On our last vacation we went to Rome, but since we wanted to fly with frequent flyer points, we had to get tickets to Milan and then, from Milan to Rome, we decided to travel by train.
So we started looking for the best deals but we had a concern: we could buy train tickets at a lower fare but we would risk losing them in case our flight got delayed. Another alternative would be to pay full price once we arrived in Milan. Then the third and best option was to buy a train pass through Rail Europe. We got an Eurail Italy Pass that was having a special offer: when buying 3 days we got an extra travel day for free! Plus: Isabella would travel for free for the whole period!
So we would use two days to go from Milan to Rome and back and we would have two extra days to travel anywhere in Italy. Good, right?
After landing in Milan we went to the airport train station and got tickets to Milano Centrale station (these tickets were not part of our pass). One hour later we arrived at Milano Centrale and went looking for the place to validate our passes and reserve seats on the train to Rome.
The inconvenience of using a pass is (1) having to validate it prior to the first use (to set its period of use – we could use ours for 4 days of travel in a one month window) and (2) in the Italian high speed trains we have to have a reserved seat (and they cost 10 euros each).
Our pass was for 2nd class and the train was quite comfortable, with power outlets, wifi, but with very limited space for luggage. The ride was smooth, we enjoyed the view and got to sleep a little. In 3 hours we were in Rome.
Since we had those 2 extra days to travel around Italy we traveled to Venice , Pisa and Cinque Terre (yes, in only 2 days), but I’ll tell you about that later. As I told you before you have to book high speed trains, but for regional train all you need to do is to fill up the itinerary on your pass.
A very importat detail: even with a reserved seat we have to write down the itinerary on the pass cover AND the day of travel on the pass. We learned this the hard way: forgetting to do it!
We just wrote the itinerary on the pass cover and did not write down the day of use. Everything was just fine, in general, train agents just ask for the reservation ticket, but then on our trip to Venice the train agent asked to see our passes as well. He then said we would have to pay a 50 euro fine (each) for not writing down the day of use on the pass. But then Luciano remembered he had written all our itinerary on the pass cover and explained to the agent that if we were trying to do something wrong (using the pass for more days than it was good for) he would not have put the itinerary on the cover. The agent did not change his angry face but we think he accepted our defense because we didn’t have to pay the fine after all.
What a relief! We’re aware they must see a lot of people trying to use the pass more than actually allowed, but that was not our intention!
On the other days the first thing we did was to fill out the day of use! And that was the only time a train agent asked us to see the pass. Even in the regional trains they just took a look at the pass cover.
Even paying for reservations, we ended up with a good deal. We payed 485 euros for the 3 of us: 335 (the passes) + 150 (reservations). If we had bought the tickets as we were traveling, we would have payed close to 800 euros. Of course we could just have bought the Milan-Rome-Milan tickets, but then we would not have visited Venice, Pisa and Cinque Terre!
This is how we used our pass. This is the itinerary on the cover!
I’ll still write a post about Venice, Pisa and Cinque Terre!
We got our passes through RailEurope, and received them at home! You can buy really ahead of time because it is good for use up to 11 months after issued, but they are non exchangeable and non refundable!
To check schedules, we used the Trenitalia website, and since we had unlimited data plans on our phones, that was quite easy!
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