Le Frecce, IC, .italo, and other high-speed trains in Italy

A private .italo high-speed train, High-speed trains, Italy, Italy (Photo by CAPTAIN RAJU)
A private .italo high-speed train

High-speed trains in Italy—IC, La Frecce, .italo, TGV, Thello, EN, and more

The fastest trains you'll usually take in Italy are IC (Intercity) or EC (Eurocity). The only difference between the two is that the Eurocity train crosses an international border (overnight versions are sometimes called ICN, or InterCity Notte, and EN, or EuroNight).

There are also a few international high-speed runs with fanciful names, like the Thello (between Italy and Nice or Marseille by day, and Italy to Paris and Dijon by night).

The sate railway FS runs the high-speed Le Frecce trains (formerly "Eurostar Italia"), which offer free WiFi and run at three speeds: 

  • Frecciarossa (FR) on dedicated high-speed tracks moving at 186mph (300kph)
  • Frecciargento (FA) trains conect even more citits at slightly slower speeds
  • Frecciabianca (FB) connect even more cities, but are even slower.

The private company, Nuovo Trasporto Viaggiatori, runs competing high-speed .italo trains between Italy’s major cities.

The private line: Italo Treno

There are actually several private lines rail in Italy, mostly filling in gaps where the state-run FS does not have service (notably for tourists, in Umbria), but normally you barely notice this. You just go to the train station and buy a ticket, rarely realizing that the train is being run by a separate company.

However, now there is reason to take note. As of 2012 there is a private high-speed line called Italo Treno. Its train cars are painted Ferrari red, and it's aiming to compete directly with FS on the main trunk lines connecting Italy's major cities:

  • Salerno  Naples  Rome — Florence — Bologna — Reggio Emilia — Milan Turin
  • Turin — Milan — Brescia — Desenzano (Sirmione) — Pescheria del GardaVerona — Vicenza — Padova — Mestre — Venice
  • Brescia — Desenzano (Sirmione) — Pescheria del GardaVerona — Bologna
  • Bologna —Ferrara — Padova — Mestre — Venice

Italo Treno is about as fast as most of the high-speed FS trains (though a half-hour slower than the fastest Frecciarossa trian from Rome to Milan), but it does differ importantly in four ways:

  • Pro: It's less expensive. The farther in advance you book, the more you save. For example, you can save a few Euro on the trip from Rome to Naples, or up to €15 ($18) on the Rome-Milan run at the last minute, or up to €30 ($37) if you book a month in advance.
  • Pro: It offers a bevvy of extra amenities, including panoramic windows, WiFi, reclining leather seats, electrical outlets at each seat, vending machines, and live TV (via WiFi on your laptop or handheld.tablet; there's also a cinema coach to watch first-run movies—in Italian).
  • Minor con: In Rome and Milan, it sometimes uses secondary train stations instead of the main ones. For Rome, this can mean Roma Tiburtina instead of Termini. For Milan, it's sometimes Milano Rogredo instead of Centrale. (For all other cities, it uses the central station you are used to, including Santa Lucia in Venice.)
  • Minor con: Only a few runs daily. There are only 2–3 daily trains from Naples/Salerno through Rome to Florence, Bologna, Milan, and Turin. They plan to offer more trains on the shorter segment runs in high season (up to 20 Florence-Rome; 10 Rome-Naples, etc.), but that's still in the works.

Unfortunately, you do have to go to the site (italotreno.it) to find schedules and book tickets directly, as the trains are not represented on the regular FS website.

High speed required reservations

Many high-speed trains throughout Europe require that you reserve a ticket in advance for a supplemental fee. Any train marked with an "R" on a schedule needs to be reserved ahead of time for a fee ranging from $10 up beyond $50 (the latter when a meal is included).

If you're buying point-to-point tickets, this supplement is included in the full price. With a railpass such as Eurail, you will have to purchase this supplement separately. The train conductor will sell you one, but he also will assess you a small penalty fee. I always check at the ticket office to be sure and pay for it in advance. 

You'll also need to reserve any sleeping couchette or sleeping berth before boarding a train.

You can almost always reserve a seat within a few hours of the train's departure, but I play it safe by booking a few days in advance.

If I'm only going to be in town for a day or two, I go ahead and book my ongoing ticket as soon as I arrive. If I'm lucky enough to be sticking around longer, I just plan that, as part of my penultimate day in town, I will pay a a visit to the train station to book tickets. (For more on all this, see the Tickets & Reservations section.)

