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    by mkataoka Fodor's Editor | Posted on Nov 28, 16 at 01:31 PM
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Purchasing Italian train tickets from USA!

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We are 6 friends from Texas. Have used Italian local trains before but am not confident on two of the trains trips we are taking this time. I am obsessive and like to take care of as many of the details as possible before leaving the States. We will be in Italy middle part of April '16. Will probably book Executive (perhaps Business).

Will travel from Venice S.L. to Firenze S.M.N. and later from Firenze SMN to Napoli Centrale.

Have watched and read 'seat61'. Have gone on italiarail.com and trenitalie.com. It would seem italiarail.com is easier to navigate. So, will use italiarail.com unless showed lack of wisdom.

Website said could make first reservation December 7. Is it correct that I could make the reservations CST at 5pm on December 6? I said I was obsessive -- I used to make plane reservations 332 days and 23 hours before the flight. Used miles and that was first minute reservations could be accepted. As y'all know -- the need to do that on Delta has diminished.

OK to bring aboard and consume our own wines -- have done that on the local trains. We consume more than our fair share of Italian reds.

Executive looks interesting (price always a factor for not driving so) -- any thoughts?

Will website ask me at some point in the transaction to make seat selection?

I presume purchasing individual tickets -- since only two trips -- is the cheapest way to go (instead of a pass).

Will website then issue the eTickets to my email address?

With eTickets -- all I need to do is bring my PNR#? In other words, not required to validate at train station?

Is their an Executive class lounge that we can use at the Venice or Florence train stations?

So, in conclusion, I can -- at one website sitting -- reserve six seats in Executive, make seat selections, pay the piper and just have emailed to me the one piece of paper (again with the PNR#) for the conductor.

Do we get a meal included in Executive? Do we get 'one' glass of wine with the meal or several?

We are mature (hate that word) and not loud -- but we will walk about the car, consume a glass or two -- is that in any way considered disrespectful to the other two passengers (I think Executive only holds 8) in the Executive car?

Sorry, I just reread and looks like some of these questions overlap.

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    A few comments: get ready for somebody ( don't worry as she will comment eventually) telling you about the (what I think is reasonable) surcharge which Italiarail levies. I agree with you that it has always seemed like a much more reasonable site through which to navigate than Trenitalia's.

    I continue to use Italiarail to buy tickets from home.

    Our tickets in the recent past allowed a printout of the PNR which i then used in the machines in Italy, and all at once, to retrieve the tickets. If the ticket is for a specific train on a specific date there is no need for you to validate it since it is for one particular journey on one particular day.

    The "conductor" will scan the printed out "ticket" with his/her machine once you are aboard. It cannot get any easier IMO.

    AS I recall you can make a certain degree of seat selection as to general type such as window or aisle, etc., but I don't THINK you are going to be shown a seat map a la the airlines and be allowed to choose a particular seat.

    And be aware that there are some people who think they can sit just about anywhere they want and when you challenge them they can get pissy. This happened twice on trains to and from Stresa this past summer and I was in no mood to beat up some Italian woman who was preoccupied on her cellphone except to sneer at me...but that's what makes travel fun. What was really fun was watching the conductor kick her out of my seat!

    Are you looking at Trenitalia trains or those run by the other private company?

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    I found nothing wrong with the Trenitalia site for arranging tickets. The only thing you have to pay attention to is that it only listens to Italian place names.
    It works perfectly with credit card and an email with a print-at-home ticket.
    The »Frecce« trains have a seat reservation option with a diagram where you can select an exact sitting arrangement. You'll have to look for yourself what services the Executive and other classes offer.
    There is no need, nor is it possible to make reservations so early as you want. I understand advance buying starts some three months before the travelling date.

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    >>>OK to bring aboard and consume our own wines -- have done that on the local trains. We consume more than our fair share of Italian reds.<<<

    Yes, bring your own wines. It's fine. If you sit in first class or above, you will also be offered a free glass of wine (or juice, coffee, etc) but not more than one glass.

    >>>Executive looks interesting (price always a factor for not driving so) -- any thoughts?<<<

    First class or Business will probably do you just fine, unless you want your own private Exec cabin for the six of you. (And no one will try to take your seats in Exec class). As far as I know, lounges in the train station are only open to holders of special Freccia cards, which you can't acquire because you don't live in Italy. But maybe I am wrong.

