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Italy - specific questions re: train travel details/vaparettos

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May 4th, 2013, 09:10 AM
  #1
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Italy - specific questions re: train travel details/vaparettos

Hi all, we are off to Milan next week for two weeks. After much research on train travel and having booked our tickets, some details remain a mystery. Any help is much appreciated.

1. Do the Freccia trains announce train stops when approaching a station, or is there an electronic message board on the coaches? Or do we just go by the arrival time? How about the regionale trains?

2. I have read that the Varenna station is a bit tricky since it is small and the whole train does not arrive at the platform. So, how to know we are indeed there and can get off if our coach is not actually at a platform?

3. Malpensa Express from MXP to Milano Centrale - is this the best option or are the buses a better alternative?

4. In Venice, do the ferries announce the upcoming stops or are there signs at the docks?

Thanks so much, fellow Fodorites! I've always gotten such good information here.
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May 4th, 2013, 09:19 AM
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. In Venice, do the ferries announce the upcoming stops or are there signs at the docks?>

there are signs - big signs at every dock - get a Venice map from your hotel or tourist office and it will have all the stops on it.

Trains generally announced stops too but all stations have large letter signs on their walls you can see when coming in.
You can always ask the conductor about exactly when the train should arrive at your stop if running late. You can also print out an Italian railways map and keep track yourself of upcoming stations - print out a schedule I mean that lists all the stops - you can do this easily on www.bahn.de - the German Railways site that has schedules for all European trains - then just follow along - a good way to access the English-language bahn.de schedules is to go to to the home page of www.budgeteuropetravel.com and lcick on the link "best on-line train schedule" (or some such wording) and up pops the English schedule page where you put to From - Milan Centrale and To - Venice Santa Lucia (dead-end station in heart of Venice) - I reference this home page link because it also gives several helpful hints at using the Wunderbar bahn.de site that may not be apparent at first encounter. Again you can print out your excat train and all the stops and times they should stop there at this site - probably on trenitalia too but bahn.de to me is much easier to use.

If your coach is not on a platform simply walk up thru the train - you can walk from car to car to one that does empty onto a platform.
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May 4th, 2013, 10:03 AM
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There are electronic signs inside the Freccerosa/Argento, Frecce etc. trains; regionals do NOT have those signs. What stations are you worried about missing? Do NOT go by the arrival time although the train even if late probably won't be THAT late. Don't count on anyone making any announcements in any regional train.

At Varenna-Esino (the sign you will see at the station if you look out the window) it isn't tricky at all...you get out of the train where your coach is and you walk. The so-called "platform" is not a platform at all but simply a paved area. You are right that if you are at the very front or the very rear of the train that you may have to do a little walking not on pavement. Since those regional trains that go there do not require seat reservations I suggest you pick a carriage in the middle of the train to sit in. How will you know when you are THERE? When the train stops and you look out and see the station.

I assume you will be traveling there from Milan; if so, then the stop previous is probably going top be Lecco; sit on the LEFT side of the train facing forward for the best lake views which begin at Lecco.
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May 4th, 2013, 10:42 AM
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The train only stops at Varenna-Esino for ONE minute, so you need to be at the doors and ready to get off before the train arrives. Don't wait in your seat to see the sign for Varenna before getting organized. And, yes, if you're coming from Milan, the stop before Varenna is Lecco, and the travel time between Lecco and Varenna is about 20 minutes.

From Malpensa, I prefer the train over the shuttle bus. You can take trains to either the Centrale station or the Cadorna Nord station depending on which is closer to your hotel.

If you are going immediately from Malpensa to Varenna, without staying in Milan, there are additional options.
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May 5th, 2013, 07:54 AM
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If you are going immediately from Malpensa to Varenna, without staying in Milan, there are additional options.>

Like taking a train from the airport to Como and taking buses to Bellagio if that is where you are going.
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May 5th, 2013, 08:05 AM
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The Varenna-Esino platform is very narrow. When I last took this train from Milano, I picked the next to the tail end car of the train at Milano and the door opened right at the track crossing to the station building. I did not have to walk on the platform at all.
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May 5th, 2013, 08:12 AM
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>>>How about the regionale trains?<<<

They usually make announcements, but they are in Italian and you might not recognize the Italian name. On the regional trains that stop at small towns (fast trains don't stop at small towns), most stations are pull through (stations in big cities are usually pull in, back out) so the train may only have 1 minute scheduled for the stop. You need to know the stop before you want to get off so you can gather your luggage and be at the door. They won't wait around for someone still seated to do that as the train would be pulled out by the time you gathered things and got to the door.

>>>After much research on train travel and having booked our tickets, <<<

Don't buy tickets for R trains (regional trains) online as there are more restrictions. These trains can't sell out and don't offer discounts so there is no point buying in advance until in Italy.

To see the stops for R trains, enter your cities on Trenitalia, find the train for the time of day you want to travel. Next to the train number is an i. Click the i and you will get the list of stops. To find out how long they stop where you want to get off, you need to select a station past where you want to get off. Remember to validate your R tickets before boarding.
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May 5th, 2013, 09:50 AM
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Just the details I was looking for, especially the tips on Varenna. Many thanks!

I did think of one other question, do the trains themselves display their destination - once you are on the right platform according to the departure board, can you tell by looking at the front of the train where they are headed as a double-check?

We are taking multiple train rides and I'm sure after the first one we will feel more comfortable, but I'm a little anxious about getting on a wrong train.

Dukey1, thanks for the tip on sitting on the left side for lake views, we are indeed coming from Milan to Varenna.

Our trip consists of a flight to Milan, train to Florence the next day, one week horseback trip in Tuscany (Montevarchi area), train to Venice, 3 nights in Venice. Then train to Varenna via Milan, 2 nights there and back to Milan to fly home. Really wanted one more night in Varenna but couldn't work the FF miles out to make it fit.
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May 5th, 2013, 10:34 AM
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. Remember to validate your R tickets before boarding.>

good tip but only on Regional trains - or IC trains if you do not have a seat reservation on a specific train for them - tickets with pre-booked seats and discounted prices can only be used on that specific train (unless you change to full fare) so these need not be validated before boarding - at least that is how I understand it all.
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May 5th, 2013, 11:26 AM
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Your fast trains won't be a problem as they are pull in stations and usually will be in the station for 10-15 minutes.

For Milan, click on binari in the drop down menu to see the track layout.

http://www.milanocentrale.it/it/map/

On this link, scroll down to the electronic train boards and you will see what they look like, how to read them, etc.

http://www.roninrome.com/%20transpor...rains-in-italy
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May 5th, 2013, 04:23 PM
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kybourbon, awesome links! Thanks so much to everyone - we will indeed remember to validate our Regionale tickets. Our trips always go smoother with inputs from Fodorites. Great "insider" information.
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