Taking the Train With Your Dog in Italy!
Travelling by train in Italy is a pleasure. Not only are they amazingly punctual, the price is also right and they are dog friendly! As long as the “cani” is in a carrier, can’t get away, does not take up a seat and is quiet the inspector will not even blink. A few times I was asleep on my bipeds lap and no one said a word. Small dogs travel for free.
The company is called Ferrovio dello Stato (FS) or is also known as Trenitalia and their website will allow you to plan your trip ahead of time – although you do have to register with them first.
In our experience the best thing to do is just buy your ticket on the day you plan on travelling, especially if doing a day trip rather than moving from one city/town to another. This gives you more flexibility and avoids fines for changing your booking last minute. You can purchase your ticket at automated machines. These have multiple language options, take credit cards (not American Express) and are user friendly. They are far quicker than standing in line to buy your ticket from an agent.
NOTE: ALWAYS buy a ticket before boarding and VALIDATE (stamp) it at one of the little yellow machines you will find on the walls or pillars leading to your platform. If you do not, you will be charged full price on board plus a 50 Euro fine per person! Tickets purchased online and printed (from pdf) are exempt – they do not fit in the machine. You will see an inspector on every trip.
In our case Florence was our pied-a-terre. In other words we lived in Florence, returning to our apartment there at the end of each day trip. Santa Maria Novella is a major train station in Italy and as such, you are spoiled for choice.
- Regionale – slow regional train. Stops at every village along the way. Often scenic and quaint. Some allow you to bring bicycles on board.
- Intercity – Rapid Intercity service – mid range sometimes called “blue line” – often double decker trains. Stop at main towns and cities but not smaller villages.
- Freccia Rossa – Super fast, rushing between major cities only such as Rome, Bologna, Naples and Milan. Higher price tag to go with the shorter travel time. Luxurious. Also known as the “red line”. Seats for these are assigned and obligatory. You can get 15-30% discount for advance bookings.
It is a source of pride to us Canadians that the Intercity and Freccia Rossa trains are Bombardier trains. That is right – made in Canada! They look good, sound good and are amazingly comfortable.
A few things we noticed about some train stations:
Santa Maria Novella Firenze – Always crowded, and watch out for pickpockets and gipsies. There is a taxi rank in front and local buses depart from the side of the building. There is a pharmacy, a luggage office, disabled traveller assistance, a hotel-booking service and more. The nearest Tourist Office is across the street at Piazza della Stazione 4. Florence has two other small stations called Campo de Marte and Rifredi – you can always take a train to SMN for free from there.
Pisa Centrale – Has restaurants, kiosks and a currency exchange. Tourist information is at the front of the station. Most local buses stop there, including the one to Campo dei Miracoli (to the tower). There is a second station going to and from the airport.
Siena – The word that comes to mind is STAIRS!! Situated just outside the city walls at the foot of the hill you have a 20 min walk to the top! There are escalators all the way or if you feel like doing some exercise use the stairs. NOTE – small dogs MUST be carried on the escalators large dog must use the stairs. We heard there is a bus but did not look into it. Mom took the escalator with our friends – dad and I ran up the stairs!
San Gimignano – There is no train to San Gimignano. You have to take a train to Poggibonsi (go ahead and laugh – we did!) and then take a bus from there to San Gimignano. This bus is about a 20 min ride. Tickets can be purchased at the newspaper kiosk. The station is very small, but does have a small restaurant/bar and bathrooms and the kiosk for both bus and train tickets.
In review: Travel by train with a dog in Italy is a dream and the best way to get around! Clean, comfortable, punctual and only once was the inspector unpleasant. I guess everyone can have a bad day. On the whole you will get a nod or a smile and likely a pet on the head.