    Just be sure you don't book "silenzio" seats in business class, or you will be required to be silent, no matter how much wine you drink. Just a heads up, which is that if you book first class or business class, a fair number of people around you will be trying to work, so if you really mean to party, 2nd class is not uncomfortable, and you can choose your seats.

    I don't think Exec class includes a meal, but I could be wrong. I doubt you would want it anyway.

    I live in Italy and I often find the Trenitalia site balky, and I use the Italian version, which is much more complete than the English language version. So if you find the ItalRail site easier to use (I've never looked at it), you might want to pay for the convenience. You also might want to check out Italo trains, the competitor to Trenitalia, and see what prices/services and skeds they are offering.

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    Have you looked at the Trenitalia site yet to look at schedules? Not all trains have the Executive class, only the Frecciarossa ones.

    For your group, you may be able to purchase one or two tickets at the super economy price (€63) and the others would probably be economy tickets @ €90 apiece. On the Trenitalia site, you can purchase up to five tickets at one time so you would have to split your order.

    Both of your planned trips are 2 -2 1/2 hours, not sure how much of meal/drink you will receive. Would probably also depend on what time of day your were traveling. I would not think it be worth the extra euro to travel executive.

    I have traveled in second, first and business silenzo and really haven't noticed people walking around and drinking wine. There is a possibility you will be the only ones in the executive class and in that case you don't have to worry. However, I would guess someone who had purchased an executive seat is probably looking to get some work done.

    The private train company, Italo also travels the same routes and their prices are competitive. They also offer Club Executive seats and you can book 6 adult tickets at once.
    Trains are a great way to get around! Enjoy your planning.

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    >>I have traveled in second, first and business silenzo and really haven't noticed people walking around and drinking wine<<

    People don't walk around, but they do drink wine. Trenitalia offers wine above 2d class. Often tourists travelling in groups bring their own meals and wine for the journey, and share it amongst themselves. It's nice for tourists to be considerate of other passengers, but plenty of Italians create a lot of noise yakking on cell phones or laughing with their traveling companions during train rides. People who want to sit in the silent car have paid a premium for that silence, and in that area, silence will be enforced.

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    With the encouragement of the train experts on this forum I was able to plan and purchase all of our train travel for our trip this past October. (Have yet to do a short trip report!) I was a total newbie to European train travel.
    I had no trouble booking Italo tickets from Venice to Florence from the U.S. ahead of time. The Italo experience was just fine. I had printed out the Reservation number (letters) and that was all the conductor needed. The only thing that was notable to me on the trip was that I had booked seats facing the 'front' of the train. 1st class. Most seats in the train car we were in were facing the 'front'. The train pulled itself out of the Venezia station, and I thought that at some point the train would be turned around. But it never was and we made the whole ride going 'backward'. Not a problem just not what I expected.
    I booked the rest of my tickets on Tenitalia. Took a while to carefully choose the exact stations, dates, routes and times, then after choosing seats you have 9 minutes or so to actually purchase the tickets. The website would not accept my Chase credit card. I called the company. They cleared the purchase, but told me it may take up to a day to work. Anyway, I went back on Trenitalia the next day, chose everything, and the transaction went through just fine.
    I made several selections and purchases after that one ( it was easier for me to do them all separate) and all was fine. I could have had e-tickets but wanted to print them out just to be sure. I also had saved the confirmation emails that could have been retrieved on my phone if there were any questions but this was never needed.
    Once you purchase the tickets online with an exact date and time they do not need to be validated at the station. Just hop on the train. I was also impressed that almost always, while in the station awaiting the trains arrival, there would be an announcement as to where on the track the first class cars would pull up to. This is helpful to know! I think it was the Stresa station that did not announce this, and we had to get on the train quickly then make our way through several of the first class cars to find the correct one. Then we had to politely tell a young man that we had reservations for the seat he was in. He moved without a problem.

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    Overwhelmed by good information -- Thanks!

    Dukey1 -- yes looking at Trenitalia trains (These are Frecciarossa). Yes, actually we had one 'pissy' couple on a local from Bucina to Florence couple years ago. They did move.

    tonfromleiden -- Yes Frecce -- Frecciarossa -- thanks.

    Tabernash2 -- had not looked at BudgetEuropeTravel.com until now. Will spend more time tomorrow and try and get feel for their website.

    sandralist -- love Italian reds -- so good to know we won't irritate the 'uniforms'. I will Google Italo and do some research. Have not considered.

    Burrata -- Yes, have looked at the Trenitalia and yes, the trains we are looking at do have Exec. We are considering Frecciarossa.

