ROUTE OF THE WEEK
As a continuing feature we will be highlighting a selected route from our guidebook ‘Europe by Rail’ written by Nicky Gardner & Susanne Kries, every week. Below is an extract from the book. To find out more, the guidebook can be purchased through our website for £15.99.
This week we are looking at: Route No. 42: “South to Sicily” which runs from Rome through Naples and Sicily ending in Siracusa.
This is a journey which ventures past the point where most rail travellers visiting Italy turn round and head back home. It gives a taste of the fiery harsh lands of Basilicata and it takes in a great sweep of the Calabrian coast. In a word, this is the finest coastal rail journey in this book – though that’s not to diminish the appeal of Routes 3 and 38, which between them lead from Provence through Liguria to Tuscany, sticking to the Mediterranean coast for much of the way.
Route 42 includes a short hop on a ferry from Villa San Giovanni, at the toe of the Italian mainland, to the Sicilian port of Messina. Five trains each day are shunted onto ferries for the crossing over the Strait of Messina. The end game is Sicily, the largest island in the Mediterranean (just beating Sardinia to that record). Successive invasions by Greeks, Romans, Arabs, Normans, French and Spanish have shaped the Sicilian character; the land is a strange mixture of fertile plains, volcanic lava fields and rocky desert, while Mount Etna, the great volcano, is omnipresent, smoking in the background.