TGV train from Paris to Turin & Milan at Paris Gare de Lyon

The afternoon TGV to Milan about to leave Paris.  Find out more...

 

Interactive map: Click route or destination

Route map, London to italy by train

   
 

   
  Book your hotels at Booking.com
   
 

Train holidays to Italy with Railbookers.com

small bullet point  Holidays to Italy by train not plane

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

You can travel to Italy by train in a single day, London to Paris by Eurostar in 2h20 from £78 return then Paris to Turin (5h40) or Milan (7h) by high-speed TGV train from €29 each way, with cafe-bar, power sockets at all seats, free WiFi, a glass of wine to hand and not an airport security queue in sight.  Next morning, a Frecciarossa high-speed train whisks you from Turin to Florence in 3h or Rome in 4h10 from €29.90, or Milan to Venice in 2h27 from €19.90.

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, under 4s go free and around 80% less CO2 than a flight See for yourself...

This page explains all you need to know to travel to Italy by train, including the cheapest way to buy tickets either online or by phone.

COVID-19 update: See COVID-19 updates & travel information.  Trains are running between London & Italy.  Eurostar is running a reduced London-Paris service, Paris-Turin-Milan TGVs are running normally, Italian domestic trains are running with a few service reductions.

Choose your destination...    

Train times, fares & tickets...

small bullet point  London to Milan, Venice, Florence, Rome, Naples

small bullet point  London to Turin, Verona, Bologna

small bullet point  London to Lake Como

small bullet point  London to Lake Garda

small bullet point  London to Pisa, Siena, Lucca, Modena, Ravenna, Livorno

small bullet point  London to Pompeii, Sorrento, Capri, Ischia, Elba

small bullet point  London to Salerno & the Amalfi coast

small bullet point  London to Genoa, Cinque Terre & La Spezia

small bullet point  London to Civitavecchia for cruise connections...

small bullet point  London to Rimini, San Marino, Ancona, Pescara

small bullet point  London to Foggia, Bari, Brindisi & Lecce

small bullet point  London to Trieste

small bullet point  London to Palermo, Catania, Siracuse & Sicily

small bullet point  London to Sardinia

small bullet point  Starting from other UK towns & cities

small bullet point  London to Italy by Venice Simplon Orient Express

Train travel within Italy..

small bullet point  Train travel in Italy - a beginner's guide

small bullet point  How to use Trenitalia.com

small bullet point  How to make a day trip to Pompeii

small bullet point  Turin station guide

small bullet point  Milan Centrale station guide

small bullet point  Florence SMN station guide

small bullet point  Venice Santa Lucia station guide

small bullet point  Rome Termini station guide

small bullet point  Naples Centrale station guide

small bullet point  City maps showing stations...

    Map of Milan   Map of Venice   Map of Florence

    Map of Rome   Map of Naples   Map of Turin

International trains to & from Italy...

small bullet point  Other European cities to Italy by train

small bullet point  Rome to other European cities

small bullet point  Florence to other European cities

small bullet point  Venice to other European cities

small bullet point  Milan to other European cities

small bullet point  Naples to other European cities

small bullet point  Paris to Turin & Milan by TGV high-speed train

Other useful information...

small bullet point  Country information - currency, dial code...

small bullet point  General information for European train travel

small bullet point  Luggage on trains & Left luggage at stations

small bullet point  How to cross Paris by metro, taxi or transfer

small bullet point  Taking your bike - Taking your dog

small bullet point  Taking your car

small bullet point  Child age limits & travel with kids

small bullet point  Eurail passes - the pass for overseas visitors

small bullet point  Interrail passes - the pass for Europeans

small bullet point  Travel in a wheelchair

small bullet point  Holidays & tours to Italy by train

small bullet point  Hotels in Italy

small bullet point  Travel insurance, Curve Card & VPN

small bullet point  Car hire in Italy

small bullet point  Cruises from Venice & Cruises from Rome

Video guides...

small bullet point  London to Paris by Eurostar video

small bullet point  Crossing Paris by metro video

small bullet point  Paris to Italy by daytime TGV video

Route map...


large bullet pointUseful 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:

 

www.italiarail.com or www.raileurope.com in €, £, $

 Other useful links:

 

Train times for almost any journey in Europe Eurostar times & fares.  To check for problems affecting trains from Paris to Italy (in French) see www.sncf.com/fr/horaires-info-trafic.  Paris métro: www.ratp.fr.  Circumvesuviana Railway (Naples-Pompeii-Sorrento): www.eavsrl.it.  Bus & metro: Rome  Milan.  Venice waterbuses: www.actv.it.

 Railpasses:

 

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

 Time zone:

 

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

 Dialling code:

 

+39

 Currency:

 

£1 = approx 1.11 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:

25 November 2021.  Train times valid 12 Dec 2021 to 10 Dec 2022.


large bullet pointLondon to Italy

 

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 on the Grand Canal, a stroll from the Rialto Bridge & St Mark's Square.  Or take a vaporetto (water bus), or (if you're loaded) a water taxi...

Which route to choose?

There's a choice of routes from the UK to Italy by train, some fast & direct, some slower but amazingly scenic, some by daytime trains, some by sleeper train. Browse the list below and click on whichever appeals most.  By all means go out one way & come back another, or stop off on the way, as each train is ticketed separately.

Back to top


large bullet pointOption 1:  By Eurostar & TGV

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

  Table for two on the train to Italy
 

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

Watch the video

Buy train tickets to Italy

Every day, three high-speed TGV trains run by SNCF French Railways link Paris with Turin & Milan, with connections to Florence, Venice, Rome & Naples.  Leave London in the morning, have lunch in Paris, reach Turin or Milan in the evening, stay overnight then take a high-speed train to Florence, Venice, Rome or Naples next day.  Or leave London in the evening, stay overnight in Paris and travel from Paris to anywhere in Italy next day.

This route is usually the most inexpensive way to reach Italy by train, as Paris-Milan starts at just €29 each way.  It's a scenic option, shown in dark blue on the route map above, see the video guide, although not as scenic as the more expensive route via Switzerland in option 3 or the ultimate scenic Bernina Express route in option 5.

Milan is a great city, with the best onward connections to other Italian cities, but Turin is even better and well worth a stopover.  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?  Perfect!

Eurostar is running a reduced service at the moment, more departure may come on stream as business returns, so check what Eurostar departures are available on your date of travel at www.raileurope.com or www.thetrainline.com.  Beyond Paris, trains are running normally with a few service reductions.

small bullet point  Summary timetable southbound

small bullet point  Summary timetable northbound

small bullet point  Train times in detail southbound

small bullet point  Train times in detail northbound

small bullet point  What is the journey like?

small bullet point  How much does it cost?

small bullet point  How to buy tickets

Summary timetable southbound 2022

 London ► Italy

 Eurostar (30 min check-in):

Mondays to Fridays

Saturdays

Sundays

 London St Pancras depart:

07:55

07:55

20:01

07:52

09:31

16:22

-

09:31

19:01

 Paris Gare du Nord arrive:

11:17

11:17

23:26

11:17

12:57

19:47

-

12:57

22:27

 Cross Paris by metro & take TGV:

 

 

hotel

 

 

hotel

 

 

hotel

 Paris Gare de Lyon depart:

12:46

14:43

06:47*

12:46

14:43

06:47*

12:46

14:43

06:47*

 Turin Porta Susa arrive:

18:20

20:18

12:24*

18:20

20:18

12:24*

18:20

20:18

12:24*

 Milan Porta Garibaldi arrive:

19:55

21:50

13:50*

19:55

21:50

13:50*

19:55

21:50

13:50*

Change in Turin for Bologna, Florence, Rome, Naples, Verona & Venice, see the Journeys in detail section below.

*  Following day, overnight hotel in Paris necessary.  Why not book an earlier Eurostar and have dinner in Paris?

Always check times for your date at www.raileurope.com or www.thetrainline.com as times can vary.  Booking usually opens 4 months ahead.

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

Summary timetable northbound 2022

 Italy ► London

 Milan or Turin to Paris by TGV:

Mondays to Fridays

Saturdays

Sundays

 Milan Porta Garibaldi depart:

06:00

14:12

16:12

06:00

12:12

16:12

06:00

12:12

16:12

 Turin Porta Susa depart:

07:39

15:25

17:43

07:39

13:38

17:43

07:39

13:38

17:43

 Paris Gare de Lyon arrive:

13:13

21:12

23:12

13:13

19:12

23:12

13:13

19:12

23:12

 Cross Paris by metro & take Eurostar

 

hotel

hotel

 

hotel

hotel

 

 

hotel

 Paris Gare du Nord depart:

15:03

 07:33*

 07:33*

17:03

09:03*

09:03*

15:03

21:03

 07:33*

 London St Pancras arrive:

16:37

 09:00*

 09:00*

18:39

10:39*

10:39*

16:39

22:30

 09:00*

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

*  Following day, overnight hotel in Paris necessary.  By all means book a later Eurostar and have a leisurely breakfast in Paris.

Always check times for your specific date at www.raileurope.com or www.thetrainline.com, as times can vary.  Booking usually opens 4 months ahead.

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

Train times in detail southbound...

London ► Italy, leaving 07:55 Mon-Fri, 07:52 Saturday, arriving Italy the same day...

London ► Italy, leaving 09:31 Saturdays & Sundays, with overnight stop in Turin or Milan...

London ► Italy, evening departure every day with overnight stop in Paris...

Train times in detail northbound...

Italy ► London, leaving Milan 06:00 or Turin 07:39 daily, arriving London the same day...

Italy ► London, leaving Milan 12:12 or Turin 13:38 on Sundays, arriving London the same day...

Italy ► London leaving Milan 12:12 or Turin 13:38 Saturdays with overnight stop in Paris...

Italy ► London leaving Milan 14:12 or Turin 15:25 Monday-Friday with overnight stop in Paris...

Italy ► London leaving Milan 16:12 or Turin 17:43 daily, with overnight stop in Paris...

How much does it cost?

How to buy tickets:  See below...

What's the journey like?

1. London to Paris by Eurostar...

Eurostar trains link London & Paris in 2h20, travelling at up to 300 km/h (186 mph).  There are two bar cars, power sockets at all seats and free WiFi.  Standard Premier and Business Premier fares include a light meal with wine (or breakfast, on departures before 11:00).  There's a 30-minute minimum check-in (10-minutes for business premier) as all border formalities are carried out before you board the train.  More information about Eurostar including check-in procedureSt Pancras station guide Paris Gare du Nord station guideHow to cross Paris by metro or taxi.

Eurostar e320   Eurostar e320 first class seats

A Eurostar e320 at St Pancras.  More about Eurostar.

 

1st class:  Standard Premier or Business Premier.

Eurostar e320 2nd class   Eurostar e320 cafe-bar

Standard class seats.  Larger photo.

 

One of two cafe-bars, in cars 8 & 9.  Larger photo.

Lunch in Paris at the Train Bleu restaurant?

The trains to Italy leave 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?  Paris Gare de Lyon station guide.

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

2. Paris to Turin or Milan by TGV...

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 300 km/h (186 mph) 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's free WiFi, power sockets for laptops and mobiles at every seat, 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!

TGV train from Paris to Milan about to leave Paris Gare de Lyon

The afternoon TGV to Turin & Milan at Paris Gare de Lyon.  There's no check-in, just be on board at departure time...

