Against the odds and the general international perception, Italy enjoys a remarkable railway network and high-speed trains.
With 85 thousand employees, over 10 thousand trains every day, 1 billion annual presences on trains and buses and 45 million tons of goods per year, Gruppo Ferrovie dello Stato (FFSS) is a European leading player in rail passenger and freight transport.
The group manages 10,400 miles of railway, of which approximately 434 miles of network is dedicated to high-speed services connecting Turin, Milan, Bologna, Florence, Rome and Naples. It will be further extended leveraging $30 billion of NextGenerationEU fund. By 2026 the west to east Naples-Bari high-speed train – 160 miles-- will unite the two cities in two hours. The high-speed will also connect Genoa to Milan and Turin.
The jewel of FSSS stable is the Frecciarossa 1000. Its top speed is 249 miles per hour. Passengers can reach downtown Milan from downtown Rome – 360 miles-- in less than 3 hours. If Frecciarossa 1000 were available in America, it would mean reaching Washington D.C. from New York Penn Station in less than 2 hours.
The high-speed service has already revolutionized the traditional commuting and living habits in-between Florence, Bologna, Milan and Turin. Florence is less than 30 minuets away from Bologna which, in turn, is one hour distant from Milan. During Milan fashion week when hotel rates skyrocket, people tend to lodge in Turin, 50 minutes away. As the high-speed services expand to other smaller centers in Tuscany and Umbria, the country house concept and services – including schooling-- will be revisited. Orvieto sits majestically high above the valley floor atop a big chunk of tufo volcanic stone, overlooking cypress-dotted Umbrian plains. It is 75 miles away from Rome and, shortly, 20 minutes by high-speed train.
The Frecciarossa 1000 relaunched the concept and service in the first class, called Executive. It accommodates only 10 passengers on leather armchairs. The chairs are 29 inches wide and are positioned 59 inches from one another. Lastly, the food on board is, of course, Italian!
Frecciarossa extends beyond Italy. To avoid wasting time on the Parisian périphérique from Charles De Gaulle Airport, passengers can reach La Gare De Lyon in Paris in less than six hours from Milan.
Noteworthy and probably not known internationally, in Italy there are two companies competing in high-speed service. Last but not least, the trains are on time.