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Train vs Driver? Genoa/S Margherita Ligure/ Bellagio...in 1 month!

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Jun 19th, 2014, 06:08 PM
  #1
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Train vs Driver? Genoa/S Margherita Ligure/ Bellagio...in 1 month!

Hello fellow travelers,

I’ll be traveling with my family of 4 (DH and two teenage DS) from Barcelona to Santa Margherita Ligure in Italy as part of a longer trip next month. We’ll be flying on Alitalia and arriving in Genoa at 3:25pm. From there, I need to decide whether to take the train or hire a driver to SML, and I could use a bit of help before I finalize things.

First of all, the train leaves from Genova Piazza Principe. I’m not familiar with Genoa at all, so could anyone tell me how to get from the airport to the train station, and about how long it takes? Also, is the train station a safe area?

Next, the only train that it appears we can take doesn’t leave until 17:48, arriving in Santa Margherita Ligure-Portofino at 18:20. From previous advice I’ve received, it seems that there is no need to pre-book that train as it’s an Intercity. However, since it’s the last train of the day, do you think it might be a good idea to pre-book just to be on the safe side? I’d hate to be stuck in Genoa for a night with no hotel reservation, completely unfamiliar with the area…

In any event, it seems that we’ll lose a lot of our day, just waiting for the train in Genoa. I’m considering a driver to bring us to SML; is anyone familiar with the cost of a driver, and is there someone that you would recommend? We hired a driver a couple of years ago to bring us from the Naples train station to Positano, and it was a great experience.

After Santa Margherita Ligure, we need to get to Bellagio on Lake Como. I had planned on taking the 7:39 train from SML to Milano Centrale (SO early, but it looks like the only one that can make a connection to Varenna-Esino.) Right now, the price for the time we want is only 36 Euro, but the later trains that day cost 76 Euro. Should I book that soon, even if it is an Intercity?

From Milano Centrale, for some reason I can’t see trains on the same date that I can for the first leg of the trip. However, when I search for next Sunday, I can see a train that leaves Milano at 10:20. That would be ideal if our first train arrives on time at 9:55…I know it’s not Switzerland, though! Unfortunately, it looks like that is the last train for Varenna-Esino that day. Can anyone tell me if the Intercity trains run on time as a rule? I don't have a back-up plan if we miss the last train, so I'd gladly welcome your advice here.

Can anyone see a way to make this part of our trip more efficient/less arduous? Any suggestions would be most appreciated!
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Jun 19th, 2014, 07:01 PM
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I took a taxi a few years ago from Genoa airport to Camogli. Price was about 80e. There are many taxis at the airport.
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Jun 19th, 2014, 07:02 PM
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Sorry..in case you do not know, SML is very close to Camogli, so price would be in the general range, I think.
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Jun 19th, 2014, 07:27 PM
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The Genoa airport is about 5 miles from the Piazza Principe train station. I haven't flown in or out of Genoa, so I can't guess how long it takes to de-plane and get to the street to catch a taxi, but I think you could make a train leaving earlier than 5:48p. There are trains departing at 4:40p and 5:10p. They take a little longer, so you're still not going to arrive in SML until 5:28p or 5:55p, respectively. These earlier trains are regional, and tickets cannot be purchased in advance. But the fare is only 3,40 euros per person.

Are you trying to reach Bellagio as early in the day as possible? If not, you could leave SML at 1:39p, 30 minute connection in Milan, arrive Varenna at 5:23p. I'm seeing fares lower than 36 euros for both early and later departures.

The last train I see from Milano Centrale to Varenna-Esino on a Sunday departs at 9:20p.

Are you looking at the Trenitalia website? Are you looking only at 1st class fares for the longer legs?

http://www.trenitalia.com/cms/v/inde...0080a3e90aRCRD
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Jun 19th, 2014, 07:29 PM
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I forgot to mention, you can search Trenitalia from the originating city to the final destination. In other words, you don't have to search SML to Milan and then Milan to Varenna. Just plug in from S. Margherita Ligure and to Varenna-Esino for your date, and Trenitalia will show you all of the connections.
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Jun 19th, 2014, 08:12 PM
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Thank you both so much for the replies!

ek, that taxi idea sounds good. I was thinking it would cost much more than that.

Jean, thanks for the information on the distance from the airport to the train station. We could get a taxi to the train station. The link you gave me is the same trenitalia website that I was using, but I hadn't tried searching from the originating city. I went back and did a search for S. Margherita Ligure to Varenna-Esino, and it showed No Travel Solution Found.

