Flying to Italy: ITA Airways, Italy’s New National Airline, Has Arrived

Italy recently bid arrivederci to its long-running national flagship carrier, Alitalia, as operations have launched for its successor, Italia Trasporto Aero, or ITA Airways.

With inaugural flights from hubs in Rome and Milan Linate, ITA officially took to the skies on October 15. But liftoff wasn’t without minor turbulence, most notably some confusion over its name and branding. Just before officially launching service, ITA announced its €90 million (about $104 million) purchase for naming rights of its predecessor, which had been leading some industry insiders to speculate it would continue to operate under the Alitalia banner.

However, executives decided to make the ITA Airways moniker official, although some of the inventory and aircraft it purchased from Alitalia still currently bear the brand. “Until just a few hours before they started operating, we ended up knowing they would not be called Alitalia,” says Jacob Wert, a Germany-based aviation journalist for outlets including Aero Telegraph. “Everyone expected them to be named Alitalia, given that they spent €90 million for that name.”

In addition, the company is reportedly taking on fewer than a third of Alitalia’s 10,000 employees, a move that led to a protest by about 50 former Alitalia flight attendants days after ITA’s launch. According to the AP, union officials say the employees who will work for ITA are being hired at significantly lower pay scales. (A press contact for ITA did not respond to requests for comment.)

As aviation insiders keep an eye on what’s next for ITA, here’s what else travelers should know about the new airline.

Transatlantic routes are in the works

ITA’s initial network will span 44 destinations, 59 routes, and 191 flights in total. With bases in Rome’s Fiumicino and Milan’s Linate airports, it will offer 24 domestic and 56 international options to start, increasing in 2022 to 58 destinations and 74 routes. By 2025, plans are to expand to 74 destinations and 89 total routes.

However, as Wert points out, the initial fleet is a slimmed-down version of its predecessor’s. “One aircraft type they didn’t take over was the Boeing 777, which means their long-haul fleet is also significantly reduced,” he says. “Which inevitably means that ITA Airways will probably operate much fewer long-haul routes in the near future.”

Indeed, U.S.-based travelers dreaming of a getaway on ITA to the land of la dolce vita should keep in mind that options will be limited for a while. The airline plans to start offering service to New York JFK in November, but currently, navigating its website to price an Italy-bound flight is tricky (drop-down menus to select destinations are cumbersome, and the site often defaults to Italian). A search for a New York–bound flight from Italy, meanwhile, turned up a round trip, basic economy fare for around $380 in November. Enticing, to be sure, but it’s not a direct flight: It departs from Brindisi, a city in the southern tip of the country, and connects through Rome.

Source link

How Italy’s high-speed trains killed Alitalia

(CNN) — Over a decade ago, when Francesco Galietti had to travel from his native Rome to Milan for work, he used to fly the nearly 400-mile route. Today, he takes the train.

Galietti — CEO of Rome-based political risk consultancy Policy Sonar — is not alone. Figures released in 2019 by Italy state railway company Ferrovie dello Stato show that the number of passengers taking the train on the country’s main business route, between Rome and Milan, has almost quadrupled in a decade, from 1 million in 2008 to 3.6 million by 2018.

Over two thirds of people traveling between the two cities now takes the train. It’s a remarkable endorsement of Italy’s high-speed rail network, which debuted in 2008.

Traveling those near-400 miles between Milan and Rome takes as little as 2 hours and 59 minutes. And, of course, the train stations are in the city center, and there’s no need to turn up long before your train — the doors close two minutes before departure.

Contrast that to a minimum half-hour drive to Rome’s Fiumicino, checking in 90 minutes before departure, an hour in the air and then landing outside Milan — Linate airport, the closest, is about 20 minutes’ drive into town — and it’s obvious why people are opting for the train.

Which leads you to wonder, as Italy’s national airline prepares to shut down on October 15 — did the high-speed railways kill Alitalia?

Galietti thinks so.

“Alitalia was a bird with its wings very much clipped from the start — for an international carrier, it was very much focused on the domestic market,” he says.

Italy's high-speed stations, like Porta Susa in Turin, are destinations in themselves.

Italy’s high-speed stations, like Porta Susa in Turin, are destinations in themselves.

Enrico Spanu/REDA&CO/Universal Images Group/Getty Images

Of course, in one way that makes sense — Italians mostly vacation in Italy, and visitors want to tick off sights the length and breadth of the country. Flying into Milan, and then onwards to Naples or Rome, is a natural step for people coming from countries such as the US, where air travel is common.

But, says Galietti, that domestic focus meant that Alitalia was susceptible to competition when the low-cost flight revolution started — and then from the high-speed trains.

