When you purchase a train ticket in an unfamiliar area, pay attention to the policies, both those presented during the purchase process, and any that may be written on the back of the ticket. Validation is a common requirement in Europe and, as with Trenitalia, it is typically accomplished by inserting your ticket into a validation machine on the platform. There are other rules you may not expect as well. For instance, if you’re traveling with a Eurail pass (multiple city travel on one ticket), even though it is stamped when you book it, it has to be stamped again by an official at the train station before your first journey, where you must give your passport number and signature.

There are signs in most train stations advising passengers to validate their tickets (albeit in Italian, but it is Italy after all). While not all tickets need to be validated, many do, and the rule is written on the ticket, which means the company has the right to enforce the policy. I understand if you ride Amtrak, or commuter rail in the New York City area, the notion of validation may seem odd since the conductors punch every ticket, but trains in Italy are often big enough, and conductors few enough, that a conductor may not reach you before the end of your journey. You could easily leave the train with a ticket that could be used again.

If policies are not written in English and you don’t speak the language, take the time to decipher the information. You could use a translation app on your phone, such as Google Translate, iTranslate, or Waygo, which works with Japanese, Korean, or Chinese characters. Or, better yet, you could find someone to help you—think of it as an opportunity to strike up a conversation with a local (You never know). In addition to getting your ticket properly punched, you might learn about a great neighborhood or restaurant that has never made its way into a guidebook. And, since the conductor won’t demand extra funds, you’ll have more money to spend when you get there.

Written on December 22nd, 2015 , Transportation, Travel Tips

I’ve been accused of being a “perk” traveler.  Always looking for that something extra, for free.  So what’s wrong with that, and how do you do it?
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Written on January 7th, 2015 , Anicdotes, Travel Tips

People tend to take vacations and visit the wine areas of the world in summer & fall. We decided to tour the Tuscan countryside during the Christmas and New Years holiday season.  Our goal, besides gathering comments and opinions on the recent harvest, was to experience the holiday focus in Italy.  If you never considered a winter trip to Tuscany, you miss the chance of a much more up-close and truly personal visit. A winter trip versus a summer one offers several trade-offs.  On the plus side, the off-season has no crowds so driving the countryside is great.  In fact its possible to stop almost anywhere to capture that special photographic moment.  Local people are much more approachable and have time to chat, giving you the opportunity to really learn about local culture and customs.  Even waiters, cooks, and property owners seem more friendly and willing to spend extra time with you.  And that amazing villa you’ve dreamed of renting is truly affordable.

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Written on December 31st, 2014 , General, Lodging, Travel Tips

American travelers to Europe sometimes cannot figure out how to eat snacks and light meals.  Many lower cost hotels provide no means of storing perishable food items like cheese, meats, milk, etc.  Obviously they want you to eat in their restaurants, which can be pretty lousy and touristy.  So what did I do on a Venice visit for New Years celebration a few years ago?  And how could I preserve some excellent local sandwiches for a long train ride the next day?
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Written on December 21st, 2014 , Anicdotes, Food&Drink, Travel Tips

Is the term “Ugly American” still relevant?  Are you one?  Why do you travel anyway?

I often wonder why people travel to Europe, and expect to be greeted in English and never try to understand or assimilate into the local culture.  If your goal is to simply see sites, visit museums, and take tons of pictures, maybe traveling the great old USA would be better.  When I go to another country my main reason is to see how other folks live, eat, work, and play.  Their culture is what interests me, and how it’s different from ours.
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Written on November 21st, 2014 , Anicdotes, General, Travel Tips

In my opinion, most all American drivers have no clue how to really drive.  Very few understand the basic rules of the road and show absolutely no courtesy.  It seems the style here is poke along making use of every distracting toy we all possess, with almost no attention paid to actually driving.  Food, water, drinks, cell phones, music players, and personal hygiene activities occupy most of the time behind the wheel.  And all traffic lanes are fair game at any speed. So are American drivers prepared to drive in countries where a more aggressive style is prevalent?
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Written on August 21st, 2014 , Transportation, Travel Tips

Train and metro travel in Europe is pretty much the same.  There are probably multiple routes, called lines, that get the trip done. And there are probably multiple stations as well.
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Written on June 21st, 2014 , Transportation, Travel Tips

Did you ever think what it would be like to go to Rome to see the Pope do Christmas or Easter mass?  Even if you’re not religious, attending one of these events can be exciting.  And dangerous.

Having done both the Christmas Eve service and Easter Vigils I can say its worth fighting huge crowds and standing in long lines.  And sometimes it rains…and is very cold.  So then, what is the procedure and what should you expect?  First comes getting “tickets”, something I didn’t realize the first time (we actually wound up watching the service on local Vatican TV).
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Written on January 15th, 2010 , Anicdotes, Travel Tips

Believe it or not, Rome has a subway/metro.  Many tourists visiting the city never realize it exists, and just how useful it can be.  For only 1 Euro you can buy a ticket good for 75 minutes of travel.  And for 4 Euro you can get a 1-day pass.  Considering what a taxi would cost this is a bargain.  And no traffic to worry about, which in Rome can be a real log jamb.
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Written on November 21st, 2009 , Transportation, Travel Tips

The train is a great way to explore Europe in a relaxed manner. There are many reasons to prefer trains over planes, cars and buses for travel in Europe.  Nearly every city has one or more stations which are served by trains many times each day. There are no time-consuming check-ins and often you arrive in the heart of your destination.  While traveling you can admire the view, talk to fellow passengers, go for a stroll or read a good book.  Plus you can eat any time you want without the hasstle of finding a good place.  And you can meet interesting people that always seem willing to share travel tips and ideas.
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Written on November 21st, 2009 , Transportation, Travel Tips

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