I'm going to Italy in 3 months. I cant decide if I want to drive or take the train. There will be four adults traveling together.We will basically be doing the Rich Steve's recommended tour for two weeks going but going from Milan to Rome with all the stops than a straight shot back from Rome to Milan. We actually have about 16 days. Would you travel by train or drive? Also if I take the train how can I find out about individual prices for stops like Venice to Cinque Terre(Vernazza)? I looked at Trenitalia but I usually get a not available. I looked on Rick Steve's guide map but when I found a price on line it was much cheaper.
It more of a personal preference matter of car vs train. With four adults the car could be cheaper and more convenient. A lot depends on your schedule. A car is a big pain if in Florence, Rome, Venice, etc., but handy for the country side. From your limited in for I probably would go via train but I am never in a hurry. Not available generally means that you are looking too far out (over 90 days) or at looking at a regional train. The Steve's guide is a very rough estimate. If you want the fares just use the same day of the week for next month. There are some deep discount tickets available which go quickly but lock you into a no change, no refund schedule. Use the Trenitlia site
John, as a hint, there are no tourist cars in the Cinque Terre or Venice. You need to park them. For Venice, there is plenty of parking at the Tronchetto. In the CT, there are parking lots and a garage in Riomaggiore but in the summer, they are packed. Note, that you can't drive in the historical areas of Florence either. The whole historical area is part of a restricted driving zone. Enter the zone and the camera takes a picture of your license plate. Big Big fines. Secondly, with the high-speed trains running between Milan, Venice, Florence and Rome at about 160MPH, why rent a car. Yes, I get the math on 4 people in a rental car. But, if you get the high-speed tickets well in advance and you are willing to lock in on a specific travel date and time, you can easily get tickets with fares as low as 19Euro. That beats the rental car when you add in the tolls and fuel. All of that being said, there is nothing wrong with renting a car for a couple of days if you want to see Tuscany and/or Umbria. Great hilltowns. Finally, the reason you get not available on Trenitalia is that you are looking out too far. Place a date on the day of the week you wish to travel that is about 2-3 weeks out. You'll see all of the timetables and runs. For the high-speeds, you'll see the fares as well. Also, you need to enter the Italian names of the train stations.
He's going to Italy IN 3 months time. He's only staying for 16 days, so Schengen rules are not an issue.
Trenitalia takes a bit of practice. If you search Venezia to Vernazza, you have included a regional train ( the last leg to Vernazza) and it will not show the schedule much in advance. But to get the best prices you must book about 3 months in advance. So I suggest you break it up into segments to check the prices. Mi just looked at travel on June 4. Venezia to Milan shows a Super Economy fare of 19 euro. Milan to Momterosso on the direct train ( no changes) is 9 euro. That is a lot of travel with maximum convenience for only 28 euro per person. The regional train from Monterosso to Vernazza is only a couple of euro. The Super Economy fares will not show on the first page, the one that shows several trains. Mpick one and go to the next page. That is where you can see all the fares. If you are getting " not available" to your inquiry you may be spelling the stations wrong, although that is less of a problem now that they have the down menu that appears after you type in a few letters. But make sure you pick the right station, the right date, and set the time to 10 am or so, to make sure it is not the middle of the night. Also check the year. Mthen I tried few minutes ago to check Milan to Firenze, it said No Trains Available, which I know is not true. So I looked carefully and noticed the year had defaulted to 2012. Go figure.
We drive in Italy when we must, such as when we're staying at an agriturismo outside Siena, or well up Lago I'd Garda beyond the reach of the trains. But we don't like it much. It is stressful and more expensive than you think, by the time you add gas and autostrada tolls. And years ago I drove along the coast of Liguria with friends, and there were so many tunnels it was not at all scenic. Mathis was going to Porto Fino. I don't know if itis still like that, but I never want to do that again! And then there are the issues with parking in the cities, and the expensive ZTL tickets. You either have to stay at a hotel on the edge of town, outside the center, or risk inadvertently violating the ZTL rules. So I suggest you train from Milan to Venice, Venice to Vernazza, and Vernazza to Pisa. Pick up a car there if you want to spend a few days touring the smaller towns of Tuscany and Umbria. Return the car someplace outside of Rome and finish your trip in the city.
If you need a vote, Lola's advice is correct! Only rent a car when you want to tour for a few days outside of the train route in the country. Otherwise, it's a pain.
Have you considered flying open jaw into one city and out of another? The most efficient place to fly into is Venice and taking a train into Florence. Visit Florence a few days, then move 20-30 miles south into Chianti with a rental car visiting hill cities like Siena, Volterra and Orvieto. Then drop the car in Orvieto and take a 70 minute regional train into Rome. When you finish your time in Rome, fly home from FCO airport west of Rome.
Backtracking to your original city to fly home is expensive, especially @ $9.50 per gallon in a rental car.
If you decide to take the train and want to book online, there is a train schedule change around June 9th - See this link for a discussion about a traveler's booking issue for June.
Thanks for the vote of confidence, Donna! David's suggestion to fly open jaw is a great idea, but I have the feeling they have already bought tickets RT to Milan. If not, they could look into that.
The advantages of a car are traveling on your own schedule, stop when/where you want and, normally, cheaper for four adults than four train tickets. Disadvantages of a car are little room for luggage, pain to park, security worries with car prowlers, navigating in Italy is the worst in Europe (don't try without a GPS), crazy drivers/rules make also make it a challenge that will either have you laughing (like on an amusement park ride) or having a stroke. The advantages of a train, you don't have to drive. You can use your time relaxing, visiting with your travel partners, reading your guidebook - and know you will arrive at the train station without having to navigate there. The disadvantages of a train are cost, losing time to connections (but you have 3 months so plenty of time), and some security concerns with thieves on the trains/in and around train stations/public transport. Which set of advantages/disadvantages seems to suit you better?