Saturday, April 21, 2012


The tough thing about trains is that you can strap your kid in and just give them books to read and snacks to eat. You have to hold them on your lap, and if your kid is anything like mine, if they're not buckled in, it must be time to roam and explore and play.

Most people on the trains (and nearly every Italian I have ever met) are absolutely smitten with kids. They pick them up, give them kisses, ask their name, let them rummage through their bag . . . but when you get feeling a bit self conscious about other people taking on the role of entertainer on the train, here are a few things we've learned. 
On the way to Ravenna.
Less is more
I am prone to over pack snacks, toys, distractions etc. Usually this means more stuff to juggle, keep track of, and drop on the floor. On our trips this past week I only brought one book, and two small toys for the train. The winning "toy" was usually without fail the cell phone or taking lids off of pens and trying to put them back on. Basically, my things were always more interesting than her things anyway. 

Peek-a-boo is a winner
Hand games (Here is the Church, Here is the Steeple; Itsy Bitsy Spider; Where is Thumbkin, This little Piggy, Which hand is it in? etc.) kept Ada occupied for a while and it doesn't require packing along extra stuff. We would also sometimes sit back-to-back so she could play peek-a-boo with whomever was behind the seat.

If you can, take the fast trains
We only took them twice (they only run between major cities), but boy are they nice. Besides the fact that they are fast, they are more comfortable, have more things to explore (lights on the arm rests? folding table parts?!) and you can get seats with a table. For some reason the table made things a lot easier for me.

Take care of diaper changes before you get on
There aren't places to change babies on trains. We squatted near the door a few times and hoped no one walked past while we were finishing up the job. It's just a good policy to try and take care of this before you get on. The train stations usually have changing tables in their bathrooms, but be aware you have to pay to use them (and if you get a crappy machine like I did, it will cost you twice as much to use the bathroom because it will think your 1€ coin was only 20 cents. I'm not still bitter).

Use to look up times and buy tickets
I've seen a plethora of other websites when people talk about Italy and trains, but the website the locals use is It's the official Italian train website and the fares and timetables are accurate. They don't have all the options online (we went to the window in Florence and got a better price/time to get back to Bologna) but it's definitely good for getting an idea for planning. 

On the way to Florence. Having 4 sets of hands is also a good tip :)

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