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First or Second Class on Trenitalia Trains?

First or Second Class on Trenitalia Trains?

Oct 23rd, 2010, 11:28 AM
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First or Second Class on Trenitalia Trains?

AV, ES-Fast, ES, and ES-City TRAINS:

It's rarely worth the extra charge (most of the time), but here are the differences between first and second class seats on the aforementioned fast trains:

1. USUALLY, first class is three across, second class is four across. Consequently, first class has more seat and shoulder room

2. First class has electrically pivoting seats; second class are manually pivoting. (Seats pivot forward to afford a modest recline)

3. First class seat fabrics are "nicer" than second class. It's like having an "upgraded" cloth fabric on a passenger car.

4. There usually is slightly more leg room in first class (which may not be true in all cases, as it depends on the railcar configuration).

5. Because there are fewer seats per railcar in first class, seat density is lower, and railcars are usually quieter (fewer people talkiing to each other or on cell phones). This is not a "hard" rule, just a "rule of thumb."

6. Clientele in first class is often noticeably different than in second class. You usually don't see young travellers with backpacks or students in first class. You see more business people and government officials in first class.

7. First class seats are supposed to all have electrical sockets for high-tech portable gear such as laptops, dvd players, etc. Second class seats are also receiving these upgrades.

8. A first class railcar typically has 48-52 seats. A second class railcar typically has 68-72 seats.

9. On AV Frecciarossa trains, first class passengers are offered a complimentary "welcome drink" (juice or coffee), plus a sweet or salty snack, plus (a.m. departures only) an Italian-language newspaper. Market value is 3 Euros. Beverages and snacks may be purchased for nominal amounts from the bar in the cafe car.

10. The special luggage racks at the railcar ends for large suitcases are usually much larger in first class railcars. The ES-City trains have luggage racks in the center of each railcar.

OPINION: I often recommend first class for travellers who are LADEN DOWN with LOTS OF BIG AND HEAVY LUGGAGE. Otherwise, second class is perfectly fine for most, and on trips up to about 5 hours.


Here are the differences between 1st and 2nd class on traditional Intercity (IC) trains (those with separate seating compartiments with sliding glass doors):

1. Because there are 11 compartments per second class railcar, but only 9 compartments per first class railcar, there is more legroom in first class. THERE IS NO DIFFERENCE IN SEAT AND SHOULDER ROOM, because seats are all THREE across in the compartments.

2. Seat fabrics are "nicer" in first class.

3. Typically, each IC convoy has eight second class, and only two first class, railcars. Convoy compositions can change depending on seasonality and route.


1. IC trains no longer have restaurant or cafe cars. Some may have a "rolling cart" snack/beverage service.


3. IC trains have air conditioning and heating, but sometimes it does not function correctly (or at all).

4. All trains in Italy are non-smoking.

5. The IC trains are a useful "budget" alternative to the faster and nicer AV, ES-Fast, ES and ES-City trains.


The story is different as far as concerns "regionale" trains. VERY FEW regionale trains still have first class railcars. They are found primarily on longer-distance routes, such as Milan/Venice, Brenner Pass/Bologna, Pisa/Rome, Florence/Rome, Florence/Foligno and Rome/Perugia.

The most significant difference between first and second class on the regionale trains is that first class seats pivot forward to provide a modest recline, whereas second class seats do not. Consequently, first class seats are significantly more comfortable, and the extra cost (approx. 50%) can be justified on the longer trips approaching four hours.

The regionale trains between Florence and Rome have recently been modernized to the point that their comfort level approximates that of the traditional IC trains (indeed, they utilize converted IC railcars). Here is a description of these railcars (currently used between Florence and Rome) which points out differences between first and second cllass:

Each railcar has a combination of separate glass-enclosed compartments with sliding glass doors (as on the traditional IC trains), together with open-compartment seats (as on the AV trains). The closed compartments are at both ends of each railcar (two on one end and three on the other end). Each compartment seats six, three across, facing each other. Passengers travelling together can have more private conversations by choosing to sit in one of these compartments. By contrast, the open-compartment seats, which are in the center of each railcar, either face each other or face in the same direction. They are four-across in second class and three-across in first class. There are 50 such seats in each second class railcar and 28 seats in each first class railcar. That makes for a total of 80 seats in each second class, and 58 seats in each first class, railcar.

Each regionale convoy between Rome and Florence has six second class and two first class, railcars. That makes the total seating capacity 480 in second class and 116 in first class.

