Immersed in a Culture of Train Travel

Train Travel, Italywise

Split Screen – © 2018 Jed Smith

I love trains and train travel.

Ever since I received my first Lionel train set for Christmas at age four, I’ve been hooked. But, the view I had of trains was pretty much all about hauling freight––not people. Fast-forward sixteen years to when I studied art in Italy for the summer, and I looked at trains with fresh eyes. I fell in love all over again. This is so cool, I thought. A country and a continent whose transportation arteries of the railroad network rivaled, and often surpassed, that of the highway system. People have real travel options.

When I returned home after my Italian summer, I was faced with the woefully tepid execution of U.S. train travel. Amtrak was, and still is, a pale comparison to the Euoprean execution. In my opinion, U.S. train travel, at its best, is the commuter system in the Northeast, and a few other major metropolitan areas. I think most people will agree that transversing the States by train with any kind of ease is next to impossible.

You don’t have to be handcuffed to a car here in Italy to get around.

I actually can envision the day when I sell my car and hand over the keys. Our bikes do a great job of getting us to and around the city (a subject for another post) and the train and bus system can do the rest. I always have the fallback position of getting a short-term car rental.

Train travel is a central part of Italian culture.

In Treviso, the station has a steady stream of people coming and going. But, it’s only a warmup to the hotbed of activity at Venice’s Santa Lucia Station.

As for the trains, there are the local trains (mainly what I end up taking to get to Venice), and the upscale trains for longer journeys––like the Frecciarossa (the red arrow) and Italo (Trenitalia’s big competitor for speedy and upscale train travel).

For me, it’s all full of never-ending inspiration. Hence, for a recent thirty-minute trip into Venice (something I do about twice a month), I brought my camera and decided to chronicle the wait and the trip. I love capturing the mood and moments of the journey.

Train travel, Italywise

Patience – © 2018 Jed Smith

Waiting is part of the package.

For me, there is an Edward Hopper-like quality to much of what I see. While you see plenty of families and happy youths traveling together, you also see loads of people in solitary moments. You know the ones…when people camp out in their own worlds while coexisting with people immersed in gregariousness.

Train travel, Italywise

One Last Cigarette – © 2018 Jed Smith

The above image is probably my favorite of this series. I love the empty, waiting train car overlaid with the reflection of a man enjoying one last cigarette before being in the no-smoking confines of his journey.

Train Travel, Italywise

Almost Noon – © 2018 Jed Smith


Train travel, Italywise

Immensity – © 2018 Jed Smith

Then there are the people who keep the train system running. This scene garnered my attention because of the contrast of this solitary man heading to work and the vast empty space, and an unusual moment when no trains are passing through.


Train travel, Italywise

The Lagoon – © 2018 Jed Smith

I’m always looking for an additional frame within the frame. I confess that I get a little cross-eyed at times, trying to shoot through a train window and snag a worthy composition. This particular moment in my journey to Venice, when I get the first expansive view of the lagoon, is one of my favorites.


Train travel, Italywise

Venice Arrival – © 2018 Jed Smith

I close, appropriately, with the sign for Santa Lucia, signaling the journey has come to an end. I also like this image because it shows the “backside” of Venice. I understand much of this industrial area is already transitioning to residential warehouse lofts.

I hope you’ve enjoyed these snippets of train travel through my eyes!