Paris 🇫🇷 to Milan 🇮🇹 by train the Italian way – onboard the new Frecciarossa service!

For many years, the only direct way to travel between Paris and Milan at high-speed was by the French TGV, or Train de Grande Vitesse. Today, there is a new kid on the block that is disrupting the market – the Italian high-speed counterpart, the Frecciarossa. This is operated by Trenitalia France.

It’s not the first time that the Italians have had some market share on this mainline route across the Alps. Until recently, there was a sleeper train from Paris running through to Venice, also operated by Trenitalia France under the brand name Thello, which ran from 2011 to 2020 (see pictures below from 2016). Clearly, when Trenitalia France decided to terminate the service for good they had a plan up their sleeve as, in 2021, Frecciarossa trains were launched from Paris to Milan setting a new standard of service directly competing with the TGV.

Depending on the day of week, there are one or two Frecciarossa services per day that operate the route, one early morning departure and, on some days, a late afternoon departure. This is the case in both directions.

One Saturday back in November 2022, I took the first Frecciarossa of the day with a group of friends, the 07:26 departure from Paris Gare de Lyon to be exact, for its full journey to Milano Centrale, arriving at 14:07. This afternoon arrival into Milan is ideal for connecting trains to other places in Italy, including the sleeper train to Sicily that I have reviewed recently.

Departure from Paris Gare de Lyon

The train departs and arrives at the great cathedral-like Gare de Lyon in Paris, the same location as where the competing TGV services depart and arrive from. This important station can be confusing to navigate with the station comprising of three areas, or halls. The Frecciarossa services leave from Hall 1 in the original part of the station, however, if you access the station from the underground Hall 3 (where the RER trains feed into) then you must walk to Hall 2 before locating the signs to Hall 1. Thankfully I had used the station a few times in the past, so there was no last minute panic on where the train would leave from.

Also confusingly, the Trenitalia France tickets are not available from the SNCF ticket machines that are dotted all over the station or the ticket office. However, in Hall 1, there is a Trenitalia France ticket machine with its own ticket office to match to be able to purchase tickets. We bought our tickets online direct from the Trenitalia website, however, so we didn’t need to use these facilities. Online purchases come with an e-Ticket, with a barcode, so the ticket can be presented on your phone at the ticket barriers and onboard.

Onboard the Frecciarossa 1000

The Frecciarossa 1000 that serves the Paris to Milan route offers three classes of accommodation on this route – Standard, Business and Executive.

Those familiar with the Frecciarossa 1000’s operations within Italy will know that there are usually four classes of accommodation on these trains – so which class is missing?

Standard Class Accommodation

Standard Class Accommodation is available in five cars on the Frecciarossa. Seats are arranged in a 2+2 configuration, some airline style and others around tables. There are two types of ambiances to choose from based on the specific car selected – Allegro and Silenzio, i.e. the quiet coach. Catering is available from the Café Bar in car number three, available to all, to purchase drinks and snacks.

On the Paris to Milan route, the Premium accommodation is sold as Standard Class, which features exactly the same seat but in brown leather. This is exclusive to car number four,

Business Class Accommodation

We had booked Business Class for our trip to Milan. This accommodation has seats in a 2+1 configuration and, like Standard Class, two types of ambiances to choose from – Allegro and Silenzio. As we were a group and wanted to talk freely, we booked the Allegro coach which came with a large head with an expressive hand sticker on the windows – which did seem rather unnecessary.

Shortly after departure, as is the case with Frecciarossa services in Italy, passengers are entitled to one round of complimentary drinks and snacks onboard. I selected a coffee and orange juice as well as a madeleine cake and chocolate wafer. After this, for the remainder of the journey, you must visit the Café Bar for further refreshments irrespective of your journey length. Naturally as we were on the train for six hours we did make a trip or two to the Café-Bar for lunch and drinks where I enjoyed a charcuterie board and a Peroni beer.

Executive Class Accommodation

The most premium accommodation onboard the Frecciarossa, and a real treat, is the Executive Class. This comes with a large, wide reclining chair that rotates to face the direction of travel and a rather extravagant 1+1 configuration. There is also a meeting room within the carriage and complimentary drinks and food included. The only other train I can think of with a similar meeting room is the Thalys train which I reviewed here comparing with Eurostar.

