Backpack & Budget : Italy Likes Card-Carrying Hostelers

In the late summer and early fall, special discounts on Italian Rail, ferry and youth hostels will be available to members of Hostelling International.

To be eligible for the discounts, you must take your Hostelling International card to the ticket office in one of the Italian Railways stations. There, for $6.20, you can buy a special personal card that has your HI membership number on it. This card will be valid for four months from the date of issue. It will be honored on Italian rail service for a 30% discount on second-class fares. The travel reductions are available for use between Sept. 11 and Dec. 14 on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Saturdays.

During the same time period, cardholders are also eligible for three nights for the price of two at Italian Youth Hostels, any night of the week.

The cards also are honored for a 20% discount on the price of seats, berths and meals aboard Italian Railways ferries to Sardinia. This discount is available after Aug. 10.

For further details, contact Associazoione Italiana Alberghi per la Gioventu, Via Cavour 44, 00184 Rome, Italy; telephone 011-396-487-1152, fax 011-396-488-0492.

If you plan to enter Italy by traveling through the Brennero Pass from Austria, here are some interesting stops you can make en route where you'll be able to find inexpensive hostel accommodations.

The youth hostel in Rovereto, known for its war museum, is in a modern building at Via Della Scuola 16/18. It's open all year and can accommodate 90 travelers, some in small rooms. Bed and breakfast costs $9.90.

Verona is the famous city of Romeo and Juliet. Verona's youth hostel, Villa Francescatti, is at Salita Fontana del Ferro 15. The villa, which dates to 1400, is in a park. This hostel is not used for groups, is open year-round and can hold up to 100 travelers in multi-bedded rooms. Bed and breakfast costs $8.60.

Ninety minutes from Verona by train is Venice. It was completely restored in 1992 and offers accommodations in small dormitory rooms. The hostel is located at Fondamenta Zitelle 86, on the Giudecca Island, which can be reached from the rail station by taking boat No. 5 and getting off at the Zitelle stop. Bed and breakfast costs $11.80.

Two hours by train from Venice, at the eastern end of Italy, is Trieste. Its hostel is located in a 19th-Century villa on the seashore near Miramare Castle, at Viale Miramare 331. The hostel provides dormitory accommodations for $10.50 per night.

From Trieste it's 3 1/2 hours by train (with one change) to Montagnana, a town still surrounded by its original walls. Rocca degli Alberi Youth Hostel is housed in one of the wall's towers. Dormitory and small family rooms are available. Beds are $7.45 per night.

Florence's hostel, at Viale Augusto Righi 2-4, is a villa from the 1400s, which is set in a park and was once home to noble families. The hostel organizes classical music concerts for guests in cooperation with the local Academy of Music. You can reach the hostel from the Central Rail Station (S. Maria Novella) in 20 minutes by taking bus 17b. Accommodations are available in dormitory or small family rooms. Bed and breakfast is $11.15.

Non-members of Hostelling International are accommodated at many affiliated facilities, but they are usually charged a higher rate, about $3 more per night.

For further information on Hostelling International, contact American Youth Hostels, Los Angeles Council, 1434 2nd St., Santa Monica 90401; tel. (310) 393-3413.

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