Overnight Train from Paris to Rome in June 2012

I was planning on taking the overnight train from Paris to Rome with my 15 year old son. I thought it would be a fun adventure. I have been hearing horror stories about no a/c, overcrowding, ratty conditions of the train, etc. These people say they went in 2010. have the trains been updated or refurbished since then? We will be traveling overnight on June 23, 2012. Should we just fly easyjet or will the train be a good experience? Thank you.

Posted by pat
victoria, Canada
7827 posts

Lori,,there are plenty of more recent reviews on the experience, just google "paris rome night train reviews",, or something similar. I would not do it. First, you see nothing, second,its going to be cramped. Bathrooms are apparently not clean by end of trip, and food is non existant. ( breakfast is coffee and a bun or something similar) . Its like being in a closet with your son for hours and hours,,and sleeping on a ledge. The noise bothers some people too. I like a daytime trip myself,, ( looking forward to my Paris - Nice one this summer) but last time I looked at the night train to Rome from PAris the price was so stupid that we just flew( for 80 euros one way) ..
I flew on Vueling. It was fine,, as with all low cost carriers they are strict about baggage weight, so pay up front when booking for your bag cause if its in ounce overweight you will pay a lot have it checked in at the airport.

Posted by Frank
Tresana, Highlands Ranch, CO, USA
10883 posts

Personally think night trains are overrated and romanticized. It is long trip to Paris - 14 hours perhaps. It you want an overnight train experience, pick a shorter one.

Posted by Randy
Minneapolis, MN, USA
1508 posts

Can you sleep in less than ideal conditions? Only you can answer that. Many people can't and then come here and make night trains sound terrible because their personal experience was unpleasant. Many people are at the point in life that they have more money than time and happily pay for little conveniences to avoid the threat of discomfort. Our family has used night trains three times. Glamorous? no. Effective, yes. Because we can sleep. The Paris/Rome run is currently changing hands and will be run by Thello, starting some time in June. This is a different company than the one in operation in 2010 and is supposed to have newer cars. Reservations can be made 4 months in advance, so you should start to see it listed on the Trenitalia web site some time in early-mid February; http://www.trenitalia.com/cms/v/index.jsp?vgnextoid=ad1ce14114bc9110VgnVCM10000080a3e90aRCRD The trip should be virtually identical in style and price to the Paris-Venice run which is in operation now. The prices for this run are 55euro in a 4-person couchette or 35euro in a 6-person couchette. These prices are "Smart" fares purchased ASAP after the trip is listed. Purchase later and the price goes up to a max of 120euro/person. I don't know if they will have private doubles. Remember that this is also your lodging for the night. At 35euro/person, the trip is basically free. Imagine a large couch on a moving vehicle. If you think you could fall asleep in those conditions, a night train would be perfect for you. Personally, I see it as a small part of the charm of what makes Europe different than the USA. It also doesn't hurt that it doesn't cost you a minute of your sightseeing time in a trip that might cost you several hundred $ each day. Finally, remember a flight requires hours before takeoff, hours after, transpotation to/from the airport and plenty of potential for aggrivation, too.

Posted by Randy
Minneapolis, MN, USA
1508 posts

A couple more points; Food shouldn't be an issue. Bring a snack. The train doesn't leave until after you've had plenty of time to eat dinner, and arrives at about the time you would be eating breakfast anyway. Do bring plenty of liquids, though. A "shorter" night train is an oxymoron. When sleep is the most important quality, the last thing you want is to feel pressured to hurry up and fall asleep in order to fit a night's sleep in. There is nothing wrong with 14 hours. You watch the scenery for a couple hours while there is light, you read for an hour, you sleep, you wake up & maybe have a little snack and watch a little more scenery as you approach your destination. That takes about 14 hours. By the way, our family is looking forward to making this exact trip in July - except from Rome to Paris. We'll use 5 spaces in a 6-person couchette. The ONLY thing I'm worried about is being on the ball enough to get the "Smart" fare when it comes out. That fare will be 175euro for the 5 of us - about the same as a hotel. I checked into flights with EasyJet and found the fare to be about 40euro/person (ONLY if we avoid the many traps of extra fees). Add to that the fares for transport to/from the airports and an extra night at a hotel, and the cost for all of that is over 400euro for the five of us vs 175. Now add the fact that the flight - fast as it is - will eat up the majority of a day (or at least leave us unenthusiastic for the remaining few hours left in that day) and there is no way we could justify that cost in both time and money. Of course, if you are a person who can't sleep on trains or if cost isn't an issue, then that's a different situation for you.

