Those who choose to take a train holiday in Europe today have many more possibilities than in the past. Even if getting around takes a little longer than flying and doesn’t allow you to get everywhere, doing it in carriages equipped with beds or couchettes at night allows you to rest and sometimes save at least one night in a hotel. As they often say with a cliché, then, “with the train you arrive and you’re already in the center”. More generally, the train is a less polluting means of transport than planes and private cars, and avoids having to undergo lengthy security checks at airports, making further transfers to get to the city center or paying toll booths and having to look for parking.
These practical reasons and the fact that attention to the environmental impact of one’s lifestyle is increasingly widespread today have meant that in recent years night trains have begun to be increasingly requested and frequented, even in the face of I travel a little higher, but all in all competitive. The result is that several European railway companies have focused on these services or have inaugurated new long-distance routes to better connect the main cities in Europe.
We have simulated some possible itineraries by calculating the approximate amount that could be spent to travel by train from Italy to four foreign cities, excluding accommodation and any other type of expense. To get an idea of the routes, duration and precise costs of train travel in Europe, you can consult travel agencies or various sites, including Thetrainline, Eurail and Omio, as well as Trenitalia, among those used for these itineraries . The Backontrack.eu site also shows all the night trains operating in Central and Eastern Europe in a map, useful for having a more immediate idea of the connections between the various countries.
From Rome to Vienna by night train
At the moment, the national railway company that has invested the most in night routes is the Austrian ÖBB, which with its Nightjet service is the largest operator of night trains in Europe. On most Nightjet trains, you can choose to travel in a reserved seat, in a multi-seater couchette car or in a sleeping car with a private bathroom and other services, such as a la carte breakfast and toiletries included. The service has also existed in Italy since 2016 and connects Vienna, Salzburg and Munich (located in Germany) to Rome, Milan or Venice among other cities; more recently ÖBB has extended some of its routes to Genoa and La Spezia.
A hypothetical round trip from Rome to Vienna between 11 and 17 September on a Nightjet train would cost about 210 euros each, choosing the couchettes in a six-seater compartment. The outbound train would depart at 20:17 on Monday 11 from Rome Termini arriving directly at the Vienna station at 8:52 the following morning; the return one would leave Vienna around 7pm on Saturday to arrive in the center of Rome at 9am on Sunday. The two cities are about 1,120 kilometers apart and to get there by car it would take at least 12 hours without stopping: the duration of the journey by train is similar, but being able to rest at night it is probable that you would arrive at your destination a little less tired.
Vienna, the capital of Austria, was listed as the most livable city in the world in the most recent annual ranking by the Economist for quality of life and services. Among other things, it houses the oldest zoo in the world and numerous museums, including the Albertina, where an exhibition on the enormous influence of the famous painter and sculptor Michelangelo Buonarroti will be inaugurated on 14 September starting from his works preserved in the museum.
From Milan to Munich, always traveling at night
Milan and Munich are about 500 kilometers away. A direct flight takes about an hour, excluding all ancillary journeys, while getting there by car with the shortest route takes at least 6 hours: with a Nightjet it takes more or less twice as long.
To travel between 13 and 20 August, choosing two seats in a 4-bed compartment on the outward journey and two in a private sleeping car on the way back would cost a total of 634 euros, 317 each, more or less what you would spend on a flight direct from Malpensa. Prices are based on a one-way train which departs at 21:26 on Sunday 13 from Rogoredo station and arrives in Monaco at 9:22 on Monday, and on a return journey which departs at 20:09 on Saturday 19 and arrives in Rogoredo at 7:42 the following Sunday.
– Read also: Night trains are making a comeback in Europe
Monaco is rather known for the “Residenz”, one of the largest royal palaces in the world, and for Marienplatz, one of the oldest and most important squares in the city. On the clock tower of the Town Hall, which overlooks the square, you can see the Glockenspiel carillon, one of the most famous, which chimes three times a day in summer. When one thinks of Munich, however, one also thinks of its breweries: another good time to visit the city – provided you tolerate both the beer and an atmosphere of great revelry – can therefore be the end of September, when the Oktoberfest begins , the well-known festival that attracts millions of people from various parts of the world every year.
