Wednesday, May 16, 2012

New high speed Italo train

This is an exciting development in travel within Italy. A few weeks ago, an entirely new company, Italo, began its own high speed service in the country (high speed travel already exists from Trenitalia). It is the only private high speed train in Europe, so far. Brought forth by Ferrari chairman Luca di Montezemolo, the trains do have an association with the beloved automobile. The color is red (although more of a burgundy), the design is snazzy, and speeds can top 185 miles an hour (about 300 kph), although it could go even faster if the existing tracks allowed it.

Watching videos of the interior reminded me of the Acela train here on the East coast of the United States, or an airline. The cars don't have compartments like the old-fashioned Italian trains, which may improve security, especially for women travelling alone. The windows don't open and there is climate control, finally putting an end to bickering with Italians wanting to close the windows in August because of the corrente (draft). The company says they don't have classes, but of course they do, under different names.

Everything is very high-tech, with free wi-fi, and screens popping out from the sides of seats. There is an entire movie carriage. There is also a Relax car, where noise is held to a minimum. Food is provided by Eataly, which means it should be good, although on their site the meals looked like box lunches or airplane fare. The higher-priced seats have service, but all meals are extra, at around 20 euros. Wine not included (drats). There are also special vending machines, with coffee. The train has access for the mobility-impaired.

This sounds very promising, and I will certainly try it the next time I'm in Italy. Prices are competitive. For now, the only route open is Milan-Naples, with stops at Bologna, Florence and Rome. The trains do not stop at the main stations of Milan and Rome. Extensions of the line will be added this year.  The only thing is that all this leaves me with a wistful feeling for the old Italian trains, where people in the compartments would actually talk to each other (not only about the draft), and I could stick my head out the window with the wind in my hair, against the posted prohibition on all Italian trains. Not to mention that I doubt you can see much from your window at those speeds. Can you imagine the Italian countryside at 150 miles an hour? A blur.

Read more in this informative article from the English-language version of Der Spiegel. Explore the company's English-language site here.