Posted by pat
victoria, Canada
7827 posts

One advantage you had Randy is it sounds like you had your family with you, so you took a 4 or 6 bed couchette, and ( depending on your families size) it was private just to your group. For Lori it means if she can't get, ,or can't afford a private two bed berth, they will be sharing, with strangers. Imagine sleeping in a closet with strangers,, super fun,, not. I agree for some people it would be easier though, and so Lori will have to consider that in her choice. We have an RV,, so we are used to cramped quarters, but at least they are our own space, our clean sheets and clean fluffy duvets, I am thinking that a couchette may not be quite as comfy.
Lori, you heard about "overcrowding" well they don't load more people on the train then the berths provide, but as noted, most of the berths are shared.. so consider that carefully in your "adventure" ..

Posted by Fred
San Francisco
2696 posts

Lori, I would agree with the contention that night trains ARE popular, especially in the summer and on week-ends. Lots of tourists and travellers do it...Asian, European. Try getting a compartment seat reservation last min. for a Saturday night ride. I did exactly that last summer going from Hamburg to Vienna, was told all compartment seats were booked for that Sat. night. Taking night trains involves, as I see it, three considerations: the price, sleeping, and whether you get along with your compartment mates...these total strangers, as you are to them too. I consider the last factor as most important, since I don't do the couchette/sleeper option. Only one experience (going from Hannover-Paris on CNL) where the compartment mates were less than satisfactory, couldn't wait until we pulled into Paris; after that I almost cancelled the other planned night rides. All the other night train experiences were satisfactory and pleasant. You could see a night train as a fun adventure, hopefully it turns out that way for you.

Posted by Lori
Plantation, FL, United States
15 posts

Got ya. What about raileurope? Will that website work? It's easier to read than the tretalia.

Posted by Lori
Plantation, FL, United States
15 posts

Got ya. What about raileurope? Will that website work? It's easier to read than the tretalia.

Posted by Lori
Plantation, FL, United States
15 posts

Randy,
I just went on the website you gave me and no matter what date I put in, it says "wrong date".

Posted by Ms. Jo
Frankfurt, Germany
4764 posts

Randy says: "Many people can't and then come here and make night trains sound terrible because their personal experience was unpleasant. Many people are at the point in life that they have more money than time and happily pay for little conveniences to avoid the threat of discomfort. Imagine a large couch on a moving vehicle. If you think you could fall asleep in those conditions, a night train would be perfect for you. Personally, I see it as a small part of the charm of what makes Europe different than the USA. It also doesn't hurt that it doesn't cost you a minute of your sightseeing time in a trip that might cost you several hundred $ each day.
Finally, remember a flight requires hours before takeoff, hours after, transpotation to/from the airport and plenty of potential for aggrivation, too." Thank you for trying to invalidate peoples' personal experiences. The one time I took the night train, it wasn't just unpleasant, I arrived at my destination without having slept at all. It was much more than sleeping on a couch. It was wheels under my head, slamming of the cars while loading and unloading, the workers shouting at the stations in the middle of the night, the lights at the stations, having the train stopped for an hour on an angle, the snoring lady in our cabin, & the nasty bathroom. Your statement that some people have more money and happily pay for little conveniences to avoid the "threat of discomfort" is just about the most condescending thing I have seen posted on here. Who do you think you are? Why the judgements? As to flying, for inter-Europe flights, arriving at the airport 1.5 hour ahead is sufficient. I would rather ride a bus to Hahn, for 1.5 hours, arriving 1.5 hours ahead of the flight and flying for 1.5 hours. That is a total of 4.5 hours. If I left Frankfurt for example at 6, I would be in Rome before 11:30.

