Interactive map: Click a destination...

Click a destination or route for train times, fares & tickets...

 
UK to Italy by Eurostar & TGV from £64...
TGV train from Paris to Turin & Milan, seen at the Gare de Lyon in Paris

Breakfast in London, lunch in Paris, tea in the Alps, dinner in Milan, and not an airport security queue in sight.  This is the The 14:41 TGV to Milan about to leave Paris.  Find out more...

   
  [include-files/GoogleAdsense-Italy-ATF280.htm]

Breakfast in London, lunch in Paris, dinner in Italy...

Travel from the UK to Italy in a single day by Eurostar & TGV high-speed train, from £39 for the Eurostar & £25 for the Paris-Milan TGV, with a glass of wine to hand and not an airport security queue in sight.  Great scenery, room to breath, loads of legroom, no baggage fees, no airport taxes, no seatbelt signs, no 2-hour check-ins at remote airports and under 4s go free.  It's much more environmentally-friendly, too. It's amazing some people still think you need to fly.  See for yourself, watch the video...

Next morning, Italian Frecciarossa high-speed trains whisk you from Milan to Florence in 1h40 and Rome in 2h55 from as little as €29, or take a Frecciabianca train to Venice in 2h35.  This page explains all you need to know to plan & make a flight-free trip to Italy, including the cheapest way to buy tickets either online or by phone.

Train times, fares & tickets...

  London to Turin, Milan, Verona, Venice, Bologna, Florence, Rome, Naples

  London to Lake Como or Lake Garda

  London to Pisa, Siena, Lucca, Modena, Ravenna

  London to Pompeii, Sorrento, Capri, Ischia, Elba

  London to Salerno & the Amalfi coast

  London to Genoa, Cinque Terre & La Spezia

  London to Civitavecchia for cruise connections...

  London to Rimini, San Marino, Ancona, Pescara, Foggia

  London to Bari, Brindisi & Lecce

  London to Trieste

  London to Palermo, Catania, Siracuse & Sicily

  London to Sardinia

  London & East Anglia to Italy - the ferry alternative

  Scotland & the North to Italy - ferry from Hull, Newcastle

  Starting your journey from other UK towns & cities

  Luggage on trains & Left luggage at stations

  Send your luggage in advance

  Taking your bike - Taking your dog - Taking your car

  Holidays & tours to Italy by train

  Hotels in Italy at Venere.com & Booking.com

  Hotel price comparison at Hotelscombined.com

  Travel insurance, EU Health Card & SIM cards

Choose your destination...

Wait for the page to load then select your destination here:

 

Trains in Italy & to/from other countries...

  A guide to train travel in Italy

  How to buy cheap Italian train tickets using Trenitalia.com

  Other European cities to Italy by train

  Rome to other European cities

  Florence to other European cities

  Venice to other European cities

  Milan to other European cities

 Naples to other European cities

Other useful information...

  General information about European train travel

  How to cross Paris by metro, taxi or private transfer

  Child age limits & travel with kids

  Travel with a wheelchair

  Paris to Turin & Milan by TGV high-speed train

  The Thello sleeper train from Paris to Italy

  The Venice Simplon Orient Express luxury train to Venice

  City tours by Open Top Bus

  Car hire in Italy

  Cruises from Venice, Cruises from Rome

  Map of Milan showing stations - Map of Venice showing stations

  Map of Florence showing stations - Map of Rome showing stations

  Map of Naples showing stations  - Map of Turin showing stations

Video guides...

  London to Paris by Eurostar video

  Crossing Paris by metro video

  Paris to Italy by daytime TGV video

  Paris to Italy by Thello sleeper train video

Sponsored links...

 

Useful country information

 Train operators in Italy:

Trenitalia (Ferrovie dello Stato) www.trenitalia.com (advice on using it).  NTV Italo: www.italotreno.it.

 Buy Italian train tickets:

 

...in the UK   ...in the USA & Canada  ...in Australia  ...in NZ, Asia, Africa or S.America   direct from Trenitalia

 Other useful links:

 

Train times for almost any journey in Europe Eurostar times & faresThello website (Paris-Italy sleeper trains).  To check for problems affecting trains from Paris to Italy (in French) see www.infolignes.com.  Paris métro: www.ratp.fr.  Circumvesuviana Railway (Naples-Pompeii-Sorrento): www.vesuviana.it.  Bus & metro: Rome  Milan.  Venice waterbuses: www.actv.it.

 Railpasses:

 

Beginner's guide to European railpasses    Buy a rail pass online

 Time zone & dialling code:

 

GMT+1  (GMT+2 from last Sunday in March to last Saturday in October).     

 Dialling code:

 

+39

 Currency:

 

£1 = approx 1.15 euros  Check current exchange rates

 Tourist information:

www.enit.it    www.tripadvisor.com     Recommended guidebooks

 Hotels & guesthouses:

Finding accommodation in Italy      Escorted tours to Italy by train

 Motorail & car hire:

How to take your car to Italy with Motorail    Car hire in Italy

 Page last updated:

21 November 2014.  Train times valid 14 Dec 2014 to 13 June 2015


London to Milan, Venice, Florence, Rome, Naples

 

Rome...

Take the train to Italy..!  The Trevi Fountain, Rome.

Rome's famous Trevi fountain is just 20 minutes walk from the Stazione Termini, where you arrive by train from Paris & London...

 

Florence...

Take the train from London to Italy.  The view from the top of the Duomo in Florence....

The best view of Florence is from the top of the Duomo's dome.  €8, 463 steps, no lift, just 10 minutes walk from Florence SMN station.

 

Venice...

Take the train to Italy..!  The Rialto bridge, Venice...

The Rialto Bridge, just 15 minutes walk from Santa Lucia station.  This photo was taken on a short break to Italy, without flying...

  Santa Lucia railway station in Venice...

Venice Santa Lucia station is on the banks of the Grand Canal, a stroll from St Mark's Square via the Rialto Bridge.  Or take a vaporetto (water bus, seen here), water taxi, or (if you're loaded) a gondola...

 

For hotels, I recommend www.booking.com & www.hotelscombined.com:

Which route to choose?

There's a wide choice of routes from the UK to Italy by train, some fast and direct, some slower but amazingly scenic, some using sleeper trains, some using daytime trains. Here's a summary, just choose whichever option appeals to you most and click for details.  By all means go out one way and come back another, or stop off in Paris, Turin, Milan or Switzerland...


Option 1:  London to Italy by Eurostar & TGV

Breakfast in London, lunch in Paris, dinner in Milan...  

 
 

To Italy in an armchair... A cosy table for two in 1st class on the Paris-Milan TGV...

Watch the video

Every day, three 186 mph TGV trains run by SNCF French Railways link Paris with Turin & Milan, with connections to Florence, Venice, Rome and Naples.  You can leave London mid-morning and reach Turin or Milan by late evening the same day, stay overnight then travel to Florence, Venice, Rome or Naples by Italian high-speed train next day.  Or leave London in the evening, stay overnight in Paris, and travel from Paris to Milan next morning with same-day connections to Florence, Venice, Rome or Naples.  In fact, if you can get into London early enough for the 05:40 Mondays-Fridays departure, it's now possible to travel from London to Florence, Venice or Rome in a day.  This route is usually the most inexpensive way to reach Italy by train, with Paris-Milan fares from just £25 each way.  It's also a scenic option, marked in dark blue on the route map above, see the video guide, although admittedly not as scenic as the more expensive route via the Swiss Alps in option 4.  Milan is a great city, with the best onward connections to other Italian cities, but Turin is even better with lots to see, well worth a stopover.  Indeed, it could be Italy's most under-rated city, even if you're not a fan of the 1969 Michael Caine film The Italian Job.   Why not take an earlier Eurostar and have lunch at the famous Train Bleu restaurant at the Gare de Lyon before catching your TGV to Italy?

Summary timetable...

 London ► Italy

 Eurostar (30 min check-in):

Mondays to Fridays

Saturdays

Sundays

 London St Pancras depart:

05:40

09:17

20:01

**

09:17

20:01

**

09:22

20:01

 Paris Gare du Nord arrive:

09:17

12:47

23:17

**

12:47

23:17

**

12:47

23:17

 Cross Paris by metro to the Gare de Lyon for the TGV train to Italy...

 Paris Gare de Lyon depart:

10:41

14:41

06:28*

10:41

14:41

06:28*

10:41

14:41

06:28*

 Turin Porta Susa arrive:

16:17

20:18

12:24*

16:17

20:18

12:24*

16:17

20:18

12:24*

 Milan Porta Garibaldi arrive:

17:51

21:51

13:51*

17:51

21:51

13:51*

17:51

21:51

13:51*

For connections to/from Bologna, Florence, Rome, Naples, Verona & Venice, see the Journeys in detail section below.

*  Following day, overnight hotel in Paris necessary.  Southbound, why not book an earlier Eurostar and have dinner in Paris?  Northbound, why not book a later Eurostar and have a leisurely breakfast in Paris?

** No Eurostar connection early enough at weekends.  But you can always take a Eurostar the night before and stop over in Paris.

How much does it cost?   How to buy tickets   What's the TGV like?   Paris-Milan TGV video guide   Map of Milan showing stations

 Italy ► London

 TGV:

Mondays to Fridays

Saturdays

Sundays

 Milan Porta Garibaldi depart:

06:00

08:45

16:07

06:00

08:45

16:07

06:00

08:45

16:07

 Turin Porta Susa depart:

07:39

10:15

17:35

07:39

10:15

17:35

07:39

10:15

17:35

 Paris Gare de Lyon arrive:

13:19

16:11

23:32

13:19

16:11

23:32

13:19

16:11

23:32

 Cross Paris by metro to the Gare du Nord for Eurostar (30 min check-in)

 Paris Gare du Nord depart:

15:13

18:13

 07:13*

15:13

19:13

08:13*

15:13

18:13

 07:13*

 London St Pancras arrive:

16:39

19:39

 08:30*

16:39

20:39

09:30*

16:39

19:39

 08:30*

Southbound journeys in detail...

London ► Italy, 05:40 departure from London, Mondays-Fridays only...

If you can get into central London early enough, remembering Eurostar's 30 minute check-in, it's possible to travel from London to Florence, Venice, Verona or Rome in a single day, at least on weekdays.  Remember that you can also join the weekday 05:40 Eurostar to Paris at Ebbsfleet or Ashford.

London ► Italy, 09:17 departure Monday-Saturday, 09:22 Sundays...

This service has a convenient mid-morning departure from London, and you can reach Turin or Milan in the evening the same day.  However, you'll need to stay overnight in either Turin or Milan before onward travel to Florence, Venice, Rome or Naples.

London ► Italy, 20:01 departure from London, hotel in Paris, morning TGV to Italy...

This service is useful if you need an evening departure from London, after business hours.  You stop overnight in a hotel in Paris, then take a morning TGV to Milan with arrival in Italy by early afternoon.

Northbound journeys in detail...

Italy ► London on the 06:00 TGV from Milan...

Italy ► London on the 08:45 TGV from Milan...

Italy ► London on the 16:07 TGV from Milan, with overnight stop in Paris...

This service is useful if you need to be back in London in time for the start of the business day.

What 's the journey like?

London to Paris from £39:  See the Eurostar page

Paris to Milan by high-speed TGV train from €29...

