Travel future

Travel future: A France and Italy rail trip

France and Italy by train

The train is my favourite way to travel, and ever since doing a European rail trip through France, Austria and Switzerland a couple of years ago, I’ve been looking for any excuse to do another. So when I got invited to try out a hotel in the South of France next month, a three-day visit quickly spiralled out into a two-week, two-country rail adventure, visiting six destinations around France and Italy. After a few afternoons with a map and train timetable I ended up an itinerary which combines a couple of places I’ve always wanted to visit – the Cinque Terre and Colmar – and adds in a few bonus destinations along the way. This time I’ll be trying out an Interrail Pass too and seeing if it does really save you time and money compared to buying tickets separately. So here’s where my France and Italy rail route is taking me…

Travel future: A France and Italy rail trip

My rail route

The South of France

Our trip starts off with a long travel day – train from Cheltenham to London, Eurostar from London to Paris and another train from Paris to Beziers, close to our base for the first three nights. We’re starting off in style with a stay at the luxurious Château d’Autignac, a renovated 19th-century château with its own vineyard. While we’re there we’ll be tasting Languedoc wine and exploring the local area, before catching our next train to Avignon. It’s my first time in Provence and its capital is bursting with history, so we plan to check out the Palais des Papes and the Pont d’Avignon, as well as feasting on lots of Provençal food.

Avignon, France

Sunset in Avignon (photo credit David Brossard on Flickr)

The Italian coast

From Avignon we catch the train down to Marseille and follow the coast along the Côte d’Azur from France, through Monaco and into Italy. We’ll be spending two nights in the pretty coastal town of Ventimiglia, at the point where the Côte d’Azur meets the Italian Riviera. We’ll be there for the town’s big Friday market along the seafront, before catching the train on along the coast to Corniglia in the Cinque Terre. This part of Italy has been on my travel wishlist forever, so we have five days to explore the five villages, with lots of coast walks (and plenty of carb loading on pizza and pasta to tackle those thigh-burningly steep hills).

Cinque Terre, Italy

Beautiful Italy

The Alsace

Leaving the Cinque Terre behind, we head up through Italy before stopping in Domodossola for the night (which I admittedly picked because I liked the name and it was about halfway to our next destination, rather than knowing anything about it!). Then we cross over into Switzerland where there should be some spectacular mountain views as we travel from one side of the county to the other. And our final stop is Colmar in France’s Alsace region, where we’ll be spending our last two nights. We visited neighbouring Strasbourg on our last rail trip and apparently Colmar is a smaller, even prettier version with just as many canals, cafés and colourful buildings. And from there it’s back to Paris and the Eurostar home.

Colmar, France

Colourful Colmar (photo credit Pascallj on Flickr)

So have you ever visited any of the destinations on my route? If you have any suggestions for things I should see, do, eat or drink along the way, please do let me know.

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A two-week rail route through Southern France and Northern Italy, featuring historic cities, wine regions, pretty coastal towns and flower-decked canals.

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35 Comments

  • Reply
    Lisa (Travel Loving Family)
    April 12, 2017 at 9:37 am

    This sounds like an incredible itinerary Lucy! I’ve clicked through from your email because we are also travelling to France and Italy this summer, although my plans are nowhere near as detailed as yours just yet! We are travelling to different areas… Flying into Nantes, 12 nights travelling around Brittany with my parents who have a motorhome and then flying to Milan for a couple of nights before heading to Lake Maggiore for a week in a villa. I cannot wait;) I love the South coast of France where you are heading to. Have fun! I look forward to reading about it on your return.

    • Reply
      Lucy
      April 12, 2017 at 9:43 am

      I love Brittany! We spent a lot of childhood holidays there and there are some beautiful beaches, I’ve got lots of good memories of it (though it’s been a while so I might need a return trip sometime soon). Lake Maggiore sounds great too, that was one of the places I’d liked to have fitted into this trip but didn’t manage it – maybe next time!

  • Reply
    Monique
    April 12, 2017 at 10:33 am

    I drove between Aix En Provence to Bordeaux, and passed through Avignon on the way. Very beautiful. Make sure you take some time to explore the lavender and sunflower fields. I spent a few days in Cinque Terre. If you enjoy seafood, theres plenty of it, and the hikes are well worth it. We also scuba dived, but it wasnt great there. Have a great time!

    • Reply
      Lucy
      April 12, 2017 at 3:01 pm

      Thanks so much! Will definitely look out for the flowers and have lots of walking planned – and the seafood sounds great.

  • Reply
    Lisa (Travel Loving Family)
    April 12, 2017 at 10:43 am

    Lucy if you have tips regarding where to go in Brittany please do share! We have booked Brittany because we want to visit the Glenan islands but we are open to other suggestions. (I’m travelling with my parents and my two young boys).

    • Reply
      Lucy
      April 12, 2017 at 3:06 pm

      It’s been a while but I loved the beaches at Bénodet and Carnac. St-Malo’s walled town is lovely, and nearby Dinard is a pretty 19th-century seaside resort.

