A Real First Class in a Train: Review of Trenitalia’s Executive Class in the Frecciarossa 1000

Trenitalia Executive Class Sitze und Meeting Raum

Anyone who speaks of a first class on a plane inevitably has to think of champagne, gourmet menus and lots of space. It’s different with the train: With Deutsche Bahn, SBB, SNCF, … first class offers a slightly wider seat, a more quiet car, and a little more legroom – nothing more. Luxury is rarely found in an everyday means of transport like the train.

I was, thus, all the more astonished to see photos of a real first class on Italian trains last year. It was immediately clear to me: I have to try it myself. And shortly afterwards I was actually able to, as part of a small tour of Italy. In the flagship train, the Frecciarossa 1000, I went from Naples to Florence and later on to Milan. Below are a few impressions of the two trips in August 2021.

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The review is primarily based on the long journey from Naples to Florence. From time to time I will include experiences of the short trip from Florence to Milan two days later.

Travel Classes at Trenitalia

In most countries in Europe, travellers can choose between first and second class, that’s it. On Trenitalia’s high-speed trains, on the other hand, passengers have a handful of choices. There are four travel classes in the Frecciarossa 500 (ETR 500) and 1000 (ETR 400):

  • Standard Class: Typical economy seat in a 2-2 seating arrangement
  • Premium Class: Like Economy, but leather seats, welcome drink, and a small snack
  • Business Class: Seats in 1-2 configuration (similar to 1st class in most European countries). In addition, a free welcome drink and a small snack
  • Executive Class: True premium class with free food and drinks, 1-1 seating arrangement with only 8-10 seats per train

So that it doesn’t get too easy, there are different types of tickets in each travel class, which differ from each other in terms of the ability to cancel them, among other things. When booking, the whole thing quickly becomes confusing:

The fare system of the Italian railways is not exactly easy to understand

Booking

Acting by the motto all or nothing, I opted for the executive class. Booked individually, the two tickets Naples – Florence and Florence – Milan would have cost around €140 + €90 = €230. It probably wouldn’t have been worth it to me.

I opted for the Trenitalia Pass instead. For a fixed price of €212 (as a young person up to the age of 28) I was able to complete 3 journeys in a private night train compartment or, during the day, in executive class. From this, I put together the following itinerary:

  • Rome – Catania on the Trenitalia night train
  • Catania – Naples with Easyjet
  • Naples – Florence in Trenitalia’s executive class (Frecciarossa 1000)
  • Florence – Milan in Trenitalia’s executive class (Frecciarossa 1000)

I purposely chose connections that are made with the Frecciarossa 1000 (and not the Frecciarossa 500). The former is the flagship of the Trenitalia fleet and is significantly more luxurious, especially in executive class.

Lounge

Trenitalia operates five FrecciaLounges in Italy (as well as other FrecciaClubs in less frequented locations). Among other things, a frequent traveller status, a lounge subscription or an executive class ticket entitle you to access.

However, you have to find a way to get in. It took me two minutes to find the QR code reader for the ticket, but it didn’t open the door. I walked around the lounge twice to no avail and finally asked a staff member at the travel centre for advice. He pointed out the small, unlabelled bell above the card reader. It actually worked, and an employee opened the door (by pressing a button).

At the top, the ticket had to be shown briefly again and paradise was open to me… consisting of cola and biscuits. Not too convincing, but better than nothing. I found it a bit strange that only one drink and one snack would be allowed during the stay. At least the employee directly said that taking two would be OK.

Unfortunately, there was no decent place to work on my laptop, only deep mini desks. Ergonomically a disaster and sockets were also missing. As there would be enough space for a small work area, that’s some wasted potential.

As you can see from the pictures above, the Naples lounge was flooded with light and overall quite inviting. In Florence, on the other hand, a rather dark room without daylight was used. Generally, the Trenitalia lounges are roughly on the same level as an ÖBB lounge. Deutsche Bahn offers a little more in the first class area, but limits access to expensive flexible fares.

In the FrecciaLounge, short waiting times can definitely be spent better than in the train station. I wouldn’t spend more time there than necessary, though. If you have a lot of time, it is better to leave the train station and explore the city anyway.

After a pizza in Naples and half an hour in the lounge, I went to the platform – and boarded the train on time.

