Im a little confused with this one. With the express train do you have to book ahead? How fara ahead? Which do you think is better? Does it really shave that much time? Is the express more commonly used for the longer trips? Any help on this one is good. I have RS's book just still a little confused. Any explanation is very appreciated.
The EuroStar trains are the fastest and the nicest. They don't stop at every little village/town it passes through. A seat reservation is issued with every ticket - the seat reservation is not an option on a EuroStar train. Unless you are traveling during a holiday a day or two in advance will work to buy your ticket. For a full explanation of the train system visit http://www.slowtrav.com/italy/trains/service.htm
Time saved really depends on the route and distance. You can look up routes on Trenitalia and compare. For instance, Rome to Naples on a direct express is now an hour and a half, a regional train with a half dozen stops is 2 hours 43 minutes. You save a little over an hour. To me, not a big deal if I were travelling between the cities, it would if I were daytripping to Pompeii from Rome.
Prepurchase: As Sam mentioned, if it is not busy, you can buy right up to departure. You still pay for a reservation in addition to the ticket price, but it is minimal.
If you book at least 24 hours ahead, you may be able to get "Amica" fares (ask about them or select them on the ticket machine). They save 20%. Like any advance purchase ticket, there are change restrictions and their availability is limited so you might want to book as early as you are sure.
While we had no trouble getting Eurostar tickets last month on any route, seat selection was limited and we did not always get seats together. This is more important for couples or with kids.
Trenitalia has the ability to online order tickets and pick them up at the station, on the train or even pay for them at a local travel agent within 24 hours (sometimes with a small fee). See their web site.
Hi Andrea, For travelling long distances in ITALY I recommend travelling in a EUROSTAR train. In those trains the Second Class train cars are good enough, but people who have long legs may prefer to be in a First class train car. Different EUROSTAR trains have different seating arrangements in First Class. For other kinds of trains in Europe Rick Steves recommends travelling in a First Class train car. I agree with Rick. In a First Class train car there is a lower risk of being visited by a pickpocket, and less crowding, and in the First Class train cars there is not likely to be screaming babies and annoying children. Not all train routes in ITALY have a First Class train car.
Had Eurostar tickets and reservations from Bologna to Venice, but the train on the first leg of our jouney from CT had engine failure and we landed up hoping on and off local trains to make a 5 1/2 half journey into a 8 hour jouney. Our express train from Rome up to CT was great. If you have a long trip try to schedule and have reserved seats, 2nd class on the faster trains.
Take the ES when you can its better (faster/cleaner/newer)... Sometimes you can't avoid taking reginal or InterCity trains. We were on a regional train traveling from Cinque Terre to Rome and we also had an Engine Failure. Stuck on the tracks for 2 hours. It wasn't that big of deal, and actually kinda fun trying to talk with the Italians (who didn't speak any english) that we were sitting next to trying to figure out what was happening. None of the announcements they were making about the issue were in English. I'm just glad we didn't have to be anywhere... it was a part of our "adventure".
Someone told us the engine failure we had could have been worse. One person said they had it in a tunnel. Luckily ours happened as we were pulling into a station. At first I thought it was one of those on and off again rail stikes. We did need to get to Vencie from the CT. We had a rental boat to pick up. Having Ricks' guide book with us helped, because it has a map showing rail lines. It helped us to pick the local trains that were heading in the general direction we needed to go in.
To Sam's point, Eurostar just got faster with the new HS1 line.