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Help with Italy/Austria/Switzerland Itinerary

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Feb 28th, 2014, 11:05 AM
  #1
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Help with Italy/Austria/Switzerland Itinerary

My college-age daughter will be studying in Castiglion, Fiorentino (Tuscany region) this summer and I plan to join her at the end of her studies for a 12-day trip. Here is the general itinerary with questions afterward.

July 1 - I arrive at Rome airport and travel by train to Castiglion, Fiorentino, where I'll stay at a B&B in town for 2 nights and meet up with my daughter
July 3 - travel by train from Castiglion, Fiorentino to Innsbruck (stay 3 nights at a property with hotel points)
July 6 - travel by train from Innsbruck to Salzburg (stay 2 nights at a hotel in the Old Town)
July 8 - travel by train from Salzburg to Lucerne, Switzerland (stay 3 nights at a B&B)
July 11 - travel by train from Lucerne to Milan (stay 2 nights at a property with hotel points)
July 12 - depart for U.S. from Milan

I'm thankful to have the general itinerary and hotel plans finalized. Now I'm trying to figure out travel between cities. With this type of itinerary, would it make financial sense to have a Eurailpass or just buy point-to-point tickets between cities? Also, are there any logistics to consider when traveling between countries? Any idea on train travel time between Salzburg/Lucerne and Lucerne/Milan? Any other tips for this itinerary would be greatly appreciated!
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Feb 28th, 2014, 11:27 AM
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Now I'm trying to figure out travel between cities. With this type of itinerary, would it make financial sense to have a Eurailpass or just buy point-to-point tickets between cities?>

It depends on whether you want flexibility to chose which trains to take once there - full fare and fully flexible tickets can cost a ton and a railpass lets you decide once you get to a city which train to take out - you can in Switzerland just hop on any train anytime on the ones you indicate - in Italy you have to make a seat reservation for 10 euros on top of the pass but as opposed to full fares a pass may be a good deal.

And a pass if you are over 25 years old is first class and that has significant benefits always - so when comparing prices keep in mind the pass is for first-class travel and fully flexible first-class travel can be really expensive and a pass then would make a good deal.

But i you want to book far in advance you can get nifty discounts say for trains involving Italy - in 2nd class especially but these are sold in limited numbers and thus must be booked weeks in advance to get and then cannot be changed nor refunded - but if that is OK that is no doubt the cheapest way - discounted restricted 2nd class tickets.

In Switzerland you may consider the 4-day consecutive Swiss Pass that would cover all Swiss trains and let you hop on any train or lake boat on Lake Lucerne - Lucerne is nice but not that much to do in the town itself so you may want to day trip some places.

For lots of great info on Swiss trains check out www.swisstravelsystem.com - for Italian and Swiss trains in general check www.seat61.com - great info on discounted fares - www.budgeteuropetravel.com and www.ricksteves.com - all informative sites with lots of good general info.
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Feb 28th, 2014, 11:30 AM
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Very helpful, PalenQ. Thank you! I would probably want to book specific times rather than be flexible. Given that scenario, would it be cheaper to buy tickets on specific trains beforehand rather than rely on a pass?
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Feb 28th, 2014, 12:12 PM
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In Italy, a rail pass never pays, even compared to full-price fares. You're best buying point to point tickets online. This is the site to use:

http://www.trenitalia.com/cms/v/inde...005817f90aRCRD

It's probably best to buy the tickets without registering on the site. Just make sure that before closing the browser window, you print out the final reservation page, which should have your carriage number, seat number, and PNR (reservation code). They will email you a confirmation, but even if you don't get it, this page will be sufficient to board the train. Sometimes emails end up in spam folders, and, specifically, Trenitalia seems to have a problem sending emails to addresses that end in .net.

You have to use the Italian names of the cities, e.g., Firenze, Venezia, and Milano, instead of Florence, Venice, and Milan. If you find the site too difficult to use, you can try http://www.italiarail.com , which has the same discounts, and prices in local currencies that are similar, allowing for exchange rates.