SNCF (French Railways) operates three daily 186 mph TGV trains from Paris to Turin & Milan.  Previously operated by Artesia, a consortium of Trenitalia & SNCF, they are now operated entirely by SNCF, officially via a new Italian subsidiary, Società Viaggiatori Italia.  On leaving Paris they sprint over the high-speed line at up to 186 mph (300 km/h) as far as Lyon St Exupéry, but they then slow right down to meander through the scenic Alpine foothills on conventional lines via Chambéry, crossing into Italy at Modane and heading through Turin to Milan.  These TGVs have 1st & 2nd class seats and are fully air-conditioned, with new interiors designed by Christian Lacroix.  There are power sockets for laptops and mobiles at every seat and there are baby-changing facilities and designated spaces for passengers in wheelchairs.  There's a cafe-bar serving drinks, snacks & light meals, or feel free to bring your own food & wine along for the journey.  In first class you can order a 3-course meal with wine, served at your seat.  You can now buy Paris metro tickets from the bar car, too.  1st class TGV passengers can use the Grand Voyageurs 1st class lounge at Paris Gare de Lyon.  Incidentally, SNCF's experienced in-house designer still hasn't forgiven Christian Lacroix for breaking the unwritten rule and using warm colours in 2nd class, cooler colours in 1st class, so see what you think!

Seating plans for the Paris-Milan TGVs:  See seating plans here.

Paris Gare de Lyon, from where the TGV trains to Barcelona leave   The Train Bleu restaurant at Paris Gare de Lyon

Departure from Paris Gare de Lyon...   The train to Italy leaves from the magnificent Gare de Lyon in central Paris.  Why not have lunch (or at least a drink in the bar) at the fabulous Train Bleu Restaurant inside the Gare de Lyon (pictured above right) before catching the train to Turin or Milan? 

TGV 2nd class   TGV from Milan to Paris

2nd class seats...  See panorama photo.

 

The 14:41 TGV to Milan at the Gare de Lyon...

  TGV 1st class

Cafe-bar serving drinks, snacks & hot dishes...

 

1st class seats...  See panorama photo.

Scenery from the Paris-Milan TGV...

The fields of rural France from the train to Italy   Rural France

The TGV crosses rural France at up to 186 mph...

Mountains from the TGV train to Italy

...then slows right down through the Alpine foothills.

  TGV from Milan to Paris

The TGV crosses the Alps via Chambéry and Modane, passing through the 13.6 km (8.5 mile) long Fréjus Rail Tunnel, also known less accurately as the Mont Cénis tunnel.  The tunnel transit takes just 7 minutes, during which the train enters Italy.  Opened in 1871, this the oldest of the large tunnels through the Alps, and was the longest tunnel in the world from 1871 until 1882 when the Gotthard tunnel opened on the Zurich-Milan route.

2nd class on the TGV from Paris to Milan  

More mountains...

 

Now we're in Italy, leaving the Alps behind...

The TGV arrived at Milan Porta Garibaldi   Milan Porta Garibaldi station

Arrival on time at Milan's modern Porta Garibaldi station.  Porta Garibaldi is a 10-minute €6 taxi ride or 25 minute walk from Milan's main Centrale station.

Watch the Paris-Milan TGV video guide...

Milan to Florence, Rome, Naples by Frecciarossa from €29:   Frecciarossa info & video

Frecciarossa trains have been refurbished with not two but four classes:  Standard (2nd class), Premium (premium 2nd class), Business (1st class) and Executive (premium 1st class).& Premium & Business classes include snacks and non-alcoholic drinks, Executive includes hot or cold meals and soft and alcoholic drinks.  Originally, only Premium, Business and Executive passengers were allowed to use the restaurant car, but after a public outcry all passengers can now use it.  Unfortunately, Trenitalia's free WiFi on these trains requires an Italian +39 mobile number for registration, so is of no use to non-Italians.  See the Frecciarossa information page for more details & a video guide.

Frecciarossa power car   Frecciarossa Business class

A Frecciarossa ETR500 train capable of 300 km/h (186 mph) on the new Italian high-speed network.  The name means Red Arrow.

 

Business class, all seats with power sockets.  A complimentary coffee, juice or prosecco is served at your seat...

Frecciarossa Premium class   Frecciarossa restaurant car

Premium class on a AV ETR500 Frecciarossa train.  All seats have power sockets for laptops & mobiles.

 

On the Milan-Florence-Rome-Naples route a 3-course lunch in the restaurant costs €32, ½ bottle of wine €9, credit cards accepted.

...or try the competition, NTV's Italo:   Italo information page   Watch the Italo video

Trenitalia now has competition.  A private company called NTV now runs Italo trains between Milan Porta Garibaldi and Bologna, Florence SMN, Rome Tiburtina and Naples Centrale, in competition with State-run operator Trenitalia.  Italo uses Milan Porta Garibaldi, the same station as the TGV from Paris, so avoids the need to transfer to Milan Centrale.  However, note that in Rome it uses the less central Tiburtina station, a taxi ride from central Rome.  On Italo there are 3 classes:  Smart (2nd class), Prima (1st class) & Club (premium 1st), all with Poltrona Frau leather seats and free WiFi.  For more information about Italo, see the Italo page and buy tickets at www.italotreno.it.

'Smart' (2nd class) seats on NTV's new Italo train   One of NTV's new Italo trains at Rome Tiburtina

Leather seats in Smart class (2nd class) on Italo.

 

An Italo train at Rome Tiburtina

Trenitalia's Frecciabianca trains from Turin and Milan to Verona and Venice...

Frecciabianca train to Venice, seen at Milan Centrale   2nd class seats

A Frecciabianca train at Milan Centrale...  Frecciabiancas link Milan with Verona & Venice every hour or so, at up to 125 mph...

 

2nd class seat, most with access to a power socket for laptops or mobiles.  There's a small bar, and a refreshment trolley comes down the train...

1st class seats   Frecciabianca at Milan Centrale

This is 1st class, more spacious and less crowded.  All seats have power sockets for laptops or mobiles, and there's a complimentary coffee from the trolley...

 

A Frecciabianca to Venice, about to leave Milan.  A strange train - two modern power cars sandwich former intercity carriages.  This shows the new colour scheme.

How much does it cost?

Add up the cost of the three tickets you need.  The cheap fares vary like air fares, so you'll need to go online to check actual prices for your date of travel.

 1. London to Paris

     by Eurostar: 

 From £39 one-way, £69 return 2nd class.

 From £107 one-way, £189 return 1st class.  Child, youth, senior fares 

 

 2. Paris to Milan or

     Turin by TGV: 

2nd class

1st class

 Advance-purchase one-way:

From £25

From £39

 Advance-purchase return:

From £50

From £78

 Full-price one-way fare:

£101

£121

 Full-price child fare:

£47

£61

 Railpass fare one-way:

£54

£72

 Domestic animals (see here):

£32

£32

Cheap fares = Prems or Leisure = Book ahead, price varies, limited places, no refunds, no changes.

Full-price fare = Refundable and flexible.  There are no senior or youth reductions.

Child fare = Child 4-11 years (use an adult special fare if cheaper). Children under 4 free.

Railpass fare:  What you pay with a railpass (Eurail, Interrail, etc). Normal tickets are often cheaper!!

Fares may vary, on certain dates 10-20% higher fares are charged.

Check actual prices for your date of travel at www.loco2.com or www.capitainetrain.com.

 3. Milan to other

      Italian cities...

One-way fares booked at www.italiarail.com or www.trenitalia.com

Super-economy fare = book in advance, price varies, no refunds, limited changes.  Base fare = full-price, refundable, flexible.

Milan to Venice:  Super-Economy fares from €19 in 2nd class, €29 in 1st class.  Base fare €37 2nd class, €51 1st class.

Milan to Florence:  Super-Economy fares from €29 standard class, €39 business class.  Base fare €50 standard class, €71 business class.

Milan to Rome:  Super-Economy fares from €29 in standard class, €39 business class.  Base fare €86 standard class, €116  business.

Milan to Naples:  Super-Economy fares from €29 in standard class, €39  business class.  Base fare €95 standard class, €133 business.

Check prices to other places at italiarail.com or trenitalia.com.

How to buy tickets online...

 

 
 

For hotels...

Try my two favourite hotel sites...

(1) www.booking.com allows you to book your accommodation before train bookings open, at no risk with free cancellation.

(2) hotelscombined.com has just been named as the World's Leading Hotel Comparison Site at the World Travel Awards 2013:

Option 1, buy online at www.loco2.com...

Option 2, book each train separately...

This involves three bookings on three websites, but it gives you complete control.

Step 1, book your Paris-Milan TGV... 

Step 2, now buy your Eurostar ticket from London to Paris.

Step 3, buy onward Italian train tickets...

How to buy tickets by phone:  UK 0844 248 248 3, overseas +44 844 2482483...

To buy tickets for Eurostar, the Paris-Italy TGV & onward trains in Italy by phone, call International Rail on 0844 248 248 3, lines open 09:00-17:00 Monday-Friday.  Overseas callers call +44 844 2482483.  Remember to book early for the cheapest prices, ideally 2-3 months ahead, as just like air fares prices increase closer to departure.  Unlike some other agencies, International Rail are equipped with both the French and Italian rail ticketing systems, so can sell the cheapest fares for all the trains from the UK to Italy and within Italy.  They charge a £10 booking fee for bookings under £100, £20 for £100-£300, £30 above £300.  Eurostar, TGV & Trenitalia tickets will be emailed to you as e-tickets, so there's no postage fee or delay.  For more information on buying European train tickets, see the How to buy European train tickets page.

Alternatively, call Rail Europe on 0844 848 5 848, lines open 09:00-19:00 Monday to Friday, 09:00-18:00 Saturdays, £8 booking fee.  However, at the time of writing Rail Europe is not equipped with the Trenitalia booking system, so cannot book all Trenitalia's cheap tickets within Italy.  Rail Europe have a travel centre for personal callers at 193 Piccadilly, London W1J 9EU, open 10:00-18:00 Mon-Fri, 10:00-16:00 Saturdays. 

Have your trip professionally arranged:  www.railbookers.com, 020 3327 0761...

Rather than book trains & hotels yourself independently, you can get an expert train travel company such as Railbookers to arrange your whole trip to your own specification.  Hotels, train tickets and transfers can all be sorted as one booking with one phone call.  As you're then effectively booking a package, they'll look after you if anything happens such as a strike or major delay.  Railbookers now operate in the UK, USA & Australia.  Just tell them when and where you want to go, and they'll create the best rail holiday or tour for you.

  UK call 020 3327 0761, www.railbookers.com

Call toll-free 1-800-408-3280 or www.us.railbookers.com.

  Australia call toll-free 1300 971 526, www.railbookers.com.au

  New Zealand call toll-free 0800 002 034 or see website.

Take an escorted tour to Italy by train...

If you'd prefer to go to Italy on an escorted tour with a convivial group of travellers rather than travelling solo or independently, here are the two UK companies which arrange escorted tours by train from the UK to destinations all over Europe on various dates through the year.  Both companies are part of the same group.

  Rail Discoveries, www.raildiscoveries.com, 01904 730 727...

  Great Rail Journeys, www.greatrail.com, 01904 527 120...


Option 2:  London to Italy by Thello sleeper train

  The Thello sleeper train from Paris to Venice
 

The Thello sleeper train to Italy...

