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TRAVEL NEWS

TRAVEL: New high-speed rail service links Rome and Milan in record time

Italy on Monday launched a new high-speed Frecciarossa train linking Rome and Milan in two hours and 45 minutes, the shortest journey time yet for the 565-kilometre trip.

TRAVEL: New high-speed rail service links Rome and Milan in record time
(Photo by Piero CRUCIATTI / AFP)

Italy’s state railway company said its latest non-stop Frecciarossa high-speed service, launching on Monday January 23rd, would carry passengers between Rome and Milan in the shortest time yet.

The new route between Rome’s Tiburtina station and Milan Rogoredo is set to take two hours and 45 minutes, national rail operator Ferrovie dello Stato said in a statement. 

READ ALSO: The train routes connecting Italy to the rest of Europe in 2023

So far the journey between Rome and Milan has taken two hours and 59 minutes on the fastest connection available, between the two cities’ main stations of Rome Termini and Milan Central.

The two stations are connected by roughly 565 kilomtres (350 miles) of track on which trains can reach maximum speeds of 300 Km/h.

Ticket prices listed on the operator’s website began at €78.90 for an economy single.

The new connection does not stop at Rome Termini and Milan Central, a decision which Trenitalia said was intended to “reduce congestion” at the main stations.

“Thanks to other modes of transport, including the underground or urban (light) railway services, it’s possible to quickly reach the centres” of the two cities from Tiburtina and Rogoredo, the company said.

The new service will run to and from Milan once a day on weekdays: the Frecciarossa 9682 will leave Rome at 5.30am and arrive at Milan at 8.15am, and the Frecciarossa 9681 will depart Milan at 20.44 arriving in Rome at 23.29.

The new link brings the number of daily Frecciarossa connections between Rome and Milan to 90, seven of which are direct.

There are 81 other Frecciarossa Rome-Milan routes involving changes, with total journey times from three hours and eight minutes.

Meanwhile Italy’s other high-speed rail operator Italo operates a total of 64 connections between the two cities daily with a journey time of three hours and ten minutes.

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TRANSPORT

OPINION: Why are Italians so addicted to cars?

In a country as attached to the car as Italy, what would it take to get more people to use greener transport? Silvia Marchetti looks at what’s behind the country’s high levels of car ownership.

OPINION: Why are Italians so addicted to cars?

Many foreigners I speak to are shocked by the ‘car first’ mentality that rules in Italy, and by Italians’ degree of addiction to any wheeled vehicle. 

There’s practically one car around for each Italian. Between 2010-2020 the population dropped but there were three million more cars on the roads, despite soaring living costs and falling salaries. 

Italy’s rate of car ownership is the second-highest in Europe after tiny Luxembourg. All Italian regions have a lot of cars running but surprisingly, the number of passenger cars which is the highest at EU level can be found in the Alpine regions of Valle D’Aosta and the northern autonomous province of Trento, where particular regional statutes envisage special tax incentives helping locals to buy new cars.

Most Italians just don’t like walking. They aren’t active travelers who’d opt for a bike, and can’t go even 500 meters without a wheeled vehicle, be it a Jeep, motorbike, Vespa or motorino. 

But it’s not really their fault. People in Italy haven’t been educated on eco-friendly modes of transport, simply because infrastructure like bike lanes, pedestrian paths, high-speed trains, efficient trams, subways and buses are rather lacking. And there aren’t many walkable pavements in cities, let alone in old villages. So the car is Italians’ second home. 

READ ALSO: These are the most (and least) eco-friendly towns in Italy

There’s an historical reason for this, too. After the second world war, during the economic boom when Italy finally rose from the ashes of the defeat, owning a cinquecento or maggiolino was a status symbol. In the 1960s my father would squeeze eight friends into his cinquino and drive around all night, sharing the fuel cost. Then the car fad turned into a frenzy, and now it’s an obsession.

Iconic Italian car and motorbike models fuelled a post-war fad – which has become an obsession. (Photo by Vincenzo PINTO / AFP)

Whenever I need to go somewhere far from my house I wish I could do the entire trip by public transport and ditch my car, so as to avoid having parking problems too. I remember once when I was at university there was this huge party near the Colosseum, I drove around for an hour looking for a parking spot and eventually I gave up, went back home really frustrated. 

Car sharing also is something totally foreign to Italians. You just need to look around in the morning at rush hour to see that there’s just one person per car, which is totally unsustainable climate-wise.

READ ALSO: Rome ‘among worst cities in Europe’ for road safety, traffic and pollution

Even in areas like Milan, where public transport is more efficient than in the southern regions, people still stick to their car or motorino which just proves how it’s a matter of mentality rather than of transport provision. 

On the other hand, if I want to visit Tuscany or Umbria from my house in Rome’s northern countryside, there aren’t even any direct connections.

My Italian millennial friends refuse to take a bus or tram to the gelateria a few blocks away from their home – the car is the rule, and they don’t care if they risk a fine for double parking, or parking in front of a building entrance. Forget walking, it just isn’t ‘done’.

Italy will soon invest some €600 million in projects aimed at improving bike and pedestrian lanes under initiatives funded by the PNRR, but the mindset of drivers must also modernize for all this money to be really effective. 

OPINION: Why cycling in Rome isn’t as crazy as it sounds

Italy needs an information campaign to raise awareness of environmental and health issues, and this must start inside schools and continue in college. Families also should educate kids to healthier transport modes, and stop buying those ‘micro cars’ when they’re 13 which don’t require a driver’s license. 

I often ask myself what it would take to get Italians – but also other nationalities – out of their cars, or off their noisy motorino with illegal upgrades that make a hell of a noise. Rising oil prices haven’t done the miracle in making car ownership unaffordable. 

Hiking car prices would kill the industry, so the only way is to give tax breaks or incentives to families who keep just one car and manage to share it, or raise taxes if each family member has one. 

Perhaps in a very remote future, interconnected green transport from the doorstep to the destination might be the solution, but at the moment that’s science fiction.

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