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Why Does Trenitalia Suck?

Posted: Mon Oct 12, 2009 12:36 am
by Continental
Before I begin, I'd like to say that I love Italy. I've visited Italy three times and have found most of the people to be very kind and helpful. However, I have found that their train company, Trenitalia, to suck.

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My first experience with Trenitalia was in 2001 when I took a regional train from Venice to Trieste. I don't recall much of the train's condition, but the cabin was extremely hot which helped make the seats smell awful. But what I vividly recall was the surly worker on the train. The 2nd class cabin we were in had to have been over 95% empty. I decided to put my feet up on the seat in front of me. Being respectful, I placed a relatively clean t-shirt on the seat so my feet weren't actually on the seat. The surly worker came around yelled at me in Italian. I assumed he was referring to me feet on the seat, and my father (who speaks Italian) confirmed that. My father also said that the worker said that if I want to do that, I'll have to pay for an extra seat. And, if he caught me again, he'd charge me for another seat regardless. I couldn't believe how mean he was! What a crappy way to end an Italian vacation.

My next experience was this summer. I traveled from Venice to Florence on a regional train. My friends and I had a Eurail pass and originally wanted to take the EuroStar train. But Trenitalia said we needed a reservation, which would have been 20 Euros per person. So, even though we paid our Eurail pass which came out to about 65 dollars for this segment, we needed to pay even more. I took the ICE train (comparable to EuroStar train; probably better) in Germany which had no reservation fee. Trenitalia seemed to be one of the few companies in Europe which charged to use a specific train. The other companies that charged had reasonable fees (1-5 dollars). Once we got on the regional train, we sat in our awfully hot cabin which had no AC and the windows could not be opened during travel. I couldn't wait for that ride to be over. I was sweating buckets. When I went to the bathroom (dear Lord), I found that the toilet emptied onto the tracks. There was something odd about pissing on the train tracks, especially while in the station (are there dumps all over the train tracks at the stations?).

My worst experience came the next day enroute from Florence to Rome. We got on another God awful train which was even hotter. Since it was early in the morning, we got on the train and fell asleep right away (even before we left the station). Hours later, I was woken up by another surly worker. I thought we had arrived in Rome and that I had slept through that awful trip. We requested to use his pen to fill out our second day of our Eurail pass. Instead, he took our passes and called us thieves. At first we thought he was joking and started to laugh. But he never cracked a smile. The day prior (Venice-Florence), the worker checking our tickets gave us her pen to use to fill out the pass and said that we can use the workers pen in the future when they come around in case we didn't have one, which we didn't. He said he wouldn't give us our passes back until we all gave him 50 Euros. That was wonderful. We were told by a Trenitalia worker the day before that we could use the worker's pen. We were misinformed, and now we had to pay for their mistake. Turns out that Trenitalia has the maximum fine for these Eurail passes. Figures that they'd continue to milk us. And the worker was so rude! He treated us like we were children. He said that filling out the pass was simple, and he couldn't understand why we couldn't figure it out.

I will never travel on Trenitalia ever again. I e-mailed the company to tell them of the incident. I asked them to respond to my comments on the employee's rudeness. Instead, they replied with a one-liner telling me to use the pass correctly. I will travel to Italy in the future, but I will by car. No more crappy Italian trains for me. For a country that depends on tourism so much, I would have never expected such a lousy train service.

Has anyone else had bad experiences with Trenitalia? I've heard many negative remarks about the company.

Holy crap this was a long post! Sorry.

RE: Why Does Trenitalia Suck?

Posted: Mon Oct 12, 2009 1:40 am
by Pyrex
Never been to Italy so I can't really comment on how bad they are. That said...

Quoting Continental (Thread starter):
Trenitalia seemed to be one of the few companies in Europe which charged to use a specific train.

When I did my Eurail, way back in 2002 (damn, I'm feeling old...) TGV trains in France had reservation fees as well, usually around 10 euros or so. On a route like Brussels-Paris, though, where on a Sunday there are apparently only high-speed trains, we actually had to take three trains (one to Luxembourg, another to Metz and from there to Paris Gare de L'Est) to avoid paying a fee (which I don't recall how much it was but was way higher than 10 euros).