Lunch in London, Italy next morning...     Watch the Thello video...

For most practical purposes, this doesn't take any longer than an afternoon of stressful airports & soulless flights plus a night in a hotel.  Take an afternoon Eurostar to Paris and the overnight Thello sleeper train from Paris to Milan, Verona or Venice, arriving next morning.  Thello is joint venture between Trenitalia and Veolia which started a Paris-Venice sleeper train in December 2011, replacing the Paris-Venice and Paris-Florence-Rome sleeper trains run by Artesia, a consortium of Trenitalia and French Railways.  The Thello train uses the same elderly couchettes and sleeping-cars as Artesia but with improved on-board service, no bad thing as service quality on Artesia had declined to such an extent that I had stopped recommending them.  I have tried the new Thello service and it's a fun way to reach Italy if you have realistic expectations, see the Thello sleeper video and the Thello sleeper train page.  The TGV option above is the higher-quality choice, but the sleeper is more time-effective and I've always enjoyed watching the sun set over the rolling green hills and picturesque villages of the French countryside, then waking up in my sleeper or couchette to coffee and croissant and a classic Italian landscape of red-roofed houses and poplar trees.  This is the route marked in red on the route map above Read the Man in Seat 61's opinion of Thello here.

London ► Milan, Verona, Venice, Florence, Rome, Naples

Naples, Rome, Florence, Venice, Verona, Milan ► London

For information about Eurostar from London to Paris, see the Eurostar page...

What's the Thello sleeper train like?       Watch the Thello video guide

See the Thello sleeper train page for photos and a description of each type of couchette & sleeper, and for more information about this train, including the restaurant.  You can have dinner with wine in the restaurant (see a sample menu), then settle down for the night in your sleeping-berth...  Or bring your own food and wine and picnic in your compartment, which may be the better option!  850+ miles of travel and a bed for the night, city centre to city centre.  It's always been a great trip - the scenery is excellent south of Paris as the train speeds towards Italy, with leafy valleys, small French villages and picturesque churches.  During the night, the train passes through Switzerland and the Simplon Tunnel under the Alps, running in places at up to 100 mph.  The trains can arrive late, so allow for up to a 60 minute delay in your schedule and stay relaxed.  Don't worry about missing your Eurostar on the return journey, as international CIV conditions of carriage entitle you to be rebooked on the next available Eurostar if the sleeper runs late.  Until December 2011, the sleeper trains to Italy were run by Artesia, a Trenitalia-led consortium of the French and Italian national railways formed to run the Paris-Italy trains, from December 2011 they are run by Thello, a partnership of Trenitalia and Veolia.  The Thello service uses similar equipment to Artesia but with better service quality, with new staff and catering.  Just make sure your expectations are realistic as this is not the best-run sleeper train in the world, read the Man in Seat 61's opinion here.

Refurbished sleeping-car on the Paris to Venice 'Thello' sleeper train   1, 2 or 3-bed sleeper, in evening mode, on the Paris-Venice Thello overnight train...   2-bed sleeper, night mode, on the Paris-Florence/Rome overnight train...

A sleeping-car on the Thello sleeper train to Venice boarding at Paris Gare de Lyon...

 

1, 2 or 3 bed sleeper, beds folded away, sofa folded out.

 

1, 2 or 3-bed sleeper, in night mode.  .

4 or 6-berth couchette compartment, with seats folded out, on the Thello sleeper trains from Paris to Italy...   Boarding the Thello sleeper train at Paris.

4 or 6 berth couchette compartment.

 

A couchette car on the overnight Thello train from Paris to Venice, boarding at Paris Gare de Lyon, platform 'M'.  More Thello info here

At dinner in the restaurant car of the Paris-Venice Thello sleeper train.   Dinner on Thello:  Salmon steak & rice

The restaurant car on the Thello train, a 3-course meal costs €28.  See a sample menu More Thello info here.  Or feel free to bring your own picnic and bottle of wine and eat in your compartment.

How much does it cost?

 1. London to Paris

 by Eurostar: 

 From £39 one-way, £69 return 2nd class.

 From £107 one-way, £189 return 1st class.  Child, youth, senior fares 

 

 2. Paris to Milan, Venice or Verona

 by sleeper train, per person:

 In a couchette

 In a sleeper

6-berth

4-berth

3-berth

2-berth

1-berth

 Smart fare

€35 (£31)

€55 (£48)

-

-

-

 Go fare

€80 (£69)

€96 (£84)

€112(£99)

€145 (£127)

-

 Flexi fare:

€110

€130

€140

€180

€275

 Children under 12 with own berth*

€77

€91

€98

€126

-

 Children under 4 sharing a berth

Children under 4 free, no ticket necessary

Berths are sold individually, so one ticket means one bed.  The other beds in your compartment will be sold to other passengers.  For sole occupancy, simply book 1 ticket in a 1-berth sleeper, 2 tickets in a 2-berth sleeper, 4 tickets in 4-berth couchettes and so on.

All fares are one-way.  A return journey means two one-way fares.

* Flexi child rate.  An adult Smart fare is often cheaper.

Smart & Go fares = limited availability, limited or no refunds or changes, valid for adult or child.

Flexi fare = refundable & flexible.  There are no senior or youth reductions.

The same prices apply whether you're going to Verona or Venice, although slightly cheaper Go & Flexi fares apply to Milan.

 3. Onward ticket from Milan to Florence, Rome or Naples by Frecciarossa... 

Milan to Bologna or Florence from €19 standard class, €29 business class.

Milan to Rome or Naples from €29 standard class, from €39 in business class.

Step 1, buy Thello tickets...

  Buy Thello tickets here from €35...

  Booking usually opens 120 days ahead.

  Anyone can buy tickets here, it's ticketless, you simply quote the PNR number on board.

  Yes, if you book 2 tickets for a 2-bed sleeper or 6 tickets in 6-berth couchettes, you'll normally all be together in the same compartment.  See berth numbering plan

  If there are 3 of you and you want sole occupancy of a 4-berth compartment (for example), simply book 4 tickets in 4-berth, re-using a name and passport number.

  Children under 4 sharing a bed go free on Thello, children under 12 go at the child rate.

  You're buying from www.italiarail.com, who connect directly to the Trenitalia ticketing system.  Their booking fee will be refunded if you email them your PNR at seat61@italiarail.com.

Step 2, buy Eurostar tickets.

  Use www.eurostar.com to book a London-Paris Eurostar, allowing at least 90 minutes to cross Paris.  You'll get print-at-home tickets.

  You can buy through tickets starting in 130 UK towns & cities, not just London.

How to buy tickets online...

Anyone from any country can easily book a London-Paris-Italy journey as follows, at the cheapest prices with print-at-home tickets.  The Paris-Italy sleeper trains are now run by Thello, a consortium of Trenitalia and Veolia with no SNCF (French Railways) involvement, so you can no longer book at SNCF stations or websites, although Thello have their own sales point at Paris Gare de Lyon.

Buy tickets by phone:  UK 0844 248 248 3, overseas +44 844 2482483...

To buy tickets for Eurostar, Thello & onward Italian trains by phone, call International Rail on 0844 248 248 3, lines open 09:00-17:00 Monday-Friday.  Overseas callers call +44 844 2482483.  Remember to book early for the cheapest prices, ideally 2-3 months ahead, as just like air fares prices increase closer to departure.  Unlike some other agencies, International Rail are equipped with both the French and Italian rail ticketing systems, so can sell the cheapest fares for all the trains from the UK to Italy and within Italy.  They charge a £10 booking fee for bookings under £100, £20 for £100-£300, £30 above £300.  Eurostar, Thello & Trenitalia tickets will be emailed to you as e-tickets, so there's no postage fee or delay.  Click here for a full list of agencies and other useful information on how to book.

Watch the Thello video guide...


Option 3:  London to Italy via Lille & Geneva

London to Italy with no need to cross Paris...  New from 14 December 2014!

From 14 December 2014 Eurostar & TGV-Lyria will introduce a new London-Geneva service taking just 6h18, running Monday, Thursday, Saturday & Sunday all year round in both directions.  Apart from its speed (London to Switzerland in 6h18!!) the best feature is that there's just one easy same-station change in Lille, so no need to cross Paris.  That makes it ideal for people with lots of luggage, kids or other mobility problems.  Stay overnight in Geneva and take a EuroCity train to Milan next morning past those vineyards and through the Alps via the famous Simplon route.  There's even an early EuroCity train from Geneva direct to Venice!

London ► Italy from 14 December

Italy ► London from 14 December

How much does it cost?

How to buy tickets...

If you live in the UK, the easiest way to buy tickets is to use www.loco2.com as all tickets can be bought together as one transaction, at least as far as Milan or Venice.  Loco2 allows you to buy tickets starting at your local station, not just London.

If you live outside the UK, you can buy tickets like this:

What's the journey like?

London to Lille by Eurostar:  See the Eurostar page...

Lille to Geneva by TGV-Lyria...

TGV from Milan to Paris   TGV-Lyria 2nd class

A TGV in new Lyria colours...

 

2nd class seats.  See panorama photo.

TGV-Lyria cafe-bar   TGV-Lyria 1st class

Cafe-bar serving drinks, snacks & hot dishes...

 

1st class seats...  See panorama photo.

Snaking through the mountains on the route between Geneva & Lille

The TGV takes the amazing 65km single-track Haut-Bugey line from Bourg en Bresse to Bellegarde, dating from 1877-1882.  By 1990 local traffic had declined and the line was partially closed.  But in 2010 it was rebuilt to mainline standards as a key link in the TGV network, shortening the distance between Paris & Geneva by 47km compared to the detour via Culoz.  The train travels at low speed through some great mountainous terrain, some of it inaccessible by road, through some 11 tunnels and over 80 bridges & viaducts.  Above, the Lille-Geneva train snakes through the hills - that's the rear of the train visible on the left...

Scenery along the Haut-Bugey line, seen from the Geneva to Paris train   Crossing the Cize-Bolozon viaduct on the Haut-Bugey Line, on a Geneva to Paris train

Above right, the TGV crosses the spectacular Cize-Bolozon viaduct over the Ain gorge, a structure blown up by the French resistance in 1944.  It took 5 years to repair the damage after the war...

Geneva to Milan, Verona & Venice by EuroCity train...

ETR610 EuroCity train from Switzerland at Milan Centrale   2nd class seats on an ETR610 EuroCity train to Italy

A bullet-nosed ETR610 EuroCity train to Switzerland at Milan Centrale...

 

2nd class seats on an ETR610, all with power sockets...

The view from the Geneva-Milan express, rounding Lake Leman on a sunny winter morning.

The restaurant car on an ETR610 EuroCity train   Meal on a Swiss EuroCity train between Switzerland & Milan

The restaurant car on an ETR610...

 

Dinner in the diner...

Sion castle, see from the train to Venice

Sion castle in the morning light, seen from the Geneva to Milan express.  The train passes through the famous Simplon Tunnel, opened in 1906, on the very route used by the celebrated Simplon Orient Express of Agatha Christie fame.


Option 4:  London to Italy via Zurich

London to Italy via the Gotthard Pass through the Swiss Alps...

