Trenitalia or Italo Treno? The Verdict on Italy’s High-Speed Trains

Trying to decide on Trenitalia or Italo Treno? Been there. And having sampled both, I’ve definitely got an opinion.

I’ve always had a thing for Italy’s trains. No, not so much the regional trains, although they get the job done (and are cheap!). But the fast trains. Ask me how I want to get to Milan or Venice from Rome, and I’ve always replied with the Frecciarossa or Frecciabianca. (Even the names are pretty!).

But being loyal to Italy’s national rail service, at least when it comes to the Frecciarossa and Frecciabianca, gets expensive. If you’re booking last minute, like I tend to, you can expect to pay €85 and up for a 3 or 3.5-hour trip from Rome to Milan. (Book far enough in advance to take advantage of an Economy or Super Economy ticket, rather than the Base price that’s usually all that’s left by the time I get there, and that can drop to about €60).

So when I first heard about the new Italo Treno — nicknamed the “Ferrari train,” thanks to the fact that the company is headed by the president of Ferrari — I knew I had to try it. Italy’s first high-speed private rail service, with stops at major cities including Naples, Florence, Rome, Milan, and Venice, it was competitively priced. And it looked pretty luxurious.

Trenitalia or Italo Treno?
Even the “Smart” (basic”) car of the Italo Treno looks pretty, well, smart

I felt a little guilty, at first, even thinking of booking a ticket with Italo Treno. After all, Italy’s national rail service had been pretty good to me.

But Italo Treno was new, and shiny, and I kept hearing about it in the news. So when it first launched, back in the spring, I tried to book a ticket.

And was rejected.

In fact, for every date I tried, no seats were left. Italo Treno just wasn’t available.

I tried not to take it personally: After all, Italo Treno was in high demand. I was just one more person in line, eager to try it out. And, for its first few months, Italo Treno had only a handful of operating lines; it was stretched too thin.

A few months later, I tried again. This time, I had more success.

Last week, I booked a Rome-to-Milan trip the night before I had to leave; I had no problem getting a ticket in the “Smart,” or economy, class car. The price: €61. I returned a week later, with the same deal.

Trenitalia or Italo Treno
The interior of the “Smart,” or economy, car

The Frecciarossa and Italo Treno trains have a lot in common. But from my very first impression, even just over the internet, Italo Treno had the edge. For one thing, booking my seat seemed way easier. Trenitalia’s website is notoriously tough to navigate, even (or especially) in the “English” option. Italo Treno’s site is much simpler — although, to be fair, much of that is because there are way fewer destination options (with only 11 stations to stop at, a drop-down list makes sense… not so on the Trenitalia site!).

Both Trenitalia and Italo Treno let you get your ticket texted to your phone, for free — no need to print anything out or collect a ticket at the station.

Still, I knew it was easy to represent yourself in a positive light online. The real test would be what Italo Treno was like in person.

The first thing that struck me? How friendly Italo Treno was, and how caring. An Italo Treno worker, dressed in a crisp uniform, stood at the one corner where it might have been possible to get confused (was the platform left, or right?), simply to assure people they were headed in the right direction. And on the platform itself, every carriage had one or two young, professional-looking workers standing outside the doors, all in their uniforms, all smiling. 

As well as warm and welcoming, the train was beautiful, spotless, and stylish.  The windows were noticeably bigger than those on the Trenitalia trains, making the space feel airier and less crampled. (I didn’t notice much more seatroom, but both trips, I did have an empty seat next to me, which was just as nice).

High speed trains in Italy
The beautiful scenery on the Rome to Milan route — better appreciated with bigger windows!

When we got going, though, the most surprising perk was the noise reduction. Because the engine system is distributed throughout the whole train, and because the engines are on the undercarriage, the train is much quieter than others I’ve experienced. Instead of arriving at my destination exhausted, my brain tired of dealing with all that nonstop, ambient noise, I felt energetic and relaxed. That, alone, made the switch worth it.

I also loved having Wi-Fi, which worked beautifully… except in tunnels, despite Italo Treno’s promise that it would. (Each carriage has its own satellite antenna). Still during each 3-hour ride, I only noticed the internet stop working four or five times, and it went back on within a minute or two. I forgave Italo Treno for that one oversight. (It’s worth noting that the Frecciarossa also now has internet, but I haven’t tried it out yet).

So. Yes. Italo Treno, I think I’m in love. And I can’t wait until we get to meet again.

(Sorry, Frecciarossa. You’ll always be the reason why I first fell in love with trains in Italy. And I still think your name is prettier).

You can book your trip with Italo Treno here or (I haven’t forgotten you, Trenitalia!) your trip on a high-speed Frecciarossa or Frecciabianca here. For either one, look in the upper right-hand corner to change the language to English. And, yes, you can use a U.S. credit card to book your ticket on either site.

Also: how should I schedule my sightseeing in Rome?, a fun tour of Rome’s hidden ancient spots and what to do in Rome when you’ve done… everything.

Liked this post? You’ll love The Revealed Rome Handbook: Updated, Expanded and New for 2017, which includes many more tips and tricks like these in more than 200 information-packed — but never overwhelming! — pages. It’s available for purchase on Amazon or through my site here! I’m also free for one-on-one consulting sessions to help plan your Italy trip.

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