TGV bar car   Food on board the TGV from Milan to Paris

The cafe-bar, serving tea, coffee, beer, wine, hot & cold snacks & microwaved hot dishes.  Larger photo.

 

The cheese platter bought from the cafe-bar as the mountains swept by...

TGV interior by Christian Lacroix, second class   TGV 1st class by Christian Lacroix

2nd class with a mix or unidirectional seats & tables for 4.  Seats are 2+2 across car width.  360 degree photo.

 

1st class with a mix of unidirectional seats, solo seats, tables for 2 & for 4.  Seats 2+1 across car width.  360 degree photo.

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

The TGV leaves Paris behind & speeds across rural France at up to 186 mph, past fields, woods, pretty villages...

Mountains from the TGV train to Italy

...it calls at Lyon St Exupery then slows right down through the Alpine foothills.

Scenery from the TGV from Paris to Milan   More scenery from 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.

More snow-capped mountains from the TGV train to Italy

River seen from the train to Italy   Castle on mountain top seen from the train

More mountains...

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

Scenery from the train between Oulx and Turin   Scenery from the train between Oulx and Turin

Scenery between Oulx and Turin...  Photos courtesy of DiscoverbyRail.com.

TGV from Paris at Turin Porta Susa   Turin Porta Susa station

The train calls at Turin Porta SusaPhotos courtesy of Discoverbyrail.com

The TGV arrived at Milan Porta Garibaldi   Milan Porta Garibaldi station

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

3. Turin to Venice, Florence, Rome or Naples by Frecciarossa...

Frecciarossa trains now have 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.  Some but not all Frecciarossas have a restaurant car, though they all have a cafe car and all have free WiFi.  See the Frecciarossa information page for more details & a video guide.  The new Frecciarossa 1000 trains started entering service from June 2015 and now operate an increasing share of departures on this route, although some departures are still Frecciarossa 500.

A Frecciarossa 1000 at Milan Centrale

A Frecciarossa 1000 at Milan Centrale More information on Frecciarossas & explanation of the 4 classes.

Frecciarossa 1000 standard class   A Frecciarossa 1000 train at Milan Centrale

Standard class, 2+2 across width.  Larger photo.

 

Executive class, 1+1 across width.  Larger photo

Frecciarossa 1000 Business class seats   At-seat meal on Frecciarossa 1000

Business class seats 1+2 across car width, with tables for 2 and tables for 4 and complimentary prosecco. Larger photo.

 

In business class you can order a meal at your seat, around €18.  More information about Frecciarossas.

...or try the competition, NTV's Italo.

Trenitalia now has competition.  A private company called NTV now runs Italo trains between Milan and Bologna, Florence, Rome and Naples, in competition with State-run operator Trenitalia.  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.itMore information about Italo See the Italo video guide.

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

Smart class (2nd class) on Italo.

 

An Italo train at Rome Tiburtina.  More information about Italo.

Video guide:  Paris to Milan by TGV...

How to buy tickets...

 

Buy train tickets to Italy

  Buy train tickets to Italy at Raileurope.com
 

For hotels...

www.booking.com allows you to book your accommodation before train bookings open, at no risk with free cancellation.  Any hotel with a review score over 8.0 is unlikely to disappoint.

Booking.com logo

Or buy at www.thetrainline.com...

Or book each train separately...

Book it with Byway...

How to buy tickets by phone...

Let Railbookers arrange your trip...

Railbookers for train holidays to Italy

Let Tailor Made Rail arrange your trip...

Escorted tours to Italy by train...

Back to top


large bullet pointOption 2:  By Thello sleeper train

Lunch in London, Venice next morning...

The Thello sleeper train from Paris to Milan, Verona & Venice was suspended in March 2020 due to Covid-19, but has now been discontinued permanently.

Back to top


large bullet pointOption 3:  Via Switzerland

London to Italy via the Swiss Alps...

The Paris-Milan TGVs featured in option 1 are the fastest & cheapest trains between Paris & Italy, and that route is pretty scenic.  You can also travel from Paris to Italy via Switzerland, travelling from Paris Gare de Lyon to either Geneva, Lausanne, Basel or Zurich by TGV-Lyria high-speed train in 3h10-4h05 from €29, then taking a EuroCity train to Milan Centrale in 3½-4½ hours from €29.  Change at Mussolini's magnificent Milan Centrale for Venice, Florence, Rome or anywhere in Italy.  You can travel from London to Milan in a day this way, but I suggest breaking up the journey with an overnight stop in Geneva, Lausanne, Basel or Zurich.

Travelling via Switzerland is a good option if you want more dramatic scenery, or to stop off in Switzerland on the way, or if engineering work affects the direct Paris-Milan route.  It's also a good option to reach Lake Como, as most Zurich-Milan trains call at Como San Giovanni.  By all means go out one way and back another, most European trains apart from Eurostar are single-leg ticketed.

Which route through Switzerland? 

London ► Italy

Italy ► London

How much does it cost?

How to buy tickets...

  • You can buy all your tickets together in one place at either www.raileurope.com or www.thetrainline.com, whichever you prefer.  They both connect to the British, French and Italian train ticketing systems, they're both easy to use, in €, £ or $.  International credit cards accepted, Eurostar & TGVs have print-at-home or show-on-smartphone tickets and Italian high-speed trains are ticketless, you just quote the booking reference on board.  There's a small booking fee.

  • When does booking open?  Eurostar bookings open up to 180 days ahead, TGV-Lyria opens up to 120 days ahead, but I strongly recommend waiting until TGV-Lyria opens for sale so you can buy all your tickets together and double-check TGV-Lyria's arrival/departure times before buying a non-refundable Eurostar ticket.  Switzerland-Italy EuroCity trains only open for bookings 92 days ahead.  Be aware that the 120 or 92 days can be squeezed to as little as 60 days for travel on dates immediately after the European timetable changes in mid-June & mid-December.

  • Step 1, go to www.raileurope.com or www.thetrainline.com & book from London to Geneva, Lausanne, Basel or Zurich.  Add this to your basket.

    Use the Eurostar times on this page as a guide, but feel free to choose an earlier Eurostar from London or a later Eurostar back from Paris if these have cheaper seats available or if you'd like to stop off in Paris.  To book London to Zurich with a stopover for lunch in Paris, click More options (when using Raileurope) and enter Paris with a duration of however many hours you want.

    Allow at least 60 minutes between trains in Paris southbound, at least 90 minutes northbound (as northbound you have to allow for the 30 minute Eurostar check-in).

    If you are returning, London-Paris is best booked as a round trip because Eurostar return fares are significantly cheaper than two one ways.  Beyond Paris, all the onward trains are one-way ticketed so a return is simply two one-ways and it makes no difference how you book.  You may find it easier to book one direction at a time.

  • Step 2, still at www.raileurope.com or www.thetrainline.com, now book from Geneva, Lausanne, Basel or Zurich to your chosen Italian destination for the following day, add it to your basket and check out.  Raileurope.com now connects directly to Trenitalia's ticketing system so can sell all of Trenitalia's cheap economy & super-economy fares.  Both trains offer ticketless travel, you just quote your booking reference on board.

Other ways to buy tickets...

  • You can of course buy tickets from each of the relevant train operators' own websites.  This is more work, involving multiple bookings on different websites, the prices should be exactly the same, but there's no booking fee.  I recommend doing a dry run on all websites before booking for real.

  • Step 1, book your London-Paris tickets at www.eurostar.com.  You can print out your own ticket, collect it at London St Pancras or load it into the Eurostar app to show on your smartphone.

  • Step 2, book your Paris-Switzerland tickets at the French Railways website en.oui.sncf & print your own ticket or show it on your smartphone.

  • Step 3, book tickets from Geneva, Lausanne, Basel or Zurich to anywhere in Italy at either www.italiarail.com (easy to use, in plain English, they'll refund seat61 users the €3.50 booking fee if you email seat61@italiarail.com with your PNR) or www.trenitalia.com (requires Italian-language place names and has a few quirks so see this advice on using it, no booking fee).  Both sites sell the same tickets at the same prices and both offer ticketless travel for mainline trains, you simply quote your booking reference on board the train.

How to buy tickets by phone...

Let Railbookers arrange it as a package...

  • Railbookers are a train travel specialist who can put together a tour or holiday for you as a package, including rail travel, hotels & transfers.  Their website shows a range of suggested tours & holidays by rail which can be varied or customised to your requirements.  As you're booking a package, they'll take care of you if anything happens to one part of the itinerary such as a strike or delay.  They get very positive reviews.

    UK flag  UK call 0207 864 4600, www.railbookers.co.uk.

    US flag  US call free 1-888-829-4775, www.railbookers.com.

    Canadian flag  Canada call free 1-855-882-2910, www.railbookers.com.

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

    New Zealand flag  New Zealand call toll-free 0800 000 554 or see website.

What's the journey like?

1. London to Paris by Eurostar...

Eurostar trains link London & Paris in 2h20, travelling at up to 300 km/h (186 mph).  There are two bar cars, power sockets at all seats and free WiFi.  Standard Premier and Business Premier fares include a light meal with wine (or breakfast, on departures before 11:00).  There's a 30-minute minimum check-in (10-minutes for business premier) as all border formalities are carried out before you board the train.  More information about Eurostar including check-in procedureSt Pancras station guide Paris Gare du Nord station guideHow to cross Paris by metro or taxi.

Eurostar e320   Eurostar e320 first class seats

A Eurostar e320 at St Pancras.  More about Eurostar.

 

1st class:  Standard Premier or Business Premier.

Eurostar e320 2nd class   Eurostar e320 cafe-bar

Standard class seats.  Larger photo.

 

One of two cafe-bars, in cars 8 & 9.  Larger photo.

2. Paris to Geneva, Lausanne, Basel or Zurich by TGV-Lyria...

All TGV-Lyrias are now double-deck TGV Duplex as shown here, with 3 classes:  Standard class (2nd), standard premiere (1st class) and business premiere (1st class with hot meal & drinks included in the fare).  There's a cafe-bar car selling drinks & snacks.  There are power points for mobiles & laptops at all seats in all classes.  Lyria is a consortium of the French and Swiss national railways, see the TGV-Lyria page for more informationParis Gare de Lyon station guide.

TGV-Lyria to Geneva at Paris Gare de Lyon

TGV-Lyria euroduplex train at Paris Gare de Lyon. These 320 km/h double-deck trains now operate all TGV-Lyria services.

TGV Duplex cafe-bar   TGV Duplex upper deck 2nd class seats

The cafe-bar on the upper deck in car 4, serving tea, coffee, soft drinks, wine, beer, snacks & microwave-style hot dishes...

 

2nd class seats, this is upper deck seating.  There's a mix or tables for 4 and unidirectional seating.  360º photo.

First class on board a TGV Duplex   A TGV-Lyria Duplex at Paris Gare de Lyon

1st class on the upper deck, with a club duo on the left, a club quatre on the right. 360º photo.

 

A TGV-Lyria for Geneva, boarding at Paris Gare de Lyon.  You enter on the lower deck, with 9 stairs up to top deck.

3. Geneva, Lausanne, Basel or Zurich to Milan by EuroCity train...

Trains from Geneva, Lausanne, Basel or Zurich to Milan are operated by smart bullet-nosed Astoro trains, now joined by Swiss Railways' latest Giruno trains.  Both types have with air-conditioning, restaurant car, power sockets at all seats & free WiFi, a pleasure to travel on.  See more information about these EuroCity trainsGeneva station guideZurich HB station guideMilan Centrale station guide.

