Train and Bus tickets

Greetings everyone!

We will be traveling from Rome to Siena October 17th (have not decided whether to take the train or the bus) , we will travel by bus from Siena to Florence on October 20th, Florence to Vernazza by train October 22nd and finally Vernazza to Venice by train on October 25th. My questions are, do we need to make reservations in advance? And, is there any great benefit in purchasing first class tickets on the train (if available)? Our travel days are set but I would rather not have to decide before we leave what time we want to depart to the next stop. Oh, one last question....Is there a cost savings to buying your train tickets ahead of time?

Thank you in advance!

Posted by karenenlow
48 posts

Thank you David, you confirmed what I was thinking. Do you know if there is a cost savings if you purchase the train tickets ahead of time?

Posted by Robert
Tampa, FL, USA
602 posts

Your trip from ct to Venice will be partly on a high speed train. Check trenitalia for fares. They can be as low as 9 or 19 euro but same day could be 60+

Posted by Frank
Tresana, Highlands Ranch, CO, USA
12222 posts

In Italy you have three level of fares - Super Econ, Economy, and Basic on all trains except Regionale trains. The SE and E tickets come with restrictions. Basic or full fare are unrestricted. But all of these tickets have a seat reservation and are for a set time and train. The number of SE and E tickets available are very limited and the number vary via trains so they sell out early. Those tickets are best purchased on-line and about three months in advance.

Regionale trains are more like the bus. You can buy a Regionale ticket anytime (never on-line) and it is good for any Regionale train at anytime. Just prior to boarding you validate - time stamp - the ticket and then it is good for five hours so if going from A to D you can get off at B and C and then back on so long as the trip is completed in five hours. Regionale train tickets are pretty cheap and never discounted so no point in buying early. The trains never sell out. No seat available - you stand till someone gets off.

Posted by Ken
Vernon, Canada
20313 posts

karen,

I have a few comments to add to the others.....

do we need to make reservations in advance?

You'll only need reservations for travel on the "premium" trains such as the Freccia high speed versions. You don't "need" to make reservations in advance, although at busy travel times (ie: holidays) if can be worthwhile to do so. If you buy P-P tickets for those trains, reservations will provided with the tickets. Note that the reservations will be specific to a particular train, date and departure time, and can ONLY be used on the ONE train specified on the ticket. If you board the wrong train, you'll be deemed to be travelling without reservations and will be subject to a hefty fine, which will be collected on the spot.

Reservations are not possible on Regionale trains so it's just as easy to buy tickets for those at the stations, either from a Kiosk or from a staffed ticket office. NOTE that Regionale tickets MUST be validated prior to boarding the train on the day of travel, or again you'll be subject to hefty fines!

is there any great benefit in purchasing first class tickets on the train (if available)?

I suppose that's a matter of opinion. I don't believe you can purchase tickets on the train. You'll likely be fined if you try that. I've never felt that first class was worth the extra money, as second class is perfectly comfortable. However, one exception - if you find that all the second class tickets for a particular train are sold-out and that's the train you want to take, I'd consider buying first class tickets as those are less likely to be sold out.

Our travel days are set but I would rather not have to decide before we leave what time we want to depart to the next stop.

In that case, I'd suggest buying your tickets at the stations in Italy, perhaps on the day prior to travel. I like to do that so that I don't have to wait in queues or whatever on the day of travel. If I have my ticket in hand, I can proceed directly to the train. When buying your tickets at stations just before each trip, you'll likely be paying "Base Fare" (the highest level), but that provides the most flexibility in travel times. Especially with Regionale tickets, you can buy those on the day of travel as there are no reservations and they never sell out.

Oh, one last question....Is there a cost savings to buying your train tickets ahead of time?

The answer to that is both "Yes" and "No". There's no cost savings for buying Regionale tickets ahead of time, and it's difficult to do so. There can be a cost savings for pre-purchase of tickets on the "premium" trains. As Frank mentioned there are three classes of tickets - Super Economy, Economy and Base. The Super Economy tickets can be as low as about €9. However, as you might appreciate those usually sell out fairly quickly and once they're gone the next level is Economy, which is a mid-priced ticket. One important point to note with the premium tickets is that once purchased, the travel date and time is "set in stone" so you'd have to be very sure you could commit to travelling on the date and time you choose.

Posted by Larry
Carmel, CA, USA
553 posts

Karen, I would just like to confirm and stress Ken's guidance that it is often better to buy your train ticket at least a little in advance, not just before you board the train. This might be when you first arrive in that town, or first thing in the morning when you are traveling later in the day, or from a tobacco shop or travel office, etc. More than once I have found myself in the situation of going to a station to buy a ticket and immediately board a train, only to find that the ticket office lines were long and slow, and the ticket machines were out of order, or wouldn't take my credit card, or couldn't make change for my cash, etc. Because of that, I have ended up missing trains or literally running to get to the right track to catch a train, one time running right past the validation machine, and sure enough getting zapped with the hefty fine for not having validated my ticket. No amount of explaining or pleading would sway the ticket checker. All I could think was, oh my gosh, what would Ken say!

