This posting is an update to my original thread of February 24, 2010:
Travellers should know that, in Italy, not all trains are created equal, and there are significant fare differences between the various categories of trains, from the fastest, sleekest and most expensive Alta Velocita' (Frecciarossa and Frecciargento "AV") trains, to the slowest and cheapest regionale ("R") trains, which don't take seat reservations and stop at many smaller stations. With some advance planning, it is possible to save quite a bit of money by understanding the differences in fares and travel times when there are several train categories to choose from.
A good example of where there are lots of opportunities to save money is found on the Rome/Naples route, which is covered by six different categories of trains: AV, ES, IC, ICN, EXP and R (in descending order of cost).
Many travellers choose to visit Naples as a daytrip out of Rome. Leaving in the early morning, and returning in the late afternoon or early evening, travellers have many different trains to choose from. Here are HINTS of how to save lots of money by not selecting the fastest and most expensive trains:
Take Intercity (IC) trains when available, rather than AV or ES trains, which cost considerably more. The IC train costs less than half of the AV train. There are early morning IC trains to Naples, and late afternoon IC trains back to Rome. A round-trip Rome/Naples on the IC train costs 44 Euros, versus 90 Euros on the AV train.
The IC trains make three short en-route stops between Rome and Naples, but otherwise are quite acceptable as a cost-saving alternative to the faster AV , ES-Fast and ES trains. The IC trains are all supposed to have air conditioning, and are non-smoking (as are the other trains).
On a round-trip daytrip, I do not recommend taking the slowest and cheapest trains, the unreservable and undiscountable "regionale" ("R"), because there is a "time value" of money, and time is better spent touring in Naples than sitting on a train. However, on a one-way trip, taking the "R" train (which has only second class railcars) saves over 50% of the cost of the IC train, and saves nearly 35 Euros compared to the cost of the AV train. The "R" trains don't have reserved seats, but this is usually not a problem, as they originate in Rome and terminate in Naples (and vice-versa), so travellers can almost always find a seat simply by boarding a little early. The “regionale” trains are supposed to have air conditioning, although this may not be true in all cases.
As for the other trains (AV, ES, IC, ICN, EXP), they ALL have reserved seating automatic with ticket purchase, so again, there is no seating problem. (You won't likely be travelling on an ICN or EXP, which are night trains).
Look carefully at the train schedules and find the train which best suits your schedule and budget.
DISCOUNTED PROMOTIONAL FARES: The "AMICA" fare and the “MENO 15” and “MENO 30” promotional fares have been abolished and replaced by the “MINI” advance purchase promotional fares, which must be purchased NO LATER than 11:59 p.m. of the day prior to travel. These fares are available on all trains EXCEPT the unreserved and undiscountable “regionale” trains. As general rule, the sooner you book, the better the odds of getting a lower “MINI” fare, because this promotion is capacity-controlled, and the availability of discounted tickets varies from day to day and from train to train. Note that NO tickets can be purchased more than FOUR MONTHS in advance. The “MINI” fare tickets carry SIGNIFICANT limitations on reservation changes, ticket exchanges, and refunds (among which, no changes after midnight of the day prior to travel, and no refunds if you MISS your train). These rules and restrictions should be carefully understood BEFORE purchasing the “MINI” discounted ticket (they are found on the Trenitalia website). Also check the Trenitalia website for other, periodic promotional fares.
HERE ARE THE FARES:
The "hierarchy" of fares between Rome and Naples is currently as follows (all fares are one-way, second class, unrestricted "base" fare):
AV: 45 Euros (70 mins) Takes the high-speed rail line, which is somewhat less scenic than the “old” line used by other trains
ES: 36 Euros (105 mins)
IC/ICN: 22 Euros (120+ mins)
EXP: 16 Euros (150+ mins)
R: 10.50 Euros (150+ mins)
As is evident, there are plenty of train choices between Rome and Naples. Choose carefully and wisely, and you can save LOTS of money. Booking much more than a couple of days in advance is rarely necessary , and seats are often available up to minutes before train departure.
1. Going to Pompei: 35 minutes and 2.80 Euros on the Circumvesuviana commuter line (unreserved train, limited space for luggage).
