a VirtualTourist member from Sacramento
Trying to learn the Italian train schedule and different lines to take has proven to be a challenge. What line would someone recommend to take from Mestre to Milan in late April? Is it worthwhile to purchase the ticket in advance? Are there discounts for folks 60 and over? We are in no hurry to take an express train to Milan but would like to arrive at the Milan Central station. Would appreciate your help. Thanks :)
1. Use www.trenitalia.com, the official website. English is at the top.
2. You have basically one line from Venezia to Milano, so don't sweat the optional routes.
3. There are many Frecciabianca trains during the day. These are "premium" trains, which means that they are (1) more expensive, (2) require reservations, and (3) offer discount programs, so, yes, buying in advance can save you money.
4. The "economy" and "supereconomy" fares are virtually the only discount fares available to non-residents of Italy, so too bad about your age.
5. There is the occasional regional train along this route, which is half price (more or less) for twice the time...but the discount fares on the premium trains may match that if you buy early enough.
6. Purt' near any train you take from Venice will arrive at Milano Centrale.
Oh, one more thing...schedules on Trenitalia are not reliable more than two months in advance...so don't look at April's schedules today - there will be many trains missing. Instead, use dates in the next week or two that are the same day of the week as the day you are planning to travel in April, for general planning purposes. This will be close enough as train schedules don't change that much over the course of the year...but note that if you are serious about advance purchase, that you shouldn't worry about it until late February...
And don't forget to validate the ticket before you board the train
It's actually very easy. My preferred link is:
Remember that all European railway websites are, by default, set to give you the fastest route A>B. So all you need to do is put in A and B and the site will sort it out for you. If you just put 'milan' the site will give you Milan Centrale and other stations (e.g. Milan Porta Garibaldi) only if there are services to that station.
Don't bother looking now, although chances are the timetable will be much the same as it is now (excluding holiday dates obv). Fares probably won't change either. The station you arrive at is clearly stated on the timetable, so no probs.
Absolutely no need whatsoever to buy your tickets in advance online. Mestre has plenty of ticket machines and you can easily buy your ticket a day or so before anyway (perhaps on your way to/from Venezia Santa Lucia).
It is *possible* (only possible) that if you look for a specific departure nearer the time you might find a cheap advance online fare (you'll have to start the booking process to see it). Whether you consider the saving worth committing yourselves to a specific departure time is up to you.
I haven't come across any automatic reductions for the over-60s.
We travelled by train Venice to Milan mid August this year. We did not pre book our ticket, the trains run very frequently, we waited about 15 minutes, beautiful train, 2nd class tickets.
Yes, Italian trains are usually very nice, and tickets easily purchased. You may be purchasing tickets from a machine at smaller stations but in the cities, most larger stations have ticket windows where you can purchase them from a human if you're more comfortable with that.
The stations also post schedules of what trains are going where on any given day, and are easy to figure out once you get the hang of it. The biggest thing to remember, especially with smaller local trains, is that your line may not end at the destination you are going to, and may not start where you are leaving from. When you look at the schedule board, scan not just start/end points but for any train that makes a stop at your desired destination in between their origin/terminus points. Does this make sense?
And yes, validate those tickets before you board! That isn't necessary on trains with reserved seats as those tickets are only good for THAT train, on THAT day, at THAT hour but if ever in doubt, it only takes a second to punch the ticket and then you're covered.
If it helps, train travel is almost unknown where I live so I had a LOT of anxiety about getting about by rail in Italy. If I can figure it out, trust me: you will be just fine! It actually makes more sense once you're there than it does sometimes on a website or in a guidebook. LOL, you should have seen my pages of notes that first time - HA!!!
Just to repeat what Ms. GoodFish said because there is a lot of confusion on this subject: you have to validate the tickets ONLY for regional trains - the tickets for "premium" trains do NOT require validation.
"Validation" means putting your ticket into the green or yellow box (they are switching from yellow to green across the country) mounted on the wall of the station or next to the track, so that it can be date/time stamped.
Why validate? Because your regional train ticket is sort of like a municipal bus ticket - it's good on this route for up to 2 months or more, so you date/time stamp the ticket to show that it's been used (otherwise, you'd be able to reuse it, which is a no-no in Italy). Since the regional trains do not take reservations, it's possible to do the tickets this way.
"Premium" trains, on the other hand, require seat reservations, which is why Madame BonPoisson said that your "ticket" (which is usually electronic anyway) is good only for a certain train on a certain day at a certain time. But can't you get reimbursed for an unused ticket if you didn't take the train? Yes, but only in the first HOUR after departure, because the train personnel can be pretty sure that you didn't take the train (since you're in the station talking to them at the time). Otherwise, more than 1 hour after departure, your ticket is no longer good.
The reason why people keep emphasizing that you need to validate your tickets is because many foreign visitors are caught by this and are fined on the spot 50+ euro (can be 100+ if you don't have the cash on hand). AND this system for trains is different than for buses, because buses have the little yellow boxes onboard the buses whereas if you board the train without validation, it's too late.
But, really, if you're taking a premium train from Mestre to Milan (99% probability), you won't have to worry about this...
You said it better than I did Bill. :O)
Yup, I figured they'd be taking a premium - or fast - train from Mestre to Milan but just in case they did some tripping about on the local trains.... :O)
TTF will be using a local ticket for getting in and out of Mestre to Venice (if he uses the train) so validating is essential for those.
You need to buy the local (i.e. to Venezia Santa Lucia & back) ticket at the ticket office in Mestre. The ticket machines don't sell them.
But there are plenty of ticket machines which will sell you (in English) tickets for Milan, so no probs.
