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Electronic Tickets for Unreserved Regionale Trains are not a good idea

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From time to time, prospective travellers inquire about purchasing tickets for Trenitalia "regionale" trains (unreserved commuter trains, mainly short-distance) via the Trenitalia website. While this is indeed possible, I always advise against this, for the following reasons:

(1) There is never any discount (apart from that for children between the ages of 4 and 12; toddlers under 4 travel free) for purchasing these tickets in advance through the website (or otherwise);

(2) Electronic tickets for the regionale trains can be purchased only up to seven days in advance of the travel date. By contrast, PAPER tickets for regionale trains can be used up to two months after issuance;

(3) Once purchased, an electronic ticket for a regionale train cannot be exchanged for a different ticket, and cannot be refunded (except in case of a train strike or when the purchaser has accidentally purchased two identical electronic tickets for the same train for the same passenger);

(4) The traveller must travel on the specific regionale train noted on the electronic ticket (or any other regionale train on the same route departing within 4 hours thereafter). Travel on an EARLIER regionale train is NOT allowed with the electronic ticket. By contrast, with a PAPER ticket for a regionale train, one can travel on ANY regionale train departing within TWO MONTHS of ticket issuance. (The PAPER ticket must be validated in the little yellow machine by the rail track prior to boarding the train);

(5) All seats on the regionale trains are unreserved: buying the ticket in advance over the Trenitalia website won't make a difference in this regard.

BOTTOM LINE, there are no advantages to buying an electronic ticket for a regionale train (apart from the sheer convenience of not having to buy it later); only disadvantages.

By contrast, for the Trenitalia FAST trains with seat reservations (AV, ES-City, ES, IC), one can get a deeply discounted "MINI" fare over the internet, and neither "MINI" fare nor "base" fare electronic tickets carry any disadvantages over PAPER tickets, apart from seeking a refund (where a PAPER ticket can be refunded (within the established deadlines) at the train station manned ticket window, whereas an ELECTRONIC ticket can only be refunded via the Trenitalia website, call center, or by e-mail). In either case, refunds carry a 20% penalty ("base" fare) or a 50% penalty ("MINI" fare). "Base" fare and "MINI" fare tickets (electronic or paper) can also be exchanged for different tickets, and simple reservation changes are also allowed (in all cases within the established deadlines, and subject to limitations and restrictions).

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