The Gotthard route:  The Zurich-Milan EuroCity trains take the Gotthard route through the Alps.  You'll pass through the World's longest rail tunnel, the Gotthard Base Tunnel, the transit only takes 20 minutes.  You'll see plenty of mountains either side including great views of Lake Lugano (below).

The Simplon route:  Geneva-Lausanne-Milan trains take the Simplon route, via the famous Simplon Tunnel opened in 1906.  You'll see 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.  Once in Italy, there's great views along Lake Maggiore.

ETR610 EuroCity train to Milan at Zurich HB

A Swiss-owned ETR610 about to leave Zurich HB with a EuroCity train to Milan.  More information about these EuroCity trains.

1st class table for two   1st class seats on an ETR610 train

2nd class seats, arranged 2+2 across car width.

 

1st class seats, 2+1 across car width.  Larger photo.

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

The restaurant car on an ETR610...

 

Lunch in the diner?

Lake Lugano, seen from a Milan to Zurich train

Lake Lugano, seen from a Milan to Zurich train on the Gotthard route.  On the Zurich-Milan Gotthard route you'll also pass the Zugersee & the Vierwaldstattersee in Switzerland, and if it's a train routed via Como, you'll glimpse Lake Como too.

Lake Maggiore, seen from a Milan to Basel train

Lake Maggiore...  The Geneva-Lausanne-Milan Simplon route runs alongside Lake Leman, and once in Italy it runs alongside Lake Maggiore, pictured above.  This photo was taken from the dining-car of the northbound 11:25 Milan to Basel over an excellent lunch of salmon tagliatelle & Swiss wine.  I left Milan at 11:25, changed at Basel onto the 16:34 TGV to Paris, caught the 21:13 Eurostar and was back in London at 22:36, reaching Aylesbury at 23:59.  No airports, no flights, and wonderful scenery!

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large bullet pointOption 4:  Via the 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. 

See the Bernina Express page...

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large bullet pointOption 5:  Via Munich

London to Italy via Munich & 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.  Travel London to Munich by Eurostar & TGV on day 1, stay overnight, then travel through the Brenner Pass to Italy on day 2.  It may look like a long way round on the route map above, but cheap fares and high-quality German and Austrian-run trains now make this an attractive option.

London ► Italy

  • Day 1, travel from Paris to Munich by TGV Duplex, leaving Paris Gare de l'Est at 15:55 Mondays-Fridays & Sundays arriving Munich Hbf 21:36.

    On Saturdays it leaves Paris at 17:55 arriving Munich Hbf 23:29.

    The 320 km/h double-deck TGV Duplex has a cafe-bar, power sockets at all seats & free WiFi.  I recommend an upper deck seat for the best views.  Times may vary, so check your date at www.bahn.de.

    On Saturdays if you'd prefer an earlier arrival in Munich you can also leave London at 09:31 to connect with a TGV leaving Paris at 13:55 for Stuttgart, change there for Munich arriving 19:27.

    Alternatively, you can travel from London to Munich by Eurostar & ICE train via Brussels & Cologne, see the London to Germany page.

Italy  ► London

  • Day 1, travel from Italy to Munich by EuroCity train, leaving Venice Santa Lucia at 13:35 or Verona P. Nuova 15:01, arriving Munich Hbf 20:26.

    Enjoy the scenery in the Brenner Pass through the Alps, see the Brenner route video.  Arguably the best views are from the left-hand side of the train.  An elegant restaurant car is available for dinner, treat yourself!  Coming from Rome or Florence, look for a train to Verona using www.trenitalia.com, allowing at least 45 minutes in Verona for the connection, to allow for any delay.

How much does it cost?

  • London to Paris by Eurostar starts at £52 one-way or £78 return in standard class, £115 one-way, £199 return standard premier (1st class).

  • Paris to Munich by TGV starts at €39 each way in 2nd class, or from €69 in 1st class.

  • Munich to Verona, Bologna or Venice by EuroCity train starts at €37.90 each way in 2nd class, €69.90 in 1st class.

  • On both the Paris-Munich and Munich-Verona legs, accompanied children under 15 go free if you book at www.bahn.de.

  • Onward tickets from Verona to Florence start at €19.90 each way 2nd class, €29.90 in 1st class.  Verona to Rome or Naples starts at €29.90 each way 2nd class, €39.90 in 1st class.

How to buy tickets...

  • To book the easy way with all your tickets booked together in one place, in €, £ or £, use www.raileurope.com.

    Step 1, book London-Paris then Paris-Munich at www.raileurope.com.

    Step 2, book from Munich to anywhere in Italy at www.raileurope.com

    Add each leg to your basket, then checkout and pay.  International credit cards are accepted and you print your own tickets or can show them on your smartphone.  For Italian high-speed trains it's ticketless, you just quote the reference number on board.  There's a small booking fee.

    If you are returning, London-Paris is best booked as a round trip because Eurostar return fares are significantly cheaper than two one ways.  Beyond Paris, all the onward trains are one-way ticketed so a return is simply two one-ways and it makes no difference how you book.  You may find it easier to book one direction at a time.

    Important tip:  www.raileurope.com will easily book the direct trains from Munich to Verona, Venice or Bologna on a direct train.  But if your journey involves a change of train within Italy, for example to Florence, Rome or Naples, add a via station like this:  Before running the Munich to Italy enquiry, click More options, enter Verona (any station) as a via station, enter duration of 45 minutes to ensure a robust connection.  The 09:34 from Munich goes direct to Bologna, so if you want the 09:34 use Bologna Centrale instead of Verona if you're going to Florence, Rome or Naples.

  • You can also book each train separately.  It shouldn't make any difference to the price and it's more work, but there's no booking fee:

    Book London-Paris at www.eurostar.com, then book Paris-Munich at www.bahn.de and Munich-Verona/Bologna/Venice as a second transaction at www.bahn.de.  You print your own tickets or can show them on your smartphone.

    Note that www.bahn.de will only book the direct EuroCity trains from Munich to Verona, or the once-daily direct trains to Bologna or Venice.  If you want to travel to Venice or Bologna with a change of train in Verona, or to Florence or Rome with a change of train in Verona or Bologna, you should use www.bahn.de to book the direct EuroCity train from Munich to Verona or Bologna, then use either www.italiarail.com (easy to use, in plain English, they'll refund seat61 users the €3.50 booking fee if you email seat61@italiarail.com with your PNR) or www.trenitalia.com (requires Italian-language place names and has a few quirks so see this advice on using it, no booking fee) to book the onward train from Bologna to Florence, Bologna to Rome or Verona to Venice and back.

What's the journey like?

1. London to Paris by Eurostar...

Eurostar trains link London & Paris in 2h20, travelling at up to 300 km/h (186 mph).  There are two bar cars, power sockets at all seats and free WiFi.  Standard Premier and Business Premier fares include a light meal with wine (or breakfast, on departures before 11:00).  There's a 30-minute minimum check-in (10-minutes for business premier) as all border formalities are carried out before you board the train.  More information about Eurostar including check-in procedureSt Pancras station guide Paris Gare du Nord station guideHow to cross Paris by metro or taxi.

Eurostar e320   Eurostar e320 first class seats

A Eurostar e320 at St Pancras.  More about Eurostar.

 

1st class:  Standard Premier or Business Premier.

Eurostar e320 2nd class   Eurostar e320 cafe-bar

Standard class seats.  Larger photo.

 

One of two cafe-bars, in cars 8 & 9.  Larger photo.

2. Paris to Munich by TGV Duplex.  See the TGV Duplex video

Sit back with a glass of red and enjoy the ride - book an upper deck seat for the best views.  The TGV has power sockets for laptops & mobiles at all seats in both classes, and a cafe-bar serves drinks, snacks & microwaved hot dishes.  First class passengers on this route are given a simple but tasty meal box with a small bottle of beer or wine served at their seat, included in the fare.  The train soon leaves the Paris suburbs behind and speeds across a vast wide open plateau of woods and farmland at up to 320 km/h (199 mph), past picturesque French villages of the Champagne region.  After an hour or two, the train leaves the high-speed line and slowly meanders through pretty wooded hills, the countryside eventually flattening out towards Strasbourg.  On leaving Strasbourg, look out for Strasbourg cathedral on the left with its famously missing second tower.  Minutes afterwards you rumble across the river Rhine into Germany, before heading on to Stuttgart and Munich.  Paris Gare de l'Est station guideMunich Hbf station guide.

TGV Duplex at Paris Gare de l'Est

TGV Duplex at Paris Est. These impressive 320 km/h double-deck trains link Paris & Munich, a relaxing journey with reading book & glass of wine.  Book an upstairs seat for the best views...

TGV Duplex cafe-bar   TGV Duplex upper deck 2nd class seats

Cafe-bar on upper deck in car 4, serving tea, coffee, soft drinks, wine, beer, snacks & microwaved hot dishes....

 

2nd class seats on the upper deck.  There's a mix or tables for 4 and unidirectional seating.  360º photo..

First class on board a TGV Duplex   An TGV Duplex at Paris Est.

1st class on upper deck, a club duo on the left, a club quatre on the right.  360º photo.

 

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

3. Munich to Verona by EuroCity train...

These spacious and comfortable EuroCity trains are run by the German & Austrian railways using Austrian carriages.  There's an elegant Austrian restaurant car serving affordable drinks, snacks and meals.  There are power sockets at most though not all seats.  The highlight is passing through the superb scenery of the Brenner Pass between Innsbruck & Verona, with mountains either side of the train, see the video below More photos & information about the Brenner Pass EuroCity trains.

EuroCity train to Verona about to leave Innsbruck

A EuroCity train at Innsbruck, en route for Verona & Italy.  You don't need to book a table in the restaurant car, just go along and sit down.  Dining on the move as the scenery glides by is one of the pleasures of travelling on trains like this.  More photos & information about these EuroCity trains.

Austrian second class seats   Austrian first class seats

2nd class seats, some in open-plan saloons like this, some in 6-seat compartments with side-corridor...

 

1st class leather seats.  You'll also find seats in classic 6-seat compartments with side corridor, too....

Austrian restaurant car   Meal in an Austrian restaurant car on a Munich-Verona train

The elegant restaurant car.  See larger photo.

Lunch with wine on board...

Scenery from the train in the Brenner Pass

Mountains on the Brenner route.  More scenery photos on the Brenner Pass EuroCity page

Scenery on the Brenner route train

More mountains on the Brenner route, between Brixen and Bolzano.

Watch the video: Through the Brenner Pass...

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large bullet pointOption 6:  Via Harwich - Hoek

The ferry alternative...

If Eurostar fares are expensive, or if you want to avoid the Channel Tunnel, for example if you suffer from claustrophobia, you can travel by train & ferry instead.  At first glance, the obvious route seems to be Dover-Calais, and if you want to travel this way, see the London to Paris by train & ferry page.  Once in Paris you can pick up any of the routes to Italy shown above.  However, I don't recommend this route unless you live near Dover as it lacks integrated ticketing and involves awkward bus or taxi transfers between train & ferry on both sides of the Channel.

