Just got back from Italy and one of the best money savings decisions I made was to reserve seats on Trenitalia fast, long distance trains ahead of time. For instance our family had an email reservation ticket ahead of time for Milan to Venice and Venice to Florence and since I chose the MINI fare, I was able to save over HUNDRED Euro each time as compared to buying the day we left. Plus for us knowing we had a reservation for these long trips and we could sit together was a huge benefit. Just go to Trenitalia's website which is actually quite good.
How far in advance can you reserve your tickets? Seems to me it can only be a week in advance. Is that right? That means we will have to make some of our reservations while we are in Italy.
Lionel, I just purchased a mini fare for my fast train from Rome to Naples on Sept. 23 for 19 euro. Worth it, yes. Ciao, Linda
As you can see, depending on the train (isn't offered on regional trains I believe) we got the fares months in advance. I noticed on one particular train that we got MINI tickets for, the price went up the longer I waited. So it would appear that there is a limit to the number of MINI tickets available at certain prices. Just remember to bring your "e ticket" that has your PNR # as well as your seat reservation and car numbers.
I should have mentioned that on some trains the MINI fare was not a significant savings, probably because the demand was too high or I waited too long, so on those I decided to buy in Italy since there was not a large enough savings to lock into a particular schedule. It is nice the way they list both the MINI price and the regular price (ignore the others, you are probably not eligible) so you can make the best decisions. So besides the MINI fares we bought which were 50% cheaper, we were able to pick the times we wanted to leave AND we were guaranteed seats because of the reservation. So besides the 4 of us always being able to sit together, we did not have to stand for hours like some people.
Bob, you can reserve MINI fares up to 90 days in advance; as stated, the number available goes down and the price goes up the longer you wait. These trains are also apt to be full, perhaps even oversold, so a ticketed reservation is really nice to have. Regional trains don't offer MINI fares; these are the trains that show up in the schedule only one week in advance. Just purchase these at the station. When reserving online, make sure you write down the PNR and the 'other number' - sorry - can't remember what it's called offhand :-( Due to a glitch many people haven't received their PNRs, so basically they've paid for a ticket but don't have one. It's an understatement to say trying to correct this is difficult! Go to the fantastic website RonInRome.com for great info on this potential problem. 6/11/12 EDIT: Ray from Denver has alerted us to the fact that Trenitalia has introduced a new fare structure effective 6/10/12. You now have 1)BASE FARE: changeable and refundable, 2)ECONOMY: changeable (with conds., but not refundable), and 3)SUPER ECONOMY: not changeable and nonrefundable. The SE fares replace the old MINI fares. All other info given above is still correct.
We booked a few weeks in advance using MINI fares. First class Rome to Riomaggiore; Riomaggiore to Florence and Florence to Venice. The Eurostar between Rome and Laspeza was worth it for the better cabin and wider seats (but take your own lunch as there isn't really any food service to speak of). The first class car between Pisa and Florence was a clapped out second class car with no air conditioning and beggars going seat to seat, shame on you Trenitalia). The first class train between Florence and Venice was a dream (ok, you redeemed yourself). Point is do book ahead, use the MINI fare as you will save many dollars, but unless it's a long haul on a fast new train (see Tenitalia's site) first class may not be worth it. We looked at the Europass but Rick rang true again, unless you're doing at least 3 long trips its not worth it.