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help in planning my 3 weeks in Italy and how to get best use of Interrail Pass.

  • 9 February 2023
  • 16 replies
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Based in London, I’m a senior, solo traveller, and in Italy only having seen Rome and Florence briefly some 50 years ago, Then a sad trip to Venice (nothing to do with the city) in 2010.

I want to get to know Italy, particularly its food and wine.  I’m a freelance writer and translator.

I am attending a 1-week retreat in Perugia from 15 April and I would like to travel in Italy for 3 weeks after that, from 22 April to 13 May.

Should I get an interrail pass for ??? days travel in 1 month?

Can I use the Interrail to get to Perugia from the airport when I arrive from London?  I can fly into Florence or Bologna.  The 2nd class Interrail pass does not let you take airport train in Florence, it seems. Does this make sense economically?

How do I get the most of the Interrail Pass in my situation.

I am not interested in being everywhere, but rather in staying in a place at least 2,3 days and get to know it and its people.

The wines I adore from Italy are not the expensive big names, no Super Tuscans for me.  I have no deep pocket. 

But I love Mount Etna’s Nerello Mascalese, Pinot Nero from the Trentino Alto-Adige area, Brunello of course (but again the cost is often prohibitive), and many many local Italian grapes (I love Emilio Bulfon’s wines), some of which never made it to the outside world.  Getting to taste these would be wonderful. 

I am so grateful for any advice, recommendations or thoughts you may have.

Thank you very much, doris

 

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Best answer by BrendanDB 9 February 2023, 15:32

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Grab a map, and investigate which places you would like to visit. Count the amount of travel days you would +/- need for your travel wishes.

Don’t use the Interrail planner, it’s often wrong. Use the planner of Deutsche Bahn, ÖBB or TrenItalia. Don’t plan too far in advance too, schedules are uploaded usually quite late in Italy in comparison to the European average (+/- 1 or 2 months in advance). If you want to get an indication of the services between A and B in e.g. September, just check a random day for next week. It’s probably going to be very similar the rest of the year

I always check https://www.openrailwaymap.org/ to see where I can get easily by train (this map also shows tracks, not served by passenger traffic, so always double check)

You can take as many trains on a travel day as you want.

It sounds that an interrail one country pass Italy would be most interesting for you: https://www.interrail.eu/en/interrail-passes/one-country-pass/italy

In Italy there are quite some trains with mandatory reservations. The Frecce trains (Frecciarossa, Frecciargento, Frecciabianca) require a supplement of 10 EUR per seat reservation, the IC trains 3 EUR per reservation.

These seat reservations are booked via ÖBB. Don’t select seat reservation only, but add under passenger details the “Interrail/Eurail” as the discount and proceed like an ordinary booking.

If you don’t like too rigid planning, perhaps you should go for a global continuous pass (that’s valid for 15 consecutive days, 22 days or a month) providing a lot of flexibility. A global pass also means that you could also take the train from the UK to Italy (over France) or Belgium, Germany, Switzerland if you want to avoid seat reservation costs.

Make sure to compare ordinary prices with Trenitalia’s prices if you only take a couple of trains, passes are not always the most cost effective option.

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IF a pass is cost-effective at all (and that is after all the only sheer reason to buy one) will wholly depend on what trips and in how long time you intend to make. To contemplate this further: there are also other ALT-local passes, often limited to specific regions, but much cheaper. And local fares-pay on the spot, no RES or whatever-just as you would with a suburban train to LON-are pretty cheap in IT and also often quite slow→ few Kms->low fare to pay, lower as passday would cost.

In Firenze it is NOT a train (treno) that serves its tiny airpt since very few yrs, but a cityTRAM (also titled as light rail), that is citytransport (just as LONdon has around Croydon in its south) and thus you buy a city-single ticet to use it-from a machine or some shop-probably less as 2€.

It also seems nowadays about anyone who writes mentions food as subject (currently here in THailand anyone now calls it streetfood-even if it comes prefrozen from a convenience shop via magnetron). IF this will mean you really want to use some minor side lines to visit some mini mom&pap (mama e papa!) trattoria speziale-well NOT all of these are covered by pass, as many are regional and have their own fares. Pass gives access to TrenItalia and TreNord.