“It was a nasty cocktail,” he says. “On that [domestic] market they had massive competition from low-cost airlines and trains. Myself, if I have to go to Milan, Turin or Venice, I take the train, like many others. The Frecciarossa (one of the high-speed trains) goes from city center to city center, you don’t land 20 miles outside the suburbs — it’s a terrible competition [for Alitalia].”

Tourists feel the same way. Cristina Taylor, a frequent visitor to Italy from the UK, says she finds taking the train “easier.”

“You leave and arrive from city centers, there’s no airport check-in or transits between airports to the cities. Also they’ve gotten better over the years in terms of accommodating international passengers in the sense that there are proper places to put your suitcases.

“I do think it’s good value — you save time and money.”

The new dolce vita

Trenitalia's Frecce trains blast through the countryside at 224mph.

Trenitalia’s Frecce trains blast through the countryside at 224mph.

Alessia Pierdomenico/Bloomberg/Getty Images

Today’s high-speed system is a far cry from the railway network of Italy’s past, in which trains were slow, outdated and usually late.

There are even two high-speed companies to choose from. Trenitalia, the state operator, has its Frecce (“Arrows”) trains, the Frecciarossa, Frecciabianca and Frecciargento (Red, White and Silver Arrows), each covering a section of Italy, roughly in a T shape along the northern part of the country, and then straight down the Italian peninsula. The fastest Frecciarossa trains can run at 360kmph (224mph).

Meanwhile, Nuovo Trasporto Viaggiatori, a private company, launched its Italo trains in 2012, covering 54 cities a day. Italy is the only country in the world to have two high-speed train operators. It’s also home to the world’s first high-speed freight service, running between Bologna and Maddaloni, in Campania, in just three and a half hours.

Prices are relatively modest — regional (though not high-speed) rail travel is subsidized — Galietti calls the fares “not much” compared to France, Germany and Switzerland. And onboard, the experience is not unlike that of an airline. Every passenger must have a reserved seat to board — nobody is allowed to just hop on and hope to find a spot. Passengers can pick their seat when buying a ticket, and can accrue points that win them status. Both Trenitalia and Italo have lounges at their main stations for top-tier travelers.

Leading by example

Italy's rise in high-speed train passengers has coincided with a decline in domestic flights.

Italy’s rise in high-speed train passengers has coincided with a decline in domestic flights.

Massimo Insabato/Mondadori Portfolio/Getty Images

Carlo Barbante is one of them. The director of the Institute of Polar Sciences at Venice’s Ca’ Foscari university, he travels regularly to Rome, and takes the Frecciarossa train.

“It’s more convenient for everything,” he says. “I like the carbon footprint first and foremost, but I like that I can check in a few minutes before departure, can walk around easily, and feel very safe and comfortable.”

As a climate scientist, Barbante has always taken the train — “If we’re trying to convince people to reduce their carbon footprint in any way, we have to give the example — be in the first row showing that we’re using public transport,” he says. “I feel it as a duty — the train is one of the most reliable ways to reduce your carbon footprint.”

Before the high-speed revolution, however, Italian trains were too slow to make Venice to Rome (about 330 miles) a viable day trip. Instead, he used to take the night trains.

Until a couple of years ago, he says, there was a super-fast train that just stopped at Venice, Padova and Rome, which took just over three hours. Today, with extra stops at Ferrara, Bologna and Florence, it’s just under four. But that’s still faster door to door than it would be to fly.

Barbante has just come back from a trip to Geneva from Venice, all by train. “It was very comfortable — there was no reason to take a flight. You have all the time to work and relax,” he says.

“I think the high-speed trains are taking a good part of the domestic flight market. They’re faster and more comfortable.”

The stats bear him out.

Trenitalia commissioned a report in 2019 to look at how things had changed in the first decade of high-speed trains. It showed that the number of trains on the lines had doubled, and that passenger numbers on its high-speed trains had rocketed from 6.5 million in 2008 to 40 million in 2018 — and that’s not including those who use Italo.

The number of high-speed trains in the fleet had doubled to 144, and in 2018, 69% of all passengers going between Rome and Milan took the train — up 7.4% in just three years. Meanwhile air travel dipped almost 7% in the three years to 2018, with just 19.5% of the market.

Italy’s rail revolution

In a world first, Italo trains are the privately owned rivals to the state-owned Frecce trains.

In a world first, Italo trains are the privately owned rivals to the state-owned Frecce trains.

Andreas Solaro/AFP/Getty Images

There were clear knock-on effects, too. While real estate prices in Milan dipped 20.5% from 2008 to 2018, prices for offices around the high-speed stations of Rogoredo and Porta Garibaldi were up around 10%.

The number of tourists using the trains had rocketed from 1.8 million in 2008 to 7.3 million in 2018. Rome to Florence and Venice are the most popular tourist routes — the latter would, in the old days, have been a prime flight route.

