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Rome to Taormina and Florence to Paris

We will be celebrating our 65th birthdays with a three week trip to Italy, Sicily and Paris this June. On our last trip to Europe four years ago, we stayed in Italy but this time we're daring to be a bit more adventurous. The most challenging part of planning this trip is figuring out the least stressful ways to get from Rome to Taormina and back, then from Florence to Paris. We're not too keen on flying but from what I can tell, the train ride to Taormina is 9 hours yet, when I've tried to book a flight from Rome to Catania on the Alitalia website, it looks like the cost is over $400 per person round trip. That seems awfully expensive for a 1 1/4 hour flight. Ryan Air doesn't seem to offer flights from Rome to Catania. Also, I'm assuming that there's a high speed train from Florence to Paris. Would it be okay to wait until we got to Italy to purchase those train tickets or should we buy them in advance before we leave?

Grazie mille!

Posted by
833 posts

For Rome to Catania - use skyscanner.com to check your dates. When I threw in random August dates, I found round trips between the cities for as low as $81. (The airlines include Vueling, Iberia, Blu-Express for the lower cost end. Alitalia is $228 for those dates). You may not find prices that low, but it suggests that you should be able to find something lower than $400 per person. Do read the rules for whichever airline you're considering and follow them closely. For example, with Ryanair when they say one bag they literally mean one bag - not one piece of luggage and a purse. Plus the luggage sizes can be very small (smaller than our carry-on standards) so be aware of any of those added costs before purchasing budget airline tickets.

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Using bahn.de (a great place to look at train schedules and connections - can't buy for other countries on there, but useful in planning) the following are your options for Florence to Paris. While there are high speed trains between the cities, you will have to make at least one connection. The trip ranges between 9h19m to 10h40m. There are Florence-Milan-Paris, and then others connect again from Milan through Geneva, Basel or Zurich. If you choose this route, yes - do buy your tickets in advance. The fast trains offer significant savings when you buy in advance. It locks you in to a certain time (non-refundable, non-exchangeable ticket) but will be much, much cheaper. You can buy the Florence to Milan and Milan to Switzerland portions on Trenitalia, but you will have to purchase the Switzerland to Paris portion on SBB or SNCF (the Swiss and French sites).

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What may be a better option (shorter and cheaper) would be to fly from Florence or Pisa to Paris. AirFrance and Vueling offer some reasonable direct flights from Florence, there are direct flights through Transavia, Easyjet and Ryanair from Pisa. The AirFrance does bring you into CDG - budget airlines typically use airports that are a little more inconvenient - so keep that in mind when choosing a flight if you choose to fly instead of taking the train.

Posted by
8700 posts

Devon has given you excellent advice.

If you don't mind getting up early, you can travel Firenze-Milano-Torino-Paris by train, departing at 06:53 and arriving at 16:14. Book Firenze-Torino up to 120 days in advance on trenitalia.com to get a Super Economy fare of €19.00 for Firenze-Milano and €9.00 for Milano-Torino. Print your own tickets. Book Torino-Paris up to three months in advance on tgv-europe.com to get a Mini fare as low as €29.00. Even though you'll be departing from Torino, choose France as your ticket collection country and print your own tickets. If you choose the USA, you'll be bumped to Rail Europe which doesn't offer discount fares. Or book on capitainetrain.com which offers the same discount fares as tgv-europe.com.

If you fly from Pisa to Paris, avoid Ryanair unless it gives you the best departure time for your schedule. It uses Beauvais which is a long bus ride from Paris.

One more option for Florence-Paris would be to take a high-speed train from Florence to Milan in time to catch the Thello night train from Milan to Paris. Leave Milan at 22:55 and arrive in Paris at 09:30. Advantages: more daylight hours for on-the-ground sightseeing and saving the cost of a night in a hotel. Disadvantages: can't see much out the window after dark and arriving tired if you don't sleep well on trains.

Posted by
220 posts

Devon and Tim,
Many thanks to you both for your detailed advice. Things were getting a bit overwhelming but now I feel like I can get a handle on the transportation part of this trip and move on to the fun stuff like researching places to eat! Thanks again!

Posted by
8700 posts

You're welcome, Adrienne.

For more information on the Thello night train, see this page on The Man in Seat 61 site. FYI, it's a great site for learning about train travel in Europe.

Happy planning!

Posted by
220 posts

Thanks! What a terrific site! The Man really knows trains. Just browsing around I found that you can go from Paris to Beijing on the Trans-Siberian train to the Trans-Mongolian train through the Gobi Desert in China. You're eating steak frites one day and about a week later you're lunching on street food in Beijing. What an adventure. Thank you for introducing train travel as a real option for our trip!

Posted by
11613 posts

I generally like to travel north-south or south-north in Italy, which for me would mean starting in Florence, then Rome, then Taormina, and perhaps fly out of Catania to Paris (Alitalia has flights with one stop but there may be other, cheaper options).

Posted by
220 posts

Thank you for your suggestions, Zoe. I agree that it's a good idea to streamline the directions. I'm finding that seats on Alitalia and Air France are much more expensive but in the end, I think the ease of the travel experience will make it worthwhile.