Trains links
Travel comfort links
Useful Italian phrases

Useful Italian for rail travel

English (inglese) Italian (italiano)  Pro-nun-cee-YAY-shun
Where is? Dov'é doh-VAY
...train station la ferroviaria [or] la stazione lah fair-o-vee-YAR-ree-yah [or] lah stat-zee-YO-nay
ticket un biglietto oon beel-YET-toh
first class prima classe PREE-mah CLAH-say
second class seconda classe say-CONE-dah CLAH-say
one way solo andata SO-low ahn-DAHT-tah
round trip (return) andata e ritorno ahn-DAH-tah ay ree-TOUR-noh
Just the supplement Soltanto il supplemento soul-TAHN-toh eel sou-play-MEN-toh
Just a seat reservation Soltanto una prenotazione soal-TAHN-toh oo-nah pray-no-tah-tsee-YOH-nay
I have a Eurailpass Ho il Eurailpass oh eel YOO-rail-pahs
sleeping couchette una cucetta oo-nah koo-CHET-tah
berth in a sleeping car un posto nel vagone letto oon POH-sto nell vah-GOAN-nay LET-toh
track binario been-AR-ree-yoh
train treno TRE-no
car (carriage) carozza ka-RO-tza
seat posto PO-sto
departures partenze par-TEN-zay
arrivals arrivi ah-REE-vee
information informazione in-for-ma-tzee-OH-nay
left luggage deposito bagagli day-PO-zee-toh ba-GAHL-yee
punch your ticket timbrare il biglietto teem-BRA-ray eel beel-YET-toh
Is this the right platform for the Rome train? E questo il binario per il treno à Roma? ay KWAY-sto eel been-AR-ree-yo pair eel TRE-no ah RO-ma? 
delayed in retardo een ree-TAR-do
strike sciopero SHO-pair-oh
Mon-Sat Feriali fair-ee-YAHL-ee
Sun & holidays Festivi feh-STEE-vee
Daily Giornaliere joor-nahl-ee-YAIR-eh
City / Train station names
English (inglese) Italian (italiano) Main station
Rome Roma Termini
Florence Firenze Santa Maria Novella
Venice Venezia Santa Lucia
Milan Milano Centrale
Genoa Genova Porta Principe
Naples Napoli Centrale
Leghorn Livorno Centrale
Turin Torino Porta Nuova

Basic phrases in Italian

English (inglese) Italian (italiano) pro-nun-see-YAY-shun
thank you grazie GRAT-tzee-yay
please per favore pair fa-VOHR-ray
yes si see
no no no
Do you speak English? Parla Inglese? PAR-la een-GLAY-zay
I don't understand Non capisco non ka-PEESK-koh
I'm sorry Mi dispiace mee dees-pee-YAT-chay
How much is it? Quanto costa? KWAN-toh COST-ah
That's too much É troppo ay TROH-po
Good day Buon giorno bwohn JOUR-noh
Good evening Buona sera BWOH-nah SAIR-rah
Good night Buona notte BWOH-nah NOTE-tay
Goodbye Arrivederci ah-ree-vah-DAIR-chee
Excuse me (to get attention) Scusi SKOO-zee
Excuse me (to get past someone) Permesso pair-MEH-so
Where is? Dov'é doh-VAY
...the bathroom il bagno eel BHAN-yoh
...train station la ferroviaria lah fair-o-vee-YAR-ree-yah
to the right à destra ah DEH-strah
to the left à sinistra ah see-NEEST-trah
straight ahead avanti [or] diritto ah-VAHN-tee [or] dee-REE-toh
information informazione in-for-ma-tzee-OH-nay

Days, months, and other calendar items in Italian

English (inglese) Italian (italiano) Pro-nun-cee-YAY-shun
When is it open? Quando é aperto? KWAN-doh ay ah-PAIR-toh
When does it close? Quando si chiude? KWAN-doh see key-YOU-day
At what time... a che ora a kay O-rah
Yesterday ieri ee-YAIR-ee
Today oggi OH-jee
Tomorrow domani doh-MAHN-nee
Day after tomorrow dopo domani DOH-poh doh-MAHN-nee
a day un giorno oon je-YOR-no
Monday Lunedí loo-nay-DEE
Tuesday Martedí mar-tay-DEE
Wednesday Mercoledí mair-coh-lay-DEE
Thursday Giovedí jo-vay-DEE
Friday Venerdí ven-nair-DEE
Saturday Sabato SAH-baa-toh
Sunday Domenica doh-MEN-nee-ka
Mon-Sat Feriali fair-ee-YAHL-ee
Sun & holidays Festivi feh-STEE-vee
Daily Giornaliere joor-nahl-ee-YAIR-eh
a month una mese oon-ah MAY-zay
January gennaio jen-NAI-yo
February febbraio feh-BRI-yo
March marzo MAR-tzoh
April aprile ah-PREEL-ay
May maggio MAH-jee-oh
June giugno JEW-nyoh
July luglio LOO-lyoh
August agosto ah-GO-sto
September settembre set-TEM-bray
October ottobre oh-TOE-bray
November novembre no-VEM-bray
December dicembre de-CHEM-bray

Numbers in Italian

English (inglese) Italian (italiano) Pro-nun-cee-YAY-shun
1 uno OO-no
2 due DOO-way
3 tre tray
4 quattro KWAH-troh
5 cinque CHEEN-kway
6 sei say
7 sette SET-tay
8 otto OH-toh
9 nove NO-vay
10 dieci dee-YAY-chee
11 undici OON-dee-chee
12 dodici DOH-dee-chee
13 tredici TRAY-dee-chee
14 quattordici kwa-TOR-dee-chee
15 quindici KWEEN-dee-chee
16 sedici SAY-dee-chee
17 diciasette dee-chee-ya-SET-tay
18 diciotto dee-CHO-toh
19 diciannove dee-chee-ya-NO-vay
20 venti VENT-tee
21* vent'uno* vent-OO-no
22* venti due* VENT-tee DOO-way
23* venti tre* VENT-tee TRAY
30 trenta TRAYN-tah
40 quaranta kwa-RAHN-tah
50 cinquanta cheen-KWAN-tah
60 sessanta say-SAHN-tah
70 settanta seh-TAHN-tah
80 ottanta oh-TAHN-tah
90 novanta no-VAHN-tah
100 cento CHEN-toh
1,000 mille MEEL-lay
5,000 cinque milla CHEEN-kway MEEL-lah
10,000 dieci milla dee-YAY-chee MEEL-lah

* You can use this formula for all Italian ten-place numbers—so 31 is trent'uno, 32 is trenta due, 33 is trenta tre, etc. Note that—like uno (one), otto (eight) also starts with a vowel—all "-8" numbers are also abbreviated (vent'otto, trent'otto, etc.).