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MAP: Where can high-speed rail take you in Italy?

The Local Italy
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MAP: Where can high-speed rail take you in Italy?
How well do Italy's high-speed rail services work really? Photo by GABRIEL BOUYS / AFP.

Italy's high-speed train services are frequently praised by visitors, so how far can you travel on them and how well do they really work?


You might have romantic notions of the golden era of train travel in Europe - and in Italy, you can certainly indulge those. But for everyday travel between major cities, Italy's modern rail infrastructure has a lot to offer.

With nearly 1,500 kilometres of high-speed line, Italy has the fifth-longest high-speed rail network in Europe, with the fastest lines connecting major cities in the north and more routes being improved or under construction.

Italy's high-speed (Alta Velocità or AV) trains are commonly known as Frecciarossa (which means 'Red Arrow' in Italian) or Le Frecce ('The Arrows'). This the main high-speed train service in Italy, run by the national rail operator Trenitalia, and it is generally seen as an efficient and reasonably cost-effective travel option.

There are also high-speed trains on the same lines run by private operator Italo, which is also generally well-regarded and often includes a few more stops along the routes, making it a convenient option for some.

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Trains on this network will take you between Italy's major cities in just a few hours, travelling at speeds of up to 300km/h.

Italy's Frecciarossa train network. Source: Trenitalia.

A Frecciarossa train can take you from Rome to Florence in 90 minutes; from Milan to Venice in just over two and a half hours; and from Bologna to Naples in under four hours.

That means it compares favourably to high-speed rail in the UK, for example where the fastest train from Manchester to London - roughly the same distance as Rome to Florence - will take over two hours (and often costs a lot more).

You can find a full list of all the routes on this network on the Trenitalia website.


While you can zip easily between Italy's major cities north of Rome, you might want to factor in extra time if you're travelling south, where the network is more limited. In fact, some of the lines shown on the Frecciarossa map above actually include older tracks which are not actually capable of accommodating high speeds.

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As such, Trenitalia's Frecce services are split into three different categories, with overlapping but different routes: Frecciarossa, Frecciargento, and Frecciabianca.

Frecciarossa trains are the fastest of these, able to reach speeds of up to 300 km/h (190 m/ph)

Frecciargento ('Silver Arrow') trains reach speeds of up to 250km/h using a mixture of high-speed and older tracks:

Italy's Frecciargento train network. Source: Trenitalia

... and Frecciabianca ('White Arrow') trains, which run on old tracks but are better equipped and more comfortable than you would expect a local train to be.

Italy's Frecciabianca train network. Source: Trenitalia

Each of these three networks have minor differences when it comes to the services offered on board, though they all offer air conditioning and power outlets.

It's worth bearing in mind that a Frecciarossa train isn't necessarily the fastest of the three options.

If a Frecciarossa or Frecciargento train run on the same track, there won't be much of a difference when it comes to speed (the latter can even sometimes be very slightly faster); all that changes is the carriage itself.

And although the Frecciarossa trains can reach speeds of 'up to' 300km/h, how fast you actually go can vary quite a bit depending on where you are in the country.


In the south of Italy, many stretches of tracks are older and less well-maintained than in the north, making them less able to support high-speed trains.

The fastest Frecciarossa train from Foggia to Caserta, for example, takes around 90 minutes; the same amount of time it takes to travel almost double the distance from Rome to Florence.

Various works are currently underway to try and improve parts of the track, including on the line between Bari, the capital of the southern region of Puglia, and Naples.

One place you won't (for now) find any high-speed trains in Italy are the islands of Sicily and Sardinia; if you plan on using train travel in either of these places, or when travelling between smaller towns in Italy, be prepared to settle in for the scenic route on the regionale or, on some routes, the faster intercity service.


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