A snippet from my diary, written while window gazing through Italy:
Riding the train through the Italian countryside, spending my time thinking about how much I have changed and grown in one year. A year abroad has been the best decision I’ve ever made. In the beginning, I was so scared of spending all our savings on simply travelling. I mean, we had enough for a deposit for an apartment, a nice car, or so many other material things. I stressed at first as the dollars slipped away… but I now know that how we used that money has shaped me for the rest of my life. It was money spent on experiences and memories.
But not only that, I now know who I am now and what I want from my life. It was a year just for us, and I feel so privileged to come from country where we could save for a round-the-world adventure like this. I know what it feels like to dip my toes in the lochs of Scotland, ride a train through the mountains of Italy, live like a local in Berlin. And I am so happy there are still endless more places that I know nothing about and are just waiting to be explored.
I didn’t dive head first into a university degree immediately after school, or spend days worrying about a career I didn’t even know if I would be good at. I just left. Not something miraculous, commendable, or accomplished. I basically ran away from societal pressure.. and I now know it is the most important decision I’ve made in my short life.
I don’t care about what job I’ll work, or if I’ll own a big fancy house, I just want to live simply, and on my own terms. I feel excited about how small this world really is.
It was our third visit to Italy in one year, and this time we were determined to see as much as we could in the time that we had. Starting at the furthest tip of Sicily and making our way to the centre of Rome. No planes, no cars, just slow, traditional train travel.
The trains in Italy are wonderfully efficient, easy, affordable and can take you just about anywhere. Anyone who has been reading along on our journey will know we’re doing anything we can to save a penny, so we researched the cheapest way to get from A to B in Italy.
They have essentially two classes of trains, the Regionale and the high-speed trains (Frecciarossas/Frecciabianca/Intercity/etc). Basically the latter are faster, fancier, have assigned seats and almost three times the price as the Regionale which is a little slower, a bit more basic, find your own seat and wonderfully affordable. All trains have all the necessary ammenities (toilets, comfy seats, air-conditioning). I’m not sure how we stumbled across this gem, it seemed to us like all the tourists were getting on the ‘easier’ Intercity, leaving the Regionale almost all to ourselves. Even when buying a ticket from a vendor, we were automatically offered the more expensive option (Intercity etc) and we had to specifically request the Regionale.
Just as an example, the Regionale is around 12 euro to get from Naples to Rome, while the Intercity is 20-24 Euro.
Fares for the Regionale train are always one fixed price which you can easily buy at the station on the day, it can’t ever sell out. There is no reason to buy these tickets online in advance, and they are just perfect for spontaneous travel as you never have to commit to travel dates. And trust me, I would never travel on something that wasn’t comfortable or had useable ammenities, the Regionale was both of these thing and more!
Final thing to remember, the Regionale tickets must be validated BEFORE you board the train, every time, at the suspiciously inconspicuous validating machines. We almost were caught out and fined for being ignorant… So don’t forget!
We planned our Italian adventure route according to affordable airbnb apartments we could find along the way, which brought us to this itinerary:
Palermo – Trapani – Messina – Scalea – Naples – Scauri – Rome!
Over 1000 km’s, seven towns, several trains and a ferry.
We disembarked the train for just one transit night in Messina. A few street scenes from that one evening of wandering.
The trains on the Italian south coast literally weave their way along the edge of the ocean. From one window there is crystal azure waters and the others side is mountainous terrain with small villages that are old and crumbling. I spent most of the time window gazing for hours, writing in my journal, catching up on editing or feeling filled with wonderment at the beauty of the landscape.
There is no other way to see this country, but to take it slow and soak in every, single moment.