Venice to Florence

We are going to hire a driver on our way from Venice to Florence. We will make a day of it. Most tour guides recommend stopping in Bologna. Does anyone have any other suggestions or is Bologna the best choice? I would appreciate any input you can give me. Thank you.

Posted by Roberto
Fremont, CA, USA
3324 posts

You don't like trains? Trains are so much faster and comfortable than driving from Venice to Florence.
And with a driver? I bet the train is cheaper too, regardless of how many of you are traveling together.

Posted by Sherry
San Jose, CA
1139 posts

Depending on your interests, Ravenna can make a lovely stop (although not on as direct a route as Bologna); it's south of Venice, on the Adriatic. Some of the finest Byzantine-style mosaics in Italy, and a quiet change of pace.

Posted by Ken
Vernon, Canada
17750 posts

Shelly, I have the same question as Roberto. Is there a specific reason you're not travelling by train on that route? The trip via Freccia or Italo high speed train is an easy two hour ride at 300 kmH, which will be much quicker and more efficient than travel by car. It will also be cheaper as current fares are shown at €45 PP. Cheers!

Posted by Shelly
Calgary, Alberta, Canada
33 posts

Ok that is good advice I thought it would be nice to drive and see some stops along the way. Would you recommend the same thing from Siena to Rome?
We are leaving on Sunday so now I am rethinking this....

Posted by Roberto
Fremont, CA, USA
3324 posts

Not a whole lot to see between Venice and Bologna. Flat and boring agricultural and industrial areas. Then Bologna to Florence the freeway goes through a lot of tunnels in the Apennines mountains.
From Siena to Roma you can take a train also ;change in Florence or Chiusi) or a more comfortable bus.

Posted by Shelly
Calgary, Alberta, Canada
33 posts

Good to know. I was thinking we would try and see as much as possible along the way. There are 6 of us. We will take the train! Would you recommend a day trip to Lucca and Pisa?

Posted by Roberto
Fremont, CA, USA
3324 posts

Since your party does not have rental car(s), but rather relies on public transportation, you should stay in Florence, which is the transport hub for Tuscany. Use Florence as a base to visit (besides Florence itself) other towns in Tuscany with various day trips. You can visit the following from Florence (choose which you would like depending on your time available): Siena (by bus 75 min, by train 90 min) Pisa (by train 1 hr) Lucca (by train or bus, a little over 1 hr). Note that Pisa and Lucca are only minutes from each other, therefore you could visit both in a day, splitting your time between the two, maybe half day each) Arezzo (by train less than 1 hr) Pistoia and Montecatini (by train or bus, less than one hour)
Bologna (by fast train, 37 min) In addition to the above, you can visit smaller towns, such as San Gimignano, Certaldo, Volterra, etc. However transportation to some smaller towns may be more infrequent, therefore you need to plan carefully to avoid being stuck there. For smaller towns it's usually more efficient to rent a car.

Posted by Ken
Vernon, Canada
17750 posts

Shelly, If you haven't travelled by train in Italy before, here are a few "caveats".... When using Regionale trains which don't require reservations, it's VERY IMPORTANT to validate (time & date stamp) the tickets prior to boarding the train on the day of travel. The validation (Convalida) machine will either be bright yellow or blue & gray, with a small digital display on the front. These are easy to find and located near the tracks. If the machine is out of order, writing the time & date on the ticket may be acceptable (ask the Conductor as soon as possible). Those caught with unvalidated tickets may be fined on the spot! The fines start at €40-50 per person and if not paid on the spot, they DOUBLE and increase from there! The same fines apply to those travelling via Bus in Rome and other places (in that case, validation machines are often located ON the Bus). Those travelling on the "premium" trains such as the Freccia high speed trains MUST have a valid reservation or again may be fined on the spot! These fines also start at €50 per person, in addition to the cost of the reservation, which is currently ~€10 PP. Reservations on these trains are compulsory and are specific to a particular train and departure time. It's NOT POSSIBLE to simply buy a ticket with reservations and then board any train. The ticket or reservation will specify the train number (ie: ES 9718), so it's important to verify that before boarding. Despite these minor issues, travel by train is still the easiest and quickest way to get around, and the method I usually prefer. Cheers!

Posted by Michael
Seattle, WA, USA
5741 posts

Definitely do the train. That way the six of you can be facing each other in various seating combinations and you can easily get up to stretch and use the restroom if needed. There's tons of helpful info on train travel in Italy at Roninrome.com here: http://www.roninrome.com/transportation/train-travel-italy FYI, 2nd class train tickets in Italy are perfectly fine and much less expensive than the 1st class tickets. Go to that website for more info.

Posted by Jean
Mill Creek, WA, USA
84 posts

Hi Shelly, We preferred Verona or Padova over our time in Bologna. Padova has the beautiful Scrovengi Chapel. Verona has wonderful piazzas, the arena, pink marble walkways, and the Romeo/Juliet linked history. I hope you're spending more than a day in Venice - especially being there overnight to be able to linger in San Marco with the evening lights and the daytime tourist crowd gone. Be sure to walk away from the Rialto Bridge-to-San Marco path and enjoy the magic of Venice.

