TABLE 640 : Napoli – Reggio di Calabria

(Part 3)

From Maratea, the railway sticks to the coast as we head to the busy transport hub of Lamezia Terme. Here there is an international airport as well as rail connections to the eastern Ionian coast at Catanzaro and Crotone (Table 634).

Further along the line at Villa San Giovanni, there is the opportunity to indulge in an unusual train journey. The train ferry to Messina in Sicily is one of only three passenger train ferries still operating in Europe. It’s a fascinating experience as the entire train is shunted onto the tracks onboard deck. Passengers have the option to stay in their carriage for the 30-minute crossing or head up to the deck to enjoy the view across to Scilly and Mount Etna. At Messina, the train is split into two parts, one heading south to Siracusa and the other west to Palermo (Table 641). For a video showing the train being loaded see this link from the Man in Seat 61

If you don’t head for Sicily, the next and final stop on this journey is to the “toe” of Italy at Reggio di Calabria. Its national museum is the region’s most important tourist destination, and many travellers visit purely to see the museum which houses the world famous Riace Bronzes, Greek statues of heroic warriors. The city also has a long panoramic seafront, a pleasant place to stroll while admiring the view over to Sicily.

(Part 2)

Travelling south from Salerno the train makes its scenic run towards Villa San Giovanni in around four hours, make sure to sit on the right-hand side to make the most of the fine coastal views. There are several intermediate stops which are worth exploring if you have the time. The first being Battipaglia, famous for its production of mozzarella di bufala which can be sampled in many stores and restaurants around the city. Next is the pretty seaside town of Agropoli which has quiet beaches, a tourist marina as well as ancient ruins and a Byzantine castle on the top of the promontory. Agropoli is a central point for exploring the Cilento coast and National park. It’s just a few minutes from the splendid ruins of Paestum and the delightful town of Castellabate.

Continuing south, the train winds through the national park into the province of Basilicata and its only town on the Tyrrhenian Sea, Maratea. Here a huge statue of Christ the Redeemer, which can be easily seen from the train, towers over the town from the top of Monte San Biagio. Maratea is a chic coastal town, known as the ‘Cannes of Southern Italy’, with a historic centre, elegant harbour and pebbled coves and caves which can be explored by boat.

(Part 1)

This large table shows timings for a very pretty coastal route to the southern tip of Italy.

There are many high-speed connections to our starting point of Napoli from the major cities of Torino, Milano, Venezia and Bologna and Roma (shown in table 640) and it is possible to complete the entire journey from Roma in just under five hours. However, as usual, we suggest breaking the journey to appreciate some of the sights along this glorious coastline.

Between the glittering Mediterranean and soaring Vesuvius, Napoli has Europe’s largest UNESCO-listed historic centre and a wealth of cultural and artistic sites to explore. Highlights include two royal palaces, three castles, and ancient ruins that include some of Christianity’s oldest frescoes, whilst the city’s museums exhibit works from the great Italian masters, not to mention the famous ruins of Pompeii and Herculaneum a little way out of town.

Napoli Centrale is located in Piazza Garibaldi which is the main terminal of the city’s transport network. From here you can reach anywhere in the city and the entire province, through the railways, buses and underground network. Many of the city’s metro stations are noted for their modern decorative architecture and public art.

Travelling south, trains skirt the towering Vesuvius and head to the port city of Salerno with its beautiful architecture, gorgeous gardens and sun-kissed promenade and where the best views along this route really start.

TABLE 620: Bologna – Roma

(Part 4)

In March we have been looking at Table 620 for Bologna – Roma. Having travelled through some beautiful Italian landscapes we now make our final journey into the capital city via the pretty Cliffside medieval town of Orvieto.

Dominated by its Gothic cathedral, Orvieto has many cobbled lanes, medieval piazzas and churches to explore but it also hides a labyrinth of caves and tunnels beneath the city. The secret underground city of more than 1200 tunnels was used by wealthy families as a means of escape from the elevated city during times of siege and is now open to view through guided tours. The wonderful Duomo of Orvieto is the main ‘must-see’ sight in this town. Constructed in the 13th and 14th centuries, the black and white striped building in mixed Romanesque and Gothic styles, is one of the world’s greatest cathedrals.

After Orvieto the railway follows the River Tiber downstream to the capital, stopping first at Tiburtina station before the much larger Roma Termini. Rome’s transportation mecca boasts countless amenities and connections for Italy’s rail passengers. There are 32 platforms and daily service to cities all over Italy as well as elsewhere in Europe making this station one of the busiest in Europe. The rather limited Roman metro system goes around rather than through the city, it’s two lines A (red) and B (blue), cross at Termini Station with services approximately every 7-10 minutes. With above-ground transport being highly congested, the metro is often the best option for exploring the sites. As one of the world’s most romantic and inspiring cities, Rome has plenty of well-known tourist attractions but with the Colosseum being among the world’s most visited tourist destinations it can also be overwhelming. Make sure to reserve a whole day to explore the sights of Vatican City, the world’s smallest fully independent nation-state.  If there isn’t enough to occupy you there are also several day trips that can be taken away, such as to the ruined city of Pompeii and mainland Europe’s only active volcano – Vesuvius.

(Part 3)

This month we are switching our attention to Italy. Table 620 in our timetable shows timings for Bologna – Roma a journey of 413 kilometres through the beautiful Tuscan countryside of central Italy.

