In the new "Europe Through the Back Door" Rick states that Italy is one country where he would consider 1st class train travel rather than 2nd class, but does not say why. We are two "mature" travelers in good physical shape with small suitcases who will travel Milan-Venice-Florence-Cinque Terre-Rome in the Spring using the fast trains. Please tell me what you would choose, and why. Is theft more common in 2nd class?
Mostly because the difference in price between first/second class is minimal compared to other countries.
We are 70ishs travels with many hours in 2nd class trains in Italy and elsewhere with no problems. Theft is not high at anytime or in any class. We only travel in first class when we can get a great deal. First class is more comfortable and sometimes - not always - bit better service level. On two occasions we were the only people in first class which made it kind of boring but we had plenty of room for our two bags.
My experiences on trains in Italy: sometimes 2nd class is very crowded. However, when I have had reservations I have always had a seat. I, too, am "mature" and am considering going first class from Venice to La Spezia. If there isn't a huge price difference, I want the 1st class experience. Fewer people; slightly nicer seats. I'll try for one of those mini-fares.
You get a decent meal in First Class.
Nancy, we travel primarily in 2nd class. GAC writes a great article on the differences between 1st Class and 2nd Class on Trenitalia trains. We ride 1st class when 2nd is sold out - or when we get a MINI promotion fare for 1st class that's lower than the BASE price for 2nd class - Hard to pass those up! As mentioned, 1st class is often far less crowded than 2nd. So there may be more room for luggage. But with smaller suitcases, as you mention, luggage storage does not appear to be an issue for you regardless of the class you select.
We have never had a meal in first class. Sometimes beverages, snacks, but not a meal.
The only time I've had meal service on a train in Italy was in first class from Milano to Roma, and that was years ago when the trains were slower.
Thanks so much to everyone for your comments. Special thanks to Ron for introducing me to "mini promotional fares" I will definitely check them out! Nancy
I purchase my rail tickets through trenitalia.com Saved over 50percent off the regular prices. Some even were first class with no price difference. Not much of a difference between the two classes. Sometimes in first class you are in a small room with up to 6 seats. If you get some lame people then your travel is boring. Sometimes you get interesting people and the conversation is great! One drawback with these promotional discounted fares is we could not exchange for earlier travel, we had to stay with the times we had purchased.