2 agosto 2023
by Edoardo Izzo

Praise of slow tourism

Luigi Cantamessa, Ceo of 'Treni Turistici Italiani'
Luigi Cantamessa, Ceo of 'Treni Turistici Italiani'

This new project looks to the future, to the development of Italy, to the growth of tourism in a place that has made the history of Italian railways. The meeting of tradition and modernization.  This is the latest news concerning the Ferrovie dello Stato (State Railways - FdS) Group: the establishment of TTI - Treni Turistici Italiani, the company that will be in charge of tourist rail services. And the presentation is held in the place that saw the very first railroad in Italy: the former Bourbon workshops of Pietrarsa in Naples.

At registration, everything works perfectly: 2:30 pm, Gate A. We are ready to board the historic train. It is a 'top level' vehicle from the State Railways fleet of the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s. We climb aboard and, about 20 minutes later, we are already on our way to Pietrarsa-San Giorgio a Cremano, just a few steps from the national railway museum overlooked by Vesuvius and right by the sea.

The train is beautiful; on the side it reads: Treni Turistici Italiani [Italian Tourist Trains]. Inside, the wagon is comfortable and spacious. Wide blue seats with a white headrest. Ample legroom. The train seems designed specifically for vacations, where the hectic pace of everyday life is replaced by tranquility and relaxation. There is great attention to detail. For each passenger, an 'Atlas' of tourist rail lines lists the various routes crossing beautiful Italy, from north to south, including the islands. There are more destinations to come, to be added to the list.

The foreword to the manual is by Luigi Cantamessa, the new CEO of Treni Turistici Italiani. He is the man called upon to lead the new project, and when we look at what has happened in the past few years, nothing seems accidental. Cantamessa, 46, was in fact born in Tescore Balneario, in the Province of Bergamo, the city in Italy that has come to symbolize the Pandemic. The place that never folded, despite the many deaths and sadness. Bergamo, which together with Brescia is the 'Capital of Culture 2023'. And on the train that is traveling speedily to Pietrarsa, there are also other important figures from Ferrovie dello Stato.

Starting with Luigi Ferraris, CEO of Ferrovie dello Stato Italiane. The super manager—formerly CEO and general manager of Terna from April 2017 to May 2020—has relaunched and innovated the group: for example, the new project in partnership with the Ministry of Culture that has launched a direct train from Rome to Pompeii that departs from Roma Termini once a week. Along with Cantamessa and Ferraris, there are, among others, Luigi Corradi and Stefano Cuzzilla, CEO and president of Trenitalia; Edoardo Rixi, deputy minister of Infrastructure and Transport; Karima Delli, chair of the Committee on Transport and Tourism of the European Parliament; and Monsignor Liberio Andreatta, president of the FS Foundation.

The very elegant restaurant cars: red seats, ample spaces and delicious food. Fresh fruit salads served with delicious cookies. Impeccable service. Not only that: delightful sleeping compartments, the historic couchettes. As many as three bike carriages for the more active tourists. And this is precisely one of the most interesting novelties announced by Cantamessa—the new CEO of Treni Turistici Italiani—in the press conference on the train.

The bike carriage caters for two different types of cycle tourism: those who bring their own bikes, but more importantly, those who rent their bikes on the train using the app

 “The bike carriage caters for two different types of cycle tourism: those who bring their own bikes, but more importantly, those who rent their bikes on the train using the app,” he explained to the attending journalists. “A tourist-friendly train designed for families, for children, but also for the elderly. Especially those with reduced mobility,” he adds, also thinking of people suffering the aches and pains of old age. The train on which we are traveling is a prototype for the future. “The carriage you see is a prototype: every carriage is different,” Cantamessa explains. And, for the more sophisticated travelers and lovers of traditional good Italian food, there will also be a surprise in the dining car: “On the tourist train, we will be introducing the express meal,” adds the new CEO of 'TTI'.

5:40 pm sharp: we arrive at San Giorgio a Cremano - Pietrarsa. The station is just a few steps from the National Railway Museum overlooked by Vesuvius and right by the sea. The stunning blue water is illuminated by the late afternoon rays. An amazing sight. In the square, the cast-iron statue of Ferdinand II of Bourbon looks out to the horizon: Capri, the Sorrentine Peninsula, Posillipo as far as the big hotels along the coast.

The Pietrarsa Railway Museum is a “magical place”, echoing the words of Monsignor Liberio Andreatta, president of the FS Foundation, who described it as “one of the most magical places: here, you can breathe the air of a place steeped in beauty. Here we present the beauty of Italy to cultured and sophisticated tourists.” And CEO Luigi Ferraris is also well aware of this, recalling: “We are in a magical place, inside a historic building: here is where we made railroad history.”

 “We decided to start here in our presentation of this initiative in which we are firm believers: slow tourism, to bring people to places that are less popular, but beautiful and full of culture,” he adds. Trains are the ideal mode of transport for this idea. Trains have always occupied a key role, even in this period in which we have access to a myriad of images. To be appreciated, beauty must also have moment of recollection.”

We decided to start here in our presentation of this initiative in which we are firm believers: slow tourism, to bring people to places that are less popular, but beautiful and full of culture

Tourism must be accessible to all, including those who cannot afford first class and luxury. The goal is to create the third leg of tourism, after hotels and cruises. “The 'Dolce Vita' is the fantastic result of public-private partnership with two main carriages: the restaurant carriage and the lunch carriage, where our passengers can discover the flavors of Italy. Today this service is represented by small examples in a few countries set up by the government,” explains Paolo Barletta, managing director of the Arsenal Group.

The description of the 'Dolce Vita' reveals a truly amazing route. One example of a journey, one of many possible journeys. “It will depart at 11 am and, after loading all the passengers at Ostiense, lunch will be served on the trip, and the train will arrive in Venice around 6 pm and then, after crossing the lagoon, there is dinner,” says Barletta. Then the next day via Portofino and back to Rome: in two nights and two days we have connected Venice and Portofino. We have connected Italy.”

Deputy minister Rixi describes a ‘visionary’ idea: “The real resource in Italy is the search for new markets: being able to find a space for tourist trains is an important step in this bigger picture,” explains the number two for Infrastructure and Transport. “Our ministry acts as a connector,” he adds. “This project will help tourists enjoy Italy at a different speed.

Seeing Venice and Portofino in two days, for example, is possible via this mode of transport, because by car, with the traffic, everything is made more difficult,” Rixi concluded to applause. In his message, Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Antonio Tajani emphasized the importance of the new company in the modern tourism strategy, capable of promoting and introducing to passengers lesser-known territories and beautiful sights in Italy. Tourism Minister Daniela Santanché who, due to a previous institutional commitment, was unable to attend, also spoke in a video message.

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