Transport in Italy
Flights to Italy
http://www.ryanair.co.uk and http://www.easyjet.com service almost all the big cities in Italy from the UK and prices can be ludicrously cheap – so even if you’re coming from somewhere else it’s worth checking to see if it’s cheaper to arrive via England.
Italy borders France, Switzerland, Austria and Slovenia but rising gas prices make driving an expensive option. As long as you can handle the Italian drivers the scenery is lovely though by road. There are also trains that bring you all the way from other European countries though you’ll save yourself a lot of money by not buying a Euro rail pass.
Getting Around Italy
The real way to get around cheaply in Italy is by rail – as in many countries with a strong socialist movement, the trains are very cheap and you can travel a good 4 hours for just 12 euros.
The Italian train system can be as complicated as its politics, however and you’re best off using the self-service ticket machines so that you can work out your route in your own time. There will usually be several options with different train companies. Most services are with I.C Plus or the Euro star but if you choose the regional trains it can be 50-70% cheaper – though you may have to change once or twice. Even very long journeys can be done by regional train if you request it at the ticket counter and change several times.
The Italian train system is so paranoid that people might try to cheat and use their ticket more than once for the same route that they have a method in place called convalidazione – the trick being that once you’ve bought your ticket at the counter or from the machine you then have to take it to a separate slot and insert your ticket. It stamps the time and date on the ticket and you have to use it within a day. In theory this means you can’t use the same ticket twice. Why they don’t just print the date on the ticket in the first place is anyone’s guess but if you don’t convalidate your ticket the conductor might fine you.
Hitching is fine in Italy as long as you stick to smaller roads and are prepared to start up lots of conversations to get lifts. On the bigger roads hitchhiking is regarded as a bit suspect and can be quite a drag if you’re female as every Italian guy thinks his luck has come in.
With cheap and efficient trains, there’s not much point in using buses to get around Italy. Within towns though they’re a good option, especially as there’s no real need to pay – you can get tickets from shops which you then stamp inside the bus but no one will say anything if you just get on board. Just stand near the exit so that you can get off if anyone official-looking gets on to check tickets.