It is incredibly easy to take the train to Italy – or indeed, anywhere else in western Europe – and, when travelling overnight and going direct between city centres is taken into consideration, it can be just as quick and significantly less disruptive than air travel. For example, you can leave St Pancras late afternoon and be in Milan in time for breakfast – this includes time for an evening meal and a comfortable night’s sleep – and this compares very favourably with getting up in the middle of the night, spending a couple of hours in a soulless airport terminal and arriving early morning in another indistinguishable terminal, miles from your destination.
It can also be considerably cheaper (see Fares) especially if you travel as a group with lots of equipment and when the cost of overnight accommodation is taken into account.
But essentially, long distance rail travel is about adopting a totally different perspective about travel by making the journey an integral part of your trip. Sit back, relax, enjoy the changes in culture and landscapes as you travel and your journey will be one of the highlights of your holiday.
Seat 61 : is your bible when travelling by train. Much of the information and references that follow comes from Seat 61, apart from a few points that I have picked up on my travels. Find out the options of how to travel to Italy
Fares: the same principle of booking as early as possible, now obligatory in the UK, increasingly applies in Europe also. By booking about two months in advance, I secured Eurostar tickets to Paris for £36 each way and paid €32 each way between Paris and Turin, travelling by day. If you are travelling as a group, fares can be as low as £38 for a couchette – remember, this effectively includes your accommodation for the night.
I found Italia Rail the best method of buying tickets. You will be billed in US dollars, but any currency charges are more than offset by the savings made. If you don’t want to pay any currency charges, get yourself a pre-paid currency card, like Caxton
Eurostar : now gets to Paris and Brussels in about two hours. Book in advance and be prepared to travel out with peak hours and you can find good reductions (see above).
You will leave from the stunning St Pancras station, so if you leave during the day you can spend some of the money you’ve saved at the Champagne Bar.
Paris metro tickets are available, but only in books of 10. If you don’t need that many, make sure you have some spare Euro coins available (see below).
Changing stations in Paris: you will arrive at the Gare du Nord and, will need to take the RER Line D to the Gare de Lyon. Pick up a metro map at St Pancras and work out your route. It’s easy enough, it’s the green line D, just make sure you are going in the right direction by checking the last stop – Melun, Malesherbes on your way there, Orry la Ville Coye Creil on your way back to the Gare du Nord – as you go through the barriers and on the information boards.
A few trains to Italy leave from the Gare de Bercy which is one stop on Line 14 to Bercy from the Gare de Lyon.
Buy a metro ticket from the machines (instructions are available in English). Currently, a single costs €1.70.
Catering outlets are generally better at Gare de Lyon than at Gare du Nord (best to go outside to one of the side streets for a coffee).
Luggage and bicycles: most continental trains have large luggage racks at the end of each carriage – use them and put your smaller stuff in the racks above your seat. Remember, if you are going on an activity holiday, you are likely to have a lot of luggage and you will not be charged extra, as you are on planes.
Seat 61 gives information about travelling with bicycles. Folding bikes and those in bike bags can usually be taken on board with you.
Travelling by day vs travelling overnight: it’s your call, depending on your preferences and available time. If there are only one or two of you, it’s usually cheaper by day and the Alpine scenery is stunning. By going overnight, you use sleeping time to travel and it can be very cheap if there are a few of you.
Getting to Kokopelli: choose your option to Milan, then follow the instructions to Pescara from where you can either hire a car, or travel on to Chieti by bus or train. Use Rail Europe’s search engine for trains or look at the timetable for the buses.