Italian Trains

Discussion in 'Europe' started by Gargoyle, Feb 11, 2011.  |  Print Topic

  1. Gargoyle
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    Gargoyle Milepoint Guide

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    A few basics on using Italian trains.

    The national train website, where you can check schedules, prices, and buy tickets in advance
    http://trenitalia.it/
    English version: http://trenitalia.it/homepage_en.html

    I have run into issues using credit cards on that site. At one time it rejected non-Italian cards, or required an authentication token to use the card. Not sure if that is still the case. They do offer a ticketless option if you don't have a printer to print the receipt, getting a verification number or e-mail to show the conductor. Explore the site for more info.

    You have to "convalidare" (validate) a paper ticket before boarding. That involves poking it into the slot on one of the yellow validation boxes located on pillars around all the stations. Note that sometimes those boxes are "fuori servizio" (out of service) so allow yourself a few minutes to find a working one. If you don't validate a ticket you could get hit with a very large fine, so when I haven't been able to find a working yellow box (or when I'm running really late to catch the train) I immediately locate a conductor upon boarding and tell them that I couldn't validate the ticket.

    They are generally quite reliable; they have a reputation for being late, but in my experience it's rarely by more than five or ten minutes. They do sometimes go on strike, but certain trains will keep running during the strikes. Strikes are always listed in advance on a couple of websites, only in Italian. Also, the strikes often get postponed or cancelled. (I guess the strikes go on strike). Here's one of the sites:
    http://www.mit.gov.it/mit/site.php?p=scioperi

    The ticket price depends on the type of train- an "intercity" costs more than a "rapido", a "Eurostar" costs even more and requires prenotazione (a reservation). The more expensive trains make less local stops, so they're faster, and they usually have better seats and amenities. Always compare price difference for coach and first class; often the supplement isn't much, but for short runs there isn't any significant advantage. The exception is on holidays and vacation days, when coach is jammed to the gills, and even first class can be standing room only. That is a reason to reserve a seat.


    To get from FCO (Rome airport) to the city, or from MXP (Milan) to the city, the express train lines are different from the main Trenitalia system, so you'll need to make a connection to get to other places.
    From MXP, the Malpensa Express: http://www.malpensaexpress.it/en/index.php
    From FCO you have two choices, the Leonardo Express or the Ferrovia Metropolitana. It depends on where in Rome you're going, or whether you have to link into the main train system.

    You can find a lot of good info in the Slowtravel Italy forum. http://slowtalk.com/groupee/forums/a/frm/f/862600685
    Also look at the FAQ's on that site for much more complete info than what I've presented here.
     
  2. ChgoBob
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    ChgoBob Silver Member

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    People had all kinds of problems with American credit cards. Often it would work for one ticket, but not allow a 2nd purchase. Rumor is that the site has been upgraded, and American credit cards work again. I have not been able to verify this with any personal purchases, but I have read about it on several sites.
     
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  3. noel
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    noel Silver Member

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    I just got back from a trip to Italy a few weeks ago and had booked all of my train tickets on trenitalia.it

    I had read what ChgoBob said about cards only working for the first purchase and I had read that the Chase BA Visa was one of the few US cards that had a consistent record of success (maybe something about no international currency fees??). So I decided to buy all tickets in one mass buy, 2 1st class from Milan to Florence, 2 1st class from Florence to Rome, and 2 1st class from Rome to Milan. The problem is that the "cart" expires pretty quick. It took me three tries to search and bok all tickets in the allotted time (about 15 minutes, maybe just 10).

    My first attempt failed because I had not called Chase to alert them of the international charge. I called and got them to clear my account for purchases at trenitalia.it and the next try was a success.

    It was a pretty annoying process, but I ended up saving a substantial amount of money (30%-40%). There are great specials depending on how early you book. (and actually these just changed in the middle of my trip, two of my trips were with the old discounts and one leg of the trip was with the new discounts).

    The first class option seemed like a great upgrade to me. I liked the slightly less crowded and slightly more leg room. But, the differences are not all that extreme (as one might guess from the small premium).

    And one last tip, from my research, it seems that while in Italy, the rail passes are rarely, if ever, a bargain. You still have to pay for a seat assignment for every train you ride and that adds up very quickly.
     
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  4. ChgoBob
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    ChgoBob Silver Member

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    Some new posts at the previous site are confirming that Trenitalia has fixed the site for American credit cards. The "Mini" discounts seem to be the best fares. Here is a website with some great tips.

    http://www.roninrome.com/ transportation/booking-on-the-trenitalia-website
     
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  5. MSPeconomist
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    MSPeconomist Gold Member

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    Be very careful if you plan to travel by train near the time of an Italian election. The trains will be packed to the gills and those who should be in second class will poach first class seats, even if reserved. The story I've been told is that Italians are required by law to travel home to vote and can ride the trains for free to do so. It might be an urban legend, but it's a bad time to try Italian trains even though it's not a holiday period.
     
  6. Gargoyle
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    The Italian rail system is actually mandated by law to give refunds in case of delay. Of course, actually collecting is a different matter, but still, it's a major change.

    the Italian trains now give refunds for delays, 25% for 60 to 119 minute delay on reginal trains, 50% for more than 120 minute delays. That is an amazing change, if you know how Italy has always operated.
    Note this info refers to regional trains. There is a different chart for national and international trains (i.e. long haul vs short haul).
     
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  7. OY-JFS
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    OY-JFS Gold Member

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    Wauw, Danish National Railways (DSB) purchased new IC4-trains from Italian AnsaldoBreda - those are now about 5 years delayed. Do they get a refund, too? :p :D
     
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