2. Going to Sorrento: 65 minutes and 4 Euros on the Circumvesuviana commuter line. There is also hydrofoil service from Molo Beverello for 10 Euros. There are also direct buses on Marozzi and Curreri from Rome Tiburtina bus station to Sorrento and (summer only) to Positano, Praiano and Amalfi, which avoid the connection at Napoli Centrale to the Circumvesuviana rail.
Circumvesuviana trains run every 30 minutes from 5:11 to 22:44. They depart from the underground station below Napoli Centrale (follow signs and take the stairs or escalator down).
4. Going to Caserta: 40 minutes and 3.40 Euros on the "regionale" train. Note that there are direct trains from Rome to Caserta, which bypass Naples.
5. Going to Salerno: 40+ minutes and 4 Euros on the "regionale" train. Note that some AV/ES/IC trains are through-trains from Rome.
6. Going to Paestum: 90+ minutes and 6.20 Euros on the "regionale" train.
NOTE: The “regionale” trains are all unreserved, and undiscountable (except for children).
7. Going to Capri/Ischia/Procida: get to Molo Beverello by bus, tram or taxi and take a hydrofoil. There are also car ferries from the nearby Calata Porta di Massa ferry dock.
8. Going to the Amalfi Coast: The Metro del Mare hydrofoils reportedly will not be running in 2011. Consequently, connect to the SITA bus in Sorrento or in Salerno. There are also a couple of direct SITA buses from Naples to Amalfi (but not on Sundays). From Rome to Amalfi/Positano (in the absence of the Marozzi summer direct bus), it's best to take Trenitalia all the way to Salerno, then connect to the ferry boat or the SITA bus, but there are several other options as well.
9. 24-hr. Transportation ticket for the City of Naples (buses/subway/funiculars): UNICONAPOLI GIORNALIERO: 3.60 Euros Monday through Friday or 3 Euros on Saturday and Sunday. Single ride tickets cost 1.20 Euros.
10. DISCOUNT BUS TICKETS FOR TRAVEL ALONG AMALFI COAST (Salerno to Sorrento including Ravello):
UNICO COSTIERA 24-hr. ticket: 7.20 Euros
UNICO COSTIERA 3-day ticket: 18 Euros
11. DISCOUNT TICKET FOR BUS/TRAIN TRAVEL THROUGHOUT CAMPANIA REGION (including Amalfi Coast): UNICO CAMPANIA 3-day tourist ticket: 20 Euros (also covers everything covered by the UNICO COSTIERA tickets described above). Covers a multitude of routes, including all Naples/Sorrento/Salerno city buses, Naples subway and funiculars, Trenitalia unreserved REGIONALE trains (not the faster reserved trains) throughout Campania, Circumvesuviana trains, Mt. Vesuvius buses, SITA buses throughout Campania (including along the Amalfi Coast), CSTP buses between Salerno and Paestum, buses on Ischia and Procida, SEPSA buses and trains, ALIBUS between central Naples and NAP Airport. Does NOT cover any ferries or hydrofoils, or buses/funicular on Capri. Usually a better value than the 3-day UNICO COSTIERA ticket described above.
12. ARTECARD: If planning to visit museums or archeological sites within the Campania Region, consider purchasing one of the Campania Arte Cards, some of which include free transportation by bus/train. In particular, consider the 3-day "tutta la regione" artecard (27 Euros) which includes all the transportation benefits of the UNICO CAMPANIA 3-day ticket described above, plus free entrance to TWO museums or archeological sites in the circuit, plus a 50% reduction in the entrance fees to additional museums or archeological sites. Note that there are a multitude of different Artecards, only a few of which include free transportation.
13. Children’s fares on Trenitalia: under 12 years and one day: 50% discount. Under 4 years and one day: totally FREE. Also check the “Familia” fares for travelling parties of up to five people, with at least one adult and one child under 12. You can’t aggregate the “MINI” fares and children’s discounts. On local bus transport, it is customary for children under one meter in height to travel free (but each operator can establish its own rules). On ferries/hydrofoils, check the operator website for children’s fares.
14. Fares quoted above are believed to be accurate as of the date of this posting, but are not guaranteed to be correct, since they are taken from internet sources which are not always current. Travel times are accurate but not guaranteed to be exact, and are always subject to travel conditions and delays. Also, fares, schedules and routings are subject to change and should always be verified prior to start of travel. The foregoing is general information, and should not be relied upon in the absence of individualized travel planning.