Instead, I recommend the Harwich to Hoek van Holland route, marked in black on the route map above.  This is the best ferry route to use, with integrated ticketing and trains arriving directly at the ferry terminal.  It's also a great option if you live in East Anglia, with a direct train connection from Cambridge to Harwich connecting with the overnight ferry.  Indeed, you may simply prefer a relaxing cruise overnight on the Stena Line superferry in a luxury en suite cabin with shower, toilet, satellite TV & free WiFi, see the Stena Line Rail & Sail page & watch the video.

London, Cambridge & Harwich ► Italy

  • Day 1, travel from London to Amsterdam overnight by Stena Line Rail & Sail.

    You leave London Liverpool Street station at 19:32 or Cambridge at 19:47 by train to Harwich International.

    At Harwich, the station is right next to the ferry terminal and you walk off the train into the terminal, check in at the Stena Line desk and walk straight onto Stena Line's luxurious overnight superferry Stena Britannica to Hoek van Holland.

    The ferry sails at 23:00 and arrives at Hoek van Holland at 08:00 next morning, Dutch time.

    All passengers travel in cosy private cabins with en suite toilet & shower & satellite TV.  Deluxe Comfort class & Captains class cabins are also available, and there's free WiFi in the lounges, restaurants & bars on 9 deck.  You can get on board the ferry around 9pm, have a late dinner in the restaurant and settle into your cabin.

    This is a fully-integrated train & ferry service with special fares from London to Any Dutch Station which cover the train to Harwich, the ferry and onward train to anywhere in the Netherlands, see the Stena Line Rail & Sail page for full details.  The same special fare from London is valid from any Abellio Greater Anglia station, for example Norwich, Cambridge, Romford, Ilford, Ipswich.  

    Next morning, take the frequent metro train from Hoek van Holland Haven to Schiedam Centrum and a Dutch Intercity train from Schiedam Centrum to Amsterdam Centraal arriving 10:25.  See the Stena Line Rail & Sail page for full details.

    At Amsterdam Centraal, have a coffee at the delightfully retro Cafe 1e Klas and give my regards to the cockatoo on the bar.

Italy ► Harwich, Cambridge & London

  • Day 2, travel from Munich to Amsterdam on ICE trains, leaving Munich Hbf at 07:47, changing at Frankfurt (Main) Hbf & arriving Amsterdam Centraal at 15:29.  The ICE trains have a bistro-restaurant car, power sockets at all seats & free WiFi.

  • Day 2, travel from Amsterdam to London overnight by Stena Line Rail & Sail.

    You leave Amsterdam Centraal at 18:34 by Dutch intercity train to Schiedam Centrum and change onto the frequent metro to Hoek van Holland Haven.  At Hoek, the metro station is next to the ferry terminal.  Check in at the Stena Line desk and walk up the gangway onto the luxurious Stena Line superferry Stena Hollandica and sail overnight to Harwich in a cosy private cabin with shower, toilet & satellite TV.

    The ferry sails from Hoek van Holland at 22:00 and arrives at Harwich International at 06:30 next morning (day 3), UK time.  Day 3, take a train from Harwich to London Liverpool Street arriving around 08:54, or from Harwich to Cambridge arriving 09:42 (10:39 on Sundays).  See the Stena Line Rail & Sail page for full details.

How much does it cost?

  • London to Amsterdam by Rail & Sail starts at £55 per person each way, plus cabin.

    Cabins start at £34 for a single berth cabin or £45 per cabin for a 2-berth, and are compulsory on the night sailing.  The fare covers the train from London to Harwich, the ferry, and onward Dutch metro & trains from Hoek van Holland Haven to any station in the Netherlands, for full details of fares and cabin types and costs, see the Stena Line Rail & Sail page.

  • Amsterdam to Munich starts at €37.90 each way in 2nd class or €69.90 in 1st class. 

  • Munich to Venice by Nightjet sleeper train starts at €59.90 with a couchette in 6-berth, €69.90 with a couchette in 4-berth, €79.90 with a bed in a 3-bed sleeper, €99.90 with a bed in a 2-bed sleeper or €139.90 with a bed in a single-bed sleeper all to yourself.

  • Venice to Florence starts at €19.90 each way.  Venice to Rome or Naples starts at €29.90 each way.

How to buy tickets...

  • Step 1, buy a Stena Line Rail & Sail ticket from London to Any Dutch Station online as shown on the Stena Line Rail & Sail page.  This covers the train from London to Harwich, the Harwich-Hoek ferry, and the metro/train from Hoek to Amsterdam.  You print your own ticket.

  • Step 2, book the train from Amsterdam to Munich at www.bahn.de.  You print your own ticket.

  • Step 3, book the sleeper from Munich to Venice at www.thetrainline.com or the Austrian Railways website www.oebb.at & print your own ticket.

  • Step 4, book onward tickets from Venice to anywhere in Italy at either www.thetrainline.com or www.trenitalia.com.

Alternatively, stay in Munich & take a daytime train next day...

What's the journey like?

1. London to Amsterdam by 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 ferry to Hoek van Holland.  The superferry Stena Britannica is the largest ferry of its kind in the world.  All passengers travel in private cabins with shower, toilet & satellite TV.  There's a self-service restaurant and a la carte restaurant if you want a late dinner, and there are cafes and bars.  There's free WiFi in the public areas on 9 deck.  The journey from London to Holland is explained in detail on the Stena Line Rail & Sail page See the video...

Captain's class cabin on Stena Line ferry   Stena Line ferry at Harwich

Captain's Class cabin on the Harwich-Hoek ferry with double bed, complimentary minibar with sparkling wine, tea & coffee making facilities, hairdryer.  Larger photo.

 

Boarding the Stena Britannica at Harwich.  She's a floating hotel to Hoek van Holland, with easy rail connections on either side of the Channel.  Restaurants, bars, shop, kennels, cinema...

Restaurant on Stena Line ferry   Cabin on Stena Line ferry

Dinner before bed?  Metropolitan à la carte restaurant.

 

Standard outside cabin.  Larger photo.  360º photo.

2. Amsterdam to Duisburg & Duisburg to Munich by ICE...

ICEs are German Railways' premier trains, with 1st & 2nd class, a bistro-restaurant car, power sockets at all seats & free WiFi.

ICE3 at Amsterdam Centraal

An ICE3M to Frankfurt at Amsterdam.  More information about ICE...

2nd class on the Frankfurt-Brussels ICE3M train   1st class on the Frankfurt-Brussels ICE3M train

2nd class seats on an ICE3M.  Larger photo.

 

1st class seats on an ICE3M.  Larger photo.

Erdinger Weissbier on the Frankfurt-Brussels ICE train   Restaurant car on the Frankfurt-Brussels ICE3M train

Food is served on proper china with metal cutlery.  I recommend the Erdinger Weissbier!  See current month's menu.

 

Restaurant car:  This is the small 12-seat restaurant on an ICE3M.  ICE3 classes 403 & 407 have a larger restaurant area.  Larger photo.

3. Munich to Venice by Nightjet sleeper train...

This modern sleeper train is a pleasure to travel on, whether in the privacy of your own sleeper or in economical couchettes.  There's time for dinner in Munich before boarding at a local restaurant, I recommend the Augustiner Keller (www.augustinerkeller.de) at Arnulfstrasse 52, to the north side of Munich Hbf, see walking map.

The Nightjet sleeper train from Munich to Venice at Munich Hbf

The Nightjet sleeper train to Venice on platform 12 at Munich HbfMore photos & information about Nightjet trains.

Nightjet deluxe sleeper, 2-bed   Nightjet deluxe sleeper toilet & shower   4-berth couchette compartment from Cologne to Vienna

2-berth deluxe sleeper.

 

...en suite toilet & shower.

 

4-berth couchettes...

Sunrise as the sleeper train crosses the causeway into Venice

Sunrise as the Munich-Venice Nightjet crosses the causeway over the lagoon into Venice.  Courtesy of Andreas Wiedenhoff.

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large bullet pointOption 7:  By ferry from Newcastle or Hull

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 Nightjet sleeper from Cologne to Innsbruck for onward EuroCity trains through the scenic Brenner Pass to Italy.  So why not by-pass London, and have a day in Amsterdam into the bargain before travelling on to Italy?

Newcastle & Hull ► Italy

  • Day 1, take a train to either Hull or Newcastle, whichever is most convenient for where you live.  Transfer to the P&O overnight cruise ferry from Hull to Rotterdam or the DFDS Seaways cruise ferry from Newcastle to IJmuiden, the port of Amsterdam.  Both ferries have bars, restaurants & comfortable en suite cabins, arriving next morning.

    For details of times, port transfers, fares & how to buy tickets for each of these ferry routes, see the UK-Netherlands page.

  • Day 2, spend some time in Amsterdam, then leave Amsterdam Centraal by Nightjet sleeper train at 19:30, arriving Innsbruck Hbf at 09:14.

    This comfortable Austrian Nightjet train has an air-conditioned Comfortline sleeping-car with nine 1, 2 or 3-berth standard compartments with washbasin and three 1, 2 or 3-berth deluxe compartments with shower & toilet.  There are toilets & a shower at the end of the corridor for passengers in the regular sleepers.  The sleeping-car attendant can serve drinks, snacks & light meals from a room service menu.  The train has couchette cars with 4 & 6 berth compartments, and ordinary seats.  A light breakfast is included in sleepers & couchettes, served in your compartment.  See the Nightjet page for a guide to on-board accommodation, travel tips, photos & video.

  • Day 3, take a EuroCity train through the scenic Brenner Pass to Verona & Italy.  The 11:24 from Innsbruck arrives Verona at 14:28 and Bologna at 16:19.  Change at Verona for Venice & Milan.  Change at Bologna for Florence, Rome and Naples.  Check times & prices from Innsbruck to anywhere in Italy at either www.raileurope.com or www.thetrainline.com.

Italy ► Hull & Newcastle

  • Day 2, travel overnight by cruise ferry either with P&O Ferries from Rotterdam to Hull or with DFDS Seaways from IJmuiden (near Amsterdam) to Newcastle, whichever is most convenient for where you live.  Next morning (day 3) transfer to the station and take a train home.  For full details of train & ferry times and how to buy tickets for each of these routes, see the UK-Netherlands page.

Fares & how to buy tickets...

  • To check ferry prices & book the ferry online, go to www.dfds.co.uk (Newcastle-Amsterdam) or www.poferries.com (Hull-Rotterdam).  I recommend doing this first.

  • To check train fares and buy train tickets to Hull or Newcastle, buy online as shown on the UK page or use www.nationalrail.co.uk.

  • To check Amsterdam-Innsbruck sleeper train fares & book online, use www.thetrainline.com - look for the direct Nightjet train with 0 changes.  Fares start at €49.90 in 6-berth couchettes, €59.90 in 4-berth couchettes, €89.90 in a 3-bed sleeper, €109.90 in a 2-bed sleeper or €159.90 with a single-bed sleeper all to yourself, all per person per berth.

  • Add Innsbruck to Verona or Bologna from €39 at either www.bahn.de or www.thetrainline.com.

  • Then book trains within Italy at either www.thetrainline.com or 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 from Milan to Florence, Rome, Naples or Venice from just €19.90 upwards.  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.

What's the journey like?

You sail overnight by cruise ferry from Newcastle to Amsterdam (DFDS) or Hull to Rotterdam (P&O), with private en suite cabins, restaurants, bars, cinema, a floating hotel.  If travelling with DFDS from Newcastle, a transfer bus takes you from IJmuiden ferry terminal to Amsterdam Centraal station next morning.  If travelling with P&O from Hull, a transfer bus takes you from Rotterdam Europoort ferry terminal to Rotterdam Centraal, from where frequent Dutch trains run to Utrecht.

