Should I use Italo Treno or Trenitalia? We compare both.

Yes, it’s true the Frugal Fliers don’t fly everywhere. Sometimes the train is most convenient, but that doesn’t mean we’re any less frugal.

After flying into Rome we wanted to branch out to see more of Italy’s amazing cities. We knew we’d need to take at least four trains and it gave us the chance to compare Italy’s two high-speed rail operators. Trenitalia is the legacy, state-run operator. Italo Treno is the new kid on the block, starting service in 2012.

Background
Italo puts tickets on sale about five months in advance, while Italo waits to sell until four months. I noticed Trenitalia offers few sales and fares generally rise over time. Italo’s base fares rise slower, but they offer weekly promo codes on Facebook that can save money (read: never pay full price).

Trip #1 Rome to Naples
Both companies operate out of Roma Termini, which was closer to our hotel. I knew I wanted a train that didn’t depart too early, but would also get us to Naples so we could see Pompeii.
Departing Roma Termini Station

Trenitalia offered fares as cheap as €9.90-€19.90, but they were for slow, regional trains or times that didn’t work for our trip.

Italo seemed like the better option with tickets starting around €24. Fares were higher than that by the time we even thought about this trip. I waited for Italo to offer a 50 percent off coupon code and snapped up tickets for the hour-long ride at €16.10 each in “Comfort” class.

Comfort is Italo’s version of Premium Economy. Seats are 1x2 instead of 2x2 in Economy. This allowed us both to have a window seat with a table between us. It also worked out only a few cents higher than economy.

Verdict: Italo (better price, schedule and seating class) 

Trip #2 Naples to Rome 
Looking out the window from
our "Comfort" seats in Naples
After a day in Pompeii, we had to get back to our hotel in Rome. We decided to leave enough time to have dinner in Naples, but we didn’t want to get back too late.

Again, Trenitalia’s fares were significantly higher for its high-speed Le Frecce service. Regional trains were cheaper, but much slower.

Instead, we again turned to Italo. Tickets, again, start at €24, but the fare was higher when we went to book. I was able to use the same 50 percent promo code to bring the price down to €16.10 each in “Comfort” class.

The train was waiting for us when we got to Naples, left on time and got us to Rome early.

Verdict: Italo Treno (better price, schedule and seating class)

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Trip #3 Rome to Venice 
Outside Venezia Santa Lucia station
Both Trenitalia and Italo compete on this route, but once again Italo offered the best price. If you’re going to mainland Venice, get off at Mestre (where hotels are often cheaper) otherwise continue to Santa Lucia to the historic city.

Italo fares start at €9.90 for this route, but we booked late so the cheapest fares were long gone. Instead we used a 60 percent off promo code to get the price down to €23.70 each in Economy class.

It’s certainly not the best price, but it was less than half what Trenitalia was charging at €59.90.

The train left on time and arrived early. The economy seats were comfortable and we slept most of the way.

Verdict: Italo Treno (cheaper) 

Trip #4 Venice to Lucerne (via Milan) 
Milano Centrale station
After a weekend in Venice, it was time to head to Lucerne. Trenitalia is the only one servicing this route so we braced for high fares.

At first, we planned to take an early Le Frecce train to Milan and connect to another train to Lucerne. We were pleasantly surprised to find Trenitalia offering fares around €30 for the entire journey, but we decided to keep digging.

We then found a fare the evening before we planned to leave Venice to Milan for €9.90. It was too good to pass up so we snagged it and used a corporate discount to get an affordable rate at a hotel near Milano Centrale station. It gave us the chance to see a bit of Milan and sleep in before leaving for Switzerland.

Within the same booking we also added the train from Milan to Lucerne the following day. It’s important to group as much as you can within the same reservation. This way, in the event of a strike or delay you can ensure you end up at your intended destination.

A Trenitalia overnight train 
Trenitalia and SBB co-operate the route from Milan as EuroCity service. Both companies sell tickets for the same train with different prices and policies. It pays to shop around. We found SBB to be significantly higher while Trenitalia offered €9.90 fares.

Seating was a bit odd to Milan. We used the seat map to select seats 86 and 88 that were displayed next to each other. When we boarded, we found seat 86 next to 82 and 88 next to 84. The train was pretty empty so we just sat next to each other and hoped nobody complained. They didn’t. In fact, it took an hour for anyone to check our tickets. The other seat remained empty the entire ride.

We tried to confirm our seats were next to each other to Lucerne, but the Trenitalia ticket office in Milan was packed. After waiting 10 minutes and seeing no movement in the line we decided to just take our chances. Thankfully those seats were listed correctly.

A view of a mountain in
Switzerland
Both rides were uneventful and we arrived on time.

Verdict: Trenitalia (only choice, cheaper prices than SBB) 

Final Thoughts
Italo offered the better pricing, especially if you look on their Facebook page for the discount codes.

Both operators provide comparable service. Italo’s trains seemed newer and offered a fresher look. I also felt more confident in Italo’s operation after seeing the chaos in Trenitalia’s customer service office.
Should I use Italo Treno or Trenitalia? We compare both. Should I use Italo Treno or Trenitalia? We compare both. Reviewed by Brandon on February 21, 2018 Rating: 5

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