This option takes a few hours longer and costs a few pounds more than using the Paris-Milan TGVs suggested in option 2, but the daytime journey through the Swiss Alps from Switzerland to Italy is a wonderful experience, see the scenery photos below.  Take a lunchtime Eurostar to Paris then an evening TGV-Lyria to either Geneva, Lausanne, Bern, Basel or Zurich and stay overnight.  Next morning, take a tilting EuroCity train to Milan, twisting and turning through the Alpine scenery, with onward train connections from Milan to almost anywhere in Italy.  The most scenic route is via Zurich & the Gotthard Pass, so that's the route I recommend here, it's the route marked in orange on the route map above.  TGV-Lyria is the consortium of French and Swiss railways formed to operate the high-speed trains from Paris to Switzerland.  Incidentally, Paris-Zurich TGVs were speeded up by half an hour from December 2011, as they now use the brand-new Rhine-Rhone TGV line and leave from Paris Gare de Lyon, not the Gare de l'Est as previously.

London ► Italy

Italy ► London

How much does it cost?

Alternatively, stop overnight in Geneva, Lausanne, Bern or Basel...

You can also travel from London to Italy with an overnight stop in Geneva, Lausanne, Bern or Basel instead of Zurich.  In fact this will save a pound or two and maybe an hour or two.  If you go via Lausanne you'll be on the famous Simplon route to Milan via Brig, which is the most direct & traditional mainline route between Paris & Milan with the shortest travelling time.  It takes you through the Simplon Tunnel, opened in 1906, and past many Swiss vineyards.  Going via Geneva is a slightly longer variation on the Simplon route, but the TGV ride from Paris to Geneva is very scenic, more so than the Paris-Lausanne TGV route and so worth the detour.  If you go via Bern you'll end up on the Lötschberg route, also scenic, although a new base tunnel has by-passed some of the best scenery.  But for my money, the most scenic of all the main lines through the Swiss Alps to Italy is the Gotthard route from Zurich via Lugano to Milan, hence the recommendation above.  To find journey options via any of these cities, first see the London to Switzerland page for train service between the UK and that Swiss city.  Then use www.loco2.com (UK residents only) or www.sbb.ch (residents of any country) to find trains between that city and Milan next morning.  Easy!

What's the journey like?

London to Paris by Eurostar:  See the Eurostar page...

Paris to Zurich by TGV-LyriaMore information about TGV-Lyria...

TGV from Milan to Paris   TGV-Lyria 2nd class

A TGV in new Lyria colours at the Gare de Lyon.

 

2nd class seats...  See panorama photo.

TGV-Lyria cafe-bar   TGV-Lyria 1st class

Cafe-bar serving drinks, snacks & hot dishes...

 

1st class seats...  See panorama photo.

Zurich to Milan by EuroCity train...

Most services are ETR470 Pendolino tilting trains like the ones shown below, but some trains have recently been replaced with locomotive-hauled EuroCity carriages which may not have a restaurant car.  These are still very comfortable.

Restaurant car of a tilting 'Pendolino' train from Geneva to Milan.   Second class seats on the EuroCity ETR470 train to Milan

Table for two...  Restaurant car of a Switzerland-Milan pendolino. EuroCity train.

 

2nd class seats, complete with sockets for laptops & mobiles...

Pretty church & vineyards seen from a Zurich to Milan train   Pretty church & vineyards seen from a Zurich to Milan train

The Zurich-Milan EuroCity trains take the Gotthard Pass route through the Swiss Alps.  You'll see lots of pretty Swiss villages & vineyards.  The Swiss keep their wine a closely-guarded secret and export very little, give it a try and you'll understand why they keep it to themselves...

Lake Maggiore, seen from a Milan to Basel train   Lunch in the Swiss-run restaurant car of the 11:25 Milan to Basel

You'll pass a lake or two...  The Zurich-Milan route passes the Zugersee, the Vierwaldstattersee and Lake Lugano, all in Switzerland.  The Geneva-Milan route runs along Lake Leman, and both Geneva-Milan and Basel-Milan routes pass Lake Maggiore in Italy.  This is Lake Maggiore, seen from the dining-car of the 11:25 Milan to Basel over an excellent lunch of salmon tagliatelle & excellent (but expensive!) Swiss red wine.  Incidentally, on this particular occasion I left Milan at 11:25, changed in Basel onto the 16:34 TGV to Paris, caught the 21:13 Eurostar and was back in central London at 22:36, reaching Aylesbury Vale Parkway at 23:59.  No airports, no flights, and wonderful scenery!

Pretty church & vineyards seen from a Zurich to Milan train   Restaurant car of a tilting 'Pendolino' train from Geneva to Milan.

The train enters the Gotthard Pass.  In the depths of winter the landscape is a real-life Narnia, a winter wonderland with crags and cliffs and snow-capped mountains.  You're not stuck in a plane at 35,000 feet now, this is the Swiss Alps at ground level, up close and personal.  At the peak of the pass the train enters the Gotthard Tunnel, 15 km (9 miles) long and opened in 1882.  Passing through the tunnel takes just 7 or 8 minutes, reaching the highest point of the line in the process at 1,151 metres (3,776 feet) above sea level.

Restaurant car of a tilting 'Pendolino' train from Geneva to Milan.   A tilting 'Pendolino' train just arrived from Zurich in Milan Centrale

This is the Alpine vista from the train after it emerges from the Gotthard tunnel, high up on a mountainside as it heads for the Italian border...

 

Buongiorno Milano!  The EuroCity from Zurich at Milano Centrale.  You've reached Italy with no airports & no flights...

  How to buy tickets online If you live in the UK...

  Buy tickets by phone:  UK 0844 248 248 3, overseas +44 844 2482483...

To buy tickets by phone for all these trains, call International Rail on 0844 248 248 3, lines open 09:00-17:00 Monday-Friday.  Overseas callers call +44 844 2482483.  Remember to book early (ideally 2-3 months ahead) for the cheapest prices, just like air fares prices increase closer to departure.  Unlike some other agencies, International Rail are equipped with both French and Italian rail ticketing systems, so can sell the cheapest fares for all the trains from the UK to Italy and within Italy.  They charge a £10 booking fee for bookings under £100, £20 for £100-£300, £30 above £300.  Eurostar, TGV-Lyria & Trenitalia tickets can be emailed to you as e-tickets, so there's no postage fee or delay.  Switzerland-Italy tickets may need to be posted, for a small postage fee.  For more information on buying European train tickets, see the How to buy European train tickets page.

  Have your whole trip professionally arranged:  Railbookers.com...

A hassle-free option is to get a reliable specialist agency such as Railbookers to arrange your whole trip, with hotels, train bookings and transfers all sorted with one phone call.  Just tell them when and where you want to go, and they'll create the best rail holiday or tour for you.  UK residents can call www.railbookers.com on 020 3327 0761.  US & Canadian residents can call them toll-free on 1-800-408-3280 or see website.  Australian residents can call their Sydney office toll-free on 1300 971 526 or see www.railbookers.com.au.  New Zealand residents call toll-free on 0800 002 034 or see website.  They get very positive reviews and take good care of their guests.  Browse suggested itineraries & prices.

   How to buy tickets at www.eurostar.com, www.capitainetrain.com & www.sbb.ch...

Anyone from any country worldwide can buy tickets direct from each of the relevant train operators' websites as follows.  I recommend doing a dry run on all these sites before booking for real.

  If you live in the USAwww.raileurope.com...

     In Australia, NZ, Canada, Asia, Africa, South America:  www.raileurope-world.com.


Option 5:  London to Italy via Munich

London to Italy by high-quality trains through the scenic Brenner Pass...

You may prefer some German and Austrian efficiency on your way to Italy, as well as some great scenery, see the Brenner route video.  It may look like a long way round (see the route map above), but cheap fares and high-quality German and Austrian-run trains now make this an attractive option.  There are two ways to do this route:  (1) Until 13 December 2014 you can leave London by Eurostar in mid-afternoon and use the excellent German-run City Night Line sleeper train to Munich then a day train next morning through the scenic Brenner Pass to Verona, or (2) you can leave London by mid-morning Eurostar and afternoon TGV to Munich, stay overnight in Munich, then take a morning train to Italy through the scenic Brenner Pass next day.

(1)  Using the Paris-Munich City Night Line sleeper train...

This route takes significantly longer than using the direct Paris-Italy Thello sleeper, as you leave London only an hour or two later, but you arrive the following afternoon instead of in the morning.  But it involves a higher-quality German City Night Line sleeper train, with some deluxe sleepers with private shower & toilet, and the connection in Munich is a top-quality German or Austrian EuroCity train with restaurant car which travels via the wonderfully scenic Brenner Pass route through the Alps to Verona next morning.  You may well prefer this option, especially if you're heading for Verona. 

Advance warning:  This train will be discontinued from December 2014, after which you'll need to use daytime trains as in (2) below.

London ► Italy

Italy ► London

See the London to Paris page for information about Eurostar...

By City Night Line overnight sleeper train from Paris to Munich...

The Paris-Munich overnight train is one of the German Railway's excellent City Night Line sleeper trains.  Called the Cassiopeia, it has a modern Comfortline sleeping-car (1, 2 & 3-berth deluxe compartments with private shower & toilet, 1, 2 & 3-berth economy compartments with washbasin).  There is a shower at the end of the corridor for passengers in economy sleepers, and all sleepers have powerpoints for laptop computers.  There are also modern air-conditioned couchettes, choose between a berth in a 4 or 6-berth compartment, and ordinary seats (not recommended).  Inclusive fares are charged covering travel plus sleeping accommodation.  The sleeping-car fare includes a light breakfast. Click for more pictures & information about this train.

Dinner before boarding?  For a good meal in a classic Parisian brasserie before boarding the sleeper train in Paris, catch the earlier 14:01 Eurostar & dine at the Brasserie Terminus Nord directly across the road from the Gare du Nord.  For a cooked breakfast in Munich or evening meal before boarding the Paris-bound sleeper on your return, try the typically Bavarian Mongdratzerl restaurant, located in the hauptbahnhof itself.

Sleeping-car room - Paris-Munich night train   4-berth couchette compartment on Paris-Munich overnight train   6-berth couchette compartment on Paris-Munich overnight train  

The sleeping-car on the Paris-Munich overnight train boarding at the Gare de l'Est

1, 2 or 3 bed sleeper: The most comfortable option, economy with washbasin or deluxe with shower & toilet.

 

4-berth couchettes:  Ideal for families, much more space per person than 6-berth couchettes.

 

6-berth couchettes:  A very economical option, far better than a seat for just a few euros more...

 

Night Train to Munich...  The Comfortline sleeping-car of the Paris to Munich sleeper train boarding at Paris Gare de l'Est...

More pictures & information about this train...

...and next morning, by EuroCity train from Munich to Italy via the Brenner Pass.

A lovely scenic journey with a proper restaurant car for lunch or dinner, see the Brenner route video.

  InterCity 2nd class   InterCity 1st class (6-seat compartment type)

The Munich-Verona EuroCity trains use Austrian coaches.

 

EuroCity 2nd class, mainly 6-seat compartments but some open-plan seating.  There's also a restaurant car...

 

EuroCity 1st class, open-plan.  Sometimes available in 6-seat compartments.

How much does it cost?

 1. London to Paris

 by Eurostar...

 From £39 one-way, £69 return 2nd class.

 From £107 one-way, £189 return 1st class.  Child, youth, senior fares 

 

 2. Paris to Munich by

 sleeper train, per person...

