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When to buy Italian Train Tickets

Hello -
We are planing a trip to Italy in Sept-Oct..... we are planning to visit 4 cities over 10 days and will be travelling by train (in order) from 1) Florence to Vernazza 2) Vernazza to Venice 3) Venice to Como (catching a boat ferry to Varenna), and 4) Varenna back to Milan..... we have looked at Trenitalia.com and we see that every trip requires one or more transfers using Frecce and Regional trains. We know we can book online or at the station as we go, but we want to make sure we are smart about it. We are looking for advice and have 2 questions:

Question 1) given the number of trips that involve combos of Frecce and regional trains, and number of exchanges within each leg, should we go online a month before we go and buy all of our train tickets? OR shall we book all of them at once at the Florence station ticket window before our first trip from Florence to Vernazza? We understand you can buy as you go, but we also saw you need reservations for Frecce trains but do not want to run the risk of not getting a seat, so were seeking your advice on what is best.

QUESTION: Say you pre-purchase reserved seats for a trip that has 3 trains you need to catch (2 transfers), but what happens when the first train is delayed and you miss your transfer to the second reserved seat train and consequently the other following connections? As mentioned above. we want to travel from Vernazza to Venice (four trains) and want to but tickets online in advance but worry about what happens to our reservations/tickets when we miss trains due to delays. We look forward to hearing back from you! Thank you for your time!

Kevin

Posted by
20031 posts

Let see if we can keep this simply. If traveling A to D and that includes two changes A/B B/C and C/D. Say the first two are fast trains and last one is Regionale ticket. If you are willing to commit to a specific schedule you can go online and buy the ticket from A to D. One ticket with three segments. On the first two trains you will have reserve seats Deep discount tickets are available but that means no change and no refund. Just like a discounted US airline. If one of the first two trains are delayed and you miss your connection you go to the ticket window (they will know that the train was late) and they will reissue a new ticket and seat reservation regardless of fare class. If you are late and miss the last train, then you just get on the next Regionale train headed in the correct direction because Regionale trains are open seating --- no reservation.

IF you schedule includes only Regionale trains (no reservations) buy those tickets at a machine or in the station. There is no discount and no advantage to buying on line. When you buy at Regionale ticket it is for any Regionale train BUT -- it is not valid until you put the ticket in a validating machine - yellow, green, blue boxes near the platforms. Watch the local do it. That puts a time stamp on your ticket and it is then valid for four hours on any R train head in the correct directions.

If you want to take advantage of discount tickets you need to buy as soon as possible. The super economy and economy tickets quick sell out. So act soon. If you wait till Florence or even the month before, most likely only the Base ticket will be available. That ticket can be changed and refunded till an hour after the train has left the station. Base ticket are reasonably price so waiting isn't to bad. Generally, not always, the discount tickets sell out about 60 days in advance.

...Vernazza to Venice (four trains) .... Not sure what you mean by that. There is roughly two trains an hour in the morning and a train each hour mid-day. So lots of choices. There are 28 trains between 8am and 6pm. Fares run from approximately 13 euro for a super economy to 28 for base. Lots of choices.

PS. Have found the Italian trains run as close to on time as any other train system. There can be problems but they are rare.

Posted by
1039 posts

Hi Kevin. Good advice above from Frank. I will add, for your specific situation.. For Florence to Vernazza and Varenna to Milan, just wait and buy in Italy. Small or no discount to buy in advance, and regional trains can't sell out, so to your advantage to wait and buy at your convenience at any station in Italy. For Vernazza to Venice, and Venice to Como, go on trenitalia.com and compare the discount price with the 'base' price. The base price is the most you will pay, even if you wait and buy in Italy. If there is a big difference, you can buy in advance online, but you will be locked in to that exact date and time. If not much difference between discount and base price, then just wait and buy those when there also; trains virtually never sell out, so the main trade off is just discount for buying in advance vs. retaining flexibility. Enjoy your trip!

Posted by
2 posts

Thank you very much Frank and Bob, that is exactly what I was looking for! We've taken trains before in Italy, but they were big ciy to big city only and never had to transfer so this is a huge help to us. I will go look online and compare advance versus base fares for all trips as that would be key for us - great suggestions.

To clarify, "Vernazza to Venice (four trains)" meant we saw on Trenitalia.com that we need to take four trains to get to Venice for the time we wantee:
1) Vernazza to La Spezia Centrale (regional train)
2) La Spezia Centrale to Pisa Centrale (High Speed Freccebianca train)
3) Pisa Centrale to Florence Santa Maria Novella (regional train)
4) Florence Santa Maria Novella to Venice Santa Lucia (high speed Frecciarossa train)

I will look again for the two train option - thanks again!!

Posted by
3047 posts

For travel between Milan and Varenna, you can also go the Varenna-Esino train station instead of going to Como and taking a ferry. Perhaps you're going via Como on the way there for the ferry ride or due to train connection times, but departing from Varenna-Esino for your return to Milan is easiest. Buy your tickets for that regional train in Italy but before going to Varenna (make sure they're for the correct day) and validate them before boarding the train. The tickets will be good for any regional train back to Milan that day and allow you more flexibility than pre-purchased regional train tickets which are only valid for trains departing during a 4 hour window starting at the time noted on the ticket voucher.

Posted by
4 posts

I agree, you can purchase once you get to Italy. The lovely lady at the ticket counter patiently helped me figure out how many travel days I needed for my one month trip, and then found the "cheapest" way too! I bought first class so I would have extra room and prosecco brought to me!
Loved Vernazza! I was there on my birthday and the staff sang to me at dinner, overlooking the little bay!

Posted by
1478 posts

To clarify, "Vernazza to Venice (four trains)" meant we saw on Trenitalia.com that we need to take four trains to get to Venice for the time we wantee:
1) Vernazza to La Spezia Centrale (regional train)
2) La Spezia Centrale to Pisa Centrale (High Speed Freccebianca train)
3) Pisa Centrale to Florence Santa Maria Novella (regional train)
4) Florence Santa Maria Novella to Venice Santa Lucia (high speed Frecciarossa train)

You can save one change Either picking a different departure time from Vernazza or going via Monterosso and Milano Centrale . Taking the Milano route you would also have reserved seats from Monterosso to Milano (Intercity) and from Milano to Venezia S.Lucia (Freccias or Italotreno).

Trenitalia.com does not show this solution because the site is programmed thinking at locals who want to get from A to B as fast as possible and do not care much about transfers.
Since you'll have to make separate purchases leave 15 minutes (or more) to transfer from one train to another. 20 minutes would be a safer option in Milan.

Italotreno's bullet trains from Milan to Venice will probably be cheaper than Trenitalia's, but if the train from Monterosso is late... do not expect Italo to protect you!

Posted by
1366 posts

We’ve found that regional trains tend to run late. The more stops, the more delays.
On the trenitalia app, train status page, many of the small town stops show only a one minute stop. Never happens, always 2-3 minutes. We’ve seen this happen over and over on the !line from Milan to Domodossola route. But same with other regional trains.

So if starting your trip with a regional train, allow minumum 30 minutes connection to play it safe.