As the demand for Italy continues to soar and popular cities overflow with crowds, the bel paese is proposing a more thoughtful and sustainable way to visit the beloved Mediterranean country—a new series of tourist trains that will bring rail-loving travelers to and through some of Italy’s most enchanting landscapes.
Launching in 2024, FS Treni Turistici Italiani (Italian tourist trains) are poised to reimagine a kinder, slower travel throughout the country with alluring itineraries aboard vintage trains. The new venture is being launched by Italy’s state-owned Ferrovie dello Stato Italliane (FS), which operates the country’s primary railway Trenitalia. Whereas Trenitalia is FS’s rail network for all commuter train transport—from high-speed to local and regional trains—the Treni Turistici aims to be the tourist arm of FS.
The Treni Turistici will offer three categories of service: Lusso (Luxury), Espresso e Storici (Express and Historic), and Omnibus–Regionali (regional). All three categories are part of a cross-country network that will use older trains on new routes that combine both familiar and lesser-known destinations for day trips and overnight experiences.
What to know about the new FS Treni Turistici (Italian Tourist Trains)
FS Treni Turistici is intent on transforming Trenitalia’s standard stock of trains into a tailored fleet offering unique rail experiences—“a modern tourism strategy” that aims to help tourists get to know the country’s traditions and smaller towns, explained Antonio Tajani, Italy’s deputy prime minister, at a press conference last month annoucing the launch of Treni Turistici. According to FS statistics, 5.6 million people travel on the network’s trains each day, with about half taking regional trains. FS reported a 25 percent increase in ticket sales from tourist passengers in the first quarter of 2023 compared with the same period in 2019.
The new program is meant to blend luxury and sustainability with tradition and cultural heritage, with FS aiming to craft an experience that is as enriching as it is sustainable.
Lusso: Luxury rail journeys on 1920s and 1960s rail cars
One of the highlight of FS Treni Turistici Italiani will be Lusso, the forthcoming lineup of long-distance luxury sleeper trains. FS has partnered with hospitality group Accor to offer the La Dolce Vita train, a beautiful throwback to Italy’s fabulous golden age—an era defined by 1950s and ’60s Italian glamour that was popularized by Italian filmmaker Federico Fellini. The refurbished 11-car sleepers were styled by Dimorestudio, taking inspiration from the iconic designs of creatives Carlo Scarpa, Gio Ponti, and Piero Fornasetti. They will travel on one- to three-day curated journeys that are regionally focused (in north, south, or central Italy) and will include immersive local experiences like truffle hunting in Piedmont and exploring the UNESCO World Heritage site of Matera in Basilicata.
Espressi: 1980s-style trains to popular beach and mountain outposts
The Espressi experience will be a flashback to rail travel of the 1980s, featuring refurbished trains from the era that have been refitted with restaurant cars, sleeping cabins, and bike and ski storage. Espressi will link city-based travelers with favorite vacation hot spots all year long. Routes will include Milan to the Tuscan and Ligurian coasts, plus night “cruise” trains: overnight trains that depart on Friday nights from Rome to Ionian seaside regions like Puglia and Metaponto or to mountain destinations in the Dolomites for a long weekend. (There are also sometimes sightseeing stops along the way, depending on the route.)
Storici: Rail journeys that take a deep dive into history
Storici journeys will incorporate the historic trains of the FS Foundation and will feature some 400 rail itineraries running in almost all 20 regions of Italy. Usually operating short or day routes, these smaller trains will focus on cultural travel and will include stops for guided tours and tastings.
Omnibus–Regionali: More affordable regional rail trips
The Omnibus–Regionali routes are being designed to encourage weekend travel by offering enticingly priced regional rail journeys to villages and territories rich in beauty, culture, and gastronomic tradition. Details about the Omnibus–Regionali routes remain scant, but one possibility will be train rides to the borghi (medieval castle towns) of Abruzzo.
Italy’s existing collection of vintage trains
You don’t have to wait, however, to take a historic train ride through Italy. FS Italia already offers a collection of classic trains from restored steam locomotives to historic railcars that showcase cutting-edge 1950s and ‘60s design. Including both short intercity routes and longer day trips, these trains take you around the peninsula and islands of Sicily and Sardinia. (Sicily has a few options, including the Treno del Barocco, which takes you to Sicilian Baroque cities like Noto and Modica; Sardinia has the Trenino Verde, or Little Green Train, in the southeast.)
In Tuscany and Emilia-Romagna, the Treno di Dante (Dante train)—featuring rail cars from the early 1900s with wooden interiors—traces early Renaissance poet and father of the Italian language Dante Alighieri’s proverbial footsteps from Florence to Ravenna and back, with stops in i borghi più belli d’italia, Italy’s prettiest art towns that you’ve likely never even heard of, such as Brisighella and Marradi.
Naples’s short-distance Reggia Express is a 50-minute ride from the center of Campania’s capital to Caserta, home of the Reggia di Caserta (royal palace), on the restored 1930s Centoporte or 1950s Corbellini train.
For a literal breath-taking rail trip, Sicily’s Ferrovia Circumetnea winds its way through vineyards, olive groves, pistachio fields, and petrified lava circling active volcano Etna. Departing from and returning to Riposto, the 3.5-hour journey (about 110 km) is aboard a vintage 1950s Fiat single-car train.