What is Italo?
NTV (Nuovo Trasporto Viaggiatori) is a 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 Trenitalia. NTV added a Venice-Bologna-Florence-Rome-Naples route in October 2012 and in 2013 they extended some services to start in Turin, and some services all the way to Salerno. NTV are Europe's first private high-speed train operator.
On what routes does Italo run?
Turin - Milan - Bologna - Florence - Rome - Naples - Salerno
Venice - Bologna - Florence - Rome - Naples
So you now have a choice of two high-speed train operators on these routes, Italo or Trenitalia - which is better? In Rome Italo usually now serves the main Stazione Termini in the city centre (as Trenitalia's competing Frecciarosas do), but some Italo departures only serve Rome Tiburtina station which is a taxi ride from the city centre. In Milan, they previously used Porta Garibaldi station but from 2016 most Italo trains now use the main Milan Centrale station. In other cities, Italo use the same city centre stations as Trenitalia.
How to buy tickets: www.italotreno.it...
You can easily buy Italo tickets online at www.italotreno.it and print out your own ticket. The choice between cheap advance-purchase fares with no refunds or changes and the full-flex fare is clearly shown for each class. You can choose your exact seat from a seating plan at the end of the booking. In Prima and Club you can even add an Eataly lunchbox to your booking, served at your seat.
Italo's four classes explained...
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 11) 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."
Comfort = Premium 2nd class
Italo found that whilst Smart class was often well filled, there was often spare capacity in Prima. So in 2013 they introduced a new class originally called Smart XL, in a de-classified Prima class car. They renamed it Comfort in 2016 - do keep up! For just €5 extra over the Smart fare, you can travel in Prima class seating (see the Prima photos below), but without the Prima complimentary service. See Italo seating plan.
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 Centrale & Rome Termini 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 major stations 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). 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!
You'll find a Casa Italo at Milan Centrale, Milan Rogoredo, Bologna Centrale, Florence SMN, Rome Termini, Rome Tiburtina, Naples Centrale, Verona PN, Venice Santa Lucia, Salerno, Turin Porta Susa & Turin Porta Nuova.
Club lounge... If you are travelling Club class, you'll find a Club Lounge inside the Casa Italo at Rome Termini, Rome Tiburtina, Milan Centrale, Turin Porta Susa & Naples Centrale. Prima class passengers can also use the Club lounge if they pay €10 at the entrance.
Video guide: A journey on Italo...
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 4-class Frecciarossas (both the Frecciarossa 500 and the latest Frecciarossa 1000) have 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 at least in the Frecciarossa 500. However, a 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.
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: When Italo first started, their trains only served Rome Tiburtina which is a €10 taxi ride from central Rome. However, these days most though not all Italos use Roma Termini in the city centre, just as Trenitalia does. You can walk from Rome Termini to most of the city sights and to many central hotels. In Milan, Italo initially used the less important Milan Porta Garibaldi station but as from 2016 most Italos use Milan Centrale as Trenitalia does. At other stations such as Bologna, Florence, Naples and Venice, Italo and Frecciarossa have always shared the same centrally-located stations. So there's now little to choose between Italo & Trenitalia as far as convenience of stations is concerned. Map of Milan showing stations. Map of Rome showing stations. Map of Florence showing stations.
Child age limits are different... Do you have a 3 year old? Children under 4 go free on Trenitalia's Frecciarossa (without their own seat), but only children under 2 go free on Italo. Under 16s go at the child rate on Italo, under 15s on Trenitalia - but this may makes little difference as with the cheapest fares adult and child rates are the same anyway.