Train tickets- buy before or in Italy?

We are leaving in a week for Italy, and I haven't bought any train tickets yet. We are a group of three people, and traveling from Venice to Rome on a Tuesday, Rome to Florence on a Saturday, and Florence to Venice on a Wednesday. I was just thinking we would just buy them as we go.... Or should we reserve ahead of time? Like now, online? If so, how do we get the tickets? Print them out from the website? (RailEurope). We won't have a smartphone with us on the trip, but I will have my iPad if I need to show something electronically. Thanks for any help. There didn't seem to be a whole lot in the RS guidebook, he suggests just buy as you go, but it is making me a bit nervous to do that... But if you all agree that we won't have a problem, that would ease my mind.
Though we don't have any specific times we need to be in each city-- but I do want to be sure to get high-speed on all my rides.

Posted by Ken
Vernon, Canada
17796 posts

Christine, As you're leaving in a week I'd suggest just buying tickets in Italy, either at the staffed ticket office or using one of the automated Kiosks. DO NOT use Rail Europe to buy tickets, as they're usually priced higher than Trenitalia. I tend to buy tickets either when I arrive in a particular city (since I'm at the station anyway) or at least a few days before I'll be travelling. There are Travel Agents in Venice where you can buy rail tickets (listed in the Guidebook), which will save you a trip to the station. Note that your departure station will be Venezia Santa Lucia, and your arrival station Roma Termini (you MUST specify the correct stations when buying tickets). You might check the Trenitalia website to get some ideas of the departure times and train details. From Venice to Rome, you'll be using Freccia (high speed) trains, which travel at up to 300 kmH. NOTE that your tickets for these will include reservations, which are specific to a particular train and departure time. You CAN NOT buy tickets and then board any Freccia train. If you board a train other than the one specified on your ticket, hefty fines will result (which start at about €60 PP), which will be collected on the spot! If using Regionale trains, you MUST validate your tickets prior to boarding the train on the day of travel, or again hefty fines! All of this is not actually too hard to deal with, once you get used to it. You may find it very helpful to have a look at the excellent www.roninrome.com website for LOTS of information on travelling by train in Italy. Buon Viaggio!

Posted by Tim
Minneapolis, MN, USA
8646 posts

Do not buy your tickets from Rail Europe, especially at this late date. You'll pay more than buying full fare tickets at stations as you go. If you can commit today to specific departure dates and times, you still can get discount fares by booking at trenitalia.com. (The cheapest tickets are long gone, but you probably won't have to pay full fare.)

Posted by Sam
Green Bay
2281 posts

The reason to buy in advance is to get a discount. Looking at May 27, there are still economy tickets available at 49 euro on a few trains. Most only have full fare tickets available for 80 euro. Discounted tickets are like airline tickets, make your appointed train or throw away the ticket. Full fare is the walkup price and is refundable and changeable. It is unlikely any trains will sell out and if they do, on the routes you are on, there will be another train in an hour.

Posted by Robert
Tampa, FL, USA
275 posts

For regional trains, buy them in italy. For the High Speed trains buying them in italy at the station you can be flexible with your schedule. You can leave on which time fits you that day, but you'll pay full fare. If you know you want a certain train and you can get a discounted fare online, book it for the discount. Early enough some are as low as 9 euro. If there is not much of a discount purchase them in italy.

Posted by Sheron
Alta Loma, CA, USA
1202 posts

If you do decide to purchase your tickets now and if you run into trouble (as I did) trying to purchase them from Trenitalia's site, you might consider buying them from italiarail.com Their prices are the same as Trenitalia's and you can purchase in US dollars as opposed to euros and their site is A LOT easier to use. They only charge a $5 fee per transaction but to me it was worth while as I was tearing out my hair trying to get my transaction to go through on Trenitalia! Have a great trip.

Posted by Nigel
East Midlands, England
8761 posts

Trenitalia doesn't have a monopoly on trains on those routes anymore. Go to the .Italo Treno website and look at those too. There are specials in and out of Venice at the moment too. In Rome they do call at Roma Tiburtina instead of Termini but that is only an easy 4 stop trip on the Metro. For both Trenitalia and .Italo you can print out tickets at home very easily.

Posted by Eileen
Texan in CA
3586 posts

Lan, those are high-speed trains and they come with seat reservations so no need to do anything but board the train. You don't need to be there terribly early; just early enough to check your train on the board and walk to the track. If you're nervous about all of that, 30 minutes would be plenty. You'll get the hang of it after a few times! A regionale train will be called that, and while they do make some of the 'major' runs you'll see them mostly between the smaller towns. I don't believe any of your trips would be well-served on a regionale, if I recall your thread correctly... Here is a short video to help you, I hope. Sorry you'll have to copy and paste, because my link was unsuccessful: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3AxtbifeoBY&feature=youtube_gdata_player Pay close attention starting at 1:25, and never hesitate to ask as many people as necessary to be comfortable that you're at the correct place and doing the correct thing ;-)

Posted by Lan
San Jose, Ca, Usa
18 posts

@Ken, We will be taken Trenitalia trains "freccagianto" from venice to Florence, Florence to Rome. All the train which starts with "Freccia" I assume they are high speed trains, Is that correct? Do we need to make reservation or validate our tickets. What would be regional trains as this is our first time to Italy? How early should we get to the train station so we will not miss them as we have bought Economy tickets. Thanks for your help in advance