The seats, in both first and second class, are very firm, contoured, and entirely upholstered in cloth, with no vinyl or hard rubber as on second class seats on other regionale railcars. First class seats pivot forward (by pushing the seat bottom forward) to provide a modest recline, but second class seats are fixed and do not recline at all. Second class can consequently be slightly uncomfortable for a four-hour ride. The seats in first class are slightly wider (more hip and shoulder room), and there is more leg room as well because there are fewer seat rows in first class. Only first class seats have folding tray tables.

There are electrical outlets incorporated into the bottom of the trash recepticles at each seat row (both first and second class), which is handy for using laptop computers, DVD/CD players, cellphones and other electrical equipment.

These regionale trains between Florence and Rome have plenty of overhead room for luggage, as well as a few spots on the floor for heavy suitcases.

Most other regionale trains are NOT as nice as the regionale trains between Florence and Rome described above. Most regionale trains have only second class railcars, and are deployed on short-distance, high-density routes such as Florence/Viareggio and Florence/Pisa. Some routes have double-decker regionale trains, with very little space for large pieces of luggage. Other routes still utilize much older railcars which are relatively noisy and not as smooth as modern railcars (although these are slowly being replaced by state-of-the-art rolling stock).

Not all regionale trains have functioning air conditioning (although many do), and it's not unusual for one or more washrooms to be locked and out of order. There is no smoking on the regionale trains (as on all trains in Italy). Travelling on the regionale trains is definitely the "budget" option.

There are NO RESERVED SEATS on any of the regionale trains. Tickets for the regionale trains must ALWAYS be "validated" before boarding by punching them in the little yellow machines at the head of the track. All other Trenitalia trains have reserved seats which are assigned contemporaneously with ticket purchase, and tickets for these reserved trains do not need to be validated (although there is no harm doing so).
GAC is offline  
Oct 23rd, 2010, 12:00 PM
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GAC, this is super-informative -- all of the details a person would like to know to make an informed decision (but wouldn't be able to find anywhere else). Thanks so much for posting!
MoonGirl is offline  
Oct 23rd, 2010, 01:33 PM
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You forgot to mention that on Frecciarossa trains, you often get a chocolate!

I can confirm GAC's report that because many people don't want to spring for the extra bucks for first class, the first class compartments are usually less populated and therefore quieter, with less conversation, parties and cell phone chat. As for whether government officials are more charming than students, it's a close call!

One thing GAC doesn't mention is how often people who haven't bought a first class ticket simply sit in first class in the hope no one will make them move. If you show up and find someone sitting in your assigned seat, just show them your ticket with the seat number on it and keep nodding and smiling until they move.

I would also advise not using Regionale trains for the coastal line between Pisa and Genova. You will need to use them if you are visiting le Cinque Terre and other small towns. But if you need to cover distance, get yourself onto an IC train or an ES -- or anything with first class. The Regionale is a milk run and often has to wait in the station to let the IC and ES trains use the tracks first.
zeppole is offline  
Oct 23rd, 2010, 01:39 PM
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fmpden is offline  
Oct 23rd, 2010, 06:21 PM
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The pictures on Maninseat61 show you the differences in trains/classes on Italian trains.
kybourbon is offline  
Oct 23rd, 2010, 08:15 PM
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Yes great info

But a key difference IMO between first and second class you seem not to address is that often there are empty seats near you in first class - I ususally can put my backpack on an adjoining seat - rather then fending for storage space in 2nd class

And i hotly dispute your statement:

It's rarely worth the extra charge (most of the time)>

Bull crap IME - well worth it for the average foreign tourist on the trip of a lifetime - I really think you should ride more Italian trains before making such IMO a daft statement.

Cheers for othwerise impressive and great info
PalenQ is offline  
Oct 23rd, 2010, 10:17 PM
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Thank you for the info, we will be taking our first train in Italy soon.

Venice to Milan
Venice to Padua
cafegoddess is offline  
Oct 24th, 2010, 12:38 AM
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We have a general rule that if a trip is less than 3 hours we travel 2nd class, if longer than that then we treat ourselves to 1st class. Mainly for the extra leg room and it is usually quieter.

Don't forget that Italian trains leave the platform without any fanfare. There is no loudspeaker announcement or huge tooting of horns, just a tiny little toot and off they go. So make sure you are on the train in plenty of time.
cathies is offline  
Oct 24th, 2010, 12:45 AM
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Cathies, did you buy your tickets ahead or did you buy it when you got to Ilaty?
cafegoddess is offline  
Oct 24th, 2010, 02:24 AM
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We bought Venice to Cinque Terre before we left Australia through a website I can't remember the name of now, but I could find out for you if that helps. But to be honest I don't think we needed to bother.

