Italy’s first ‘Covid-free’ trains start running on Rome-Milan route

Italy's state-run railway on Friday began operating the first "Covid-free" high-speed trains between Rome and Milan.

Italy's first 'Covid-free' trains start running on Rome-Milan route
Photo by Tiziana Fabi/AFP

The first of the special train services left Rome for Milan on Friday morning at 8:50am, with another service scheduled at 6pm.

A negative test result is required for passengers and staff to board the non-stop Frecciarossa service on Italy’s busiest route.

The test result certificate must be shown with tickets before boarding, and must be from within the 48 hours before travel, operator Trenitalia said. Tests can also be taken immediately before departure in screening areas at either Roma Termini or Milano Centrale station.

READ ALSO: How Italy’s ‘Covid-free islands’ vaccine plan hopes to save summer travel

Anyone who tests positive will not be allowed to board, but will get a complete refund, the operator said.

Two trains will run in each direction per day during this initial “experimental” phase.

Announcing the scheme in March, Italian railways chief Gianfranco Battisti said the initiative would later be extended to other routes, and would allow people to “travel in total safety to tourist destinations such as Florence, Venice, Naples and many others.”

There are plans to soon install pre-trip Covid screening areas at Bari, Bologna, Cagliari, Florence Santa Maria Novella , Naples Centrale, Palermo, Reggio Calabria, Turin Porta Nuova and Venice Mestre train stations, Italian media reports.

Photo by Tiziana FABI/AFP.

The service is among a string of initiatives in Italy aimed at allowing tourism to restart.

All residents of Italian holiday islands are to be vaccinated as a priority under a controversial new scheme to support tourism, Italian media reported on Monday.

Italian airline Alitalia last year launched Covid-tested flights on selected domestic and international flights.

While some travel restrictions still apply, US passengers are allowed to avoid spending 14 days in isolation if they travel on special flights from New York or Atlanta to Rome.

READ ALSO: Italy hopes to expand ‘Covid-tested’ flights to more countries

Before the pandemic struck, tourism accounted for 14 percent of Italy’s economy.

Lockdowns and other coronavirus restrictions have had a devastating impact on the industry, with hotels and restaurants forced to shut for months.

Overnight stays by foreign tourists were down by almost 70 per cent, year-on-year, in January-September 2020, according to official data released in December.

Under current restrictions, people living in Italy are currently prohibited from travelling between regions or towns for non-essential reasons, making even domestic tourism impossible.

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Calendar: The transport strikes to expect in Italy this February

Travellers in Italy will face disruption again this month amid a new round of transport strikes. Here's what you can expect in the coming weeks.

Calendar: The transport strikes to expect in Italy this February

Travel in Italy was disrupted by dozens of localised strikes in January, and this is set to continue into February as Italian unions announced a further round of demonstrations affecting rail and public transport services in many areas, as well as airline travel.

READ ALSO: Should you travel in Italy when there’s a strike on?

Here’s an overview of February’s main strikes, which are again mainly local or regional, but include a national public transport strike on February 17th and a nationwide walkout by airport ground staff on February 28th.

February 5th-6th: Trenitalia staff in the southern Calabria region will strike from 9pm on Sunday, February 5th to 9pm the following day. 

A list of guaranteed services in the region is available here.

February 9th: Staff from Lombardy’s Trenord will take part in a 22-hour strike – from 2am to 11.50pm – on Thursday, February 9th.

It’s currently unclear whether Trenord will operate minimum services on the day. See the company’s website for further information. 

February 12th: Air traffic control staff at Perugia’s San Francesco d’Assisi airport will take part in a 24-hour strike action on Sunday, February 12th. 

It isn’t yet clear how the walkout will affect air travel to and from the airport on the day.

Travellers at an Italian airport

A national strike from ground service staff may cause delays and queues at many Italian airports on Tuesday, February 28th. Photo by Andreas SOLARO / AFP

February 12th-13th: Trenitalia staff in Emilia-Romagna will strike from 3.30am on Sunday, February 12th to 2.30am on Monday, February 13th.

A list of guaranteed rail services in the region is available here.

February 17th: Public transport staff will take part in a national 24-hour strike on Friday, February 17th. 

The strike was called in late January by Italian union USB to protest against precarious work contracts and privatisation attempts by the Italian state.

There currently aren’t any details as to what percentage of workers will take part in the action or how widespread the disruption is likely to be.

February 19th: Trenitalia staff in the Veneto region will strike from 9am to 5pm on Sunday, February 19th. 

Guaranteed services are available here.

On the same day, there will be no service between Milan’s Milano Centrale station and Paris’s Gare de Lyon due to a strike from staff at France’s national railway company SNCF.

READ ALSO: Trains and planes: Italy’s new international travel routes in 2023

Empty train platform in Codogno, Lombardy

Staff from Lombardy’s regional railway operator Trenord will strike for 22 hours on Thursday, February 9th. Photo by Miguel MEDINA / AFP

February 20th: Trenitalia personnel in Lombardy are expected to strike from 9am to 5pm on Monday, February 20th. 

Guaranteed services haven’t been made available yet. 

February 28th: Baggage handlers and other airport ground service staff will take part in a national 24-hour strike on Tuesday, February 28th. 

It isn’t yet clear how the strike will affect air travel during the day, though a similar demonstration caused significant delays and queues at some Italian airports in late January.

ENAV air traffic operators based in Calabria are also expected to strike on February 28th, with the walkout set to start at 1pm and end at 5pm.

You can keep up to date with the latest strike news from Italy HERE.