In a

seat

In a couchette

Economy sleeper

Deluxe sleeper

6-bunk 

4-bunk 

3-bed 

2-bed 

1-bed 

2-bed

1-bed

 Savings fare, one way from

€43 (£36)

€59 (£49)

€69 (£58)

€84 (£70)

€104 (£87)

€144 (£120)

€134 (£112)

€174 (£145)

 Savings fare, return from:

€86 (£72)

€118 (£98)

€138 (£116)

€168 (£140)

€208 (£174)

€288 (£240)

€268 (£224)

€348 (£290)

 Full price one-way:

€147

€163

€173

€188

€208

€248

€291

€331

 Railpass supplement*

€11.50

€27.50

€37.50

€55

€75

€115

€75

€115

 Child under 15**

€4

€20

€30

£71

€65

€105

€65

€105

 Child under 6 without berth:

Child under 6 sharing a berth travels free

Berths are sold individually, so one ticket means one bed.  The other beds in your compartment will be sold to other passengers.

For sole occupancy, simply book 1 ticket in a 1-berth sleeper, 2 tickets in a 2-berth sleeper, 4 tickets in 4-berth couchettes & so on.

* This is the supplement you pay if you have a railpass, a 1st class pass is required for deluxe sleepers.

** Children under 15 travel free if accompanied by a fare-paying adult, but must pay the berth supplement shown here.

Savings fare = advance-purchase fare, price varies, limited availability, no refunds, no changes to travel plans.

Full price = fully flexible, refundable, buy any time.

 3. Munich to Verona, Bologna

  or Venice (by direct train)

 From €39 (£34) each way 2nd class, €69 (£60) in 1st class if you book in advance.

 If you book at www.bahn.de, accompanied children under 15 go free.

How to buy tickets online...

The cheapest way to book this journey is online, as there's no booking fees and all the cheap deals are there for you to see.  There are two ways to book it, and I'd suggest trying both as prices vary between the two:

How to buy tickets online...

How to buy tickets by phone...

If you prefer to book by phone, call Deutsche Bahn's UK office on 08718 80 80 66 (lines open 09:00-20:00 Monday-Friday, 09:00-13:00 Saturday & Sunday, no booking fee, 2% credit card charge but no charge for debit cards), or a booking agency such as European Rail on 020 7619 1083 (lines open 08:30-18:00 Monday-Friday, 09:00-13:00 Saturday, £35 booking fee).

Alternatively, call International Rail on 0844 248 248 3, lines open 09:00-17:00 Monday-Friday.  Overseas callers call +44 844 2482483.  Unlike some other agencies, International Rail are equipped with the French, German & Italian rail ticketing systems, so can sell the cheapest fares for all these trains from the UK to Italy and within Italy.  They charge a £10 booking fee for bookings under £100, £20 for £100-£300, £30 above £300.  Eurostar, City Night Line & Trenitalia tickets can be emailed to you as e-tickets, so there's no postage fee or delay.


Scenery on the Brenner route...

Between Munich and Innsbruck, the train runs through the Tirol, on a broad valley between tall mountains.  Leaving Innsbruck, the train snakes through a narrow pass between the peaks, parallel with the impressive Brenner pass road.  Watch out for Jodok, where the train does a 180 degree turn in a small valley, around the village and its pretty church and through the Jodok spiral tunnel, climbing all the way.  South of Brenner itself, the valley widens out, with plenty of vineyards in evidence.  Look out for hilltop castles and forts!  Uniquely, in this part of Italy you'll find both Italian and German languages used.

Mountains between Munich and Innsbruck   Lunch in the restaurant car en route to Italy by train

Snowy peaks in the Austrian Tirol between Munich and Innsbruck...

 

Lunch in the restaurant...

The church at St Jodok   The Brenner route:  on the Jodok spiral

The little church at St Jodok...

 

On the Jodok spiral, curving round the village...

Scenery (and vineyards!) on the Brenner route   Scenery on the Brenner route

Vineyards, mountains and castles south of Brenner as the train heads for Trento & Verona...

Watch the video:  Scenery through the Brenner Pass...


(2)  Using daytime trains with overnight hotel in Munich...

If you prefer a hotel to an overnight sleeper train, and don't mind an extra few hours journey time, you can use daytime trains, taking Eurostar to Paris and a high-speed TGV from Paris to Munich on day 1, staying overnight in Munich, then taking a Munich-Verona train through the scenic Brenner Pass on day 2.

London ► Italy

Italy  ► London

How much does it cost?

How to buy tickets...

London to Paris by Eurostar:  See the Eurostar page...

Paris to Munich by 200mph TGV Duplex...     Watch the TGV Duplex video

There are power sockets for laptops & mobiles at all seats, baby-changing facilities and wheelchair spaces.  The train speeds through undulating open green countryside for much of the way, past pretty French villages of the Champagne region.  After a brief stop at Strasbourg you cross the border into Germany.  Sit back with a glass of red and enjoy the ride!  I recommend selecting an upper deck seat for the best views.

A TGV Duplex about to leave Paris Gare de Lyon   Upper deck second class on board a TGV Duplex.

Boarding a double-deck TGV Duplex.  These impressive 200 mph double-deck trains link Paris and Munich, a relaxing journey catching up on your reading over a bottle of wine.  And it needn't even be particularly expensive.  Watch the TGV Duplex video

 

Above:  The upstairs landing on a TGV Duplex showing the stairs down to the entrance door...

Upper deck second class on board a TGV Duplex.     The bar on the upper deck of a TGV Duplex

2nd class seats on TGV Duplex upper deck.  There's a mix of unidirectional seating and some tables for four like this...

 

The cafe-bar in a TGV Duplex upper deck in car 4, serving tea, coffee, soft drinks, wine, beer, snacks and microwave-style hot meal dishes....

First class on board a TGV Duplex   An impressive TGV Duplex.

1st class seats on TGV Duplex upper deck with a club duo on the left, a club quatre on the right.

 

A TGV Duplex.  The red near the door indicates 1st class, pale green indicates 2nd class.

...next morning, take a EuroCity train from Munich to Verona via the Brenner Pass.

EuroCity train about to leave Munich   Austrian first class seats

A EuroCity train about to leave Munich.  These EuroCity trains use classic Austrian cars like this.

 

First class leather seats.  On a few trains you'll find 6-seat compartments.

Austrian second class seats   Austrian restaurant car on a EuroCity train

Second class seats, mostly in 6-seat compartments with side-corridor, but some cars are open-plan...

 

The restaurant car.  Treat yourself to lunch, or just a beer, coffee or half bottle of wine...


Option 6:  To Italy via the scenic Bernina Express

This is a much slower option than the others, but you can still leave London on day 1 afternoon, arriving Milan on day 2 in the afternoon, after a slow and fabulous journey on the narrow-gauge Bernina Express from Chur to Tirano through the Swiss Alps. 

This option is described in detail on the Bernina Express page.


Option 7: By Venice Simplon Orient Express

This is the luxury option, from London to Verona or Venice aboard the fabulous Venice Simplon Orient Express.  It's not cheap, but yes, it's definitely worth it if you have the money - London to Venice costs around £2,050 per person one way including sleeper and excellent meals, wine extra.  The VSOE usually runs once weekly from March until October leaving London on Thursday mornings.  Passengers travel in restored 1920s or 1930s British Pullman cars from London to Folkestone with lunch, wine and champagne included in the fare.  At Folkestone, passengers are taken by coach to Calais via the Channel Tunnel.  Beautifully restored 1920s sleeping-cars then take passengers from Calais to Venice via Paris, the scenic Arlberg Pass, Innsbruck, the equally scenic Brenner Pass & Verona, arriving in Venice in the evening the day after leaving London.  For more details of the journey including departure dates, timetable, advice & photos, see the Venice Simplon Orient Express page.

For information, photos & online tickets see the Venice Simplon Orient Express page

LX-type sleeping-car of the Venice Simplon Orient Express train boarding at Calais

A sleeping-car attendant greets passengers outside his 1929-built LX-series Wagons-Lits. 


London to Lake Como or Lake Garda

Take the train to Lake Como...

Como is such a popular lakeside destination!  Como San Giovanni station is the mainline station on the Zurich-Milan main line, and it's also linked to Milan Centrale by frequent local train.  On the other hand, destinations on the eastern side of Lake Como, such as Lecco, Varenna (for the ferry to Bellagio), and Bellano are on a local line linking Milan centrale with Tirano near the Swiss border.

To reach Como San Giovanni there are two basic options:

To reach Lecco, Varenna (for ferry to Bellagio), Bellano:

For Lake Como ferry services, including the ferries to Bellagio & excursions, see www.navigazionelaghi.it

Or to Desenzano or Peschiera on Lake Garda...


London to Pisa, Siena, Lucca, Modena, Ravenna

  Local train from Florence to Siena

One of Trenitalia's modern Minuetto local trains used between Florence & Siena.

  Take the train to Italy!  The main piazza in Siena.

The beautiful main square in Siena.

Pisa is famous for its leaning tower, Siena for simply being a fabulous city in the heart of Tuscany.  They are easy to reach by train from London, no flight necessary...

London ► Siena, Pisa, Lucca

London ► Modena, Ravenna

Fares & how to buy tickets...


London to Pompeii, Sorrento, Capri, Ischia, & Elba

  Circumvesuviana train from Naples to Pompeii & Sorrento

The Circumvesuviana Railway links Naples, Herculaneum, Pompeii & Sorrento every 30 minutes, see www.vesuviana.it.

  Circumvesuviana train arriving at Pompei Scavi station.

Up Pompeii!  The Circumvesuviana train from Naples arrives at Pompei Scavi Villa di Misteri.  The entrance to the ruins of Pompeii is just across the road, for visitor info see www.pompeiisites.org.

  The SNAV fast ferry from Naples, just arrived at Capri's Grande Marina

Above:  The ferry from Naples, arrived at Capri. For ferry information, see www.snav.it

Sorrento, Pompeii & Herculaneum...

Capri...

Ischia...

Elba...


London to Salerno & the Amalfi coast...

  Amalfi

Amalfi, see from a bend in the winding Amalfi coast road.  SITA buses (www.sitabus.it) link Amalfi with both Salerno & Sorrento...


London to Genoa, Cinque Terre & La Spezia

You can travel via Paris & either Milan or via Nice.  Both options are shown here, though the route via Nice is probably more scenic, possibly cheaper, and you won't have to get up as early!  You can also travel by daytime trains with an overnight hotel stop in either Milan, Turin, Paris or Zurich.

Option 1:  By Eurostar & TGV...

This is the cheapest, fastest and most comfortable option from London to Genoa.  The whole journey can be done in just one day.

London ► Genoa, Cinque Terre, La Spezia

La Spezia, Cinque Terre, Genoa ► London

How much does it cost?

How to buy tickets

Option 2:  By Eurostar & Thello sleeper train, via Milan...

London ► Genoa, Cinque Terre, La Spezia

Genoa, Cinque Terre, La Spezia ► London

How much does it cost?

How to buy tickets online...

How to buy tickets by phone or in person...