What? Do you know something I don't? ;-)
Either TTF will be staying in Mestre, so no need for a local ticket, or coming from somewhere else other than Santa Lucia and just getting off, or if TTF is starting at Santa Lucia, nearly every Frecciabianca starts in Santa Lucia anyway.
He's staying in Mestre and I thought (possibly wrongly) that he will be visiting Venice proper. So he might want to use the train (hence the local ticket for that journey) rather than the bus (I prefer the train). :-)
William- Your response was extremely detailed and helpful. Too bad it doesn't appear as clearly as you have stated in one of the guide books. Many thanks!!
Great information! Thanks Jane!
Couldn't remember if you intended to make trips into Venice proper, Steven. Will you be doing that? If so, I'd def recommend train over bus (just 'cos of traffic and more space) but you'll have to queue for the tickets (just buy as many as you need at the same time).
J, oh...you were thinking of him going the OTHER way from time to time...duh! ;-)
Jane- I am staying at the Hotel Cris. Ty for the advice on the train over the bus. Do they offer the option of buying multiple tickets in advance on the train to save money? Thanks again for the sage advice.
Thanks Kate. Don't want to end up in the Italian pokie for an unvalidated ticket ):
There are no discounts on regional trains (the ones leics is talking about from Mestre over to Santa Lucia and back) that are available to non-residents. There are "carnets" (booklets) of tickets for the premium trains, but this makes sense for Italian businesses that would use them over 180 days, not for tourists who will seldom make the same trip twice in a visit.
Oh, I should clarify - there are premium trains that also pass through Mestre on the way to/from Santa Lucia; however there is no reason for you to spend the extra money to take them. And they aren't any faster in this stretch since all the trains are 10-12 minutes. So when you get to the station, buy a regional ticket and get on the next regional train, which are quite frequent anyway.
I don't believe there are any carnets for regional train tickets, and they wouldn't save you any money anyway.
Note that you CAN buy your regional ticket online (same price) if your hotel has a printer you can use. This ticket purchased online would still have to be validated at the station...but as the others will tell you, using the machines at the station to buy the tickets is as easy as anything, unless all the machines are broken (unlikely in busy stations like Mestre and Santa Lucia).
You can just go to the ticket office in Mestre once and buy as many tickets Mestre>Venice as you are likely to need. You then validate each one before you use it; the tickets are not pre-dated. Don't thiunk of buying on the train; the journey only takes 10 mins and you don't want to spend that 10 mins trying to find the guard/inspector.
The Cris is nearer the Venice bus stop than the station (not by much) but I've only used the bus once. Buses do tend to be crowded, even out of season, and I'm much happier on the train (a few cents more, I think). I think the Cris may well sell bus tickets, but didn't ask them about train tickets. It's worth doing so, because it can happen. In Varenna, for example, the local train tickets are sold in a bar/cafe.
It's better to buy all your M>V tickets in one go in this particular case simply because Mestre has no ticket machines which sell those tickets. You have to use the ticket office and, as seems to be the case with all ticket offices, there are always queues.
Although there are indeed services every few minutes (you need have no fear of missing all trains) buying all the tickets just saves queuing time.
Hmpf, J, I see that the Trenitalia website says that there are "self service regionali" ticket machines in Mestre. Are you sure there aren't machines that sell the regional tickets? (of course, I understand that I don't think I've ever gotten off at Mestre, so I don't have any personal knowledge of it)...
I couldn't find any, Bill, and spent some time looking for them in the station entrance and ticket office area. But they may be tucked away on the platforms somewhere and I just didn't spot them.
It was quicker, in the end, just to join the ticket office queue. :-)
Yeah, if it's like Termini, the Trenitalia machines are quite visible out in front of the ticket windows, while the Regione Lazio machines are hidden around the corner...but, of course, if the ticket window line is short, it may even be faster to get a lot of tickets there...
I must admit I was amazed not to find the machines quickly (I know what they look like, of course). But I had the farmer's wife with me so wasn't as persistent as I would have been if I were by myself.
So, Steven: if the ticket office queue doesn't look too long just buy the tickets there. But if it's very long, perhaps you might explore the station/first platform area (maybe check the tunnel which goes under the platforms too) and see if you can spot the regional ticket machines. They are (as I recall) white rectangles as opposed to the green/white upright 'ordinary' ticket machines.
In most of the European countries I have traveled I have found that the self serve ticket machines accept only chip embedded credit cards. Very few US embedded credit cards have been issued to date. Again thanks for all the great advice which has been noted here on VT!
Yes, chip & PIN is definitely the norm in Europe (has been for years now) and I know that US citizens can have hassle with this.
Non-chipped cards don't work in any automated European machine except those designed to distribute tickets which have been pre-booked online.
There is a Travelex travelmoney card available to US citizens which is chip/PIN enabled:
Not sure whether the convenience of having chip & PIN is worth the hassle of getting/loading the card, but thought I'd flag it up.
TTF, take a look at a tip I just added with 2 photos:
[original VT link]
These self service ticket machines are in Lazio (Roma), so I can't guarantee that they would be the same in the Veneto (Venice), but they are what you are likely to see if you poke around long enough at Mestre and other large stations. As I noted before, in the big station of Termini, they were a bit hard to find, although in the little station of Roma San Pietro, they were the only self-service machines (yes, there was a manned ticket window for other trips).
In any case, look for "RETE REGIONALE", as this means it is a ticket machine that sells tickets ONLY for the regional trains...
Yes, they've always been obvious in the littler stations I've used (e.g. Varenna, Pisa) which is why I was bemused not to find them easily at Mestre.
But maybe I just looked in the wrong area. Being responsible for the farmer's wife is quite distracting at times. :-)