After a few short trips, I think we have mastered riding the Italian trains. The first thing to know is that there's no need to take a first class train or to reserve ahead of time. If you know where you're going you can go to the station and purchase a ticket at the self service machines. There's a handy button for English language transactions that makes things very easy. And if you're at all confused, there are women wearing caps and vests with the word ASSISTANZE, who speak English and can help you out. There are video displays telling you which BINARIO or track your particular train is leaving from.
Before you board the train you should validate your ticket by inserting it into one of the many green machines in the station and at the tracks. This is very important because if you're found onboard with an unvalidated ticket, there are steep fines. In our experience you are usually not even asked for your ticket on the shorter trips, however.
The other important thing to do is to visit a market before you leave so you can buy fresh fruit for the trip. Also, to go to a cafe or deli and pick up some small brioche or panini for your lunch. This morning before our train trip to Trieste we went to Padua's amazing fruit and vegetable market for apricots, cherries and bananas. The other thing we did was to decant some very nice cold white wine into Harry's metal water bottle so we could have some vino with our lunch. This made the 2.5 hour trip so much smoother.
It's always fascinating seeing who is getting on and off the train and seeing the scenery unroll as you travel along. Many travellers are Italian citizens, but there are also touists and some mysterious ones like the two lovebirds sitting kitty-corner from us. She speaks elegant British accented Enlish; he is
Italian. Aren't they sweet?
In our experience Italian trains are very easy to use, mostly on time, and quite comfortable as well. Cleanliness and service varies, but there is always a conductor there to help and stations are clearly marked. The only other important thing to remember is to not drift off to sleep and miss your stop.