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Train vs Driver? Genoa/S Margherita Ligure/ Bellagio...in 1 month!

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Hello fellow travelers,

I’ll be traveling with my family of 4 (DH and two teenage DS) from Barcelona to Santa Margherita Ligure in Italy as part of a longer trip next month. We’ll be flying on Alitalia and arriving in Genoa at 3:25pm. From there, I need to decide whether to take the train or hire a driver to SML, and I could use a bit of help before I finalize things.

First of all, the train leaves from Genova Piazza Principe. I’m not familiar with Genoa at all, so could anyone tell me how to get from the airport to the train station, and about how long it takes? Also, is the train station a safe area?

Next, the only train that it appears we can take doesn’t leave until 17:48, arriving in Santa Margherita Ligure-Portofino at 18:20. From previous advice I’ve received, it seems that there is no need to pre-book that train as it’s an Intercity. However, since it’s the last train of the day, do you think it might be a good idea to pre-book just to be on the safe side? I’d hate to be stuck in Genoa for a night with no hotel reservation, completely unfamiliar with the area…

In any event, it seems that we’ll lose a lot of our day, just waiting for the train in Genoa. I’m considering a driver to bring us to SML; is anyone familiar with the cost of a driver, and is there someone that you would recommend? We hired a driver a couple of years ago to bring us from the Naples train station to Positano, and it was a great experience.

After Santa Margherita Ligure, we need to get to Bellagio on Lake Como. I had planned on taking the 7:39 train from SML to Milano Centrale (SO early, but it looks like the only one that can make a connection to Varenna-Esino.) Right now, the price for the time we want is only 36 Euro, but the later trains that day cost 76 Euro. Should I book that soon, even if it is an Intercity?

From Milano Centrale, for some reason I can’t see trains on the same date that I can for the first leg of the trip. However, when I search for next Sunday, I can see a train that leaves Milano at 10:20. That would be ideal if our first train arrives on time at 9:55…I know it’s not Switzerland, though! Unfortunately, it looks like that is the last train for Varenna-Esino that day. Can anyone tell me if the Intercity trains run on time as a rule? I don't have a back-up plan if we miss the last train, so I'd gladly welcome your advice here.

Can anyone see a way to make this part of our trip more efficient/less arduous? Any suggestions would be most appreciated!

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