Despite a top notch service on offer, there is a drawback to travelling in Executive Class on the Frecciarossa at present. Trenitalia have opted for external advertising on the carriage ends and this entirely covers the windows resulting in an obscured view from the Executive Class car and at the other end of the train in Standard Class. What on earth were they thinking?

As I was travelling in Business Class accommodation, the dedicated staff weren’t keen on letting customers in without a ticket for this accommodation hence the stock image from Omio of the seating.

Scenery

Shortly after departure from Paris the train takes the high-speed line travelling at up to speeds of 320 km per hour. The train then takes a slower route through the French Alps. I have captured the best moments of the scenery on offer in the video and photos below.

Arrival at Milano Centrale

A destination in its own right is the cathedral-like station of Milano Centrale, home to a various high-speed, sleeper trains and local services to destinations within Italy and abroad. On offer is a vast array of eateries, a ticket office, left luggage facilities and even a supermarket.

Booking and Fares

The Paris to Milan Frecciarossa is available to book up to six months in advance of the travel date and just like many long distance trains the prices are lower the early you book. We purchased our tickets in June 2022 for travel in November 2022 with the cost in Business Class being 45,00€ per person.

Journey LegStandard ClassBusiness ClassExecutive Class
Paris to MilanFrom 29,00€From 36,00€From 165,00€

Book with Omio.com

Omio.com makes booking train tickets easy, selling tickets for 1,000 travel companies operating across the world, and removes the complication of knowing which operator to book your international train tickets.

If you book via the below link with Omio, Rail-Away earns a small commission that helps to support the running costs of the site – this is greatly appreciated.

Conclusion

The Frecciarossa is certainly a solid contender to the TGV on the Paris to Milan route with accommodation to suit every budget and even then the price differentials between Standard and Business classes were very reasonable booking early in advance.

I very much enjoyed my time on this train in Business Class, the welcome drink and snack and the extra space that the seating in this carriage provides. If I had booked Executive Class I would’ve been disappointed about not being able to look out of the window – I really don’t know what Trenitalia was thinking.

This article was first published in March 2023.

Europe’s Only Train-on-a-Ferry route – Mainland Italy 🇮🇹 to Sicily 🇮🇹 overnight

Italy is well known for its expansive railway network, but there is one journey that stands out as being particularly unique. Direct trains run multiple times a day connecting key cities on the Italian mainland and stations on the largest island in the Mediterranean, Sicily. But what is unique about this journey?

Well, as part of the journey, the train is shunted onto a ferry at Villa San Giovanni station, sets sail across the Strait of Messina, and rolls off onto the island into the port of Messina before continuing its journey along the northern coast to Palermo and the south east coast to Siracusa. This is now the last remaining train in Europe to make a journey on a ferry, after the train from Hamburg to Copenhagen started to run via the overland route in 2019 (I published a trip report of this here).

There are two kinds of trains that operate between the mainland and Sicily that are operated by Trenitalia – daytime ‘InterCity’ trains and time effective nighttime ‘InterCity Notte’ trains. In 2020, I took a trip from Milan to Siracusa followed by, in 2022, a return trip from Rome to Palermo; which collectively covers all of the ‘InterCity Notte’ routes.

Both of these routes from Milan to Siracusa/Palermo and Rome to Siracusa/Palermo offer a long enough journey to make for a relaxing time onboard, that is normally a rarity for European sleeper trains that often depart late evening and arrive early morning giving you limited time to enjoy the trip. Below is a map of all the stations served by ‘InterCity Notte’ trains that connect mainland Italy and Sicily.

Onboard the InterCity Notte

Accommodation

There are three classes to choose from on Trenitalia ‘InterCity Notte’ services – branded as Comfort, Deluxe and Excelsior.

All trains offer both sleeping cars (Deluxe) and couchette cars (Comfort) with shared toilets at the end of the carriage, kept clean by the car attendant. There is also a more premium class, which is a sleeping car with an ensuite toilet and shower (Excelsior). The latter class operates only on one of the Rome to Palermo routes and are clearly visible in the booking engine on website of Trenitalia. All compartments are air conditioned, have power sockets and are lockable, however, only ‘Excelsior’ accommodation have access to an onboard shower within the compartment. On all of the trips I travelled in ‘Deluxe’ accommodation.