In fact, the link between Italy’s trains and planes was made pretty clear in 2019, when a merger was mooted between the fast-sinking Alitalia and Trenitalia.

Former Ferrovie dello Stato Mauro Moretti had a real vision for a possible merger, says Galietti. It was: “Why would you cannibalize each other if we can integrate transport? He had a grand vision of some stretches on planes, some with trains and the final miles with buses. We owe the Frecciarossa revolution to him, and it sounded like a very enlightened proposal.”

However, without Moretti, Galietti calls the idea “fishy” and suggests that the fact that regional train travel is subsidized in Italy could have been a way for Alitalia to rescue itself, had it merged with Ferrovie dello Stato. It would, by that point, he says, have been “no longer visionary but opportunistic.”

Ultimately, Alitalia wasn’t opportunistic enough. “They had surprisingly few flights abroad and were not the masters of their own turf — others were,” says Galietti, who also says their cost structure allowed them to “bleed out.”

And as Alitalia flights take off for the last time on October 14, two of the new masters of its former turf — the Frecce and Italo trains — are going from strength to strength.

Top image credit: Alessandro Bremec/NurPhoto/AP

Source link

Volcanoes, gelato and canals: Italy’s great small cities chosen by readers | Italy holidays

Winning tip: Happy wanderer in Puglia

A little piece of my soul was left in Polignano a Mare, a beautiful slice of real Italian life in Puglia. Pretty houses perching on clifftops overlooking emerald seas, a labyrinth of streets leading to a stunning old town, delectable gelato and a buzzy atmosphere as locals promenade and music plays, all combine to create a real gem. The contemporary art museum is worth a gander. It is the wandering, however, getting lost in delightful white-washed streets, stumbling across the poetry written on doorways and stairs, finding a clifftop bar beloved by locals, which is the key to enjoying this romantic town.
Vivienne Francis, Kent

Lovely Lucca

Photograph: JM_Image_Factory/Getty Images

Lucca is the hidden jewel in the Tuscan crown of Italy, and September is the best time to visit. Just 20 minutes from Pisa, its medieval walls, cobbled streets and shaded squares create a calm, quiet atmosphere. Cars are absent inside the walls, so it’s great to stroll around at any time, and not uncommon to hear Puccini’s music playing from open windows or balconies – Lucca is the composer’s home town. Around mid-September a candlelit procession followed by fireworks and open-air festivities mark the climax of the Holy Cross festival – simply magic.
Yasmin, Cambridge

Venice without the hype

Great water view of Chioggia with vintage cabins and bridgeChioggia, little Venice in Italy
Photograph: LianeM/Getty Images

Chioggia is like Venice without the crowds and the high prices. At the southern end of the Venetian lagoon, it combines views of the snowcapped peaks of the Dolomites on a clear day and the Adriatic from its fine, sandy beach. The pastel-coloured houses create a colourful canvas to its waterways, as the fishing boats chug slowly along, dispensing their catch to local trattories. A medieval clocktower watches over the city and the Museum of Adriatic Zoology showcases the area’s maritime traditions. Sit at a cafe sipping your cappuccino with vistas of calm canals and chatting fishers.
Gonca, Birmingham

Baroque gems in Vigevano

Italy, Lombardy, Vigevano, Ducale Square
Photograph: AGF Srl/Alamy

Just 35km south-west of Milan and easily accessible by road and rail, the town of Vigevano is an architectural gem. Its centre is dominated by the Castello Sforzesco, now a museum which is closely linked to that of Milan: it is connected to the town’s outer fortifications by an amazing and unique 200 metre-long medieval, covered bridge and roadway which allowed horsemen to ride directly from the castle to defend the town. Alongside the castle is the breathtaking 15th-century porticoed Piazza Ducale, enclosed at one end by the baroque cathedral – it is one of the most breathtaking open spaces in Italy.
Ian Statham, Cardiff


Readers’ tips: send a tip for a chance to win a £200 voucher for a Sawday’s stay


Guardian Travel readers’ tips

Every week we ask our readers for recommendations from their travels. A selection of tips will be featured online and may appear in print. To enter the latest competition visit the readers’ tips homepage

Thank you for your feedback.