Princess of Norway (now Princess Seaways) at Newcastle   A standard cabin on DFDS Seaways Newcastle-Amsterdam ferry.

DFDS Seaways Princess of Norway (now Princess Seaways) about to sail overnight from Newcastle to Amsterdam.  The ferry also has deluxe Commodore class cabins with minibar, satellite TV, shower & toilet.  See the video...

 

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

P&O Ferries Pride of Rotterdam   Cabin on P&O Ferries Pride of Rotterdam

P&O Ferries Pride of Rotterdam at Rotterdam Europoort.  The ferry also has deluxe class cabins with minibar, satellite TV, shower & toilet.

 

A standard outside cabin with shower & toilet on P&O's Pride of Rotterdam from Hull to Rotterdam.

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large bullet pointOption 8: By VSOE

See the Venice Simplon-Orient-Express page...

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 £2,365 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.

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. 

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large bullet pointLondon to Lake Como

Take the train to Lake Como...

Como is such a popular lakeside destination!!  Como San Giovanni is the mainline station on the Zurich-Milan main line, also linked to Milan Centrale by frequent regional 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:

  • Option 1, take a morning Eurostar to Paris at 07:55 weekdays, 09:31 weekends, then the 14:43 TGV from Paris arriving Milan Porta Garibaldi at 21:50 as shown in the London to Milan section above.  It's quite a scenic route.  A regional train then leaves Milan Porta Garibaldi at 23:09 arriving Como San Giovanni at 00:08, fare €4.80, buy at the station in Milan.  This is the fastest option, London to Como in a day.

  • By all means stay overnight in Milan and see a bit of the city next morning.  Regional trains link Milan Centrale and Como San Giovanni every hour throughout the day, fare €4.80, use www.trenitalia.com to find train times.  No reservation is possible or necessary for these regional trains, just buy a ticket and hop on the next train.

  • Option 2, take an afternoon Eurostar and evening TGV-Lyria to Zurich HB, stay overnight and take a direct EuroCity train through the Alps via the wonderful Gotthard route to Como San Giovanni.  You'll find times, prices, and how to buy tickets from London to Como via this route in this section above.  This takes a little longer and requires an overnight stop, but this breaks up the trip and the journey through the Swiss Alps is lovely.

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

  • Option 1, first travel from the UK to Milan by Eurostar & TGV as shown in the London to Milan section above, stay overnight in Milan (or Turin if you prefer), then take a regional train from Milan Centrale next morning.  You can check times for these regional trains at www.trenord.it.

  • Option 2, Bernina Express:  It may be slower and a bit more expensive, but it's the ultimate scenic route from the UK to Bellano, Varenna or Lecco.  You take Eurostar & TGV from London to Zurich on day 1, stay overnight, on day 2 you take the fabulous Bernina Express Swiss panoramic train to Tirano and a connecting regional train from Tirano to these Lake Como destinations.  See the Bernina Express page for details.

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

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large bullet pointLondon to Lake Garda

London to Desenzano or Peschiera...

  • The station for Lake Garda is either Desenzano del Garda-Sirmione or Peschiera del Garda.  Both stations are on the Milan-Verona main line.  As well as regional trains, some fast Milan-Verona-Venice Frecciabianca trains call at Peschiera or Desenzano.

  • Option 1:  Take a morning Eurostar to Paris leaving 07:55 weekdays, 09:32 weekends, then take the 14:43 TGV from Paris to Milan as shown in the London-Milan section above, a nice scenic ride arriving Milan Porta Garibaldi at 21:50.

    If you're on time, take a taxi (10 minutes, €6) to Milan Centrale for the 22:25 regional train to Desenzano del Garda-Sirmione arriving at 23:47.  If you miss it, the next one is at 00:15 arriving 01:50.  You can check times at www.trenitalia.com.

    You may prefer to stay the night in Milan and travel on next morning, in which case you could also consider stopping in Turin instead.  Turin is one of Italy's most under-rated cities - even if you're not a fan of the film The Italian Job.  You'd reach Turin just after 8pm on day 1, in time for a late dinner, have a leisurely breakfast next morning and perhaps an hour or two looking around the city, then take a direct Frecciabianca from Turin to Peschiera del Garda or Desenzano, you can find times and buy cheap tickets online at www.trenitalia.com.

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large bullet pointLondon to Pisa, Siena, Lucca, Modena, Ravenna, Livorno

  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, Livorno

  • For Siena, there are regional trains from Florence's main Santa Maria Novella station (SMN) to Siena every hour or so through the day, taking 1h30.

    In Siena, the station is at the foot of the hill and it used to be a steep trek up to the old town.  However, there's now a series of modern escalators and moving walkways that ferry you painlessly to the top of the hill, from where it's just a minute or two walk to the Porta Camollia at the entrance to the old town.  From the Porta Camollia it's a pleasant 15 minute stroll to the famous Pizza del Campo.

London ► Modena, Ravenna

  • Travel from London to Bologna using any of the options shown in the London to Bologna section above.

  • Frequent trains link Bologna with Modena in less than 30 minutes, and trains link Bologna with Ravenna every hour or two in around 1h25.

  • You can check times & fares for any of these regional trains at www.trenitalia.com.

    No reservation is necessary or even possible on these local trains, you just turn up, buy a ticket from the Trenitalia self-service ticket machines (which have a touch screen with English language facility) or the ticket office, and hop on the next train.

    If you buy a hard-copy ticket at the station, remember to validate it in the grey-green validation machines at the entrance to the platform.

Fares & how to buy tickets...

  • See the London to Florence & Bologna section above for fares from London to Florence or Bologna and buy tickets as explained in that section.

  • Don't worry about the onward ticket from Florence or Bologna to Sienna, Pisa, Lucca or Ravenna as you can easily buy a ticket at the station when you get to Florence or Bologna.  No reservation is necessary as these are regional trains, you just buy a ticket and hop on.  You can buy local tickets from the ticket office or from the many self-service ticket machines (quicker & easier than going to the ticket office).  The ticket machines have a touch screen with an English language facility and they accept euros coins and notes, or credit cards.

  • Train travel in Italy is cheap:  The fare from Florence to Pisa is around €8.70 each way, Florence to Siena around €9.50 each way.  If you buy a hard-copy ticket for a regional route at the station, don't forget to validate it in the grey & green validation machines at the entrance to the platform before boarding the train.

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large bullet pointLondon 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.eavsrl.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

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

Sorrento, Pompeii & Herculaneum...

  • Travel from London to Naples using any of the options shown in the London to Naples section.

  • Then take the Circumvesuviana Railway (www.eavsrl.it) from Naples to Herculaneum (Ercolano), Pompeii or Sorrento.  These little narrow-gauge electric suburban trains run every 30 minutes throughout the day, no reservation necessary (or even possible), you just buy a ticket at the station and hop on.

  • The Circumvesuviana trains leave from Naples Garibaldi station, downstairs from Naples Centrale where your mainline train arrives.  Just follow the signs to Circumvesuviana, it's round a corner at the side of the concourse, along a passageway and the Circumvesuviana platforms are half-underground round the back.  Don't follow signs to Piazza Garibaldi as this is another set of mainline platforms in the same triple-station complex, it's Circumvesuviana you want.

  • Naples to Pompeii costs around €3.20, journey time 40 minutes.  Naples to Sorrento €4.50, journey time 55-65 minutes.

  • The Circumvesuviana trains are old and have no air-con, but some new air-conditioned trains are now in service.  You'll get great views of the Bay of Naples and Vesuvius on the way to Sorrento.  Outside the weekday rush hours it's not usually crowded, there are lots of seats, frequent trains and it's very easy to use.  Luggage just goes on the floor.

  • You can check train times on the Circumvesuviana Railway website www.eavsrl.it, and can check fares at public transport website www.unicocampania.it -if you can work out how to use it!  Note that the Circumvesuviana is a private railway, separate from Trenitalia, so railpasses and ordinary Trenitalia tickets are not valid.  For the same reason you won't find train times & fares to Pompeii or Sorrento on www.trenitalia.com, although there's another (less convenient) Pompeii station on a regional route run by Trenitalia, but this is further from the ruins.

  • For more information about visiting Pompeii by train, see the seat61 Pompeii page.  That page also explains how to take a bus to the summit of Vesuvius.

Capri...

  • First, travel from London to Naples using any of the options explained in the London to Naples section.

  • Then take a taxi or walk (about 29 minutes walk) from Naples Centrale to Naples Beverello ferry quay.  Fast ferries taking just 45 minutes link Naples Beverello with Capri every hour or two between 07:00 &18:00, see www.snav.it for times & fares.

  • The ferry costs around €20.10, plus a euro or two for each item of large luggage.  No pre-booking is necessary for the ferry, just turn up and buy a ticket.

  • Alternatively, you can take the local Circumvesuviana Railway to Sorrento (www.eavsrl.it), from where there are regular ferries to Capri, crossing time about 25 minutes, fare €18.10.  Just be aware that it's a longish steep walk from Sorrento Circumvesuviana station down the hill to the ferry terminal.

  • Ferries from both Naples & Sorrento arrive at Capri's busy Marina Grande, there's a funicular railway up the steep hillside to Capri town itself.  Bring plenty of money to Capri, even a small beer costs over €7!

Ischia...

  • First, travel from London to Naples using any of the options explained in the London to Naples section.

  • Then take a taxi or walk (about 29 minutes walk) from Naples Centrale to Naples Beverello ferry quay.

  • Sail from Naples to Porto Ischia with either www.caremar.it (sailings every hour or two, crossing time 45 minutes by fast ferry or 90 minutes by conventional ferry) or www.alilauro.it.

Elba...

  • First, travel from London to Florence using any of the options explained in the London to Florence section.

  • Then take a local train from Florence SMN to Piombino Marittima via Pisa and Campiglia.  www.trenitalia.com will give you train times.  Moby Lines (www.moby.it) sail every hour or so from Piombino to Portoferraio on Elba, crossing time 1 hour, foot passengers €12 one-way.

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large bullet pointLondon 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...

  • Step 1, travel from London to Naples using any of the options explained in the London to Naples section.

    Many of the Frecciarossas from Turin or Milan to Naples continue beyond Naples to Salerno, so try booking it to Salerno.

    You can check train times & fares and buy tickets from anywhere in Italy to Salerno 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.  Private train operator Italo also goes direct from Milan or Florence to Salerno several times daily, buy tickets at www.italotreno.it.

  • Step 2, regular SITA buses link Salerno with Amalfi, running every hour or better between 06:00 & 22:30 on Mondays-Saturdays, slightly less frequently on Sundays, journey time 1h15, fare about €2.20 one-way, you simply buy a ticket on the bus.

    To check bus timetables, see www.sitasudtrasporti.it (in Italian only, click Orari then Campania).  To check fares, you'll need to use public transport site www.unicocampania.it, click English top right then Fares & Tickets.

  • Alternatively, a nicer option is to take a ferry from Salerno to Amalfi or Positano, see www.coopsantandrea.com.  These small coastal ferries sail from Salerno's Concordia dock, a 650m 8-minute walk from Salerno railway station, journey time 35 minutes to Amalfi, or 70 minutes to Positano.  This is a pleasant way to go and in summer it avoids the heavy traffic on the coastal road.