Trenitalia Frecciarossa 1000
Doesn’t it look fancy? An ETR 400 aka Fracciarossa 1000 from Trenitalia

Cabin

I had looked at some executive class reviews and videos before the trip. So it’s not like the train could surprise me in any way. And yet, I was flashed when I entered the executive class cabin for the first time:

Trenitalia Executive Class Sitze

It reminded me more of a private jet than an express train. And with just 10 seats for the entire train, the class is similarly exclusive too – at a fraction of the price.

I had reserved seat 5D – the first seat towards the front door. However, it turned out that I was the only passenger in executive class on the entire Naples – Florence route. And so, at some point, I sat down in row 3. My original seat could not be turned in the direction of travel. All other rows can be rotated at will – a great feature.

Seats

The seats were super comfortable and gave no cause for criticism. While my buttocks usually hurt after two or three hours on other European trains, I didn’t want to get up at all in executive class. Luckily I didn’t have to, because the food was brought to the table – but more on that later.

Trenitalia Executive Class Sitze 3
Executive class seats and rear door to the train’s cockpit

First, I had to familiarize myself with the functions of the seat. There is an electronic seat control for the backrest, leg rest and reading light:

Trenitalia Executive Class Sitzverstellung

The seat cannot be adjusted to produce a completely flat surface, but the inclination is quite decent. Here is a picture of it fully reclined:

Trenitalia Executive Class Sitz reclined

As you can see, there is also a footrest that can be adjusted at the same time.

Of course, there is also a large table that slides out of the armrest, just like on a plane. Before the trip, I was a bit concerned that it would not be suitable for working on my laptop. But these worries disappeared immediately. Even my mouse pad (I don’t travel without it) could be placed on the table without any problems:

Trenitalia Executive Class Laptop
Sufficient space to work – with a socket and a good view

Overall, the seat reminded me a bit of the armchair in the Singapore Airlines suite. The difference is that there isn’t an extra bed here (a pity really) and there is less privacy. However, a trip in executive class costs around €100 and a similarly long flight in the Singapore Suite costs twenty times as much.

Did I mention how comfortable the seat was? Yes. Then let’s go on:

Food & Drinks

All food and beverages are included in executive class. The service began quite unspectacularly a few minutes after departure with a water bottle and a small amenity kit with a mask and disinfectant gel:

Trenitalia Executive Class Wasser

I was also given the menu (in English and Italian). I could choose from seven main courses for lunch/dinner and a few other options:

Trenitalia Executive Class Speisekarte

At first, I wasn’t quite sure what I could order, but I quickly found out: everything.

So I started with a portion of prosciutto and Parmesan. Not only was it prepared with great care, but it also tasted great:

Trenitalia Executive Class Vorspeise
Ham platter with Parmesan

Only the dry ready-to-eat bun didn’t quite go with it. But I’ll blame that on Covid savings. I continued with a fish fillet (sea bream) and a lot of parsley potatoes. A small misunderstanding caused the fish to be served without the caponata (vegetable dish). That’s why the whole thing looks a bit sad in the picture – it still tasted good.

As far as the drinks are concerned, I can report three white wines, one Prosecco and three red wines. There were also three types of beer on the menu. I haven’t tried any of it, but wine drinkers will definitely get their money’s worth:

Trenitalia Executive Class Getraenkekarte 1
Wine and beer menu at Trenitalia

Various soft drinks were also available and of course espresso. After all, we are in Italy. After the meal, I was strengthened for the trip to Florence and worked the rest of the way. My coke was occasionally refilled and if I had asked I would have got something more to eat.

Service

The service was friendly everywhere but varied greatly. Basically, I have absolutely no complaints – certainly also because I was the only guest in the luxury class for three hours. But there were big differences between the employees I was in contact with.

I really enjoyed the Italian hospitality, especially in the first hour from Naples to Rome. The train attendant’s English was a bit brittle, but the service was unbeatable. I was constantly asked what I wanted and with an authentic smile on her face.

Unfortunately, there was a change of staff in Rome, and I was “only” asked two or three more times if I needed anything. It was similar on the subsequent trip from Florence to Milan.

However, such fluctuations in service are to be expected in a railway company with thousands of employees. In any case, it should be noted that the food was always delivered quickly and that I never died of thirst. There is always room for improvement, of course.