Having passed through the bustling Italian cities of Bologna and Florence we depart Firenze Santa Maria Novella into the Tuscan countryside to see some smaller but none the less beautiful cities. Try to get a seat on the left of the train for the next section up the Arno Valley to Arezzo to see some spectacular views across the river. It is worth a stop to explore Arezzo’s medieval old town set on a hilltop, it boasts some fine Renaissance architecture and museums as well as a Roman Amphitheatre and a cathedral. The main railway station is at the base of the city and though the walk is about 1 km all up hill, if you take it easy you can enjoy the entire city. From Arezzo the railway crosses into Umbria, stopping at 3 stations around the shores of Lake Trasimeno. Ferries operate to the islands and across the lake, particularly in the tourist season and there are plenty of activities for those that enjoy walking, water sports or cycling.

The next major stop is another hill-top city, Perugia, the capital of Umbria, famous for chocolate production. The train station is in the valley, a few kilometres from the centro storico (historic center) of the city. Most major attractions are at the top of the hill which is a very steep walk so most visitors will use either the Mini Metro railway, a local bus or a taxi from the station. Or for something a bit different take the escalators from the lower town which lead up through the remains of Rocca Paolina which was a 16th-century fortress. Little now remains of the fortress itself but when you come out into the daylight at Piazza Italia you will go through some of the medieval streets on which the fortress was built. One of the best things to do in Perugia is to wander through the narrow streets and along the walls at the edge of town for fine views of the valley.

It’s a short 4km  ride onto the next interesting stop of Assisi, famous as the birthplace of St Francis which remains a major pilgrimage centre as well as a World Heritage site. The town is dominated by two medieval castles as well as the monastery but there are also plenty of medieval churches and magnificent fresco’s for sightseers to enjoy.

(Part 2)

This month we are switching our attention to Italy. Table 620 in our timetable shows timings for Bologna – Roma a journey of 413 kilometres through the beautiful Tuscan countryside of central Italy.

Continuing our look at this slower route through central Italy, we depart Bologna Central on an Intercity train along the Porrettana line through the Apennines and our first stop is Prato, Tuscany’s second largest city. Prato is home to many museums and other cultural monuments with a lovely historic centre founded on textile production; the city is also where biscoti were invented.

After Prato it is a short hop to the beautiful city and World Heritage Site of Florence (Firenze) which attracts millions of tourists each year. Firenze Santa Maria Novella is main railway station and one of the busiest in Italy, Situated in the city centre, it is conveniently close to all the major tourist attractions. From here you can also catch connections onto another major tourist hub – Pisa. You could spend several days exploring Florence and still not fit everything in, with museums, churches, piazzas and bridges, artisans workshops, boutique shops and local markets to explore there is plenty to see and do. Florence is best explored on foot so if time is limited it may be worth joining a guided walking tour to allow you to pack in as many of the main sites as possible!

(Part 1)

This month we are switching our attention to Italy. Table 620 in our timetable shows timings for Bologna – Roma a journey of 413km through the beautiful Tuscan countryside of central Italy.

There is a high-speed service from Bologna Centrale which would take you to Roma in just under two hours, but as it runs mostly through tunnels and would turn the scenery into a blur, we are instead focusing on the local trains shown in Table 620 with an average journey time of just over 4 hours. These trains trace a quintessential Italian route, with stations set at the foot of medieval castle towns and enchanting lakeside resorts so there are many options for sight-seeing stops along the way with at cities such as Orvieto, Arezzo and Florence.

Bologna Central is Italy’s fifth-busiest station with regard to passenger traffic and has connections to neighbouring countries, with service to and from Austria, Germany and France. There is plenty to see and do in Bologna’s large historic centre which boasts a number of attractive Piazza, historic buildings, streets and statues. Among them, you should visit the Town Hall in the Palazzo d’Accursio, the beautiful Palazzo del Podesta and the gothic Basilica of San Petronio. Nearby is the Piazza del Nettuno where you’ll find the famous Fountain of Neptune and don’t forget to sample the city’s most famous gastronomic export – Bolognese sauce!

Route No. 41: “Northern Italian Cities”


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. 41: “Northern Italian Cities” which begins in Genoa, passing through Milan and ending in Venice.

This route takes in several glorious north Italian cities from Genoa in the west to Venice in the east – a veritable feast of art and architecture, along the way swapping the Mediterranean for the Adriatic. With such illustrious art and culture hot spots as Milan, Verona, Vicenza and Padua along the way, this route is, at one level, quintessential Italy. If you really are a city lover, then Route 41 is for you.

Milan (Milano) – (suggested stopover).
Italy’s second largest city is the country’s economic powerhouse as well as its commercial, banking, fashion and design centre. Milan is less aesthetically appealing than Florence or Rome. But Italy’s most cosmopolitan city boasts Romanesque churches, grand galleries, a superb museum of Northern Italian art (the Brera) and one of the boldest cathedrals in Christendom.

Milan’s signature building is the Duomo. This extravagant Gothic cathedral, overflowing with belfries, statues and pinnacles, has stairs leading to rooftop views.

Route No. 38: “Through Liguria to Tuscany”

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. 38: “Through Liguria to Tuscany” which begins in Nice, passing through Monaco into Italy ending in Pisa.

There is some wonderful scenery on this short journey, though to see the best of it, you’ll really need to get off the train and linger. Genoa is an obvious choice for an overnight stop, but you may want to be more creative and choose one or two smaller communities to stay for a day or two. Smaller towns which are among our personal favourites are Menton, Sanremo, Albenga, Santa Margherita Ligure and Vernazza, though the last of these is so formidably busy in summer that we would not even think of stopping there other than in the depths of winter. Slowish regional trains run at least every couple of hours along every section of this route, so it’s perfectly possible to travel spontaneously and just buy tickets along the way. If you are in a rush, you can travel from Nice to Pisa in about six hours, with just a single change of train in Genoa.

Route No. 42: “South to Sicily”


PHOTO: ‘Bay of Naples' posted on by user krzysiuc.

PHOTO: ‘Bay of Naples’ posted on by user krzysiuc.

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.