I know this title sounds click-baity, but stick with me here. Because I'm trying to save you money on your future trip to Italy.
I like to travel by the seat of my pants, which is to say I don't book too many activities or experiences in advance. Yes, I'll book a hotel so there's a bed to rest my head after a ten-hour flight, but everything else between arrival and departure is usually a beautiful mystery.
If you're planning a multi-city trip throughout Italy, however, I highly recommend purchasing the Eurail Italy Pass about one month before you arrive in the land of linguini.
Here's why Eurail Italy Pass is an awesome option for travelers to Italy.
The train ride from Roma to Brindisi is a beautiful ride, which Josh and I took together in September 2014 for
by the Knight's Templar.
The Italian peninsula extends almost 800 miles into the Mediterranean Sea, so traversing the mainland from north to south takes at least thirteen-hours by car. If you plan to see multiple cities during your visit, I recommend the train.
Josh discovered the magical nectar that is espresso on our first trip to Italy together.
To this day, it remains his drink of choice.
There's something special about seeing a country by train.
I love riding trains because you get to see parts of a country that you won't find on a postcard. It feels more authentic. You won't zip past famous museums or monuments, but you might catch a glimpse of tired commuters, small farms and wide stretches of un-developed terrain.
Here we are on TrenItalia during our journey from Roma to Brindisi with a Coca Light (now Coke Zero) and espresso (probably a double).
For example, the reason I know there is a Costco in Japan is because I saw one outside of Kyoto when the Shinkansen train zoomed past a rural warehouse.
A quick glimpse of a Costco warehouse from the high-speed train, Shinkasen outside of Tokyo en route to Kyoto.
HOLD THE PHONE - the good people of Japan get to enjoy Costco's infamous product samples and amazing bulk discounts? I just love the idea of a kindly Japanese employee dishing out small paper cups filled with salty seaweed snacks to warehouse shoppers. See what I mean? That figment of my imagination never could have happened if I wasn't riding on a train through the Japanese countryside.
Did you know? There are nearly 20 Costco warehouses in Japan!
But trains can be expensive. I got a bit of sticker shock in 2014 on my last trip to Italy when our round-trip train tickets from Rome to Brindisi were more than $250 USD per person. So this time around, I researched train fares in advance and discovered the much cheaper Rail Pass, a cost-effective transportation option available only to tourists.
The Rail Pass
With plans to visit Rome, Venice and Trieste, the EURail Italy Pass seemed to make sense. Before I purchased two Rail Passes for $378, however, I wanted to make sure I was getting a competitive rate.
In that past, Josh and I have spent a lot of time at train station kiosks in foreign countries, trying to make sure we're selecting the right line, the right class, and the right destination for the best possible price. It's so easy to make the wrong choice, especially when you don't know the language. Our first train station kiosk experience in Tokyo, for example, was especially difficult because neither of us speak Japanese and the machines didn't take credit card. We were rescued from our feeble attempts to read the signs and count our coins by a kind local who helped us buy our tickets and find the correct train platform. She literally dropped her own plans to guide us outside the train station and walk us across the street to the (correct) station a couple blocks away. Such hospitality and kindness.
Okay, back to Italy. I was pleased to find that the ItaliaRail website is user-friendly and translates seamlessly into English.
It also allowed me to quickly input our anticipated travel dates and destinations to get a pricing quote. Here is the itinerary I entered to see the cost of purchasing tickets à la carte:
Roma Trastevere to Stazione di Venezia Santa Lucia: $241 USD pp ($482 USD total)
Stazione di Venezia Santa Lucia to Trieste Centrale: $22 USD pp ($44 USD total)
Trieste Centrale to Roma Trastevere: $308 USD pp ($616 USD total)
So if I had purchased two tickets for the above itinerary without RailPass, the total cost would be $1,142.
The exact same itinerary purchased in advance with RailPass: $378 (!)
Planning out the value of a multi-day train pass during our trip to Italy.
Overall, we saved $774 by purchasing the RailPass and even got an additional 15% discount for two people traveling together! To put that in perspective, our total savings is the equivalent cost of buying 55 lunchtime meals in Rome. That's a lot of pizza I'd like to get after.
Order your pass at least a month in advance. You can't buy a RailPass once you're in-country. You must make your order several weeks before you depart to allow time for the pass to be mailed to you at your home address.
Before use your RailPass for the first time, you must have it validated by an employee at a train station ticket window. The key here is that smaller stations may only have electronic kiosks available without a human who can validate the pass for you. I tried to validate our tickets at a smaller station in the Gianacolense neighborhood, Stazione Trastevere, however, the biglietteria (ticket counter) was closed and we ultimately had to journey to Termini Roma for validation. So I recommend starting your trip at a big station like Termini Roma, the largest central train hub in the city.
The ticket counter in Trastevere was closed, so we purchased tickets to Roma Termini.
Don't forget to write the date of travel on your pass, because there is a €50 fine if you forget to do so.
Snacks! Our two reserved seats in Coach were located in car six, so it was just a short walk to a small cafe with sandwiches, snacks and beverages. They even had a small gluten free selection, so there are options for people with food allergies or sensitivities.