PWk: Prod, Tlk: GS2, Datacash: Live
The Italian railway system is one of the most important parts of the infrastructure in Italy linking major towns and cities from north to south. The first high-speed train from Milan to Florence was launched as early as 1939 and since the end of WW2, high-speed services have grown and are forever improving.
There is no better way to visit the great Italian cities than by train, offering quick and easy links from centre to centre – quite frankly an altogether simpler, more relaxing option than driving and finding parking which can be a nightmare in Italian cities. Train fares are very reasonable including first class. All the major cities are well connected by efficient services with alluring names like Frecciarossa, Frecciabianca, Pendolino, Intercity, Eurocity. Many of these services link Italian cities with international destinations too. For shorter journeys connecting smaller towns the various Regionale trains operate regular services in each region throughout the country. The railway also connects the two main islands of Sicily and Sardinia, by ferries departing from Civitavecchia in Rome and Villa San Giovanni in Calabria.
The latest high-speed Frecciarossa service travels from Milan to Rome in under 3 hours! By car, the journey would be much longer and by plane just getting to and from the airports would altogether take longer! Trains are well maintained and on the crème de la crème of high-speed trains reservations are necessary therefore there is no overcrowding and you are often served a meal. I remember once, having to travel from Milan to Bologna, and I travelled on one such service which felt like being in the first class section of a plane; newspapers were available and a delicious hot meal and drinks were served. I was really most impressed!
Travelling by train always reminds me of my early days in England and the first time I left Italy in the late 1960’s. Travelling by plane in those days was prohibitive and most people on a budget took the train. The journey home to Italy was a long one beginning from London Victoria to the UK port of Dover, the channel ferry crossing across to France before boarding the night sleeper and arriving in Milan the next day. I loved the feeling of the train whizzing past the French countryside and the first glimpse of the Swiss Alps in the early morning made me very excited as I knew I would soon be in my beloved Italy. The atmosphere on those trains was amazing as most people were travelling home for holidays, so even if I was travelling alone, I was never alone – people chatted, laughed & joked, shared their food with you and after so many hours of travelling together you felt you were lifelong pals!
As we arrived at the impressive Milano Centrale station and the aroma of freshly made espresso and brioche hit you, some people parted, some went with me to board the train south to Naples and beyond. Thirty plus hours later, I arrived home. It certainly was some journey, but for me, unforgettable memories I will always treasure.
We are certainly lucky these days with a multitude of airlines who can fly us cheaply, quickly and directly to any part of Italy, but there is something about travelling by train which is rather romantic. It also gives you a sense of distance and you can relax and enjoy the views from the comfort of your seat.
It’s funny, when Liz was a little girl, she too travelled to Italy by train and she too has fond memories of that journey. We have always said we will make that same journey to Italy someday and take the girls so they too can appreciate the distances and joy of such travel. Obviously it’s a lot quicker these days with the ever-improving high-speed trains and the amazing Eurostar linking England to the continent in such little time and effort. I know someone who still travels to Italy by train with her son at least two or three times a year, often stopping en route to a different town or city – they wouldn’t dream of doing it any other way! My sister recently made the journey from Salerno to London by train when she went to collect her dog - although she was not allowed to travel with a pet on the Eurostar, she did it the old way and had a wonderful time and so did the dog!
Whether you travel all the way to Italy by train, perhaps treating yourself to the Orient Express to Venice. Or, if you just want to visit the major cities once you are there, you have so many options – if you are in Milan and fancy a change, Venice or Florence are easily and quickly reached even for a day trip – it really is a most pleasurable and hassle-free way to discover la Bella Italia! And of course, Citalia will be there to help you make all the necessary arrangements.