IEPlus: Ferrari-red ‘Italo’ makes Italy smaller

It’s red, like a Ferrari. And like the Italian luxury car manufacturer it’s run by Luca Cordero di Montezemolo, Ferrari’s chairman, who strongly believed Italy needed to break Trenitalia’s monopoly on high-speed train services.

It’s called ‘Italo’, and it links Rome and Milan in 2 hours and 45 minutes, during which passengers can watch movies in four languages, use unlimited, free and uninterrupted wi-fi, enjoy live TV, and have a gourmet Italian dinner.

Italo train is painted Ferrari red, and travels at speeds of up to 300 km per hour.

Since train services started at the end of April 2012, one of the worst seasons for Italy’s financial markets, Italo has fiercely competed with the Frecciarossa high-speed trains of state-owned Trenitalia.

On prices, but also on quality of services. Italo’s staff smiles, welcomes you and makes you feel a client. A service quality that Trenitalia never had, both in real and in reputational terms.

Italo represents a change, it’s the country’s first rail operator not run by the state, and has identified Italy as a country of innovation and investments, not only recession and unemployment.

The business community, and asset managers within it, tend to agree: Italo has made Italy smaller. Being based in Milan and scheduling meetings in Rome for a day is not a nightmare anymore.

It can enhance opportunities. This means travelling from Milan towards the South to meet the management of companies which offer investment opportunities, as well as attending networking events outside the more European yet very small Milan.

“I haven’t been travelling between Rome and Milan by plane in… two years maybe. With high-speed trains I can leave the office at 6 and have dinner in my favourite restaurant in Rome in the evening,” a fund selector tells Investment Europe.

Viceversa. International fund houses which are investing heavily in Italy could consider to establish their representative offices in the sunnier Rome, and travel upwards to meet potential clients and business partners.

This is particularly true for smaller US and UK firms, which in Italy have representative offices with less than 10 sales people.

The average cost between the two cities is €80 one way, but competition between the two companies is driving costs down and it’s not uncommon to find low-cost deals and last-minute offers.

But it’s not all about Rome or Milan. More routes being added through the year are expected to serve Venice, Turin, Padua, Naples, and Salerno, stretching out towards the Southern part of the country.

Making Italy smaller, and business in the country easier.

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