The largest train operator in Italy is Trenitalia, which is a division of the Italian government. The company has been in existence since 1905, and the train network throughout Italy has been steadily growing and improving, making it by far the easiest and most cost-effective way to get around the country.
The fastest trains operated by Trenitalia are the Alta Velocità (AV) series, named in descending order of speed, the Frecciarossa (“Red Arrow”), Frecciargento (“Silver Arrow”), and Frecciabianca (“White Arrow”). These only connect a short list of Italian cities, including Turin, Milan, Bologna, Florence, Rome, Naples, and Salerno. The Frecciarossa trains can reach speeds of up to 190 MPH (300 km/h). Reservations are required on AV trains.
InterCity trains are the next-fastest option, running at up to 125 MPH (200 km/h), and connecting mid-sized cities and towns across long distances, as well as the larger cities served by the AV trains. Reservations are also required on InterCity trains.
The slowest Trenitalia trains fall under the category of “regional” trains, and go by names like “Regionale,” “Diretto,” and “Espresso.” These are intended to serve every last small town with a train station. They typically stop at every single station between two larger cities. If you're in a hurry, this isn't the best option, but if you're headed to a more remote part of Italy, this may be your only choice.
Trenitalia manages the railway systems in Italy, together with few other private railway companies. The rail network is well developed and widespread, especially between major urban centres and tourist areas. The fastest services operate between the major cities, while all other services (Espresso, Regionale) connects the smallest towns, and even if much slower they are affordable and reliable.
Train types and classification
Alta Velocità (formerly known as Eurostar Italia) are the best of the Italian trains, running at high speed and connecting all major Italian cities. Some of these services are making use of the newly opened High Speed tracks, operating on the new Turin - Milan - Bologna - Florence - Rome - Napoli line since the beginning of 2010. Reservations are always compulsory, and services include 1st and 2nd class travel, air conditioned coaches, soundproofed music, mini-bar service and/or restaurant car. Passengers travelling in 1st class coaches get a welcome drink and a small snack once on the train, the newspaper of choice and have exclusive access to the Club Lounge at the station.
Intercity are comfortable and fast, connecting main cities and towns. Services include 1st and 2nd class seating that are air-conditioned. They do not require a seat reservation, however for passengers who wish to secure their seats in advance can do so on this web site , or at any Italian station, for a minimal extra charge.
IntercityPlus trains offer modern and refitted services, with more comfortable seats than regular IC trains, sockets for laptops in 1st class, and better designed tables. They connect main cities and towns. Services include 1st and 2nd class seating, air-conditioned coaches, mini-bar and a restaurant car. The compulsory seat reservation requirement is included in the ticket price at the time of purchase
Eurocity trains cross borders to connect cities in Europe, and InterCity trains are specific to Italy, connecting it to other countries. They might not be run by Trenitalia, and they do not require a compulsory reservation once in Italy.
IntercityNight are InterCity trains traveling long-distance and crossing borders to link various European cities, but they operate at night. They provide comfortable sleeper accommodations, from a couchette (bunk bed) in a 6-berth compartment, to the new ‘comfort’ 4-berth compartments with double and single sleeper cabins, with proper beds and washbasin with hot and cold water.
Espresso trains usually travel long distances overnight. The accommodations are generally 2nd class, with couchettes and sleepers available.
Regionale trains are more local trains that stop at every station. They can take you to the most rural location and most of them have 2nd class coaches only.
Photo credits: S-F