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Train Rome to Palermo

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Train Rome to Palermo

I am trying to book an overnight train from Rome to Palermo. Has anyone done this before. We want to book a private cabin for me and my wife but don't know the difference between 'couchette', 3 bed apartment or double seat apartment.

Does anyone know the difference?

We envisage the journey will be quite romantic with dinner then a comfortable sleep, don't know if this is what it is really like.

GAC
Los Angeles, CA
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1. Re: Train Rome to Palermo

If your perspective of train travel is as described above, I strongly recommend that you skip the overnight train entirely: there is no food service on board, and the sleeping compartments are quite small. During the hot summers, some people find the accommodations a tad stifling.

The particular Intercity Night train from Rome to Palermo takes at least 13.5 hours, and often arrives late. There are 4-bunk couchettes without facilities, or triple, twin or single sleeping compartments with private wash basin, but the toilet is always at the end of the hallway. Not terribly romantic!

I would advise you to do one of the following, in order of preference:

1. Fly

2. Take the overnight car ferry from Civitavecchia or Naples. (Train from Rome to reach the departure cities). These ships have much nicer and larger sleeping compartments with private facilities (including a marine shower), as well as a restaurant, cafeteria, public lounge, bar, video games, card room, sometimes a movie theatre, etc.

3. If you really, really like train travel and really want to see the scenery, take the daylight Intercity train to Palermo. It's a long trip, boring in parts, and the railcars are far from "state of the art", but some people nevertheless enjoy the experience (fewer and fewer, as more and more people choose to fly). If you take the train, do be prepared for "surprises" such as a late arrival, malfunctioning air conditioning, soiled seats, and/or dirty toilets. Not necessarily, but possibly .....

Edited: 17 July 2011, 18:23
Sydney, Australia
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2. Re: Train Rome to Palermo

I would endorse GAC's comments. Night trains in Europe these days are neither romantic nor comfortable.

Here & There
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3. Re: Train Rome to Palermo

Welcome to Sicily Hitman_Tom!

You’ve received excellent advise here from GAC and sydneynick – Skip the overnight train.

If you’d like overnight transport, take the ferry.

If you opt to fly, easyJet, blu-express, Meridiana, WindJet, and Alitalia fly from Rome Fiumicino to Palermo.

Vagabonda

Quainton, United...
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4. Re: Train Rome to Palermo

The night train is indeed both romantic and comfortable! I've taken Italian night trains, including to and from Sicily, on many occasions over the years, in both couchettes and various types of sleeper. I love it!

Take a bottle of wine and picnic onto the train, and you'll have a blast! The sleeping-cars are old but comfortable, the beds are clean and comfy, with crisp clean sheets, soap, towels are all provided, and you can order breakfast from the attendant. I love lying in bed reading with a glass of Chianti, steel wheel swishing on steel rail beneath me, on my way to Sicily...

Taking a European sleeper train is a unique experience in itself, and in this case there's another unique experience thrown in, as the train goes over on the train ferry across the Straits of Messina, one of the few places where trains now actually go onto boats.

You can book the train easily at www.trenitalia.com - 'double seat compartment' is indeed a 2-bed sleeper (it's just poorly translated!) and is probably what you want. It'll save a hotel bill, and will be city centre to city centre, unlike a flight.

So whether you end up agreeing with me (as I hope you will) or the above posters, you'll KNOW, you'll have had a genuine Italian experience and will have seen more of Italy than those who fly.

Do the dinner party test: After your trip, will your fellow guests be more interested in your tales of an Italian sleeper train ride? Or in how you adventurously went to an airport and got on a plane? ;o)

Edited: 18 July 2011, 15:04
Norwich, United...
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5. Re: Train Rome to Palermo

And don't overlook the other great dinner party test...

Ask all those offering an opinion if they've ever done the subject under discussion (i.e. taken that particular overnight train) - and when they did so!

Peter

Here & There
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6. Re: Train Rome to Palermo

Yes, a genuine Italian experience on a long, hot, tedious, dirty, and tardy train!!

Many tourists don’t realise that train service in Southern Italy and Sicily is substandard – Trains are always late. The trains are old or broken leftovers from Northern Italy. Service is slow, usually hours longer for the same journey than travel by bus. Trains are dirty. The air-conditioning is often broken. The tracks are old and not maintained. There’s no food service. Many Sicilian towns don’t have train stations. Even if you loved trains, the romance with trains would quickly fade in Sicily. The reality here makes you lose the rose tinted specs.

The situation is very different in Northern Italy where travel by train is even recommended.

The early posts on this thread are factual, objective, and non-biased for this particular route, not biased by a prejudice against airports and flying, not biased by someone who profits from the sale of train tickets and the railway.

Had the route been discussing Northern Italy, the response would have been very different. There are times when the train is the best option, but not in this case.

Read the comments by the locals who live with these trains on a daily basis. This earlier thread and subsequent links also includes comments by other tourists who have taken this route by train.

Overnight train Rome to Sicily in July:

tripadvisor.com/ShowTopic-g187886-i343-k4502…

Your fellow guests at a dinner party may be more interested in your talks about your overnight ferry experience, or talks about what you saw in Sicily with the time you saved by flying!

Vagabonda

Quainton, United...
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7. Re: Train Rome to Palermo

The train leaves at 21:20. That's central Rome at the Stazione Termini, with zero check-in. It arrives in central Palermo at 10:40 next morning, after that interesting crossing of the Straits of Messina on the train ferry and some scenery along the coast.

Maybe a bit late, true, but surely that's no big deal, you're on holiday, not attending an urgent business meeting!

