What is Italo?
NTV (Nuovo Trasporto Viaggiatori) is a new private company which started operating it's Italo high-speed trains on the Milan-Florence-Rome-Naples route in April 2012, in competition with State-owned operator Trenitalia. NTV added a Venice-Bologna-Florence-Rome-Naples route in October 2012 and from January 2013 they extended some Milan services to start in Turin, and some services to Naples have been extended to Salerno. NTV are Europe's first private high-speed train operator.
Milan - Bologna - Florence - Rome - Naples
Venice - Bologna - Florence - Rome - Naples
Note that in Rome Italo uses Tiburtina and Ostiense stations, not the main Stazione Termini. In Milan, they use Porta Garibaldi station, not the main Milan centrale station, but in this case Milan Porta Garibaldi is just as central as Milan Centrale and better for connections with the TGVs to/from Paris as these also use Porta Garibaldi. If you're making other connections in Milan, Porta Garibaldi is a €6 10-minute taxi ride from Centrale. In other cities, Italo use the same city centre stations as Trenitalia.
Buy tickets online: www.italotreno.it...
Anyone from any country can buy Italo tickets online at www.italotreno.it quickly & easily, you simply print your own ticket. It's one of the clearest and easiest-to-use online train tickets systems I've seen. Cheap fares are available on a no-refunds, no-changes basis if you pre-book, the choice between these and the flexible fare in each class is clearly shown. You can choose your exact seat from a seating plan at the end of the booking, a best practice. In Prima and Club you can even add an Eataly lunchbox to your booking, to be served at your seat.
Italo's three classes explained... Watch the Italo video guide
Smart = 2nd class
Italo's Smart ambience features Poltrona Frau Leather reclining seats, air-conditioned, ample legroom, free WiFi, power sockets for laptops, cameras or mobiles. There's a coffee machine & drink/snack vending machine in car 7, but no bar car as such. Seating is mostly unidirectional, although there are two tables-for-four in each carriage. One carriage (car 1) is the 'Smart Cinema', with films shown on TV screens suspended from the ceiling. See Italo seating plan.
The Man in Seat 61 says: "A bright interior, leather seats, loads of legroom and with power sockets for laptops, mobiles or cameras, Smart is very classy indeed - but with budget fares. The tables-for-four are ideal for families or small groups, you can select this when booking at www.italotreno.it by clicking the link to choose your exact seats."
What is Smart XL? Premium economy!
Italo found that whilst Smart class was often well filled, there was often spare capacity in Prima. So in September 2013 they introduced a new class called Smart XL, in a de-classified Prima class car. For just €5 extra over the Smart fare, you can travel in Prima class seating (see photos below), but without the Prima complimentary service.
Prima = 1st class
Italo's Prima ambience features Poltrona Frau Leather reclining seats and air-conditioning with extra legroom & elbowroom compared to Smart class. There's free WiFi, power sockets for laptops, cameras or mobiles, complimentary wine or prosecco and snack served from a trolley. You can order an 'Eataly' meal-in-a-box to be served at your seat (or can pre-order one when booking at at www.italotreno.it), but there's no separate bar or restaurant car. Seating is mostly unidirectional, with just one table-for-two and one table-for-four in each carriage. See Italo seating plan.
The Man in Seat 61 says: "Prima is significantly more spacious than Smart, and there are budget fares in Prima too if you book well in advance - if you're a couple, I recommend selecting the table for two when booking at www.italotreno.it by clicking the link to choose your exact seats."
Club = Premium 1st
Club class consists of just one carriage, with an open saloon of 11 seats (pictured above left) and two intimate compartments of 4 seats called 'Salottinos' (pictured above right), ideal for small groups or on-board meetings. Club has Poltrona Frau Leather reclining seats, loads of legroom & elbowroom, free WiFi, power sockets for laptops, cameras or mobiles, complimentary wine or prosecco and snacks served throughout the journey by a steward or stewardess dedicated wholly to the small 'Club' section. Each seat also has a small fold-out LCD touch-screen television. You can order an 'Eataly' meal-in-a-box to be served at your seat (or can pre-order one when booking at at www.italotreno.it). There is a small lounge for Club passengers at Milan Porta Garibaldi with free coffee and soft drinks, at the rear of the Casa Italo. See Italo seating plan.
The Man in Seat 61 says: "Club is aimed at top-end business travellers and priced accordingly with flexible tickets but no discounted fares. Service is excellent and the Club section cosy & civilised - if your company is paying, this is the way to go!"
A new concept at stations: Casa Italo...
