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Review: Trenitalia Executive Class (Milan-Florence)

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So far, my routing from London to Italy had taken me from London to Barcelona to Milan, though my parents were in Florence. There weren’t many creative ways to get from Milan to Florence, given that you can’t fly there. Thankfully Trenialia operates a direct train from Milan to Florence, and I even managed to score a good deal on Trenitalia’s Executive Class, given that I booked pretty far in advance.

Trenitalia’s Executive Class is a 10-seat cabin, located at one end of Trenitalia’s Frecciarossa 1000 trains. I’m no train expert, though wanted to write about the experience, given that many elements of the experience were reminiscent of features we see a lot in premium travel. It was also super fun, and I wanted to share the experience with you guys.

I’ll be writing about how I booked, as well as the “ground” experience, seat, and the amenities and onboard food and beverages received.

Booking Trenitalia Executive Class

I booked my ticket directly through trenitalia.com about a month in advance, and at the time only Business and Executive Class tickets were on sale. Executive Class was the only class of service that was selling tickets in the cheapest fare bucket, so I decided to take advantage. My ticket cost €95.90, though I paid an extra €2 for the ability to partially refund my ticket if needed (I was connecting directly off a Singapore Airlines A350 flight from Barcelona, so the €2 was a no-brainer). In contrast, booking business class at the time would’ve cost €64.90.

I might’ve missed the sweet spot for booking, though on day of departure tickets were selling for over €100 (I know this because I almost missed my train from Malpensa to Milan Central, and was looking at alternative options). The cheapest ticket I’ve ever seen for a ticket between Milan and Florence is only €16, though for most trains it seems to be around €30-40, with both premium and business class being less than €5 more expensive. I wasn’t flexible with train timing, and the train I took seems to be in higher demand, with tickets typically going for €40-50 even in standard class (executive class is quite consistently €95.90 unless the cheapest fare bucket is booked out, hence I felt like it was worth it).

Trenitalia Executive Class Lounge Milan Central

After barely catching the last Malpensa Express that would arrive before my booked train to Florence, I arrived Milan Central at 2:36 PM, ahead of my 3:10 PM train.

One of the perks that Trenitalia offers Executive Class or Business Salottino passengers is lounge access, available at Rome Termini, Milan Central, Bologna Central, Florence Santa Maria Novella (where I was going), and Naples Central. I first spotted signage when I followed signage across the departures hall. The entire terminal was extremely crowded, and I struggled to navigate through families staring at the departures boards.

a group of people in a train station
Trenitalia Freccia Lounge Milan Central

Most major Italian train stations have “landside” and “airside” sections, the latter of which require a ticket check to get through. The entrance to the FrecciaLounge was landside, so I exited the “airside” (trackside?) section of the station and found the lounge entrance.

people walking down a staircase with a sign
Trenitalia Freccia Lounge Milan Central

As you’d expect for the most exclusive “ground experience” amenity offered by Trenitalia, the FrecciaLounge offered cream-of-the-crop amenities, including about three types of seating (two types of armchairs and some table seating, none of which had any empty seats), Italian coffee from machines made out of machines made out of hand-made machines, and a wide variety of soft drinks, including sparkling water, carton orange juice, Coke, and Lipton iced tea. Departures boards (with platforms) were also on offer, hyping you up for your departure. Should you need to relieve yourself of this excitement, the lounge also featured bathrooms, complete with stalls, urinals, sinks, and mirrors.

people sitting in chairs in a room with people around them
Trenitalia Freccia Lounge Milan Central

Tongue-in-cheek jokes aside, I don’t mean to compare a lounge for regional train travel with international business class lounges – my point is that I wouldn’t come early to take advantage of this amenity, given how many business travelers otherwise have access to the lounge, and the fact that it doesn’t offer any exclusive amenities. This is just about the only part of the experience that can’t compare with premium air travel, though – I just took a Lipton iced tea and headed to my platform, since the platform for my train just began to show as I entered the lounge.

