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Seat Reservations with Rail Europe passes in Italy?

So, I'm going to be traveling over two weeks, from Rome to Paris, in May. I thought that getting a France/Italy rail pass from Rail Europe would be the most economical thing to do, but now I'm not so sure. It seems that you need seat reservations on a lot of trains, and if you purchase them through Rail Europe, they're sometimes more than the cost of the train ticket itself (In the case of a ticket from Venice to Nice, I checked the point to point price on trenitalia, the cost of a ticket was 55 euros, but seat reservations through Rail Europe were $70!).

Has anyone used Rail Europe passes in Italy? How much were seat reservations at the station? (I don't want reservations in advance in case our plans change.) Were they easy to get a few hours before departure? Were you ever not able to get to where you were going because the trains were sold out? Did you have any other problems using Rail Europe passes in Italy? Also, if you bought point to point tickets at the station, were they more than the price online?

Also, do the people at the ticket booths speak English? I speak quite a bit of French and some Spanish, but I don't know any Italian and I'm having nightmares about not being able to communicate to make a train reservation... :(

I know it's a lot of questions, but if anyone could tell me anything about using the passes in Italy, I'd appreciate it!


Posted by
521 posts

It is possible that you might purchase a point-to-point ticket that does not include a reservation. There are some routes that are serviced by both a high-speed train, and a slower regional train. The point-to-point ticket would get you covered on either one of those trains, but you would need an additional reservation for the high-speed train.

Remember that if you are buying a seat reservation, it is for a specific seat on a specific train at a set time - your reservation is non-transferable to the next train if you miss your scheduled one (although sometimes you can change your ticket without penalty). If you are buying a ticket with a reservation, you will first need to select the day and time of the train before you can purchase the ticket. If it makes you do that, it is probably booking the seat for you.

If you are not getting a pass for Italy, just buy your point-to-point tickets at the train station before you depart. Booking in advance costs more as you are paying for the upkeep of the online system that you purchased from.

And for what you mentioned about the UK - most countries seem to give you a benefit by purchasing a pass. Italy just is not one of them. :o)

Posted by
521 posts

Hi Tonya,

First off, Italian is very close to both French and Spanish. As you speak both of those languages, you know how similar they are and Italian almost seems even more similar. Just with your knowledge you could get by. That being said, unless you are travelling to small towns that are not used to tourists, English should not be much of a problem. In major stations, there are also automated Trenitalia ticket machines that work in English.

Many people on this site comment frequently about how rail passes are not a good idea in Italy. I will leave those details to someone more experienced, but I can speak about the reservations in Italy. You only need to make reservations on night trains and high-speed trains. If the majority of your trips require reservations, it sounds to me like you're travelling around the Naples-Rome-Florence-Venice-Milan areas, which are serviced by the Eurostar Italia high-speed line. That line requires a reservation fee even if you have a rail pass.

Although I forget the exact charge in Euros, you are looking at around fifteen american dollars per reservation on the Eurostar Italia when you purchase your ticket in Italy.

In terms of how easy they were to get, I got a reservation from Florence to Venice five minutes before the train left in the middle of August, and there were still plenty of seats left.

Finally, as someone once explained to me on this site, RailEurope is a reseller of tickets, and therefore they always mark-up the prices in order to cover their own costs. Tickets will be cheaper in Europe, or when purchased directly through rail line sites like for Thalys, as an example.

Posted by
39 posts

Thank you!

Yes, I've found some posts on here that say the passes are not a good idea in Italy. They were a good deal when I went to England a couple of years ago, but there, no reservations are required.

So, if you bought a ticket directly from the train company's site or at the train station, does that ticket include the reservation? Or is the reservation an additional fee? I ask because the SNCF french train site quoted prices but there was a warning that you needed reservations on the route I had chosen. It wasn't clear as to whether they were included in the price. If I don't get a pass, I would be buying my tickets at the station.

Thanks again for your help :)

Posted by
8700 posts

In both France and Italy for any train that requires a reservation, the reservation is included in the price of a p2p ticket.

If you have a railpass, the cost of a reservation on high-speed EuroStar Italia trains is 15-20 euros. On other trains that require reservations it is 3-4 euros. No reservations are possible on regional trains.

In short, it doesn't pay to have a railpass in Italy. Amica fares (20% discount) are offered on fast trains. If any of the allotted seats are still available, you can get an Amica fare up to midnight of the day before departure.

The ticket machines at major stations in Italy have an English option and accept North American credit cards. If you need to buy tickets from an agent, hurdle the language barrier by writing the departure time and destination of the train(s) you want on a piece of paper and hand it to the agent. Write the date in European format (day-month-year) and use the 24-hour clock.

Posted by
6898 posts

Tonya, I'm noting that Trentialia will quote a cost in Euros and RailEurope will quote a cost in dollars. You need to do a conversion to compare apples with apples.

CLICK HERE to see sample morning Trenitalia train schedule from Venice S.L. to Nice Ville. Note the nice 7:50am run. It costs 55.20 Euros ($69). This cost includes all seat reservations. The same ticket on RailEurope is $89. If you get a railpass for Italy, it will cost more plus in Italy, they put an 18Euro supplemental fee on top of your pass to ride the Eurostars. Just buy your tickets when you arrive in Venice.

If you are buying your tickets in Venice, it is suggested to use the automated machine. If you want to use the ticket window, make sure that you have the date, time, train number, origination city & destination that you want written down. Hand that to the agent. English is not their primary language and in many cases is not their second language either. They do try but write it down. Trenitalia also has a separate trip planning office in the Venice train station where they do speak English. We have used both.

Posted by
39 posts

Larry, if you look at the fares for passholders on Rail Europe, they're charging between $35 and $48 per person for the reservation alone from Venice to Nice, if you book it through their site. On top of the price of the pass, it seems a bit much. The pass we'd get works out to $60 per day, making the trip from Venice to Nice cost $95 to $108 if done through them. For that, we could just buy a first class ticket, as it's 80 euros.

Also the reservation amounts seem to vary, they're not one price, at least on their site. Not that I would reserve through them anyway. If I were to buy a pass, I would be inclined to do the reservations in person, mostly because I don't know exactly when we'll be where.

I'm leaning towards just buying the tickets from the kiosk. I'm thinking that it might be cheaper and a lot less hassle.

Thanks everyone!