Exploring Italy 4/8 – Public Transportation

1 – Introduction
2 – Food
3 – Hotels
4 – Public Transportation
5 – Attractions of Venice
6 – Venice
7 – Genoa
8 – Milan


The means of moving around in Italy was interesting enough, that they deserve a dedicated post.

“Where are we going today?”


Like in many parts of the developed world outside the U.S., trains are how people get from point A to point B.  The Italian stations, trains, and ticketing machines all seemed to come out of the same mold as their counterparts in Belgium, France, and UK.

Vending machine at the Malpensa Airport, with a lot of clueless tourists in line

Milan’s Central Station, looking just like all the other European train terminals

Checking out what the family is up to

Between Milan Genoa we got whole suite to ourselves

Warning sign on every train door

On our way back to the airport, this happened…

The train company put together a smooth plan and we ended up in a bus instead.  No time wasted.


Hotel Elevators

While technically not a public transport, these elevators in Italy are worth a mention because they can’t be more different from elevators in the U.S..  Most of them were so small that it was a challenge to squeeze in three skinny adults.  The automatic doors also closed more quickly than we were used to.  Both of these features would be illegal in the U.S. due to ADA.

What looked like a closet door was actually an elevator serving all of this hotel’s guest rooms

Feeling claustrophobic!


Water Bus in Venice

Vaporetti are the water buses that take people around Venice, up and down the Grand Canal, and to the remote islands.  In a city with absolutely no cars, these water buses are people’s primary vehicle to get around.

At 7.50 Euro each, the single-ride ticket was 3-5x more expensive than a typical bus that ran on land in a big city.  Multi-day passes provided progressive discount, although the average tourist probably wouldn’t be using them so frequently.

Vaporetto on the Grand Canal

One of the more remote bus stops.  These things extend into (and float on) the water so when the boats dock, they are perfectly stable.

One of the busier bus stops.
The vaporetti followed the time table precisely, which I found amazing considering the water traffic and this volume of tourists that they had to deal with.

On a nearly empty water bus en route to Murano


Elevators in Genoa

Genoa is a mountain city with steep terrains.  While it does have one subway line and a bus system, they just aren’t that effective in the vertical dimension.  As such, the same public transportation authority also manages trams and a number of elevators.

I was excited about buying a ticket to ride an elevator.  It was such a strange and fascinating prospect, we checked out two of them.

The first, Ascensore Castello D’Albertis, had its lower entrance right beneath our hotel.  Google “strangest elevator” and you can see articles and videos of this thing taking its passengers horizontally (like a train) into the mountain, and then vertically (like an elevator) up to its exit up on the mountain.  The engineering is really cool, and you can see just about all the action through the glass doors.

Ascensore Castello D’Albertis

The other one that we took was Ascensore Castelletto Levante.  The view at the top was stunning, but the engineering was limited to a rather basic elevator.  To reach it, we had to walk a good distance in a tunnel.  It wasn’t exactly an experience I would describe as overly tourist friendly, and if it weren’t for the TripAdvisor recommendations, we probably would’ve turned away at the entrance.

The entrance to this elevator was at a humble corner on Via Cairoli, a main thoroughfare in Genoa.
If I didn’t know what I was looking for, I’d have thought this was a public restroom that no sane people used.

Then we walked through a long, dark tunnel with some rather angry writing on the wall.  Started to feel scared.

After crossing a car tunnel (which had traffic lights in the tunnel), we continued following signs to these doors.
It seemed like House of the Dead in real life.
I reloaded my machine gun in anticipation for zombies jumping through the window.

At last, we reached the actual elevator, which we had to presume Disney’s Tower of Terror was modeled after.
There was nobody else in or near the elevator, which made the experience even creepier.
The door closed, we pressed the button, and the “room” started moving.
We braced ourselves for it to drop or go sideways or black out, and I double checked that the machine gun was still loaded.


Related Mentions

Milan, Venice, and Genoa were all small, walkable cities so we traveled quite a bit on foot.

This little girl often insisted on carrying that giant backpack

We used to think that New Yorkers were experts at parallel parking.  Well, not compared to the Italians!

These trees in Genoa appeared to have been planted as to allow exactly one Fiat-sized vehicle (plus maybe 4 inches) to go between them

Parked cars in Milan.  Not sure if you can even fit a piece of paper between those bumpers



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