linee); Milano has 4 lines and others under construction, Napoli 2, Catania, Torino, Genova and Brescia have a single line.
In most cases, the famous inefficiency of Italian bureaucracy has been slowing down the construction of new metro lines. In other cases, like in Roma, digging holes in ancient cities turned out to be a big problem. Monuments and archaeological areas have been discovered and it was necessary to stop the construction of metro stations and lines.
Cabs (taxi or tassì) are generally white or yellow. You can call a cab through their customer service – they will send the closest available taxi at your address. If you call them, the meter will start as soon as the driver (il tassista) gets the call, but it generally takes just a few minutes.
Always ask the price of your ride (quanto costa la corsa per…?) and to switch the meter on (il tassametro) in case the driver “forgets” to do that. Tips are uncommon. Taxi drivers are of course the right people you can talk to for understanding better the city you are visiting.
- biglietto singolo urbano
- stazione della metro
- linea 1
- quanto costa la corsa per l’aeroporto?
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Buy tickets and ask information
Buses, Cabs and Metro