To buy tickets by phone for all these trains, call International Rail on 0844 248 248 3 (UK callers), lines open 09:00-17:00 Monday-Friday.  Overseas callers call +44 844 2482483.  Unlike some other agencies, International Rail are equipped with both the French and Italian rail ticketing systems, so can sell the cheapest fares for all the trains from the UK to Italy and within Italy.  They charge a £10 booking fee for bookings under £100, £20 for £100-£300, £30 above £300.  Eurostar, Thello, TGV & Trenitalia tickets will be emailed to you as e-tickets, so there's no postage fee or delay.  For more information about how to buy European train tickets, click here.

Option 3:  By Eurostar and Intercités de Nuit couchette train via Nice...

Train times London ► Genoa, Cinque Terre, La Spezia

Train times Genoa, Cinque Terre, La Spezia ► London

How much does it cost?

How to buy tickets online...

How to buy tickets by phone or in person...

To buy tickets by phone for all these trains, call International Rail on 0844 248 248 3 (UK callers), lines open 09:00-17:00 Monday-Friday.  Overseas callers call +44 844 2482483.  Unlike some other agencies, International Rail are equipped with both the French and Italian rail ticketing systems, so can sell the cheapest fares for all the trains from the UK to Italy and within Italy.  They charge a £10 booking fee for bookings under £100, £20 for £100-£300, £30 above £300.  Tickets will usually be emailed to you as e-tickets, so there's no postage fee or delay.  For more information about how to buy European train tickets, click here.


London to Civitavecchia

Take the train not plane to your cruise ship at Civitavecchia...

Civitavecchia is the cruise port just north of Rome.  It's often used as the starting point for Mediterranean cruises, and it's also a departure point for ferries to Sardinia.  Civitavecchia is on the main Genoa-Pisa-Rome rail route, just 81 km (51 miles) north of Rome.  Frequent Frecciabianca, InterCity and regional trains link Rome's main Stazione Termini with Civitavecchia, and you'll also find direct trains from Genoa & Pisa to Civitavecchia.  The InterCity trains from Rome take 50 minutes and cost €10, the Frecciabianca trains take 40 minutes and cost €14, but Frecciabianca & IC trains only run every couple of hours and require a reservation. The regional trains take 49-68 minutes but run at least once per hour, often up to three times an hour, they cost only €5 one-way, no reservation necessary, you just buy a ticket and hop on the next train.

For travel from the UK to Civitavecchia, it's usually easiest and fastest to travel to Rome first, then travel back north to Civitavecchia by regional train.  See the London-Rome section above, then use www.trenitalia.com to find train times and fares from Rome to Civitavecchia (pick any date within the next 7 days to see times and fares for regional trains, the fares don't show up further ahead than this, and won't change as the price is fixed).  Buy tickets as far as Rome in advance, but it's easiest to just buy your Rome-Civitavecchia ticket at the station on the day, using the self-service machines which have a touch screen with English language facility.  No reservation is required or even possible for regional trains, you just buy a ticket and hop on the next train.  Don't forget to validate your local ticket in the little grey & green validation machines at the entrance to the platform before boarding the train.

In Civitavecchia, the station is an easy 10 minute walk from the port entrance, though if you have baggage you may prefer to use a taxi.


London to Rimini, S.Marino, Ancona, Bari, Brindisi

London ► Rimini, Ancona, Bari, Brindisi, Lecce (option 1, by Thello sleeper)

London ► Rimini, Ancona, Bari, Brindisi, Lecce (option 2, daytime travel + hotel)

How to reach San Marino...

For San Marino, take the train to Rimini.  Buses to San Marino leave from outside Rimini railway station every hour or so between 08:10 and 19:25 in winter, between 06:45 and 20:30 in summer, less frequently on winter Sundays, journey time 50 minutes, fare around €4.50 one-way.  You can check bus times & fares at www.bonellibus.it (Italian only).

On board the Frecciabianca train...

Frecciabianca trains are fully air-conditioned, with a refreshment trolley and sometimes cafe counter, but no restaurant car - feel free to take your own picnic and maybe bottle of wine along.  Seat reservation is compulsory on Frecciabianca trains, so everyone gets a seat.  All seats in both classes have power sockets for laptops & mobiles (2-pin, 220v).

Eurostar City train from Bologna to Bari, seen at Bologna.   Eurostar City 1st class seats   Eurostar City 2nd class seats

From Milan to Bari, you travel in a Frecciabianca train, running along the seaside for much of the way...

 

This is 1st class, less crowded and more spacious.

 

...and this is 2nd class. 

Lecce, Brindisi, Bari, Ancona, Rimini  ► London (option 1, by Thello sleeper)

Lecce, Brindisi, Bari, Ancona, Rimini  ► London (option 2, daytime travel + hotel)

How much does it cost?

Fares for the London-Milan part of the journey are shown in the London-Milan section above.

 Milan to Bari

 by train:

 Booked online at www.italiarail.com or www.trenitalia.com:

 2nd class Super-Economy fare:  From €29 each way.

 2nd class full-price Base fare:  €92 each way.

 1st class Super-Economy fare:  From €49 each way.

 1st class full-price Base fare:  €124 each way.

 Milan to Ancona

 by train:

 Booked online at www.italiarail.com or www.trenitalia.com

 2nd class Super-Economy fare:  From €19 each way.

 2nd class full-price Base fare:  €56 each way.

 1st class Super-Economy fare:  From €29 each way.

 1st class full-price Base fare:  €75 each way.

You can check these fares & fares for other journeys using www.trenitalia.com Advice for using trenitalia.com.

How to buy tickets online for the Thello sleeper option...

This takes 3 websites, so do a dry run on all three before booking for real.

How to buy tickets online, for the daytime TGV option...

How to buy tickets by phone or in person...

To buy tickets by phone for all these trains, call International Rail on 0844 248 248 3 (UK callers), lines open 09:00-17:00 Monday-Friday.  Overseas callers call +44 844 2482483.  Unlike some other agencies, International Rail are equipped with both the French and Italian rail ticketing systems, so can sell the cheapest fares for all the trains from the UK to Italy and within Italy.  They charge a £10 booking fee for bookings under £100, £20 for £100-£300, £30 above £300.  Eurostar, TGV & Trenitalia tickets will be emailed to you as e-tickets, so there's no postage fee or delay.  For more information about how to buy European train tickets, click here.


London to Trieste

One of Italy's most historic and under-rated cities...

Along with Turin, I'd say Trieste is one of Italy's most under-rated cities, figuratively left out in the cold when it comes to the Venice, Florence, Rome tourist trek.  Which is a shame, as like Turin it's a wonderful city to visit with a significant history.


London to Sicily

UK to Sicily by train?  No problem.  You can travel all the way by train, experiencing one of Europe's last train ferries where the train is physically shunted onto a ship for the short sea voyage across the Straits of Messina to Sicily, or you can use an overnight cruise ferry to Sicily from either Genoa or Naples.  Each of these three options is explained below.

  Palermo to Milan sleeper train being taken off the train ferry at Messina
 

Gently does it...  The Milan to Palermo sleeper express is taken off the ferry at Messina.  Yes, the trains to Sicily really are direct, and really do get shunted onto a ferry to cross the straits from Villa San Giovanni to Messina. Photo courtesy of David Smith.

Option 1, by train all the way...

This makes for a comfortable journey from the UK to Sicily, taking just 1 night, 2 days.  The journey shown here is the fastest option, but by all means take a bit longer, stop off on the way and spread out the journey.

London ► Catania, Palermo, Syracuse

Syracuse, Palermo, Catania ► London

What is an Italian InterCity train like?...

InterCity trains are fully air-conditioned, with 1st & 2nd class & often a refreshment trolley. Seat reservation is now compulsory on all InterCity trains. 1st class has power sockets for laptops, 2nd class usually doesn't.

An air-conditioned InterCity train in Italy...   A second class compartment on an Italian InterCity train.   A first class compartment on an Italian InterCity train.

Italian InterCity train, as operated between Rome, Naples & Sicily...

 

2nd class 6-seat compartment.  Some cars have open-plan seating.

 

1st class open-plan seating.  Some cars have 6-seat compartments.

What is the Rome to Sicily sleeper train like?

Standard sleeping-car on Italian overnight train

Standard Italian sleeper on overnight train.  It has 12 compartments, each of which can be used as 1st class Single, 1st class Double or 2nd class 3-berth.

  1- 2- or 3- berth sleeper on Italian overnight train - daytime mode

Sleeper in evening/ morning mode, with beds folded away.

 

First class single sleeper

Sleeper compartment in night-time mode, set up as a 2-berth.

There are also 4-berth Comfort couchettes, see the photos here.

Through Southern Italy & across on the train ferry to Sicily...

If you stop off in Rome, you can also take a time-effective sleeper train from Rome to Sicily.  Taking the overnight train to Sicily is quite an adventure...

A sleeper train to Sicily at a wayside Italian station   Train to Sicily boards the ferry   Sleeper train to Sicily on board the train ferry

En route to Sicily by sleeper train, at a sunny, sleepy southern-Italian station.  Photo courtesy of Edward Roland

 

At Villa san Giovanni, the train is shunted onto a train ferry for the crossing to Messina.  This is a sleeper train on board the ferry.  Photos courtesy of Edward Roland

Mount Etna, seen from a Siracuse & Catania to Rome InterCity train   Rome to Sicily InterCity train inside the train ferry   Train ferry from Sicily appraches the dock

Mount Etna, seen from a Siracuse/Catania to Rome InterCity train.  Photo courtesy of Richard Millbank.

 

The InterCity train from Sicily to Rome inside the train ferry.

 

With bow door raised, the train ferry approaches the linkspan at Villa San Giovanni.  Photos courtesy Richard Millbank

Travellers' reports...

Traveller Kathryn Vale reports:  "Our train trip to Palermo was a success: London to Paris by Eurostar, TGV to Toulon then local train to Monte Carlo (all stops to visit family!).  Then Ventimiglia-Genoa and Genoa-Palermo all for €68 including 4 bed 'couchette promiscuo' with juice and newspaper on waking (although no food to buy on board) AND the amazing train on the boat to Messina. We had blue sea on our right shoulder from daybreak in the couchette and all round the coast and some lovely interior trips within Sicily by train too.  The trains were great, the time keeping fine (except the Genoa train which was 40 minutes late, but we caught up on the next day), the staff were helpful - even with not much English/Italian between us!"