For travel on regional trains, you shouldn't buy the tickets online. These tickets are cheap and never have discounts, and never sell out. Just buy them at a train station, and use them when you want to. You have to stamp regional tickets in a little machine at the trackside just before you board the train, because they have open dates, and the stamp indicates when you've chosen to use the ticket. Regional tickets are not valid unless stamped, and you risk being fined for traveling without a ticket.
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Feb 28th, 2014, 12:14 PM
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Given that scenario, would it be cheaper to buy tickets on specific trains beforehand rather than rely on a pass?>

Yes - 2nd class discounted tickets would be your best best - check www.trenitalia.com for Italian fares and for trains involving Italy - www.sbb.ch - Swiss Railways for Swiss to Italy tickets - and again check out the 4-consecutive-day Swiss Pass for Switzerland though it depends on whether you stay put in Lucerne or travel around Lucerne - like on lake boats or a day trip to Engelberg and Mt Titlis - even Mt Pilatus the Swiss Pass gives you 50% off, etc. Consider a Swiss Pass and then for Italy the discounted tickets would be the way to go - no to any Eurailpass if flexibility is not key to you and many folks want to have things set in stone anyway.

check www.oeb.at/en for discounted Austrian tickets.
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Feb 28th, 2014, 12:20 PM
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By the way, the town is called Castiglion Fiorentino, with no comma. (There is more than one town in Italy called Castiglione, and the Fiorentino more or less means "the one near Florence".

All of the trains that go there are regional trains, so this is an example of a ticket you shouldn't buy in advance. Buy your ticket all the way to Castiglion at the airport travel station. There's a travel agent called something like Viaggi 365, just across from the window that sells tickets into central Rome. They'll give you two tickets, one for the Leonardo Express train into Rome, and one for the train to Castiglion.
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Feb 28th, 2014, 01:01 PM
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, one for the Leonardo Express train into Rome, and one for the train to Castiglion.>

expect a long walk in Termini potentially from where the airport trains come in and perhaps where yours leaves - use the free luggage carts but carry some euro cons to disengage them - you'll get the coins back when you return the cart to the rack - unless things have changed in the few years since I've done that. Beware anyone coming up to you in the station asking questions - there have been reports of thefts with distractions - just ignore anyone and keep going.
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Feb 28th, 2014, 01:10 PM
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Such helpful information. Thanks to all!

"For travel on regional trains, you shouldn't buy the tickets online. These tickets are cheap and never have discounts, and never sell out. Just buy them at a train station, and use them when you want to."

bvlenci, I'm assuming that non-regional trains would be Castiglion Fiorentino/Innsbruck and Lucerne/Milan, and regional trains would include Innsbruck/Salzburg and Salzburg/Lucerne. Is this correct?
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Mar 1st, 2014, 01:40 PM
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bvlenci, I'm assuming that non-regional trains would be Castiglion Fiorentino/Innsbruck and Lucerne/Milan, and regional trains would include Innsbruck/Salzburg and Salzburg/Lucerne. Is this correct?>

No - regional trains being talked about are those in Italy only - where any train marked R in schedules is a regional train where you cannot even make seat reservations if you want - you can in other countries.

Lucerne to Milan by regional (think 'local') trains would take forever with multiple changes of trains - you could take a regional train from Lucerne to Bern or some point to join the Bern to Milan Inter-City train - definitely not a regional train.

Regional or local trains stop at every little station and take forever - basically folks use them to get to nearby big cities where InterCity or IC trains take over.

Innsburck-Salzburg and Salzburg-Lucerne are not done by regional trains but RailJet or other express trains.
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Mar 2nd, 2014, 12:00 PM
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Just buy them at a train station, and use them when you want to."

I think there may be a time deadline on some regional trains - do not think tickets are valid for an unlimited time. And I believe you must cancel regional train tickets (Italy) yourself before getting on the train or you will be considered to be riding without a valid ticket - stick them in the cancelling machines - trains that require seat reservations which come with the tickets like all non-regional inter-city trains I understand you do not have to self cancel.
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Mar 2nd, 2014, 03:35 PM
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Always best to ask at the ticket window when buying a ticket about its validity period if not knowing what specific train you will be taking.
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