Buying Train Tickets (France & Italy)

Hi all, I have a couple of questions regarding train ticket booking, and I would really appreciate you help on this. I will be in Nice for a couple of weeks. I'm planning on going to some cities in Italy by train for few of the weekends. I know that French train website is voyages-sncf.com or tgv-europe.com, and Italian train website is trenitalia.com. What I know is that I can buy the round-trip ticket online for, say, Nice-Ventimiglia route from the French train website. I know that ticket for that particular route can also be bought in the train station in Nice. And because the train for that route is regional train, no advanced reservation is necessary. However, if I want to make a longer journey, for example Nice-Florence, the journey has 2 connections: Nice-Ventimiglia, Ventimiglia-Milan, Milan-Florence. I saw from the DB Bahn website that Ventimiglia-Milan and Milan-Florence route require a reservation. So, my questions are: 1. Can I buy the Nice-Florence train ticket (for the whole journey) from Nice train station? Can the ticket for the Italian part of the journey (especially that need reservation) be bought in Nice train station? 2. If I go to French train website, I can see the schedule for the Nice-Florence route, and it shows the ticket price. However, it also mentioned that the price is indicative only as it involves foreign trains. So, is it still possible to buy that ticket from French train website? If yes, is the price mentioned there a final price, and is the seat reservation guaranteed for the Italian part of the journey? 3. Any suggestions of the possible ways or the best ways to buy the ticket for that kind of trip? Thank you very much.

Posted by Lola
Seattle, WA
5444 posts

You can buy your ticket all the way to Florence right on the scnf website. It will assign you reserved seats for the trains that require reservations. If you say an "estimated" price rather than actual, maybe you are looking too far in advance? I just went through the "purchas" options for a tickeet in the next 30 days and there was a price (85,20 euro) and purchase options.

Posted by Nigel
East Midlands, England
8760 posts

I don't know the answers but I bet somebody will. This is quite an unusual question and worthy of a BUMP...

Posted by David
Bellevue, WA, USA
740 posts

yes you can buy corss country tickets in france and arrive in Italy or Spain, i.e. Get it from train station is the easy thing to do compare to website - people there are very helpful and they'll sort you out. Just do it a couple of days ahead of your journey you'll be fine. it's ok not to get seat assigned - the trains are not very crowded, so you may sometimes sit pretty tight but in general you'll see plenty empty seats you can move around as far as you're in the same class, they'll kick you out.

Posted by Larry
Elk Grove, CA, USA
6735 posts

I'm looking at the Trenitalia website and many of trains that you will be on from Nice Ville to Florence will be Regionale trains. Many more will be Intercity (IC) trains that do require a seat reservation. Interestingly, all runs during the day and early evening (11 of them) route via Genoa, La Spezia or Pisa to Florence. None route to Milan. However, there is a 12th run departing Nice Ville at 23.23 that does go to Milan where you would transfer to a Eurostar AV at 9:30 the next morning. The entire 12th journey takes 12hrs. The other runs take 7.5hrs-8.5hrs. As stated above, you can buy tickets for the entire journey from the French train site or you can buy them at the Nice Ville train station when you arrive in Nice.

Posted by Nancy
Beaverton, Oregon
136 posts

I bought tickets for a similar route last year. I traveled from Villefranche sur Mer to Vintimiglia, where I transferred to a train to Milan. From Milan, I went to Arth-Goldau and, then, on to Lucerne. I was able to purchase it all on tgv-europe.com. The key is being able to retrieve your tickets in a French rail station (or boutique), which you can do in Nice. All you'll need are the reservation numbers and the credit card you used for the purchase (the exact same credit card even if it has expired - it's just for identification purposes as you will have already been charged for the tickets.) You will get the actual price when you book the trip and, on those trains that have reserved seats, you'll be able to get a seat reservation for the Italian trains.

Posted by Larry
Elk Grove, CA, USA
6735 posts

Very interesting looking at the different websites. I've looked at the French, German and Italian websites. The French and German websites all put you on trains that route to Florence via Torino and Milan or possibly Genoa and Milan. Trenitalia doesn't do that as I have expained above. It does appear that no matter which site you are looking at, there are no high-speed trains with few stops between Ventimiglia and Genoa. It's Regionale and IC trains only. Then, if you go south through the CT and via Pisa, it will be mostly Regionale and IC there as well. Fun stuff.

