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Getting around Italy by train - pass or individual tickets?

Getting around Italy by train - pass or individual tickets?

Jun 19th, 2010, 12:47 PM
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Join Date: Jun 2010
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Getting around Italy by train - pass or individual tickets?


I was wondering if anyone has used the rail pass available to travel around italy, or whether its better to use individual tickets for each trip.

I will give you an idea of the journeys we will be doing:

Naples (or Sorrento) to Rome

Rome to Florence

Florence to Milan

Milan to Venice

We also want to visit Pisa and wondered if it is worth a night there or just do it as a trip from Florence whilst staying there?

We are on a fairly tight schedule so we will want to use the quickest trains possible.

I am I right in saying if you have a pass then you still have to pay 10 euros each trip to reserve a seat?

Any information would be appreciated!

tinks2111 is offline  
Jun 19th, 2010, 12:58 PM
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Pay no attention to the Fodor mantra that 'railpasses in Italy are rarely cost effective' - and as i showed recently a few times in reply to the railpasses are useless mantra with an itinerary similar to yours they certainly can be - in 2nd class and especially in first class, which for any tourist i heartedly recommend based on decades of rail travel in Italy.

Go to www.trenitalia.com and you will get the fares in euros you will pay at the station in Italy (you will also see online discount fares that are not open to Americans using American credit cards - unanimously rejected it seems - so use the full fare that you would have to buy at stations (unless able to buy at least 7 days in advance and then you may get a 20% discount IF tickets in those categories are not exhausted). And if you have kids be sure to put their ages in as it could affect the fare.
But basically compare the full are in euros to the cost of the railpass (in dollars since you cannot buy it in Italy) - and add on to each leg of your journey - the 4 long rides a 10 euro supplement that even with the pass you must pay for the mandatory seat reservations - in either class - 10 e per seat.
And when taking the official euro to dollar rate in the paper or online note that you never get the official rate - banks make money on exchanging so bump up fares a few percent and if using American credit cards to buy tickets in Italy (cards are accepted in station machines and at ticket windows once there) then add the 3% most card issuers seem to charge for foreign transactions.
For passes use the Saver Pass rate - about a 20% discount over solo passes for 2 or more people traveling together with two names on one pass.
And for loads of great info on Italian trains and railpasses (and $ prices) i always highlight these fantastic sites - www.budgeteuropetravel.com; www.seat61.com; www.ricksteves.com.
I am not sure a railpass will be better than point to point on your itinerary but it is easy for you to determine by comparing as i note above.
Palenque is offline  
Jun 19th, 2010, 01:00 PM
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It will be cheaper to buy point-to-point tickets. The ticket prices on Trenitalia include the seats. Rail passes do not include seats which are mandatory on most trains in Italy (AV,ES,ESCity,ICPlus,IC). If you are from the US, your credit card will not process on Trenitalia so you will need to buy your tickets in Italy.

Do Pisa as a day trip as it's only an hour by train (5.70€).

kybourbon is online now  
Jun 19th, 2010, 01:12 PM
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I am in the UK. Would you prebook the individual tickets?
tinks2111 is offline  
Jun 19th, 2010, 01:23 PM
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If you are in the UK, you might get your credit cards to work on Trenitalia. If you can, there are all kinds of discount tickets that require advance purchase. Some routes are as cheap as 19€ and others you save 15 and 30%.

All your train travel is pretty short (1 - 1 3/4 hours except for Milan/Venice 2 1/2) so 2nd class is fine.

If you are traveling with kids (under 12)there is also a family discount.

There are also bus options from Sorrento to Rome for 16-17€. Taking the bus lets you avoid changing trains in Naples and travel time is not much longer.
kybourbon is online now  
Jun 19th, 2010, 07:03 PM
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If you have a railpass, it will not be good on Circumvesuviana trains betwee Napoli and Sorrento. However, those tickets are very cheap.

The passholder reservation fee on EuroStar Italia trains is €10. On IC trains it is €3.
TimS is offline  
Jun 20th, 2010, 04:04 AM
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It will be cheaper to buy point-to-point tickets>

Have you prices this out - it seems with the OP's trains a pass may well be better priced - i have not priced out but will and report back.

