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Best (as in cheapest) way to get from Florence to Rome

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Any advice on teh Best (as in cheapest) way to get from Florence to Rome. I will be travelling from Florence to Rome next Friday and I haven't booked my train ticket.


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    The CHEAPEST option is to take the regionale ("R") train, which costs less than half the ES train, but takes more than double the time: indeed, nearly 4 hours. But you'll save a bunch of money (over 25 Euros per ticket).

    Seats on the "R" train cannot be reserved, but this is not a problem, since it originates in Rome (and Florence on the return).

    The "R" train has heating and air conditioning, as the ES train. First class on the "R" train costs 50% more, but may be worthwhile owing to the long travel time. It is still cheaper than second class on the ES train.

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    Here is more information:

    Inflation, the skyrocketing cost of oil, transportation cost increases, and the weak dollar have been the scourge of overseas travel for many months. These price hikes have unfortunately also affected travel by rail in Italy.

    Indeed, Trenitalia has very recently raised fares for Eurostar Italia (ES), Eurostar Alta Velocita' (AV), Intercity Plus (ICP) and Intercity (IC) trains, but fares for local (commuter) trains (classified "Regionale", or "R") have increased only slightly, and from a much lower base.

    A one-way ticket on the ES train between Rome and Florence now costs over $60 U.S. Dollars. However, the local train on the same route (departures EVERY TWO HOURS) now costs LESS THAN HALF that of the ES train: 16.10 Euros for the local train versus 39.90 Euros for the ES (both second class). A first class seat on the local train (24.65 Euros) also costs less than a second class seat on the ES. Indeed, you can purchase TWO tickets on the "R" train between Rome and Florence for less than the cost of ONE ticket on the ES train!!! Put another way, you can travel roundtrip between Rome and Florence on the "R" train for less than a one-way ticket on the ES.

    What's the hitch??? Why even consider taking the local train over the ES? Here are some things to consider:

    1. The ES train is ALL RESERVED, whereas the local train is UNRESERVABLE. But, because the local train originates in Rome and in Florence, you should have NO PROBLEM whatsoever finding a seat when boarding in either Rome or Florence.

    2. The ES train takes at least 1 hr. 36 minutes, while the local train 3 hrs. 37 minutes (2 hours more). Some travellers will avoid the local train for this reason alone, while others won't mind a more leisurely trip.

    3. You save over 20 Euros per ticket by taking the local train. A party of four will save over 80 Euros! That's over $30 U.S. dollars per ticket!!!

    4. The local train stops at some very interesting places such as Orvieto, Chiusi, Castiglione del Lago (Lake Trasimeno), Camucia (Cortona) and Arezzo. You can get off the train and reboard a later local train, as long as you complete your trip within 6 hours of first boarding (the time stamp on the ticket when punching the ticket in the little yellow machine). By contrast, you CANNOT break a journey when travelling on an ES train. (Breaking the journey at Orvieto or Arezzo is particularly appealing). Of course, if you have luggage, you'll encounter a problem, as virtually no stopover station has luggage facilities (except Orvieto - a private luggage hold service near the station).

    5. The local train transports mostly commuters, so you gain a better "feel" for the locals than on the ES train, which transports many tourists and occasional travellers. Some English-speaking travellers have expressed a preference for the local train for this reason.

    6. You don't have to worry about securing seats in advance on the local train: just buy the ticket any time up to 60 days in advance of your planned travel date, punch the ticket in the little yellow machine before boarding, and go!!!

    7. You recognize the local train on the Trenitalia website by its designation "R" in the timetables between Rome and Florence. By clicking on the train number, you can see all intermediate stops.

    8. There is no food or beverage service available on the local train, so remember to bring some on board.

    9. First class seats on the local train are rather more comfortable than second class, wider (3 versus 4 across), and softer (cloth seat surfaces versus hard vinyl and rubber), although first class costs 53% more than second class. There are usually only one or two first class railcars per train (often placed in the middle of the convoy). On a 3.5-hour trip, first class may be sensible for some.

    10. The local train makes over one dozen stops between Rome and Florence. Most ES trains are nonstop.

    11. The ES train is a little quieter and smoother than the local train, and travels at a much higher speed (indeed so fast that some travellers report very slight ear discomfort).

    12. Most railcars of the local train are now air conditioned. If you happen upon one without air conditioning, quickly move to another railcar if you expect hot weather!

    13. If you're seated in second class on the local train and feel the hard rubber seat frame pressing uncomfortably against your thighs, change seats, as the middle of the seat may have sagged too much.

    14. The second class fare on the local train between Rome and Florence is not much greater than the cost of a taxi ride in central Rome.

    15. The local train stops at both Roma Tiburtina and Firenze Campo di Marte stations, whereas the ES skips both. Some travellers prefer to use Roma Tiburtina Station if connecting to or from Fiumicino Airport.

    16. All trains in Italy are non-smoking, including the "R" local trains.

    OPINION: Clearly, the "R" train is not for everyone. Many travellers are on very tight schedules, and would prefer to dedicate two additional hours to sightseeing than to sitting on a train. Others won't like the numerous en-route stops. Still others may want to take the fastest, quietest and most modern train wherever available. Yet, there are also travellers on tight budgets, who would be very interested in saving $30 per ticket, or more. Still others might be interested in a more "leisurely" experience of travelling on a slower commuter train.

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    GAC: The "R" train has heating and air conditioning, as the ES train. First class on the "R" train costs 50% more, but may be worthwhile owing to the long travel time. It is still cheaper than second class on the ES train.

    Ah, but will the regional train's air conditioning work? Last week, I rode several regional trains in Italy, of varying quality. Several were stifling hot inside - either the AC was not working or was working poorly. A few of the other trains were newer and very comfortable. It seems you are rolling the dice when you take a regional Trenitalia train and hope you get a good train!

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    As Andrew knows well (because he is an expert traveller), in Italy, you can never be sure that anything will work, from the air conditioning (and even heating in winter) on the trains, to the elevators in buildings.

    The "R" trains are supposed to have both A/C and heating, but there are indeed times when one or the other (or both) don't work, or simply are not turned on. The "R" trains are also supposed to have functioning w/c compartments, but sometimes, some of these are locked for lack of maintenance.

    Even the higher priced trains sometimes have malfunctioning a/c or toilets (although maintenance is usually much better (in the case of ES trains) than on the "R" trains)

    That's why, in my point 12 above, I call attention to this fact.

    In any case, since the summer is now over, A/C won't be an issue for the person who posted this inquiry. And, by taking an "R" train from Florence to Rome, he/she will save about 25 Euros per seat. A pretty good deal, if you don't mind the much longer travel time.

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