    At time of writing, they had departures from Salerno at 08:40, 09:40, 10:40, 11:40, 14:10 & 15:30, with additional sailings at 13:00, 16:40 & 18:00 via Cetara/Maiori taking 60 minutes to Amalfi, but check www.coopsantandrea.com for current timings.  Fare around €9 Salerno to Amalfi or €14 Salerno to Positano, large luggage €2 extra.

  • Alternatively, regular buses link Sorrento (see above for how to reach Sorrento) with Positano, Praiano & Amalfi, with the occasional bus direct from Naples, also operated by SITA, see www.sitasudtrasporti.it (in Italian only, click Orari then Campania).  Sorrento-Amalfi takes 1h40, buses run hourly or at times half-hourly, fare around €2.90.  The journey along the coast road is dramatic, the bus hugging the cliff and it rear end swinging out precariously at every hairpin bend, with regular stand-offs where the bus cannot pass oncoming traffic on the narrow roads without someone backing up!!

  • Private transfer from Naples Centrale station to Praiano, Positano or Amalfi hotels?  If cost is no problem, a private transfer from Naples Centrale railway station to Positano or Praiano costs around €95 one-way for up to 3 people, or around €110 to Amalfi.  Try www.amalfishuttle.com or www.positanoshuttle.com (it's the same people - click 'transfer' at the top).  I have not had any reports about them yet, so feedback would be appreciated. They will also do transfers from Sorrento Circumvesuviana station, which would reduce the cost.

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large bullet pointLondon 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

  • Step 3, travel from Turin to Genoa by regional train, leaving Turin Port Nuova at 21:30 and arriving Genoa Piazza Principe at 23:30.

  • For Cinque Terre & La Spezia, stay overnight in Turin, and continue the next day.  You can check train times from Turin to La Spezia or Monterosso or any of the other 4 Cinque Terre villages at www.trenitalia.com.

La Spezia, Cinque Terre, Genoa ► London

How much does it cost?

How to buy tickets

  • If you're going to Genoa, you can book from London to Genoa all in one go at www.raileurope.com.  Use the Eurostar times on this page as a guide, but feel free to choose an earlier Eurostar from London or a later Eurostar back from Paris if these have cheaper seats available or if you'd like to stop off in Paris.  To book London to Turin with a stopover for lunch in Paris, simply click More options and enter Paris with a duration of however many hours you want. There's a small booking fee.  You'll get print-at-home, show-on-smartphone or ticketless tickets.

  • If you're going to La Spezia or Cinque Terre, step 1 is to go to www.raileurope.com and book from London to Turin and add this to your basket.  To book London to Turin with a longer stopover in Paris for lunch, simply click More options and enter Paris with a duration of however many hours you want.  Step 2, now use www.raileurope.com to buy a ticket from Turin to Monterosso or La Spezia for the following day, add this to your basket and check out.

  • Alternatively, you can book the London to Paris Eurostar online at www.eurostar.com and print out your own ticket.  Then buy a TGV ticket from Paris to Turin at en.oui.sncf (a bit fiddly, has been known to reject some overseas credit cards, but no booking fee) or www.thetrainline.com (small booking fee), again with a print-at-home or show-on-smartphone ticket.  Then book from Turin to your chosen Italian destination 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.  Regional trains require no reservation, so you may as well buy this ticket at Turin station when you get there, but InterCity trains require a reservation and have cheaper fares if you pre-book, so book this up to 90 days ahead at either www.italiarail.com or Italian Railways' own site www.trenitalia.com.

  • To buy tickets by phone:  It's cheaper and in many ways easier to buy online, as you can see for yourself which departures are cheapest for each stage of the journey and you avoid phone booking fees.  Online booking is possible 24/7, but most telephone booking agencies only work office hours on weekdays.  However, if you still want to phone someone, here's a list of UK-based train ticketing agencies with phone numbers & opening hours.

Option 2:  By Eurostar and TGV via Nice...

London ► San Remo, Genoa

  • Day 1, travel from London to Nice by Eurostar & TGV, using any option shown on the London to France page.

  • Stay overnight in Nice The Hotel 64 is just 3 minutes walk from the station, 15 minutes walk from the old town & sea front, and gets great reviews.  The Hotel Paganini is also just outside the station with good reviews.

  • Day 2, travel from Nice to Ventimiglia on the Italian border by TER local train, then from Ventimiglia to San Remo & Genoa either by fast Intercity or Frecciabianca train or slower regional train.  There are various departures to choose from, see the timetable here.

    For example you can leave Nice at 09:06, change at Ventimiglia, arriving San Remo at 11:18 and Genoa Piazza Principe at 13:05.

    The scenery between Cannes, Nice, Monte Carlo & Ventimiglia is wonderful, as the railway runs along the coast past villas, rocky inlets and yacht-filled harbours.

Genoa, San Remo ► London

How much does it cost?

  • London to Paris by Eurostar starts at £52 one-way or £78 return in standard class, £115 one-way, £199 return standard premier (1st class).

  • Paris to Nice by TGV starts at €25 in 2nd class or around €45 in 1st class, each way.  Fares vary like air fares so book ahead.

  • Nice to Ventimiglia by TER costs €8, fixed-price, though €7.50 or even €5 promotional fares are sometimes offered.

  • Ventimiglia to Genoa by Frecciabianca or Intercity starts at €9.90 in 2nd class or €19.90 in 1st class.  Fares vary like air fares, so book ahead.

How to buy tickets...

  • Step 1, go to www.raileurope.com or www.thetrainline.com and book from London to Nice and back.  Add this to your basket.

  • Step 2, still on www.raileurope.com or www.thetrainline.com, book a suitable journey from Nice to San Remo or Genoa, add this to your basket and check out.  There's a small booking fee.

    Tip:  For more advice on booking tickets from Nice to Italy via Ventimiglia, see the Nice to Italy page.  I recommend allowing at least 45 minutes at Ventimiglia when connecting into an Intercity or Frecciabianca train.  20 minutes is fine when connecting into a regional train.

How to buy tickets by phone...

Option 3:  By Eurostar and sleeper train via Nice...

London ► San Remo, Genoa

  • Day 2, travel from Nice to Ventimiglia on the Italian border by TER local train, then from Ventimiglia to San Remo & Genoa either by fast Intercity or Frecciabianca train or by regional train.  There are various departures to choose from, check times at www.thetrainline.com.

    For example you can leave Nice at 10:36, change at Ventimiglia onto a regional train, arriving San Remo 12:11 & Genoa Piazza Principe 14:17.

    The scenery between Cannes, Nice, Monte Carlo & Ventimiglia is wonderful, as the railway runs along the coast past villas, rocky inlets and yacht-filled harbours.

Genoa, San Remo ► London

  • Step 1, travel from Genoa or San Remo to Ventimiglia on the French border either by fast Intercity or Frecciabianca train or slower regional train, then from Ventimiglia to Nice by TER local train.  There are various departures to choose from, check times at www.thetrainline.com.

    For example, you can leave Genoa Piazza Principe at 13:43, San Remo at 15:45, change at Ventimiglia, arriving Nice Ville at 17:25.  Never cut it fine, always book trains which get you to Nice at least an hour before the sleeper leaves, ideally more.  Have an early dinner in Nice!

  • Step 2, travel from Nice to Paris by Intercité de Nuit sleeper train and Paris to London by Eurostar next morning, as shown on the London to France page.

    You leave Nice Ville at 19:16 by sleeper train to Paris on day 1, a Eurostar gets you back to London St Pancras at 12:30 on day 2.

How much does it cost?

  • London to Paris by Eurostar starts at £52 one-way or £78 return in standard class, £115 one-way, £199 return standard premier (1st class).

  • Paris to Nice by overnight train starts at €19 in a reclining seat, €29 in a 2nd class couchette or €59 in a 1st class couchette.

    Eurostar & Intercité de nuit fares vary like air fares, so book ahead.

  • Nice to Ventimiglia by TER costs €8, fixed-price, but €7.50 or even €5 promotional fares are sometimes offered.

  • Ventimiglia to Genoa costs around €14 by regional train, fixed-price, cannot sell out.

How to buy tickets...

  • Step 1, go to www.raileurope.com or www.thetrainline.com, start by booking the sleeper from Paris to Nice & back.  Add this to your basket.

  • Step 2, still on www.raileurope.com or www.thetrainline.com, now book a the recommended Eurostar connection from London to Paris & back.  The Eurostar departures recommended on the London to France page give you at least 90 minutes between trains to cross Paris, both southbound and northbound.  Make sure you get the dates right!

  • Step 3, still on www.raileurope.com or www.thetrainline.com, book a suitable journey from Nice to San Remo or Genoa, add this to your basket and check out.  There's a small booking fee.

    Tip:  For more advice on booking tickets from Nice to Genoa & Italy via Ventimiglia, see the Nice to Italy page.  I recommend allowing at least 45 minutes at Ventimiglia when connecting into an Intercity or Frecciabianca train.  20 minutes is fine when connecting into a regional train.

How to buy tickets by phone...

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large bullet pointLondon to Civitavecchia

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

  • Civitavecchia is the cruise port just north of Rome, often used as a starting point for Mediterranean cruises.  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 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 3 times an hour, costing only €5 one-way, no reservation necessary, 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, then 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.  Buy tickets as far as Rome in advance, but it's just buy your Rome-Civitavecchia ticket at the station on the day, using the Trenitalia 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.

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

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large bullet pointLondon to Rimini, S.Marino, Ancona, Bari, Brindisi

London ► Rimini, Ancona, Bari, Brindisi, Lecce

Lecce, Brindisi, Bari, Ancona, Rimini  ► London

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 & 19:25 in winter, between 06:45 & 20:30 in summer, less frequently on winter Sundays, journey time 50 minutes, fare around €5 one-way.

    Run by Bonelli Bus, the buses are air-conditioned with WiFi.

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).

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

A Frecciabianca at Milan Centrale.  Frecciabiancas link Milan with Rimini, Ancona, Bari, Brindisi & Lecce...

 

2nd class seat, most with a power socket for laptops or mobiles.  There's a small bar and a refreshment trolley.  Larger photo.

1st class seats on a Frecciabianca   Frecciabianca at Milan Centrale

1st class, more spacious.  All seats have power sockets and there's a complimentary coffee from the trolley.  Larger photo.

 

A Frecciabianca at Milan Centrale.  A strange train - two modern power cars sandwich former intercity carriages.  This shows the new colour scheme.

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 fares from €29.90 each way.

 1st class fares from €39.90 each way.

 Milan to Ancona

 by train:

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

 2nd class fares from €19.90 each way.

 1st class fares from €29.90 each way.

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

How to buy tickets...

  • Step 1, go to www.raileurope.com, book from London or any station in Britain to Milan for day 1 and add this to your basket.  All international credit cards are accepted, and you'll get either print-at-home or collect-at-station tickets.  If you want a stopover in Paris for lunch, simply click More options and enter Paris with however many hours you want. There's a small booking fee.

  • Step 2, still on www.raileurope.com, now book from Milan to Rimini, Ancona, Bari or wherever for day 2, add this to your basket and check out, paying for all tickets as one transaction.  www.raileurope.com now connects directly to Trenitalia's ticketing system as well as the French system, so can sell all of Trenitalia's cheap advance-purchase tickets with print-at-home ticket delivery.

