Subject: Italian train reservations online
Hello,

Questions come up at times about booking Italian trains online. The general answer is that it's fine to wait until you're in Italy: there should be no problem getting seats a few days in advance; Eurostar trains require reservations but on other trains it's generally fine to go without reservations except on peak dates. Also there are sometimes strikes called for a day or part of a day, and it would be good to know if trains will be running before you commit to a certain date.

OTOH, there's something to be said for making travel arrangements from home (or from a computer you can access in Italy) rather than taking much of your time in Italy getting to a travel agency or station to make these arrangements. Also, people might want to take a train immediately upon arrival in Italy. The big obstacle was that online reservations for Trenitalia, the Italian railways, limited registration to Italian residents and required the Italian equivalent of a Social Security number. I don't remember it being mentioned here that this has changed: Trenitalia only asks for a name and e-mail address to register. People going on Eurostar can go ticketless and only show their confirmation printout on the train. For other trains, you may retrieve your tickets from a self-service machine at the bigger stations, not necessarily for trains from that station on that day. You could book several trips for your time in Italy and pick up all the tickets from the machine on arrival at Rome Fiumicino Airport station. Reportedly you can also show your confirmation at the ticket window and get your tickets.

For now at least, registration and booking only work on Trenitalia's Italian language site. If you click on the shopping cart on the English site, it takes you to the Italian site. I've put on the Web an effort to guide people who don't read Italian through the train reservation process. To complete a booking requires giving a credit card number to Trenitalia; I don't know if people feel comfortable doing this if they aren't completely sure they're getting what they want, but I'm doing my best to show people the process, speaking as one who hasn't done more than register with Trenitalia. My instructions: http://staff.mwsc.edu/~mcgarrel/travel/trenitalia.htm

Andrew Missouri