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  1. #1
    Have bike, will travel Barrettscv's Avatar
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    Train travel in Italy, do bikes travel easily?

    I need to travel by train from southern Italy to Sienna with a bike. How easy is it to travel by train with a bike while in Italy? What special plans or considerations are required?
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  2. #2
    Long Distance Cyclist Machka's Avatar
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    Based on our experiences with train travel in The Netherlands, Germany, Switzerland, France, and the UK ...

    Go to the train station the day before you plan to travel.
    Get the little brochure(s) with your planned travel.
    Note the trains that take bicycles. Not all do.
    Go to the self-serve kiosk to put in a few options so you have an idea of price.
    Using the brochure and self-serve kiosk, decide on your first choice of time to travel, and second choice, and back-up third choice.
    Go to the ticket purchase desk, and buy tickets for you and the bicycle. You may get your first choice, but sometimes the bicycle spots are all booked.

    The day of travel, get to the station early so you can locate your platform. You may have a lift available, or you may need to pack everything up and down stairs. From our experience, most stations have lifts, but every so often they don't, or the lift is out of order.

    There may be station attendents on the platform, who may give you information like where the bicycle car might be located. Or you can try asking them. But note that they don't always know because the trains come in with cars in various orders.

    When the train rolls in, look for the car with the bicycle on the door or beside the door, and hasten toward that car.
    Some trains have nice wide doors and low floors so you can easily roll your bicycle on. Some trains have narrow doors and steep stairs to shove your bicycle up. You won't know till the train gets there.
    Once in, if you've got panniers, you'll likely have to take them off (you may have had to take them off in order to get the bicycle in the door), and then you'll likely have to hang the bicycle up by a wheel. There are some variations on this, but I think that was the most common situation.

    Then go sit down.

    About 10 minutes before you get to your station, go back to the bicycle and make preparations to get off the train.


    Oh, and if you need to change trains, allow yourself a minimum of 15 minutes between so that you can get from one platform to the next, especially if there are no lifts.

  3. #3
    Senior Member tourer78's Avatar
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    All the info right here
    http://www.trenitalia.com/cms/v/inde...003f16f90aRCRD
    We have used the rail network in Italy extensively to travel with our bikes, no problems encountered. If you stick to the regional services its cheap and you can wheel your bike straight on. The only exceptions would be the high speed "frecciarossa" and "frecciabianca" trains. If your plans include any of the high speed services it would be wise to check in advance whether or not these can accept a boxed bike. I had enough problems with bike friday suitcases on the high speeds, as the luggage racks are tiny and fill up fast. Also remember the 3.50 bike ticket for the regional services is valid for 24 hours.

  4. #4
    Formerly Known as Newbie Juha's Avatar
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    Rules and practices for bringing bikes in trains vary a LOT from one European country to another, even within the EU. Most if not all big national rail companies have English web sites with instructions. It's best to check with the trenitalia link provided by tourer78 above.
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  5. #5
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    I had pretty bad experience with south italian trains. Everything, from train not showing up to train passing by without making a stop. It happened on the trip from Apulia region (Lecce) to Campagna (Napoli) in 2009.

    * Station personnel spoke very little English if any. Some knowledge of Spanish helped a bit.
    * Always check if the train has a bicycle compartment, they usually have a bike pictogram in the schedule on the platform.
    * People are pretty lazy. It happened to us that they didn't want to unlock the doors to bicycle compartment on a small regional train, we needed to argue for some minutes on the platform to make one conductor call the second one who had the keys.
    * Trains get canceled. On one station there were like 15 people waiting for the train and the minute the train should have arrived there was an announcement that it will not show up. Locals just went off, with the comments "oh well, it happens often this year". They advised us to bike to the next city from where other trains start. Took us almost an extra day to get there.
    * Once the train just didn't stop. We were the only passengers on the station, and it just passed by without slowing down. We knew it should have stopped because a bus came to pick up the passengers, to take them to the village which was a couple kms away (besides the fact that this train was indicated in the schedule). We've lost another whole day because of that.
    * I still don't understand completely what do Italians mean with "Festivo", is it a holiday, Sunday or a weekend? Different people explained it differently to us. It's important since some trains will not travel on those "festive days".
    * As mentioned earlier, bicycles are not allowed on the high speed trains.
    * In the metropolitan area of Campagna we've had zero problems with trains. Probably due to the fact that lots of people use those trains for commuting so the system works quite well.

    I think a good way to avoid most of those problems is to get on and off on the bigger stations. Chances that trains will show up, that schedules will be up to date, and that people will speak more languages than Italian only are pretty high.

    But they have sometimes cool gardens next to the train stations, we've been really enjoying their oranges

    This is the kind of the train we've had various problems with:

    Last edited by mikhalit; 10-16-12 at 07:55 AM.

  6. #6
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    Quote Originally Posted by mikhalit View Post
    * I still don't understand completely what do Italians mean with "Festivo", is it a holiday, Sunday or a weekend? Different people explained it differently to us. It's important since some trains will not travel on those "festive days".
    Literally translated in this context, I believe it means holiday. Just like certain trains don't run in the U.S. on various holidays like Thanksgiving, Labor Day, Christmas, etc., some trains there don't run on certain holidays.