Posted by Darcy
Lewiston, Idaho, USA
1202 posts

For our 2007 trip we thought we'd like to take an overnight train from Marseille to Florence. When I was finally able to figure out the connections, we realized we really didn't like the idea of arriving in Ventimiglia (I think it was Ventimiglia) at 2:00am for a 3 hour layover! In this case we considered flying but then decided to spend 2 nights (again) in the Cinque Terre instead to break up the day trip. For us it was a great way to get from point A to point B!

Posted by Randy
Minneapolis, MN, USA
1508 posts

Sorry to disappoint Jo, but I was really aiming my responses to Lori. Lori said two things that struck me; One was "...with my 15 year old son" and the other was "I thought it would be a fun adventure". Those things matter - and matter much more than some 2nd hand stories from people who traveled with a different train company. Read this highly regarded link about rail travel; http://www.seat61.com/Italy.htm and scroll down a bit to get detailed information and photos re the Thello overnight train. As I stated repeatedly in my previous post; if you are a light sleeper, this might not be for you. What more needs to be said on that subject? However, night trains are popular. Presumably they are popular for a reason. And we are looking forward to our 4th chance to use one this July - the exact same train Lori is asking about.... PS; Regarding train "layovers"; It is true that some shorter distance night trains artificially lengthen the amount of time for the trip by taking long stops. That is annoying. This particular run is a long one and does not make long stops. In fact, it only makes a few stops total and each is only long enough to take on passengers. No stops after Dijon at 10:30PM until Milan at 5:30AM

Posted by Ms. Jo
Frankfurt, Germany
4764 posts

As a teacher, you should know the difference between 1st hand stories and 2nd hand stories. Mine was a 1st hand story, as are most of the other experiences that people post on here. Other wise it would be a "friend of a friend and their cousin said......." I am also not a light sleeper. Why would you presume to know this about me?

Posted by Lori
Plantation, FL, United States
15 posts

Wow, not a good review in the bunch. The best I'm hearing is that it's OK if you're not a light sleeper. I really appreciate all your feedback. So far, I have not heard one person say that they had a positive experience on the train. I'm thinking EasyJet and an extra night in Rome is the ticket. The cost of EasyJet and the transfers and the extra night in the hotel is about the same as a private double compartment on the train. (I was going to do the double because, as someone mentioned, sharing a compartment with someone else is not my cup of tea). I think I will contact our hotel in Rome to see if a room is available that night. If anyone thinks this is not a good decision, please let me know your thoughts.
Thanks again to everyone here!

Posted by Michael Schneider
New Paltz, NY
6837 posts

Here's a good review. I've ridden four City Nightline trains, slept well and enjoyed the experience. It probably helped that I splurged for the private sleepers. Before my first night train I used discount airlines extensively to cover long distances. Now I only use airports to arrive and leave Europe. Given the choice of the airport hassles or a relaxing albeit long journey on a night train (which I'll be mostly sleeping though anyways), I'll take the night train hands down...even if it costs a bit more.

Posted by Lori
Plantation, FL, United States
15 posts

Thank you, Michael. I appreciate hearing something positive. I now realize that we would not be seeing much as the train leaves at 7:45pm. We arrive in Milan at 5:38am and then transfer to the train to Rome. Do you have any experience with the morning train?

Posted by Randy
Minneapolis, MN, USA
1508 posts

Lori, If you prefer to fly that's what you should do. However, just to clarify; If you were going from Paris to Rome NOW, you would change trains early in Milan. I wouldn't want to do that either, not to mention the cost of taking two trains, which is quite high. But in June, Thello will be going DIRECT from Paris to Rome, exactly like it does now from Paris to Venice, but changing tracks in Milan, not trains. You would not have to get off your train. With some luck, you would not even wake up. Since June is more than four months out, you cannot see this trip in any search (typically, it's more like 60-90 days before you can reserve). But if you prefer to fly, you should fly. Our family did enjoy the overnight trains, but that's us. In any case, I wish you a wonderful trip and hope you have many adventures with your son. He's lucky.