Hi BrendanDB, mcadv,

Thank you both for your ideas and suggestions, which have given me plenty of food for thought.

Two main takeaways for me from your replies: a) global pass may give me a lot more flexibility; b) buying train tickets locally in the region could be cheaper or works out as the same price as getting a Interrail Pass if I am not going to take that many train journeys.

the train map link is a godsend, BrendanDB, very many thanks!

I may have other questions as I continue to “plan” this escapade.  I apologise in advance if I ask stupid questions.  It’s not that I don’t want to search online myself, it’s just that I am not as good as I should be with IT...sorry.

Cheers, 

 

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Don’t worry. There are no stupid questions @Doris, feel free to ask concrete questions. The more details about it, the better (mostly time, date, destinations, type of train,...)

Train travel abroad is ridiculously difficult to plan if you’re new to it. All the information is really spread out, and logic often lacks.

But once you get the hang of it, it’s a really nice, relaxed way to travel.

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I did a trip in Italy in 2022 and can heartily recommend it for what you are proposing. As other posts suggest you can either plan the cities you will be stopping at and then calculate how many travel days you would be wanting or decide how many travel days (based on cost) and devise an itinerary.

As low cost flights are one-way I would suggest you look at flying in on an early flight to anywhere in Northern Italy and take a train to Perugia. You may need to take public transport to the nearest station and then make your way to Perugia. Then I would suggest a travel - stay 2 or 3 nights - travel pattern and finish in either Catania or Palermo in Sicily.

An obvious routing would be Perugia - Florence (day trip to Pisa) - Bologna - (Verona optional) - Venice - Rome - Naples or Salerno (Regular trains from Salerno to Pompeii and Naples) - Palermo or Siracuse (depending on flight home) - The direct IC  includes the last boat train in Europe across the Messina straits. Most of the routes offer Freccia (High Speed) trains at 10 euro res costs or Intercity (Express but not high speed) at 3 euro.

Accommodation as a single may seem expensive in city centres but bargains are findable if you are pragmatic.

Obviously there are many other towns and cities between the major cities. Given that a 5 day in 1 month costs 267 euro and a 7 day is 317 euro (338/401 first class) it may be better to have the extra days for day trips or more stops for not a lot extra.

Some may suggest you buy standard advance tickets but remember a pass allows unlimited trains in a travel day and can be changed right up to the boarding time. If you miss a train through your own reason (e.g. traffic accident) the only penalty with a pass would be a lost reservation and a new reservation (depending on circumstances), whereas with the cheaper pre-purchased tickets they are rarely refundable or exchangeable and you will probably need to pay full fare on alternative trains.

@BrendanDB 

How do I confirm if I can use the Eurail Global Pass for the Eurostar from London to the continent - must email Eurostar?

And then how do I plan the London to the Arezzo train journey (there are 2 train stations, apparently, I need to find out which one is closer to my retreat venue)?  and how to confirm that the global pass covers this route?

thank you again for your generosity with your time.

 

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@BrendanDB

How do I confirm if I can use the Eurail Global Pass for the Eurostar from London to the continent - must email Eurostar?

And then how do I plan the London to the Arezzo train journey (there are 2 train stations, apparently, I need to find out which one is closer to my retreat venue)?  and how to confirm that the global pass covers this route?

thank you again for your generosity with your time.

 

As you live in the UK, you need an Interrail pass.

Eligibility of the pass is not per route, but per company. In fact about 98% of all European trains are covered, with the exception of some private operators on the continent and some touristic railways. Eurostar is included. You can always check here: https://www.interrail.eu/en/plan-your-trip/tips-and-tricks/trains-europe/railway-companies

For Eurostar you need a seat reservation, best get these asap, as these reservations can sell out and alternatives are difficult. Always check availability of Eurostar first, before actually deciding to book/travel on Eurostar. When do you intend taking the Eurostar?

