Italy in late October

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Aug 4th, 2017, 06:23 AM
  #1
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Italy in late October

I had been wanting to visit Venice with my mom and I was able to snag a good sale price on airfare in/out of Milan. I'm now deciding how to proceed after arriving. We land in Milan on October 20 at 9am and depart from Milan on October 30 at 9am.

We are planning on a few nights in Bologna before Venice and then a last night in Milan before flying home. I have never planned train travel on an arrival day, how do you typically plan this to account for possible delays? And do I understand correctly that the Trenitalia Base Fare is the price we would pay if purchasing tickets on the spot and the other economy options pertain to advance purchase rates?

I am having a hard time deciding if we should continue on to Bologna on that arrival day (we'll be coming off of 12 hours air travel), or if we should crash in Milan that first night and head to Bologna in the morning. Crashing in Milan is probably the safer bet but I dislike that it sets us back a day. It would be ideal to wake up already in Bologna. It boils down to personal preference but it might be helpful to hear any first hand accounts of doing it one way or the other, please share if applicable.

Another possibility is to find a Milan hotel that offers a half day rate (supposedly the Sheraton does but I have not researched it yet). That way we could go straight there after landing, rest, shower then head off to Bologna later in the day. But I don't know if that would just be prolonging the travel pains unnecessarily?

My mom is 75, healthy, but doesn't live a particularly active life style and travel can cause her to become over stimulated/overwhelmed making it hard for her to get back to a normal rhythm right away.
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Aug 4th, 2017, 08:14 AM
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Safest bet is to stay in Milan, for the night. The point of this trip, you say, is to visit Venice with your mom, not to accomplish an efficient tour of Northern Italy.

Any number of things could toss a spanner into the works on your day of arrival -- flight delay, horrible weather, lost luggage (do try to do carry-on), your mom (or you!) really needing some actual rest. In late October it will be getting dark earlier, so you are likely to feel that jet lag.

Milano has lots of great options for buffets during the cocktail hour, so you don't need to stay up until 8pm to make your way through a full blown Italian restaurant meal. Suggest you plan some fun things to do in Milan for that first night -- but if it turns out you'd rather sleep, you'll be thrilled you booked a quiet hotel to do just that.
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Aug 4th, 2017, 08:27 AM
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I vote continue to Bologna. The train ride to Bologna from Malpensa is roughly 2 hours with 1 change at Milan Centrale. Unless you are staying close to the airport, you will have to take the train to Milan Centrale anyway, Bologna is just an additional hour on the Frecciarossa.

We were able to do it with 2 kids after an overnight trans-atlantic flight. My then 5 year old was fine but I realize that is a different energy level. Your mother sounds like me although I am not her age.
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Aug 4th, 2017, 09:25 AM
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We may be making this trip ourselves on our next trip to Italy (although it won't be until 2019). From what I can gather, there are both high speed and regional trains to Bologna. Certainly, it would be nice to opt for a high speed train were it me.

In trips past, we have just waited to buy regional tickets upon arrival in Rome; there was no benefit to prepurchasing them. Are the high speed trains between Malpensa and Bologna heavily discounted if you purchase in advance? If they're not, then can one just wait to purchase them?
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Aug 4th, 2017, 09:28 AM
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I recommend you compute realistic timing vs. listing options without doing sanity checks. For train timing, use www.trenitalia.com

>>>we'll be coming off of 12 hours air travel), or if we should crash in Milan that first night and head to Bologna in the morning.

Suppose you head to Milan hotel on landing
1. What time do you think you will be at the hotel?
2. What is the chance that you can get a room and crash?

If you are not willing to pay for a room to guarantee early check-in, what you think you can do is a probabilistic event. If they cannot let you in until the state check-in time, something around 3pm, what are you going to do in between?

Also this option ADDS one full hotel check-in/out cycle activity.

>>> Another possibility is to find a Milan hotel that offers a half day rate (supposedly the Sheraton does but I have not researched it yet). That way we could go straight there after landing, rest, shower then head off to Bologna later in the day.

There is a Sheraton very close to Milano Centrale. This solves the check-in uncertainty, but you are still left with ADDITIONAL one full hotel check-in/out cycle.

Once you arrive in Mialano-Centrale, it is one hour more to the Bologna. At which time you are getting closer to the time stated check-in time of the hotel - better chance that you can crash. You probably arrive in Bologna before the stated check-in time.

If I am landing at 9am in Malpensa, I would plan on catching the 11:45am or 12:45pm Milano-Venezia S. Lucia train. Even traveling this far, I would be at my hotel in Venice not too much after 3pm to be able to go straight to my room. I can also doze off on comfy train seat while traveling Milan-Venezia S Lucia. Where would you crash if you headed to Milan on landing and cannot check-in?

It appears counter-intuitive to keep on traveling to avoid getting too tired. But you have to actually validate your plan to see if the alternatives are actually better in addressing the issue.

Considering the additional cost and time expenditure of using Milan, was it still preferable doing a round-trip to Milan instead of to Venice?
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Aug 4th, 2017, 11:26 AM
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massimop and vipsha - you both hit on exactly my internal struggle!