Posted by Lori
Plantation, FL, United States
15 posts

Thank you Randy,
That does make a big difference. I'm so glad you let me know about the new train that won't cause us to change trains. Maybe I should just wait for the train schedule to come out and see what my real options are. Do you think EasyJet will sell out before then?

Posted by Randy
Minneapolis, MN, USA
1508 posts

Lori, If I were you I would wait until the end of February to give Thello the chance to get their schedule for June up and running (check using the Trenitalia web site since the Thello site is only in French). They are supposed to book four months ahead. Then you can decide based on concrete information. If they don't have a schedule up for June by the end of February, I would take the flight. Only a fool would predict airfares, but I doubt there would be a significant change between now and then. People don't often make plans more than four months out, although I usually do. I'm a little obsessive that way. Either way, it can be economical, so there really is no bad option. Good luck. I'll be watching those schedules, too.

Posted by Lori
Plantation, FL, United States
15 posts

Sounds good, Randy. I'll let you know if I see it open up.

Posted by Randy
Minneapolis, MN, USA
1508 posts

Do keep checking BEFORE the end of February though. Because there will likely be cheaper fares on a first-come-first-served basis once the schedule is posted. You want to order them ASAP if you choose to use the train.

Posted by Randy
Minneapolis, MN, USA
1508 posts

Lori, Be sure when entering dates, that you follow the European custom of DAY/MONTH/YEAR, not the American custom. So March 24, 2012 is listed as 24/03/2012 You won't find any direct train from Paris to Rome until Thello gets its schedule up, hopefully next month. You won't see a schedule for ANY train in June until you get much closer to June. Until then, if you want to see how it works, pick PARIS/VENICE with a date in April or early May, and you should see the information presented in a very similar fashion as it will eventually be for the trip to Rome. People are often flustered by the 60/90 day rule in train reservations. But schedules and costs don't change much from month to month so if you want to research any train route for several months away, ask for a "phantom" date within 60 days instead. The information you get should be pretty much the same for farther in the future. This particular example is different, of course, as it is a new company and new service beginning in June. If there is a different problem, try to describe it in detail and I'll try to figure it out. PS; On the Trenitalia web site you may be asked which Paris station to choose, since there are several. Choose "Lyon" as that is where the train leaves from.

Posted by Lori
Plantation, FL, United States
15 posts

Thanks again, Randy. I really apppreciate this. I'll try the Paris to Venice to get an idea of what it will look like.

Posted by Lori
Plantation, FL, United States
15 posts

Randy,
When I look at the schedule, how do I know which one is the Thello train? I see train numbers and train categories which I don't understand. Can you tell me which train number or category I should look for?

Posted by Randy
Minneapolis, MN, USA
1508 posts

#221 perhaps? It's the only direct train - it doesn't say "Thello" On the web site, once you get to the page showing your train choices, choose the only direct option. It should say 120euro. Pick that bullet, and then click continue. You then see a page asking for number of passengers, type of compartment and "select your fare". We always choose the 6-person couchette. Then we pick the "SMART" fare, which is by far the cheapest at 35euro/person. (a slightly more private 4-person couchette is 55euro/person) But when I tried "double seat compartment" for you, the Smart fare was not available. The best it would give me is a "GO" fare for 290euro. If this is the only sleeping option you are comfortable with, I would fly instead. Of course, you could buy all 4 places in a 4-person couchette for a total of 220euro. But I would still fly instead of paying that much. It really only makes sense to train if you share a couchette or hate planes or just want to experience riding the rails.

