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Traveling Italy near Christmas

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11. Posted by patjk (Budding Member 35 posts) 6y

Great info. The laptop would just be handy for any info I may need, but I'm sure I'll be fine talking to people and utilizing the information centers. In regards to the train, I was just reading that there will be a new high speed train from Bologna to Florence that is expected to open on Dec 12, 2009. I wonder if that has something to do with why we can't access tickets beyond Dec. 12.

How much slower is the IC train than the ES train? Would you suggest the 41 EUR price?

Right now my trip is looking like this, does this seem too rushed?:
Dec 15th - Arrive in Rome (late at night)
Spend all day on the 16th and 17th in Rome
Dec 18th - Leave to north Cinque Terre in the morning, spend the afternoon checking out the northern most village
Dec 19th - Hike from north to south, checking out villages during the hike.
Dec 20th - Take a train from southern village to Pisa, check out Pisa city center, then train to Florence
Dec 21st - Spend all day walking Florence
Dec 22nd/23rd (flights vary quite a lot, so trying to decide if I want to pay double for an extra day in Florence or Bolgna) - Train to Bologna and fly out to Paris.

I've noticed that flights out of Florence are quite expensive, so I will head to Bologna to fly out. However, pics of Bologna look very neat, so it may be worth spending a night there as well and fly out a day later.

Cheers!

12. Posted by lil_lil (Travel Guru 462 posts) 6y

I don't know if that has got anything to do with the booking system. It shouldn't, but I guess I don't have an answer for that. You could try to contact the customer service and see if they get back to you?

The IC train is not that much slower than the ES/ES* - they're all fast trains with just a few minutes of time differences. Just that ES/ES* trains are newer compared to IC. Which to travel by depends on your budget and the time of train availability. Say, at the time you want to travel, there's only ES train and IC is another 2 hours to go before there's one scheduled. It's up to you to decide then if your 2 hours time is worth the saving you'll potentially make. For me, I nearly always go for saving time rather than saving money, because while I can earn and save more money in future, I cannot buy time that I've lost. Especially premium travelling time, when the saving is no more than a few euros. (But hey, that's me) ;)

Frankly, yes, your trip is quite rushed. Rome easily merits more than 2 days (4-5 days would be nice) and Florence can do with 2-3 days time allocation. But seeing your time is tight, I guess this is the best you can do. You can't rush the Cinque Terre part since it is winter, the days are short, so you'll start walking in the morning as you sensibly could.

Have you consider Artesia night train or Eurolines bus as alternative to flying? I don't know how expensive are the flights you've found so far, but note that Ryanair flies between Paris from Rome, Bologna or Pisa (not Florence - they use Pisa as the "gateway" to Florence instead).

13. Posted by patjk (Budding Member 35 posts) 6y

I certainly agree with you on the trains. I will look at the schedules and book some tickets soon. Thanks again for all the great help and information.

I may see if I can add in a couple more days into this trip. The main reason it was rushed was due to the expensive Christmas day flights.

Have you consider Artesia night train or Eurolines bus as alternative to flying? I don't know how expensive are the flights you've found so far, but note that Ryanair flies between Paris from Rome, Bologna or Pisa (not Florence - they use Pisa as the "gateway" to Florence instead).

I haven't, but I will.

14. Posted by patjk (Budding Member 35 posts) 6y

Quoting lil_lil

Buying ahead or not depends on the train type. Check on the train options on Trenitalia's website. If at any point you want to travel with faster ES/ES*/Intercity trains, then definitely buy ahead and get discounted Amica ticket (which gives 20% reduction from the standard price). The Amica price is not immediately obvious when you do the train searches, but when you click on a particular train option, it should comes up in the next screen if it's available. (Amica prices are not available if the ticket is less than €10 to start with). Slow regional R trains don't in general allow reservations nor online booking (unless it's part of a connection from faster trains) therefore no booking required for those.

I am looking into purchasing my train ticket from Rome to the Cinque Terre region now. Where can I purchase the Amica ticket you're referring to? I don't see anything right away on the Trenitalia website. A couple observations:
-For a train from Rome to Monterosso, I see a price on the IC, and then a switch to the R, for a total of 33.90EUR - Journey time is 4:31.
-For a train from Rome to Monterosso, I see a price on the ES, and then a switch to the R, for a total of 47.40EUR - Journey time is 4:15.

Why is one much cheaper, is it simply because the ES is newer? These are the prices shown on the page immediately after I search, and not after selecting the train option to see the Amica price. If I do select one of them and continue, I don't see anything about a discount price or anything about Amica.

In addition, next to all of the search results, there is a "* solution applies to next day". What does this mean? And also, under the IC fares, there is a red text under the departure column that says "RO OST". What does this mean?

Lastly, train fares from Rome to La Spezia are 45.50 EUR and 32 EUR for the ES and IC. I am wondering if that Amica discount is still available if I buy two separate tickets instead of 1 combined. Afterall, 33.90EUR for the entire trip in 4:30 isn't bad at all.

Cheers!

15. Posted by patjk (Budding Member 35 posts) 6y

Also, do you have any suggestions on where to stay in Monterosso? I want to start north and hike south for the trek. My plan was to stay in Monterosso a night, hike south and stay 2 nights in Riomaggiore.

Perhaps it is better to stay in a cheaper village, train north before the hike, then hike south. I am looking for the cheapest option, and I am not picky at all. How much should I expect to spend for this? Looking at the prices so far, it seems to be quite expensive (since tourism, obviously, but I'd guess there is a cheaper option somewhere).

