Friday, July 29, 2016

Italy’s High Speed Trains: Where tomorrow speed into the past

Trenitalia's high speed Frecciarossa set to depart  (wikipedia)
ROME Back in the day, when Rome ruled the world, the expression was that “All roads lead to Rome.” Fast forward to the 21st century and the expression still applies with a little alteration because “All railways lead to Rome as well.”

One of the greatest innovations the cruise industry has given to contemporary travel is the concept of using the ship as your hotel so guests have only to unpack and pack just once. Using that basic idea, savvy, independent travelers are discovering that basing themselves in one or two primary locations and doing day trips rather than opting for the old “if-it’s-Tuesday-it-must-be-Belgium” itineraries is a better way to explore Europe.

Modern high speed rail travel in many countries now allows the flexibility of using a rail pass to visit nearby destinations without the inconvenience of changing hotels every night.
Ferrari inspiration from Italo

Throughout Europe, high speed trains have changed the dynamics of travel unlike any other form of transportation in recent memory. On trips of approximately 3 ½ hours or less, it is faster to go by train than plane and with infinitely less hassle while usually departing and arriving in a city center.

Rome is a perfect example of how Trenitalia and Italo have incorporated high speed rail services into their rail networks that link many of Italy’s most popular destinations.
Sunset in Positano on the Amalfi Coast  (wikipedia)
Trenitalia calls its high speed service Alta Velocita, or AV, with three categories. Frecciarossa (“Red Arrow”), Frecciargente (“Silver Arrow”) and Freciabianco (“White Arrow”). Operating at speeds up to 190 mph, Frecciarossa trains offer Trenitalia’s fastest service.
By contrast, Italo’s high speed trains are slightly faster traveling up to 220 mph.

Regardless of the speed however, it is the time savings that count, with connections between Rome and Florence at approximately 1:15 to 1:25 and similar times between Rome and Naples.

Catch a morning train from Rome to Florence, spend a full day in the city of Michelangelo and return to the Eternal City by early evening for a restful night without changing hotels.

Equally accessible from Rome are Orvieto, the Cinque Terra, Pisa, Milan, Turin, Bologna, Padua and Venice.
Roman ruins at the Baths of Caracalla  (Taylor)
Despite the convenience of high speed trains in Italy and other countries in Europe, it does not mean that travelers should not take time to plan wisely when they are designing their itineraries.

Florence and Naples are equally accessible from Rome, but Florence provides considerably better logistical opportunities for sightseeing than using Naples as a gateway to the Amalfi Coast for example. With its serpentine coastline and the need for a rental car or, better yet, a driver, the Amalfi Coast might well be a better choice as a base than a day trip.
Time has a different schedule in the Amalfi Coast  (Taylor)
Rail Europe has several passes which can be incorporated to customize whatever your travel plans may be. The Eurail Italy Pass can be purchased to allow train travel for 3, 4, 5 or 8 days during a one month period depending upon your individual needs.

Italo interior  (wikipedia)

It is important to remember that there are also discounts for travelers under 26 and for small groups of 2 to 5 people if they are traveling together. Up to 2 children from the ages 4-11 can ride free with each adult traveler.

Perhaps the most overlooked aspect of using a rail pass however is the bonuses. Depending on the country, bonuses sometimes include free transportation on ships or ferries, discounts for other transportation services and, as in Switzerland with a Swiss Travel Pass, for example, free admission to nearly 500 museums throughout the country.

Rail passes and high speed trains allow greater independence for adventurous travelers. If it’s raining in Rome, that might be the day to head out to Florence or some other sunny location.
Orvieto's cathedral dominates the surroundings  (wikipedia)
Orvieto is one of the best kept secrets in Italy. Train services to the ancient hilltop city with its fortress-like domain situated atop a massive butte of volcanic rock is one of the most dramatic villages in Europe. Today, the former Etruscan city features quiet tree-lined streets, quaint shops, an impressive cathedral and medieval underground excavations.

The city became a major cultural center in the 13th century when Thomas Aquinas taught there before going to Rome in 1265 to serve as the papal theologian for Pope Clement IV.
Orvieto's streets  (Taylor)

Orvieto is just one example of the freedom and independence that regular and high speed rail services provide to save time, energy and money to turn an ordinary holiday into the memory of a lifetime.

Be it Italy’s Italos or Trenitalia’s trio, the famed French TGVs, Germany’s magnificent ICEs, the Channel Tunnel’s Eurostar, the Big Red Thalys or other fast trains in Sweden and Spain.

Italo departs Rome to new adventures  (wikipedia)
Japan invented “bullet trains” way back in the 1960s. Europe perfected them. Today traveling through Italy and her European sisters is better, and faster, than ever before.