Posted by Lori
Plantation, FL, United States
15 posts

Well, I did a test run and chose 221. I put in 2 passengers (but it didn't let me specify adult vs child) and the whole compartment. It was Euro 288,00. This is still less expensive than a plane ($116 including baggage, transfer to Orly and transfer from FCO plus a room in Rome for the night). Would you still pass on the train at that price? Would it be roomier to take a 4 person couchette and use it for two? My understanding is that the compartment has real beds and the couchette is something other than a bed. Do you know what the arrival time in Rome would be for the direct train? Have you ever gotten motion sick on a train? (i'm OK in cars and buses and large ships, but boats do me in. Sorry to ask so many questions, but I have been searching for weeks to find someone who knows something about this.

Posted by Lori
Plantation, FL, United States
15 posts

Randy,
When I look at the schedule, how do I know which one is the Thello train? I see train numbers and train categories which I don't understand. Can you tell me which train number or category I should look for?

Posted by Karen
Fort Wayne, IN, USA
1520 posts

I sure hope Jo doesn't give it another try this summer from Rome to Paris, and end up the last berth in Randy's compartment. That would be...awkward.

Posted by Randy
Minneapolis, MN, USA
1508 posts

Lori, Here is an example of what I did; 1) Trenitalia web site; One way, from PARIS, to VENICE, 10 05(May), 2012, hour 19 (night trains depart after 7PM) 2) Departure station clarification page; Chose Paris "Lyon" 3) The only result (since no other trains are scheduled this far ahead) should be the direct night train you are looking for. It doesn't say "Thello" because that's not necessary. Nobody else does the direct night train. Train 221, category "EN" means EuroNight. Departs at 7:45 PM, arrives in Venice at 9:34 AM (Rome is a similar distance, so should arrive at a similar time). Click on the "select" bullet and click on "continue" 4) Now you should be on the page with all the fare choices. Enter "2" for passengers. 2nd class (I don't believe there is a 1st class on this train) For 2nd class; Smart Fare C4-couchette is 110euro total
C6-couchette is 70euro total. There is no smart fare for a double compartment. There is a "GO" fare that is 290euro total. That is the lowest price for a double. You can book a C4-couchette by paying 220euro for all four spots. That is your lowest price for complete privacy. (continued...)

Posted by Randy
Minneapolis, MN, USA
1508 posts

(continued...) A couchette bunk is a couple inches wider than a couch. You enter the compartment and you have two long "couches" facing each-other. The back of each flips up to become a middle bunk. The seat is the bottom bunk, and there is a third bunk permanently placed at eye level. Somewhere in the compartment is a tiny ladder. When all the bunks are out, it is indeed, very cramped. The best way to get a bit of privacy in a couchette is to take the two top bunks. That way you have your companion at the same level and any activity by others is under you. Etiquette is that you lay down to sleep fully clothed. Does this help? How about you pass this information along to your son and let him decide? Personally, I would hesitate to spend an amount similar to a flight plus hotel. I would still prefer to not lose hours of daylight to travel, but then again, anyone would sleep better in a hotel room. With the lower price of the smart fare, the train is a no-brainer choice for us. But only you can decide what's best for you. Couchette companions could be almost anyone from amazing to horrible. More likely than not, they would be people not unlike yourselves whose company you could tolerate easily enough, if not enjoy. But there are certainly no guarantees.

Posted by Laura
Virginia, USA
2899 posts

I'm in the group of people who hates night trains. I took dozens in my twenties and haven't taken one since 1998. I mostly stayed in couchettes with people I did not know. I once took a double sleeper car with a friend. I never had any problem with the people in the car other than sometimes you get someone who snores. I did have one ride with 5 drunk Norwegians that I was worried about when I first boarded, but it was fine as they were very happy drunks and pretty much passed out once it got dark. I never once got any sleep on the night train. I took them because I was young and had a rail pass and wanted to visit a lot of places. I usually found that I arrived in town with a headache. With the advent of cheap flights and the elimination of cheap rail passes, I abandoned those super long train rides. HOWEVER, the only way to know if you like them is to give it a try. You sound eager to give it a try. I just wouldn't plan anything to taxing on your first day in Rome.

