Traveling around Italy and Spain let’s you get to know the diversity of regions and cultures within each country. These countries are popular with travelers partly because of their many excellent transportation options. Once you know your itinerary, choosing your modes of transportation can be easy.
Transportation in Italy
Italy’s extensive train system is one of the more affordable in Europe. Even most small towns have a train station. Trenitalia (www.trenitalia.com) also offers high-velocity trains, as does the private company Italo (www.italotreno.it/en). You have the choice of 1st and 2nd class seats on most trains.
- Regionale — The most affordable train option, these are also the slowest moving trains, which stop at most towns along the way.
- InterCity — These trains are faster than regionale and include fewer stops as you travel between major cities.
- Freccia/Alta Velocità — These high-speed trains are only slightly more costly than the regionale trains, but you will arrive at your destination in nearly half the time. Plan ahead with the high-velocity trains, as seats are often reservation-only.
For multi-ride passes, Trenitalia offers Carta Freccia passes for seniors (60+) and youth (12-27 years). These passes are a good choice for those who will be doing a lot of travel over a longer period of time. Eurail (www.eurail.com) offers several multi-ride passes. The Eurail One Country Pass is a nice option for travelers who will be traveling around Italy.
Air travel is less popular within Italy than it is in some other countries because of such an affordable and developed train system, paired with a world-class countryside. But, if you need to travel the length of the country in a short period of time, easyJet and Alitalia are popular choices with regular regional flights.
Renting a car is a good option if you are traveling in a group, have a lot of luggage, or if you need a very flexible travel schedule. To drive legally in Italy, you will need both your driver’s license and an international driver’s permit. In the United States, you can get an international permit through AAA.
You will find a few types of roads in Italy. Autostrada are the biggest and fastest highway system, they are often toll roads, and you’ll recognize them on the map by the capital letter A at the beginning of road labels. The next class of roads is the major road, which will get you to your destination rather directly, and are multi-lane. Minor roads are more meandering and generally only offer a single lane in each direction. These are generally the most rural roads and will not be a factor in most direct travel between major cities.
Though most people opt for the train, the bus can be a more affordable option, and is more efficient when traveling to places without a train station, or between certain cities like Florence and Siena. There is no national bus system. Instead, regional bus companies cover the country. A few bus companies have interregional lines, such as SENA, SAIS, and TRA-IN. Remember, bus schedules are less reliable than train schedules, so always check for updated timing information.
You will likely take a ferry if you are traveling to any of the beautiful Italian islands. In most cases, these ferries can carry your rental car as well. You will find larger boats for traveling to larger islands like Sardinia and Sicily, and smaller boats to smaller islands like Capri. Some overnight ferry options also exist, and these offer small-group cabins called poltrona.
Transportation in Spain
Spain has many airports sprinkled across the country offering affordable flights around the country. Most flights within Spain are under three hours long. Low-cost airlines, such as Vueling (www.vueling.com/en), offer daily options for getting around the country more quickly than if you were traveling by train or by car. Remember if you travel to the Canary Islands, you will need to adjust time zones by one hour.
Spain’s generally reliable national train system is RENFE (http://www.renfe.com/), and it offers suburban, regional, and country-crossing options. In addition to trains that travel at regular speed, there is the option of high-speed trains (AVE) for those who want to make the most of their time in the country. Regional train companies fill in the system for even more options. Buy your ticket ahead of time as some trains fill up quickly, and reservations are required on high-speed trains. Tickets are also often cheaper if booked in advance.
One of the most affordable ways to travel around Spain is by bus. There are many small towns in Spain that do not have a train station but do have a bus stop, so if you are planning to visit the more remote areas of the country, consider making the bus your mode of transportation. In many cases, you can purchase your bus ticket in advance, but you are also usually able to purchase a ticket from the bus driver directly. Websites like movelia.es can help you choose which of the many bus companies will best suit your travel needs.
Both Spanish and American car rental companies are found in Spain. You will need a valid driver’s license and international driver’s permit to legally drive in the country. When choosing a car to get around the country, remember that parking can cost you €15-25 a night, depending on the city and where you stay.
Just as in Italy, Spain has several types of roads. On maps, you will see an A at the beginning of labels for major motorways (autovias), and AP for the toll roads (autopistas). If you want to travel at a more leisurely pace, the normal roads run close to the larger motorways.
Both Italy and Spain offer several ways to get around. With a little research and planning, every traveler can find something to match their needs when traveling through these beautiful countries.
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