Indyhiker - from what I gather, there was a direct service between Malpensa and Bologna at one time but it has been discontinued so there is no way around a change at Milano Central. This makes me lean in to staying put in Milan on night one. The changes are the hard parts of traveling, every change adds another stress. Sitting on a train is the easy part.

greg - A lot of your concerns are non issues as I am guaranteed early check in at starwood properties. If I decide for us to stay in Milan on night one then we'll be able to check in by the time we get to the Sheraton. Forget I said anything about that whole half day rate, there is no advantage since the regular rate (or points) is low at that time. As far as keeping on traveling to avoid getting tired being counter intuitive - The more we travel the more tired we are going to be, no way around that. However my usual strategy is to continue on to a final destination when coming in, since that day is shot on jet lag anyway, better to use it on getting additional land travel out of the way. BUT, my mom's comfort level is different than mine and that's the dilemma. Going straight to Venice seems definitely too much to put on her, since it's a longer train ride + a boat ride and maybe a small bit of walking to reach the hotel door and the hotel may not have a lift. All these things make a difference. We definitely can't continue to venice on arrival day, but perhaps Bologna since it's a bit easier, we can taxi from train station to hotel door and ours does have a lift (bologna hotel is booked, venice is still in the works). We saved about $2200 on airfare flying to Milan and this trip wouldn't be happening at all if I didn't catch that deal so yes it is without a doubt preferable to no trip Super bargain airfares are great motivators to take that trip!

Thanks everyone. The responses are pretty tied right now, so the more the merrier.

For now I'm holding rooms both in Bologna and Milan for night one so I have time to decide.

I'm still hoping for someone to confirm if I understand the fare options on Trenitalia
- the Base Fare is what we'd be paying if purchasing on the spot (meaning it is the highest possible fare) and the other Economy fares pertain to discounted advance purchase (and they disappear as the date of travel approaches because they sell out or maybe trenitalia just expires them).
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Aug 4th, 2017, 11:39 AM
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> Another possibility is to find a Milan hotel that offers a half day rate (supposedly the Sheraton does but I have not researched it yet).
Limmy are you referring to the Sheraton Malpensa? The day rate is ~$90 for September, I almost booked it once thinking it was the lowest overnight rate before I realized it was a day rate. . You can book it directly from the Starwood hotels website site.
Indyhiker, I checked my notes, sometimes the Frecci trains can get sold out. We ended up taking the regular trains sometimes which was not that much more time, the trains are comfortable.
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Aug 4th, 2017, 11:43 AM
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I always prefer to press on on Day 1 of travel, as I consider it a "lost" day anyway, but I'm not 75, have done it countless times until it's become habit, and I'd rather be in a fog on a train than trying to squeeze in a good night's sleep in a hotel and then have to face more traveling the next day. If I break up a trip like that I don't usually sleep well anyway.
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Aug 4th, 2017, 11:51 AM
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From what I can gather, there are both high speed and regional trains to Bologna. Certainly, it would be nice to opt for a high speed train were it me>

Yes they are discountd if you buy the limited number of discounted tickets far enough in advance but on such a short trip the savings may be little - can always get on -so many trains.

I love regional trains for short hops - they have no mandated seat reservations or even optional ones and are dirt cheap. I like stopping at small sleepy stations and going thru towns not skirting them like high-speed trains do in between Milan and Bologna -if a regional train has first class IME you may have a compartment to yourself(ves) - which I kind of like- easy to keep baggage at hand. With a valid ticket (cancel it yourself before boarding regional trains by sticking it in a cancelling machine or it will not be valid) you can board and get on and off at will that route for the validity period indicated - not sure but several hours or maybe days-ask when buying - nice to just hop off at a town and quick look around and back on.

For lots on Italian trains check: www.budgeteuropetravel.com; www.ricksteves.com and www.seat61.com - keen advice on booking your own discounted ticket which I think are available to maybe the day before if any remain - not sure exactly but not at ticket window I believe Italian train gurus have said here.
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Aug 4th, 2017, 11:51 AM
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Me too StCirq.
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Aug 4th, 2017, 11:58 AM
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Frecce trains between Milan & Bologna rarely sell out unless it is a holiday or Friday evenings at between 4-8pm
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Aug 4th, 2017, 12:01 PM
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Based on what PalenQ shared, I would just wait to buy tickets once I arrived. We, too, prefer to just press on. We did it the other way once (stayed a night in Rome instead of going directly to Umbria). Because we couldn't check into our hotel until the afternoon, I felt even more fatigued than if we'd pressed on.
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Aug 4th, 2017, 12:10 PM
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But they can check into their hotel.

Has your mother expressed an opinion? Some of my relatives would want to stop & sleep, some would want to press on -- although would obviously be willing to stop if others preferred. All would be mystified if plans of this sort were booked without their input.
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Aug 4th, 2017, 12:13 PM
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(even more mystified if they were told "I asked less than a dozen strangers on the internet and since more than half preferred one way for themselves, I booked it for you.")
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Aug 4th, 2017, 12:17 PM
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Welp, that settles it! A little bit of encouragement goes a long way, thanks you guys, helpful as always. We'll press on to Bologna.

As of now trenitalia is showing quite frequent fecce trains so hopefully we'll be able to get one. I really do not want a regional for this leg.

The base fare rules list access to unlimited changes so couldn't I purchase those now and if we are delayed I can change it to a later departure?
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Aug 4th, 2017, 12:24 PM
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Ha Massimop! But many here aren't strangers. I have read enough from them to have a sense for how agreeable we are.

My mother, like me sees the pros and cons of both ways. First she said she'd like to stay in Milan but then she said the idea of not opening her suitcase until Bologna sounds best.

The way vipsha laid it out did the trick for both of us - by the time we reach our Milan hotel we could just as well reach Milan Central instead and just have one hour left to go, so we might as well.
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