We took the Frecciargento of Trenitalia from Rome to Venice
I actually prefer to drive if we can, because we can stop and explore spontaneously. But if we don't need a car at the point of origin nor at the destination, then the next best option is a train. In exchange for the freedom of a car, in a train we get to relax without having to bother with maps and navigation.
Trains usually have first and second class cars. But unlike a plane, there is hardly any difference between the two and I never bother paying for first class.
Train tickets can be booked online. If you keep checking the train website, you might see big price fluctuations and chance upon a great promo. Sometimes, for the cost of one airline ticket , you can buy four train tickets. That alone makes train travel so appealing.
The website "The Man in Seat 61", has lot of train booking tips.
The only drawback about train travel is that suitcases are stored in racks at the end of each car (and you also have to carry them on and off yourself). If the train has multiple stops, I usually have visions of someone getting off with my suitcase--an image that contradicts my thoughts of why a thief would lug off a suitcase and risk being caught with a week's worth of laundry.
So far, B and I have come across the Ave in Spain, Deutsch Bahn in Frankfurt and Thalys in Rotterdam. They were all very comfortable and very fast.
Unlike a plane ride, where the objective of the journey is to fill up the hours with mealtimes, movies, and sleep, a train has no in-your-face video screen tempting you to numb your brain. A meal is always available in another car, never trapping you in your seat for hours.
What I look forward to most of all is the quiet time with beautiful scenery speeding by. The view is usually compelling, enough for me to keep my eyes off my smartphone.
And then I get profound thoughts.
Like how the speeding landscape is a metaphor of life, or how a simple journey like this sort of mimics a life goal. (I know, I know--but what can I do it the kids are usually glued to their kindles and B is absorbed by his android?!)
So here I am, being introspective and deep, re-evaluating life goals, dreams and strategies. In our modern busy lives, this block of reflective quiet time is a luxury--and also a gift. (And B wonders how I come up with all my wild ideas?)
I'm usually in the best frame of mind when I arrive at our destination. I'm filled with the enthusiasm of a traveler, but with a clear mind and wisdom of someone who has also gone on a little retreat.
Travel is definitely educational--seeing new places, experiencing other cultures and traditions. But the journey of getting from one place to another, specially if done mindfully, can be equally enlightening.