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Itinerary plus car and train info . Please help!

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Oct 10th, 2014, 11:49 AM
  #1
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Itinerary plus car and train info . Please help!

So, as posted earlier, we have a companion ticket that expires April 6th. The only time the airlines had for us was March 16-April 2, flying in and out of the same city, Rome. We have taken to heart in the past the suggestions of this board to not backtrack, but we had no choice this time. This is the plan so far, please give feedback, thoughts?!?

March 17th: arrive in Rome around 1pm. We are planning on taking the train that day from Rome to Florence. I know it will be a difficult day, but I just don't want to stay a few days in Rome and then at the end, spend a night again in Rome to catch our flight that leaves around 10am. Train recommendations? Fastest way? I understand tickets go on sale 120 days before? Is this correct?

Florence March 17, leaving March 22. I know that 5 days is a lot, but the first day will be a total waste with traveling & I know we will take it slow the next cause we will still be getting over jet lag. So, really only 3 days.

Rent a car on March 22nd from the airport since it's Sunday and many car rental outlets in town seem to be closed.

Now, the question…..who to rent from? In France, we rented from AutoEurope. I thought Kemwell was the same as AutoEurope, but their cars are different. We can get a diesel from Kemwell, but not AutoEurope. Any other suggestions?

March 22-March 25 Castellina staying at Fattoria Tregole. Explore the area, wine tasting, cooking class.

March 25-28 Pienza staying at Terre di Nano at house Casetta. I know these 2 areas are close together, but if you look at the pics of Casetta, I had to go there. Plus, I thought it would be nice to have our own kitchen and take things really slow in order to gear up for Rome. Thoughts?

Drive the 28th to Rome & drop car off at airport. Which one?

That's pretty much it. What am I not taking into consideration? Thanks for any help. I am so jealous when I read trip reports that have a month to spend! I hope to do that someday.
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Oct 10th, 2014, 12:22 PM
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Trains booked far in advance can get a sweet discounted fare but keep in mind those tickets are train-specific and I believe either non-changeable at that fare (at full fare I think yes - paying the difference in fares but not sure) nor can they be refunded (I think not sure) so if landing at taking train into Rome - the best way the Leonardo Express to Termini then high-speed train to Florence - build in some fudge-factor time due to the restrictions on changing or refunding tickets.

And Termini station has beaucoup nice enough restaurants and caffes to idle time away in if you have to.

www.trenitalia.com is the official site of the Italian State Railways but is very fickle for many here to actually get to work with American credit cards and in general. www.italotren.com is a competitor to Tren Italia and has low fares even I believe on a walk up basis (not sure check their site). RailEurope in the U.S. now sells some Italo Tren tickets at about the same price as on their site but with TrenItalia tickets they can cost a lot more marked up price. www.raileurope.com - always check - if you can get a low fare and then some how miss the train due to airplane snafus you will not be out as much perhaps as with Tren Italia.

Walk up tickets can cost a lot more but for Rome to Florence will not break the bank.

For general info on Italian trains I always spotlight these IMO fine sources: www.budgetueropetravel.com; www.ricksteves.com and www.seat61.com - the latter great info on discounted fares.
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Oct 10th, 2014, 01:07 PM
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Have you considered dropping off your car in the morning in either Chiusi or Orvieto and taking the train into Rome?
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Oct 10th, 2014, 01:08 PM
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And, honestly, 5 days is not a lot for Florence. It is one of the major cities of history and italy.
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Oct 10th, 2014, 01:18 PM
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I don't think five days is a lot for 4th. There's so much to see there. Have fun.
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Oct 10th, 2014, 01:19 PM
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I meant for Florence
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Oct 10th, 2014, 01:29 PM
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PalenQ, thanks for all the train info. That's just what I needed! Will check the sites you listed.

Sandralist, I did think about dropping off the car at Orvieto, but couldn't decide if I wanted to be locked into a schedule or just take our time getting back to Rome. Is there a reason that this could be a good idea?
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Oct 10th, 2014, 01:35 PM
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Nice trip--love your accommodations in Tuscany.

