Five transportation differences to expect in Italy 

Ah, traveling in Italy. 

You probably have a very dreamy image in mind – historic cities filled with lively people, delicious food and wine, sunny beaches and clear water. 

Italy definitely lives up to all its hype. In my two-and-a-half months of being in the country, I have experienced the wonderful pleasures the various regions have to offer and the access to transportation has largely made this possible. 

While Italy’s transportation systems have allowed me to see many corners of it, it has also been a completely culture-shocking experience.

As I was not warned of all the differences between Italian transportation systems and American, I figured I would let you in on some little-known facts.


You cannot count on any mode of transportation being on time

I am positive if you have considered traveling to Italy and have read into the trains, you have probably come across a non-Italian warning you that the train stations often experience delays; I recall reading this myself. However, I was under the impression that this was infrequent and/or they were quick delays. 


In the Florence central train station, for example, I have taken somewhere between 15 and 20 train rides. Maybe one-third have been on time or less than 15 minutes delayed. Make sure you have allotted enough time for extended (and almost guaranteed) delays.

Uber does not exist in most towns

In fact, it’s illegal most places and is expensive where it does exist. Italy, nationwide, banned Uber as “unfair competition for traditional taxis” in 2017, but this ruling was overturned in Rome and Milan. 

If you are not in Rome or Milan, but are interested in taking a taxi, download apps like Free Now ahead of time. They operate almost identically to Uber and save you the hassle of trying to flag down an Italian cab driver (a nearly impossible task). 

While you can call an Uber in Rome and Milan, you can expect to pay much more than you normally would. There are frequent surges in price, and Italy only allows UberBLACK, a premium version of Uber’s service.

Opting for a more commonly used service is your best bet.

Everyone takes the train

While you are probably aware of serious issues with railway in America that keep you from ever wanting to take the train, one of the best features of Europe is its highly interconnected and well-run railway system. 

Everyone takes the train – local commuters, local families, tourists from within and outside of the countries. 

It’s a relatively quick, easy, and cheap way to travel, versus American trains, which often take longer than cars or buses and are notoriously expensive. Trains are a part of everyday life in most Italian towns and cities.

Don’t have a ticket? No problem, board anyway

In Italy, it is completely commonplace to buy your train ticket onboard. There is an announcement made after each major stop, ensuring passengers that did not buy their ticket ahead of time that they are able to purchase tickets now. 

It is also completely commonplace to hop on and off the tram or bus without buying a ticket at all. Indeed, very few people walk past the validating machines on the trams and buses with a ticket in their hands. 

It’s very uncommon to have your ticket checked on these modes of transportation, unless you are on them for an extended period of time. 

Although, you are certainly taking a risk if you skip out. If you are caught without a validated ticket, you can be fined.

Expect to take several modes of transportation to get somewhere

To get to any one particular place, unless it is the center of a city, I have taken up to four modes of transportation. 

For example, want to get to Rome’s Da Vinci Airport but aren’t staying near the center train station? No problem, just leave four hours before your flight, take a tram to the nearest train station, take a train to the center train station, hop on another train that gets you closer to the airport, then opt to take a taxi or bus to drop you off at the airport. 

Sure, you can avoid this, if you’re willing to drop €50 euros on a taxi, which roughly equates to $56. 

by Hannah Bain


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