1st or 2nd class train in Italy - and Purchasing Tickets

I am in Italy the 2nd half of September. Should I splurge for 1st class, or is 2nd class good enough? I think in the guidebook, Rick says he typically goes 1st class in Italy.

Also, for purchasing the actual tickets in advance (point to point), do I just get them when I arrive in Italy? How hard is it to get the times you want if you book only a few days ahead? (I'm going from Rome to Florence to Venice to Rome.) I keep trying the Trenitalia site and all the scheduled times aren't available for purchase. Maybe it's too early to book? When I try to check the prices online, the link seems to not work.

Thanks!

Posted by Brandi
Phoenix
25 posts

I was in Italy last May (similarly shoulder season) and we bought all our tickets the day before or day of travel with a similar itenerary. The only tine we didn't get the time we wanted was because of a strike and nothing could have helped that. We typically went first becuase tickets were so cheap but also travelled second and found it perfectly fine. The seats in 2nd looked a little older and a tiny bit smaller and the noise level was typically a little higher.

Have a great trip!

Posted by Beth
Baltimore
104 posts

Thanks! We have a few days before we travel by train anyway, so I'll try to book everything at once the day we arrive.

Posted by Frank
Tresana, Highlands Ranch, CO, USA
10846 posts

Our experience is the same this past May and June -- buy the day before using one of the ticket machines and a credit card. Quick and easy. Only time we had to use a ticket window was for Milan to Zurich because that it is an international ticket and we had to show our passport before purchasing.

Posted by Norm
Ottawa, Canada
4555 posts

The trenitalia site won't work for your dates yet because they only accept bookings 60 days in advance. Check the website and select the "Amica" fare, which can give you 20 per cent off. I choose second class because it's not that much different from first....I either read or chat,...or wander up and down the train anyway, so the seat I'm in really doesn't concern me.

Posted by Mike
Los Angeles, CA, USA
1447 posts

I was there last Sept and there was no trouble buying tickets for same-day or next-day travel. I recommend buying in advance; time is your precious commodity and you don't want to go to the station in the morning only to find your train won't leave for 2-3 hours. Do this a few times on a 2-week trip and you've lost a good part of your vacation standing in train stations.

I went 2nd class, no problems with it at all. One caveat, esp. from Rome -- look at your tickets because on major routes you may be assigned a coach and a seat in it, not just a general 2nd class coach. We found out the embarrassing way by jumping onto a car marked 2 and sitting down, until the people who had our seat showed up. Also don't forget to validate your ticket prior to boarding in the yellow box by the tracks; inspectors will come along and check, and there can be a fine if you didn't validate.

Posted by Angela
Toronto, Ontario, Canada
19 posts

Just a few thoughts. We travelled by rail in Italy. We purchased point to point tickets through our travel agent for the Rome to the port of Civitavecchio for a cruise we were going on.
It seemed easier to do it that way.
You cannot book more than 60 days ahead. They won't even give prices before that time.
In Canada, I have had excellent success (with information) from www.raileurope.ca
Hope this helps a bit.
Angela from Canada

Posted by Swan
Napa, CA
2855 posts

I've usually traveled 2nd class on trains in Italy. Usually it is fine, except when it isn't. During popular times, such as holidays or commute times, the second class cars can get jammed with prople and many are left standing. The popular routes mid-day can be very crowded in 2nd. If you can afford the difference, go 1st class.

Posted by Mike
Los Angeles, CA, USA
1447 posts

Even if the trains get crowded, as Swan suggests, given your itinerary you'll be getting on at the first possible station. Rome Termini is the end of the line, and so is Venezia Santa Lucia (the train couldn't go farther unless it had a keel!). So you'll get seats; its the people getting on along the line that may have a problem. And on the faster lines between the major cities such as Rome -> Florence it is my recollection that you get an assigned seat anyway, even in 2nd class.

Posted by Mike
Los Angeles, CA, USA
1447 posts

To follow up to my earlier post, if you're taking a train other than the slow regional you can get a reserved seat in 2nd class. Right there from the automated ticket machine in the station.

As an example, look at http://tinyurl.com/2n84un which shows some trains from Rome to Florence and for the various trains click on "details". The regional train doesn't show the availability of reservations, but all the rest do. And since that train is so much slower than the rest, you wouldn't want to take it anyway.

Posted by Beth
Baltimore
104 posts

Thanks for all the advice! I think I'll end up getting tickets once in Rome, but I'll take a look at the schedules in advance online.