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How to Read and Validate Italian Train Tickets
Avoid Fines by Knowing the Italian Laws governing Tickets and Receipts
Italy's economy is having a rough time right now. As usual, when countries or municipalities are financially strapped, they tighten up on simple laws that are difficult to avoid violating. For the tourist, some of these laws may be a surprise to you.
We've put together a gallery featuring an Italian train ticket, a bus ticket and restaurant and bar receipts. Each of these papers requires you to do something to avoid a fine (or embarrassment) as you travel in Italy.
In some cases, the bearer of a receipt is almost as responsible for the "correctness" of it as the provider of the receipt. Police do occasionally check that you carry your receipt out of an establishment. According to recent travelers, police have been instructed to check even more frequently, especially looking at train ticket validation. These gallery pages will let you know what you need to do to enjoy a fine-free vacation in Italy.
You can be fined for... getting on a regional train in Italy without validating your ticket, in fact I see it happen almost every time I'm on a train. Scroll down to find out how to do it.
This is an Italian second class train ticket for a regional train. I'm departing (partenza) from Milano to arrive (arrivo) in Pavia.
This ticket was valid from 03/03/06 to 02/05/06, a two month period. In order that the ticket not be reused, it must be validated before you get on the train. This means you must find a green and white validation machine or in some stations, the old yellow validating machine. You'll stamp your ticket(s) by aligning an arrows labeled "convalida" with the slot provided and pushing until you hear the mechanical whine of the stamp. Then you're set to board your train, which you can do at any time it's in the station. The ticket is good for six hours after validating. Note the stamp on the right side of the ticket under the arrow.
Note that this is a Biglietto Treno Ordinario da Convalidare, or an ordinary train ticket that requires validation. On fast trains like the Frecce trains, where a reservation is required, tickets don't normally require validation since they specify the train's exact date and time on the ticket.
The bus ticket, shown next, has some of the same validation requirements, but this can usually be done as you board the bus.Continue to 2 of 4 below.
02 of 04
How to Read and Validate Bus Tickets in Italy
Like train tickets, bus tickets need to be validated before your journey. Most times this means that you'll board the bus, find the validator near the entrance, then push your ticket into the slot, arrow-end first, until you hear the mechanism grind away.
Most of the time you'll need to buy your ticket before getting on the bus, usually at a Tabacchi or at the bus station ticket window. In cities you may also find automatic ticket vending machines near major bus stops.
This bus ticket was for an Airport shuttle bus ride. Notice the validation code under the arrow. Usually you do not need to show your ticket to anyone unless requested to do so.Continue to 3 of 4 below.
03 of 04
How to Read and How Long to Keep Receipts in Italy
You may be surprised at the vigor with which Italian restaurant owners thrust receipts into your hand. There's a reason for this. The restaurant owner can be fined a great deal of money if a representative of the Guardia di Finanzia (literally the "financial" or "tax police") confronts you while you're coming out of a restaurant without a receipt. Back in the old days, you could also be fined, but I understand this may no longer be the case.
To be on the safe side, walk at least 100 meters from the restaurant with the receipt. After that, you can do anything with it you want.
What Is a Proper Receipt?
The picture shows a proper Italian restaurant receipt. This is a ricevuta fiscale that is in compliance with the law. It has the address of the establishment, the date, and a list of the food consumed. You'd do well to refuse random pieces of paper with only the final total written on it. This would not be a legal ricevuta fiscale.
How to Read a Restaurant Receipt
This receipt, from a very... good and innexpensive restaurant in Torino, is really simple. I had a menu a prezzo fisso. This is typical at lunch, a price fixed menu that includes the cover charge, service, beverage and several courses of food.
If I had ordered from the menu, I could expect to see a small cover charge (coperto), and numbers in the left column corresponding to the items on the list. Service might be included in the price (as it is in the fixed price option), or it may be broken out separately.Continue to 4 of 4 below.
04 of 04
What do you do with an Italian bar receipt?
Like the restaurant receipt, you'll want to keep the receipt they hand you in an Italian bar for at least 100 meters after you leave the place. This also applies in shops.
This is the receipt from a bar in Torino where I had breakfast, which consisted of a typical Italian morning treat: coffee and a croisant-like roll. The receipt has the address, telephone number, tax (VAT) number, and the things you've consumed.
In larger cities, you'll line up to get a receipt before you order your coffee. Then you'll belly up to the bar and show the receipt. Sometimes the barista will tear the receipt to keep tract of what's already been served. You're still required to take it with you when you leave.