Last time we were in Italy we did the following trips and just bought the tickets about an hour before we needed them. Rome - Naples (2nd class). Naples - Florence (1st class). Florence - Venice (2nd class). Venice - Cinque Terre (1st class) . Cinque Terre - Nice (1st class).

The ticket machines at the stations are easy to use. The first option is to choose the language you need and then just follow the prompts and you can pay by credit card or cash. The only thing we found a few times was that the actual seats on the train didn't match the options shown on the machine. So we sometimes found we were sitting side beside when we thought we were buying tickets that would be opposite each other. Didn't matter. My only other tip is to buy sandwiches etc at the train stations and take them with you on the train. The food on the train is expensive and not so good as the panini etc available at the stations.
cathies is offline  
Oct 24th, 2010, 03:39 AM
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Excellent information. I am planning a trip to Italy next year and had hoped to use trains for part of our trip. The information here is invaluable. I didn't realise it was so easy to buy tickets and that it was ok to wait until in Italy.
aussie_10 is offline  
Oct 24th, 2010, 03:42 AM
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Thanks cathies.
cafegoddess is offline  
Oct 24th, 2010, 07:50 AM
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Thanks, GAC, for all the really valuable information.

I would just like to add a word of caution about pre-booking.

We did not pre-book tickets from Venice to Florence, and despite arriving 40 minutes ahead of time, were unable to secure seats for that train. The train the next hour was also fully booked, there wasn't one the next hour, and we were finally able to get on the next one.

So we arrived at the Venice station at 9:50 am, and finally left Venice at 1:30 p.m.

Not wanting to go through that again, we prebooked all the rest. Maybe we were overcautious, and no other trains would have been so booked, but it was easy enough to pop in to either the station or a travel agent and get our tickets ahead.

Also, 2nd class was the only option available from Venice to Florence, and we found it just fine, so we booked 2nd from then on. We went with two carry-ons and one suitcase, and had no problem at all with storage. The carry-ons went in the overhead bin, and the suitcase fit in the space between the rows.

We didn't do first class, so I can't speak to that, but of course, more room in always preferable, but whether it would be worth the extra money, I can't say.

I can only say if 2nd was a cattle car or too uncomfortable we would have gone 1st, but we found it fine. Our longest trip was 3 hours.
markland is offline  
Oct 24th, 2010, 08:11 AM
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Markland's experience bears out something which I always recommend: whenever possible, try to book your long-distance Trenitalia train at least one or two days beforehand, particularly during the busy travel season, on typically busy days, and/or on busy routes:

Tourist Travel Season: late March through late October;

Busy days: Monday mornings, Friday and Sunday afternoons/evenings; periods around Easter, Christmas/New Year's, mid-June through mid-September;

Busy routes: examples are: Milan/Venice (and cities in-between); Venice/Florence; Venice/Rome.

Sometimes, it's just not possible to book ahead; e.g. when arriving by plane from North America at FCO or MXP or VCE or PSA, and immediately taking a train to your final Italian domestic destination. In that case, it's possible that you won't get your train of first choice. But, departures of the AV trains are almost always HOURLY or better, so the wait won't be long.

Although it's counterintuitive, sometimes first class sells out before second class (particularly on routes heavily travelled by foreign tourists such as Venice/Florence/Rome).

Remember, there are no seat reservations on the regionale (commuter) trains, including the regionale trains between Rome and Florence described in my original posting above.
GAC is offline  
Oct 24th, 2010, 01:58 PM
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And pay attention for the word "sciopero" (strike). The day or two before a sciopero is a zoo at any train station, with people scurrying to get whereever they are going before they get stuck.
tdyls is offline  
Oct 24th, 2010, 02:06 PM
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Frankly, I agree that 2nd class is perfectly fine. I'd rather spend my money on other things than extra leg room on a train that already offers fairly good leg room in 2nd class.

I've always found 2nd class to be great seating. Can't imagine why I'd want 1st class unless I was on a train for 12 hours. IMHO.
sarge56 is offline  
Oct 25th, 2010, 12:53 PM
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My opinion remains that folks who say there is little difference between classes have only ridden in 2nd class.
PalenQ is offline  
Oct 25th, 2010, 12:56 PM
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I've never found any reason to spend extra money and travel in 1st class
alihutch is offline  
Oct 25th, 2010, 04:41 PM
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To me, the most valuable thing about GAC's post was not so much the opinions about first versus second class -- this is clearly subjective, and will vary according to personal needs and resources -- but rather the wealth of detail provided that can help many of the rest of us make up our _own_ minds as to which suits. Thanks again for that, GAC.
MoonGirl is offline  
Oct 25th, 2010, 04:57 PM
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GAC, Mille Grazie.
i_am_kane is offline  

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