Trenitalia Executive Class Cabin and Seat

From memory we boarded through track twelve, where I saw the sleek train that would be taking me to Florence, which indeed did look like a red arrow as the name suggested. The train was bound for Taranto in southern Italy (which is about a nine-hour journey, with Taranto-bound passengers slated to arrive just after 12 AM),

a train at a train station
Trenitalia Frecciarossa (“Red Arrow”) Train

The executive class cabin was parked closest to the platform, and in fact there was a catering cart blocking the entrance, so I had to weave my way around. I found myself first onboard the 10-seat Executive Class cabin, featuring lush recliners laid out in a 1-1 configuration.

a train with seats and windows
Trenitalia Executive Class Cabin

I’d selected seat 5A (seat selection is complimentary in Executive Class). Most seats in the cabin can be adjusted to swivel forwards or backwards, based on if you’re travelling with someone and want to face them. However, the bulkhead seats on either side (1A and 1D, and 5A and 5D) didn’t have this capability. As I thought the Executive Class cabin would be at the front of the train, I thought my seat was going to face forward when I selected it, though ultimately I ended up being backward facing for the duration of the journey (which I don’t mind at all on planes, though mind a bit more on ground transport).

But apart from that, wowzers – what a treat to have such a wide seat with direct aisle access on a train! The seat had a significant amount of recline, which had motorised controls – as well as enough legroom to probably fit in another row entirely.

a seat in a train a chair in a traina person sitting in a chair on a train
Trenitalia Executive Class Cabin Seat 5A

The seat even featured a sturdy fold-out tray table, if only the parallels to international premium cabin travel weren’t already enough.

a table with a drink holder
Trenitalia Executive Class Cabin Tray Table

There were power ports to under the armrest. They weren’t universal – while Trenitalia operates exclusively within the EU, I’m sure universal power ports would be appreciated, though in this case I had my adapter on me.

a close up of a power outlet
Trenitalia Executive Class Cabin Power Port

If “regional first class” were a thing on planes, this would be it – no bed mode, though otherwise every aspect felt like flying in an international premium cabin. Cathay Pacific’s regional business class has a thing or two to learn from this configuration (intra-European business class has more like fifteen things to learn – this is definitely many steps up from flying intra-Europe).

The cabin went out full, though emptied out throughout the course of the ride, especially at Bologna station. By the time we reached Florence, I’d say about half of the cabin was occupied. Six of the seats seemed to be occupied by two separate families (including one across me), and nobody seemed to be wearing business attire on this afternoon train.

Trenitalia Executive Class Conference Room

As if this wasn’t already like flying international business class on a top airline, the cabin even featured a conference room, which was located directly behind my seat. You do have to book it in advance (unless it’s empty, in which case you can use it if you want to), and for a majority of the train journey someone had booked it out. I did have the option to book the conference room out for free when managing my booking, though preferred to avail it to somebody who actually needed to use the room first.

a table and chairs in a room
Trenitalia Executive Class Cabin Conference Room

Departure was a couple of minutes late, which wasn’t too big of a deal.

Trenitalia Executive Class Meal

One of the most mind-blowing things about Trenitalia’s Executive Class is that you get a meal on demand. Theoretically you could get multiple meals if you wanted to, though you do have to grab the attention of the train attendant, which could be a challenge on a short journey that lasts an hour or two.

I was presented with a menu shortly after the train left the platform, which read as follows:

a menu with a picture of a man
Trenitalia Executive Class Food Menu

As you can see, these aren’t just sandwiches, but rather full-blown meals similar to airplane meals in a premium cabin on a flight (I’d say there’s even more choice here).

There’s also a drinks selection, which almost exclusively highlights Italian alcohol:

a hand holding a paper with text
Trenitalia Executive Class Drinks Menu

When I was presented with a menu, I was asked if I wanted still or sparkling water. I asked for sparkling water, and it arrived in a can (if it arrived in a glass, that would be properly over the top).

a hand holding a can of soda
Trenitalia Executive Class Sparkling Water

I was asked what I wanted to eat. This was one of those cases where I decided I’d be ridiculous if I didn’t go for the most “all-out” option, so I went for the duck l’orange, one of the listed signature dishes by celebrity chef Carlo Cracco. Okay, the dish was a little confusing – it seemed half-unfinished, as there was nothing “l’orange” about the duck, and I wasn’t sure if I received any braised cabbage (either it was in the mashed potatoes, or wasn’t there). I just received an ungarnished, albeit moist, duck leg with mashed potatoes on a separate plate.

