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Micheled Oct 15th, 2010 09:27 AM

Train in Italy
My husband and I have finalized our itinerary for Italy. We arrive Oct 22nd for 4 nights in Rome, then we will go to Florence for 5 days, back to Rome for 3. We have to stick to this itinerary as we have some commitments. My question is what is the best way to get from Rome to Florence- Im confused by the different trains. We also plan to do some trips from Florence based on weather and what we are feeling at the moment. Will concider Siena, Assisi, Venice, Cinque Terre, & San Gimiggnano. Would it make sense to rent a car, use trains or take buses for day trips?

Mimar Oct 15th, 2010 09:39 AM

Florence makes a poor base for driving daytrips. Parking is expensive, and the locals-only driving zones (ZTLs) surround and include the old town. Use the bus to go to Siena and San Gimignano, the train for Venice and the Cinque Terre.

Assisi is probably too far for a day trip. It's 3 hours by train and then you need to get yourself from the train station up to the old town, some distance. If you drove, it will still take 2 hours each way.

Likewise the CT is pretty far. Minimally 3 hours by train.

enzian Oct 15th, 2010 09:40 AM

No need to feel confused. Look at the Trenitalia webiste (, not Raileurope. You'll see there are fast ES trains ("FRECCIARGENTO" or "FRECCIAROSSA") trains departing every 30 minutes. These a more expensive than the slower IC and Regional trains, but are well worth it if you value your time. The journey is 1:35 minutes instead of 3 hours or more, and the trains are very comfortable. Second class is fine.

I will let someone else advise you on daytrips from Florence.

Micheled Oct 15th, 2010 09:42 AM

Thanks Mimar, What train from Rome? We will have large suitcases and traveling around 5pm.

ttrent Oct 15th, 2010 10:02 AM

Mimar is right, you don't want to have a car in Florence. Look at as Enzian suggests. It's an easy site to use. Just click "English" at the top. The main challenge will be getting to/from the train station with large suitcases. May have to rely on taxis for that.

Micheled Oct 15th, 2010 10:09 AM

Thanks everyone- Can we wait and buy the tickets at the station in Rome?

enzian Oct 15th, 2010 01:10 PM

Yes. With so many trains, they do not generally fill up, unless it is a holiday or something unusual. for the ES trains, seat reservations are required and included in the price of the ticket. You need to buy them at least an hour in advance to have a seat assigned. I like to buy them the previous day to avoid a last-minute rush if the ticket lines are long. You can buy them at any station, so I like to pick a small one rather than the main station which may be busy. On the other hand, the large stations have lots of ticket machines. They are easy to use, and have options in English.

bayguy Oct 15th, 2010 01:28 PM

You don't necessarily have to buy the tickets an hour in advance to get a reserved seat. We bought our tickets from FL to Rome last month about 15 minutes before the train left and were automatically assigned seats.

ellenem Oct 15th, 2010 01:31 PM

"You need to buy them at least an hour in advance to have a seat assigned."
This is old information from when the reserved seats were marked with a paper label and the conductors needed time to add the labels. Reserved seats are no longer marked, since ALL seats on this type of train are reserved.

enzian Oct 16th, 2010 06:59 AM

Thank you for the corrections. The one time we bought our tickets close to departure (for an IC train this past June) we did not get reserved seats. The ticket indicated we paid for first class but did not have reserved seats. Fortunately the car was not full and we just sat where we wanted. I assumed this was because of the one hour thing but it sounds like that no longer applies.

ellenem Oct 16th, 2010 07:04 AM

ES trains always had reservations included, no matter how close to departure. Not true of IC trains, for which reservations were optional in the past. If this as your experience this past June, I am surprised.

PeaceOut Oct 16th, 2010 09:32 AM

Venice and the Cinque Terre would not be feasible day-trips from Florence. San G is, via train/bus.

nytraveler Oct 16th, 2010 10:52 AM

Agree that Venice and CT are awfully far for day trips unless you're willing to get up at 5 am and catch a very early train. Even the fastest trains will take substantial time - and given the dates it will get dark fairly early - and you time in each place would be limited.

Check out schedules at the first fast train leaves Florence at 8:30 and arrives in Venice at 10:30 - so a good part of the day is already gone. there are earlier trains, but they are slower or locals - so you will spend more time in travel and not arrive much earlier. So - you would have from 11 to 4 or 5 to actually see anything in Venice - not much given spending 4 to 6 hours on a tain.

markland Oct 16th, 2010 04:43 PM

I took all the general advice about not being concerned about getting train tickets ahead of time, and it was BAD advice for us. We got to the Venice train station 40 minutes ahead of a 10:27 am train - it was fully booked; the 11:27 also fully booked, there was no 12:27 train. Finally got seats on the 1:27 pm train to Florence. Maybe it was because it was a Saturday, maybe because it was a nice, sunny day, maybe it was just bad luck for us - who knows why, but we booked every ticket from then on ahead of time, for our peace of mind.

We took the Eurostar everywhere, and did 2nd class, which was just fine. The trains were on time and clean, and really, a breeze to use.

ellenem Oct 16th, 2010 04:45 PM

Did you try to book both first and second class tickets on the 10:27? Just wondering if it was only second class that was full.

markland Oct 16th, 2010 04:58 PM

No, everything was full until 1:27. I would have gone cattle car if it was available!

GAC Oct 16th, 2010 05:29 PM

The best advice is to try to book high-density long-distance routes popular with tourists (such as Venice/Rome) no later than the day beforehand. This advice also applies to Milan/Venice (very high-density) and Venice/Florence (same trains as Venice/Rome). If this is not possible, one does run the risk (actually experienced by markland) of not getting one's train of first choice, and sometimes not even the second choice.

Today, all trains in Italy, save the "regionale" trains, have seats automatically reserved upon ticket purchase. Nevertheless, many trains have a railcar in each class of service with unreserved seats for passengers who choose to "hop on" at the last minute without changing their previously reserved seat on a different train (these passengers are assessed a surcharge of 8 Euros, plus any difference in fare between the two trains). Also, sometimes unreserved seats are sold at the last minute when all reserved seats are sold out, but there are likely to be available unreserved seats in the unreserved railcar of the train.

Remember, NO SEAT RESERVATIONS on any of the "regionale" trains!

ellenem Oct 16th, 2010 06:32 PM

Good to know, markland. Unless it's an R train, I usually buy my tickets a day or two ahead since I like to just go to the station and hop on the train. I guess the few times I've bought tickets the same I've had good luck, although it might be that I travel off season. This is a good warning for those traveling at busier times.

Mimar Oct 17th, 2010 07:07 AM

In a strange town, I like to drift by the train station a day or two ahead of time to check it out and buy tickets.

However, if you don't want to take time out of your sightseeing to do that, you can buy Italian train tickets at travel agencies. As you're walking around Rome, look for a travel agency with the Trenitalia logo in the window. There's sure to be somebody who speaks English.

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