I've been looking over Eurail maps and time tables trying to plan out short weekend trips (like Firenze to Geneve) and I cannot make head nor tail of them!! Is there any website or advice that you seasons travellers can give me? I'd like to be able to purchase tickets, or at least plan things out in advance. Is deciphering these coded messages as hard as I think or am I missing something?
Buiying international tickets fromn outside of Europe is not worth the effort if you can possibly avoid it, because the markup prices tend to be scarily steep. Buy when you get to Europe. That will be cheaper, more likley to be correct, give you maximum flexibility, and also give you the full range off options, which overseas retailers rarely do.
As for planning, use the german railways website - http://reiseauskunft.bahn.de/bin/query.exe/en who generally have the most upto date and reliable TT for the whole of Europe (so good that i use them, for example, to plan internal British journeys as well as they are more reliable).
You won't get prices except for internal German, and certain Germany-other country tickets, but there is no useful online international ticket price website. All the ones that do are catered at (mainly) North American based travellers and include mark ups and only certain types of tickets.
If your still struggling after playing with the DB site, i'm probably the alleged European Rail expert on here, so feel free to ask a few more specific questions or drop me a PM. ((Note that I am currently on the road and will be for some time, so can't always answer instantly)).