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Plan for Italian train "inconsistent" schedules and canceled trains.

We just returned from two weeks in Italy & Slovenia, and made the mistake of assuming that the Italian trains respect their printed schedules; the reality is that Italy does not have near the precision of the German, Swiss, and Austrian trains.
On our behalf, for the first 13 days, the Italian trains ran on time. At the conclusion of our trip, and thanks to the Form input, we decided to return to Milan the night before our noon flight, and stay at a hotel 2 minutes from Milan Centrale train station. The public transportation options to the airport from this area: buses run every ten minutes, and the train every 30 minutes. We felt the train would avoid traffic, and bought our tickets the night before.
We arrived at the train station at 8:15 am for our 8:55 am train; our flight was at noon. The 8:25 am train was in the station, but since our ticket was for the next train, we were not allowed to board.
Suddenly, our train showed up on the board as CANCELED! No explanation, no announcements. The next train was in 30 minutes. Would it be on time? Should we run outside and catch the airport bus?
We discovered that with a train ticket, you can use the following trains for the next several hours, BUT not earlier trains.
Luckily, the next train was on time, [for the 51 minute ride], Malpensa was not crowded, and the security lines were short. But he had a VERY stressful 90 minutes.
The lessons learned:
stay at an airport hotel, OR
plan on Italian trains being late, so schedule your airport trip at least two trains earlier than you need.
Safe travels!
PS- You also may not get a seat; trains can be very crowded.

Posted by
1774 posts

Are you serious? Italian trains do not respect and bla bla because one train in 13 days was cancelled And you arrived anyway in time at the airport?
A poor soul killed himself jumping on the tracks out of Milan some days ago.

Posted by
31073 posts

Pat,

Unfortunately the reality with all transportation systems is that there can be delays. I've had some significant flight delays on a few occasions and while those are annoying, they're often unavoidable.

I've also had delays on Italian, German and Austrian trains (the latter case was for the same reason that Dario mentioned). In my experience, delays are less likely on shorter runs such as the Malpensa Express to the airport. However they do happen. I normally allow lots of time so there's a "cushion" to account for any delays. I would only stay at an airport hotel if I had a very early flight.

Posted by
6522 posts

thanks to the Forum input, we decided to return to Milan the night before our noon flight

Classic example of why this type of advice is so prevalent on this forum. OP had a bit of unwanted 'excitement', but not a devastating wrench(spanner) in the gears.

Posted by
20729 posts

One delayed train and the whole system is condemned. All trains in Italy except the Regionale and the private lines come with reserved seats so you will get a seat. How does a 30 min late train create 90 mins of stress? But you cut it closer than we would normally do since international flights recommend a three hour check-in time. We may cut that to 2.5 but would not do less than two hours.

Posted by
15640 posts

I guess the lesson is not to buy regional train tickets in advance. There is no advantage for doing so, and the downside is that you just eliminated your option of taking the bus. Happened to me a few years ago when Trenord went on strike for a day. Easily solved by paying the bus driver at the line of buses outside Centrale and I was on my way.

And my very first train in Germany at DUS airport was canceled for reasons Dario mentioned. It happens, unfortunately.

Posted by
75 posts

You're right about the Swiss and the Austrian trains, but German trains these days are just as often delayed or cancelled, if not more than Italian trains.

Posted by
11733 posts

...the reality is that Italy does not have near the precision of the
German, Swiss, and Austrian trains.

Interesting. None of the trains we've taken in Italy to date have been late, although we did hit a strike once. The 2nd of the only two trains we took in Germany was late AND terminated unexpectedly at a different station than it was supposed to (some nice and equally surprised/baffled German passengers filled us in on what was going on). Stuff happens. Glad you made your flight.

Posted by
11983 posts

Two months ago I returned from 10 days in Mexico, Cuba and Las Vegas, and made the mistake of assuming that the US planes respect their printed schedules; the reality is that the USA does not have near the precision of the Mexican or Cuban planes.
On our behalf, for the first day, the US planes flew on time. At the conclusion of our trip, and thanks to the Form input, we decided to return to California via Las Vegas a few nights before our flight from Las Vegas to Oakland (with Southwest), and stay at a Pyramid shaped hotel 2 minutes from the Las Vegas airport. The public transportation options to the airport from this area: buses run every 40 minutes, Uber and taxis every minute. We felt the taxi would avoid traffic, and booked the taxi the night before.
We arrived at the Las Vegas airport at 6:30 am for our 9:30 am Southwest flight. The 7:15 am SW plane to Oakland was already at the gate, but since our ticket was for the next flight, we were not allowed to board.
Suddenly, due to snow in Las Vegas, our plane showed up on the board as CANCELED! No explanation, no announcements. All Southwest flights out of Las Vegas were canceled. The next available flight was the next day. Would it be on time? Should we run outside and catch the greyhound bus instead?
We discovered that with a plane ticket, you can use the plane you booked only, BUT not earlier planes.
Luckily, the next plane the next day was on time, [for the 51 minute flight], Las Vegas was not crowded, and the security lines were short. But he had a VERY stressful 90 minutes playing at the slot machines.
The lessons learned:
Fly on a day when the weather is good, OR
plan on US planes being late, so schedule your trip at least two days earlier than you need.
Safe travels!
PS- You also may not get room for your carry on luggage on the overhead compartment; US airlines can be very crowded and they serve you no free alcohol.

