Okay, this might sound like a stupid question, but what exactly is the process at the train station in Italy? I am leaving for my first trip to Europe and am going solo. I have never been on a train before. I will be taking 2 trains in Italy. A day train from Rome to Florence, then an overnight train from Florence to Nice. I already have my tickets for the overnight train, do I have to go to a teller of some sort before I get on the train? I just don't want to be lost and confused when I get there. Thanks!
Getting the ticket in Rome will not be a problem. Just be sure you validate the ticket before getting on board. One does that by inserting it in a small box that time / date stamps it. Failing to do so can result in a fine when the conductor comes arount. Also be sure to get on the right car-1st or 2nd class. There should be plenty of info boards to indicate the make up of the train. Just watch for pick pockets in the stations.
Just to add to the above post, if you've reserved seats on the trains, in the body of the ticket will be listed the carriage number ("Carrozza") and the seat number ("Posti"). Getting to the right carriage is important, of course. Be careful, though: many cars have big "1" and "2" painted on them--this is the class of the carriage, not the carriage number--the carriage number is sometimes posted electronically on new trains, but often just a printed piece of paper on the doors of the older trains. Usually, other travelers are happy to help you.
To expand on TC's comment about validating your ticket, the machines are yellow.
As a side note, always watch your bag(s) carefully. I've never had a problem, but in Rick's books he always cautions about letting your bags out of sight.
As for the day train, it's easy. There are automated machines in almost every train station (and for sure in Roma Termini, the main Rome station). Select English, then it will give a set of prompts for where you want to go, when, etc. Select your train (2nd class is fine) and then swipe your credit card to issue the ticket. Then look at the big board which lists all the arrivals and departures to see what track your train will be leaving from. Don't forget to validate your ticket before boarding.
And many trains have assigned seats, even in 2nd class. So look at your ticket and see if it has a car & seat assignment.
Not only are the ticket validating machines yellow, but you need to find them. usually there is one at the track, but make sure you look, they are on a post, but not at the beginning of each track. you can also find them inside the main train station. It is important to validate, as the other poster said, you will get fined. The conductors come around and check.
last trip we got on an earlier train than we had a ticket for - going the same place, and got fined...even though we asked if it was OK...of course it was OK to get on the train...they just didnt' tell us it would cost us more to leave earlier!
Make sure you plan well ahead and get a seat reservation. The railroad will sell you a ticket, but that only gaurantees you a place to stand in the aisle. A seat reservation will garantee you a real seat to sit in.
Agree with Randy. A reservation will cost more but at least you will get a seat. On popular routes I'd definately recommend it.