I was given a bread basket as well, as well as my drink of choice – I chose an Italian red wine, specifically the Rubesco Rosso di Torgiano. It was okay – all three wines on the list retail for about £13-15, which is fair.

a plate of food on a tray
Trenitalia Executive Class Meal – Duck à l’orange with braised cabbage, mashed potatoes

Putting aside the fact that this probably wasn’t a full duck l’orange (and the train attendant may have missed a sauce or something), how cool is having duck on a train? I can imagine how wild the visuals are though, considering that people board throughout a train journey, as opposed to a plane journey when everyone eats at the same time – I’d be very amused to board a train only to find someone gnawing on a duck leg. Thankfully this didn’t happen on the journey.

I was taken care of a friendly train attendant, who came to clear my plate not long after I finished eating (when we’d just reached one of the intermediate stations), though I didn’t see her many other times.

Trenitalia Executive Class Lavatory

The lavatory isn’t anything special compared to the rest of the train, though as you can imagine there’s a dedicated lavatory for Executive Class passengers, and never a queue.

a person's feet in a bathroom
Trenitalia Executive Class Lavatory

Trenitalia Executive Class WiFi

Trenitalia’s Frecciarossa trains also offer free WiFi for all passengers, which worked better than WiFi on many trains I’ve been on in the past (certainly a lot better than any train I’ve been on in the UK).

We did indeed arrive Santa Maria Novella station in Florence at our scheduled time of 5:04 PM, give or take a couple of minutes. I was on my way to meet my parents, which involved walking to our nearby hotel.

a group of people walking on a sidewalk
Florence Santa Maria Novella Station

I arrived our Florence hotel midway through my parents’ stay so won’t be reviewing it, and won’t write a detailed review of the serviced apartment we stayed at in Rome either – though it was wildly fascinating, so I’ll write about it briefly. Stay tuned.

Is it worth booking Executive Class on Trenitalia?

What a fun experience. I’d say for the novelty, the €30 extra I paid for this specific train journey was well worth it, especially since business class was the only other class of service available for purchase. Considering I had a glass of wine and a meal (of duck!), as well as a large reclining seat, I easily feel like I paid for the experience, even when the alternative was their otherwise-still-really-comfortable business class.

If you’re taking multiple journeys or are seeing a bigger price difference, especially on a longer route, the truth is that you can book business class, which can typically only be a €4-5 premium over standard class when booking a couple of weeks in advance. For this, you can pay €2 extra to assign a solo seat by the window, and still have a large seat to work. The food itself is an absolute novelty, though the quality isn’t nearly the same as what you’d otherwise find in a restaurant, especially in Italy. I also don’t think you can sleep much more comfortably in this seat compared to a solo seat in business class.

a man sitting at a table with a laptop
Me in Trenitalia business class – sorry, wasn’t planning on reviewing it

If the price difference between executive class and business class was around €30 (like I had this time), I might actually do it again. But I feel like if the price difference were any higher I probably would just book business class if I wanted to rest or work comfortably on a longer journey. Based on the fact that business class can potentially get you a solo seat for less than €10 over the standard class price, I’d say that could be well worth it.

Conclusion: Trenitalia Executive Class

This was easily my most fun train experience, and I’ll remember the novelty of having duck on a train for a very long time. That being said, I don’t think Executive Class is worth the significant price premium typically charged, even on a very long train journey, unless it were overnight. I think the difference feels a little bit between premium economy and regional business class in Asia/domestic first class in the U.S. – noticeable exclusivity and catering differences, but without a significant change to seat comfort.

Perhaps the added recline would be a bonus on an overnight train ride (the business class seats recline as much as economy class seats do on an aircraft, though are otherwise much wider), though otherwise I’d just do Trenitalia Executive Class for the novelty. On a plane, I value having a flat bed, extra working space, and unlimited food and drinks in business class, especially on a longhaul flight, and I’d pay extra for it (to an extent), even though the price difference is leaps and bounds above Trenitalia’s Executive Class. I just don’t think any of the provided perks of Executive Class over business class are immensely valuable here.

Read more from this trip:

What’s the most fun train ride you’ve ever taken?

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