Posted by
3506 posts

I like to stay at the MOXY modern hotel - literally at the Malpensa airport.

I learned your lesson, too, when I decided to change routes during a travel day in Italy. I bought a different ticket with an earlier connection on a non-Regionale train for the first leg of that trip, but then I had to wait for a Regionale I was allowed to board, no earlier than the time written on my ticket. I realized then that I should have bought the 30-minute earlier timeslot. I was “forced” to step into the Mignon bakery at the train station and savor a delicious pistachio flaky creation while I waited 30 minutes for the Regionale train to leave and mine to arrive. ; )

Posted by
75 posts

My friend experienced something hilarious, but true in Germany.

The train failed to depart in time and after a few minutes wait they announced that the delay is due to the train driver being late, because his train is delayed as well.

DB has a serious shortage of loco drivers and other staff.

Posted by
3506 posts

Very entertaining, Roberto! Reminds me of our recent Seattle-to-Kona experience where we had “the pleasure” of sitting in the plane after it landed in Kona for two hours before we could deplane! We are slow learners - already planning the same location for next year.

Posted by
6522 posts

My guess is Pat will not be sending Roberto a Christmas card this year.

Roberto--- that's what you get for going to 'sin city'. ( how did the slots pay off?)

Posted by
738 posts

Don't understand some folks need for snarkiness when the purpose of sharing info is to make life a little easier for fellow travellers.
Again, if you don't have something constructive to add......

Posted by
11983 posts

Hey, I was really stuck in Vegas in February during the snow storm.

I just wanted to warn fellow travelers that occasionally US planes don’t leave on schedule and even cancel flights (more often than trains) and that they don’t let you board flights before the one you have the ticket for. Airlines do check the tickets just like they do on trains in Milan.

That was very constructive information to add for fellow travelers who may be tempted to board planes before their scheduled flight.

Posted by
2487 posts

if you don't have something constructive to add
Constructive comments have been made: delays and cancellations can - and do - happen everywhere, not only in Italy.

Posted by
160 posts

At the risk of being labeled snarky it is sad when an elegantly humorous post is labeled as snarky. A sense of humor is part of my essential travel skills, plus not taking myself too seriously.

Posted by
5399 posts

Well, we prefer to minimize stress and anxiety so often book an airport hotel the night before the morning flight home -- can recommend the Ibis at CSG-Paris and Hilton Garden Inn at Frankfurt. Have a leisurely lunch in town, take public transit in the afternoon, have a relaxed evening and WALK to the gate in the morning.

Posted by
57 posts

The bottom line is that stuff happens. Be nimble and have contingency plans. Next time, you may consider the airport hotel or getting tickets for an earlier train. One of the best things about travel are the lessons we learn.

Posted by
20729 posts

I think the issue is that headline didn't match the story. ---- Plan for Italian train "inconsistent" schedules and canceled trains -- and thus the push back. Inconsistent schedules and canceled trains implies more than one. But only one train was cancelled and nothing about inconsistent schedules. If anything what her experience conveyed to me was the need to plan for a disruption by going earlier just in case.

The one thing I have noticed about many responses on this site compare to other travel sites is the, almost extreme, demand for accuracy. Post something in error or a faulty conclusion and the push back can be enormous.

Posted by
227 posts

I've always found trains in Italy run by Trenitalia to be fairly reliable - and this is over probably 25 trips in 15 years.
The trains run by FSE in Puglia were a disaster, but that's another story.

When I travel here in the UK, and I have to make a flight by train, I always one that allows me at least one, and normally two alternates, just in case. If this means I have to spend an additional hour at the airport, then so be it.

Even that doesn't always work - several years ago, heading to Gatwick, the trains were all cancelled because of major signalling failures and I ended up taking a train from Portsmouth to Guildford, then the local train company providing 6 of us with a taxi to get to the airport. The taxi then ended up in a traffic jam that meant only I actually made my flight. As stated by others, Stuff happens.

Tim

Posted by
4846 posts

Hmmm, I am beginning to think that some poor soul stepping out in front of a train happens more often than thought. Three instances mentioned in this thread, also caused us to be delayed, stopped on the tracks for an hour or so in Italy, in Milan as well, a number of years ago.

Posted by
227 posts

"Hmmm, I am beginning to think that some poor soul stepping out in front of a train happens more often than thought"

It does. My BIL used to drive trains for a living (it's surprisingly well paid) - he had five people jump in front of his train within a two year period. The last one tipped him over the edge, PSTD - retired on medical grounds. It has taken him well over a decade to get over the trauma.

Tim

Posted by
1165 posts

"Hmmm, I am beginning to think that some poor soul stepping out in front of a train happens more often than thought. "

Yes, across the EU about 60% of fatalities on the railways are suicides. On average about 8 people per day use railways to commit suicide. Access to guns, for example, is much lower. Most railway companies and construction engineers have suicide prevention strategies.

Posted by
11983 posts

Railway suicides are the main suicide method utilized in Europe.
800 a year in Germany alone, approximately 150 a year in Italy (almost 1/3 in Lombardy alone), one suicide every 30 hours in the UK railways.
Few Americans know that trains are the Europeans' guns, when it comes to suicide.

Posted by
1151 posts

I'm sorry your train was cancelled.
In 20 years of taking many trains in Italy, I have never had one cancelled and never had one leave or arrive late.