You can get these here (or check availability):

https://www.b-europe.com/EN/Booking/Pass#TravelWish for which you need a pass cover number.

You can avoid a lot of mandatory seat reservations by taking the Eurostar to Brussels, then travel to Cologne, and from there Southward to Switzerland and Italy. Although you might want to spend two travel days on that, and stay somewhere in between (also for the option via France). Or take a night train from Cologne to Zürich to gain some time. Although that’s not the most comfortable sleep usually, but quite time efficient, negating the need of a hotel night.

Travelling through France involves a lot of inflexible seat reservations, and the last months/weeks there are a lot of strikes in France because of the pension reforms! France is a bit unreliable for the moment.

Seat reservations are completely seperate of the pass and can be bought without actually having a pass. But you always need a valid pass (=ticket) and seat reservation (if mandatory) upon inspection of course.

@BrendanDB 

I’m on Trenitalia website, to get a sense of trains from Florence to Arezzo, in case I have to fly from London to Florence.  The flights are not totally problem-free, the Vueling direct flight from Gatwick - the only one - only arrives at close to midnight in Florence, costing £31 but if I take an earlier flight arriving around 6 pm it jumps to close to £200, much like the BA flights.

There are many regional trains from Firenze to Arezzo Pescaiola, but the website says “this service is not sellable on this channel” and will not tell me how much it costs or where else I could book it or buy the ticket.  So how?  

Thanks a million.

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There are many regional trains from Firenze to Arezzo Pescaiola, but the website says “this service is not sellable on this channel” and will not tell me how much it costs or where else I could book it or buy the ticket.

Regional tickets from Firenze to Arezzo are €8.90.

Arezzo Pescaiola is served by TFT (change at Arezzo) and Trenitalia doesn't seem to sell tickets for them. Is there a specific reason you want to go to Arezzo Pescaiola? In any case, Arezzo to Pescaiola seems to be €1.60.

@rvdborgt Many thanks for this!  I actually don’t know if it’s Arezzo or Arezzo Pescaiola that I want - I’m going to a retreat at Villa Pia, which apparently is reached by 20 min car ride from Arezzo.  I have to contact the Villa to ask them. Thanks again!

 

 

@BrendanDB , @rvdborgt 

Hey travel experts, I checked the Trenitalia website, it looks like I should just buy individual tickets on the ground, since the Interrail Pass is just too complicated for me to navigate and the savings are not there, really, not if I count the stress and mistakes I am bound to make. 

One other question if either of you could shed some light on this, I tried to find out the cost of a senior rail card (the CartaFreccia, if I am correct) and if I can buy it not being Italian.  Without the CartaFreccia, it seems I cannot get senior fares, much like in the UK.

Oh one other thing, since the Italians change their train schedules regularly, how far ahead should I book/buy my tickets?  Can I leave it till I am in Perugia, so one week ahead?

Many thanks!

 

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According to Trenitalia's conditions for the CarteFreccia programme:

Customers who are non-residents and do not have a domicile in Italy and who wish to request enrolment in the CartaFRECCIA Programme, may do so by sending an email to the email address cfreccia.application@trenitalia.it, enclosing the completed and signed Application Form for Enrolment in the Programme for Foreign Residents. 

Within 45 days from the date of the registration request, the requesting customers will receive at the communicated e-mail address their Personal Code, the link to create the password with which to access the dedicated online services and the CartaFRECCIA, immediately active, which they will have to carry with them when travelling, in paper or digital format, if they use rail travel operated by Trenitalia. The CartaFRECCIA will not be dispatched under any circumstances.

[Translated with www.DeepL.com]

I think you'll have to ask them for the form to fill out first.

@rvdborgt 

Haha, more complicated a process I cannot think of… I didn’t know eating pasta every day will do that to you 😂😂  I am beginning to think this train travel business is all too hard….

thank you so much, Railmaster!  I’m in your debt.

cheers,

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According to Trenitalia's conditions for the CarteFreccia programme:

Customers who are non-residents and do not have a domicile in Italy and who wish to request enrolment in the CartaFRECCIA Programme, may do so by sending an email to the email address cfreccia.application@trenitalia.it, enclosing the completed and signed Application Form for Enrolment in the Programme for Foreign Residents. 