Traveller Steve Hutchinson reports:  “We picked up the Rome to Sicily sleeper after having arrived in Rome earlier that morning on the DB sleeper from Munich, enabling an interesting comparison between overnight trains! We had a T3 3-berth sleeper on the Sicily train, which was very comfortable with ample room for our luggage. Despite it being around 30c on departure at 2120 the air conditioning was working quite well, so a comfortable night’s sleep was assured. We woke in the morning as the train was running along the Calabrian coast with amazing views of mountains in the distance. The train then arrived at Villa San Giovanni around 06:00 where it was shunted onto the train ferry. It was effectively split into two portions to fit on the boat. The crossing took about half an hour. We all got off the train and went to the upper deck of the ship to see the views of Sicily on the approach and to get some coffee, which was very welcome! After arriving at Messina the two portions of the train – one for Palermo, the other for Catania and Siracuse - were hauled into the station. This gave the opportunity for anyone who’d got on the wrong portion in the hold of the ferry to change over! There were excellent views of Mount Etna as the Siracuse portion ran along the east coast of the island. The whole journey was amazing; you felt you’d actually travelled and arrived, rather than being delivered in a sterile aircraft. On the return a week later we boarded the sleeper train at Siracuse after an excellent meal at a restaurant round the corner from the station. Arrival at Rome was the following morning around 10:00, after a good night’s sleep”

Traveller Edward Rolands reports:  "We took the overnight train train to Sicily, booking a 4 berth “comfort” couchette. Booking in advance at www.trenitalia.com meant it only cost €34.  It had a lot more space than the 6 berth variety and the air conditioning was functioning a lot more effectively too making for a much better nights sleep. We woke up in the morning as the train was pacing along the Calabrian coast with some lovely views of mountains in the distance and cliffs dropping in to the sea. The train then arrives at Villa San Giovanni where it’s shunted on to the ferry, a process which takes about half an hour.  You may be shunted on to the ferry, then shunted off again, then shunted back on again, as the train is broken up so that it fits!  The crossing takes about half an hour and you can get off and go on deck to enjoy the view - and get some basic refreshments.  On arrival at Messina it takes about half an hour to reconstruct the train which will now be in two bits, one for Palermo, one for Catania & Syracuse. Our Siracuse section was shunted into the platform at Messina Centrale first, 5 minutes before its departure time.  However it was held there until the other section was reconstructed and shunted in to another platform, so we ended up leaving over 20 minutes late.  The final section along the Eastern coast of Sicily has some great views of the mountains in the distance and of course Mt Etna. The train arrived at Taormina only 15 minutes late - the staff seemed keen to make up more time as it didn’t hang around before carrying on it’s journey South.  Overall the journey was brilliant and much better than any flight!"

How much does it cost?

See the London to Rome & Naples section above for fares from London to Rome and Naples.

 Fare from

 Naples to Sicily...

 Naples to Palermo, booked at www.trenitalia.com:

 Super-Economy fares from just €19 each way in 2nd class, €29 in 1st class.

 Full price €60 each way 2nd class, €82 1st class.

How to buy tickets online...

  • Step 1, book the London-Paris-Milan Eurostar and TGV as shown in the London to Milan section above.

  • Step 2, book the Milan-Naples train at www.trenitalia.com, looking for a cheap Super-Economy or Economy fare when you reach the fare selection page.  Trenitalia offers a hassle-free ticketless option, you book online and simply quote your booking reference to the conductor on board.

  • Step 3, book the Naples-Sicily InterCity train at either www.italiarail.com (they'll refund the small booking fee to seat61 users if you email them at seat61@italiarail.com with your PNR) or Italian Railways' own site www.trenitalia.com, looking for cheap super-economy or economy fares.  Both sites sell the same tickets at the same prices and both usually offer ticketless travel, you simply quote your PNR on board the train.  However, Italiarail.com is in plain English and happily accepts English place names, whereas Trenitalia.com requires Italian-language place names, for example 'Roma' for Rome, 'Napoli' for Naples, 'Firenze' for Florence, 'Venezia Santa Lucia' for Venice and has a few quirks, although one advantage is that it allows you to select specific seats.

How to buy tickets by phone or in person...

To buy tickets by phone for all these trains, call International Rail on 0844 248 248 3 (UK callers), lines open 09:00-17:00 Monday-Friday.  Overseas callers call +44 844 2482483.  Unlike some other agencies, International Rail are equipped with both the French and Italian rail ticketing systems, so can sell the cheapest fares for all the trains from the UK to Italy and within Italy.  They charge a £10 booking fee for bookings under £100, £20 for £100-£300, £30 above £300.  Eurostar, TGV & Trenitalia tickets will be emailed to you as e-tickets, so there's no postage fee or delay.  For more information about how to buy European train tickets, click here.

Option 2, by cruise ferry from Genoa.

London ► Sicily

This takes 2 nights from London to Palermo, not 1, but it's a more leisurely option with a cruise thrown in.

  • Leave London by Eurostar at 16:22, change in Paris onto the overnight Intercités de Nuit couchette train to Nice, and take a connecting train to Genoa, arriving lunchtime.  See the London to Genoa section for full details, and information on how to buy tickets.

  • Sail from Genoa to Palermo on Sicily on the daily Grandi Navi Veloci cruise ferry, leaving Genoa at 22:00 and arriving Palermo around 18:00 next day.  A range of comfortable cabins, bars & restaurants are available.  Book the ferry online at www.gnv.it.

  • One traveller reports the ferry as "Superb, like a cruise ship with cars.  We booked a cabin with a double bed in the prow of the ship, breakfast served in our cabin, swimming pool in the day, a very civilised way to travel!"

Sicily ► London

  • In the return direction, the ferry leaves Palermo at 22:00 and arrives Genoa at 18:00.  This is too late for the train to Nice/Paris/London, so an overnight stop may be required, continuing the next day.  Or take an evening train to Milan, stay there, and take a daytime Milan-Paris-London service, see above.

Option 3, by overnight ferry from Naples...

London ► Sicily ► London

You can also travel from London to Naples by train, then take an overnight cruise ferry from Naples to Palermo.  Two companies run daily ferries with comfortable cabins with en suite showers, sailing around 20:00 and arriving around 07:00, in both directions.  See www.tirrenia.it & www.snav.it for times, dates, fares & online booking.


London to Sardinia

  A Tirrenia Line ferry arrives in Sardinia

A Tirrenia Line ship arrives in Sardinia...

Getting from the UK or mainland Europe to Sardinia without flying is easy, as there are a whole range of ferries to Sardinia, from both France (Marseille or Toulon) and from the Italian mainland (Genoa, Civitavecchia, Livorno, and others).

From London, one option is to travel by train to Marseille or Toulon and then take an SNCM ferry from Marseille or Toulon to Porto Torres in Sardinia.  Start by checking sailing dates and times at either the Seat61 Ferry Shop or www.sncm.fr.  Then check train times to connect, using the London to France page and allowing at least 2 hours in Marseille between train and ferry, preferably a bit more to allow for taxi transfer to port, check-in time, and to allow for any delay.

However, the SNCM service from France is not the most frequent, so you might prefer to travel via Italy.  Both Grandi Navi Veloci and Tirrenia Lines have overnight sailings from Genoa to Porto Torres in Sardinia on most nights of the year, as well as sailings from other Italian ports.  Another ferry company with regular sailings to Sardinia from Civitavecchia near Rome is Sardinia Ferries.  Start by visiting the Seat61 Ferry Shop, which can book most ferry routes and operators, or see each ferry company's own website to confirm sailing dates, times and fares.  Then see the London to Genoa or London to Rome sections above to arrange trains to connect.  Remember to allow several hours for a safe connection between train and ferry, to include ferry check-in time, transfer from station to port, and to allow for any delay.

How to buy tickets...


London & East Anglia to Italy - the ferry alternative

  Boarding the Stena Line ferry from Harwich to Hoek van Holland

London to Holland by Dutch Flyer train & ferry...  A train takes you from London's Liverpool Street station directly to the ferry terminal at Harwich.  You walk off the train into the terminal, get your boarding card & cabin key at the Stena Line check-in desk and walk straight onto the overnight superferry to Hoek van Holland.  The Stena Hollandica is the largest ferry of its kind in the world.  See the Netherlands page for details and see the video...

  Standard inside cabin on the ferry

Cosy cabins:  The overnight Harwich-Hoek ferry is a floating hotel.  All passengers travel in a cosy private cabin with en suite shower & toilet, free WiFi & satellite TV. This is the cheapest 2-berth cabin...

  Captain's suite deluxe cabin on the Stena Line ferry 'Stena Hollandica'

... and this is a Captain's Class cabin with double bed & complimentary bubbly in the minibar.

  ICE train to Switzerland at Frankfurt hauptbahnhof

Onwards to Switzerland by ICE high-speed train:  This is a superb 186 mph German ICE train at Frankfurt am Main Hauptbahnhof.

2nd class seats on the ICE.  A bistro car serves meals on proper china.   Stay overnight in Switzerland, then on to Italy by EuroCity train...

By ferry instead of Eurostar?  Why not Dover-Calais?

If you want to avoid the Channel Tunnel, for example if problems are affecting the Eurostar service or if you suffer from claustrophobia, you can travel by train & ferry instead.  At first glance, the obvious route seems to be by train from London to Dover, then the short 90 minute ferry crossing to Calais, then by train to Paris.  If you want to do this, see the London to Paris by train & ferry page, and once in Paris you can pick up any of the routes to Italy shown above.  However, although this is the direct and traditional route, I do not recommend it, unless you happen to live near Dover, as it is now inconvenient, it lacks any integrated ticketing or timetabling and involves awkward bus or taxi transfers between railway stations and ferry terminals on both sides of the Channel.  It now takes so long that you cannot reliably connect with the sleeper train from Paris to Italy the same day, so need to stop overnight in Paris and travel on next day.

Recommended route:  Harwich - Hoek van Holland...

Instead I suggest what at first seems a roundabout alternative, marked in black on the route map above, via the excellent overnight superferry from Harwich to Hoek van Holland - see the video.  This route offers cheap combined train+ferry tickets from London to Amsterdam with totally painless train-ferry transfers on both sides of the water, then inexpensive onward tickets to Italy.  It's handy if you live in East Anglia as you can travel direct to Harwich without going through London, and it avoids France and Belgium if the French or Belgians are on strike again.  Indeed, you may simply prefer a convenient evening departure from central London, cruising overnight to Holland in a private cabin with shower, toilet, free WiFi and satellite TV on the luxurious Stena Line superferry, spending the next day at leisure in Amsterdam, then taking the excellent City Night Line sleeper overnight to Zurich followed by a scenic onward train ride through the Gotthard Pass in the Swiss Alps to Italy.  It's both civilised and comfortable.  Here's how to do it:

London, East Anglia, Harwich  ► Italy

Italy  ► Harwich, East Anglia, London

How much does it cost?

How to buy tickets online...

How to buy tickets by phone:  Special booking form


Scotland & the North to Italy - ferry alternative   

  DFDS Seaways ferry 'Princess of Norway' about to sail from Newcastle.

DFDS Seaways Princess of Norway about to sail overnight from Newcastle to Amsterdam...

  A Commodore Deluxe cabin on DFDS Seaways

A Commodore deluxe cabin on DFDS ferry King of Scandinavia from Newcastle to Amsterdam, with minibar, satellite TV, shower & toilet.  See the video...

  A standard cabin on DFDS Seaways Newcastle-Amsterdam ferry.

A standard Seaways Class cabin with shower & toilet on DFDS Princess of Norway from Newcastle to Amsterdam.

You can take a train up to London and travel from London to Italy as described above, of course, and this is often the easiest and fastest option.  If you want to do this, read this advice on buying connecting train tickets up to London.  But DFDS Seaways run an excellent daily overnight cruise ferry from Newcastle to Amsterdam, and P&O Ferries sail overnight from Hull to Holland.  Then there's a direct City Night Line sleeper from Amsterdam to Switzerland for onward EuroCity trains through the Alps to Italy.  So why not by-pass London, and have a day in Amsterdam into the bargain before travelling on to Italy?

Scotland & the north of England ► Italy

Italy ► Scotland & the north of England

Fares & how to buy tickets...


The Train Bleu restaurant at Paris Gare de Lyon...

  Train Bleu restaurant sign

If you've time for lunch or dinner in Paris...