Quoting Continental (Thread starter):
When I went to the bathroom (dear Lord), I found that the toilet emptied onto the tracks. There was something odd about pissing on the train tracks, especially while in the station (are there dumps all over the train tracks at the stations?).

This is common practice in at least some regional trains across Europe (not too sure about the high-speed ones). That is why they usually have the stickers telling you not to use the bathroom while you are in a train station...

Quoting Continental (Thread starter):
He said he wouldn't give us our passes back until we all gave him 50 Euros.

Sounds like daddy needed a new pair of shoes.

RE: Why Does Trenitalia Suck?

Posted: Mon Oct 12, 2009 2:44 am
by kevi747
I did the Eurail/backpack thing when I was 21 in 1996. I vividly remember the worst experience was on an Italian train. One night I got on a train and started looking for a place to sit. All of the cabins were full and even the little fold down, jumpseat-like things in the halls were all occupied. After walking through the entire train searching for somewhere to sit I made the mistake of asking a conductor if he knew where any open seats might be. He literally flew into a rage and began screaming at the top of his lungs. He berated me for a good minute and a half while I tried (in vain) to apologize for bothering him. I have no idea what he was saying because it was all in Italian. I was so embarrassed, because everyone was staring at me like I had done something to provoke him. I ended up standing in between 2 cars until we got to a station and some people vacated their seats.

I find Italians to be great people most of the time, so I don't know why some of their rail employees are such jerks.

RE: Why Does Trenitalia Suck?

Posted: Mon Oct 12, 2009 2:45 am
by Stealthz


Quoting Continental (Thread starter):
We requested to use his pen to fill out our second day of our Eurail pass. Instead, he took our passes and called us thieves. At first we thought he was joking and started to laugh. But he never cracked a smile.

What part of this....

Quoting EurailPass Terms & Conditions:
■You should always fill in the date of day of travel before boarding the train.

.. is so hard to understand?
Basically travelling on an un dated pass is Theft!!

Have travelled many 10's of thousands of km in Europe by train, with EurailPass, much of it in Italy, rarely had cause for complaint.. never in Italy.
But then playing by the rules that is often the case!

RE: Why Does Trenitalia Suck?

Posted: Mon Oct 12, 2009 2:46 am
by Continental


Quoting Kevi747 (Reply 2):
I find Italians to be great people most of the time, so I don't know why some of their rail employees are such jerks.


I noticed the same thing. Even the people are the stations are pretty nice. But the second they step on the train, they become mean.

RE: Why Does Trenitalia Suck?

Posted: Mon Oct 12, 2009 2:46 am
by LTU932
Quoting Continental (Thread starter):
I will never travel on Trenitalia ever again. I e-mailed the company to tell them of the incident. I asked them to respond to my comments on the employee's rudeness. Instead, they replied with a one-liner telling me to use the pass correctly. I will travel to Italy in the future, but I will by car.

Just make sure you avoid the heavy summer vacation season, which is between June and early September. That's where most people come to Italy, predominantly Germans. As for the heavy winter vacation months, I don't think it's nearly as bad in the summer, but beware if you travel down there between December and January.

One of my former bosses took recently a ride with Trenitalia to Triest, and he was simply appaled. The waggons were old waggons from Deutsche Bahn (probably old n-Wagen or Silberlinge as they're called), the paint was flaking off, he could even see the old DB logo on it, and the toilets look like they were clean a very long time ago.

[Edited 2009-10-11 19:49:04]

RE: Why Does Trenitalia Suck?

Posted: Mon Oct 12, 2009 2:50 am
by Continental


Quoting StealthZ (Reply 3):

.. is so hard to understand?

It's not hard to understand. But when one is misinformed, it becomes unfair. Our situation was part crap luck and part misinformation. Actually, the surly man even mentioned to us that we should date the ticket within the first few minutes of travel (doesn't have to be before you board). So, there is some leeway, and it is recognized even by the some of the worst train companies.

