Train confusion....

Old Aug 8th, 2010, 01:02 PM
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Train confusion....

This train business is giving me a giant headache - I'm beginning to think I'm not a logical enough person, therefore, I'm hoping you can help me cut through the maze and simplify this for me. This is what we're doing:

Venice to Florence

Florence to Naples (and on to Sorrento via Circumvesuvia)

Naples to Rome

I've been on the Trenitalia website, and was successful in finding the schedules, and then the options of Base, Flessible and Meno 15, Meno30, all with different prices

I'm trying to find the most efficient way to go from place to place, so if I buy tickets right at the station or from a travel agent, will I have these same fare options?

Should I try to get tickets in advance, or get them at the station or TA? I guess I'm wondering the trains generally sell out?

From what I understand I don't think I can book from Canada by credit card?

What about the plan with 3 days travel in Italy within the month? If I opt for this one, does it include the Eurostar from Florence to Naples, or Naples to Rome?

From what I've gathered on this site, many don't appear to be in favour of this pass.

Thanks for any help you can offer. Now I'm off to take an extra strengh of something - maybe wine would be a good place to start!
markland is offline  
Old Aug 8th, 2010, 01:32 PM
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None of these routes ever "sell out".

While it's remotely possible that 2nd class seats on a particular train might sell out - you can always get another train that leaves 15 minutes later (and might be a slightly longer ride with more stops - or shorter with less stops).

Tickets worth buying in advance (you SHOULD be able to - see notes on problems below) are Eurostar tickets that need to be purchased in advance to get a discount - worth doing only if you are sure you will be able to leave at a particular time. If you want any flexibility, just get your tickets at the station (and pay full fare).

There are many reasons you may be having trouble booking from CA with a credit card: 1)Your credit card bank could be blocking what it thinks is a stolen number because you don't have a history of credit card charges in Italy, if so just call your credit card issuer and tell them you are using it to make charges in Italy to buy train tickets for an upcoming trip. 2)It is more than 60 in advance of the train trip 3)The particular train ticket doesn't have advance international booking (sometimes the case with region/local runs).

Regarding a pass vs. individual tickets - do the math. I can't imagine a pass would be cheaper, though.
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Old Aug 8th, 2010, 01:33 PM
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...more than 60 DAYS...
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Old Aug 8th, 2010, 01:40 PM
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Forget about any online discounts if American as apparently, as legions of Americans have found out to their dismay - trenitalia.com will not process American credit cards- so you have to buy tickets once in Italy (or use an agent like RailEurope.com who typically charges a bit more than you'd pay in Italy - still if you do not want to wait in line and have everything in hand the extra fee may be priceless- once in Italy if you are there long enough before your train then you may get the 7-day advance requirement price, etc - yet these tickets are sold in limited numbers and may well be exhausted - but ask anyway.

The 3-day in 2-month Italy Railpasses is probably not cost-effective for your 3 journeys, though it may be close - as to ride the faster trains with a railpass you still must pay 10 euros for a passholder seat reservation - so you have to add that to the price and you still must go to ticket windows to make the required reservation - or have someone like RailEurope.com make the mandatory seat reservation when you buy your pass - again for folks who want everything tied down and they just need to show up and get on the train.

And no do not worry about trains selling out - on your routings there are usually two trains an hour - in my four decades of Italian train travel i can say that you will have no trouble buying tickets with the obligatory seat reservations for a specific train once there. Just do NOT worry about that - even in the busiest periods.

And for some great info-laden sites with lots of info on Italian trains (and passes) I always spotlight- www.seat61.com; www.ricksteves.com; www.budgeteuropetravel.com - the latter would be one i would recommend if going the RailEurope.com route - a RE agent but one with great person service i can attest to in years of buying various railpsses from them - but again i would pre-book tickets thru an agent only if i or someone in my party was the type that just wants to show up and hop on the train - again you will be able to score tickets once in Italy - with a minor hassle of waiting in line, etc. And you can buy all your Italian tickets at once - at the Venice train station, etc.

From what I've gathered on this site, many don't appear to be in favour of this pass.> Yup this is the mantra of Fodorites in all cases it seems but i have shown in recent weeks how fallacious this is just by comparing prices of tickets and passes - that said you are not quite doing enough i think to make a pass pay off - one more longish rail trip and perhaps - or if you want to go first class (highly recommended IMO) then the pass may stack up better than vs 2nd class tickets.
So when you see a post 'a railpass for Italy is never a good deal just ignore it as misinformation - based on what once was true just last year - before Trenitalia jacked prices up across the baord for all EuroStar (ES, AV) high-speed trains that tourists will take.
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Old Aug 8th, 2010, 01:45 PM
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Venice to Florence

Florence to Naples (and on to Sorrento via Circumvesuvia)

Naples to Rome

We did that trip, both ways and didn't buy the tickets beforehand. We only checked online the times of the train to estimate when we should be by the terminal to buy the tickets. Most of those routes run hourly or a little more, so buying in advance doesn't give you any advantage, on the contrary if you arrive earlier as we did in one occasion allowed us to buy a ticket on the earlier train instead of waiting for the one we anticipated to take.

