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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.
In my original posting above, I gave examples of how the Italo Treno "EXTRA TEMPO" and "PARTI ORA" promotions work. In re-reading what I wrote, I now recognize that I should have been more exhaustive in my discussion of the second example.

Specifically with respect to Italo tickets purchased at the "Economy" fare, there are TWO ways to "bring forward" your reservation to an earlier departing train. I'll provide an example to illustrate:

Let's say that you have booked an Italo train at the "Economy" fare scheduled to depart from Roma Termini (or Roma Tiburtina) at 17:00. You have wanted to give yourself PLENTY of time to reach Termini (or Tiburtina) from FCO airport, where your flight is scheduled to land at 11:00. You get through the airport more quickly than expected and arrive at Termini (or Tiburtina) station at 13:00 (not at all impossible). You want to take an earlier Italo train to your final destination. The "PARTI ORA" feature allows you to bring forward your booking to a train departing NO EARLIER than 15:00. This will cost a flat 12 Euros per ticket. Can you depart sooner? YES! Your "Economy" fare ticket can ALSO be CHANGED up to 3 minutes prior to scheduled train departure, so you can re-book to an earlier Italo train departing, say, at 13:30, and thereby saving you 90 minutes of extra wait time. HOWEVER, the cost to do so is no longer a flat 12 Euros, but (probably) a somewhat higher amount which depends on the actual cost of your "Economy" ticket. If you hold a different (lower) discounted fare, such as "Low Cost" or "Extra Magic", you won't be able to CHANGE your reservation BUT the "PARTI ORA" feature is still available for 12 Euros and limited to 2 hours of "bring forward" time.

You might want to bear this in mind if you elect to book an Italo train departure time many hours after your scheduled plane arrival (to maximize your protection in the event of a very late plane arrival): would you prefer to get the lowest possible fare (e.g. "Extra Magic"), but have a limited two-hour "bring forward" possibility), or the costlier discounted "Economy" fare, which allows you to CHANGE your reservation to a train departing even more than two hours before your originally scheduled train, albeit with a higher fee to make this change.

What happens in a worst-case scenario: your plane departure is cancelled or delayed by many, many hours, such that both the "EXTRA TEMPO" and the "PARTI ORA" promotions will not work for you? You would want to cancel your train trip (i.e. seek a refund, which you can do if you have an electronic device with internet connection, even from your origination airport). You can do so with the Italo "Flex" fare and the "Economy" fare, but not the cheaper fares. Note also that the refund is PARTIAL (see hyperlink below). The optional additional cost "refund option" likely gives you no protection because it must be exercised prior to 72 hours BEFORE scheduled train departure.

So, the worst-case is that you could FORFEIT the entire cost of your advance purchase ticket. This may prompt travelers to seek the absolutely lowest cost ticket fare, which can yield a discount of up to 80% of the regular, full-fare "Flex" ticket. You won't have the benefit of "EXTRA TEMPO" nor the possibility of seeking a refund, but still have the "PARTI ORA" feature (with Italo Treno). For example, the lowest "Extra Magic" discounted fare from Roma Termini/Tiburtina to Firenze SMN is 9.90 Euros, nearly an 80% discount from the "Flex" fare of 43.90 Euros. I'd say that getting from central Rome to central Florence by fast train for under 10 Euros is a mighty good deal!

NOTE: The forgoing rules are in force as of today, but can always change in the future!!!!! ALSO, always bear in mind that the ability to change your ticket to an earlier (or a later) train depends on actual SEAT AVAILABILITY at the time you initiate the request. You may not necessarily be able to re-book to your first train of choice, and may need to settle for your second (or even third) choice.

ALSO NOTE that this posting deals with Italo Treno and NOT with Trenitalia, which has different fare levels, different tariff rules, and generally less flexibility to change or modify your train ticket. Because the airport trains from FCO airport are operated by Trenitalia and not by Italo Treno, BE CAREFUL not to MISS your onward connection (if traveling on Italo), because you will risk a ticket forfeiture UNLESS your ticket benefits from the "EXTRA TEMPO" promotion. If traveling with Trenitalia on both legs (airport train plus onward train), you will be accommodated on the next available train to your final destination, at no extra charge, as long as you have a minimum official connection of 15 minutes (speak to a Trenitalia representative at the train station to accomplish this). This protection is NOT afforded if your onward train is Italo.
I need to further expand upon the previous posting, which is not 100% complete in laying out the rules for the "Extra Tempo" promotion:

If the cost of a "Flex" ticket on the actual day of travel is higher than the "Flex" fare which you actually paid when you bought the ticket, and you have missed your reserved train and now seek to take a later train within the two-hour grace period (Italo Treno), you MAY be required to pay the DIFFERENCE IN FARE (even though you hold a "Flex" ticket). This difference can be as high as 20%.