  • Alternatively, you can book the Eurostar at www.eurostar.com and the Paris-Milan TGV separately at either en.oui.sncf (a bit fiddly, has been known to reject some overseas cards, but no booking fee) or www.thetrainline.com, making sure you allow at least 60 minutes to cross Paris between trains southbound, 90 minutes northbound (as this must include the 30 minute Eurostar check-in).  Both sites give print-at-home tickets and accept all international credit cards.  You can then book your onward trains from Milan to Rimini, Ancona, Bari, and so on online 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...

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large bullet pointLondon 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.

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large bullet pointLondon 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 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 Intercity Notte sleeper 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.

More about the trains to Sicily.

Watch the video

Option 1, London to Sicily in 48 hours...

This is the fastest option: London to Milan by Eurostar & high-speed TGV on day 1, an overnight hotel in Milan, then Milan to Sicily on day 2.  By all means spread it out more by stopping off in Paris, Milan, Rome or Naples on the way, or travel one way using this fast option and the other way using more leisurely option 2.  It's your call!

London ► Sicily

  • Day 1, travel from Paris to Milan by TGV, leaving Paris Gare de Lyon at 14:43 & arriving Milan Porta Garibaldi 21:50.

    The TGV has a cafe-bar serving drinks, snacks & tray-meals, power sockets at all seats & free WiFi.  It's a relaxing and comfortable journey:  After a high-speed dash across France the train slows right down and meanders through the Alps, passing directly from France into Italy via Modane and the Mont Cénis tunnel, see the video guide.

  • Stay overnight in Milan.  The AC Milano Hotel (a Marriott Lifestyle Hotel) is 350m from Milan Porta Garibaldi and gets good reviews.  In the morning it's a 25 minute walk or 10-minute €6 taxi ride to Milan Centrale.

  • Day 2, travel from Milan to Naples by Frecciarossa high-speed train, leaving Milan Centrale at 08:30 and arriving Naples Centrale at 13:10.  Standard, premium, business & executive classes with free WiFi & cafe-bar.

  • Day 2, travel from Naples to Sicily by air-conditioned InterCity train, leaving Naples Centrale at 13:45 arriving Palermo 23:05, Catania 21:37 & Siracuse 22:53.

    Yes, all this InterCity train really is direct from Naples to Sicily (in fact, it starts in Rome).  It's a lovely run, along the Italian coastline often just feet from the water.  When the train reaches Villa San Giovanni at 18:05, the whole train is shunted onto a ship and ferried across the Straits to Messina, see video & more information about the trains to Sicily.  The crossing takes about 20 minutes, and you can either remain on board the train in the ferry's hold, or get out and go up on deck for some fresh air - although as from 2017 they may insist you get off and use the ferry accommodation decks.  Travelling on both a train and a ship at the same time is a fascinating experience!  The train has no catering car, so remember to take your own picnic and bottle of wine for the journey.

    If you want to stop off in Rome or Naples, you'll find two daytime InterCity trains and an overnight sleeper linking Rome and Naples with Sicily, see the Trains to Sicily page.

Sicily ► London

  • Day 1, travel from Sicily to Naples by air-conditioned InterCity train, leaving Siracuse daily at 07:32, Catania at 08:41 or Palermo at 06:50, arriving Naples Centrale at 16:17.

    This InterCity train is shunted onto a train ferry to cross the Straits of Messina, a fascinating experience in itself, see video & more information about the trains to Sicily.  It's a lovely run, along the Italian coastline often just feet from the water.  The train has no catering car, so remember to take your own picnic and beer or bottle of wine for the journey.  The train continues to Rome, but you should get off in Naples.

  • Day 1, travel from Naples to Milan by Frecciarossa 1000, leaving Naples Centrale at 18:30 and arriving Milan Centrale at 23:00.  Standard, premium, business & executive classes with free WiFi & cafe-bar.

    There's an earlier 17:25 train from Naples, but it's best to allow longer to change trains in case the InterCity from Sicily is late.  In Milan it's a 10-minute €6 taxi ride from Centrale to Porta Garibaldi.

How much does it cost?

  • London to Paris by Eurostar starts at £52 one-way or £78 return.

  • Paris to Milan starts at €29 each way in 2nd class or €44 each way in 1st class.

  • Milan to Naples starts at €29.90 each way in standard class, €39.90 each way in business class.

  • Naples to Catania, Siracuse or Palermo starts at €19.90 each way in 2nd class, €29.90 each way in 1st class.

  • All these fares vary like air fares according to demand and how far ahead you book.

How to buy tickets...

  • All these trains can be booked in one place in plain English at www.raileurope.com, in €, £ or $.  If you are making a round trip, Eurostar is best booked as a return journey because return fares are significantly less than two one-ways.  All the other trains are one-way ticketed so can be safely booked as one-way journeys one at a time and added to your basket, it makes no difference to the price.

  • Step 1, book from London to Milan on day 1 at www.raileurope.com and add this to your basket.  Booking usually opens 120 days ahead, and you'll get print-at-home or collect-at-station tickets for both the Eurostar and the TGV.  If you want a longer stopover in Paris, perhaps for lunch, simply click More options, enter Paris and enter however many hours you want. There's a small booking fee.

  • Step 2, still on www.raileurope.com, now book from Milan Centrale to Messina, Palermo, Catania or Siracuse for day 2.  I recommend using the specific station name 'Milan Centrale' here rather than 'Milan (any station').  www.raileurope.com now connects directly to Trenitalia's ticketing system so sells all of Trenitalia's cheap economy & super-economy fare.  It's ticketless, you just need to quote the booking reference on board the train).  Add to basket and check out.

  • Alternatively, you can book the Eurostar at www.eurostar.com and the Paris-Milan TGV separately at either en.oui.sncf (a bit fiddly, has been known to reject some overseas cards, but no booking fee) or www.thetrainline.com, making sure you allow at least 60 minutes to cross Paris between trains southbound, 90 minutes northbound (as this must include the 30 minute Eurostar check-in).  Both sites give print-at-home tickets.  You can then book your onward trains from Milan to Sicily 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 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.

How to buy tickets by phone...

What is the InterCity train like?...

These InterCity trains are composed of older carriages, but comfortable and fully air-conditioned with 1st & 2nd class in open-plan carriages, 2+2 across the car width in 2nd class, 2+1 in 1st class.  There may be a refreshment trolley, but take your own picnic & wine.  Seat reservation is now compulsory on all InterCity trains. 1st class has power sockets for laptops, 2nd class usually doesn't.

Intercity train to Sicily on board the train ferry

This is the Rome-Sicily Intercity train on board the ferry for the voyage across the Straits of Messina.  You can leave your heavy luggage on the train while you go up on deck for some sea air and a cappuccino...  Courtesy Discoverbyrail.com.

InterCity train, 2nd class   InterCity train, 1st class

2nd class on the Rome-Sicily Intercity.  Larger photo.

 

1st class on the Rome-Sicily Intercity.  Larger photo.

Scenery from the train to Sicily

Vesuvius & the Bay of Naples, seen from the Intercity train soon after leaving Naples.  Courtesy Discoverbyrail.com.

Intercity train to Sicily on board the ferry

Yes, the train really does go onto a ferry! Courtesy Discoverbyrail.com.

Option 2, using the Milan-Sicily sleeper...

This is a longer more leisurely 2-night option, with 1 night in a hotel in Paris and one night aboard the Milan-Sicily InterCity Notte sleeper train, an epic journey in your own private room from Northern Italy to the toe of Italy, then over the Straits of Messina to Sicily on board a train ferry - a unique experience.  There's some truly great scenery on the way, through the Alps on the TGV and along the Italian coastline on the sleeper in daylight.  By all means travel one way using this option, the other way using option 1.

London ► Sicily

  • Stay overnight in Paris.

    Recommended hotels near the Gare de Lyon:  Citizen M Hotel (just along the road from the station with great reviews, 4-star); Hotel Terminus Lyon (right in front of the station, 3-star); Mercure Paris Gare de Lyon (on the station itself, 4-star); Novotel Paris Gare de Lyon (opposite the station, 4-star); Mistral Hotel (800m from Gare de Lyon, 1-star); Hotel de Reims (5 min walk from Gare de Lyon, 2-star).

    Dinner at the famous Train Bleu restaurant at the Gare de Lyon?

  • Day 2, travel from Paris to Milan by high-speed TGV, leaving Paris Gare de Lyon at 06:47 arriving Milan Porta Garibaldi at 13:50.

    The TGV has a cafe-bar serving drinks, snacks & tray-meals, power sockets at all seats & free WiFi.  It's a relaxing and comfortable journey:  After a high-speed dash across France the train slows right down and meanders through the Alps, passing directly from France into Italy via Modane and the Mont Cénis tunnel, see the video guide above.

    Transfer by taxi, local train or walk from Milan Porta Garibaldi to Milan Centrale.  Have an early dinner in Milan, I recommend the excellent and typically Italian restaurant Noblesse Oblige, 5 minutes walk from Milan Centrale, see www.ristorantenoblesseoblige.com & See map showing walking route.

  • Day 2, travel from Milan to Sicily overnight by InterCity Notte sleeper train, leaving Milan Centrale at 20:10 every day, one portion arriving next day at Palermo at 16:55, the other portion arriving at Catania Centrale at 14:32 & Siracuse at 15:48, see the timetable here.

    It's the longest sleeper ride in Italy, and one of the longest in Europe.  The train has sleeping-cars with 1, 2 & 3 bed compartments with washbasin, and 4-berth Comfort couchettes, see the photos below.  There's no restaurant car, so take your own supplies and maybe a bottle of wine, although in the sleepers the attendant will serve you morning tea or coffee, included in the fare.

    The train travels overnight out of Milan, then by daylight all along the coast of southern Italy to Villa San Giovanni, often just a few feet from the water's edge.  At Villa San Giovanni, the train is shunted onto a ferry for the sea crossing to Messina in Sicily, a unique experience.  On the sleeper train you should have the option to remain on the train on the ferry's train deck, or to leave the train and go up on deck for some sea air and those sea views.  It's a great experience!

Sicily ► London

  • Day 1, travel from Sicily to Milan by direct InterCity Notte sleeper train, leaving Palermo at 12:35 every day, another portion leaving Siracuse at 13:35 & Catania Centrale at 14:54, arriving at Milan Centrale at 11:20 next morning.

    The sleeper train travels along the coast of Sicily, then crosses the Straits of Messina from Messina to Villa San Giovanni aboard a train ferry, a unique experience.  The train then travels by daylight all along the coast of southern Italy, often only feet from the sea with some lovely views before travelling through the night to Milan.  In Milan, transfer by taxi or local train or walk from Milan Centrale to Milan Porta Garibaldi.

How much does it cost?

  • London to Paris by Eurostar starts at £52 one-way or £78 return.

  • Paris to Milan starts at €29 each way in 2nd class or €44 each way in 1st class.

  • Milan to Catania, Siracuse or Palermo starts at €39.90 in a 4-berth comfort couchette, €49.90 in a 3-bed sleeper, €59.90 in a 2-bed sleeper, €89.90 in a single-bed sleeper. Prices are per person per bed.

  • All these fares vary like air fares according to demand and how far ahead you book.

How to buy tickets...

