The Pendolino project was started in the 1970s by FIAT Ferroviaria, but also absorbed technology from tilting train experiments from elsewhere, most notably the British Advanced Passenger Trains, FIAT having bought the patents. Development included a number of prototypes, the last of which was the ETR 401. This prototype was followed by the ETR 450 series units. The first train entered service on between Rome and Milan in 1989.
Every train is made up of 9 units. The trains can reach a maximum speed of , service top speed was . The ETR 450 was in use on the Rome-Bari, Rome-Ancona-Rimini and Genoa-Florence lines. It was relegated to lower services with the introduction of the next generation of Pendolino trains (ETR 460, ETR 480) and non-tilting high-speed trains (ETR 500).
In recent years, the tilting mechanism was deactivated as a precaution, and top speed was reduced to .