Train Travel Northern Italy

May 28th, 2016, 06:37 PM
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Join Date: May 2016
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Train Travel Northern Italy

We are two senior lady travelers looking to travel in Sept. the fastest and easiest way from Venice to Lake Como, Cinque Terre then on to Florence. Since this is our first time traveling out of the country on our own it is overwhelming trying to figure out the train stations & what takes you where.

Can someone direct us where the train/bus stations are to take us to our destinations; also the name and type of train/bus we need to catch?

Is Varenna our best bet as a base?
Also, is it true in order to visit the other areas up and down Lake Como one needs to get the ferry in Como?

Appreciate any help that is directed our way.
lizzybear is offline  
May 28th, 2016, 09:57 PM
Join Date: Feb 2006
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Suggest you spend some reading about European train travel at

Do you have smart phones? The maps app would be a big help for getting around, although you can use google maps ahead of time.

I am not sure I understand your question about the ferries. You can board the ferry at any stop. Timetables are here:
thursdaysd is offline  
May 29th, 2016, 03:07 AM
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You'd have to take a fast train from Venice to Milan, and then a regional train to Varenna. If you don't want to stay in Varenna, you can walk (pretty well signed) from the train station to the ferry dock and proceed by boat from there. However, Varenna is a very nice town; I liked it better than Bellagio, myself. It's rather hilly, if that matters to you.

From Lake Como, you'd have to take a train back to Milan, and then a train to Monterosso, the northernmost Cinque Terre town. There you can change to the little train that visits all the towns, if you don't stay in Monterosso.

From there to Florence, you'd take the Cinque Terre train to La Spezia, and then another train to Pisa, and finally a train to Florence.

You can see train schedules here.

Put in your starting station and your final destination. You need to use the Italian names of cities: Venezia and Firenze. You also need to give the name of the actual town you'll be staying in, rather than just "Cinque Terre".
bvlenci is offline  
May 29th, 2016, 06:28 AM
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Also, if you are staying in Venice proper, not on the mainland, Venezia Santa Lucia, not Venezia Mestre.
thursdaysd is offline  
May 29th, 2016, 06:40 AM
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Finding a train station in a European city is like finding the Empire State Building in NYC. The train stations are on the maps, both paper and smartphone maps, the hotel concierges know them, the taxidrivers and most public transport lines are leading to the train stations.

Book your train tickets online 90 days before travelling. On the ticket, the number of the train, the departure time and track number is printed. Inside the station, there are signs to the tracks and electronic displays. Everything is very easy.
traveller1959 is offline  
May 29th, 2016, 07:17 AM
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>>>Book your train tickets online 90 days before travelling<<<

Actually, in Italy, the fast trains (stop in major cities) start booking 120 days in advance on Trenitalia (if you want to snag the biggest discounts). The slow regional trains (such as to Varenna, between the CT towns and CT/Pisa/Florence) you can only buy online 7 days in advance, but those tickets will have more restrictions than if you buy at the station.

The fast trains are usually in the stations (typically pull in/back out) 10-15 minutes so you have time to get on/off. The regional trains for small stations are mostly pull-through stations and stops are usually for only 1-4 minutes. That means if you need to get off with luggage, you need to know when your stop is coming up and be at the door ready to hop off. They won't wait around on you. I see a lot of tourists miss their stops because they think the train will wait until they gather their things and get to the door.

Travel light. You will have to go up and down stairs in the stations and getting on/off the trains plus you might need to lift your luggage over your head to store on the train.

How many days do you have for your trip?
kybourbon is online now  
May 29th, 2016, 07:17 AM
Join Date: Nov 2004
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Yes the likely train stations are Venezia S.L. (Santa Lucia), Milano Centrale, Varenna, La Spezia Centrale, Firenze S.M.N. (Santa Maria Novella), and whatever town in the Cinque Terre.

Another vote for That will tell you how to buy the tickets, whether ahead of time or at the station. And about validating/composting/stamping the tickets for local trains.

Another useful site is, the German train site but good for looking at train schedules in all Europe.

Pack light in small suitcases you're able to lift overhead. That's one of the keys to easy train travel in Europe.

Congratulations on venturing out on your own. Once you get the basics down, you'll love it.
Mimar is offline  
May 29th, 2016, 09:21 AM
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Thank you all so much for your great advise.

To bvlenci, regarding Varenna being hilly, are there any taxis we can take if it becomes a problem?
Are all the regions in Lake Como area very hilly? We are seniors so would it be easier and better to stay in Como proper and just do day trips to the lake area?

Re: train tickets. All the responses have been for us to take trains. Are there any buses that go directly to each of the regions that I have posted? It seems time consuming going from one train to another.
Is it best to buy regional tickets on line beforehand or at the station day of travel?

To kybourbon: We are staying 12 days total so 3 nights in each of the regions. Would we better to stay 1 night longer in one of the regions and less time in another. After reading some posts it seems like it isn't enough time but we are on a budget I'm hoping it will be enough.