I tried putting in the same information for next week, which usually gives me at least a schedule, but even that gives me the same error message. I search for Best Fare Search, Tutti i Treni (all trains), and I've tried many combinations for the hour, even 00. Still I couldn't get it to work!

Then, with one last try, I removed the Best Fare option, and suddenly a range of choices appeared!

So now I see the option that you referred to, and it's actually 20 Euros less per ticket to go later. (Plus, now we could have a relaxing last morning in SML!) Since I can pre-book, would you recommend doing so?
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Jun 19th, 2014, 08:21 PM
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One more question: I have read in other places that you should buy round trip tickets when traveling to Varenna, as there is no place to buy tickets there. That seems odd, but I want to be prepared just in case.

We won't be returning to SML. We'll be heading down to Florence, where we are renting a car to drive to Siena. (Because that seemed easier than trying to make any more train connections!) We've driven that way a couple of times, so we're fairly familiar with the route.

So, would people recommend just buying all the tickets now so I can check that off the rather long list of things I still have to do?
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Jun 19th, 2014, 08:59 PM
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We bought train tickets at a corner cafe in Varenna. Others have reported buying tickets at a travel agency there. (That's always a good practice in Italy: no surcharge, no line, usually good English speakers.) So there are options in Varenna, but maybe not at odd hours.
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Jun 19th, 2014, 09:23 PM
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Thanks Mimar--I didn't know about those options. I might check into a travel agency for other questions that arise when we're there, as well.

Is there any disadvantage to buying the tickets now?
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Jun 20th, 2014, 12:58 AM
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I'll throw this in as an option, as it's certainly my preferred mode of transport. Why not rent your car at Genoa and use it till you get to Florence (you don't want a car in Florence). It would probably be cheaper than trains, more convenient and much more flexible. No lugging bags on and off trains, looking for cabs/cars etc.

Are you staying in Florence, or just renting the car from there? If you're not staying, then you can drive straight to Siena.
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Jun 20th, 2014, 02:43 AM
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If you are taking a taxi from the airport to a train station in Genova, take it to Brignole station, not Principe. There are more trains leaving from Brignole to Santa Margherita Ligure.

Personally, I would just take a taxi all the way.

If your trip is in July, renting a car means dealing with significant traffic and parking problems along the coast. You will need to secure parking before you come (and pay for it) and it would be inadvisable to use the car while on the coast, simply because you are unlikely to find parking in any neighboring towns. You don't need a car in the lakes, and probably need to pay to park it there as well. I doubt it is cheaper to pay a daily rate for car rental plus daily fees for parking vs. taking the train, but you can crunch the numbers and see.

Leaving the coast, I believe -- but I am not sure -- there are some IC trains heading for Milan that make a stop in Camogli or Rapallo or Chiavari (all very close by) but skip the Santa Margherita Ligure station. Do a search on Trenitalia for those departures and see what you get. Also, if you can avoid switching train in Genova, that is optimal. Both Genova train stations are constantly under renovation and some tracks in Principe are extremely poorly located for making a tight connection when you have luggage.

Lastly, a taxi to Genova from SML can often give you a lot more options for catching a one-seat ride to Milan. Cost will be roughly the same as what you pay to get from the airport.
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Jun 20th, 2014, 03:46 PM
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>>>Next, the only train that it appears we can take doesn’t leave until 17:48, arriving in Santa Margherita Ligure-Portofino at 18:20.<<<

>>>take it to Brignole station, not Principe. There are more trains leaving from Brignole to Santa Margherita Ligure.<<<

There are two per hour leaving Principe (same trains and as many as Brignole)most of the time. While the last IC (7.50€) train may leave at 17:48, there are three regional trains (3.40€)at that time leaving at 17:10, 17:28 and 17:40.

>>>However, since it’s the last train of the day,<<<

There are at least two trains per hour from Principe after that time until until 21:00 and then only one train per hour (last train is 23:07). There are also trains before 17:00 if you arrive earlier. Most of them could also be caught at the train station closest to the airport (Genova Cornigliano). It does not have a manned ticket window, only ticket machine so you might want a bigger station with more services.

Volabus (6€) is a shuttle from the airport to all three train stations (Cornigliano, Principe, Brignole).

http://www.airport.genova.it/v2/inde...id=136&lang=en
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Jun 20th, 2014, 05:51 PM
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Thank you for taking the time to share your knowledge with me. I have looked again at the train website, and see now that there are later options if we should miss the train at 17:48, as well as earlier trains if we are lucky enough to catch them.

