Before the (thankfully) inimitable TrenItalia took hold of Italy's national train company (and shook the Italians down in the process), I practically lived on Italian trains. For over 15 years, I travelled the swathe of the boot on average 6 days per week. In a country that prides itself on the human contact, I enjoyed every minute of it.
But then TrenItalia decided that train fares could be hiked up to meet "European levels" even though Italian salaries stayed put precisely at the salary level I had in my second job -- at the age of 23.
But, every now and again, I am forced to take the trains to one appointment or another, and I will be first to admit that I love going city center to city center, the hassle-free service (except if you're actually carrying luggage), sleek trains and even bustling train stations. But, every now and again, you must also conduct a quick reality check, and remind yourself that it's not just the illegal and shoddy 'taxi drivers' offering you a ride who wish to separate you from your money: you need to be quite aware of the next sneaky deal that TrenItalia is trying to put past you.
Nowadays, you get much faster service if you simply purchase your train tickets at one of the dozens of automated machines perched throughout nearly every station. Believe me, it's faster than attempting to purchase over the internet, whereby you will get timed out, have to register, and, if you're a foreigner, not be able to retrieve your tickets...once you've submitted your firstborn child's social security number.
When attempting to take a slow (read: inexpensive) train to Florence or Naples, I kept getting hood-winked. I'd input the destination and up would pop a number of trains, all coming in at the most expensive price. Because I had checked the train schedule online, I was certain this could not be the case. But, thinking that the local and often faulty trains perhaps had been discontinued, I carried on paying the piper.
Until one day, I noticed, at the bottom of my screen, a few choice words: TUTTE LE SOLUZIONI or, in English, ALL SOLUTIONS (or perhaps, ALL TRAINS). I clicked. Suddenly, up popped all those missing cheap trains I had seen on the website.
So, if you're not in a hurry and don't care about having an internet connection, but actually just want to enjoy a comfortable ride in a proper wagon with other passengers where you will almost always have a convivial conversation with those around you, try this.
You heard it here first. And, you probably won't hear it anywhere else. (Except TripAdvisor Forums!)