I agree, drop the car in Orvieto and book with Hertz via Kemwel. Here are more driving tips:


DRIVING IN ITALY & SOUTHERN EUROPE

Q. SHOULD WE DRIVE IN ITALY?
A. Of course you should if your driving skill & confidence would allow you to drive a rental car in Vermont, Colorado or California. But, be advised of these tips:
* Avoid driving in the major cities except for picking up or dropping cars
* Have good maps—study them in advance—and have a GOOD NAVIGATOR.
* Stay in the right lane except when passing and use your rear view mirrors

Q. WHAT CAR SHOULD I GET AND WHERE DO I GET IT?
A. It is best to rent your car before you leave for Europe. The best source we have found is www.autoeurope.com [888-223-5555] who is a broker for several car vendors. They will quote you prices to include the variables that are often omitted by others, such as unlimited mileage, mandatory insurance coverage with some deductibles, and VAT taxes. It is wise to compare prices and coverage with their sister company at www.kemwel.com. Autoeurope will match any comparable quote, and are famous for their customer satisfaction if problems do arise with the vendor. The best model will depend on your needs, but for best value we suggest you select a compact car with manual transmission. Automatics are available but will cost you about 30% more and may limit your model options & pick up locations.

Q. ARE ITALIAN DRIVERS AS CRAZY AS I HAVE HEARD?
A. Yes & no! They are certainly aggressive, but they are also more skilled than many USA drivers—both are a function of necessity. Italy is one of the most crowded countries in the world and the drivers have evolved these characteristics
* They are notorious tailgaters. If that bothers you, pull over and let them past.
* On the AUTOSTRADE they will drive fast, but will stay in the right lane except when passing and will use their blinkers when passing—YOU SHOULD TOO !
* They will often pass on 2-lane roads with traffic coming. Frankly, they expect you, and the oncoming car, to adjust to the shoulder and make 3 lanes of traffic.

OTHER ROAD TIPS FOR YOUR DRIVING SANITY:
1. Learn the meaning of the sign “ SENSO UNICO” and take heed [ONE WAY ].
2. Be sure to get your ticket when you enter the AUTOSTADA system & be prepared to pay the toll when you exit it [ rule of thumb—300 km=15 Euro]. You can use your credit card in the VIA lane at the toll both, or buy a debit VIACARD in advance.
3. Do NOT attempt to follow road numbers—that will frustrate you. But, do pay attention to the directional signs that point to your destination [ TO MONTALCINO]. And, be aware if that road leads eventually to a larger city [ ROMA—SIENA ETC.]
4. Unless you have a diesel car, you will want to fill the tank with benzina from the green pump. Most stations will pump gas for you and will take credit cards.

NOTE: As of 2005, an International Drivers Permit [IDP] is required in Italy. You can obtain them from your local AAA office. You will need a valid US driver’s license, two passport photos, and $20. The photos can be taken at the AAA office.
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Oct 10th, 2014, 01:49 PM
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AutoEurope and Kemwel are sister companies (whatever that means) and operate out of the same location in Portland, Maine. I have rented from both and have no hesitation in recommending either. Just went with whichever had what I wanted. I prefer to speak with their agents when booking. They are very knowledgeable and helpful. In the US: AutoEurope - 888-223-5555, Kemwel - 877-820-0668
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Oct 10th, 2014, 04:01 PM
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Italo trains don't operate from Rome's Termini station, so I would stick with Trenitalia for the trip to Florence. The discounted tickets can't be refunded, and can only be exchanged for a full price ticket on a different train up until the day before travel. This means that if your flight is late, causing you to miss the train, your ticket becomes a very expensive bookmark. Even the full-price tickets can be exchanged only up to one hour after the train's scheduled departure.