Again. My thanks to all of you lovely posters for your responses. It has replaced my anxieties with eagerness.
lizzybear is offline  
May 29th, 2016, 09:33 AM
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We stayed in Bellagio, so I don't know much about taxis in Varenna, but there were some. You might want to stay near the lakeside, which should minimize the amount of climbing you'd have to do.

Bellagio is also a bit hilly, but it's a bigger town than Varenna, and the lakeside area is larger. Bellagio and Varenna are connected by frequent boats.

The scenery that draws people to Lake Como wouldn't exist without hills. The same is true of the Cinque Terre, so you should pick your lodging with that in mind. The most scenic part of Lake Como is in the mid-lake area, near Bellagio, Menaggio, and Varenna.

I was quite surprised at how early the taxis in Bellagio stop running. At an hour when people in my part of Italy go to dinner, there were no more buses and taxis running in Bellagio. On the other hand, the vast majority of people there was British or American, so maybe that explains the unusual hours. There was a night taxi that had to be called, but we waited a long time for it to arrive. By that time an English couple were also waiting, and we shared our taxi with them. We would have walked to our hotel, but it was all uphill on a twisty and poorly-illuminated road, so it didn't seem safe at night.
bvlenci is offline  
May 29th, 2016, 09:58 AM
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I suggest that you drop the Cinqueterra. You are not going to want to do the hikes, and you will have water plus cliffs at Lake Como.

I always prefer trains to buses. You can get up and walk around, you can keep an eye on your luggage, there may be food or at least coffee, and the toilets are infinitely better if not great.

No reason to buy regional train tickets ahead of time, except that I seem to remember that there is no ticket office at Varenna. The steep bit at Varenna is up and down from the train station. I didn't see any taxis when I arrived and walked down, but my hotel arranged a taxi for the return trip. Once I reached my hotel (the Villa Cipressi) I didn't find things too hilly. Bellagio is certainly hilly. (I am also a senior, but in reasonably good condition.)

I visited the Italian lakes towards the end of September last year, and the weather was not great. Try for earlier in the month if you can.

thursdaysd is offline  
May 29th, 2016, 12:09 PM
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I believe Thursdayd is right about there being no ticket office in Varenna, although I believe they sold tickets in a nearby bar. However, I would just buy the tickets for the way back in Milan before you get there. They're open tickets, and can be used at any time in the next several months, until they're stamped. Please don't forget to stamp them just before getting on the train, which puts a time and date stamp on them to prevent them from being re-used.

The scenery in the Cinque Terre is nothing like that at Lake Como; there are hills on Lake Como, but no cliffs that I saw. I think Lake Como is less likely than the Cinque Terre to be insanely overrun with tourists in September. In both places, you'll hear a lot more English than Italian spoken on the streets. In fact, Bellagio is the only place in Italy where we've ever been asked by a waitress whether we could speak English.
bvlenci is offline  
May 29th, 2016, 01:25 PM
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Why do you think a train is more time consuming than a bus? Bus will take much longer because it can't speed as quickly from place to place and has to deal with traffic. Because there are such good trains, there really aren't bus choices that connect the regions you are considering. You might use a bus to travel between some places within a region where train lines may not exist.
ellenem is online now  
May 29th, 2016, 01:38 PM
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I don't think any buses would be useful on your route at all. You certainly haven't chosen the easiest of all northern Italy itineraries. If you want to keep it simple, why don't you visit just Venice, Verona, and Lake Garda? It would give you variety and scenery, and save travel time and changes of train.
bvlenci is offline  
May 30th, 2016, 09:10 PM
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Oh boy! Some are saying that It might be better to pass on going to Cinque Terre because of the bluffs and hills; and since we will have been on Lake Como I take it as meaning, we won't be missing much.

I've heard so much about the area and have looked forward to being there but now I'm concerned about staying if all we will encounter are hilly areas. Then again, what is too hilly? Aren't there walkways in and around the area and hotels?

Is there any town in the Cinque Terre that is level and has hotels. In this way we can stay on flat land and take a water tour, I'm assuming they have those kinds of tours.

Worse case maybe we can catch a tour to Cinque Terre, does anyone know of any grand tours around the Cinque Terre and if so from where would we get it. This way we don't have to climb bluffs or hills but at least get to visit.

Again Our thanks to all for your great comments & advice, we really appreciate your responses.
lizzybear is offline  
May 30th, 2016, 09:57 PM
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You might look into Levanto. It is just north of the CT and I believe the boats go there, too. Not sure how steep the walk from the train station is but the area by the beach looks flat. (Use terrain view on google maps.)

Not sure why you are asking about a tour, you'd still have to walk to see the villages unless you're on a boat - just look at the photographs. Actually, I can't think that a tour would be a good idea for the CT in any case, it's all about the scenery.

There is also the question of how much time you have for this trip.
thursdaysd is offline  
May 31st, 2016, 11:05 PM
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Many thanks to all for the help and great responses.
lizzybear is offline  
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