Transportation in Italy
Traveling within Italy can be intimidating, especially for people unfamiliar with the territory. When I travel, I prefer to stay in cities where I can explore by foot, but no matter how much a town has to offer, there will always be a need for transportation.
Taxis are a common form of transportation for visitors, and in larger cities, almost all drivers speak basic English. If you stay at a hotel, the concierge will organize your taxi service, but if you arrange for alternate accommodations, you may be required to schedule your own taxi service. Catching a taxi in Italy is not like catching a taxi in New York City where you can simply flag one down by raising your arm. In Italy, you must either phone for a taxi, or find one at a taxi stand. In larger cities, there are taxi stands in touristy places, and if you use one, it is wise to get the driver’s business card. Prior to calling the number, you can place “+39” on your cell phone, followed by the number listed on the business card.
Trains are an easy and excellent way to travel in Italy, and the departure/arrival schedules can be viewed online at: www.trenitalia.com. I always buy my tickets at the station rather than online, but viewing the departure/arrival times online helps with the planning process. Another perk for traveling by train is that many trains now offer Wi-Fi, which significantly helps maintain productivity while away from your work environment.
Buses are also useful, but they are trickier for foreigners, and I am not aware of a website listing all bus schedules nationwide, like trenitalia.com. Surely airport or train station employees can assist, but when you are on your own, you may run into some confusion. In large cities, for example, bus schedules and routes are listed at bus stops. Tickets can be purchased at any Tabacchi (Tobacco store), and there are typically Tabacchi at every corner in Italy. Once you get a good handle on the schedule and the bus number you need, traveling by bus is an easy and inexpensive method of transportation.
Traveling by airplane is also very useful and easy for foreigners, especially when traveling to distant cities (e.g., Rome to Palermo, or Milan to Calabria). Common airlines Italians frequently use to travel within Italy are: www.alitalia.com, www.ryanair.com, or www.vueling.com.
Renting a car is also a great way to travel, and not too difficult for a foreigner. I rented a car in Florence and had no problem once I presented my passport and Florida driver’s license. Frankly, I was surprised with how easy it was, but so long as you know how to drive and have some patience, driving a car throughout Italy will not only get you to your destination, but will also provide for an experience of a lifetime (including perhaps a citation (multa) or two… You can also rent a car online at http://www.rentalcars.com, and choose a local pick-up location. Be aware though, most available rental cars are manual transmission. If you do not know how to drive manual, or prefer automatic, make sure you specifically request an automatic.
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