The same result MAY apply if you hold a Trenitalia "Base" fare ticket and are relying on the one-hour grace period (Trenitalia) if you miss your train. You MAY be required to pay the difference in fare between what you paid for your ticket and the higher "Base" fare on the actual travel date.

The foregoing occurs because both Trenitalia and Italo Treno often apply a PREMIUM to the "Base"/"Flex" fare on the actual travel day, compared to the fare which holds when one buys the ticket many days or weeks in advance.

It is possible that you won't be asked to pay the difference in fare if you miss your train under the facts above but are within the grace period. There may not be consistency in actually enforcing the difference-in-fare rule.
If you are primarily interested in AVOIDING THE FORFEITURE RISK and not necessarily in getting a very low discounted fare, here is a viable option to consider:

Choose the Trenitalia "Base" or "Economy" fare, or the Italo Treno "Flex" or "Economy" fare. With these fare categories, there will be either no or relatively minimal cost savings, but these tickets are CHANGEABLE PRIOR TO THE SCHEDULED DEPARTURE TIME. This means that you can go online and change the reservation to a later train should it become evident that you will likely miss the train for which you hold a ticket. This can be done immediately prior to departure from the United States or immediately upon landing in Italy (and possibly even during the flight, paying for the internet connection), provided of course that you have an electronic device with a working internet connection.

In the case of a "Base"/"Flex" fare ticket, there could be a small surcharge involved, and there will certainly be an additional cost in the case of the "Economy" fare (difference between the fare previously paid and the going rate for a "Base"/"Flex" fare ticket purchased at the last minute. Italo additionally assesses a 20% surcharge). But the ticket is NOT forfeited in either case. Moreover, in the case of a Trenitalia "Base" fare ticket, there is a one-hour grace period to take a later train were you to miss your booked train. With an Italo "Flex" or "Economy" fare ticket, there is a two-hour grace period (Italo assesses a 20% surcharge plus the difference in fare in the case of an "Economy" fare ticket).

Consequently, if the primary concern is to avoid forfeiture risk (rather than to save money with a deeply discounted ticket), then the foregoing option should be considered. It costs more, but significantly reduces and could even eliminate the forfeiture risk. It all comes down to a question of risk tolerance.


1. The grace period ("Extra Tempo") has been REDUCED from two hours to ONE HOUR, thereby making it identical to the comparable feature of Trenitalia "Base" fare tickets for the Freccia and Intercity trains.

2. THERE IS NOW A FIXED CHARGE OF 10 EUROS PER TICKET to utilize "Extra Tempo" and re-book on a later train. THIS IS NEW.

3. In ADDITION to the 10-Euro fixed fee, you must pay the DIFFERENCE IN FARE between what you actually paid for your ticket and the going fare of a "Flex" ticket purchased at the last moment. This means that you may pay a little more if holding a "Flex" fare ticket, and significantly more if holding an "Economy" fare ticket.

4. "Extra Tempo" is offered ONLY for holders of "Flex" fare and "Economy" fare tickets, and not on cheaper ticket categories such as "Low Cost" and "Extra Magic."

This is how Italo explains the "Extra Tempo" feature:

"Service Extra Tempo
If you have missed your train, find a seat on the first available train.
If you miss your train, you have 1 hour of “Extra Tempo” to find a seat on the next train asking to the in-station Italo Staff or calling Italo Assistenza at +39 06 89371892 (subject to availability)*.
*Extra Time entails the payment of a fixed amount of 10 euros in addition to the difference with the available aboard offer as well as any supplementary charge if applicable."

NOTE WELL that you can avoid the 10-Euro fixed fee by CHANGING YOUR BOOKING ONLINE (with an electronic device and internet connection), or by telephone to the Italo call center or in person at the train station, if you believe that you are likely to MISS your train. You must make the change PRIOR to the scheduled departure time of your booked train. The "Extra Tempo" feature is designed to give limited protection to travellers who miss their train and did not (or could not) change their booking in time.

TRENITALIA has not made any changes to its own version of "Extra Tempo" (not called by that name). The one-hour grace period afforded by Trenitalia applies EXCLUSIVELY to "Base" fare tickets and to none of the discounted tickets. Here too, you may be assessed a small surcharge if the "Base" fare for last-minute ticket purchases to your destination is higher than what you actually paid for your ticket.

B. THE TRENITALIA "SPECIALE FRECCE" FARE NO LONGER EXISTS. Instead,there is the "FrecciaDays" fare, which is valid for travel on the Frecciarossa or Frecciargento trains on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays.

These are the rules of the "FrecciaDays" fare:


It appears that Italo Treno has now limited the "Extra Tempo" feature to "Flex" fare tickets and no longer offers it to holders of "Economy" fare tickets (or other discounted tickets).

Consequently, point # 4 of the previous posting is partially incorrect.

Because Italo Treno has been tightening the rules on some of its fares, it is imperative to always carefully check the tariff rules before buying a ticket.

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