Train travel in Italy

Discussion in 'On The Road Again' started by soonerinatlanta, Jan 20, 2010.

  1. soonerinatlanta

    soonerinatlanta 100+ Posts

    I need some recommendations (websites or travel agents) that can help me book train travel within Italy for me, my wife, and our 12 year old. We're planning on flying into Rome and hitting Florence, Venice, and Capri. We'd probably do Rome > Florence > Venice > sleeper car to Rome (ideally) > Capri > Rome (for the flight back to the states). I'd rather get the "reservations" before arriving in Italy since I don't want to wait in lines at the reservations office upon arrival.

  2. bevoinva

    bevoinva < 25 Posts

    You can buy them directly from here:
    The Link

    When me and my wife were over there last year in the Spring we ended up making reservations at the train stations. They were never really crowded and you can make reservations at any station.
  3. aaigohorns

    aaigohorns 25+ Posts

    Be sure to keep an eye on your bags. I was riding on a train from Florence to Rome and at a stop I noticed a small man getting off the train with a large suitcase like mine. It was mine. I chased him down. The whole car cheered. I was wondering why the suitcases between the cars had bicycle locks on them. I found out the hard way. Good thing I was not sleeping like my wife or I would be out a suitcase.
  4. texaszete

    texaszete 100+ Posts

    Yeah definitely wait until you get to the station. What I did when I was there was I bought the ticket to leave the city when I arrived in that city. The lines aren't bad since there's a crap-ton of ticket machines, and most all take credit card, I think there was only one time I had to use cash I think.

    Also if you buy your tickets more than I think either 24 or 48 hours in advance, you get a 20% discount, I think it's called the "amico" (friend) fare or something like that.

    And definitely avoid the Euro Pass since it's a total ripoff aimed at tourists who don't do their research.
  5. soonerinatlanta

    soonerinatlanta 100+ Posts

    If you buy your ticket at the ticket machine, does that also schedule your "reservation"?
  6. texaszete

    texaszete 100+ Posts

    Yes, if you have a seat number on your ticket, then you have a reservation and are all set, unless you miss your train.
  7. Bernard

    Bernard 1,000+ Posts

    Rent a car. I drove all over Italy. It was great. Why be a slave to train schedule? Why waste on precious moment of vacation waiting on a train? Take charge. Drive. See the countryside. Stop when and where you like. You will not regret it.

  8. soonerinatlanta

    soonerinatlanta 100+ Posts

    Renting a car hadn't really occurred to me. I've rented in other countries (costa rica, australia, greece).

    I guess I'm concerned mostly about parking and the associated parking fees. I'm planning on rome, florence, venice and capri. I'm pretty sure it would be challenging to find parking spots in rome and florence since I like to stay in city centers. Venice and capri would certainly be challenging since they're islands.

    When I'm touring european cities, I do a lot of walking / metro so I doubt I'd use the car to get around. So, the car would just be collecting dust while I'm in each city.

    How did you find the parking situation? Expensive? Any tips on ferries to get to the islands?
  9. brntorng

    brntorng 2,500+ Posts

    Personally, I've used the train system in Italy and would use it again rather than drive there. A car in large cities is more a pain than anything. Keep in mind that stopping at stop signs and lights in Italy is "just a suggestion" as I was told by a driver as I feared for my life in the passenger seat. They also have no qualms about following you at 2 feet off your bumper at 90 mph on the highways. Saves gas by drafting, but makes for long delays while they scrape up the bodies from the pavement.
  10. texaszete

    texaszete 100+ Posts

    I specifically remember the first time I saw their street name signs up high on the buildings inside their cities, and thinking how much of a pain it must be to find a road you need to turn on.

    They're not out on the street corner or hanging next to the traffic light like in the US. So I'd strongly recommend a GPS that tells you when to turn if you do drive in the city.
  11. THEU

    THEU 2,500+ Posts

    I was in Italy several years ago... over 10. The trains still didn't run on time, and they were overly crowded. In fact, we had first class reservations for cars, but the train was so crowded we were even unable to get to the private comparments at all. We ordered a coke so we could sit in the snack car.
    We were on the train from Florence to Venice... which comes from Rome... so it was already packed before it got to us...
  12. brntorng

    brntorng 2,500+ Posts

    THEU, my experience has been very different. Trains were on time and I got exactly what I reserved. Overcrowding was not an issue at all.
  13. Bernard

    Bernard 1,000+ Posts

    My driving experience in Italy (about 10 days of a 40 day trip) went something like this...

    Flew into Rome. They had cars at the airport, but the Avis agent told us (3 of us) we could avoid a huge penalty for dropping off an Italian car at Frankfurt airport, if we took a cab into the city where they had a Swiss registered car available. Good advice. We took the Swiss car.

