We are planning a train trip from Agropoli to Rome.....is 2nd class acceptable/safe or is 1st class advised?
My personal opinion from having ridden dozens of Italian trains over the years, mostly in second class, is that first class is not worth the difference. Don't think there is any difference in safety as the trains are very safe. 2nd class comfort on a train is more like business class on an airplane. Always had A/C. Second class will always be more crowded most seats filled - because that is where most of the locals rides. Since a regional train does not have reserve seats you might opt for first class, if available, on the regional. We have had to stand for awhile - until a seat became available - on a couple of regional trains. We always put our main luggage in the end bins with no problems. We do use a cable lock to lock the handles together so if they wanted to take one bag, they would have to take two. I think the possibility of luggage theft is often over hyped.
You'll be quite surprised that 2nd class is quite roomy and comfortable on the trains. For 2nd class, there are four seats per row (two on each side of the aisle). In first class, the seats are three in a row (two on one side of the aisle and one on the other). More leg and shoulder room. That's really it for the differences except that on some older Regionale trains, there may be no A/C in 2nd class. For your first train out of Agropoli (unless you take the 13:52 IC train with no train changes), you will be on either a Regionale or an IC train. You most likely will change trains in Naples. As for safety, probably a bit better in 1st class but in both classes, keep an eye on your luggage. Use the overhead luggage racks at your seat location. I suggest that you don't use the luggage stands at the ends of the cars.
GAC wrote an excellent article on the differences between 1st Class or 2nd Class tickets on trains in Italy.
We have done both and personally like second class better for more of a "local" feel. Found first class more business people and tourists but that is just our feelings. For us it was like difference of Amtrak versus local trains in the US.
On 11 May rode 2nd class Pisa to Florence and it was crowded but no problems. however, every train we where on in Italy (Pisa, the ICE to Rome from Florence and the express to the airport) they were checking tickets, both to see if they were stamped and if you had one. In fact, the did toss 1 person off of the Pisa to Florence train for no ticket and wrote up a healthy fine to boot! They are really cracking down on the trains.
The difference in fares isn't crazy, but it's just a 3 1/2 trip, so I'd probably go 2nd, add a cafe stop in Rome, and upgrade my wine. I try to keep my priorities straight ;-) There are times I go 1st just to have some assurance of quiet if I expect a full train (I really like to relax on my train rides), or it's going to be a looooong ride.
My experience matches JerryG. In our years of Italian train traveler, it was rare to be checked for a ticket. However, the other European train systems check at a much higher frequency. There has been times that we were checked on every leg no matter how short. Looks like the Italians maybe changing their policy.
JerryG - they have always enforced tickets on trains. Rarely have I been on a European train where a conductor didn't check tickets. And those that do not have one are fined.
Sorry, Doug, been all over Italy for the past 5 years, and this was the first time I saw it on all the trains.
I'm (half) Italian, lived there (now I live in Netherlands) and traveled a lot on trains for years. My opinion goes as follow: - 1st class is definitively less crowded and quieter. There are barely any children travelling 1st class, which is the reason by which I paid extra here and there when I wanted no noise toddlers or middleschoolers running around - being a person with large shoulders, albeit thin, I do enjoy the extra width of 1st class seats - travelling alone, you can book a seat that is stand-alone, e.g., aligned with the back of the seat in front (like airplanes) and without a seat on your side. It increases privacy a bit and takes out any stranger right by your side - ES, ESAV, ESCity trains will always have a/c in all carriages 1st/2nd class. Almost all IC and IC-Fast will have a/c on 2nd class. Most other trains but the E (expresso) will have a/c on 2nd class, R services are mostly 2nd class only - there are more tourists on 2nd class instead of 1st class, contrary to what some suggested. Everybody reads the difference in price is not worth and go 2nd class - the seat arrangement (airline style, 2-row facing seats, compartments) is independent of class.
Just returned from a trip in Italy where all intercity transport was by train in 2nd class. No problems at all. Tickets were checked on almost EVERY train and checked several times on trains that had multiple stops. I think the only train that wasn't checked was Verona to Venice!
I usually book a second class ticket and sit among the locals. I put my suitcase in the luggage rack and thus far have had no problems with theft. Most of my valuables are in a small RS carryon bag next to me. Now that trains are smoke free and cell phones are discouraged train travel is the way to go.