Immersed in a Culture of Train Travel

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 European 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!

By |2019-01-19T21:23:32+01:00January 10th, 2018|Black & White, My Life in Italy|12 Comments

About the Author:

I’m an American expat living in Italy!


  1. Gaye Hart January 12, 2018 at 4:15 am - Reply

    Lovely photos Jed. Especially sigificant to me right now becasue I have recently travelled that very route several times. You might be interested ina book I am reading called “Italian Ways” and sub-titled “On and Off the Rails from Milan to Palermo”. By Tim Parks.

    • Jed January 12, 2018 at 10:18 am - Reply

      Hi, Gaye. Glad you like the work, and I’m pleased to know that you’ve taken the same route and can relate to the images. Thank you for telling me about the book. I’m adding it to my reading list!

  2. Kevin January 11, 2018 at 9:01 am - Reply

    They’re all gorgeous!. The captured light, shadows and scenes all combine in such a beautiful way. It is really difficult to pick a favorite but I must say that “The Lagoon” and “Immensity” really draw me into the moment! Awesome work Jed!

    • Jed January 11, 2018 at 10:35 am - Reply

      I’m so glad you like these, Kevin! Finding the right moment and composition is a challenge I love.

  3. Robin Fink January 10, 2018 at 5:06 pm - Reply

    Nice post, Jed.

    I love train travel as well, and for you to put it in such a light is inspiring.

    Hope all is well with you, and heres to a great 2018!!

    Xoxo, Robin

    • Jed January 11, 2018 at 10:41 am - Reply

      Thanks, Robin! I always appreciate your encouragement.I hope you guys have a great 2018 as well. ????

  4. Tom January 10, 2018 at 3:10 pm - Reply

    Nice Jed, reminds me a bit of Eugene Atget – one of my favs

    • Jed January 10, 2018 at 4:58 pm - Reply

      You’re too kind, Tom. I love the work of Atget. Maybe his influence has been working on me in the background!

  5. Susan P January 10, 2018 at 2:56 pm - Reply

    You have such a great eye. I love seeing these sights through your camera lense.

    • Jed January 10, 2018 at 3:06 pm - Reply

      Thank you, Susan! Hope you are doing well! We have to figure out a time to meet up with you for a day in Florence. Let us know when you’ll be there! xoxox Jed

  6. elizabeth wholey January 10, 2018 at 11:48 am - Reply

    Hi Jed, love seeing more of your great photos. I’m reminded of coming over the lagoon and the excitement of approaching Venice. Have you read the Tim Parks book about train travel in Italy? Funny and informative.

    • Jed January 10, 2018 at 2:38 pm - Reply

      Grazie, Elizabeth! I’ll have to check out Tim Parks’s book. Adding it to my reading list. Hope you are doing well. Miss you! xoxox Jed

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