Railpass or City to City?: Milan, Lake Como, Venice, Cinque Terre, Florence, Rome

There's too many choices online and I need some advice. My husband & I are traveling to Italy for 2 weeks in May and can't tell if we should get the Single Country Railpass or just wing it and buy city to city. Here's our drafted city stops: Milan, Lake Como (Veranna), Venice, the Cinque Terra, Florence, Rome. Some cities we will make our home base and so probably will have a few round trips sprinkled into one-way trips. Do I go with raileurope? trenitalia? eurail? italiarail?
Not sure!
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  • Hello Hillary, what a great itinerary! Let me help you with your options.

    Milan to Como is a local train.
    From Como to Venice via Milan you will take a local train to Milan and then a high speed train from Milan to Venice.
    From Venice to Cinque Terra you will need to take a high speed train to Florence and then a local train from Florence to La Spezia (via Pisa).
    Florence Rome is a high speed train again.

    So, you have a good mix of local trains and high speed trains in your itinerary, with that in mind we need to compare the costs between an Italy rail pass and/or tickets.
    the price of an adult pass for 6 days of travel in 2nd class is $315.
    To this price you have to add the cost of reservations on high speed trains: 3 high speed trains trip X $14 is $42. The pass option is: $315 + $42 = $357
    The pass option is more flexible so you could take small day trips without paying extra.

    Let's now look at the ticket option using this page on our site: http://www.raileurope.com/us/rail/poi...
    According to my calculation the itinerary above in 2nd class would amount to $239.
    As I don't know the exact days of your trips, this quote is only given as an indication for comparison purpose.

    It looks like tickets are the way to go unless you decide to take a lot of side trips.

    If you choose the pass option only 2 companies sell them: Rail Europe and Eurail.
    Prices are roughly the same but Rail Europe is based in North America and has customer support in english.

    If you go with the tickets options you can use RailEurope or Trenitalia. Trenitalia is based in Italy and you might get cheaper tickets if you book in advance but don't forget to add 3% credit card fee if you book with the italian company. Also Trenitalia customers support is in Italian only.

    I hope this is helpful and that you will have a great trip!
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  • I was wondering almost the exact same thing a few days ago with regards to passes vs. tickets. This can be so confusing sometimes. Thank you for clarifiying. I love traveling by trains and can't wait for my next trip. Will these prices be valid for November of this year? That is when I will be visiting next. Can I lock in those rates now? I just tried on your website and I got an error. But Trenitalia doesn't have schedules either for that far out.

    Also, Do you do ticketless tickets in Italy? I can get those on Trenitalia.com and for a 3% markup, that may be worth it for convenience. But if i can get everything as an e-ticket for the prices above and save the 3%, that would be great!
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  • Jeff (Official Rep) March 20, 2012 16:26
    Hi Hillary and Jan,

    The prices Frederick mentioned above are not official quotes. To ensure any price, you would have to view the products on our website and place your order. All fares are subject to change. Trains operating within Italy are only able to be booked within 90 days of an intended departure date. We highly recommend purchasing your tickets or passes through us in advance as soon as it becomes possible to do so and prior to departing for Europe.

    Tickets and reservations for trains operating in Italy are not able to be issued as e-tickets or print-at-home tickets via international rail ticket consolidators. Many countries and various train operators in Europe do not yet offer e-ticketing; however, as of 2008, the transition is slowly being made. We are aware of the demand for such service, and we hope that e-ticketing becomes much more widespread throughout all of Europe within the next few years. Many stations in Europe do not have kiosks to make e-ticketing a possibility and many train companies do not yet accept print-at-home tickets. I feel as though it is best to have your tickets or passes in hand, so you don't have to bother with the kiosk for each train.

    In any case, for the itinerary above, I would recommend purchasing the Eurail Italy Pass, which is not able to be issued electronically. For 1st class travel, the rail pass would be your best option. The pass would also allow more flexibility to do any other side-trips, assuming you have sufficient travel days on the pass.

    While there are some faster trains from Milan to Como that require reservations, there are also regional trains, for which the rail pass is all you would need to board, and you would not have to purchase reservations.

    The connection from Como to Venice would have you taking one of these trains back to Milan, where you would board the high-speed train that goes direct to Venice. The trains from Milan to Venice would require reservations.

    For a connection from Venice to the Cinque Terre, you would make reservations on a high-speed train to Florence, where you can switch to a non-reservable regional train to La Spezia, a town that lies just south of the Cinque Terre (in many instances, the connections between Florence and La Spezia would involve changing trains once in Pisa en route). From La Spezia, you can take another non-reservable regional train that runs up through the towns of the actual Cinque Terre.

    To get back from the Cinque Terre back to Florence, you can just use your pass to hop on any of the regional trains at any of the 5 towns of the Cinque Terre or La Spezia. If you board at one of the towns of the Cinque Terre for your trip back to Florence, you would have to change trains in La Spezia en route.

    The trains from Florence to Rome are high-speed trains that require reservations.

    For the reservable trains, you would book your reservations by clicking on 'Book a Reservation for Your Pass' on the homepage of our website, www.raileurope.com.

    For planning purposes, you can just view the schedules for the non-reservable trains I mentioned above by entering the requested city-pairs under 'Check Fares and Schedules' on the homepage of our website and clicking the option to 'Check Schedules'.
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  • This reply was removed on 2012-03-20.
    see the change log
  • Jeff (Official Rep) March 20, 2012 16:33

    Since your travel isn't until November, I just wanted to point out that most rail passes, including the Eurail Italy Pass, have to be validated for first use within 6 months of the date of purchase.

    Also, you would just keep in mind that actual trains in Italy can only be booked within 90 days of a departure date.
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