  • All these trains can be booked in one place in plain English at www.raileurope.com.  If you are making a round trip, Eurostar is best booked as a return journey because return fares are significantly less than two one-ways.  All the other trains are one-way ticketed so can be safely booked as one-way journeys one at a time and added to your basket, it makes no difference to the price.

  • Step 1, book from London to Paris and back at www.raileurope.com and add this to your basket.  Booking for Eurostar opens up to 6 months ahead, but I strongly recommend waiting until booking is open for the onward TGV and Italian trains before investing in a non-refundable Eurostar ticket, the onward trains usually open 120 days ahead.  More about when booking opens.

  • Step 2, also on www.raileurope.com, book the TGV from Paris to Milan for day 2 and add to your basket.

  • Step 3, still on www.raileurope.com, now book from Milan Centrale to Messina, Palermo, Catania or Siracuse also for day 2.  I recommend using the specific station name 'Milan Centrale' here rather than 'Milan (any station').  www.raileurope.com now connects directly to Trenitalia's ticketing system so sells all of Trenitalia's cheap economy & super-economy fare.  It's ticketless, you just need to quote the booking reference on board the train).  Add to basket and check out.

  • Alternatively, you can book the Eurostar at www.eurostar.com and the Paris-Milan TGV separately at either en.oui.sncf (a bit fiddly, has been known to reject some overseas cards, but no booking fee) or www.thetrainline.com, making sure you allow at least 60 minutes to cross Paris between trains southbound, 90 minutes northbound (as this must include the 30 minute Eurostar check-in).  Both sites give print-at-home tickets.  You can then book your onward trains from Milan to Sicily 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 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.

How to buy tickets by phone...

What's the Milan to Sicily sleeper train like?

Milan to Sicily sleeper train

The Milan to Sicily sleeper train, at Milan Centrale.  Courtesy of Philip Dyer-Perry.

Coastal view from the Palermo to Milan sleeper train

Room with a view...  The Milan to Sicily sleeper travels by night across northern Italy, then runs along the coast of Italy next day, often just feet from the water.  While you travel in a private sleeper that converts to a private sitting room.  Remember that picnic & bottle of wine!  Courtesy of Philip Dyer-Perry.

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

Standard sleeping-car on Milan-Sicily train

Sleeper set up as 1st class 2-berth (double or doppio).  Larger photo

 

Sleeper in day mode, beds folded away, washstand closed.  Larger photo

 

Standard Italian sleeping-car on the Milan-Sicily Intercity Notte with 12 compartments, each configurable as 1st class Single, 1st class Double or 2nd class 3-berth. Courtesy Marco Bereth

Italian Comfort 4-berth couchette car   Italian 'Comfort' 4-berth couchette

A Comfort couchette car in the new red & blue colour scheme, the economical choice,  ideal for families.  Each car has nine 4-berth compartments.  Courtesy of Marco Bereth

 

4-berth Comfort couchettes.  Sheets, pillow & blanket are provided.  It converts to seats by day.  Courtesy Suzanne Veerman Larger photo.

Coastal view from the Palermo to Milan sleeper train

Train on a ferry...  The Milan-Sicily sleeper train is ferried across the Straits of Messina on a ferry. Courtesy of Philip Dyer-Perry.

Travellers' reports...

Traveller Andrew Clayton reports:  "We took the daytime InterCity train from Naples to Siracuse, having first loaded up with essential supplies (water, bread, cheese, wine etc.) as there is no catering on the train.  Rather than buy at Naples Centrale where there's only limited food shopping, we went out of the station and found nearby shops that sold all we needed – at much lower prices.  There was attractive scenery - sea and mountains - almost all the way to Villa San Giovanni where the train is loaded onto the ferry to Sicily in two sections.  We were in the last coach and discovered that, if you went to the end, you could look through a glass door to see the coaches go onto the ferry and be tied down. It is safe to leave large luggage on the train during the crossing when most people go up on deck."

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 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!"

Option 3, 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.

  • Step 1, travel from London to Genoa as shown above.  Allow plenty of time - hours, not minutes - between train and ferry in Genoa.

  • Step 2, 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

Option 4, by overnight ferry from Naples...

London ► Sicily ► London

  • Step 1, travel from London to Naples by train.

  • Step 2, sail from Naples to Palermo by overnight cruise ferry.  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.

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large bullet pointLondon to Sardinia

  A Tirrenia Line ferry arrives in Sardinia

A Tirrenia Line ship arrives in Sardinia...

London to Sardinia by train & ferry...

  • 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 (Toulon or Nice) and Italy (Genoa, Civitavecchia, Livorno & others).

  • You can travel by train from London to Toulon or Nice, then take Corsica Ferries to Porto Torres in Sardinia.

    Step 1, check sailing dates & times using the Direct Ferries website or at www.corsica-ferries.com

    Step 2, check train times to connect using the London to France page allowing at least 2 hours between train & ferry, preferably more to allow for taxi transfer to port, check-in time, and for any delay.

  • The ferries from France aren't the most frequent, so you might prefer to travel via Italy.  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 Direct Ferries website 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...

Trains between major towns in Sardinia:  See the train travel in Italy page...

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large bullet pointThe Train Bleu restaurant

  Train Bleu restaurant sign

If you've time for lunch or dinner at Paris Gare de Lyon...

  • 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.


large bullet pointHolidays & 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...

  Railbookers logo

0207 864 4600 (UK)

1-888-829-4775 (USA)

1-855-882-2910 (Canada)

1300 971 526 (Aust)

0800 000 554 (NZ)

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.

Their most popular trips include UK to Venice via the Alps, UK to Lake Como via the Alps, UK to Florence via the Alps, UK to Rome via the Alps, UK to Amalfi Coast via the Alps, all of which are customisable to add extra nights or extra cities, with train travel on the outward or return journey, or by train throughout with no flying necessary, it's up to you.

UK flag  UK call 0207 864 4600, www.railbookers.co.uk.

US flag  US call free 1-888-829-4775, www.railbookers.com.

Canadian flag  Canada call free 1-855-882-2910, www.railbookers.com.

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

New Zealand flag  New Zealand call toll-free 0800 000 554 or see website.

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...

  Great Rail Journeys logo

01904 527 120

  Rail Discoveries logo

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.

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large bullet pointEuropean 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 set up a private venture and resumed publication of the famous European Rail Timetable in March 2014.  You can buy it online at www.amazon.co.uk (UK addresses) or www.europeanrailtimetable.eu (shipping worldwide).  More information on what the European Rail Timetable contains.

Rail Map Europe is the map I recommend, covering all of Europe from Portugal in the west to Moscow & Istanbul in the east, Finland in the north to Sicily & Athens in the south.  Scenic routes & high-speed lines are highlighted.  See an extract from the map.  Buy online at www.europeanrailtimetable.eu (shipping worldwide) or for £9.67 at www.amazon.co.uk (UK addresses).

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large bullet pointGuidebooks

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.ukAmazon logo

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 Amazon   Lonely Planet Western Europe - click to buy online   Lonely Planet Venice - click to buy online   Lonely Planet Florence - click to buy online   Lonely Planet Rome - click to buy online

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large bullet pointFind hotels in Italy...

Find hotels at Booking.comMy favourite hotel search site: www.booking.com

www.booking.com is my favourite hotel booking site and I generally prefer booking my hotels all in one place here.  You can usually book with free cancellation - this allows you to confirm your accommodation at no risk before train booking opens.  It also means you can hold accommodation while you finalise your itinerary, and alter your plans as they evolve - a feature I use all the time when putting a trip together.  I never book hotels non-refundably.  I have also come to trust their review scores - you won't be disappointed with anything over 8.0.

Tip:  It can pay to compare prices across multiple hotel sites:  HotelsCombined.com is a price comparison site which compares hotel prices on Booking.com, Hotels.com, Expedia, Accor, Agoda and many others.  Though if there's not much in it, I prefer keeping all my bookings together in one place at www.booking.com.

AirBnB:  www.airbnb.com...

www.airbnb.com began in 2008 when two designers who had space to share hosted three travellers looking for a place to stay.  AirBnB is a platform which connects hosts with guests, so you can now book a room in people's homes, or an apartment, flat or house which people want to rent out.  It can be nicer than a hostel, cheaper than many hotels.

Budget backpacker hostels:  www.hostelworld.com...

www.hostelworld.com:  If you're on a tight budget, don't forget about backpacker hostels.  Hostelworld offers online booking of cheap private rooms or dorm beds in backpacker hostels in Paris and most other European cities at rock-bottom prices.

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large bullet pointCar hire

Car rentals logoCompare 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.

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large bullet pointTravel insurance & VPN...

 

Staysure travel insurance

 

Confused.com logo

Always take out travel insurance...

You should take out travel insurance with at least £1m or preferably £5m medical cover from a reliable insurer.  It should cover trip cancellation and loss of cash & belongings up to a reasonable limit.  These days, check you're covered for covid-19-related issues, and use an insurer whose cover isn't invalidated by well-meant but excessive Foreign Office travel advice against non-essential travel. An annual policy is usually cheapest even for just 2 or 3 trips a year, I use an annual policy myself.  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, I get a little commission if you buy through these links, feedback always welcome.

UK flagwww.staysure.co.uk offers enhanced Covid-19 protection & covers you even if the FCDO advises against non-essential travel.

UK flag

If you have a pre-existing medical condition or are over 65, see www.JustTravelCover.com - 10% discount with code seat61.

UK flagYou can use www.confused.com to compare prices & policy features across major insurance companies.

 Australian flag New Zealand flag  Irish flag    If you live in Australia, New Zealand, Ireland or the EU, try Columbus Direct.

 US flag If you live in the USA try Travel Guard USA.

 

Curve card

Get a Curve card to save on foreign transaction fees...

Banks often give a poor exchange rate, then charge a currency conversion fee as well.  A Curve MasterCard means no foreign transaction fees and gives you the mid-market exchange rate, at least up to a certain limit, £500 per month as I write this.  The balance goes straight onto one of your existing debit or credit cards.  And you can get a Curve card for free.

How it works:  1. Download the app for iPhone or Android.  2. Enter your details & they'll send you a Curve MasterCard - they send to most European addresses including the UK.  3. Link your existing credit & debit cards to the app.  4. Now use the Curve MasterCard to buy things online or in person or take cash from ATMs, just like a normal MasterCard. Curve does the currency conversion and puts the balance onto whichever of your debit or credit cards you choose.  You can even change your mind about which card it goes onto, within 14 days of the transaction.

I use a Curve Blue card myself - I get a little commission if you sign up to Curve, but I'm recommending it here because I think it's great.  See details, download the app and get a Curve card - they'll give you £5 cashback through that link, too.

 

Express VPN

Get a VPN for safe browsing.  VPNs & why you need one explained...

When you're travelling you often use free WiFi in public places which may not be secure.  A VPN means your connection to the internet is encrypted & always secure, even using unsecured WiFi.  In countries such as China where access to Twitter & Facebook is restricted, a VPN gets around these restrictions.  And lastly, you can select the geographic location of the IP address you browse with, to get around geographic restrictions which some websites apply - for example one booking site charges a booking fee to non-European visitors but none to European visitors, so if you're not located in Europe you can avoid this fee by browsing with a UK IP address using a VPN.  VPNs & why you need one explainedExpressVPN is a best buy and I use it myself - I've signed up as an ExpressVPN affiliate, and if you go with expressvpn.com using the links on this page, you should see a special deal, 3 months free with an annual subscription, and I get a small commission to help support this site.

 


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