|Subject: Re: Italian Rail info needed|
Hi Jim and Kathleen,
It's good that the economics of the railpasses work out for you because they are certainly more convenient than individual tickets. Reservations are required for most high speed trains, all specialty trains (such as Pendolino) as well as certain Intercity, Eurocity and ICE trains. If you want to ensure non-smoking seating, you should reserve on any train.
When you arrive at the airport in Milan, you will have to pass through immigration (passports), wait for your luggage, clear customs and perhaps get cash (euro) from an ATM. This should take 45 minutes to an hour.
As far as I know, you will have to take the train from Milan Central Station in order to get to Venice. You did not indicate which airport you would arrive at in Milan. The bus times from the airport vary (60 minutes from Malpensa and 20 minutes from Linate).
When you get to Milano Centrale, you will have to validate your railpasses (passports again) and make all your train reservations. For validating your railpasses, take the escalator in the middle of the station down to the lower street level, turn right and look for a sign Biglietteria Ovest. Proceed to window 20 or 22 marked International Tickets. For your onward reservations, turn left from the bottom of the escalator and look for a huge door marked Biglietteria Est. Go through the door and take a number and wait until your number comes up. You will see a counter, numbers 49-53 labelled Prenotazioni (reservations). It's difficult to estimate the time required as it would vary according to the lineups.
It's 1 hour and 35 minutes on a normal train from Florence to Rome Termini (Rome's main station) where you buy your tickets for the airport train, which you board at track number 22 for the 30 minute trip to the airport.
Hope that helps.