Posted by Charlene
Centennial, CO, US
915 posts

One other consideration when chosing train vs. plane into is the possibility of Italian train strikes. A few years ago, we had tickets on the overnight train from Paris to Florence, and when we arrived at the station in Paris we were told that Italian trains were on strike so we could go part way (to Lyon) but then would have to wait, perhaps a day, for the strike to end. We had planned just a two day visit, to meet a business associate in Florence. So we just bagged that part of our trip and spent the time in Antibes instead. If a train strike would cause you a major problem, I'd fly instead. Strikes are not all that frequent but they do happen.

Posted by Lori
Plantation, FL, United States
15 posts

Well, the decision has been made. Sadly, the wise move appears to be flying. No matter how much I wanted the adventure of the train, I am almost certain that the reality would have been nothing like the fantasy. We will be taking the EasyJet from Paris to Rome leaving at 5:50pm. We will be assured of a good night sleep and will awake in Rome being able to take the tour I wanted. The train would have cut our timing too close. I can not thank you all enough, especially Randy. Thank you for taking your time to type in all that information. I can now be comfortable with my decision. I wish you all wonderful travels and if I can be of any assistance with other types of information, I will be happy to reply to your posts. Bon nuit/Buonanotte. Merci beaucoup/mille gratzie

Posted by Randy
Minneapolis, MN, USA
1508 posts

It sounds like that decision was best for you and that's all that matters in the end. You'll have a wonderful trip. We'll be in Rome just two weeks after you. Have a Gelato in my honor... :)

Posted by Ed
Philadelphia, PA, USA
1 posts

I have a few questions regarding night train from Paris to Rome: -Currently, it seems that Thello is operating the route and the fair per person is at least $259, and I cannot find Smart fare option, can someone help? -Also, can I use saverpass to take this train? Thanks
Ed

Posted by Nigel
East Midlands, England
8756 posts

Ed, with trip just next week you won't get any discounts at this late date...

Posted by Jim
Folsom
1 posts

We took Thello overnight train on June 22 - Venice to Paris. This is an over rated train, it is old and rattles. The AC didn't work, the temp was as high as 36 C (~100 F). Food ran out in the first 10 minutes, compartments are cramped, several folks keep the windows open for cooler air, but it also allows diesel fumes to come in during the tunnel travel, vey noisy... Overly romanticized and not worth the money - take the flight instead. Also be aware that Italian trains go on strike relatively often - you can be stuck. Don't take overnight trains, especially Thello as per my experience.

Posted by Andre L.
Tilburg, Netherlands
2176 posts

Diesel fume in the tunnels? I didn't know they allowed diesel engines in the Frejus :p

Posted by Melinda
Portland, OR, USA
2 posts

My husband and I took the Italian night train from Venice to Paris last year and we would not do it again. No food, conditions not too clean, and then being told to keep our little compartment locked all through the night and not to come out was a little distressing.

Posted by Joe
Houston
1 posts

My family and I took the train about a week ago from Paris to Rome and I would not recommend. We too were told to keep the door locked. The pillows and duvet were filthy. Food was limited in the dining car. Also the bathrooms were dirty to begin with and by morning they were really, really bad. If you have ever camped in a US state park during a holiday that was packed with people and then went into the bathroom on the second day. Well that is what these bathrooms were like. Water on the bathroom floor along with human waste. No paper or tissue and those waiting for the services had the habit of knocking on the door if you were in for more than 10 seconds. The sleeping arrangements are as described so it's kind of like sleeping on a hard bench. We had no heat so by morning three of the four of us had colds and were getting sick. We referred to it as the Thelo. I thought of it as the train ride from h@ll. Luckily the rest of the trip was good but I would not recommend this to anyone but the hardest of travelers. Unless you too want to risk getting a case of the Thelo for the rest of your trip.

Posted by Bets
Bloomington
1970 posts

Joe needs to put this on Trip Reports.
Gangs used to work that run, about ten years ago, stealing out of the compartments while people slept.