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Trains in Italy

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May 15th, 2015, 10:52 AM
  #1
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Trains in Italy

Hello, I'm travelling to Italy at the end of June. I'm flying from Canada to Rome and then I would like to take a train to Venice for a few days right away. Then back to Rome to stay for a few days and then down to Sorrento for a few days before we fly out of Naples to go to Santorini for the last half of our trip. Is it best to book these trains in advance or is it easy to book while we are there. I prefer the high-speed trains to save as much time as possible. Does anyone have any advice on booking/routes that are best? Thanks in advance for any help!
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May 15th, 2015, 11:14 AM
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Well I just had an AWFUL experience in Milano after arriving to the Central train station from the Malpensa airport. It was the evening of April 30, and May 1 is a National Holiday (their Labor Day) AND May 1 was a Friday so it gave them a nice long 3-day weekend.

I had not booked my train from Milano to Bologna, and in retrospect that was stupid. Long story short - it was a madhouse at this train station and there were literally no tickets available for our travel to Bologna. Since I already had reservations IN Bologna, I just had to get there. In the end I found two tickets for "cattle car" train travel which took over THREE HOURS, stopping almost at every station I think and we did not get to our apartment there till almost 11 PM.

So all this to say that if you can estimate when you might be able to actually take the train after you land, I would suggest you book beforehand. And some of them allow you to make changes without penalty. I know next time that is what I shall do. Good luck !!
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May 15th, 2015, 11:21 AM
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Oh No!!! That's what I was afraid of. I'm a bit OCD when it comes to planning, so I don't want to get stuck like that. Just nervous to book ahead if don't catch it. What's the fastest train to take? Is it worth buying a Pass or best to just get separate tickets for those 3 train rides?
Thanks!
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May 16th, 2015, 10:00 AM
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Flame's experience is extremely rare, and it's significant that she arrived in the evening at the beginning of a holiday weekend, when there probably weren't many more trains to Bologna. I've lived in Italy for almost 18 years, and I travel frequently by train. The only time I've ever encountered a sold-out train was years ago when trying to go to Rome on New Year's Eve. Even then, the next train wasn't sold out. One other time in these years, I've tried to get tickets on a train that was sold out in 2nd class, so I bought 1st class tickets (something I rarely do).

I wouldn't buy tickets in advance for the train to Venice, because if you miss it, you'll almost certainly have to buy a new ticket. There are several trains an hour from Rome to Venice all day long, and it's extremely rare that any of them are sold out.

For the trip from Venice to Naples (en route to Sorrento), if your plans are fairly certain, I would advise buying in advance, as soon as the tickets go on sale, to take advantage of the steep discounts available. Tickets go on sale 120 days before travel date. Even if you've missed that window, you may still be able to get discounts, especially if you travel at less popular times of the day.

Between Naples and Sorrento, the only train is a little local commuter train called the Circumvesuviana, which can't be reserved. You have to go to the lower level of the Naples Centrale station to get it, following the signs. Make sure you get the one going to Sorrento (well signed). It's more like a metro than a train. It takes about an hour to get to Sorrento, and can be very crowded at rush hour. They run frequently, so you can wait for the next train if you can't find a seat.
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May 16th, 2015, 10:15 AM
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While I agree with you bvlenci about this being a fairly rare event, I would have been ever so grateful if someone would have alerted me to this possibility. I DID ask several people who probably could have
and should have known. ..
I was more than willing to pay for first class seats. NOTHING was available.
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May 16th, 2015, 10:16 AM
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The Rome airport is in Fiumicino so you will need to take a train from there into Rome. No need to book in advance as there are no discounts or reserved seating on this train (Leonardo Express). Similar to taking a subway or commuter train. Buy a ticket and cram on if it's crowded. Grab a seat if you can find one. Departs every 30 minutes and travel time is 30 minutes.

From Rome to Venice, the fast trains take just under 4 hours. It's a risk to buy in advance on arrival day as you would be buying tickets for a specific seat on a specific train. If your flight is delayed and you miss your train, you will be out that money and need to buy another ticket for the next departing train. Trains depart hourly and at certain times of the day, there may be two per hour.

There are a couple of fast trains per day from the airport that don't require a change in Rome, but the times might not be convenient to your arrival time. If you want to search these on Trenitalia, enter Fiumicino aeroporto and Venezia S Lucia. They do stop in Rome and other places, but no change required. The travel time is 4:27.