The train of terror as I call the Circumvesuviana runs each 10-15 mins so basically you need to go down from the Naples terminal to the lower level to catch it and it cost 3.40 one way.
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Old Aug 8th, 2010, 01:47 PM
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I asked for a ticket to Florence in the main station in Milan once and was told in English by the clerk that there was no Florence in Italy. I had been there before so I then said Firenze and got my ticket. A pretty mean trick I thought.
Incidentally you have to get yout ticket stamped in the station in Italy before you board the train and if you fail to do so you may be fined heavily.Train stations seem to have have robbers all over Italy and many other European cities so take care of your wallet.
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Old Aug 8th, 2010, 02:07 PM
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Thanks for all the advice. As always, very helpful.

I think the best thing is to stop sweating over this, and just get the tickets at the station and make sure they're stamped.

Can I buy hi-speed Eurostar tickets from the self-serve kiosk, and if so, can I reserve my seat there, or do we wait in line for reservations?
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Old Aug 8th, 2010, 02:22 PM
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>Can I buy hi-speed Eurostar tickets from the self-serve kiosk, and if so, can I reserve my seat there, or do we wait in line for reservations?

The ticket for any Italian train with mandatory reservations (pretty much any long distance train by now) already includes the reservation - and yes, of course you can buy them from a ticket machines
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Old Aug 8th, 2010, 06:06 PM
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>>>>Incidentally you have to get yout ticket stamped in the station in Italy before you board the train and if you fail to do so you may be fined heavily
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Old Aug 9th, 2010, 07:53 AM
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Not so for trains that require reserved seating such as the ES, AV, ICPlus, IC. Your ticket is for a specific train at a specific time with an assigned seat number>

What about full fare tickets that can be changed and refunded - why would not these need to be cancelled in case a controller don't come thru the train?

Or is the rule that these full fare and presumably fully flexible tickets must be changed before the train leaves and if not they turn to dust.

If kybourbon or altamiro or any other Trenitalia gurus could shed light on this i'd appreciate the insight. Thanks
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Old Aug 9th, 2010, 08:15 AM
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What about full fare tickets that can be changed and refunded - why would not these need to be cancelled in case a controller don't come thru the train?

I'm not sure if this will answer your question, but I had two tickets that we didn't get to use nor stamped for some short distances (15 eu each). When I went to buy our reservations for the tickets Rome to San Giovanni/Lake Como the ticket attendant credited the 30eu towards the price of our new reservations.

The other tickets that I bought inside Italy were mostly IC or Fecciarossa so they come with seat assignments those don't need to be validated or stamped and can't be refunded after the trip in case they are not used.
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Old Aug 9th, 2010, 08:42 AM
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A friend recently bought tickets at the RailEurope.com site, and found it very easy to use. His three legs from Rome → Spoleto → Florence → Rome, two of them first class, cost $142.

I just purchased advance ticket in Spain on the Spanish "Renfe" site. However, I was unable to use an American credit card. I do have a French credit card from the Crédit Agricole, and I was able to use that. The way it worked may shed some light on what the problem is with American cards. The Renfe site got to the point of accepting my credit card number, at which point it completely turned the transaction over to a web site of the bank, the French Crédit Agricole. The screen changed from Spanish to French, and my bank took over verifying the credit card.

This was a rather elaborate process. They sent a code via text message (an "SMS" message) to the cell phone number they had on file for me, and told me to enter it on the web page. Unfortunately, this was a number that hasn't been in use for years (it was valid only for the trip during which we opened the account). Then I noticed a link on the page that said (in French), "I am unable to receive the SMS message". This took me to another way of verifying my identity. I had to enter the 3-digit code on the back of my card, and then I had to enter my account number, which is not on the card. That worked, and I was approved.

After approval, I was returned to the Renfe web site to complete the transaction and print my tickets.

Thus, it seems to me that European web sites are using a new means of verifying card numbers, by turning the process over in real time to the bank that issued the card. American banks, I'm guessing, can't cooperate with this yet (I hope they will be able to at some point in the future), so American cards can't be used on these sites.

I'm just guessing about the above - I don't really know anything about it. But I have since gotten a letter from the Crédit Agricole that starts, "Le Crédit Agricole d'Ile-de-France renforce son dispositif de sécurisation des paiements sur Internet par carte bancaire afin d'apporter une meilleure protection contre d'éventuelles utilisations frauduleuses. That is, "The Crédit Agricole is reinforcing its apparatus for securing bank card payments by Internet, in order to bring better protection against possible fraudulent usage." They then go on to describe the verification system I encountered.

- Larry
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Old Aug 9th, 2010, 09:15 AM
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>What about full fare tickets that can be changed and refunded - why would not these need to be cancelled in case a controller don't come thru the train?

Because contrary to the Northern/Central Europe, there are no "fully flexible" tickets for long-distance trains in Italy any more. Even the "flessible" tarif simply means that you can exchange a ticket for an earlier or later departure - but you still have to go to the counter and physically exchenage the ticket. And the window of opportunity for exchanging closes a certain time (1 hour??) after the initially planned departure. The ticket is still bound to a certain train.

Italian train system used to be similar to the German one, but now they move over to the Spanish model. At least they still have some routine overcapacity till the last moment, unlike Spain.
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