Within 45 days from the date of the registration request, the requesting customers will receive at the communicated e-mail address their Personal Code, the link to create the password with which to access the dedicated online services and the CartaFRECCIA, immediately active, which they will have to carry with them when travelling, in paper or digital format, if they use rail travel operated by Trenitalia. The CartaFRECCIA will not be dispatched under any circumstances.

[Translated with www.DeepL.com]

I think you'll have to ask them for the form to fill out first.

But it also says “Foreign Residents”. I don’t think you are residing permanently in Italy no @Doris ? IT sure does sound as a lot of bureaucracy 😅

Maybe @Angelo can enlighten us, how it works for seniors in Italy? Is there a simpeler way to enjoy senior discounts?

 

It seems complicated at first, but it’s quite manageable once you know what to do. I still would advice you to get a pass if you fancy an nice, flexible and relaxing Italy tour. Booking full-fare tickets on short notice, is almost always very expensive.

You always can get your seat reservations (if needed) at a ticket office in Italy or via the ÖBB website. Service level is good in Italy, with plenty of connections, so no drama if there would be a fully booked train. Plenty of people who do interrailing like that. Reserving on quite short notices. There’s always a train earlier, or a train later.

Only for Eurostar you should get your seats asap, the rest of Europe is much better availability wise.

@BrendanDB 

You are very kind not to lose your patience with me, no, I am not staying in Italy for long, that is why I thought 3 weeks will go by in a flash and I won’t be doing that much travelling, so why bother with all this headache?  But a senior rail card is worthwhile if the UK experience is to go by.  Fares are generally 30% cheaper with a senior rail card.  

I am thinking after my retreat in Perugia, I will take 1 train from Arezzo or Perugia, whichever has better connections to Napoli, stay in the area for 4, 5 days, take another train towards Sicily, there I’ve been having problems finding trains from Napoli or Bari (on the east) down to Palermo or Catania...I can stay here for a week and ponder how to get back to London using the last week.  Perhaps I can find trains from Palermo or Catania to Montepulciano without too much problem?  So, 3 - 5 train journeys (major ones) max for the 3 weeks, not worth getting the Italy Pass?

Within Sicily or around Napoli/Bari, I can always take the slow local trains, which I see are usually a few euros for a trip.  Won’t break the bank.

I’m always grateful for any other thoughts and advice!  Cheers

 

Userlevel 7
Badge +8

According to Trenitalia's conditions for the CarteFreccia programme:

Customers who are non-residents and do not have a domicile in Italy and who wish to request enrolment in the CartaFRECCIA Programme, may do so by sending an email to the email address cfreccia.application@trenitalia.it, enclosing the completed and signed Application Form for Enrolment in the Programme for Foreign Residents. 

Within 45 days from the date of the registration request, the requesting customers will receive at the communicated e-mail address their Personal Code, the link to create the password with which to access the dedicated online services and the CartaFRECCIA, immediately active, which they will have to carry with them when travelling, in paper or digital format, if they use rail travel operated by Trenitalia. The CartaFRECCIA will not be dispatched under any circumstances.

[Translated with www.DeepL.com]

I think you'll have to ask them for the form to fill out first.

But it also says “Foreign Residents”. I don’t think you are residing permanently in Italy no @Doris ? IT sure does sound as a lot of bureaucracy 😅

Maybe @Angelo can enlighten us, how it works for seniors in Italy? Is there a simpeler way to enjoy senior discounts?

It was just DeepL's unchanged translation. The source text is "Richiesta Iscrizione al programma per i residenti Estero”, which, after a second look, also links to the form to fill out. The form itself had the title "Richiesta iscrizione al programma per i residenti all’Estero” / "Programme application request for residents abroad”. The conditions clearly say that non-residents can fill out this form, so they are obliged to honour such requests. The form also allows for people who don't have an Italian address.

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