Casa Italo: At each station served by Italo, there is a Casa Italo, with self-service ticket sales machines, lots of Italo staff on hand, a welcome desk for assistance and information, a waiting area with seats, sofas, information screens and free WiFi (ask at the desk). This is the Casa Italo at Milan Porta Garibaldi (lower level), where there's also a small separate lounge for Club passengers. There's no old-fashioned ticket office, tickets are bought from the 'Italo'-branded self-service machines, which have a huge touch screen and an English-language facility. They are simplicity itself to use, even my six year old can work them!
|Italo ticket machines: So simple my 6-year-old can use them.||There are plenty of racks for luggage, big & small...||An NTV Italo train at Rome Tiburtina.|
In Prima & Club you can buy (or pre-order) an 'Eataly' lunchbox for around €16-€19. Complimentary coffee, soft drinks, wine, or prosecco is served from a trolley.
There's no bar or restaurant car on Italo, but passengers in Smart ambience can use the Illy coffee machine and vending machine in car 7. You're also free to bring your own food and drink on board...
Watch the Italo video guide...
NTV's Italo versus Trenitalia's Frecciarossa: Which to take?
Trenitalia have refurbished their Frecciarossa (red arrow) high-speed trains with 4 classes and new leather seats to compete with NTV's 3-class Italo on the premier Milan-Florence-Rome-Naples route. Journey time is similar, pricing is competitive, so which should you choose? Both are excellent trains, but this is my personal take...
Comfort: NTV's Italo is arguably the newer, brighter and more stylish train. It's carpeted throughout and has top-quality Poltrona Frau leather seats in all classes. Legroom is excellent. Bizarrely, Trenitalia's new 4-class Frecciarossa has hard hospital-style synthetic flooring in all classes, lacking carpet even in Executive class. The Frecciarossa has leather seats in Premium, Business & Executive, but only cloth seats in Standard. One plus for the Frecciarossa is the seat layout, as in Standard, Premium and Business classes seating consists mainly of bays of 4 seats around a table (ideal for families or groups of friends) and (in Business class) bays of two seats facing each other across a table (ideal for couples), all of which line up correctly with the windows. Italo mainly features unidirectional seating, although there are a limited number of tables-for-four in Smart and tables-for-two and tables-for-four in Prima, which you can select when you book, if they're not already taken.
Catering: Italo has vending machines for coffee & snacks in Smart class, and in Prima and Club class you can buy innovative high-quality packed lunchboxes with cold food in jars, served at your seat. However, there's no restaurant or bar car, and no hot food. If you like dining on the rails, you may prefer the Frecciarossa, as all passengers on the Frecciarossa can use the waiter-service restaurant car serving complete meals with hot food, or buy coffee, tea and snacks from the staffed bar area. Executive class on the Frecciarossa features a simple high-quality cold tray meal included in the price.
Ease of booking: Italo has put a lot of work into their online booking and self-service ticket machines, and it shows. It's really easy to buy tickets online and self-print your ticket, wherever you live. Trenitalia's Frecciarossa can also be booked online easily enough, but if you go to the main Trenitalia portal www.trenitalia.com you're forced to type the exact Italian-language place name (and in some cases, station name, guessing the exact abbreviation their system uses) even in the English version, although if you go directly to their fast-train site Lefrecce.it you'll be prompted. Italotreno.it has no such quirks!
Frequency: Trenitalia operate the more frequent service, running trains half-hourly at peak times between Milan, Florence and Rome. Italo is still building up its services but will eventually run hourly on the main Milan-Florence-Rome-Naples route, not quite as frequent as Trenitalia. However, both trains operate a 'reservation compulsory' system, so once you've bought a ticket on a specific train frequency is irrelevant as you can only travel on the train you've booked.
Convenience of the stations: If you're heading to or from Rome, you may prefer the Frecciarossa, as this uses Rome Stazione Termini, the main central station from where you can walk to most of the city sights and to many central hotels. Italo uses Rome Tiburtina station which is a €10 taxi ride from central Rome. However, in Milan, Italo's Porta Garibaldi station is just as central as Trenitalia's Milan Centrale (although admittedly without Milan Centrale's magnificent architecture), and if you're connecting with a French TGV from Paris, Italo is more convenient because the Paris TGVs also use Milan Porta Garibaldi. On the other hand, if you're connecting to or from Switzerland or other locations in northern Italy such as Lake Como, a Frecciarossa to or from Milan Centrale may be more convenient, as most trains come into Milan Centrale including the EuroCity trains to & from Switzerland. At other stations such as Bologna, Florence, Naples and Venice, Italo and Frecciarossa use the same centrally-located stations. Map of Rome showing stations. Map of Florence showing stations.