Posted by karenenlow
48 posts

Thanks to everyone for the great information. I think we will check out the train schedules and perhaps reserve tickets for Florence to Vernazza and Vernazza to Venice. I was briefly on the website yesterday and I noticed that depending on what time you leave you might have 2 or 3 connections. Obviously we need to be out of our B&B by a certain time and we probably want to arrive at our next destination at a decent hour and minimize the number of connections, so it looks like we might just commit to a schedule. One other question (yes, I am full of them). I noticed that some of the routes used different types of trains. If we reserve on a high speed train for example is there ANY risk that we would not be able to get on the Regional train that it connects to??? I mean, do they just cram people on there no matter what?

Posted by karenenlow
48 posts

Okay, again I need clarification (I promise I am not crazy). I was just on the website looking at train schedules. Both of our trips include a Regionale Train. That being said it was my understanding that you could not book Regionale trains ahead of time. However, on the website (at least for our trips) you can secure a ticket for the train. I did see some schedules that involved Regionale trains that you could only book 7 days in advance. Are there some Regionale trains you can book more than 7 days in advance and some that you cannot book??? I am confused!

Posted by Frank
Tresana, Highlands Ranch, CO, USA
12222 posts

.......they just cram people on there no matter what?....... They don't cram people on. You do if you want to go. As I mentioned earlier, Regionale trains have NO reserve seating. You just get on and go. Wonder through the cars till you find a seat or stand till the next stop when someone will be getting off. Because Regionale trains are fairly frequent that are not overly crowded except early AM and late PM with commuting traffic. A mid AM or PM train should be fine. A Regionale train ticket attached to or purchased with a high speed ticket is prevalidated so just get on and go.

Posted by Frank
Tresana, Highlands Ranch, CO, USA
12222 posts

To answer your new question. A ticket just for a Regionale train cannot be purchased on-line until seven days before departure. HOWEVER, DO NOT purchase just a Regionale ticket on line. Only buy Regionale ticket in station. On-line Regionale tickets come prevalidated.

Second situation, it a trip from A to F includes a Regionale train segment anywhere on the trip, that Regionale ticket will be included with the advance purchase high speed tickets. However, that ticket comes prevalidated as a part of the package. OK

Posted by karenenlow
48 posts

Thank you Frank. I think I have it now. A regionale ticket by itself can only be purchased 7 days in advance and you must validate the ticket when boarding. HOWEVER, if that regionale train is part of a route that includes another type of train and more importantly the train site allows you to purchase the ticket you may purchase more than 7 days in advance and there is no need to validate the regionale train ticket....it is validated when you purchase (let's say) it with the high speed ticket.

Thank you all. You are all amazing and making my first stab at planning and booking our Italy trip less stressful. When we return from Italy I hope to be able to share my "lessons learned" with other first timers.

Posted by Ken
Vernon, Canada
20313 posts

karen,

For your trips from Florence to Vernazza and Vernazza to Venice, you'll be using a combination of premium and Regionale trains. You can book the premium trains in advance but it's just as easy to buy the Regionale tickets when in Italy, as there are no price breaks. Just validate them prior to use. While it is possible to book Regionale tickets online, I believe these are pre-validated and some may have to be picked up that stations in Italy using a Kiosk.

Although it costs a bit more, I find it just as easy to go to the station the day prior to travel and buy tickets there using a Kiosk. That provides a bit more flexibility as I can choose what time I want to depart based on what's happening at the time.

Posted by Frank
Tresana, Highlands Ranch, CO, USA
12222 posts

You almost have it. Just to be clear --

A regionale ticket by itself can only be purchased *on line** 7 days in advance*

However, as previous stated, a Regionale ticket should NEVER be purchased in advance on line. You can buy all the Regionale ticket you like at the first ticket booth that you hit. Regionale tickets purchased in the station are good for 60 days.

Personally I don't like to call the train's premium that require a seat reservation. All trains in Italy (which is not true in many other countries) except Regionale require a reservation and that includes ICs which are not very premium. I think using the phrase premium for all Italian trains is a little misleading.

Posted by Ken
Vernon, Canada
20313 posts

@Frank,

The term "premium" may not be the best, but it's the only term I can think of to describe the group of trains that....

(a.) cost more than Regionale

(b.) have compulsory reservations

(c.) have some versions which operate at high speed

(d.) offer special features such as Wi-Fi, executive seating, etc.

In that group I include the Le Frecce / EuroStar Italia, InterCity and EuroCity (ie: basically everything except Regionale). Perhaps I'll give some thought to another term that I can use.

Posted by Quirite
Rome, Lazio, Italy
328 posts

My two pence: in Rome it is possible to ride Regionale trains with bus tickets but only within the city limits.

Posted by Laura
Rick Steves' Europe
6488 posts

You're on the right track with the advice above. You can buy several tickets in Rome or Florence (either reserved or not, depending on the train type) if you want to reduce stops at the ticket window or machine.