next year when my family goes to italy and france, we'll be traveling all by train. We have two rides over 8 hours (between paris and genoa). Wondering if it would make sense to catch an overnight train and not rent a hotel on those days, or is it just too uncomfortable/noisy on a train. Also wondering about safety precaurtions. Any advice would reaaallly be appreciate.
I like night trains. You save the cost of a night in a hotel and have more daylight hours for sightseeing. Couchettes and sleepers lock from the inside. Noise? Does anyone in your family snore? :)
For an excellent introduction to the night trains between Paris and Italy, complete with photographs, go here: http://tinyurl.com/2zezqw.
Take a night train and purchase tickets for a couchette. As long as it will only be your family in the couchette you will be fine. Book tickets for overnight trains in advance as these trains can sell out quickly.
I also highly recommend high trains for the same reason as Tim. However, let me tell you a short story so you can learn from my mistakes.
Took a night train from Salzburg to Venice. The train arrived around 1:00 AM in Salzburg. Our sleeping car was for 4 people and we were only 2. It was dark when we got on. We didn't see the 2 Japaneese teenagers who were in the upper bunks. I threw my bag onto the upper bunk and it landed right on one of the sleeping Japaneese teenagers. Luckily my bag didn't hit her very hard. She woke up suddenly and we were both startled. I said I was sorry and she rolled over and went back to sleep.
So if you're getting on at night it would be wise to make sure you're alone before you start throwing bags around.
Anne, one other point regarding night trains. Be sure to choose a route that has no changes! If you have to change trains in the middle of the night, you won't get much sleep.
Check Europe Through The Back Door or some of Rick's other Guidebooks, as this topic is well covered.