Again i strongly suggest going first-class on Italian trains - there is a world of difference and then the railpass definitely would save money - pay no attention IMO to folks who say there is little difference between first and second class on Italian trains - it means to me that they have not ridden in first class. There is a reason Italians pay more to ride in first class - for a trip of a lifetime spent the relatively little extra and have a much much more leisurely experience on the train.
Palenque is offline  
Jun 20th, 2010, 04:11 AM
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Yes, I priced it out and there is not a world of difference between 1st and 2nd on AV or ES trains (OP wanted fastest trains). There is very little difference - a little bit wider seats in 1st and the OP's trips are short.

tinks - You can see for yourself that there is little difference. Here are pictures of the AV/ES trains.
kybourbon is online now  
Jun 20th, 2010, 04:58 AM
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Just got back from doing your trains

Train pass ALWAYS bad value in italy

Buy regional trains point to ponit like the locals do

from 2 euros per hour or Intercity trains from 5 euro hour

for example....

Milano Centrale to Venice on regional train from 10 euro

so pass makes no sense...have fun,
qwovadis is offline  
Jun 20th, 2010, 05:08 AM
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great thanks!

Did you pre book tickets? And did you use the fast trains?

tinks2111 is offline  
Jun 20th, 2010, 07:13 AM
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Train pass ALWAYS bad value in italy>

this is exactly the type of DISINFORMATION i am talking about - i have shown recently that railpasses in Italy can well be cost effective - and for anyone to say they are ALWAYS a bad deal means they simply have not compared prices for the trains the typical tourist end up taking - and they do not hop regional trains that take 2-3 times longer than the Eurostar type trains

Florence to Rome i took regional train and it took about 3 hours - twice as long as the Eurostar and regional trains are much less comfortable

so disregard IMO qwovadis's simply bad info - now if he/she had said taking only regional trains (and the few IC trains remaining as most have been converted to Eurostar type trains it seems) is always cheaper than a pass that would be correct but to say railpasses in Italy are ALWAYS a bad value is simply wrong info for the types of trains nearly every tourist ends up taking.
Palenque is offline  
Jun 20th, 2010, 07:45 AM
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Say if you want to take an IC train between Venice and florence instead of the faster Eurostar trains:

IC trains take 3 h 20 min and leave you at the Florence Rifredi station - in the suburbs so you have to hop a connecting train - taking more time to change trains - may be close to 4 hours and you also have to change trains in Padua - changing trains with luggage is always a hassle IMO

yet the direct Eurostar train Venice to Florence takes just 2 hours - no changing involved.

So yes IC trains are cheap but do you really want to take twice as long and have to change trains twice?

And if you took regional trains you'd take even longer - there seem to be no direct regional trains between Venice and Florence so you have to change in say Bologna

yes you can do a dirt-cheap Italian train trip by taking the much slower and less direct (having to change twice or more) but this is not what most tourists want to do.

And there are very few IC trains as well - whilst the Eurostar trains leave hourly or more.
Palenque is offline  
Jun 20th, 2010, 08:12 AM
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Just to chime in:

I hate traveling 2d class on Italian trains. It's less comfortable, often more crowded and noisy with people talking on cells and sometimes the air conditioning doesn't work.

ES trains are much faster if time is an issue.

Because I live in Italy, I don't use rail passes. But you have to do a side by side comparison with your actual itinerary to know which is the better deal.

For me, travel is part of the fun of traveling. Some people just pay the cheapest and endure it. I treat it like I would a hotel. I want clean, I want quiet, I want comfort, coffee. I want to enjoy the time I spend there.
zeppole is offline  
Jun 21st, 2010, 06:19 AM
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tinks - You can see for yourself that there is little difference. Here are pictures of the AV/ES trains.>

the newest of the AV/ES trains but not the ones most travelers will be taking - and yes a photo showing an empty train does not portray what it is like when full- like the overhead racks in 2nd class being chock full

and even the photos show IMO a dramatic difference between classes - note the isolated seat in first class - a window and an aisle seat - you can have them facing each other as in the photos with a table in between

note the second class same photo - two by two - no isolated seats in 2nd class

to me the isolated seat is infinitely better than sitting next to someone - an aisle and a window that's what i like

and the photos don't show 2nd class usually very full - thanks to deep online discounts i gather and in first class you often have empty seats to put your luggage one, etc.
Palenque is offline  
Jun 21st, 2010, 10:10 AM
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Just got back from doing your trains