Posted by Stewart
Singapore, Singapore, Singapore
56 posts

Thank you so much everyone for the answers. Now I know that tickets can be bought from Nice train station. Nancy, thanks for sharing your experience in purchasing this kind of ticket. David, it's good to know that without reserving, there is still a big possibility to get the seat if buying the ticket only a couple of days before the trip date. Although I guess in high season that might not be a good idea? My preference is, however, to buy the ticket online. I think there are some offers, for example the MINI fare for Italian trains, that (CMIIW here) are only available via website? Or at the least, as the seats for those discount fares are limited, buying in advance via website will make sure I can get the discount fare. While if I wait until arriving in Nice to buy the ticket from Nice train station, those discount might not be available anymore. So another related question: for example French TGV ticket price, if today in the SNCF website there is a PREM fare (which is a discount price), is that same discount fare also available if bought at the train station today? Having said that, it looks like Trenitalia website doesn't allow buying cross-country ticket as all the prices are shown as NA. And buying French-Italian ticket through SNCF website won't give the discounted price for Italian trains (as opposed to buying them individually: French ticket via SNCF website and Italian ticket via Trenitalia website).

Posted by Stewart
Singapore, Singapore, Singapore
56 posts

Lola, using SNCF website just now, I look at the Nice-Florence for 18 Feb 2011. When the schedule and price are displayed, a warning box on the top says "Trajet présentant des trains étrangers. Le prix est donné à titre indicatif. ..." In TGV Europe website, the warning says "Journey operated by foreign trains. The prices are supplied for information only." So I'm not sure, in that case will there be more additional fees to pay later on top of the shown price? Larry, using SNCF website, the transfers are at Ventimiglia and Milan Centrale. But you're right, using Trenitalia website, all routes are different! Anyone has idea why?

Posted by Tim
Minneapolis, MN, USA
8646 posts

Prem's fares are only available by booking online in advance. If you buy a ticket at a station, you will pay full fare. If you buy a ticket for a train that requires a seat reservation, the reservation comes with the ticket and is included in the price of the ticket. For Nice-Florence it looks to me like the Trenitalia site gives you the shortest and cheapest routes (all on regional trains), but not the fastest ones. Going via Milan is faster because the Milan-Florence leg is on high-speed EuroStar Italia trains.

Posted by Lola
Seattle, WA
5444 posts

Stewart, I used the SNCF site in French, for a March 2 date, and just went past any warnings about price and seat availability to the page where I would enter details for payments. Seats were reserved on the two legs of the journey in Italy. The price did not change-it was either 85,20 or 86,20 euro (faulty memory here.) So you can buy on the SNCF site but it may not give you the early-purchase discounts on the Italy portion. I too have noticed the different routing that Trenitalia gives versus other websites. I concluded, as Tim mentioned, that Trenitalia shows the routes with the cheapest fares. (Last summer, we traveled as a family from Verona to Florence. The Swiss website showed a morning trainwith a connection at Padua, and ES Frecciarossa train from there. Trenitalia only showed afternoon trains connecting to the ES train at Bologna. Investigating further, I discovered that both sites were putting us on the same ES train, but by connecting to that train later Trenitalia was showing a less expensive route. We saved 80 euro on 4 tickets going that way. In your case, apparently Trenitalia routes you on slower and cheaper regional trains. If you want to buy your tickets on the Trenitalia site to get the advance-fare discount on IC and ES trrains, you could just buy it in segments-Ventimiglia to Milan, and Milan to Florence.

Posted by Tim
Minneapolis, MN, USA
8646 posts

The German Rail site shows all routes. The default option includes high-speed trains (if available) and shows Nice-Ventimiglia-Milan-Florence. However, if you click on the "only local transport" option, you will only be shown regional trains and your route will be Nice-Ventimiglia-La Spezia-Florence. At certain times of the day you would also have to connect in Genoa.

Posted by Stewart
Singapore, Singapore, Singapore
56 posts

Very interesting. Thank you so much everyone. I guess it's probably better to buy the tickets separately, i.e Italian train tickets using Trenitalia, and French train tickets using SNCF?

Posted by Larry
Elk Grove, CA, USA
6735 posts

Stewart, you can actually go into the train station at Nice Ville and buy your tickets for the entire journey to Florence. If you want a particular routing, you may have to have that printed out on a piece of paper to hand the the agent. You will need to do a bit of homework and write down dates, train numbers and departure times. You don't have to do this but if you don't, the agent will route you according to his computer screen. For me, I prefer going the Trentialia route that goes through the CT and Pisa. At least you briefly can see the beautiful CT as you whiz through and some of the Mediterranean.