Published on: 14 July 2019 | Last updated: 14 July 2019
There are four companies offering services in, or through, the Südtirol:
- Trenitalia, the national train company
- an alliance of Deutsche Bahn (German Railways) and ÖBB (Austrian Railways) offer EuroCity between München, Innsbruck and Bologna, Verona and Venezia
- local services operated by the regional train company SAD
- local train services operated by Trentino Trasporti
Trenitalia offer services on the main line that connects that runs to Innsbruck via the Brenner Pass. They offer bike-friendly regional train services from Bologna to the Brenner, and from Bozen (Bolzano) to Meran (Merano). There are also high-speed services to Bozen, but you need to carry your bike in a bag.
The Trenitalia regional services are very useful, but that means that at the peak of the cycle-touring season they can get very busy, and there may not be enough space for your bike in the bike compartment.
The DBB-ÖBB EuroCity are definitely the best option if you are travelling to Italy with a bike, or returning home. They have loads of spaces for bikes, both in a dedicated bike carriage and in other bike spaces on the train. However, you need to book a bike space in advance, and you can't do this online (this may change of course), you need to either call a Deutsche Bahn call centre or buy at the DB ticket office at Verona. The booking fee is 10€. So, while it's a great option for longer journeys, it's probably not an option for shorter trips.
The SAD (Südtiroler Automobildienst/Società Automobilistica Dolomiti) run services on the line that runs between Meran and Mals (Malles) through the Vinschgau, and the line that runs through the Pustertal from Fortezza Franzensfeste to Innichen (San Candido) and then to Lienz in Austria. They also run services between the main towns in the Südtirol: Meran, Bozen and Brixen (Bressanone) — although, confusingly, these are actually run by Trenitalia on behalf of the regional transport company.
For local travel in the Südtirol, the SAD is probably the best option. The trains generally have plenty of spaces for bikes, although some of these rely on tip-up seats which can be a bit problematic, especially if you are travelling with a bike on a busy train.
Note that while the trains are very bike-friendly, there are restrictions on travelling with a bike on the services in the Vinschgau between Meran and Mals. You also need to refer to the paragraphs on tickets, and bike tickets.
Trentino Trasporti is the regional train company for the neighbouring Trentino offer some services between Trento, Bozen and Meran. You probably won't see their trains very often, but they are about, and bike-friendly.
The rules on the validity of tickets are a wee bit complicated: in general, tickets issued by one company are valid on the services run by the others. There are two important exceptions to this:
- tickets issued by Trenitalia and the two regional companies aren't valid on the DB-ÖBB EuroCity services
- Trenitalia tickets aren't valid for travel between Meran and Mals
- Trenitalia tickets aren't valid for travel beyond Fortezza Franzensfeste on the line through the Pustertal towards Innichen
You may also arrive at a station and find that there are two sets of ticket machines: one for Trenitalia and the other for SAD. You can't use the Trenitalia machines to buy tickets to stations in the Südtirol. You also can't use the SAD machines to buy tickets for stations outside the Südtirol. If you arrive at one of the smaller stations that only have SAD ticket machines, don't panic, just sort things out with the train manager when you get on the train.
There's one more complication: you have to validate your tickets (ie both your travel ticket and the bike ticket ). And, yes, there are two sets of ticket validating machines. I know this, not because I am a very sad train geek (although I probably am), but because got gently rebuked for using the wrong machine. It's not going to be the end of the world if you validate your Trenitalia ticket in a SAD machine — the important thing is to validate your ticket.
It's important to remember that, whether you travel with Trenitalia, SAD or Trentino Trasporti, you must buy a ticket for your bike (as well as a ticket for yourself). The bad news is that the three companies have different bike tickets and prices. At the time of writing (May 2019) the prices for a bike day-ticket were:
- Trenitalia: 3.50€
- SAD: 7€
- Trentino Trasporti: 2€
Bike shuttle and taxi service
If there's a group of you, bikeshuttle.at, based just over the border in Nauders, offer taxi and shuttle services aimed at cyclists. They have a fleet of bike trailers including one that can carry up to 42 bikes. They also offer a bike return service from Verona, the Lago di Garda and Venezia.
The BikeMobil card and bike rental
The Südtirol government also seem to have worked hard to make renting a bike a convenient option with rental points at many stations. The BikeMobil a card that is valid for transport on the region's rail and bus services, as well as some cable lifts and the Swiss Post Bus service to Müstair. The card (available for 1, 3 or 7 consecutive days) includes a day's bike rental. Note though that you are not allowed to take your rental bike on public transport — the idea is that you rent your bike from one of the rental points in the scheme, go for a ride and then drop it off at another rental point
There's a dedicated website (suedtirolbike.it it/de/en) with all the information you need about the 22 rental shops in the area and the range of bikes on offer. They offer one-way rental as well as sports road bikes and electric bikes.