What an eventful and exciting weekend I had! A few of my friends and I decided to spontaneously book three day trips to some nearby cities in Italy (I’m trying to become a more spontaneous person during my abroad experience). Train is the way to go here. The Florence train station is an easy 20-minute walk from my apartment. You can buy your tickets online in advance. I will definitely be traveling by train as much as possible. It’s very simple, efficient, and most importantly, affordable.
This weekend we ventured to Pisa on Friday, Lucca on Saturday, and Bologna on Sunday. All three cities had their own unique character. Pisa had the leaning tower (obviously), which actually lived up to my expectations. We also toured the cathedral and baptistery there. Every half hour, a guard in the baptistery stands in the center and sings a few notes. Because of the certain shape of the dome, the sounds and acoustics are indescribably beautiful. Saturday was a trip to Lucca. Lucca’s city center is surrounded by these old medieval walls. We rented bikes and rode on top of them. This was an incredible experience. We also climbed one of the tower’s there to get awesome views of the city and the fog-covered mountains. Our last trip was to Bologna on Sunday. This day was filled with delicious tortellini and gelato, the most incredible churches I’ve ever seen, and lots of live street music. I walked over 10 miles each day this weekend!
Back to the topic of trains. While these are a great method of transportation, there are some flaws that I am now fully aware of. Here are a few things I learned, along with some helpful tips, for if you ever find yourself on an Italian train:
- Buy your departure tickets in advance, but NOT your return. We overestimated how much time we would need in each of these cities and ended up just killing time by sitting in bars (coffee shops).
- Tickets are cheaper at the station, due to online transaction fees.
- Hold your belongings tightly at all times. Trains and train stations are prime areas for pickpockets.
- When you arrive at the station, look for the train number on your ticket. Always go off of the number, not the city. The city on the departure board might be the final city on your train’s route, not your destined city.
- It can be frustrating because sometimes they don’t even check your tickets. But if you risk it and decide to not buy one and they do check, you could get a $200 fine. I’ll gladly pay the couple of dollars to avoid this.
- There are outlets on the train, which is a true blessing.
- The seats are really comfy and you will likely fall asleep (at least I did).
It was a great weekend seeing three new cities by train. I’ve noticed everything here has truly been a life-lesson learning experience. You can’t learn these skills from a textbook. Although I’ve only been here a little over a week, the amount that I have learned is unbelievable. They weren’t kidding when they said studying abroad truly changes your life.