From Milan to Marseille by train, during the day
To go from Milan to Marseille there are no night trains, but you can travel quite easily with a Trenitalia train to Lyon and then take one of the French railways (SNCF) from there. A trip for two people with a change in Lyon takes about 7 hours: assuming you leave on Saturday 5 August and return the following day, according to current prices, you would spend about 300 euros each.
In general, France is very well connected with Italy: there are direct trains that take you from Milan to Paris in less than 7 hours, and if you leave from Venice you can arrive in the French capital in a minimum of 10 and a half hours, with at least two changes for a one-way cost ranging from 170 euros upwards.
Marseille is France’s second largest city, has a rather unique atmosphere and is bustling with a large community of French people whose families have North African ancestry. It is known for the old port area and despite the major problems of the housing crisis in recent years it is experiencing extensive redevelopment attempts. From there you can reach the various towns of the Côte d’Azur and the Camargue quite comfortably by public transport, very popular and popular destinations during the summer.
From Rome to Budapest by train, traveling by day
To go from Rome to Budapest by car takes at least 13 hours: you have to drive for more than 1,200 kilometers and cross all of northern Italy, all of Slovenia and a good part of Hungary. By train you can get there in about 15 hours, but traveling during the day and making a few changes, and therefore without the comforts of a night train. Assuming departure on Saturday 5 August at 7:25 from Rome, one would arrive in the Hungarian capital at 22:20 after having changed in Verona, Innsbruck and Vienna. It would take about 17 hours to get back to Termini the following Saturday, always changing in Vienna, then in Salzburg and Padua.
In short, it can be done, but one should prepare for a rather long journey, not so comfortable and not so convenient. Unless you decide to stop for a while in the cities where you have to change trains. Even assuming that you are leaving from Milan, which is 960 kilometers from Budapest, you would need at least 2 changes: according to today’s prices, you would spend at least 120 euros each for the outward journey.
Among the reasons that might make you want to visit Budapest in summer there are not only the fascinating architecture of the city, its thermal baths or the typical romkocsmák, i.e. the bars and nightclubs that arise from the ruins of abandoned buildings almost everywhere: one One of the most interesting summer events held in the city is the Sziget festival, one of the largest and most famous music festivals in Europe, which was first organized in 1993, thirty years ago. The next edition of Sziget – which is held on an island in the middle of the Danube and which takes its name from the Hungarian word meaning “island” – will be held from 10 to 15 August: among others, Billie Eilish, Florence + the Machine, David Guetta and Mumford & Sons.
Doing some research on the Trainline website, the cheapest option to go to Sziget by train starting from Rome on August 9 involves 4 changes and costs from 100 euros upwards per person. The quickest return by train would take at least 18 and a half hours, would require three changes and would cost 175 euros each; alternatively you could take a Flixbus and take about 20 hours for about half the price. In this case, however, in terms of cost and duration, it would be better to travel by plane.
Encouraging the use of trains instead of more polluting means of transport is a trend which in recent years in Europe has also manifested itself through various public initiatives. In France, for example, three flights were banned which could also be traveled by train within a reasonable time. In Germany, on the other hand, last summer tickets for 9 euros a month were promoted for travel on regional trains and public transport throughout the country, and after this initiative it was decided to introduce one for 49 euros a month, amid some controversy.
Among the railway companies that are expanding their night routes in other European countries are the Belgian-Dutch European Sleeper, which, for example, connects Brussels to Berlin, and European Sleeper, which wants to extend its routes to Dresden and Prague and introduce a between Amsterdam and Barcelona. For now, however, the main limitations of night trains remain the cost of the tickets, which are often higher than those of the plane, and the need for large investments in new and better equipped carriages.
In any case, there is still Interrail, the program that allows people living in Europe to travel with a single train ticket in 33 participating countries, from Norway to Ireland, from Portugal to Turkey. The program has existed since 1972 – well before the birth of the European Union – it connects 30,000 stations and it is estimated that hundreds of thousands of people, mostly young people, use it every year.
To organize a trip on Interrail you can choose various types of passes that guarantee a certain number of days in which to travel freely in one or more European countries at prices ranging from around eighty euros upwards. On the Interrail website you can plan your trip by selecting the countries you want to visit, thus getting an idea of the possible stops and the optimal duration of the trip.
– Read also: Useful things for those who take an Interrail trip