Thanks.

16. Posted by lil_lil (Travel Guru 462 posts) 6y

Well, we know now why tickets couldn't be bought beyond 12 Dec previously. Trenitalia has a new pricing system, and it seems like Amica prices have been replaced. Instead now there's possibility of meno15 or meno30 prices, meaning, depending on availability, 15% or 30% off the base price. (Amica would have given 20% off)

Yes, ES/ES* trains would usually be more expensive than IC, because of the newer train, plus they do tend to arrive just a little quicker than IC (although usually not too big of a difference).

As I have mentioned previously, whenever an option is given together with R trains, discounts will not be available. So if you buy your ticket straight on to Monterosso, the price is (2nd class, one way):

  • via ES*city then R - €47.40
  • via IC then R - €33.90

If you buy Rome to La Spezia and La Spezia to Monterosso separately:

  • via ES*city - €45.50 (base) / €39.00 (meno15) + no more than €5.50 for the R train
  • via IC - €32.00 (base) / €28.00 (meno15) + no more than €5.50 for the R train

Unfortunately I can't find the price for La Spezia-Monterosso on the R train, but based on searches, and IC train would have cost €5.50 so that's the maximum you'll be paying but based on experience/knowledge on other short-distance R trains, it really shouldn't be more than €2 - €3. Not being able to buy R train ticket online is not a biggie since it's a non-reservation train anyway. You can buy it when you're in Rome at the train station.

If you're don't mind the inconvenient of getting tickets separately, I would say buy separately because the discounts make sense. You could potentially save up to €4 - €5 for the ES*city and R combined. If you're going with IC and R, the saving is probably €2 - €3. Of course the IC and R combination is also going to be nearly a whooping €10 cheaper than ES*city and R combination.

RO OST refers to Roma Ostiense station, meaning the train will stop there for a pickup after departing from Roma Termini. Not sure what "* solution applies to next day" you're talking about since I'm not seeing that on my screen when I do the searches. I don't think it's particularly important in any case.

Sorry I don't know much re accommodation in the region to be giving any advises on that.

17. Posted by Asif Khan (Inactive 7 posts) 6y

venice is a city of water!!

The city is built on more than 100 islands in the Venetian Lagoon, and it's linked to the mainland by a rail and road causeway named the Ponte della Libertá ("Bridge of Liberty"). You'll cross this bridge if you arrive by train, bus, car, or land taxi; another option is to come from the airport or a mainland parking lot by public water bus or water taxi.

Venice, Italy has a reputation for being expensive, but don't be discouraged: Many of the city's most interesting sights are free. By spending the bulk of your time on the places and experiences that are discussed in this article, you'll have money left over for the things that really matter to you--whether your tastes run to cultural attractions like the Doge's Palace and the Accademia art gallery or to restaurants, bars, hotels, and shopping.

-snip-

[ Edit: Sorry, no promos please. ]

18. Posted by lil_lil (Travel Guru 462 posts) 6y

I did a quick check and found Mar-Mar (in the Cinque Terre guide) which requires minimum 2 nights stay, in Riomaggiore (the southern most village) which dorm costs €15 per night. This is actually very convenient. First day on arrival, you can explore Riomaggiore a little itself. On the morning of the 19th, you can leave with just what you need for the day to Monterosso (lighter bag to carry around). You'll be walking back to Riomaggiore in any case, making it ideal for stay the second night too.

Is that good enough?

You won't really need to stay a 3rd night in Cinque Terre then (cf your earlier comment on 1 night in Monterosso and 2 nights in Riomaggiore) and could do with allocating the extra day of travel to another city, unless you want to go back to any of the villages or go to La Spezia, then by all means stay within the region.

At €15 pppn, I think that's a pretty decent price and it's unlikely you'll find anything less than that.

[ Edit: Edited on 06-Dec-2009, at 21:22 by lil_lil ]

19. Posted by lil_lil (Travel Guru 462 posts) 6y

By the way, this is another thing you should be aware of in Cinque Terre. You're required to get Cinque Terre pass:

  • 1 day €5
  • 2 days €8
  • 3 days €10

You can add a small supplement to buy the Cinque Terre Card Treno to avail of all regional train transport, including to/fro La Spezia. This will save you the hassles of getting all the random R train tickets, and the supplement works out to between €3.00 to €3.50 per day, which is pretty good considering one-way R train between the towns/villages would probably costs €2 to €3 each. With the pass, you can just hop on the train whenever you want.

The Cinque Terre Card Treno costs:

  • 1 day €8.50
  • 2 days €14.70
  • 3 days €19.50

For more information: http://www.parconazionale5terre.it/5terrecardsnuovo_2.asp?id_lingue=2

If you get the card treno, then definitely get your train ticket for Rome-La Spezia on its own, and don't buy a second La Spezia to Cinque Terre village, since that would be included in the card treno. Similarly, when you leave Cinque Terre to La Spezia to catch train to Pisa (if still within validity - it should, with the 3 days pass, which is what you'll need if you're staying 2 nights in Riomaggiore).

[ Edit: Edited on 06-Dec-2009, at 21:48 by lil_lil ]

20. Posted by patjk (Budding Member 35 posts) 6y

Excellent information. Your idea of staying in the southern most city for 2 nights seems most logical, and that would allow me to stay another day in Rome or Florence. I think I will go with Rome, simply because it is bigger and seems to have more that I want to see.

Cheers!