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Rome to Cinque Terre: train tips

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There are many inquiries on this and other travel sites concerning train travel from Rome to the Cinque Terre. Here are some train tips for this route:

FRECCIABIANCA OR INTERCITY TRAIN: You will need to take either a reserved Frecciabianca or a reserved Intercity train from Rome to La Spezia Centrale, where you'll need to CONNECT to an unreserved "regionale" train to your final destination within the Cinque Terre. Allow ample time for this connection, especially if taking the Intercity train (which has a tendency to accumulate travel delays).

There are five Frecciabianca and three Intercity trains each day between Rome and La Spezia. The Frecciabianca departs only from Roma Termini, whereas the Intercity departs from Termini and also stops at Roma Ostiense to pick up passengers. The normal, unrestricted, "BASE" fare is 52 Euros on the Frecciabianca and 36.50 Euros on the Intercity (you must add a couple of Euros for the connecting "regionale" train).

DISCOUNT FARES: For both trains, ECONOMY and SUPER ECONOMY fares are also offered, with the cheapest SUPER ECONOMY fare being a mere 9 Euros. These promotional fares have significant restrictions. Travel time varies, especially on the Frecciabianca. The FASTEST Frecciabianca takes 3 hrs. 16 mins.(others are slower), whereas the Intercity takes over 4 hrs.

BEWARE: The Trenitalia SUPER ECONOMY fare is nonchangeable and nonrefundable. The ECONOMY fare is changeable ONCE up to the departure time of the scheduled train (you must upgrade to the "BASE" fare and pay the difference), but is otherwise nonrefundable. Consequently, you need to be very sure of your travel plans if you choose one of these promotional fares. If you MISS your reserved train, even by one second (other than due to a missed CONNECTION from another Trenitalia train, with minimum connection times), and have one of the promotional fares, you forfeit the ticket and must buy a brand new ticket for a later-departing train. That's why it's RISKY to travel on a promotional ticket when connecting directly from an arriving plane (unless the promotional fare is so low (e.g. 9 Euros), that you won't care).

CHILDREN'S DISCOUNTS: Children between the ages of 4 years, one day and 12 years, 0 days always qualify for a Child's fare of 50% of the "BASE" fare. In some cases, however, the SUPER ECONOMY or ECONOMY fare will give an even better discount (in which case, you must treat the child as an adult for purposes of booking these fares on the Trenitalia website, and NOT as a Child). Where the Child's fare is EQUAL to the promotional fare, select the Child's fare, which does not have the restrictions of the promotional fare. Children under the age of 4 years, one day ALWAYS travel FREE on ALL Trenitalia trains (including the regionale trains), WITHOUT a ticket and without a guaranteed seat. Don't count them when booking tickets!

THE TICKET FOR THE "REGIONALE" TRAIN: If buying in Italy, purchase the paper ticket for the "regionale" train at the same time as you purchase the paper ticket for the reserved train to La Spezia, since you may not have enough connection time at La Spezia Centrale to buy the ticket from a machine or from the manned agent window. If you're purchasing an ELECTRONIC ticket through the Trenitalia website, you have the choice of also booking an ELECTRONIC ticket for the connecting "regionale" train, OR waiting to buy this ticket when at the train station in Rome, in paper format. There are some disadvantages to having an ELECTRONIC ticket for a "regionale" train, which usually won't matter if things go according to plan. There are no promotional fares for the "regionale" trains (only the Child's fare). Seats on the "regionale" train are unreserved.

MISSED CONNECTIONS: If you MISS the connection at La Spezia Centrale from the reserved train to the "regionale" train, don't worry. If you have a PAPER ticket for the "regionale" train, it's valid for TWO MONTHS from its issue date (as long as not "validated" in the punching machine by the rail track). You should "validate" this paper ticket at La Spezia Centrale, before boarding the "regionale" train (and not before). If you have an ELECTRONIC ticket for the "regionale" train, it's valid for FOUR HOURS AFTER (but NOT before) the departure time of the train noted on the ticket receipt (which means that you can't take an EARLIER "regionale" train connection). You don't validate an ELECTRONIC ticket, only a PAPER ticket!

DIFFERENCES BETWEEN TRAINS:

Apart from differences in the schedule, what are the distinctions between the Frecciabianca and the Intercity train? Is the former really worth the extra 15.5 Euros (a 42.5% surcharge) over the Intercity "BASE" fare?

Let's enumerate the extra features of the Frecciabianca train:

1. Faster (makes fewer stops);
2. Slightly quieter and smoother;
3. More modern;
4. Open-railcar seating, 4-across in second and 3-across in first class (but second class seats on the Intercity train have more seat/shoulder room than second class seats on the Frecciabianca);
5. "Corner bar" in one of the second class railcars, where you can purchase freshly made espresso and other beverages and packaged snacks;
6. Contoured, reclining seats with LED reading lights and power sockets for electronic gear (seats on the Intercity also pivot forward to afford a modest recline);
7. Wi-fi equipped railcars;
8. Toilets with baby-changing racks;
9. "Pulitore viaggiante" (on-board cleaning employee) who supposedly keeps the rest rooms relatively clean;
10. Dedicated mobile desks and/or manned ticket windows at rail station for Freccia trains;
11. High-definition monitors in railcars showing real-time information about the train's progress
12. Often run more "on schedule" (but this can vary considerably)

CONNECTING FROM ROME FIUMICINO AIRPORT?

If taking the Frecciabianca train, you MUST go to Roma TERMINI station, either on the Trenitalia "Leonardo da Vinci" airport train (14 Euros, 32 minutes, service every 30 minutes), or on one of the airport buses to Piazza dei Cinquecento in front of Termini station (SIT Bus Shuttle for 8 Euros or Terravision airport bus for 4 Euros-Internet fare).

If taking the Intercity train, you can save money by taking the Trenitalia FR1 airport train to OSTIENSE station (8 Euros, 32 minutes, service every 15 minutes) and boarding the Intercity train there, instead of at Termini.

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