- Wedding: November 2012 - Oak Tree Manor
How long are you traveling for? I backpacked all over Europe with a Eurail pass (I’m pretty sure that’s what you’re talking about). Within Italy, there were high-speed train rides I had to reserve a ticket for at the train station that morning or the day before, and I had to pay a small fee (like 10% of the cost of the normal ticket), but the shorter regional train rides were absolutely free with the Eurail pass and I could just hop on and hop off. To me, the Eurail pass was totally worth it for backpacking for 3 months, and I think they do offer shorter term passes for 1 country or several countries. I’m not sure I would buy it for a 1-week or 2-week trip, though – but try pricing it out online! You need to compare the cost of the Eurail pass to the cost of the individual train rides, and include the supplemental cost for the high-speed trains.
For example: Milan to Venice is on a high-speed train (a Eurostar Italia AV Train) and Eurail pass holders have to pay a $15 supplement. You have to reserve that trip online, and the $15 (10 euro) supplement includes the cost of the reservation. If you don’t have a Eurail pass, it costs $53 to travel on that train line on 2nd class.
Venice to Florence is $15 to reserve with a Eurail pass, whereas it normally costs $41 to travel in 2nd class without a Eurail pass.
Florence to Riomaggiore (one of the 5 Cinque Terre towns) is $21 ($18 for Florence to La Spezia, $3 for La Spezia to Riomaggiore – that second leg is super short). That’s regional trains, so it’s free with a Eurail pass.
Riomaggiore (Cinque Terre) to Como S. Giovanni (the station in Como) is a short regional train ride (Riomaggiore to Levanto, $4 with no Eurail pass, free with a Eurail pass), and two connections (Levanto to Milan, $5 to reserve with Eurail pass, or $32 without a Eurail pass; Milan to Como S. Giovanni, $15 to reserve with Eurail pass, or $13 if you travel in a super-economy seat). So basically, $49 with no Eurail pass, or $20 with a Eurail pass.
Como S. Giovanni to Milan is a short regional train, it’s only $7 on 2nd class with no Eurail pass, and free with a Eurail pass.
I don’t have a calculator, you’ll have to do the math, but I don’t think it necessarily pays out to buy a Eurail pass in your case. If you think you’ll do a lot of little day trips on regional trains, it is SUPER nice not to have to buy tickets at every train station, but if you’re on a very tight budget you should check this math first.
Don’t be intimidated, though – the train system in Italy is super efficient, and a lot of the train rides are super scenic. (I LOVED the ride from Florence to Cinque Terre especially!). You’ll get the hang of it really quickly, and it’s great not having to drive a car in a foreign country. I think your itinerary sounds perfect, and ya’ll are going to have a great time! PM me if you need any more help, I’ve definitely been there before and had a great experience with the train system.