I traveled the trains extensively while in Italy a couple years ago. Never really had any problems, and for the most part I found them reasonable. The one exception would have been my first ride on the rail system from Pisa to La Spezia.
I bought my ticket for a one way trip – the lady put a date stamp on it and life was good. When the conductor came around checking tickets I learned that I failed to validate the ticket in one of those nice little yellow boxes on the platform.
The conductor got a little gruff and explaining to me very loudly in Italian, which I did not speak a word, of the serious infraction I had committed. After flying for the previous 16 hours to get to this point in my trip, I was not as concerned as he was of my faux pas.
He left and returned with a book turned it to the English section and said “Read!” in a very loud voice. So I read out loud for everyone, which explained clearly what I had done wrong. The train car was laughing and by the end so was the conductor. When I finished in my best Spanish I told him, “I now understand”. He laughed even harder with my Spanish reply, albeit he wrote me a ticket for 5 Euros. Hey it could have been as much a 40 Euros, so I guess I was lucky.
My hint on travel – remember to validate your ticket. Safe travels!
Also check out this blog: 65 Days In Italy
Marissa and Keith did a wonderful job and now have a guide that you can download off Amazon.