Hi, I am studying abroad in London starting on January 1st, and I am planning a trip to Italy when my program is done. I am trying to figure out whether it makes sense to get a Eurail pass or just buy point-to-point tickets. According to the image on the Italy rail section of the website, my total point-to-point cost would be 260, and a pass (2nd class, student price) would be 207. However, because the trains don't have schedules up for April and May (when I will be going) I decided to check on the same day of the week on a day in February to make sure the prices on the image were accurate. My first train trip (Naples to Rome) comes out as 65 on the picture, but there is an Italo train available for much less than that (28 economy, 49 comfort). Are these costs and times similar year-round? Does it make more sense for me to wait and just do point-to-point tickets? My itinerary is: Naples -> Rome -> Florence -> Venice -> Milan Also, if it turns out that a pass is cheaper, can I get it while I am in London? And if so, will it be more expensive? Thanks in advance for the help!
Stephanie, Using a Railpass in Italy is often not the most cost effective method, as tickets are fairly cheap. Keep in mind also that a Railpass does NOT include the reservation fees that are compulsory for the "premium" trains such as the Freccia / EuroStar Italia trains. You'd have to pay separately "out of pocket" for the reservations. One important point to note on reservations. These are specific to a particular train and departure time. Even with a Railpass, if you don't have a valid reservation for the train you're riding on, you may be fined on the spot, and the fines are not cheap! They start at about €50 PP and increase from there. The same fines apply when riding Regionale trains with un-validated tickets. Unless you use "slower" trains, all of the routes you're travelling will involve travel on Freccia (premium) trains, so reservations will be compulsory. You can save considerably by purchasing "Super Economy" or "Economy" tickets on the Trenitalia website. Those often sell out quickly, so I'm not sure what will be available for travel in January? Keep in mind that the reservations will be for specific trains, and if you miss that train you'll have to buy more tickets at full price. Some people here have reported "issues" with the Trenitalia website, but apparently the problems are fewer for those that register on the site. I've never pre-purchaed tickets, so can't confirm that. Hopefully one of the others can provide further information. The Italo trains are a good alternative (and their website apparently works well), but they use different stations on some routes (ie: the station in Rome is Tiburtina rather than Termini). Happy travels!
Stephanie, point-to-point tickets for Italy are usually a better deal than a railpass, even if you pay full fare. One note of caution about buying super-saver fares on Trenitalia in advance: have you considered that your plans/schedule may change as your program progresses? You might meet other students you want to travel with, and if you already have super-saver tickets, you are stuck with those dates.
The guide on the website is for full fare. If you are sure of the dates and times you want you can get those cheap tickets you found on the Italo and Trenitalia systems. You do have to be sure that you will want that exact train as the tickets are non-refundable and non-changeable, and you need to get them just as soon as they are released as they go quickly - = - but they are great deals and make the pass look a very poor value. If you are in London you can visit the Italian tourist agency, ENIT, just off Regent Street across the road from Liberty at number 1 Princes Street.
There are so many trains running on your planned itinerary that there will always be seats available. Planning for rail tickets so far ahead of your trip is not really needed. Italy's rail is the most inexpensive in Europe, and point to point tickets is how most travelers go. RonInRome.com has very good information on negotiating the Italian train system, including pictures of the ticket machines and buying the tickets.
If you manage to get the 9 euro Super Economy fares on each trip, your total cost will be 36 euros. But you are stuck with a particular train. If you are traveling with others, they could just buy tickets for the same train, in advance like you or later when you are actually traveling.
Thank you everyone!