How do I get to an Italian castle hotel?
It’s possible to get anywhere in Italy using public transportation. As a general rule, use the train to get from one part of the country to another (fly if you’re really in a hurry), a rental car or bus for local areas. With the exception of those castle/palace hotels located in cities, you really need a rental car to get the most out of your visit—even with a far-reaching public transportation system. Each individual hotel listing has tips on if a car is necessary to get there or not.
If you plan on covering any distance in Italy, the train is the most efficient way to get there. Italian rail—less expensive than other European countries—reaches all medium-sized cities. Reservations are essential. Don’t take the chance of walking up at the last minute, hoping to find a spot. Sitting on your luggage in the corridor for hours with people stepping over you is not fun.
Italian State Railways (Ferrovie dello Stato) operates several types of trains: The sleek and luxurious Eurostar Italia (ES) operates between major cities. Milan to Rome takes barely four hours. You’ll spend more time getting to and from the airports. Intercity (IC) and Eurocity connects major Italian cities with international cities. Reservations and a supplement are required. Pay the supplement before boarding, or you’ll pay considerably more. Diretto, Express, Interregionale are long distance express trains, while the Regionale trains stop everywhere.
An enormous array of train passes are available for European residents and everybody else. For non-European residents Eurailpass offers Italy-only passes, combination passes with neighboring countries, and passes for a specified number of days.
Do trains go to the airport? Commuter lines often connect the airport with the main train station.
Some Italian cities have more than one main train station. Always look at your ticket to see which station your train is arriving in or departing from. Naples, Rome, Genoa, Turin, and Milan have more than one station.
The excellent Tren Italia site has timetables and special offers to help you with your travel decisions. The site is in English, but the regional services are in Italian only.
Buses reach just about everywhere and are the only alternative to a car rental or the train. There is no one single national bus company, but you’ll find numerous companies that do long haul and short regional runs. Local tourist offices usually have information. Always reconfirm schedules before setting off; local services may run only in the mornings or evenings and not on Sundays. There’s nothing worse than standing around in the hot sun waiting for a bus that will never come.
The Italian autostrada system is fantastic, but you pay dearly for the privilege of zipping your Fiat from one end of the country to the other. Toll booths accept credit cards, or you can buy a prepaid card from the post office or tobacconists. The Italian autostrada site (part English, mostly Italian) has information about current construction projects, route planning, and available facilities. If you’re not in a hurry, the strade statali, or state roads, will get you where you’re going too.
Gasoline prices are the worst in Europe. If you’re not a resident of Europe, be prepared for jaw-hanging shock at that first fill up. Many gas stations close for the afternoon, so keep an eye on your tank.
Remember that nice little bottle of Chianti you enjoyed at lunch? The blood-alcohol threshold in Italy is .05. Don’t drink it.
Although all roads lead to Rome, Rome or any other major Italian city is nowhere you want to drive. If you have a car with you, consider staying outside the city; there are a few castle hotels that offer free and easy parking. Many hotels offer hotel shuttles into the city, or a commuter line is within walking distance.