I never buy a ticket for an onward trip that depends on the arrival of a flight. It's just too unpredictable. I used to buy tickets in advance, allowing a comfortable cushion in case my flight was late, but I realized that there's one thing worse than missing a train, and that's sitting in a train station after an overnight flight watching a train (or two) leave that you could have caught. Now I buy my tickets at the airport train station, and consider the extra expense to be well spent. The last time I was there (8 months ago), if you wanted tickets for a destination other than Rome, you had to buy them from the travel agent across from the official ticket window. She had a little ticket window of her own, and sold the tickets at the regular price with no commission. So you could get your tickets from the airport into Rome, and from Rome to Florence there, and you'll be sure that it's a train that you'll be able to catch.

I don't consider the restaurants in Termini station to be either beaucoup or terribly nice, unless you're a fan of Chef Express.

On the way back to Rome, I agree with Sandra that it might be a good idea to turn the car in at Chiusi or Orvieto, if that's possible, and take the train to Rome. The trains from these stations are almost all regional trains, which have no discounts, nor reserved seats, so there's no advantage (and one big disadvantage) to buying them online. You can buy them at any train station, as they're not for a specific train or date. In fact, it might be best to buy them at the airport station, while you're buying the outbound ticket.

The rental agencies at Chiusi and Orvieto have limited hours, and are not open at all on Sundays, so check to be sure whether you can get there when they're open.

Both airports are on the opposite side of the city from Tuscany. If you decide to drop the car at an airport it doesn't much matter which airport you use; Fiumicino is the only one with a train station at the airport. Both have buses into the city.

Be aware that even small towns have ZTLs (limited traffic zones). When visiting a small town, it's best to park outside the center (or the city walls) and walk in. A red circle on a white ground always means that access if forbidden to some or all traffic. If there's a picture of a truck inside the circle, trucks are prohibited. If there's nothing inside the circle, all traffic is prohibited, although they usually allow certain categories to enter, such as residents or emergency vehicles.

A white arrow on a blue ground means that you must turn in that direction. More often than not, it doesn't say "Senso unico" on the sign. You should familiarize yourself with Italian driving signs, which have only slight differences from the universal international signs. Here is one source:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Road_signs_in_Italy

You must have an IDP (International Driver's Permit) to drive in Italy if your license isn't in EU format. This has to accompany your normal driver's license; it isn't a substitute. Some rental agencies don't ask to see one before renting the car, but if you have any involvement with the police while driving, you'll be expected to show both. I take it that you're from the US or Canada; you can get an IDP at AAA or CAA cheaply and quickly. It's even cheaper and quicker if you bring your own passport-sized photos. You can take them in a photo booth, or you can take your own.
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Oct 10th, 2014, 04:10 PM
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topeater,

If you are dropping off the car on a Saturday then you will need to drop it off before 1pm if you drop it off in Orvieto or Chiusi. After that, the rental offices will close -- although they will stay open at Rome's airports. If you are coming from southern Tuscany and don't want to lock yourself into a morning drop-off, then FCO is probably the simpler airport drop-off.

One reason many people drop off their car in Orvieto is the opportunity to visit Orvieto, in particular to see the uniquely beautiful facade of its cathedral (and the important frescoes inside). Many people also simply like the town itself. If that appeals to you. I think other people have tips about where to leave your luggage while you have lunch and look around after dropping off your car. I've forgotten what the trick is (or if it still exists).
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Oct 10th, 2014, 05:32 PM
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I agree with bvlenci about buying arrival day train tickets when you get to FCO. The Leonardo Express is a regional train so there are no reserved seats or discounts.

If you decide to drop the car in Chiusi or Orvieto, they close at 1 for the afternoon (open again around 4 weekdays). If you don't mind waiting until 4 or so, you could visit a town or two (Montepulciano? Orvieto?) and take a later train to Rome. There are hourly trains until 9 or so. Travel time to Rome is a little over an hour from Orvieto.
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Oct 10th, 2014, 06:50 PM
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I will agree with the advice to drop your car in Orvieto. It's very easy, just a block from the station. Orvieto remains one of my favorite towns in Italy and there is much to see and do there. I would even recommend staying overnight. You would have a place to leave your bags while you sightsee, have time to enjoy the passegiata, and a fabulous dinner (great restaurants). Train to Rome the next morning.