However, since there are four of us to help offset the cost, I'm inclined to take a taxi from Genoa directly to SML: we would get there sooner, and with much less confusion. (I'll admit I'm a bit intimidated by the train situation in Genoa.)

sandralist, thanks for your suggestions on the taxi to Genoa on the way out of SML as well. I'm going to look into ways that avoid a transfer in Genoa completely. For some reason, tonight the website is not responding when I try to search for all options from SML to Varenna-Esino. I'll keep trying...
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Jun 20th, 2014, 06:10 PM
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cybertraveler, the rome2rio.com website calculates the taxi fare from the Genoa Airport to SML at US$65. I doubt they include charges for luggage, and if you don't travel light you may need 2 taxis.

http://www.rome2rio.com/s/Genoa-Airp...gherita-Ligure
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Jun 21st, 2014, 11:55 AM
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Jean,

Thanks! That is a great website. We travel with one carry-on, one personal bag each. When we have rented cars before, our luggage has always fit, although it's been tight and we don't get the smallest compact cars. If we could squeeze into one taxi, it would only cost $13 more. A second taxi would be quite a bit more, but possibly still worth it to save the time and hassle of the train.

The hotel in SML said that they can provide a driver as well, so I might look into that option.

We also have a graduation and party coming up before the trip, so it has been a crazy few weeks getting ready for everything. Thanks again to everyone who has helped with this!
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Jun 21st, 2014, 12:54 PM
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We have done this itinerary (except landed in Milan ) and rented a car, much, much easier with luggage even if carry on. I would rent a car in Genoa and drop it off in Florence, if staying there, or Siena.
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Jun 22nd, 2014, 08:14 AM
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Except it's best not to drive when you arrive jet-lagged, sleepy and exhausted after a long, overnight flight. And parking is a difficulty in the small towns along the Ligurian coast. If you're going to the Cinque Terre, the road is inland away from the villages. The train or boats are better for accessing the CT. And, as a general rule, you don't want to drive in the center of cities or towns. (The dreaded ZTLs.) You could drop the car at Florence's airport, with transportation options into town. A Siena drop-off might be easier.
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Jun 22nd, 2014, 09:47 AM
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The OP and family are arriving at Genoa from Barcelona, not on an O/N flight, so presumably they won't be jet-lagged. We've never driven in Genoa, so I can't say how challenging that might be. FWIW, we find driving away from airports easier than other city traffic.

But with the back-to-back destinations of SML and Bellagio, I might not want a car even if the overall cost (gas, fuel, tolls, parking) is cheaper than 4x train tickets. You're not dealing with little kids who can't handle their own luggage or need to be hand-held through a train station.

I will say if I did drive this route, I would rather take the more scenic and interesting secondary roads from SML to Bellagio which would take longer than the trains.

cybertraveler, where do you go after Bellagio?
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Jun 23rd, 2014, 04:13 PM
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Thanks for all of the information. We will be going from Bellagio to Siena; we have not purchased tickets, but I thought it made sense to get the train from Varenna-Esino to Milan, then on to Florence. We could pick up the rental car and drive to Siena rather than wait around for connecting trains.

While we're fairly comfortable driving around Tuscany, and have driven from Florence to Venice, it seems a bit more intimidating to drive from Genoa to Santa Margherita Ligure. Also, since DH doesn't exactly love driving, he's glad to have part of the time car-free. Parking as people have mentioned is a challenge, and we thought we'd get around the SML/Portofino/Cinque Terre area by boat.

So, I have another question: is it better to go with a private driver from the airport in Genoa to SML (instead of just catching a taxi), or would it just be a needlessly more expensive option?

I contacted a driver and gave him all the details (DH, me and 2 teenage sons, 4 carry-on bags, 4 personal bags). He gave me a quote of 95 Euros. If people think that's fair and a good idea, I will go ahead and confirm with him. It would be nice to check one more thing off the list!
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Jun 23rd, 2014, 07:12 PM
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Hmmm. This may be too late, but have you considered flying Barcelona-Milan and heading to Lake Como first?

If you landed at Malpensa, you'd have two options for getting to Bellagio. Train to Como Nord Lago via Saronno, then ferry to Bellagio. -or- Train to Varenna-Esino via Milan, then ferry to Bellagio. (The first option would take longer but would be more scenic.)

After Bellagio, you could train Varenna-SML via Milan in under 4 hours.

After SML, you could train to La Spezia and pick up the rental car. You could also train from SML to Siena and rent the car there (near the train station). Or you could even wait a day before picking up the car in Siena and just explore the city the first day. Where are you staying in Siena? Does it have parking? And where are you going after Siena?
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