    Landseaair -- we were new to French trains last year. The website we ended up using was so simple. The sites that are designed for North Americans seem much simpler than European -- I am sure that the Europeans think the same thing about their website layouts. Glad to hear your trip went so well.

    I now have answers to many of my questions. I have more research -- because of the questions raised here -- to do, but oh well. Anticipation is 'almost' as good as realization. Well, except for the reds.

    Thanks again, Philip

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    For a group (even of just two people), ItaliaRail can often get you cheaper fares than you can get through Trenitalia. For your group, it's unlikely that there would be 6 seats available at the lowest SuperEconomy fare, even if you buy on the first day the tickets go on sale (120 days before the travel date). Italiarail would reserve as many as possible of the cheapest tickets available, then round out the order with the next cheapest, and so on. Trenitalia would offer only fares for which there are enough tickets for the whole group.

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    Executive has a private compartment with eight seats. A meal is included, but Sandra is right when she says you probably wouldn't want it. If there are one or two "executives" in there along with your group, you might feel somewhat restrained.

    Business Salottino has only four seats, so that wouldn't be suitable for a group of six. Regular Business would probably allow you to sit more or less together, with two facing two on one side of the aisle and one facing one on the other side.

    Executive class does include a meal, although as Sandra says, you probably wouldn't want it. Each executive compartment has eight seats, and the only way to ensure you wouldn't have to share your compartment with an actual executive trying to prepare a sales meeting would be to buy all eight seats.

    In Business class, you probably could get six seats across the aisle from each other, two facing two across a table on one side and one facing one on the other side. Business seats have no more leg room than those in Standard class, although there's a bit more room for the butt. I myself don't consider them worth any extra money, although I'll spring for them if there's a discount that brings the price down almost to the level of Standard.

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    CONCLUSIONS -- I HAVE PURCHASED TICKETS THIS MORNING.

    Purchased 6 tickets this morning -- from italiarail.com -- for the first leg of our Italian train travel in April 2016. Will purchase the 2nd leg in two weeks. Bottom line for USA purchaser's of train tickets -- very easy and American friendly. Probably American friendly in that their office is in Franklin, MA -- a.k.a. Boston. They have an info email -- info@italiarail.com and a telephone number -- 877.375.7245. Hopefully, the information that follows is correct. I purchased 6 Executive class seats. Venice S. Lucia to Florence SMN -- travel Saturday, April 9th.

    Timing of purchases!
    It is 4 months prior to travel date. If you try to purchase before the tickets go on sale -- a message will pop up giving you the first day you can buy tickets (in my case Dec. 7). However, that is Italian time -- I first went to purchase at 5pm on Dec. 6 -- the day before the message said I could. Got message to try the next day. Tried a couple of hours later (still Dec. 6) and it said I could purchase but the prices were $25 higher that they had been for prior dates. I said no way but this morning when I went back on italiarail.com it did have the cheaper -- Executive class seats.

    BRING YOUR OWN FOOD AND WINE!
    Yes. They will serve a glass or two with a snack meal (in Executive). I think we can use the Freccia Lounge between Tracks 24 & 25 since we are now ItaliaPass Holders (they will probably tell me only for 1 -- hopefully all 6 of us).

    PRICE!
    See above. These are nonrefundable -- non changeable. First class was about $40 cheaper but -- hey -- it is vacation.

    SEAT SELECTION!
    It will automatically assign your seat numbers. You will receive a Ticket Confirmation immediately telling you -- among many other things -- that your seats are so and so. Had no problem with what was automatically assigned -- but it does give you a telephone number to call if you have any questions (above).

    E TICKETS!
    Immediately emailed to me the information we needed -- most importantly the PNR number (actually all alpha). Said just hop on board -- no need to get actual paper tickets or have validated before boarding train. Read carefully and make sure you print out appropriate paperwork.

    CONCLUSION -- you can -- at this one website sitting -- reserve six seats in Executive (or whatever number or class), have seat selections automatically made, pay the piper and just have emailed to you the one piece of paper (again with the PNR#) for the conductor.

    Sure I am leaving something out. But bottom line -- very easy to do. Use the info email address for questions. They answered very quickly (I think English is not their first language -- we had a slight language challenge). Not critical -- I am the one that only speaks English (and OK with Spanish).

