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Rail advice for Italy and France

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I am wondering if anyone can give me some advice on rail tickets for my upcoming trip to Italy and France. We will be traveling Venice - Florence-Cinque Terre - Nice - Aix en Provence. In Aix we will be picking up a car and driving through Provence.

I am wondering if I should pre purchase these tickets through a website like Rail Europe while still in the United States or should I wait until we get to Europe and buy there? I don't want to waste my time going to the train station ahead of time to buy tickets if I can do it at home.

I know to get to Florence - Cinque Terre (Manarola) I will transfer through Pisa and La Spezia then get a regional train from there.

Does anyone know how early I can leave La Spezia and arrive in Nice? I don't want to arrive late at night but everything I see gets us in no earlier than 9 pm.

We will be traveling in July for 3 weeks. I know I can't buy tickets this far out but I would love to get everything ready ahead of time and have a schedule.

Any advice would be greatly appreciated!

Thank you

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