study abroad: traveling by train / arezzo, italy

Study Abroad Florence Italy

SUN. JUNE 21: Day 13

As interested as I am to use my weekend trips to travel to other European countries, I figured I would get the most out of my trip and fully integrate into Italian culture if I explored different cities around Italy and learned to appreciate all this country has to offer. Additionally, I don’t think three day weekends are enough time to truly enjoy a different country.

Study Abroad Florence Italy

So, this morning purchased a train ticket to the city of Arezzo (Italian pronunciation: aˈrettso): a town where you’ll find way less visitors and many more locals. I actually don’t think I ran into a single American while I was there today.

My ticket did not have a date or time on it, which means that I could take any train going to Arezzo at any time. While I waited for the next train to arrive, I introduced myself to some people sitting alongside the station who happened to be backpackers from Ohio!

Study Abroad Florence Italy
Study Abroad Florence Italy

Whenever I see people walking through Florence with a backpack almost the size of them on their backs, I feel so warm inside. Backpackers are a tangible representation of following your dreams and living life to the fullest, even if that involves one bag on your back and a plethora of cheap hostels.

Study Abroad Florence Italy Study Abroad Florence Italy

I was actually in shock at how simple it is to purchase a train ticket and get to any city in Italy. So easy a caveman could do it! 😉

Study Abroad Florence Italy
Study Abroad Florence Italy
Study Abroad Florence Italy Study Abroad Florence Italy

Feel free to skip the next few paragraphs unless you are interested in traveling by train in Italy.

  • Do you need to buy tickets in advance?

Regional trains, no. For example, Pisa to Florence or Florence to Siena. There’s absolutely no need to pre-book. The price is fixed so there’s no cost advantage in pre-booking and no reservation is necessary so the train can never ‘sell out’. Just buy a ticket at the station or from the self-service machines when you get there, validate it* in the machines and hop on the next train.


Long-distance trains, yes. For example, Rome to Florence, Milan to Venice. In theory, they can sell out, although there’s almost always places available on most trains even just before departure, so yes, you can buy the day of if you really want, but long-distance tickets are now significantly cheaper booked in advance.

Study Abroad Florence Italy Study Abroad Florence Italy
Study Abroad Florence Italy Study Abroad Florence Italy
  • How do I buy tickets at the station?

It’s easy to buy tickets at the station on the day of travel or perhaps the day before, even if you don’t speak Italian. Simply go to one of the ‘fast ticket’ machines installed at all main stations; these have a touch screen with an English language option. The machines will sell both regional and long-distance tickets for any date you like within the next 90 days. They take cash and Visa and MasterCard credit cards without a problem, but your card needs to have a PIN code number.

Study Abroad Florence Italy Study Abroad Florence Italy
Study Abroad Florence Italy
Study Abroad Florence Italy
Study Abroad Florence Italy
  • Ticket Validation

All Italian regional and local train tickets must be validated immediately before you board your train, by putting them into the small green machines at the entrance to every platform. There’s a hefty fine if you don’t. This is to prevent people using a ticket fraudulently for multiple journeys.

Study Abroad Florence Italy Study Abroad Florence Italy
Study Abroad Florence Italy
Study Abroad Florence Italy
  • Are the trains running on time?

If anything is on time in Italy, it’s the trains! They almost always leave on the dot, so run run run!

Study Abroad Florence Italy Study Abroad Florence Italy
Study Abroad Florence Italy
  • Can’t speak Italian? 

No problem! At stations, signs are usually in English as well as Italian, or easy-to-understand pictograms are used. On high-speed trains, announcements are usually repeated in English. 

Study Abroad Florence Italy
  • Luggage

There are no baggage fees or weight limits to worry about. If you can carry it, you can bring it!

Study Abroad Florence Italy Study Abroad Florence Italy

I purchased my ticket the morning of departure for a super cheap €8 at the wonderful Santa Maria Novella train station.

Study Abroad Florence Italy

Less visited and less mentioned Tuscan town, Arezzo is a real jewel of Tuscany! It is the perfect medieval town, where some scenes of “La Vita è Bella” were filmed!