    Let me know if I can help. Again, thanks for all the guidance y'all gave me earlier.
    Philip

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    >>>I think we can use the Freccia Lounge between Tracks 24 & 25 since we are now ItaliaPass Holders (they will probably tell me only for 1 -- hopefully all 6 of us).<<<

    You seem to have misunderstood some of what you purchased. Italiarail is a reseller - an online travel agency in the US. Trenitalia is the actual train company running the trains, not Italiarail. Using the Frecce lounge in Venice or Florence would have nothing to do with Italiarail or that pass. You do not need that to have access to Trenitalia's lounges. You get that from simply purchasing your executive class tickets from Trenitalia (or any company you buy a Trenitalia executive ticket from). Since each of you purchased an executive class ticket, each of you can access the lounges.

    >>>I think we can use the Freccia lounge between Tracks 24 & 25 since we are now ItaliaPass <<<

    This is the part I found confusing since Venice does not have that many tracks (the Freccia lounge is at the head of tracks 13/14) and neither does Florence (lounge is at the head of the tracks there also). It seems Italiarail is offering access to some kind of remote lounge in Termini (not the Freccia lounge) which is located at the satellite tracks. You would not want to trek down there with luggage to use it when you have exec tickets that get you in the Freccia lounge (head of tracks 3/4). The satellite tracks can take be a 15 minute walk from where you need to be (where the Leonardo Express came in from the airport years ago and everyone complained about the long walk). This remote lounge in Termini seems to be the only lounge listed as a benefit of that pass (I assume people that purchase membership and 2nd class tickets also get to use the remote lounge).

    Italiarail used to charge a booking fee of $5 (Trenitalia does not charge any booking fees), but now calls it a membership fee (Italiapass) instead. The membership from Italiarail, which is more of a marketing gimmick, has nothing to do with Trenitalia except they claim a ticket discount. Italiapass is their fee of $49 (although they say they will discount it for first time purchasers) and it links you to deals with their travel agency (Italiadeals). Italiarail, Italiapass, Italiadeals are all under one us US travel agency umbrella.

    Yes, Italiarail makes it easy for Americans because they make money off that pass (formerly their booking fee) and they make money off the tickets (they use DCC - dynamic currency conversion). That means they mark-up the tickets when converting them from euro to dollars.

    In your case though, you could not have booked directly with Trenitalia (at least not easily) because you have 6 travelers. Trenitalia still limits online purchases to 5 tickets at a time (very annoying). You would need to purchase 5 tickets and then take a chance on making a second purchase for the last ticket. Had you booked with Trenitalia, you would have been able to select your exact seat during the booking process though as that is an option you can select. You would also have the option on the separate purchase of the 6th ticket to "choose a seat next to" and select next to your already booked ticket numbers. That only works if seats are still available in that particular car (you can't select the train car). That would have been a gamble with exec tickets because there are so few seats in a car.

    In cases like this (more than 5 travelers), for the major routes, the other option is Italo Treno. Not to be confused with Italiarail, Italo Treno is an actual rail company in Italy (like Trenitalia)that operates their own trains, but only between major cities. They allow booking through their end of the schedule which is 6 months (instead of just 120 days like Trenitalia) once the summer or winter schedule begins. So on Dec. 13, you would be able to book tickets through until June 11. They also allow booking more than 5 at a time (you purchase up to 19 tickets at once). Italo Treno does not charge memberships, booking fees or mark up tickets with DCC.

    http://www.italotreno.it/en

    Some people don't consider Italo Treno's executive class as nice as Trenitalia's. YMMV.

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    Rail Europe - dreaded RE - is now selling Italo Treno tickets at about the same price the Italotreno site does I understand and a quick check a few weeks ago agreed with that and no surcharge per tickets though there could be an order fee. I found several $21-25 fares recently for Venice to Florence on RE but have not checked exhaustively.

    Many folks say there is not one iota of difference between first and second classes but IME there is ALWAYS a significant difference - only in first class do you find the rows with just one seat in each - the ultimate aisle and window seat - two of these can face each other with a table in between - no bothering strangers (or traveling companions) or being bothered by strangers asking to get in or out as always in second class - a huge difference to me and well worth choosing those type seats if possible.

    First class is also less full often and as there are less seats in each same-sized train car easier to stow baggage too - plus on high-speed trains you also get a gratis beverage and snack and Italian newspaper (not sure Italo Treno trains do this though).

    For lots of general info on Italian trains check www.seat61.com - great advice on discounted tickets; www.budgeteuropetravel.com and www.ricksteves.com. If taking regional trains the price is about the same as buying there and as these do not require reservations or even make them available just buy as you go along.

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