Train travel in Italy

Old Sep 11th, 2011, 09:44 AM
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Train travel in Italy

Hi All,

I'm planning an 18 day trip at the end of November and the beginning of December to Europe that starts in Rome and ends in Zurich. It's been 11 years since I was last in Europe and I'm totally confused with the train travel options.

Hopefully you guys can help because I'm completely baffled.

Rough Itinerary:

Rome
Val d'Orcia region (likely renting car)
Florence
Bologna
Venice
Verona (maybe)
Piedmont Region (Maybe)
Zermatt
Zurich

Should I be purchasing directly from trenitalia? Is it recommended to buy on a leg by leg basis or some sort of bulk purchase. Or do I go with buy a euroail or raileurope pass.

This is going to be a long trip so I am trying to be budget conscious in regards to travel. Any advice or recommendations are greatly appreciated.

Thanks!
Naomi_Comerford is offline  
Old Sep 11th, 2011, 11:08 AM
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You can get discounts of I believe about 20% with so-called Mini Fares directly from trenitalia.com but there I believe are restrictions and those are train=specific and may be hard to change and should be booked fare in advance. Once in Italy you will never have IME of years of hopping Italian trains, have any problem getting on trains by buying the same day or before - zillions of trains.

Actually you have several train trips so the Italy Railpass may even come into play - especially for first class travel which my decades of Italian train riding makes me highly recommend for the average tourist, especially those with luggage in tow - significantly more relaxed, bigger seats, often many empty seats to spread out on, etc.

For tons of great info on Italian trains check out www.trenitalia.com for regular fares and schedules and possible discounts and www.seat61.com; www.budgeteuropetravel.com; www.ricksteves.com. And on Fodor's search for kybourbon and GAC, two of the most informed Fodorites on Italian trains and using www.trenitalia.com, which has in the past often caused problems for novice users but helpful folks like kybourbon are always around to help with that. Passes must be bought before getting to Italy and online discounts should be booked as early as possible - regular fares can always be booked in Italy so do not have fear of getting on trains.
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Old Sep 11th, 2011, 11:14 AM
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Adding to PalenQ's excellent summation since you are budget-conscious . . . Keep in mind that even if you purchase an Italy railpass, for all but the slowest trains you will need to purchase a separate seat reservation for the particular train you intend to ride. Seat reservations cost 3€-10€ depending on the type of train. A regular point-to-point ticket includes the seat reservation.
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Old Sep 11th, 2011, 11:24 AM
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Others will give you rail advice --but there are huge red flags in your plan IMO.

It is in winter and you want to visit up to nine cities/regions in just 18 days.

That will give an average of about 1 full day in each place (when you subtract all the travel time)

Even if you take out your two 'maybe' destinations-- still 7 major places in 18 days. Less than 2 days in any of them (after all the travel)

When you factor in the likelihood of wintry weather -- this will be a real slog. Just a LOT trains/train stations/checking in/checking out.

Not only will you have little time for exploring/sightseeing . . . You are on a budget and all the travel definitely adds to your costs
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Old Sep 11th, 2011, 02:21 PM
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I agree---cut that list to a max of 6 destination. I would drop the maybes and and sub Luzern for Zermatt.
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Old Sep 11th, 2011, 05:00 PM
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What an amazing list of resources and ideas - thank you everyone!

We decided to stay away from the rail passes after reading an extremely thorough explanation of train travel in Italy on www.seat61.com. We will opt to book the mini passes online when available otherwise we will go with the standard tickets.

Regarding the itinerary, I've been to Rome, Florence and Venice before but my travel companion has not. We were trying to strike a balance. I wanted to get off the beaten path a bit while not sacrificing the "must" first time places but perhaps it is too ambitious.

We will likely scale it back to:

Rome
Val d'Orcia region (renting car)
Florence
Venice
Zermatt
Zurich

We do not plan on spending any time in Zurich outside of the night before we fly back to Miami.

bobthenavigator, as much as I would love to visit Luzern we are planning on skiing in Zermatt so it is a must for us this trip. Perhaps if we find we have an extra day at the end of the trip we can stop in Luzern.

Thank you again for all of the wonderful suggestions!
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Old Sep 12th, 2011, 06:55 AM
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For a pass to be worthwhile in Italy, you generaly need to be doing Rome-Venice every pass day, or equivalent. If only Rome-Florence or Florence-Venice or less, buy normal tickets.

That advice assumes you want 1st class full-price flexible travel. If you're happy to travel 2nd class (Eurail passes only come as 1st class, unless you're a 'youth' under 26) then even a Rome-Venice every day trip might be cheaper with noral tickets, especially if you can pre-book and fix your itinerary, so you can buy discounted 'Mini' fares.

The maths looks something like this:

Eurail pass: 55 to 69 euros per day 1st class depending on duration of pass and whether it covers just Italy or is 'global'. 10 euros reservation fee to add for every high-speed inter-city journey, so 65-79 euros per day to beat for the pass option, 1st class, no 2nd class Eurail pass exists unless you're under 26.