    We thought some chill time was in order before the heavy duty sightseeing in Rome, so we pointed the car south. No agenda. No reservations. It was late June. We just followed the highway that hugged the coast (not the Autostrada). We spent the next couple days exploring the tiny coastal cities, hit a few beaches, outdoor cafes, nightlife, etc. The car was great. It got us right where we wanted to go. Parking was never an issue. Once we reached a town, we could venture out on foot from there. Took a quick tour of Pompeii on the way. They have a parking lot there.

    We blasted right through Napoli without stopping. CRAZY drivers there, but in a fun way.

    We made it at least as far a Salerno, then decided to turn back. The drive back on the Autostrada was quite fun for a lead foot like me, even in a Euro Ford econobox. Bee lined it for Roma.

    Found a small pension in Rome not far from train station. They say it's not the best neighborhood but it seemed fine to me. Parked right outside the hotel on the street. Free. In fact I don't recall paying for parking anywhere in Italy. Probably did somewhere, but it wasn't much.

    Do you need a car in Rome? Not really. There are a bunch of tour buses that will take you around to the touristy sites. We used a bus one day for just that purpose. We walked a lot in Rome. I think we drove to the Catacombs because the bus schedule wasn't convenient.

    If you fly into Rome, you can pick up the car on the day of your departure.

    From Rome we headed toward Florence. I don't think we had any overnight stop in between. The nice thing about the car was being able to stop anywhere that struck our fancy. See a nice looking cafe, pull over and grab a snack and a birra grande. Stop in at the local grocer and pick up some vino and an impromptu picnic lunch. These are the kinds of the things that don't sound like much (or even seem like much at the time), but when put all together weave the fabric of an Italian experience.

    We arrived in Florence with no reservations. It wasn't hard at all to stumble around and find some decent accommodations. I can't really recall how we used the car in Florence, maybe not much. I recall a beautiful city and lots of museums. Very nice. Parking must not have been an issue, because I have no idea where we parked.

    Pisa wasn't on your agenda, but if you have a car, you can work it in to the plan. Our plan was to continue up the Italian coast a day or two then in to Monte Carlo and France. Pisa was a quick stop on the way. Not much to see other than the Leaning Tower. The tower was pretty cool though. We picked up a hitch hiker in Pisa. He was trying to get from the train to the LT, which is pretty long way. Pisa would have been a complete waste of time if had taken all day. It was well worth a few hours though, since we had a car.

    Obviously you won't be doing much driving around Venice. Maybe that's where you can return the car. You can pick up another one for the drive back to Rome. Or maybe take the train back to Rome. Maybe that's a game time decision.

    All I know it this: I drove the crap out of that car for the better part of six weeks. Italy. France. Switzerland. France again. Belgium. Holland. Germany. We all had a hell of a good time. A whole lot of the fun we had would have been impossible without a car.

    Was it all roses? No.

    We had a fender bender in Rome. Clearly not my fault. None of us spoke Italian. Cops came. People came out the nearby restaurant to try to help / gawk. We exchanged some information and left. When we dropped off the car in Germany, we handed the Avis guy some info on the Italian driver. He just laughed and said he'd never seen a car come back from Italy without some damage. Case closed.

    We got a flat tire early in the trip. The car had a full size spare so we were good to go. Luckily one of my fellow travelers insisted we repair the flat tire just in case we got another flat tire. Good thing we got it fixed, because we got a second flat a couple days later. Repairs in each case took less than an hour. Part of the adventure if you ask me.

    One last thing, gas is crazy expensive there.

  14. orangebones

    orangebones 500+ Posts

    we flew into venice, and took the train to florence and rome. unless you're planning on being in one, rural place for an extended period of time (chianti), i'd recommend the train. the stations were not too crowded when we went. we booked first class tix, which i'd highly recommend. you don't have to worry about shooing gypsies out of your seat and then chasing them down after you realize it was just a distraction allowing their bastard kids to steal everything below eye level.

    if you're planning on being in a big city (rome, florence, milan, naples) i would not drive. you have to deal with parking, pay for gas, and try really hard to avoid death. those people are maniacs. the scooter/crotchrocket douchebags are the worst. they are allowed to split lanes and they never obey traffic signals. you'll probably kill one and end up in a jail that smells like rotten prosciutto, pommade and ***.

    again, i was really glad i took the train. i would have been freaking stressed out for our entire vacation if i had to worry about a car.

    one thing about the train, or a bus, if you take a day trip:

    NEVER. EVER. get off a bus or train in poggibonsi after 9:00 pm. EVER.
  15. orangebones

    orangebones 500+ Posts

    if i were going to be there for 6 weeks, like bernard, i think a car would be handy. it would have been nice to have some flexibility, but ours was a pretty quick trip and the train was more efficient/stress-free.

    wonderful, beautiful place (except poggibonsi...think lubbock or barstow, CA, in the middle of chianti). the people there are nice, just not when they're driving.

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