Posted by Shelly
Calgary, Alberta, Canada
33 posts

Thank you for the great information. We will take the train for sure. Ken you said we must have a reservation. Can we do that on the day or do you mean in advance? I have been reading about the importance of validating tickets so I really appreciate you giving me more detail on how to do that. I'm so glad I asked as we may have wasted a valuable day driving. I don't know why but I'm a bit scared of what seems like a lot of commotion around train travel. Must be because I come from Canada with very little experience. Roberto thanks for the breakdown. That is helpful as well. We will be in Venice for 3 days so we should have plenty of time to enjoy.

Posted by Ken
Vernon, Canada
17750 posts

Shelly, "I don't know why but I'm a bit scared of what seems like a lot of commotion around train travel. Must be because I come from Canada with very little experience." I'm from Canada too! You'll get used to the trains in Italy very quickly. To answer your most recent questions, from Venice to Florence you'll be using the Freccia or Italo premium trains (your choice), so the tickets don't need to be validated. However, your tickets will be specific for a particular train, date and departure time and CAN NOT be used on any other train, or you'll face hefty fines. If you're willing to commit to a particular train and departure time, you can save some money by pre-purchasing tickets online. Have a look at the excellent www.roninrome.com website for a tutorial on how to buy on the Trenitalia website. You could also use the relatively new Italo train, which is a different company. Their website is reportedly quite user friendly. Note that your departure station will be Venezia Santa Lucia and your arrival station will be Firenze SMN (Santa Maria Novella). If you'd prefer more flexibility in your departure time, you can certainly buy tickets there, either from a Kiosk or staffed ticket office. I normally buy tickets at least the day before travel, but there are numerous trains on that route every day so you should have no trouble buying on the day of travel. I find that second class is perfectly comfortable, especially on the Freccia trains. With reserved tickets, you'll be assigned a Car No. (Carrozza) and Seat No. (Posti). You MUST sit where assigned. Larger luggage items are placed on the racks at the end of the car. You may also want to have a look at the outstanding seat61.com website. Cheers!

Posted by Ken
Vernon, Canada
17750 posts

Shelly, Here are a few short video tutorials on travel by train in Europe. Although the first one covers the Netherlands and Germany, many of the same rules still apply. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3AxtbifeoBY http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6n8rITO1Eek (her Italian is wonderful to listen to) A few final tips..... > If someone offers to "help" you put your luggage on the train, tell them to "take a hike" unless you actually want help. You can be sure they'll have their hand out very quickly. > If you place any luggage items on the rack at the end of the car, be sure to watch it carefully, especially just before arrival in stations or while the train is stopped. Luggage has been known to "disappear" on occasion (although this is not a problem on direct trains that don't stop at intermediate stations). > Be sure to match the train number printed on your ticket with that shown on the electronic departure board. That will indicate the Binario (track/platform) number where your train is located. If you're using the Freccia trains, it will state ES 9419 or similar. The number will be different for each train, but you MUST use ONLY the train printed on your ticket - if in doubt ask a Conductor when boarding, as there's usually at least one standing on the platform. > If you're using Buses in Florence, Rome or wherever, tickets must be validated. The machine may be on the platform or on board the Bus. I'm assuming you plan on walking from the station in Florence to your hotel? Happy travels!

Posted by Cliff
Texas
120 posts

I did the same trip you are planning and used the regional trains between cities and had no problems. I bought the tickets in advanced and saved the money but lost some flexibility by having to use a specific train. On our last trip to Europe, We got caught by the the "helping hand luggage loader" in Budapest this past March and he made sure he got the "tip" he wanted. It upset us for a few minutes but laughed it off and didn't let it ruin our day. Later going from Vienna to Prague we forgot to switch trains and then we were informed we were on a train heading to Russia! The ticket checker printed out a new route to Prague and we made it just fine. Again, we were confused for a few minutes, but now six months later we have a laugh whenever we talk about it.

Posted by Shelly
Calgary, Alberta, Canada
33 posts

Thanks again Ken. I will watch the videos. This has been a great help.
I didn't think about how we would get to our hotel. Up until a couple of days ago I was planning a driver :) I guess a cab or two? Not sure if we can walk. Ugh I hate this part. Cliff sounds like you had lots of "fun" I agree with you it is always better to laugh and look at it as part of the journey. I know when we were in Nice we found the train a bit confusing so I hope we don't end up on a train to Russia!

Posted by Larry
Carmel, CA, USA
206 posts

Then there's the tale of the group of German interpreters who were flying to work at a UN conference in Monterrey, Mexico, only to get off their flight and find that they had arrived in Monterey, California. Made the front page out here, on a slow news day I guess. I'll bet that travel agent learned about that with many decibels. Not exactly about train travel in Italy, but an interesting story just the same.

Posted by Roberto
Fremont, CA, USA
3324 posts

Well. Good thing they weren't going to Oakland, California and fly to Auckland, New Zealand instead.

Posted by Harold
New York, NY, USA
2848 posts

Shelly, to get to your hotel, a taxi is the easiest, particularly if you have multiple bags. Each train station has an official taxi rank; follow signs to it, and don't accept any rides from anyone else. If your hotel is close to the station, you can walk. But I think that when you first arrive in a city, unfamiliar with how it works and laden with luggage, a taxi is worthwhile. To get back to the station, you'll know your way around, and can decide if you want a taxi or will take a cheaper method.

Posted by Zoe
Toledo, Ohio, US
2474 posts

Since there are six of you, I suggest buying your reserved-seat tickets either online (trenitalia will send you an e-ticket that you can print out) or buy your outgoing tickets when you arrive at your city. This will give you a better chance at sitting together, or at least near each other.