When starting to research how to do this trip without flying between stops, we discovered there is a direct train between Rome and Sicily. Its an 11 hour train ride which you can do during the day, or a sleeper train leaving Rome late and arriving in Sicily not too early. While the scenery is gorgeous during the day, 11 hours straight is A LONG DAMN TIME ON A TRAIN.
However, I could not find any up-to-date reviews for it. Most of what I found on tripadvisor were horror stories, local experts warning against it, people advocating for the quicker and sometimes cheaper flights.
But we were on a mission. We wanted to make this journey by land or sea if we could! So we took the risk, and it paid off.
I mean, I guess I need to qualify this by saying that Shawn and I are train people. We love the pace, the ability to get up and walk around and being able to bring your own treats aboard! If you hate all of the above, and really just want to get to your destination, you will probably hate an 11 hour train ride.
We also took this train in early October, so the weather had cooled enough at night that we weren’t sweltering in our room.
Oh yeah, the night train is not the sleeper trains of yore. So manage your expectations! But, despite all the warnings, it was safe, cheap and on time!
Ok, qualifier aside, you should really take this train! It is such a fun adventure! Plus, you are traveling and sleeping at the same time, so you’re saving yourself a hotel room.
I booked us into a standard sleeper, and I booked 5 months ahead of our trip as we had our dates pretty set in stone. Again, all the work has already been done by the amazing Man in Seat 61, so just follow his instructions if you plan on booking https://www.seat61.com/trains-and-routes/trains-to-sicily.htm Because I booked so far ahead of time, we only ended up paying $195 CDN for this sleeper compartment.
You get a sink, your beds, room for your bags, outlets, a window, a very secure locking door and toiletry kits! They were so cute and totally unexpected!
The train was scheduled to depart at 11pm, and it was on time! It showed up at 10:30pm, so we were able to board, get settled in our room, and we were off!
I was a bit nervous, because I had read some of the horror stories about people being robbed, but they had also mentioned that they hadn’t properly checked their door. So we did that before turning in for the night, made sure the door locked tight! Shawn took the top bunk, and was passed out in minutes. I had the bottom bunk and slept alright for an hour or two, but kept waking up, feeling a bit nauseous, perhaps from the late night snacks and glasses of wine?
I managed to get a few hours of sleep, and then woke up as the train was being loaded on to the ferry. Yeah that’s right, the train cars are uncoupled and shunted on to a ferry to make the passage across to Sicily! How cool! And, you don’t have to leave your room at all. We thought we might go check out the ferry and see the sunrise, but Shawn slept through it all. Totally dead to the world. I heard a little but chose to keep on sleeping.
I woke up for good once we arrived in Sicily around 8am. Shawn was still asleep! I finally woke him up by opening the blinds to see the view.
The train rushes past the mediterranean and gorgeous black sand beaches. You can also get great views of Mt. Etna from standing in the hallway.
The conductor came by with juice boxes and pastries for our breakfast, which we were not expecting. That was a nice treat.
I hope this post helps other travellers who were considering taking the sleeper train. It really wasn’t anywhere near as bad as tripadvisor makes it seem!