Trenitalia is increasingly using its sleek Frecciarossa trains to destinations well removed from the high-speed network (photo © Petru Stan / dreamstime.com).
As elsewhere across Europe, new train timetables are introduced in Italy next Sunday. The headline story on Trenitalia’s domestic network is the launch of a new direct Frecciarossa train from Turin to the city of Lecce in the Salento region of south-east Italy.
Trenitalia has three grades of premium daytime train. Frecciarossa (FR) is the pick of the bunch, and for many years FR trains ran exclusively on the main high-speed route from Turin to Naples. Below FR come the Frecciargento (FA) trains, also very smart, but without quite the style and speed of the elite FR services. Trailing way behind are the Frecciabianca (FB) trains, which don’t run on high-speed lines, and have only modest levels of comfort.
The launch of the new FR Turin to Lecce train is an interesting development, underlining Trenitalia’s commitment to showcasing its top-of-the-range Frecciarossa trains even on long routes where there is not a lot of scope for high-speed running. The new service routes via Milan, Bologna and then along the Adriatic coast to Bari, Brindisi and Lecce.
Going back over twenty years, there had been a daytime train from Turin to Bari. For many years, the train ran as an Intercity service (known as the IC Rossini) until it was upgraded to a Frecciabianca (FB) and extended beyond Bari to Lecce. Relying as it did on FB stock, the train followed the classic line from Turin to Bologna via Asti and Piacenza, a route which these days is otherwise used only by night trains.
That route changes next Sunday, when a Frecciarossa FR9805 makes its debut journey from Turin to Lecce, leaving the Piedmont capital at 09.20 and reaching Lecce at 18.52 the same day. The introduction of the FR train will bring a step change in levels of on-board comfort and much faster journey times. For example, the new FR train will trim almost an hour off the journey time from Turin to Rimini.
The balancing northbound train leaves Lecce just after midday, reaching Turin at 9.40 in the evening. The journey time for the full journey is nine-and-a-half hours.
The new train carries all four classes of Frecciarossa seating, viz. Standard, Premium, Business and Executive. For those who want to travel in real comfort, try the ultra-posh Executive seating where one-way fares for the entire journey are available for under €200.
In addition to the regular daytime train from Turin to Lecce, there has long been a direct night train between the two cities. That service continues with unaltered timings in the new schedules.
This is, we think, the first time that the smart Frecciarossa (FR) trains have been used on regular scheduled services to Lecce. It is part of a wider trend of promoting the Frecciarossa brand across the whole of Italy, rather than merely on and around the main high-speed axis which runs from Turin via Milan and Florence to Rome and Naples. Over the last year or two, the FR network has been extended to Udine, Trieste, Genoa, Perugia, Potenza and Taranto – all cities which are far removed from Italy’s high-speed network.
With additional Frecciarossa trains becoming available over the coming months as new stock is delivered, we can expect to see more FR trains roaming beyond the high-speed network. And the months ahead will surely see the upgrade of some high-speed Frecciargento services to FR stock, usually without any amendments in timings. An early candidate for such an upgrade would be one of the five daily direct trains from Bolzano to Rome and vice versa. It is also likely that the twice-daily Frecciargento trains from Rome Fiumicino Airport to Venice and back will be similarly upgraded within the coming weeks.