For the rest of your itinerary, you will know what days/times you want to travel and can go on and book Venezia/Roma and Roma/Napoli. Napoli/Sorrento is a local commuter train Circumvesuviana (about 4€) and can't be purchased online. Buy it at the station in Naples downstairs from your arrival train from Rome. For Sorrento/Naples airport, look at the Curreri shuttle bus that runs between the two (it doesn't go into Naples). It's 10€ and has about 8 runs per day.

http://www.curreriviaggi.it/eng/autolinee.html

If the Curreri times don't work for your flight, take the Circumvesviana to Naples and catch the Alibus to the airport or take a taxi. Ask for the fixed rate before entering the taxi (it's 16€ from central Naples) and get a receipt.
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May 16th, 2015, 11:46 AM
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www.seat61.com is the guru of discounted train tickets in Europe - two Fodorites who post above - kybourbon and bvienci are the two Fodor Italian train gurus - take their advice very seriously - they know they stuff. Other sites I like for general info on Italian trains: www.budgeteuropetravel.com and www.ricksteves.com.

Like others have said it would be very rare not to be able to buy a ticket upon arrival - first class especially should even more rarely be sold out and like flame had to do you can always revert to a regional train - always can board them if you can physically get on them as there are no seat reservations even possible on them - all other trains to my knolwedge require seat reservations which automatically come with the ticket.

either build in a lot of fudge factor time if booking a discounted ticket in conjunction with arriving by air from a long distance or just go to the rail desk or train station at the airport and have them book you for the next realistically possible train.
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May 16th, 2015, 12:57 PM
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I imagine you got to Milano Centrale at around 7 PM. The last train to to Bologna leaves at 8:50 PM, so the window of opporunity is a bit limited. I looked at tomorrow evening's schedule and see that one of the five reservable trains after 7 PM is completely sold out and another is almost sold out. This may be related to the opening of the Milan Expo at the beginning of May. Anyway, it wouldn't be such a problem for someone arriving in the morning.
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May 16th, 2015, 01:00 PM
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I actually arrived much earlier, at around 5:30 PM. But there was such a madhouse of people that it took some time to find exactly where I needed to go to get tickets, then there was a massive line JUST to get a number for a ticket agent. The lady giving out the numbers told me I would be hard pressed to get any train to Bologna tonight. I found what I believe to be some sort of small ticket agency at the entrance where they were selling tickets for the more expensive fast train and I was happy I might be able to find something there. I did not. They said they only had an available train at around 7:20 PM and that is what I took. Got me into Bologna around 10:30 PM. Wow. What a beginning. Thank goodness everything after that was great!!
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May 16th, 2015, 01:53 PM
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bvlenci - Looks like I was still typing when you were posting and essentially said the same thing.

>>>it took some time to find exactly where I needed to go to get tickets, then there was a massive line JUST to get a number for a ticket agent. <<<<

You could have just used one of the many self-service ticket kiosks in Milan Centrale, but yes, any store with the Trenitalia logo can also sell tickets.
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May 16th, 2015, 11:11 PM
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kybourbon - yes I thought of using any of the ticket kiosks there as well, but believe it or not, they were ALL mobbed with long lines as well. And when I first arrive in Italy I usually like to speak with a live person when buying tickets, etc. As the days wear on and I re-learn my Italian, I feel more confident in using kiosks, etc. Oh well, lesson learned.
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May 17th, 2015, 03:52 AM
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The ticket kiosks are multilingual, more so than the ticket agents!
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May 17th, 2015, 04:12 AM
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Yes I learned that later on in my trip!! Also kiosks for parking stubs that never WERE bilingual now are. So this was all a happy surprise for me!
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May 17th, 2015, 04:24 AM
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Console yourself with the fact that both Termini in Rome and Centrale in Milan are almost ALWAYS a swirl of humanity with jammed kiosks and more than a few people who would love to "help" you to use those machines, a whole bunch of people having a convention in the ticket window lines, Milano pigeons doing bombing practice on humans below, and all those other happenings which make Italy so memorable.
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May 17th, 2015, 11:44 AM
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I used ticket kiosks a lot - well played around with them - I always have a Eurailpass in Italy (not the only Italy one) and emjoyed in florence and Rome and Venice playing around with those kioks - they seemed very very easy to use IME and not always mobbed though at certain times of day they may well be. and yes all in English if you hit the British flag.
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May 20th, 2015, 06:36 AM
  #16
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Thank you for your help, this makes my planning easier! I'm so excited! Less than a month away now!
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