Sunday, February 28, 2010

Roma to Venezia - Rail Plus nothing

Depart: Roma Termini. Arrive Stazione Santa Lucia.

For Aussie travellers wishing to book months ahead online on the Eurostar, you can only do so if you are looking at 'Paris-London'. As for anywhere else in Italy, forget it! After what seemed many hours searching the net, I finally deduced that there were two ways I could book online before our departure from Australia - ItaliaRail or RailEurope. As HL and I simply had to be there on New Year's Eve to meet our friends from Stockholm, we had no choice but to book our train trip in advance. We weren't prepared to take any chances and miss our reunion with our friends and NYE celebrations in Piazza San Marco.

I booked two First Class seats on ItaliaRail. What a shocker. This domestic train was tired and grotty. Our 6-berth cabin was our only port of call for a long and boring five-hours-plus junket. As it turned out, we could have got to Venice sooner but I left it too late when making our advance booking and could only score two seats on the route that seemed to stop incessantly at every station between Roma and Venezia. When we finally boarded my fury was further fuelled when I discovered that there was no such 21st century luxury as a carriage bar; the only drinks and food available were sold by a young Italian spruiking his wares up and down the train's carriage corridors. His mobile shop was an ancient trolley - a dilapidated metal contraption with rickety wheels - an irony in itself as a many of Rome's buildings mirror a similar condition. However, it must be said, Rome's magnificent historic structures are steeped in fable and romance - the old trolley not so, and it was uninspiringly ugly to boot.

Fellow travellers take note: If you're carefree and young then this will be of no interest to you. If you are at the wrong end of 40 (or beyond) then read on. If you want to travel on the Eurostar in Italy you should easily score a seat without prior booking. Simply get up early on the day of your departure and head for Rome's Termini Then, with the time you have left, enjoy what little remains by drowning in this sublimely beautiful crumbling city. Don't, if you can avoid it, travel on the other rail option like we did - without being too critical, it's not pleasant.

Please note: things may have changed since the time of posting this blog. Do double check when booking rail travel to ensure you have chosen the right route, noted that it is taking you to the right station, and checked on the number of stops or stations it bypasses.

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