No restaurant car? This is no big deal either, the train leaves after 9pm and you've brought that Chianti and picnic on board anyway, and the attendant can serve a simple breakfast.

The train will be clean enough, this is a 'carozza letti' (sleeping-car or 'wagons-lits') not a Sicilian regional local service. Trenitalia's MU, T2 and T3S sleeping cars are the same on sleeper trains both north and south. I know their MU & T2 cars well, although I've yet to sample their refurbished T3S!

Flying does not save time, as you'll need to pay for another hotel night and it''ll take 3 or 4 daytime hours in total with all the taxis and check-ins, and I doubt will get you to Palermo before 11:00.

But at the end of the day, travel should be about experiences. I got into train (and ferry) travel simply because the world was becoming a series of identical airline-non-experiences at 35,000 feet. I think it's about time we put back the excitement, interest, romance, and adventure.

So fly and miss out... Or try the overland adventure, maybe it'll be great, maybe OK, maybe less than OK, but any experience beats a non-experience in my book!

Edited: 18 July 2011, 16:29
GAC
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8. Re: Train Rome to Palermo

Isn't it amazing what a range of opinions one can find on the topic of overnight train travel to Sicily?

I am more and more convinced that the real variable factor here is the attitude and personal preferences of the individual traveller. Some are unabashed proponents of train travel, notwithstanding most shortcomings. Others are unabashed opponents, notwithstanding any perceived advantages.

Where does the truth lie? Probably at neither extreme.

My advice: don't go for night train travel with eyes closed. Be aware of the reported shortcomings (such as travel delays, heat, noise, inability to sleep because of numerous en-route stops, no restaurant car or food service, etc). Then consider how badly you want this form of travel experience. Finally, consider the alternatives, their pros and cons, and relative costs.

For good or bad, fewer people choose to take the overnight train between Rome and Palermo. Italian night trains have really gotten "bashed" in the Italian press (sometimes in an exaggerated, unbalanced fashion). Trenitalia has been reported considering abolishing it at some point in the future. The advent of the low cost airline has transformed the economics of this route in a profound way. The existence of the more comfortable overnight ferry from Naples and Civitavecchia also hurts the populatity of the night train.

People who love trains and train travel may very well enjoy the night train experience, no matter what.... Some of those people will also enjoy the daylight train, which costs less (no sleeping compartment), and affords the possibility of enjoying the scenery for nearly 12 full hours. Perhaps a bit more monotonous in parts, but worth considering if you like train travel.

By booking well in advance, one can also find some very cheap "MINI" fares on both the daylight and the night trains (including "MINI" fares for the sleeping compartments). One can, with careful planning, indeed save quite a bit of money compared to the cost of an additional hotel night in Rome, Naples or Palermo.

But one can also find very attractive airline fares, in some cases nearly as attractive as those for the train.

Just a few weeks ago, I took the daylight Intercity train from Rome which goes direct to Siracusa/Palermo, travelling in second class. This was NOT my first trip on this train. I found the train quite acceptable in terms of comforts. The toilets were, as expected, very worn and not clean, but the seats were not soiled, and the floors had been swept clean. The a/c was working properly. This IC train departed on time from Roma Termini, whereas the more expensive ES train, which was supposed to depart 54 minutes earlier, was still in the station when my train started out (there was a mechanical problem with that train).

Now, I admit that this was not July or August, but May, when the weather usually does not test the durability of the train's a/c. So, I might have a different experience to report were I travelling right now .....

There is still a small demand for night trains to Sicily, albeit dwindling. My advice to those who would like to have the experience is to do it sooner rather than later, because one just never knows when budget pressures will finally force Trenitalia to abolish this night route. These financial considerations loom larger in today's uncertain economy, and are more likely than not to lead to train service cuts, particularly the long-distance night trains.

Here & There
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9. Re: Train Rome to Palermo

GAC’s comments and suggestions are fair, unbiased, factual, sensible…

It’s rather narrow-minded to think that only trains can offer an experience.

Just as there are train enthusiasts, there are aviation enthusiasts, who do not consider flying over the Aeolian Island or Mount Etna an identical airline-non-experience.

It’s a disservice here to support or oppose any one mode of transport at all times – So as GAC has stated, be aware of the reported shortcomings and then make the decision that best suits.

Since Rome to Palermo is a domestic flight, you would only arrive at the airport an hour prior, and there are fast and efficient shuttles from Rome to the airport.

Time spent arriving to a destination is time lost at the destination....

Don’t underestimate the possibility of malfunctioning air conditioning, especially in summer, or the tardiness of trains in Southern Italy and Sicily.

The restaurant car is a big deal on such a lengthy ride in cramped, hot quarters, because you either do without, or plan to take food along without refrigeration in this heat.

There’s no guarantee that the train would be “clean enough” – Very often the train is quite dirty, including the toilets.

And yes, you might get lucky and enjoy a fabulous train ride, but there are no guarantees, and historically that hasn’t happened.

Vagabonda

Edited: 18 July 2011, 17:08
Norwich, United...
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10. Re: Train Rome to Palermo

Better get the Sade and Dire Straits CDs ready - looks like being very quiet across that dining table?

As a diversion then, let's check the progress of today's 11:39 IC down from Rome...

When last clocked - at Villa San Giovanni, on the eastern side of the Straits - it was 5 minutes late...

www.pbase.com/isolaverde/image/136523208

Presumably on the boat now, but follow it to Siracusa (where it's due in at 22:30, Italian time) by looking here...

http://www.e656.net/orario/treno/727.html

Peter