Train pass ALWAYS bad value in italy

Buy regional trains point to ponit like the locals do>

Well if you do as locals do you will take the fastest trains, like the OP has state he/she wants to - do you really think locals would take regional trains say between Milan and Rome - besides the fact that there are probably no direct regional trains and you must change at least a few times it would take literally 3 hours or so longer

Here are some examples comparing regional and InterCity (IC) train times vs the fastest train times

Naples-Rome IC train 2:00 hours vs 1:10 on EsA train

Rome-Florence IC train 3:14 vs EsA 1:30

Florence-Milan IC 3:25 hr vs 1:45 EsA train

Milan-Venice Regional train 3:25; EScity 2:35

Rome-Milan IC trains 7 hrs vs 3.25 hrs EsA train

qwovadis i would speculate only took regional trains on the Milan to Venice route where the time difference is but one hour - because there are no high-speed capacity tracks on that route

Yet he/she makes out what is the case Milan to Venice - only an hour longer for lots cheaper and then applies it blindly to the rest of the country

Do you at any price want to spend 7 hrs Milan to Rome vs 3.25 hours and then have to change at least once?

No most tourists do not and i guarantee you most Italians do not either - the reason there are practically no IC trains any more in Italy.

Be careful what you read on the Internet - one person on one trip makes general assumptions that are just not true then boldly declares them as true.
Palenque is offline  
Aug 10th, 2010, 06:20 PM
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First I want to thank everyone who contributed to this thread. I found the information very helpful. I will be traveling to Italy in September for 12 nights from Boston, US. I will be staying 5 nights in Rome than traveling to Florence for 2 nights then Venice for 2 0r 3 nights and then return to Rome for a night or 2 before departing back to US. I'm still not certain how the pass works. I buy the pass in US and then need to buy reservations to cities i wish to travel to. from what i read and heard from experience travelers is definitely go 1st class Euro. I believe it will cost 28 Euro with Share Pass for 2 to go from Rome to florence 1st class. During mid September do I need to reserve in advance or can i just show up train station and get a reservation for the next train? Hope this posting generates some new post and discussion.
srmon is offline  
Sep 18th, 2010, 06:13 PM
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Could someone please explain the train symbols on the Trenitalia web site? For example, there's a red ES followed by something that looks like a misshapen sine wave; there's one that looks like IC italicized; another looks like an R; another looks like an E with the middle cross becoming an arrow.

Also, what happens if there's a strike? We have hotel reservations in Firenze and will travel by train from Venezie. If there's a strike, what do we do? Rent a car?
MaryB29 is offline  
Sep 18th, 2010, 06:18 PM
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Sorry for the typo on Venezia.
MaryB29 is offline  
Sep 18th, 2010, 06:31 PM
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The ES (EuroStar) with the asterix and the stylized red letters AV (which means Alta Velocita - High Speed) is the fastest of Italy's trains.

ESCity is a slightly older version of the EuroStar train, not quite AV.

IC means InterCity - it is a fast but not superfast train that only stops in a few places along the way.

The slightly cursive and faint (not bold) letter R stands for regional (/local) train, slower, no reservations required and seats probably not even numbered.

The slightly cursive letters EN stand for Europe Night - a night train with bunks called couchettes and sleepers of various comfort and price levels.

Sometimes you see the letter U in a double outline - that means a local feeder train, could be a light-rail or an underground/metro train.

When you enter your departure and target city, date (dd-mm-yyyy format) and time (24 hours format), you get a screen where you can make a selection on the far right that then brings up much more detail.

Try it. On the far right click a button of a train on display, then hit DETTAGLI PER SELEZIONE or whatever the English equivalent is.

Down below you see the times in more detail, and an explanation of symbols, and on the far right it tells you about reservations and class levels.

If you see the letter R inside a little box, then a seat must be reserved on that train and will come with the ticket you buy. If you travel on a pass, you will have to reserve and pay the reservation fee out of pocket, passes don't cover the reservation fees.

Hope this helps.
DalaiLlama is offline  
Sep 18th, 2010, 07:13 PM
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Strikes in general are well publicized, so you should be able to ascertain ahead of time is there will be a strike. Strikes last for a set period of time, sometimes a few hours, sometimes 24 hours.

Certain long distance trains are guaranteed to run, even during a strike. Here's a link that explains strikes:

ellenem is offline  

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