I highly recommend eating at the famous and remarkable Train Bleu restaurant inside the Gare de Lyon, on the main concourse, see the Train Bleu restaurant page for more details.

...or at the Gare du Nord, try the Brasserie Terminus Nord...

If you'd like a decent meal near the Gare du Nord rather than the Gare de Lyon, try the typically French Brasserie Terminus Nord (www.terminusnord.com), just across the road from  the front of the Gare du Nord.  It's good quality French cuisine in classic Parisian brasserie surroundings, and so handy for Eurostar.  Main dishes cost around €18-€20.


Holidays & tours to Italy by train

Custom-made tours, holidays & short breaks...

The following companies can arrange a short break, tour or longer holiday to your own specification, either within Italy or from the UK to Italy by train, leaving on any date you like.  As you're effectively booking a package, not travelling independently, another advantage is that they'll look after you if anything goes wrong, for example a strike or major delay...

 

020 3327 0761 (UK)

1-800-408-3280 (USA)

1300 971 526 (Aust)

0800 002 034 (NZ)

 

0843 506 8815

Please quote 'seat61'

 

 

020 7619 1080

Pls quote 'seat61'

Railbookers tours, holidays & breaks to Italy by train...

Railbookers are an experienced train travel specialist who custom-make tours, holidays or short breaks to travellers' own specification, with train travel, transfers & hotels all arranged.  If you tell them what you want, they'll advise you on the best trains, routes & hotels and sort it all out for you.  Italy is one of their most popular destinations, and they get a lot of repeat business!  See the Railbookers Italy page to browse suggested itineraries and prices.

  UK call 020 3327 0761, www.railbookers.com

USA & Canada call toll-free 1-800-408-3280, www.us.railbookers.com.

  Australia call toll-free 1300 971 526, www.railbookers.com.au

  New Zealand call toll-free 0800 002 034 or see website.

Planet Rail, www.planetrail.co.uk, 0843 506 8815 (please quote 'Seat61.com')...

Planet Rail offer tailor-made holidays by rail for both groups and individuals, put together to your own requirements. Destinations include Italy, Switzerland, Germany, Belgium, Russia and France.  See www.planetrail.co.uk or call 0843 506 8815 to speak to one of their team.

Traintours4u, www.traintours4u.co.uk, 020 7619 1080  (please quote 'Seat61.com')...

If you prefer to travel on your own unescorted, with departure on any date you like, Erail offers an Italian Grand Tour, 9 days to Rome, Florence & Venice.  Their new all-inclusive brand, www.traintours4u.co.uk, offers holidays by train to Italy on a full-inclusive basis.

Escorted tours...

If you prefer to travel with a group of like-minded fellow travellers with a professional tour guide taking care of you, the following companies organise tours by train from the UK to Italy and other European countries, with regular departure dates throughout the year...

 

01904 527 120

  Raildiscoveries

01904 730727

Great Rail Journeys, www.greatrail.com, 01904 527 120...

GRJ is the established market leader in escorted tours to Europe by train.  They offer five-star inclusive escorted tours to Italy, with 1st class train travel and 4* or 5* hotels.  Tours include a 14-day Grand Tour of Italy to Florence, Venice & Rome, a tour to the Bay of Naples, Capri & Amalfi, and to Lake Garda, all with travel from London to Italy and back by train.  Great Rail Journeys also offer holidays by train to other European countries.  Check the tour details & prices online, then call 01904 527120 to book or use their online booking form.

Rail Discoveries, www.raildiscoveries.com, 01904 730 727...

Rail Discoveries is a sister company of Great Rail Journeys, offering similar train-based escorted tours to Italy, but with 2* or 3* hotels and travel by Eurostar and high-speed TGV in 2nd class.  For example, they offer a 9-day tour to  Florence, Venice and Tuscany  or an 8 day tour to Lake Garda.  Check details & prices at www.raildiscoveries.com and book online or call 01904 730 727.


Send your luggage in advance

Ride the trains without heavy luggage... 

Send your suitcase ahead by Luggage Mule from around £30 each way.


The European Rail Timetable & maps

Thomas Cook European Timetable -  click to buy onlineTraveller's Railway Map of Europe - buy onlineThe European Rail Timetable (formerly the Thomas Cook European Timetable) has train & ferry times for every country in Europe plus currency & climate information.  It is essential for regular European train travellers and an inspiration for armchair travellers.  Published since 1873, it had just celebrated 140 years of publication when Thomas Cook decided to pull the plug on their entire publishing department, but the dedicated ex-Thomas Cook team have set up a private venture and published the first edition of a reborn European Rail Timetable in March 2014.  You can buy it online with worldwide shipping at either www.stanfords.co.uk or www.europeanrailtimetable.euMore information on what the European Rail Timetable contains.

A Traveller's Railway Map of Europe covers the whole of Europe from Portugal in the west to Moscow & Istanbul in the east, Finland in the north to Sicily & Athens in the south.  On the back are detailed maps of Switzerland, Benelux & Germany, plus city plans showing stations in major cities.  Scenic & high-speed routes highlighted.  Buy it online for £14.50 + postage worldwide (UK addresses £2.80) at www.stanfords.co.uk/Continents/Europe/Maps--Atlases/Europe-A-Travellers-Railway-Map_9789077899090.htm or (in the Netherlands) for €13 + €5.50 postage from www.treinreiswinkel.nl.


Guidebooks

Highly recommended:  The Lonely Planets & Rough Guides...

If you have a decent guidebook you'll see so much more and know so much more about what you're looking at.  It's a sound investment when you remember what you're spending on the whole trip!  I think the Lonely Planets or Rough Guides are the best ones out there for the independent traveller.  My own book is an essential handbook for train travel to Europe based on this website called "The Man in Seat 61".  Published in June 2008 and revised April 2010, it's available from Amazon.co.uk with shipping worldwide.

Click the images to buy at Amazon.co.uk

Alternatively, you can download just the chapters or areas you need in .PDF format from the Lonely Planet Website, from around £2.99 or US$4.95 a chapter.

Buy online at AmazonThe Man in Seat 61 book - click to buy onlineLonely Planet Western Europe - click to buy onlineLonely Planet Florence - click to buy onlineLonely Planet Venice - click to buy onlineLonely Planet Rome - click to buy online

 

 

 

 

 

 


Find hotels in Venice, Florence, Rome & Italy...

Option 1, find Italian hotels & guesthouses on www.venere.com...

I find that www.venere.com is the best website for hotels in Italy, as they're an Italian-based company and have places in even the smallest towns.  I also like the fact that the price you see is the price you pay, no hidden extras, and you just pay the hotel when you get there.  After booking, you can change or cancel your reservation in line with the hotel's own change and cancellation policy.  Try these direct links:

Rome   Florence   Venice   Verona   Naples   Milan   Siena  Lucca   Bologna   Pisa   Sorrento   Genoa   Ancona   Other Italian towns & cities

Option 2, search all the booking sites at once with Hotelscombined.com...

 

◄◄ Hotel search & price comparison.

www.hotelscombined.com checks all the main hotel booking sites at once to find the widest choice of hotels & the cheapest seller.  It was named as the World's Leading Hotel Comparison Site at the World Travel Awards 2013 and I highly recommend it, both to find hotels in even the smallest places and to check that another retailer isn't selling your hotel for less!

www.booking.com is my favourite booking site.  It's really clear and you can usually book with free cancellation and so confirm your accommodation at no risk months before train booking opens.

Option 3, backpacker hostels:  www.hostelbookers.com...

Option 4, homestays: www.homestay.com...


City Tours by Open Top Bus

City Sightseeing Open Top Bus TourBuy a ticket for the hop-on, hop-off Open Top Bus...

City Sightseeing's red-and-yellow open top tour buses are now a familiar site in 100 major cities on 6 continents.  They do a hop-on, hop-off tour bus ticket for Rome, Florence, Pisa, Naples, Milan, Verona, Sorrento, Turin, Genoa, Livorno, Messina & Palermo.  I find their bus tours a good way to orientate yourself in a city, returning to explore in more depth later.  It's also less wearing on the feet, especially with kids!

Buy your tour tickets online before you go, redeemable on any day you like within 3 months of buying it, see www.city-sightseeing.com.


Car hire

Take the train to Italy, then hire a car:  www.holidayautos.co.uk

Italian city centres and cars don't mix, so stick with the train to see the cities.  But if you want to get out of the cities and into the countryside, for example Tuscany or the Amalfi Coast, then hiring a car can be a great idea.  Start with Holiday Autos, www.holidayautos.co.uk, they're part of Lastminute.com so are reliable and have a wide range of locations and very good prices.

Compare 50 different car hire companies:  www.carrentals.co.uk

The award-winning website www.carrentals.co.uk compares many different car hire companies including Holiday Autos, meaning not only a cheapest price comparison but a wider choice of hire and drop off location.


Travel insurance & health card...

 

 

Columbus direct travel insurance

Take out decent travel insurance, it's essential...

Never travel without proper travel insurance from a reliable insurer with at least £1m or preferably £5m medical cover.  It should also cover loss of cash & belongings (up to a limit), and trip cancellation.  An annual multi-trip policy is usually cheapest even for just 2 or 3 trips a year - I have an annual policy myself.  However, don't expect travel insurance to bail you out of every missed connection, see the advice on missed connections here.  Here are some suggested insurers, Seat61 gets a little commission if you buy through these links, and feedback from using insurance for rail & ferry travel is always welcome.

In the UK, use www.confused.com to compare prices & policy features across major insurance companies.

If you have a pre-existing medical condition or are over 65 (no age limit), see www.JustTravelCover.com.

        If you live in Australia, New Zealand, Ireland or the EU, try Columbus Direct's other websites.

  If you live in the USA try Travel Guard USA.

Get an EU health card, it's free...

If you're a UK citizen travelling in Europe, you should apply for a free European Health Insurance Card, which entitles you to free or reduced rate health care if you become ill or get injured in many European countries, under a reciprocal arrangement with the NHS.  This replaced the old E111 forms as from January 2006.  The EHIC card is available from www.ehic.org.uk.  It doesn't remove the need for travel insurance, though.

Carry a spare credit card, designed for foreign travel with no currency exchange loading & low/no ATM fees

Taking out an extra credit card costs nothing, but if you keep it in a different part of your luggage you won't be left stranded if your wallet gets stolen.  In addition, some credit cards are better for overseas travel than others.  Martin Lewis's www.moneysavingexpert.com/travel/cheap-travel-money explains which UK credit cards have the lowest currency exchange commission loadings when you buy something overseas, and the lowest cash withdrawal fees when you use an ATM abroad.

You can avoid ATM charges and expensive exchange rates with a Caxton FX euro currency Visa Card, or their multi-currency 'Global Traveller' Visa Card, see www.caxtonfx.com for info.

Get an international SIM card to save on calls & mobile data...

Mobile phones can cost a fortune to use abroad, so consider getting a global pre-paid SIM card for your mobile phone which can cut call & data costs by up to 90%.  At the time of writing, www.roamsure.com claims a definite 25% saving within the EU and up to 90% saving in the rest of the world.  Incoming calls are free in 73 countries, including all of the EU, the USA, Australia & South Africa.  There's no contract or commitment, and at time I write this Roamsure is offering a global SIM card for free when you buy £20 of call credit.  Seat61 gets some commission to support the site if you buy airtime from Roamsure.

 


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