I love Italy. I love the food, the men, the history and even the cobblestones. I love Rome, Florence, Pisa and Venice. I long to bike through Tuscany, taste pizza in Naples and swim the beaches of Capri. Yes, I love Italy. But what’s the deal with train validation?
My first trip to Italy was in 2011. I decided I wasn’t going to keep talking about seeing Italy and made the trip with a friend. We were both so excited, all we did was research things to see and places to eat. During one of my many late nights of Google research, I came across an article warning travelers about validating tickets when riding Italy’s trains. Luckily, I read the article because if I hadn’t, I too would have been duped by Italy’s well-hidden secret.
Okay, so I’m being dramatic. But so many travelers don’t know about train validation and they end up paying hundreds of euros in fines. What is train validation? It’s actually very simple. If you purchase a train ticket that has no seat assignment, you MUST go to one of the validation machines and stamp your ticket. That’s it. But NO ONE TELLS YOU ABOUT THIS. Not even the ticket agents (most of them anyway). And if you get on the train without validating your ticket, forget it. You’re paying a fine unless by some miracle, an agent lets you off the hook. And that’s rare.
When I visited Italy in 2011, the validation machines were these clunky yellow things that never, ever worked. Now, Trenitalia, which is the main train company in Italy, has its own validation machines all over the stations, so you can’t miss them. If you have a seat assignment (i.e., Seat 12A), then no need to validate. But if not, make your way to a validation machine pronto. You’ll save yourself a lot of hassle and 100 euros (that’s the cost of the fine).
And it isn’t just the train. You have to validate bus and waterbus tickets, as well. While in Rome, my friend and I decided to take the bus back to our hotel. We bought tickets at the local Tabacchi and when we got on the bus, the first thing we saw was a validation machine. We knew exactly what to do. It’s the same in Venice when you take the waterbus. There is no assigned seating so you have no choice but to validate. We almost got on the waterbus without validating until I thought about it at the last minute. Again, there are machines at each “bus stop” so you can’t say you didn’t see it (although I didn’t, but I digress). In Venice, the fine for not validating your ticket is 52 euros.
Some people take a chance and decide not to validate, and you can get away with it depending on the mode of transportation. No one checked our tickets while we were on the bus in Rome or the waterbus in Venice. But it’s too risky and the cost is just too great.
So the next time you’re in Italy, remember these three simple words: validate, validate, validate. Buon Viaggio!!