Cinque Terre Insider

American expat insight into Italy's fabulous "Five Lands"

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Did you know that if you board a regional train without validating your ticket in one of the machines at the station that you face up to a €200 fine? Ouch. If you pay the fine immediately on board to the controller the fine drops to €50 per person, but that’s still a very pricey lesson learned.

A lot of people visiting Italy don’t realize that the tickets you buy for the slower trains are basically good forever.  Only by validating them in one of those nifty boxes at the train station does your ticket become valid for a certain number of minutes (or hours, the quantity of time varies from region to region) from the time stamp.  Hence the reason for the hefty fine, as potentially a traveler could use the same ticket for an unlimited number of trips if they never validated it!

I know the concept of validating a ticket is strange to those not from Italy (in most other countries when you buy a ticket it’s only good for that specific train so there’s no need to validate), so it’s actually a pretty common occurrence for visitors to board the regional trains without first validating their tickets.  Unfortunately, it’s also a common occurrence for these visitors to be fined once they are on the train.

Here’s a step-by-step guide for what you need to do to validate your ticket (it’s easy peasy, but I find that visuals always help with these sorts of things).

  • First, locate one of the validating machines (there’s usually more than one, even in the tiny stations).

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  • Next, insert your ticket into the slot and then slide the ticket to the far left (that’s the trick that I’ve helped travelers with a gazillion times when I’m at the station).

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  • Once you’ve done that, you should hear the machine stamping your ticket. When you pull your ticket out you should see the station name as well as the date and time printed on the ticket.

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Et voilà… you’re good to go! Enjoy the ride.

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TROUBLESHOOTING


You should see a green light on the validating machine, which means it’s working properly. If you see a red light the machine is out of order and you’ll need to find another one.

Sometimes you’ll hear the sound of the machine validating your ticket but when you pull it out you won’t see anything printed on your ticket (which means the machine has run out of ink).  In this case, find another machine and try validating again.

If all of the validating machines are out of order (not a common occurence but it can happen), go ahead and board the train but immediately look to find the controller (it’s actually easiest to spot them outside of the train at the stop, as they wait to make sure everyone is on board before getting back on the train themselves).  Once you’ve found the controller, explain that the machines weren’t working (“Le macchinette sono guaste!”) so that they can manually validate your ticket for you.

BEWARE:  If you don’t actively seek out the controller and they find you (instead of vice versa) chances are they are going to fine you anyway (as they’ve heard the excuse a million times, kind of like teachers hearing that a dog ate a student’s homework).

Lastly, I hate that I have to say this but I feel it’s my duty…

If you are fined for not having validated your ticket and you pay the controller be sure to receive some sort of receipt in return (showing proof of the amount paid, etc.).  Also, according to the official TrenItalia website, you should pay no more than a €50 fine per person if you pay the controller immediately.  If the controller takes more than that amount per person, something is very, very fishy (chances are part of the fine is being pocketed).  In the event that that happens, get details so you can report them accordingly.

18 thoughts on “Travel Tip: Don’t make this expensive mistake on the trains

  1. Camilla says:

    Hi
    We have purchased train tickets online, do we still need to have them validated?
    Thanks

    Like

    1. Ciao Camilla!

      If TrenItalia sent you PDF files to print on normal paper and bring with you, you’re good to go!

      Amy

      Like

  2. Andrzej says:

    Hi, Just came back from Cinque Terre and had the bad experience with ticket validation. We bought tickets at the station and the lady told us that our train is already waiting. She didn’t mention to validate the tickets. There was also no information about it at her desk. We ran to the train and than met the controller. Very unpleasent start of holidays in Italy ( we were nine and he wanted 50 Euro from each of us). He spoke only few words in English. Just enough to show us that at the backs of our tickets was imprinted information about it ( who has the time to read it while visiting Cinque Terre ). Fortunately some lady from Cinque Terre organisation saved us. This procedure looks like it’s ment to fine tourists and it ruined my first impression of Italy.

    Like

    1. Thanks for writing. I can absolutely understand why this would start things off on the wrong foot. I’m happy to hear that someone was able to step in to help you (and it sounds like you were able to avoid the hefty fine).

      Best,
      Amy

      Like

  3. Empress says:

    I am a new student first timer in itaky and in that day i hurriedly boarded the train as it was about leaving but didnt validate my ticket,I didnt also know i was supposed to meet a controller till he approached me and i was fined sometime in july 2018 but i am yet to pay the fine because i lost the paper issued me,what can i do to pay the 100 euro fine and I hope it doesn’t increase from 100..I am only new in italy

    Like

    1. Ciao Empress,

      If you were fined in July of 2018 and you haven’t paid yet then the fine has surely increased. What document did you give the controller when you were fined?

      Like

      1. Empress says:

        She gave her bus permit as a student

        Like

      2. Bus permit? I’m surprised they even accepted that as you would need to show a government issued ID (passport, permesso di soggiorno, etc.). To be honest, at this point the ticket might not ever catch up with you. If you’re concerned I’m sure you can go to the ticket counter at any TrenItalia train station and ask what you can do to clear your debt. But don’t be surprised if the fine has gone up exponentially as six months have passed…

        Best of luck!
        Amy

        Like

      3. Empress says:

        But her details where taken because they are written in the bus permit so how possible is it that it never catches up with her..really but why does the fine have to increase or does it increase for every month that passes without payment? How can she appeal to this because if it’s huge how then does she pay when she is just a student here to study

        Like

      4. Ciao Empress,

        Like anywhere in the world, an unpaid fine increases with penalties and interest the longer it remains outstanding. Had you (or she, as I now understand you are speaking for another person) paid immediately on the train the fine would have been reduced (they accept cash or credit card). If there was a physical address on the document she provided, she *might* receive some sort of written notification at some point regarding the outstanding ticket. However, I highly doubt (seeing that a non-official document was used for the ticket) that this ticket will “follow” her home (unless the address on the bus permit was for her home country?).

        FYI: TrenItalia will have little mercy for your friend (student or not) as she was ticketed six months ago, lost the documentation and is only now wondering what to do about it.

        Best of luck,
        Amy

        Like

    2. Empress says:

      So what can she do about it,can an appeal be made to this effect?

      Like

  4. Empress says:

    Wow this is scarey I must say

    Like

  5. Empress says:

    The fine had only her name ,biota and the address of her institution..thanks for this info as I will let her know to go sort the bills out maybe bits by bits monthly if it’s permitted by them..

    Like

    1. I just spoke with someone I know who works for TrenItalia as a controller. She also thought it very odd that a bus pass was accepted as a form of ID for the ticket as in theory only the IDs I mentioned before are valid documents. She thinks for this reason, as a loophole, if the ticket arrives to your friend she could contest it.

      Best,
      Amy

      Like

      1. Empress says:

        Oh thanks your the best,these info are so helpful..I will advice she waits till a letter of notification of fine arrives in her name..and hope this doesn’t affect her or become a problem in anyway as she plans to get more degrees here after her bachelor’s here and hopefully build her career here in italy

        Like

  6. Empress says:

    Would she be affected by this in any ways?

    Like

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