Rail pass or poit-to-point tickets

We are two adults traveling with a 15 year old. 4/6/14 the fast train from Rome to Venice 4/7 the fast train from Venice to Florence 4/8 by whatever train form Florence to Pisa and Cinque Terre (can we buy tickets all the way to Cinque Terre and stop in Pisa for a couple of hours?) 4/10 the fastest train connection (what would it be?)from Cinque Terre back to Rome 4/11 same from Rome to Pompeii and back to Rome Would it make sense for us to buy a five day Rail Pass to save money or not? All advice will be appreciated.
Anna

Posted by donna
roswell, ga, usa
1012 posts

I cannot answer the specific question regarding the rail times, but I will advise you that you're not allowing enough time for the cities you're planning on seeing. Less than a half day for Venice if you're going to Florence the next day, and Florence needs at least 2 nights! Every time you change cities you lose a half day at least -- checking out of the hotel, going to the train station, riding the train, getting to the next hotel, checking in, etc. Basically you're allowing yourself enough time to eat dinner in Venice and again in Florence and even Rome! Just my opinion, with only 6 days on the ground, you really only have time for two cities to actually see anything! Either Rome and Florence or Rome and Venice. A rail pass is almost never worth the money. There's a previous question re rail passes on this Italy Blog. I'm not an expert in trains, but you can look at Roninrome.com if one of the train experts doesn't post.

Posted by Michael
Seattle, WA, USA
5776 posts

Well, you said "All advice will be appreciated," so here goes: I agree with Donna. This is just an insane pace and your 15 year old is going to hate you. Do Rome and either Venice or Florence. Have you already bought your plane tickets? If not, fly into one city and fly out of another. For example, fly into Rome for the start and then fly home from Venice so you don't have to backtrack. Go to trenitalia.com to get an idea for the travel times involved in doing your proposed itinerary. I'm exhausted just thinking about it.

Posted by Anna
Mukilteo, WA, USA
5 posts

Just to clarify, we will have 3 days in Rome before we go to Venice. We have already bought our round trip tickets to Rome. It looks like we need to slow down and allow more time in Venice. Are Pisa and Cinque Terre doable in one day? Should we choose Pisa and Cinque Terre or Pompeii? Cinque Terre is listed as one of the top attractions but do these five colorful little towns really beat Pompeii? As far as the Rail Pass it sounds like the answer is no as long as we can get these cheap point to point tickets on line, but how easy are they to book if there is a limited number of them available?
Thank you for all the comments so far.

Posted by Ken
Vernon, Canada
17792 posts

Anna, As the others have said, your proposed Itinerary is FAR too ambitious for the time you have! Most of your stops are one night except for the Cinque Terre, which WON'T allow much time to see anything. A few questions..... Are you arriving in Rome on 6 April, or coming from somewhere else? Have you allowed for your 2 travel days? You'll arrive in Europe the day after you depart home, and the last day will be spent on the trip home. Have you considered jet lag? A few things to consider..... > Rome to Venice - although the rail trip is 3H:45M, that trip will likely take 6H from one end to another, by the time check-out, get to station, wait, arrive in new location, get to hotel and check in. You WON'T have much time to see much. > Venice to Florence - the rail trip is only ~2 hours but the actual time will be ~4 hours, so you'll have part of one day for sightseeing (not enough for Florence). > Florence to Cinque Terre - the rail trip will be ~3-4 hours, but more like 5 total. You can stop in Pisa but IMHO it would be a waste of time with such a very busy Itinerary. > C.T. to Rome - the rail trip will be ~4 hours (but allow ~5h) if you can connect with one of the direct trains from La Spezia to Rome. That will vary depending on which of the 5 towns you choose to stay in. > Rome to Pompeii return - that will take the better part of a day. You'll first travel from Rome to Naples (2H), then Circumvesuviana to Pompeii (~45M). There will of course be waiting and other misc. times so I'd allow 3-4H each way for that. Is there any possibility of reducing the number of stops on this Itinerary to a more "realistic" level? Given your location, you might consider taking a drive to Edmonds and getting a consultation from Rick's travel experts. Happy travels!

Posted by Anna
Mukilteo, WA, USA
5 posts

Ken, thanks for giving me a realistic picture how much time I need to allow for each leg of our trip. I realize I need to limit the number of destinations on my list. We arrive in Rome on April 3rd directly from Seattle, returning on April 13th. Yes, I am familiar with jet lag but I think it will be good to wake up early, do the sights and go to bed early for the first few days.Yes,I was thinking of contacting Rick Steves' office in Edmonds for more details but since they are closed today I thought I could get some advice from fellow travelers.
Looking forward to more comments!

Posted by Michael
Seattle, WA, USA
5776 posts

The Cinque Terre in early April will be very iffy, with the high likelihood of rain. Save it for a future trip closer to summertime. As for other recommendations, what interests does your 15-year old have? (also, male or female?)

Posted by Ken
Vernon, Canada
17792 posts

Anna, This website may answer some of your questions: www.ricksteves.com/about/consulting.htm If you'd prefer to use the HelpLine, that's also an option as there's a very well travelled group here. I'd also recommend picking up a copy of the Italy Guidebook. The 2014 edition should be released this month. I usually pack my copy along, as it's an excellent reference source during trips. It would help if you could indicate what sights you're most interested in seeing in each location. In order to appreciate the sights, it would really help to keep it down to about 2-3 cities with day trips, perhaps just Rome and Florence. There are some "details" you'll need to be aware of, especially when travelling by train in Italy. There are some potentially expensive "caveats" to be aware of. That's a long way to fly for such a short time. Is there any possibility your could get more time? Have you already booked your flights? Cheers!

Posted by Jon
Fort Collins, Colorado, USA
46 posts

Anna, enough folks have told you how tight your itinerary is so I'll leave it at that. The one thing I did not see fully addressed is whether to buy a rail pass or not. I'd advise buying the point-to-point tickets a week or so in advance on trainitalia web site. You can always go to the ticket office/travel agency and have it changed for a small fee if plans change. The hidden fact about Rail passes in Italy is that many times you still have to pay a reservation fee on top of your rail pass for each leg of the trip. If you trim down your itinerary a train pass is not nearly as good a deal as it seems at first. Have fun and assume you will go back to Italy again to see what you don't see this time.

Posted by Sam
Green Bay
2280 posts

I'll have to take issue with Jon on when to purchase train tickets. One week ahead and you will be paying full fare, Buy 90 days ahead and you can save 75% on your train tickets. They will be nonrefundable, just like airline tickets, but look at it like this: you will have hotel reservations and you have a check out time (noon?) and a hotel at your next destination with a check in time (3 pm?) so you are already committed. That's your travel window. Super Economy tickets sell out fast, then Economy tickets and when they're sold out its full fare. When you are shopping on line, you might see that the 1 pm train only has Economy tickets available at 39 euro pp, but the 1:45 has Super Economy available at 19 euro pp.
10 days on the ground? Rome, Florence (day trip to Pisa), Venice. That's it. That's all you have time for now and it is more than enough. OK, want to do Pompei? Blast in and out in a day from Rome. Leave 7:30 am, arrive Pompei 10 am, leave Pompei 6:30 pm home by 9 pm. Check it off the list.