Study Abroad Florence Italy Study Abroad Florence Italy

Some things I noticed:
– wildlife
– grass
– there’s a large park in the middle of the city
– it’s very, very, very, very tiny
– few tourists
– quiet compared to Florence
– stunning panorama
– Tuscany is the most wonderful region
– I developed a bit of an accent if I speak Italian for a long period of time and then switch to English

Study Abroad Florence Italy

I had no clue what Arezzo had to offer or where I was going, but this is one of the best things about travel–wandering. Traveling alone has taught me more than I could ever imagine, one thing being that it’s ok to be alone. In fact, sometimes being alone is exactly what you need, especially in The States where being alone is something that’s not necessarily accepted.

Study Abroad Florence Italy

People fear being alone. People fear living a life of solitude. I don’t want to be alone forever, but I think it is good to appreciate being alone because if you’re always surrounded by people, you’ll never really learn anything about yourself. I wouldn’t be able to truly learn about myself because my thoughts would be blocked by all the commotion of everyday life.

Study Abroad Florence Italy

I think if you’re never alone, you can never appreciate being around others, and if you’re always around others, I don’t think you can ever appreciate being alone. We need the dark to appreciate the light; we need sadness to appreciate happiness, etc.

Study Abroad Florence Italy

Being alone brings me peace. That’s not say I don’t like being around others because I do (in fact, I love being with people), but sometimes, I like to enjoy a quite moment with myself.

Study Abroad Florence Italy

Traveling alone has taught me to appreciate beauty in the smallest forms. Traveling has taught me to appreciate my home country, to appreciate other countries, and to appreciate culture. The way other cultures do things is not wrong or weird–it is just different. If everyone was the same in this world, what a boring life it would be.

Study Abroad Florence Italy

Travel as taught me to be very open minded and incredibly independent and confident. I was already open minded, independent, and confident, but now, it’s a different kind of open mindedness, confidence, and independence. It’s as if there was a door in my mind that was shut, and now it has been swung wide open.

Study Abroad Florence Italy

I had many hours to kill in Arezzo. I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do, but I was ok with not having a plan. Life is what happens when you’re too busy making other plans. In that moment, I just wanted to soak it all in.

Arezzo was filled with much wandering, admiring, and self-growth. I met a nice group of Italians at the train station upon arrival who invited me to grab a bite with them and nicely took photos of me. Today has been the first day of my trip that I have actually wanted to be alone and not socializing with everyone I meet for hours. I think that is perfectly ok. Balance is key.

Study Abroad Florence Italy

My Italian is getting much better. Impero piano ma bene. I’m learning slowly, but surely. I’m actually learning a lot faster than I ever imagined and I can’t tell you how exciting that is.

I feel an electrifying spark inside of me whenever I open my mouth and Italian comes out, or when I see something and I think of the Italian word before the English word.

My name, if I wanted it to be pronounced correctly here, would be written as Lori. As Laurie, it is pronounced “Lahw-ree-ay” which doesn’t make too much sense, so most people call me Laura (“Lahw-rah”). I adore it, and have started introducing myself that way.

Study Abroad Florence Italy

People can come to Europe and think that it is better than the U.S. and vice versa, but I don’t think you can put two countries against each other. They are just both very different. I mean, there are things about Italy I don’t like, but there are also things I don’t like about the U.S.

Truth be told, I belong here.

There’s absolutely no doubt in my mind that I won’t live here one day. I can’t imagine a life without my return.

Questo è il paradiso.
Sono felice qui.
Viaggiare è vivere.

This is paradise.
I am happy here.
To travel is to live.

Study Abroad Florence Italy

Laurie Hamame

Ball of sunshine. Chronic giggler. A lover of all things sweet potato. An overly friendly, world traveling, body positive warrior. Avid bookworm. Self-proclaimed chef and spiritually Italian. Promotor of daily walks, coffee dates and 30-second dance parties.

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Laurie Hamame

Ball of sunshine. Chronic giggler. A lover of all things sweet potato. An overly friendly, world traveling, body positive warrior. Avid bookworm. Self-proclaimed chef and spiritually Italian. Promotor of daily walks, coffee dates and 30-second dance parties.

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