    I got a chuckle out of your post. I haven't travelled by train in Italy in a long time, but it sounds like some things haven't changed much. I stuided Spanish in high school and college. One of the first Italian phrases I was able to translate was the common announcement in the station that the train will be departing 20 min late. Do the toiletes on the older trains still empty onto the tracks?

  7. #7
    Long Distance Cyclist Machka's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by indyfabz View Post
    Do the toiletes on the older trains still empty onto the tracks?
    They still do on some of the trains we've been on in Europe. There are signs up saying not to flush while the train is in the station.

  8. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by indyfabz View Post
    I got a chuckle out of your post. I haven't travelled by train in Italy in a long time, but it sounds like some things haven't changed much. I stuided Spanish in high school and college. One of the first Italian phrases I was able to translate was the common announcement in the station that the train will be departing 20 min late.
    Funny, but this was the first phrase I learned in Germany. Awfully many trains are delayed, but I believe for a different reason than in Southern Italy.

    I have been traveling by train in central and Northern Italy, and there the system works pretty well. It's just the Southern rural Italy where things become little funny and random.

    Do the toiletes on the older trains still empty onto the tracks?
    Definitely so for the type of trains that is on the picture above. I don't remember how it was for all other trains, but some had the newer system with a collector.

  9. #9
    Have bike, will travel Barrettscv's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by mikhalit View Post
    I think a good way to avoid most of those problems is to get on and off on the bigger stations. Chances that trains will show up, that schedules will be up to date, and that people will speak more languages than Italian only are pretty high.

    But they have sometimes cool gardens next to the train stations, we've been really enjoying their oranges

    This is the kind of the train we've had various problems with:

    I'm glad to hear that train travel with a bike is not to difficult. I'll do further research before committing to the use of the train.

    The picture is remarkable, this train is not typical. I rode on a much better set of trains between Paola, Italy and Cologne, Germany. The trip was fantastic, with sea views in Southern Italy, views of Tuscany and a ride along the Rhine River in Germany.

    Compared to typical travel in the U.S., it was superb.
    Last edited by Barrettscv; 10-18-12 at 03:34 PM.
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    2010 Origin 8 CX 700: "Servizio Grave" Monstercross/29er bike
    1997 Simoncini Special Cyclocross: "Little Simon" lugged Columbus steel CX bike
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  10. #10
    Every day a winding road spinnaker's Avatar
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    The website Tourer78 posted will show you if you can roll your bike on the train (you will see a bicycle symbol). For the most part those are going to be Regionale trains. Longer distance trains will require you to pack your bike as luggage in a bag or box.

    All Regionale trains I have ridden require that you lift a bike up on to the train. So if you can't lift your bike with the gear then you should be prepared to quickly remove it. The key is knowing where the bike car (it will have a bicycle symbol) is going to be on the train. Usually at the back of the train but sometimes at the front.

    Sometimes the bike car is locked "carrozza fuori servizio". If it is you can place your bike in the companionway between two cars.



    Traveling long distance by Regionale can be just as difficult, if not more difficult than packing your bike for a long distance train. Looking at the distance you need to travel, you will need to change trains several times. With each train you risk the train being late, not coming at all or even more frustrating stopped by a strike.

    Long distance train or not, more than likely you will need to make use of Regionale anyway since the long distance trains stop at pretty much only the big cities.
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  11. #11
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    Quote Originally Posted by mikhalit View Post
    Definitely so for the type of trains that is on the picture above. I don't remember how it was for all other trains, but some had the newer system with a collector.
    Not only with the older trains we travelled on in Europe and the UK. The Swiss were the worst, with a hole straight out on to the tracks, but others at least had a flap.

    Collector tanks are only on the better trains, although it's hard for me to recollect exactly which ones they were except for the high-speed (TGV) ones.

    ---------------------------------------

    Train travel on our current trip (and air travel) has pretty well cured us of the desire to carry anything other than a folding bike (and I mean folding as in Brompton, not dismantlable) in the future.

    Our Thorns have given faultless service, but folding really is the way to go -- easy to get on and off trains because they can go on normal luggage racks without having to dash between carriages because your bike has been booked on one, and you on another at the opposite end. No worries about having to book ahead to guarantee a bike spot on trains. Easy to get up and down platforms that don't have elevators. And compact size for plane travel, which might mean a savings in the premium for bike box bookings.

    Also, if you are planning from the start, plan on going as light as possible. Keep your clothing and other stuff to a minimum as much as possible.

    If you can fit everything (except personal stuff in a handlebar bag) into the equivalent of two panniers, great; if you can get it into something like a Carradice Nelson Longflap, excellent. If you don't intend to ride too far between, say, station and accommodation, or between towns where you are staying, then a backpack might be even better.
    Last edited by Rowan; 10-18-12 at 05:51 PM.
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  12. #12
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    Quote Originally Posted by Barrettscv View Post
    The picture is remarkable, this train is not typical.
    I think it was between Taranto and Potenza, where we've had to use it. But the cancelations were between Potenza and Napoli, where larger regional trains run. In general i have a feeling that direction South - North has better infrastracture than East - West.

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