RE: Why Does Trenitalia Suck?

Posted: Mon Oct 12, 2009 3:41 am
by FriendlySkies
While the way the train conductor reacted to not filling out the pass was over the top, you were effectively traveling on an invalid rail pass, so he had every right to fine you. The instructions on filling out the pass are written in English, on the pass.

Also, regarding reservations, many European trains require them, including all TGVs in France, most night trains, and some regionals, throughout Europe, not just Italy. This is typically clearly indicated when you look at a train schedule, by a small R with a circle around it next to the train number.

That said, I took three trips with Trenitalia in 2007, thankfully two of them on some newer high speed trains, and I can't complain too much. Their night train was pretty awful, but I didn't have any issues on board.

RE: Why Does Trenitalia Suck?

Posted: Mon Oct 12, 2009 4:14 am
by Continental
I understand that he had a right to fine me, but it caught me by surprise and I do and will continue to place some of the blame on the train company. I didn't complain about the fine to the company, but they avoided my question and resorted to talking about the fine.

Quoting FriendlySkies (Reply 7):

Also, regarding reservations, many European trains require them, including all TGVs in France, most night trains, and some regionals, throughout Europe, not just Italy. This is typically clearly indicated when you look at a train schedule, by a small R with a circle around it next to the train number.

Reservations are fine. But why does Trenitalia charge so much? The TGV is 15 Euros less. My night train reservation was less than the ES reservation fee for Venice-Florence!

RE: Why Does Trenitalia Suck?

Posted: Mon Oct 12, 2009 5:30 am
by Doona
I almost got ripped off by a conductor on a Trenitalia service from Genoa to Milan. He took my interrail pass and started yelling "30 euros!". I was about to fork over the cash when a lady intervened, started yelling even louder at the conductor, who after a moment gave me my pass back. The lady said that he was trying to trick me, and promptly set off to yell at the conductor again, who had cornered to Finnish kids at the other end of the car.

I spent a week going back and forth on Trenitalia, you can't imagine the joy and excitement when I boarded a DB train in Verona, bound for Germany...

Cheers
Mats

RE: Why Does Trenitalia Suck?

Posted: Mon Oct 12, 2009 5:40 am
by ManuCH
Italian trains are probably the worst thing that can happen to you in Italy. While I hate driving in Italy (because I don't know the roads, because of the traffic jams and the moderately aggressive driving), going by train is even worse. They're old, shabby, outdated, smelly and with no air conditioning. And they always run at least 30-60 minutes late.

In Switzerland we actually make jokes about Italian trains all the time. When planning a trip inside Switzerland, for example from LUG to ZRH, we always plan the trip in order to take a train which *doesn't* come from Italy, as it will be late. There's even a website making a statistics about international Italian trains (the Cisalpino): www.cessoalpino.com

RE: Why Does Trenitalia Suck?

Posted: Mon Oct 12, 2009 3:26 pm
by scrubbsywg
i just recently did some traveling in italy and took the train a few times.

i took it daily to and from milan to monza(for the GP). i really didn't have too many issues. I would have expected with the influx of so many fans for the grand prix signage would have been better all around, but that was forgiveable to me.

I also took one of high speed trains from milan to rome and had absolutely no issues. I booked online, printed my ticket and all was golden.

To the OP, it seems most of your troubles could have been avoided by not doing the things you did. With the eurail pass, it is best to follow the rules to the T, not listen to what some random conductor on a regional train says. When in europe, riding trains, i have found that you have to do exactly as you are supposed to and not how some people do it. it can always lead to problems. While the rudeness was maybe not required(and certainly would not be accepted in NA) you must remember that italy(and europe) eal with customer service in a totally different way.

RE: Why Does Trenitalia Suck?

Posted: Mon Oct 12, 2009 3:55 pm
by MD11Engineer


Quoting Pyrex (Reply 1):
This is common practice in at least some regional trains across Europe (not too sure about the high-speed ones). That is why they usually have the stickers telling you not to use the bathroom while you are in a train station...