Rome-Florence is 63 euros full-price 1st class, 44 euros 2nd class full price, or perhaps just 19 euros 'Mini' 2nd class pre-booked. hence cheaper than a pass if that trip is all you do in one day. Florence-Venice is a very similar price range, so the same conclusion applies.
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Old Sep 12th, 2011, 06:56 AM
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Oh, and yes, book direct with zero booking fees at www.trenitalia.com.

It'll also book direct Milan-Brig trains from 19 euros, look for 'smart price' when you have selected a train and see the 'More fares' drop down box. Buy an onward Brig-Zermatt ticket when you get to Brig.
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Old Sep 12th, 2011, 09:46 AM
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Man in Seat 61 - does not the Italian Eurailpass also come in 2nd class for anyone of any age - you say only first class if over 25. I believe that is incorrect?
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Old Sep 12th, 2011, 09:59 AM
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Ignore the prices Man in Seat 61 quotes for a Eurailpass in Italy as it is way way more than it actually is - a 4-day Italy Eurailpass Saver costs $201 in 2nd class or $50 a day or about 33 euros a day, not the 55-69 euros a day Man in Seat 61 says - and a 5th day above the 4 days cost just $13 a day and subsequent days cost about $13 or about 9 euros - so the longer the pass it becomes even cheaper than 33 euros a day - so ignore Man in Seat 61's cost analysis - an Italy Eurailpass can indeed be cost effective even with the 10 euro per train supplement.
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Old Sep 12th, 2011, 12:49 PM
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Mini fares are as much as 60% off, not thev20% stated above. If you nail down your itinerary (I agree with dropping a few cities) you can save a lot of money booking online in advance. The Smart fares from Italy to Switzerland can only be booked within a certain time frame so read the details on Trenitalia under international fares.
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Old Sep 12th, 2011, 01:22 PM
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kybourbon - if you would please and thanks for the corrrecto 0 what are the conditions imposed on mini-fares - are they changeable and refundable? Thanks. Are they easily changed if changeable?
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Old Sep 12th, 2011, 01:24 PM
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and how available are mini-fares - could one expect to be able to get them once in Italy at stations - online how far in advance would one have to book on the average to get or are they generally available right up until the train?

Trying to get a fix on the flexibility which you know is priceless to me and perhaps some others.

And thanks for taking time always to inform folks who do want to economize at all costs about Italian trains - you have saved scores of folks lots of bucks!
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Old Sep 12th, 2011, 01:36 PM
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and pardon yet another query are mini-fares available in first class as I presume?
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Old Sep 12th, 2011, 04:50 PM
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Yes, they are.
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Old Sep 12th, 2011, 06:34 PM
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Luzern is really beautiful - I wouldn't miss it!
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Old Sep 13th, 2011, 01:49 AM
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Yes, mini fares are available for 1st class. I can't easily post links about changes/refunds/etc. as I'm currently in Italy and posting from an IPod Touch. I'll be home in a few days and post the links.

There's been a two for one fare on Saturdays which required at least one day advance purchase. I think it ends in a week or so.
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Old Sep 13th, 2011, 03:05 AM
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seat61.com best info pass almost always bad value in Italy

trains are cheap have done your route a bunch over the years

just hop regional trains when I get there 2-4 euros

per hour of trainig for your route which I did parts of in May

Rome Orvieto 4 euro from small machines locals use

Orvieto Florence 4.5 euro for me in May

Florence Venice 10 euro regional more for fast train

sormione.com nice in the lakes also bellagio.info

on your way to matterhornhostel.com Zermatt Zurich

Lugan and Chur also nice on your way.

Regional swiss trains double Italy still not bad...

So I always train like a local these days always save.

My wife likes ther fast trains so we do that still

cheaper overall than rip off pass for me second worst

rip off in europe after money changers.

No way to break even unless you train more than 5 hours

EVERY pass day... tigercarrental.com good for car lots more $

ok for rural areas have done it a liability in big cities...

So for me just keep it simple train like a local like me

Odds are great you will do just fine...

Do not forget to CONVALIDATE(stamp your hop on ticket)
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Old Sep 13th, 2011, 05:22 AM
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"seat 61.com best info pass almost always bad value in Italy"

Well in this case Man in Seat 61 who posts here mainly to flog his www.seat61.com web site has given very very WRONG info regards passes in Italy (see my above post) - so if that is your best info on pass it ain't very good, at least in the case of Italy where Man in Seat 61 has given extremely wrong figures dealing with the efficacy of a pass in Italy - not even knowing the Italy Eurailpass comes in 2nd class too and stating extremely inflated per day prices.

Guess qwovadis gets his misleading info from same source.
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Old Sep 13th, 2011, 07:12 AM
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cheaper overall than rip off pass for me second worst

rip off in europe after money changers.

No way to break even unless you train more than 5 hours

EVERY pass day.>

more pure misinformation from qwovadis

qwovadis you should understand what a 'flexipass' is - it is to be used over a 2-month period - you do not need to travel 5 hours every day as you say - proving you do not know diddily about railpasses and how they are used. Please learn about what you are talking as your misinformation does a serious disservice to folks who do not know that you do not know about what you are talking!
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