Chuisi is also an easy pick up/drop location. I didn't visit the city so can't comment on it for sightseeing.

Buon viaggio!
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Oct 10th, 2014, 09:48 PM
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If a toll free number for Auroeurope is available, speak with a rep as opposed to the web site.
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Oct 11th, 2014, 03:59 AM
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There's an easy way to deal with the luggage if you're returning a car in Orvieto and want to visit the city: turn in the car after you've visited the town, and keep the luggage (well hidden) in the car during the visit.
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Oct 11th, 2014, 06:37 AM
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There is a big parking lot below the train station in Orvieto (free the last time I parked there) and you can take the funicular up to the town (across the street from the front of the train station).

>>>It's very easy, just a block from the station.<<<

The Hertz office is, but I'm not sure about others if you end up with another provider.
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Oct 11th, 2014, 07:46 AM
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Hopefully this response is not too late for you to read; I notice we have not heard ANY responses from the OP which is always a bit troubling.

I would agree with the above recommendation of not buying any advance train tickets from Rome to Florence. By not doing so you will spend more money than buying in advance but you'll LOSE money if you miss your train as we did a couple years ago.

We ended up buying new tickets using one of the machines at Termini (the ticket windows aren't worth the wait) and used our ATM/Debit card to buy the tickets. If you end up using a machine do NOT allow any of those "helpful" passers-by to help you because if you do they will end up demanding money from you to repay them for their "help."

Different ticket machines accept different payment forms; be careful which type you use; they are marked accordingly.

As has been stated, AutoEurope and Kemwel are sister companies; they often have a different auto inventory even at the same location and the prices can be different as well for identical types of car.

If the car you rent is not an automatic make sure you know how to get it into reverse before you drive off. That maneuver isn't always as intuitive as you'd expect (don't ask me how I learned this the hard way in France).

I have found that a GPS has always been of tremendous help in Europe and that way I have no need to BURDEN another person with trying to "be a good navigator."
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Oct 11th, 2014, 07:48 AM
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I'm Ok with buying train tickets a head of time for Rome to Florence as we always purchase travel insurance which will cover the cost of the tickets if the plane is delayed. With being jet lagged, I would rather everything be as easy as possible!

Is this correct? We land in Rome, take a cab to Termini station for the train? For buying tickets, I was thinking about leaving a 3 or 4 hour difference between landing and the time for the train. How long would it take to get from the airport to the train station on a Monday around 2pm?

Thanks to all regarding the car info. And to bobthenavigator, the driving tips! I think my husband will fit right in as he drives a little sports car and has been known to be a bit aggressive. He's always driving 30 mph faster from my seat!
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Oct 11th, 2014, 08:00 AM
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bvlienci,

If someone is dropping off a car in Orvieto on a Saturday, then need to return the car by 1pm. What to do with the luggage is an issue if they would like to include lunch in Orvieto as part of the visit.

I thought I had read several times on Fodor's that there is a cafe that will hold luggage, or a nearby hotel, or something like that. I was hoping somebody else would be able to offer info.
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Oct 11th, 2014, 11:12 AM
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>>>>Is this correct? We land in Rome, take a cab to Termini station for the train? For buying tickets, I was thinking about leaving a 3 or 4 hour difference between landing and the time for the train. How long would it take to get from the airport to the train station on a Monday around 2pm? <<<<

Assuming you are landing at FCO and not Ciampino, the airport train station is right there (across the street). A ticket into Rome Termini station on the Leonardo Express (does not make any other stops) is 14€. The train departs every 30 minutes and travel time is 30 minutes. Taxi is a set fee of 48€ from FCO to central Rome IF you use an official Rome taxi (city of Fiumicino taxis are around 60€ and rogue taxis could be any amount). The shuttle bus (Rome Sitbusshuttle) is about 5€, but only departs hourly and would take longer than the train (about an hour). Travel time for taxi would depend on traffic which of course does not affect the train.

FWIW - The Sitbusshuttle ticket can be purchased online and is good for the entire day.

http://www.sitbusshuttle.com/en/
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