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Sunday, July 06, 2008

Buying Train Tickets for Trenitalia. Payment Denied. Annoying.

Here we are, less than a month from our two week trip to Italy and it is time book our train tickets that will take us from Rome to Florence, from Florence to Venice, back to Florence, and then finally to from from Florence. In this day and age, it should be easy, right? You just go to the English version of the Trenitalia website (, book your ticket and you are set. Plus, you can take advantage of any special rates like the "Amica Tariff" or ticket where you get 20% off thes

Not so fast there. An hour and a half into an absolutely convoluted and frustrating experience, I gave up. I have tried 5 different credit cards, registered the majority of them with the "Verified by Visa" service and kept receiving the "Payment Denied" message from the Trenitalia website and their BANKPASS integrated credit card processing service. I also received an "account suspended for 15 minutes" for purchasing too many tickets. Nice.

The most frustrating part of it? After every failed purchase, the site clears out your shopping cart. If you had four legs in it like I did, it can be seriously frustrating. While I was iterating through my various credit cards to try and find a solution, at least I had my wits about me to cut it down to a single leg.

Feeling defeated, I placed a couple of calls to my card issuers and I quickly learned that in none of the cases did the BANKPASS or Verified by Visa system ever hit my card. Something internal in their systems must have had a problem.

So, intrigued by this -- I turned up a web pages where many travelers have encountered the (link is here) same sort of problems when trying to buy train tickets for travel while you are still in the United States. Theories abound about why -- perhaps the high fraud, the use of a middle initial by US systems, and a simply "buggy" system that Trenitalia is running. Regardless of the real reason, it is giving people fits.

Looking for another avenue, but still not wanting to pay the higher prices I turned to a United States site, called "Italia Rail" supposedly "the only North American website entirely dedicated to travel by train in Italy" although they do sell BritRal and Greek Flexipasses. :-) I placed a call to them this morning and was basically told a few of things.

1. Italia Rail is the US based partner of Trenitalia and I should by my tickets through them instead.
2. Trenitalia does not intend for those in the United States to purchase on their website so the continuously deny United States credit cards. If that was the case, why did they let me register and not disclose this?
3. Of course they only offer the full rate fares, none of the save or Amica type rates.

After this very brief conversation, I decided to take a slightly different route rather than the alternate choice of being even more frustrated. First, we will try to have our relatives in Florence purchase the eTickets for us from our journey upon arrival from Rome to Florence. Then once we arrive in the Rome train station (Rome Termini) and we wait for the train to Florence, I will book the remaining trips at one of the easy to use kiosks there.

Not really the outcome that I was looking for in terms of having it all planned and taken care of -- however, at least I know what the next steps are and I do not have to keep banging my head against the wall at the Trenitalia website.


L.J.T. said...

Thanks for your comment on my post ( I'm sorry you didn't read it before your trip to save some hassle. I'll be following your blog for the upcoming Rome and Venice portions in preparation for our trip.

Anonymous said...

I agree with the approach ... dont try US Based credit cards. I had been facing this same issue for the past nearly a month. Then I opened an account using my Yahoo ID and used a Non US card, and it worked. So its true that US cards definately dont work anymore, atleast now in 2008. I had also called up the cust service number and the gentleman confirmed that US cards will not work at all. This is not an issue with the banks / CC companies, its a trenitalia website issue, so dont sweat too much with your bank. I tried a few ItaliaRail agents and they have extremely expensive quotes. Best alternative is to book on or, the prices are a little high and you also have to pay $18 towards shipping of the paper tickets, but that is an alternative, else simply book your tickets directly in Italy when you are there. I have been reading a lot on these forums and a lot of local folks/ppl who have visited Italy suggest that its not that bad a rush situation, thought it always is a risk.

Ken Hanscom said...

The only problem with those two sites is that you can only pay FULL fare rates. No "Amica" or other promotional rates can be used. So, either an international credit card OR wait until you arrive in Italy to purchase the tickets.

Also, on this site:

There is a great way discussed to have an American Express travel office book those tickets for you and save on the fees -- and getting the promotional rates. I wish I would have read that before I left!