There is no formal process for boarding the train – just like any train you effectively turn up and go. Once you arrive at the platform and have located your reserved carriage, you are welcomed onboard by your sleeping car attendant who will check your ticket and ID document. They will be your contact for the journey.


Comfort

Comfort accommodation includes a comfortable space to sleep with seats that convert into bunk beds. Bedding is provided, however, this is up to you to make up. There is the option to book Comfort class for exclusive use or for a lower price you can share the compartment with other travellers. As mentioned, toilets and washrooms are located at the end of the car. A light breakfast is included in Comfort accommodation.

Deluxe

Deluxe accommodation is for exclusive use for up to three people, arranged in bunk beds. Unlike Comfort accommodation, the beds are ready made for you with clean and sanitised sheets. If you book sole occupancy of the compartment, the middle bed is folded away as can be seen in the picture below. There is a sink in the room with a seat and table available. A light breakfast is included in the morning with coffee and two bottles of water is provided for each traveller. On the three journeys I took each car varied in its design, as shown in the pictures.

Deluxe Accommodation Refurbished Car:

Deluxe Accommodation Non-Refurbished Cars:

Excelsior

The most premium accommodation on the train is the Excelsior class. These en-suite compartments are situated in the same car as some Deluxe rooms so are very similar in design. Like Deluxe accommodation, a light breakfast is included in the morning with coffee and Italian newspapers and two bottles of water per traveller is provided on departure. Below is a picture of a refurbished car, with other compartments similar to the red seats above depending on the train on the day.

Onboard Catering

The catering onboard is certainly not going to win any fine dining awards. In Deluxe and Excelsior accommodation breakfast is provided in the morning in your room which is made up of pre-packaged items including a croissant and a coffee. On one of the trains I took there was a delay of two hours, which happened to be on one of the longest InterCity Notte journeys from Milan to Siracusa. As this ended up being a trip of nearly twenty-two hours, Trenitalia were generous in distributing “Courtesy Kits’ with further drinks and snacks to see you through to the destination.

I strongly advise that you bring your own supply of food and drink to complement this offering, as it’s a very long trip.

Ferry Crossing

Now for the exciting bit – where the train boards the ferry. As part of the shunting the train carriages are uncoupled at Villa San Giovanni to enable the eight carriage train to fit.

Once the train has boarded the ferry you do have the option of walking upstairs on the ship’s deck for the 20 minute crossing to take in the views of the Strait of Messina and enjoy some refreshments. There is a stocked café, however, I found on all three of my journeys this was closed with the shutters down, so I was only able to settle for the cash-only vending machines offering hot and cold drinks and snacks. Once the ferry had arrived into Messina I didn’t hear any announcements, so make sure you don’t miss the train as this will be shunted off the ferry as soon as the ship arrives!

The trains are then re-coupled up again to form two trains – one bound for Palermo and the other for Siracusa which sit side-by-side in Messina station, one departing after the other. Throughout the journey you are able to remain on the train in the comfort of your accommodation if you choose to.

Fares

Fares vary like air fares with the exception of Excelsior accommodation where I was unable to find a fare less than the on-the-day fare of 269,00€.

Journey LegComfort AccommodationDeluxe AccommodationExcelsior Accommodation
Milan / Rome to Siracusa / Palermofrom 33,90 €from 89,90 €269,00 €

Book with Omio.com

Omio.com makes booking train tickets easy, selling tickets for 1,000 travel companies operating across the world, and removes the complication of knowing which operator to book your international train tickets.

If you book via the below link with Omio, Rail-Away earns a small commission that helps to support the running costs of the site – this is greatly appreciated. Tip – if booking the sleeping car for this trip, then choose a First Class fare when selecting the InterCity Notte option. Couchette accommodation is listed.

Full Trip Video

Below is a video of the longest journey I took from Milan to Siracusa that can be found below, covering the process of the train boarding and leaving the ferry crossing the Messina Strait, the excellent coastal views you can expect as well as the accommodation and service onboard. The trip took place during the COVID-19 pandemic when travel was permitted from the UK to Italy.

This article was first published in December 2020 and updated in December 2022.