Artisanal Anghiari

alley in the medieval village Anghiari, Arezzo, Tuscany
Photograph: Getty Images

The vast, 13th-century defensive walls of Anghiari still loom high over the plain of the Valtiberina, location of the decisive Florentine victory over the Milanese in 1440, and celebrated annually by a colourful, viciously contested Palio. Hidden within, a flower-strewn labyrinth of winding alleyways reveals linen looms, artisans’ workshops and boutiques hewn from the bedrock. The Southbank Sinfonia performs in the piazza under the stars each July, and the town revels in seasonal celebrations of Tuscan gastronomy, culminating in the “Chequered Tablecloth”, in which local produce is served at candlelit, communal tables, accompanied by performances of folklore, poetry and song and dance.
Benedict Leonard, London

Roman Christian mosaics in Ravenna

Mosaic of the baptism of Jesus, in the Arian Baptistry of Ravenna.
Mosaic of the baptism of Jesus, in the Arian Baptistry in Ravenna. Photograph: Michael Honegger/Alamy

Go to Ravenna – it is perfect for a long weekend, and close to Bologna. The imperial capital in the dying days of the Roman empire, it houses the most amazing collection of early Christian mosaics you’ll ever see. The art mostly dates from the fifth and sixth centuries and adorns just a handful of ancient churches in the compact city centre. The imagery is a real shock. There are no crucifixions or other signs of Christ’s suffering, and everywhere you’ll see sheep. Yes, they took the idea of us all being a flock very literally 1,500 years ago.
Chris Wilson, Fife

Sunsets in Sicily

Taormina with Mount Etna at sunset.
Taormina with Mount Etna at sunset. Photograph: Westend61/Getty Images

The city of Taormina in Sicily has it all. It’s perched on a hilltop, therefore boasting amazing views of an active volcano, Mount Etna, while also having beautiful sandy coves, which can be accessed by a steep hike or via cable car. The town’s piazza is one of the best places to watch the sun set in Sicily and a visit to the ancient Greek-Roman theatre is not to be missed– you can even catch a show here today.
Rachel W, Cumbria

Blown away in Sardinia

The Roman amphitheatre of Cagliari
The Roman amphitheatre in Cagliari. Photograph: Luis Leamus/Alamy

Try a short break in Cagliari, a beautiful and bustling port city on the island of Sardinia – . Countless places to eat and drink, all fiercely proud of the local produce. Bombas, a modern burger restaurant, is nestled inside a cave within the stunning medieval city walls. Sightseeing includes La Torre dell’Elefante, an imposing 14th-century limestone tower, the sprawling ruins of the Roman amphitheatre and a host of museums and galleries. We visited not expecting much, but were blown away by what Cagliari had to offer.
Dom S, Accrington

Railway rapture in Genoa

funicular railway Genoa
Photograph: Roberto Lo Savio/Alamy

Genoa is steep, built into the Ligurian cliffs. But if you don’t fancy walking up and down the many staircases, there are a series of delightful funicular railways. The Zecca-Righi funicular gets you from the city centre to the high hills in minutes. But best of all is the cute and weird Ascensore Castello d’Albertis-Montegalletto – a delightful little carriage that trundles you 300 metres into the hillside, before boarding its own lift to leave you high up above the city, overlooking the port and just around the corner from the Museum of World Cultures. Journeys are €0.90.
Thom, London

Friuli had you fooled?

Piazza Libertà in Udine.
Piazza Libertà in Udine. Photograph: MassanPH/Getty Images

Italy but not Italy … That’s the feeling that strikes you as you wander the streets of Udine, in the lesser-known region of Friuli-Venezia-Giulia. Sitting in the shadow of the castle, Piazza Libertà is considered to be the most beautiful Venetian square on terra firma, but it’s the people and food that hint towards a more unusual mix of influences. The local language, Friulian, and the hearty dishes of frico, cjarsons and gubana give clues to the city’s mountainous hinterland and its intoxicating Germanic and Slavic influences. Yet as your senses are filled with new sights, tastes and sounds, a glass of bianco from the Collio vineyards reminds you that, well, maybe this is Italy after all.
Steve Bassett, Exeter

Source link

The Perfect Tuscany Road Trip Through Italy’s Beautiful Countryside

There are many good road trips out there, but driving through Tuscany is on a whole other level. Tuscany is a very manageable region, size-wise, roughly the size of New Jersey, and has a good and easy to maneuver road system. The countryside is picture-book perfect, with green hills dotted with slender cypress trees standing in line, vineyards, and sunflower fields at every corner, and pretty much every single town and village worth stopping off at.

It is gorgeous in summer, but it gets extremely hot in the narrow medieval town centers — too hot to sightsee, really. In spring you can get a fair bit of rain, explaining the lush green countryside, but early fall is quite perfect. If you can aim for early or mid-September, then you get the best of everything.

And, while you should obviously choose a car in accordance with your budget and level of driving comfort, can I suggest that this is the time to get a small-ish convertible? Small enough to maneuver through the narrow village lanes and the cities, but with a nice retractable roof to allow you to not only see Tuscany but to feel the Tuscan sun on your face and the Tuscan breeze in your hair. Cliche? Too right, but so worth it.

As for the itinerary detailed here — I have driven around Tuscany a few times, and these are the places I keep revisiting every time. They do not encompass every beautiful village and hilltop Tuscany has to offer, but this itinerary gives you a good overview, especially if this is your first time in the region.

Buon viaggio!

Source link