It was a common practice since the beginning of railway (because it is cheap), but is increasingly being phased out in favour of vacuum toilet systems and holding tanks.
Especially on high speed trains just dumping the waste on the track is impossible. The lower pressure generated in the train and the waste pipe due to the airflow along the train would splash the waste right back into the toilet user´s face.
AFAIK all newer rolling stock used in Europe use the vacuum toilet system like on aircraft. The old system will disappear when the older railway cars are being phased out.

Concering Trenitalia, I used the local trains between Treviso and Venice several times this summer and I can say that they were cheap, modern and clean.

Jan

RE: Why Does Trenitalia Suck?

Posted: Mon Oct 12, 2009 4:14 pm
by NoUFO


Quoting Pyrex (Reply 1):
This is common practice in at least some regional trains across Europe (not too sure about the high-speed ones).

I thought that *was* common practice some 20 years ago?

RE: Why Does Trenitalia Suck?

Posted: Mon Oct 12, 2009 4:26 pm
by cgnnrw
My few experiences on Italian trains have been mostly in the North between Milano and Turino and along the coast from the French border to Genoa. I usually had luck in that i was on the better and more modern Inter-city trains. They were more or less on time, at the most 10 minutes late, rather clean and I didn't think they were that expensive. I've been on the regional trains and they too were more or less okay.

As others have posted if you followed had followed the rules as written regarding the Eurail I doubt you would have any problems. I know its their job but I don't its possible for every conductor to know about every single ticket being sold to the travelling public. As a traveller you need to read the fine print and do what it says and not rely on some potentially inaccurate information. Also, even if the entire compartment is empty its never "okay" to put your feet up on another seat.....its simply not done. Whether or not the conductor would have actually fined you is up in the air....sometimes they try to make their point by using scare tatics.

RE: Why Does Trenitalia Suck?

Posted: Tue Oct 13, 2009 12:41 am
by Continental
I know I know I understand. I should not have allowed myself to use Trenitalia's false information. That won't be a problem now as I will never travel with them again.

What bothers me more than the fine was the rudeness of the employee. The majority of Trenitalia workers I have interacted with while on the train have been complete jerks. Are 42 days of paid vacation not enough for them?

RE: Why Does Trenitalia Suck?

Posted: Tue Oct 13, 2009 2:22 am
by scrubbsywg
i think what would make them angry is the constant, non-stop tourists on their trains that don't validate tickets, validate eurail passes, etc. and don't speak italian.

Yes yes, i realize coming from North America, we NEVER expect someone to yell at us, even if we were in the wrong. However, it seems to me, after spending months living in europe in the past, that if they want to, they will yell. Can you imagine working and constantly having to deal with tourists that dont follow rules?

I dunno, i would be pissed sometimes too.

On the other hand, all the times i have dealt with trenitalia workers i have had no issues at all.

RE: Why Does Trenitalia Suck?

Posted: Tue Oct 13, 2009 3:23 am
by Continental
I understand, if you constantly have to deal with tourists it can be draining. But if you can't handle your emotions, get a different job. You wouldn't expect a stressed out ER doc to throw up his hands and abandon his unstable patient.

Italy depends so much on tourism, so it would be in their best interest to please the traveler. Even with the fine, I would still definitely consider using the train system in the future had the employees not been so rude.

RE: Why Does Trenitalia Suck?

Posted: Tue Oct 13, 2009 6:02 am
by dc9northwest
Different culture...

I haven't used Trenitalia at all (unless the train from Fiumicino to Rome was theirs--I'm not exactly sure if it was), but from what you describe, it's exactly like the Romanian state train company.

It's just a different culture; i've never had any problems with conductors though (well, I did, but it wasn't explicit--basically he was pissed off we used the train instead of the bus--even if the train took 4 hours longer and even though his salary is closely linked to what the traveller pays)

Also, note this: Bad conductors are present on regional trains. That's why they're on regional trains, you see. Better ones, who provide some quality to the travel get promoted (also those with connections get promotions, but if you're a bad conductor with no connections--you serve regional trains).