The Meeting Room

The Frecciarossa 1000 offers another very special feature: an exclusive meeting room on the train. A great idea on paper and also very impressive in practice.

The room is separated from the rest of the executive class by a glass wall. There are a total of five seats spread around a long meeting table. The room even has a large screen with an HDMI connection for presentations. How cool is that?

However, after two trips, I don’t quite know what to think of the working area:

  • The room could not be reserved. Neither with an executive nor business class ticket
  • On the first trip, the room was unoccupied for an hour. After the change of personnel in Rome, however, the train conductors made themselves comfortable there
  • On the way from Florence to Milan, two people had managed to reserve the meeting room. They first entered executive class with a spark in their eyes – only to find that their reserved seats were in the meeting room.

In general, it is both impressive and irritating how generously Trenitalia uses the space in executive class. One of the two end cars of the train accommodates 68 standard class seats. The other just 10 executive class seats and said meeting room. But the comfort can’t be beaten.

Extras

The train is not only beautifully designed inside and out, but also a masterpiece of Italian engineering. The trip was very smooth and seemed to be somewhat better than in other European trains, and the train was a little better insulated. Of course, this can also be due to the express route tracks and not the train.

There are two European sockets in the armrest of the seat. A small power supply unit with two USB ports was installed in some sockets to also supply smartphones and the like with power.

Trenitalia Executive Class Steckdose
Socket with USB ports

Monitors in the ceiling show where the train is at the moment, how fast it is going, etc. Some information about the weather and, for example, the obligation to wear masks was also displayed there.

Wi-Fi is available free of charge. The speed isn’t great, but it’s okay for work. In the speed test, I counted an average of 5 – 7 MBit/s downstream and approx. 3 MBit/s upstream. Although this is slower than a hotspot with a smartphone, access worked without any problems, even in the numerous tunnels. The registration for the Wi-Fi was easy.

Shortly before arriving in Florence, I received an email that the train was two minutes late. I wouldn’t have known about it if it wasn’t for the message.

Trenitalia Executive Class Vorspeise mit Aussicht
Trenitalia Executive Class Frecciarossa 1000
  • App & website
  • Lounge
  • Seat & comfort
  • Food & drinks
  • Service
  • Wi-Fi & extras
4.13
Conclusion

I like to travel by train and find it relaxing to observe the different landscapes. But apart from that, travelling by train in most countries is pretty… boring and uncomfortable after a while. It doesn’t matter if it’s first or second class.

It was all the more fun for me to experience real luxury in Italy. Trenitalia does pretty much everything right with its executive class. It starts with the super comfortable seat and ends with the included meals. Of course, a ride is not super cheap, but the price-value ratio was definitely right. I will definitely consider the executive class again on my next trip to Italy.

Meanwhile, I’m thinking about what a train with real business class seats would look like. On the route from Lecce to Milan, the Frecciarossa 1000 takes almost ten hours. A lie-flat cabin like in a plane would be a real innovation. Of course, there are night trains, but they are usually not suitable for working on a laptop.

Write a comment

Comments (6)

  1. Marina T says:

    To tell the truth, I completely understand your astonishment because before this moment I hadn’t seen first class on trains. It is truly cool that you decided to try it in practice and feel all the pros and cons of such an experience because it is really important to know that the price justifies the quality. It is so interesting that the executive class impresses you to such a great extent and, of course, it can give you a special range of emotions, but it is absolutely justified. I’m so glad to read that everything is thought out to the smallest details and that everything is developed at the highest level because in executive class passengers don’t need to face disappointment. No matter what, I can say that the price is quite acceptable and not sky-high as I expected. Of course, everything can’t be perfect, but in this case advantages significantly outweigh disadvantages and I think you won’t regret your decision.
    // Marina Teramond

  2. saira says:

    How old is this review? We are planning a trip to Italy for the first time and can’t decide if it’s worth buying a 1st class train ticket from Rome to Florence with kids.
    Please let me know when you get a chance.
    We live in SF, California and it’s our first trip to Italy.

  3. Tan says:

    The text in the photo of the menu is really difficult to read. It’s not just you, ALL Travel-Dealz menu photos seem to be like that. Have a look at how OMAAT do them.

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