Trenitalia Frecciarossa Executive Class Review – Microwave Pasta on the Italian High-Speed Express

I love the romance of train travel in Europe.  There’s something magical about the concept of seeing the countryside glide by as you listen to the clickety-clack of the wheels on the rails. Hoping to catch a whiff of the nostalgia associated with rail days gone by, I booked my Partner F and I two tickets in Executive Class on Trenitalia’s Frecciarossa express train service between Naples and Florence.

Trenitalia Frecciarossa Welcome Sign

However, in the 21st Century the high-speed train networks knitting the Continent together result in a travel experience that’s more Star Wars than Orient Express. Although our journey was fast and comfortable, I wouldn’t necessarily put our experience in the “luxury” category. That said, we did get some fun “Facebook shots” out of the deal. Oh yeah, and there was that nice plate of microwave pasta …

Last summer we spent a relaxing week on the Amalfi Coast.  After a wonderful stay at the Hotel Marincanto (see my review Hercule Poirot Should Have Slept Here for more details), we reluctantly bid Positano good-bye. Our driver Salvatore Jr. (see my earlier post on Driving Mr. Daisy for the highlights of the day we spent with him) dropped us off at Napoli Centrale where we were due to catch our train to Florence.

Naples Positano Private Car Transfers

Our Executive Class ticket included access to the station’s FrecciaClub lounge. However, getting into the lounge required jumping through a few hoops.  The club was located a level above the station’s main floor. I sent my Partner F upstairs to get the lay of the land. After ringing the doorbell several times, it seemed that “no one was home.” I then spotted an elevator entrance that required a key card or PIN code to use. I tried punching in the various Ticket Codes and other numbers on the printout of my reservation but to no avail.  Finally, two business guys exited the elevator lobby so we just ducked inside. Of course, once inside I couldn’t figure out how to work the lift! Finally, a friendly station attendant informed me that I had to press and hold the elevator button to get it work. Things just got even more comical from there since the elevator cab literally crawled its way up to the second level.  Now realistically, most people would have given up much earlier.  However, I love a good business class lounge and  … well dammit … I was going to get in! Was it worth it? Well, here’s what awaited us …

Trenitalia FrecciaClub Executive Lounge Naples Central Napoli Centrale

The room was bright and airy and featured some funky oversized modern furniture. An espresso machine, cookies and crackers as well as complimentary cold drinks were available.

Trenitalia FrecciaClub Executive Lounge Naples Central Napoli Centrale Train Station Refreshments

After relaxing a bit, we decided to make our way out to the train since we didn’t want to risk any elevator snafus that might occur as we tried to exit the lounge which frankly left me feeling a bit … well, you fill in the blank …

Trenitalia Freccia Club Executive Lounge Naples Central Napoli Centrale Train Station Indifferenziata

Trenitalia, Italy’s national railway company, operates the premier ETR500 Frecciarossa (meaning Red Arrow in Italian) high-speed trains on its main Naples-Rome-Florence-Bologna-Milan-Turin route.  The train can reach speeds of 300 kilometers per hour (186 miles per hour) and the journey between Naples and Florence only took 2 hours and 51 minutes.

Trenitalia Frecciarossa Naples to Florence Speed Indicator

The train features a restaurant car as well as free Wi-Fi. The Frecciarossa offers Standard Class (Second Class), Premium Class (Second Class but with leather seats and a “Welcome Drink”) and Business Class (First Class – like Premium Class but with a little more leg room).  However, on this journey we decided to splurge and traveled in Executive Class.  What do you get for the extra money? Well, for starters there is that “Welcome Drink” along with a few nibbles …

Trenitalia Frecciarossa Executive Class Snack

After we passed Rome, a hot meal was served …

Trenitalia Frecciarossa Executive Class Meal

Sigh, believe it or not even the folks at Lean Cuisine could probably teach these guys a lesson or two. Thankfully, Trenitalia was pretty generous with their prosecco pours.

A special feature of our car was a private conference room …

Trenitalia Frecciarossa Executive Class Conference Room

After I was done pretending to address the Board of PepsiCo, the cabin attendant promptly locked up the room … and later used it to take a nap. With nothing left to amuse ourselves, we settled into our seats which admittedly were very comfortable …

Trenitalia Frecciarossa Executive Class Seat

… and offered a ridiculous amount of leg room.

Trenitalia Frecciarossa Executive Class Seat Legroom

At this Point I asked F to leave the train car so that I could enjoy the exclusivity of the space all to myself.

Trenitalia Frecciarossa Executive Class Cabin

All in all, our journey in Frecciarossa Executive Class was comfortable.  The train staff was polite and the cabin clean, modern and quiet.  That said, while Executive Class was a fun novelty, I don’t think I’d pay the premium to experience it again and would likely just opt for “regular” Business Class on my next trip. In fact, the quality of most European trains is so high that riding in Second Class isn’t second rate at all.

How about you? What has been your experience with European train travel?


8 thoughts on “Trenitalia Frecciarossa Executive Class Review – Microwave Pasta on the Italian High-Speed Express”

  1. Thanks for the info on the Club. We’ll probably skip it. For the money you can buy a thousand nice cups of espresso in the termini.

    We’ve taken these high speed trains between Naples and Rome a dozen times now. Worth noting that if you buy tickets online a week or so ahead you can often get business class tickets as cheap as economy fares at the station kiosks. The ticket downloads to your phone for easy scanning by the conductor.

    The FrecciaBianca and other regional express trains are worth a look. FrecciaBianca (White Arrow) is 30 minutes slower between Naples and Rome (1:48 vice 1:07) but half as expensive. It also will use a coastal route that improves the scenery a lot. We noticed that going through tunnels on the FrecciaRosa at 170mph can be tough on the ears. That doesn’t happen as much on the others.

    All in all, Trenitalia is a great way to tour Italy and get into the heart of big cities like Rome where rental cars, parking, tolls, and gas are expensive and difficult to manage at best.

  2. Happy to find your Blog. I am going to Italy beginning of Sept and will take the train from Naples to Florence. I have a question regarding Executive class – do they have space for your luggage in the car or does it get stored elsewhere? we will be traveling with one large suitcase and 1 med size. on our last trip in 2013 we made the mistake of hiring a driver to drive us from Positano to Florence. aside from being ridiculously expensive it was a much longer journey by car. this time we will take the fast train. thanks again – Cynthia

    1. Hi Cynthia, Yes in Executive Class there should be no problem with your luggage. We had two large suitcases and carry-ons with us. The overhead space in the compartment should be sufficient for your smaller items. For the larger suitcases there is a rack near the entrance of the car where you stow your baggage. Since there are fewer people and access is more limited and controlled in Executive Class it’s easy to keep an eye on your belongings. We loved Positano and Florence. Enjoy your upcoming trip!

  3. Great blog, so glad I found your blog!
    My friend and I are flying in to Milano 09/15 then train to Firenze so your insights are most helpful. Of course, most of our trip is with points also 🙂

    1. Thanks for reading Greg! Traveling by “Executive Class” was a fun novelty … though I’m thinking “regular First Class” would be just as comfortable 🙂 Firenze is one of my favorite cities! You will have a great time there. When you get a chance, check out some of my other Italy posts for more details on my experiences there.

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