Customer service? You're in Europe... Customer service is very different in Europe than in the US.

Nevertheless, generally, if you're nice, so are the conductors. They risk a lot, actually: getting assaulted, etc. It's not an easy job, being a train conductor. I think that since you were in the wrong more than once during this travel of yours, there is the possibility that you became biased against Trenitalia... And in Europe, if you're in the wrong, you'll find out you are, especially in Southern/Eastern Europe... Even if someone told you what to do... If that's wrong, it's still your fault. It's not like the US.

One last thing, a hint: usually, my mindset affects a journey a lot. I'm usually happy when I fly Northwest, so it usually goes without a hitch. I usually am pissed off when flying through Paris/on AF, so the plane is always late or goes tech. So... Be positive in this, chances are it will improve your experiences.

RE: Why Does Trenitalia Suck?

Posted: Tue Oct 13, 2009 12:58 pm
by Continental


Quoting Dc9northwest (Reply 18):

One last thing, a hint: usually, my mindset affects a journey a lot. I'm usually happy when I fly Northwest, so it usually goes without a hitch. I usually am pissed off when flying through Paris/on AF, so the plane is always late or goes tech. So... Be positive in this, chances are it will improve your experiences.

I hear ya, I usually tell this to people who say they're not flying X airline anymore because something happened to them. I didn't get on all of the Trenitalia trains expecting the worse. Actually, I met a few very nice conductors on some short Trenitalia trips. The lousy conductors I had was only part of the reason why I plan to avoid Trenitalia in the future.

RE: Why Does Trenitalia Suck?

Posted: Tue Oct 13, 2009 2:01 pm
by Sepultallica


Quoting ScrubbsYWG (Reply 16):
i think what would make them angry is the constant, non-stop tourists on their trains that don't validate tickets, validate eurail passes, etc. and don't speak italian.

Yes yes, i realize coming from North America, we NEVER expect someone to yell at us, even if we were in the wrong. However, it seems to me, after spending months living in europe in the past, that if they want to, they will yell. Can you imagine working and constantly having to deal with tourists that dont follow rules?

I dunno, i would be pissed sometimes too.

On the other hand, all the times i have dealt with trenitalia workers i have had no issues at all.

Absolutely. I take the Eurostar between Bologna and Rome each weekend and have never had any problems (in the 2 years i have been doing this, the train has been late or delayed no more than 5 times).

At the end of the day, it's a lousy job being a conductor - always the same monotonous BS, with the same gormless 'stranieri' with the same gormless excuses for not having read the rules, day in and day out, so you can't exactly blame them for being short fused.

In Italy i have found, it's always better to be over prepared for a trip (both logistically and in terms of tickets - hell i convalidate my Eurostar tickets even though i don't need to..'just in case') because the concept of customer care here really leaves a lot to be desired.

RE: Why Does Trenitalia Suck?

Posted: Sat Oct 17, 2009 11:48 pm
by Continental


Quoting SepulTALLICA (Reply 20):
hell i convalidate my Eurostar tickets even though i don't need to..'just in case') because the concept of customer care here really leaves a lot to be desired.

When you say the concept of customer care "here", do you mean the train company or the country in general?

RE: Why Does Trenitalia Suck?

Posted: Sun Oct 18, 2009 5:54 pm
by Sepultallica


Quoting Continental (Reply 21):
When you say the concept of customer care "here", do you mean the train company or the country in general?

The country in general. Customer care here is notoriously bad; ask anyone here who has ever had to deal with any parastatal, airline, banking service etc help-line - from general indifference to blatant rudeness - it's a nightmare yo.

RE: Why Does Trenitalia Suck?

Posted: Sun Oct 18, 2009 7:26 pm
by JRadier


Quoting Cgnnrw (Reply 14):
Also, even if the entire compartment is empty its never "okay" to put your feet up on another seat.....its simply not done.

Depends on the country. Put a (free) newspaper under your shoes and you're good to go here in the Netherlands.