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Methods to reduce forfeiture risk when purchasing train tickets in advance for travel after arrival by plane in Italy


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One of the most commonly asked transportation questions is whether it's a bad idea to purchase tickets for the high-speed train from Roma Termini (or Roma Tiburtina) to Florence SMN (or some other city) for travel immediately after arrival by plane at Rome FCO airport. People ask this question for two reasons: (i) because they are concerned that trains might be sold out for their desired departure time; and (ii) because they are keen on saving money by purchasing a deeply discounted ticket well in advance. Let me address each question in turn.

1. Trains being sold out: This does indeed occur, especially during the busy spring, summer and autumn tourist seasons, and during Italian national holidays and long weekends. However, you need to know that there are SO MANY fast trains between Rome and Florence, operated by both Trenitalia and its rival Italo Treno, that you will almost always find seats, although not always on your first train of choice. Fast trains run every 10-30 minutes between Rome and Florence, so your wait time will usually be short.

2. Saving a lot of money: Here savvy travelers have an opportunity to hit the jackpot. The full-fare ticket on the Trenitalia Freccia train (called "BASE" fare) from Roma Termini/Tiburtina to Firenze SMN costs 50 Euros per adult. But with the "SPECIALE FRECCE" fare and the additional 20% "EXTRA DISCOUNT" promotion which runs periodically, you can save up to 70%. On Italo Treno, the Italo "EXTRA MAGIC" fare can also save you up to 75% (and Italo's full fare on this route is lower than that of Trenitalia). The big downside is that if you MISS your reserved train due to a late-arriving flight or some other unexpected travel delay, you risk incurring a complete FORFEITURE of what you paid for your discounted ticket, and you will be required to purchase a fresh ticket at the full price.

Savvy travelers know ways to reduce the odds of incurring a forfeiture. I share them here:

1. Travel on Italo Treno, which has a couple of features which Trenitalia does not offer and which give you some degree of protection against incurring a forfeiture. These are the "EXTRA TEMPO" promotion and the "PARTI ORA" promotion. These two promotions give the traveler pretty good (though not complete) protection.

2. The "EXTRA TEMPO" promotion: If you MISS your Italo train, you have a TWO HOUR GRACE PERIOD to change your reservation to the next available departing train to your destination. You need to speak with an Italo ticket agent at the departing station to make the reservation change. If you have a full-fare "FLEX" ticket you pay nothing to avail yourself of this promotion. If you have a discounted "ECONOMY" fare ticket, you pay the difference in price to full fare, PLUS an additional 20% surcharge. THIS PROMOTION DOES NOT APPLY TO ANY OTHER ITALO TRENO DISCOUNTED TICKET APART FROM THE "ECONOMY" FARE TICKET.

3. The "PARTI ORA" promotion. You can reserve a seat on an Italo train departing several hours AFTER your anticipated arrival time at Termini Station, then (if you arrive roughly at the time you anticipated), you can BRING FORWARD your train trip by changing your reservation to an EARLIER train (departing UP TO TWO HOURS PRIOR to your originally reserved train). You need to speak with an Italo ticket agent at the departing station to make the reservation change. If you have the full-fare "FLEX" ticket, there is no cost involved, but you pay a FLAT 12 Euros per ticket if you hold ANY OTHER type of ticket. (If you have a "FLEX" ticket, you are not subject to the two-hour limit which applies to all other fare types).

4. Let me give a practical example on how these two promotions REDUCE (but do not eliminate) your risk of incurring a ticket forfeiture if you MISS your reserved train.

Let's say your flight is scheduled to arrive at FCO airport at 10:00. You estimate that you should be able to catch a fast train to Florence from Termini or Tiburtina station around 13:00. You reserve an Italo train departing at 13:00 at the discounted "ECONOMY" fare. If you miss your reserved train, the Italo "EXTRA TEMPO" promotion allows you to board the next available train departing no later than 15:00. You will be required to pay an additional fee as described above.

Let's say that you want even more protection. You book an Italo train at 17:00, at a deeply discounted fare. You arrive at Termini station at 12:45, exactly as you had estimated. The Italo "PARTI ORA" promotion allows you to BRING FORWARD your departure time to 15:00 (this limitation does not apply if you hold the full-fare "FLEX" ticket). You will pay a flat 12 Euros per ticket REGARDLESS of the discounted Italo fare chosen for your originally booked train (no extra charge if you have a full-fare "FLEX" ticket).

Trenitalia does NOT have a "PARTI ORA" promotion. It does have an "EXTRA TEMPO" promotion (not by that specific name), BUT it applies ONLY to the full-fare "BASE" fare ticket (not to any of the discounted tickets), and furthermore the grace period is ONE HOUR (not two hours, as with Italo Treno).

The foregoing information is current as of the present time and is subject to change. You should always check the Italo Treno and Trenitalia websites before you book travel to determine whether the rules have changed or the promotions have been discontinued.

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