The iconic phrase from yesteryear “It’s quicker by rail” really does ring true even today as we travel in the midst of yet another trenitalia strike. Despite the workers’ “industrial action” and the crowds at the customer service desk, this strike was hardly debilitating, and the only trains with cancelations were the regional services. Intercity and Freccia trains were all running on time and without delay.
For a city trip in Italy, we always chose to travel by rail. Why? Convienence, economics, speed. Every major city in Italy is linked by high speed rail service. Purchased in advance, ticket prices are very reasonable. Compared to driving, when you calculate autostrade tolls, gas prices, and if you are a tourist, the price of a rental car, the math doesn’t lie. Take our trip for example.
We only knew about our Torino adventure about 30 days in advance, so while not last minute, we were still able to purchase the middle tier tickets. Our outbound leg from Vicenza to Torino was 58,00€, coming back, 78,00€. Total roundtrip transportation cost, 136,00€. Why was the trip back more expensive? Well it turns out I mistakenly scored us a pair of first class tickets for the return.
What if we had driven? Let’s say we are young couple touring Italy on vacation and for some reason started in Vicenza. Minimum €40 a day for a rental car you won’t even be using when on a city trip. Minimum €10 per day parking in central Torino. 335km driving distance in your compact car getting a respectable 6 liters per 100km fuel economy with petrol running let’s say €1,50 per liter will add another €30,15 each way. Tolls alone are 28€ each way. Total cost because you just had to have a car – €316,30.
Let’s talk about the time factor. Is it really quicker by rail? The short answer is, it depends. Regional service from one town to the next town down the line will always be faster than driving. Same for intercity service. Regional trains over long distances are agonizingly slow, but by far the least expensive mode of transport. Move up to intercity service and frecciaBianca trains and your transit time is a wash, again, depending on the distance. Top tier FrecciaArgento and FrecciaRossa will scream along at 200kph and up, even with multiple stops way faster than driving, and using the earlier example way cheaper too.
Our journey today is scheduled for 3 hours and 44 minutes. Non-stop drive time between central Torino and our house in Arcugnano would take roughly the same amount of time. However if you are looking to travel from say Milano to Rome, your best case scenario drive time is five and a half hours. Trenitalia will get you there in three. So yes, it is quicker by rail!