One of Trenitalia's Frecciargento trains travelling through Florence Campo di Marte station (photo © Zazamaza / dreamstime.com).
There was a time when Trenitalia’s posh Frecciarossa (FR) and Frecciargento (FA) trains stuck mainly to high-speed lines. But in recent years, Italy’s national rail operator has been running these high-spec trains to more distant parts of the national network. This might be seen as part of positive regional policy – making sure that more peripheral regions get their share of the posh trains. Some observers take the view that it’s a deeply political project as Trenitalia buys favour from local authorities and taxpayers whose support it desperately needs to fund investment in the next big round of spending on high-speed trains.
Trenitalia has thus carefully ensured that smart FA and FR trains are there to be seen in regional capitals well away from the main high-speed network.
In March 2018, the first Frecciarossa trains were seen in Genoa with the launch of a new direct service to Venice from the Ligurian port. Later in 2018, a new FA link from Perugia to Turin was launched. Genoa and Perugia are respectively the capitals of the provinces of Liguria and Umbria.
Trains are thus part of the national project of integration. The once-daily Frecciarossa to Taranto is a regular reminder that every remote outpost of Italy is just a few hours away from the capital or the big northern cities. Taranto to Milan takes about nine hours.
This week sees the launch of a new and extraordinarily long Frecciargento route linking Italy’s Alto Adige (or South Tyrol) province with Calabria. Over the last couple of years, Trenitalia has extended some FA trains up to Bolzano. So there are now five FA trains each day from Bolzano to Rome. These route south via Verona to Bologna, where they join the main high-speed line for a fast dash south through Florence to Rome. With the first FA of the day from Bolzano getting into Rome before 10 in the morning, it has now become perfectly possible to make a day trip from the provincial capital of South Tyrol to Rome and back.
Two of the five Bolzano to Rome trains have been extended south to Naples. But starting Monday 16 September, one FA each day will run right through to Sibari on the Gulf of Taranto coast of Calabria. It will thus be possible to make a daytime journey without a change of train from Italy’s northernmost mainland province to the country’s southernmost mainland province.
The train which is being extended to Italy’s Deep South is the existing lunchtime run from Bolzano to Rome (FA8517). With a departure from Bolzano at 13.16, the train will have an extended stop in Rome (arriving at 17.53 and departing at 18.14) and then run fast to the new Afragola station in Naples’ northern suburbs. Then it will continue via Salerno, Scalea and Paola before turning inland and running through the Santomarco Tunnel to reach Calabria’s east coast. Arrival in Sibari is at 22.45.
The FA train will stay over night in Sibari, and return to Bolzano by the same route the following morning. The northbound departure is at 06.15 from Sibari, arriving in Rome at 10.30. The train then picks up the timings of the existing FA8512, leaving Rome at 10.45 and arriving in Bolzano at 15.14.
The train offers the normal two classes of service common to FA trains. One-way fares in second class start at under €50 with first-class fares from about €80.