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Trains vs. Cinque Terre
.:. Travel connection 3/31/2010

Travel advisor,

I seek you advice regarding a travel connection in Milan.

Here is my travel plan:

Arrive by air into Malpensa, scheduled for 13:45 (on 2010.06.17)

[Clear Customs; catch train or bus into Milano]

Go by train to La Spezia, departing from Central Station at 16:00 or 17:00

Am I likely to make either of these connections? [Or will I need to stay overnight in Milan?]

.:. CiaoMilano answer

Thanks for writing to CiaoMilano :-)

It your plane lands in time and you get your luggage easily, you shouldn't come across any problems.

There are buses going directly from Malpensa to the Stazione Centrale.

For instance, if you manage to catch the Malpensa Shuttle bus (see our Airports webpage to retrace timetables) at 3:40pm (15.40), you are supposed to arrive to the Stazione Centrale at 4:30pm (16.30).

And you're very likely to be able to catch earlier buses than the 3:40pm (15.40) one...

In case you're unlucky - i.e. your plane does not land in time, or you get your luggage late - don't forget that there are later trains from Milano to La Spezia: approximately one every hour till 9:10pm (see our Railways webpage to retrace timetables).

.:. Travel connection #2 4/1/2010

Thank you very much for your very helpful reply.

Having emailed to you in English, I wasn't at all sure that I'd get any reply at all, let alone one so prompt and in impeccable English!

I had been using , where the latest train given to La Spezia was at 17:00; your reference is much more complete.

Perhaps you can also help me with two further queries regarding rail travel in Italy.

As you might perhaps have guessed, my reason for travelling to La Spezia is to visit the Cinque Terre. However I also wish to visit Pisa and Lucca. Is it possible on Italian railways to have a 'stop-over' (like on airlines), where I could get a ticket to Lucca, with stop-overs in La Spezia and Pisa?

My second query is for some clarification on the types of fares. I see: 'Base', 'Full', 'Flessibile', 'meno15' and 'meno30' (the description for the latter two being identical). If I purchase the ticket when I arrive at the railway station, is there any reason for NOT getting the cheapest (meno30)?

There is another point that you might be able to do something about, which would be helpful to visitors. When I enter my travel destination, time of travel, etc, on the Trenitalia site, I get the response "No solution found". Now I am wanting to travel on 2010.06.17. I eventually discovered, though, that if I changed the date to 2010.06.10, I did get the 'required' list of departures. It would be very helpful if you could persuade Trenitalia to change their uninformative response to "Your departure date is beyond our current timetable. Please try again later, or use an earlier date" (or something similar) in these circumstances.

.:. CiaoMilano answer

Thanks for writing back :-)

Our reference is simply the official Italian Railways website, as you see (and no, we have no power to improve that website... although we're certainly going to forward your remarks to them. Please note, however, that the timetable gap you came across is likely to depend on the annual train timetable change, which in 2010 will happen on June 14. After June 14 some trains WILL actually CHANGE THEIR TIMETABLE.)

As for fares, the 'Base', 'Full', 'Flessibile', 'meno 15' and 'meno 30' options refer to special discount fares, where 'meno 15' and 'meno 30 are intended for people younger than 15 and 30 years respectively. We personally always use the 'Base' option.

There are no declared 'stop-over' opportunities at Trenitalia, but you can freely get off a train on your way and take another one later along the same route you were following before (and, obviously, you purchased a ticket for). So, in practice, there IS a 'stop-over' opportunity.

However, please take note that

1) if you buy a ticket, say, from Milan to Lucca, you purchase the opportunity to travel by train from Milan to Lucca ALONG A SPECIFIC ROUTE, which may happen NOT to include either La Spezia or Monterosso (or Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola, Riomaggiore, i.e. the five train stations in the Cinque Terre area); (in fact, nearly every train route between Milan and Lucca includes Florence, reaching Lucca from North: the main exception is the 9769 FRECCIABIANCA train, which includes Genoa and La Spezia, reaching Lucca from West, but doesn't stop in any of the five Cinque Terre railway stations, although they are located between Genoa and La Spezia;)

2) you always have to validate your ticket before entering your train car (you do so by inserting your ticket in a small box, which marks the validation time). Each validated ticket entitles you to travel on that specific route FOR THAT DAY ONLY...

In other words, you'd better buy a specific ticket for each of your trains.

Nonetheless, you can buy all the tickets you need in advance, and then validate each of those tickets step by step just before you ride a specific train. Doing so, you avoid risks of travelling with a ticket that may be no longer valid.

Our personal advice is that you go in person to the La Spezia railway station, explain your case at the ticket counter and buy all the tickets you're going to need. You don't have to decide in advance WHEN you're going to use those tickets. You only have to tell WHICH TRAINS you're going to ride.

Last but not least, a final note. We recently read that the Italian Railways seem to accept web purchases through Italian credit cards ONLY! This may be another reason for purchasing your train tickets in person, once you've reached La Spezia.

We know: this is a complicated country... ;-)


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