  • Reply
    Esmee's Photography Blog
    April 12, 2017 at 2:22 pm

    Have a nice trip! The photos look great!

    • Reply
      Lucy
      April 12, 2017 at 5:23 pm

      Thanks so much!

  • Reply
    beingbuttons
    April 12, 2017 at 5:17 pm

    This sounds brilliant – I hope you have a great time! You’re visiting quite a few places on my bucket list, Cinque Terre and Avignon in particular. Interested to hear what you make of interrailing. I used an Interrail pass on my first trip without family and it worked really well. We were really pleased with value for money and the ease of it but as we were quite inexperienced travellers we didn’t really look into what it would be like without the pass.

    • Reply
      Lucy
      April 12, 2017 at 7:16 pm

      Thanks – I’ve wanted to go to the Cinque Terre for so long so can’t wait. I’ve never tried an Interrail pass so it’s been interesting to see the difference between just buying the tickets, it’s definitely saved us a bit of money though so that’s a good start!

  • Reply
    MummyTravels
    April 12, 2017 at 10:14 pm

    I love South West France and the Languedoc but I don’t think I’ve been to that specific part. Cinque Terre is also on my list (and I am laughing about your reasoning for Domodossola) that sounds like something I’d do!

    • Reply
      Lucy
      April 12, 2017 at 11:22 pm

      It’s such a good word! I remember passing signposts for it when I did a trip around the Italian part of Switzerland a few years back and it stuck in my head – better do some research on what it’s actually like before I go though!

  • Reply
    Confuzzled Bev
    April 13, 2017 at 8:14 am

    I love Colmar! It’s gorgeous (and not that far from me – you should be passing through Basel to get there actually).

    • Reply
      Lucy
      April 13, 2017 at 2:15 pm

      I think we actually have half an hour at Basel station as we change trains there!

  • Reply
    aeparker81
    April 13, 2017 at 12:32 pm

    That is a fantastic itinerary and I feel sure that travelling by train will be easier than driving or flying. Just remember to validate your tickets in Italy… That rule is there to catch us out! I’m on biz over to Paris next week and trying out the Eurostar

    • Reply
      Lucy
      April 13, 2017 at 2:17 pm

      I find train travel so much more relaxing than flying – there’s usually a combination of watching the scenery out of the window, catching up on reading and a train picnic with a bottle of wine to keep me occupied!

  • Reply
    Planes & Champagne (@planeschampagne)
    April 14, 2017 at 12:16 pm

    OMG this looks amazing!!! You will literally have the best time!! Maggie xx

    • Reply
      Lucy
      April 17, 2017 at 9:16 pm

      Thanks, I’m so looking forward to it – train travel is the best!

  • Reply
    Iulia
    April 14, 2017 at 12:54 pm

    Hello, great post! Yes, we have been to the Cinque Terre in Italy, 4 years ago already, while on our tour in Toscana which comprised: Pisa, Viareggio, Cinque Terre, Luca, Sienna and Florence.

    We did all this by train by train, so just like you, I like train journeys.

    I have started just recently my little travel corner, a little travel blog at
    https://egodiary.com/

    Thank you for stopping by as well, It’s still a work in progress, but I’m glad I find great inspiration and indeas in a beautiful blog like yours.

    • Reply
      Lucy
      April 17, 2017 at 9:39 pm

      That sounds like a great Italian rail trip route! And best of luck with your new blog, looks good so far.

  • Reply
    earthsmagicalplaces
    April 14, 2017 at 6:02 pm

    Loved this post! Hope you had an amazing time. Love how you’re advocating rail travel… I’d much prefer to sit on a train for a few hours than a plane, I don’t know its just seems to have such a more relaxed vibe! Just me?
    The south of France has the most beautiful little towns that are often left unexplored, but thats also part of the magic I suppose 🙂

    • Reply
      Lucy
      April 17, 2017 at 9:40 pm

      Thanks so much! Totally agree about train travel, it’s so much more relaxed than flying and I’ve done some trips with amazing views to keep me interested along the way.

  • Reply
    Suzanne Jones
    April 15, 2017 at 1:15 pm

    Looks like an amazing trip you’ve got planned here. Rail travel is much more civilised, I think, and you get to see so much more en route. The lavender fields in Provence and the Cinque Terre have been on my wish list for a long time now….

    • Reply
      Lucy
      April 17, 2017 at 9:41 pm

      Ooh I’m going to have to check when the lavender is out but I think we’re a bit early. Still looks like a beautiful area and I can’t wait to see the Cinque Terre at long last.

  • Reply
    Noelle
    April 17, 2017 at 12:53 am

    Monaco is fabulous and can be done if a few hours if you have time to stop there!

    • Reply
      Lucy
      April 17, 2017 at 9:51 pm

      I’m not sure we’ll get chance this time but I did spend a day there when I was in Nice years ago and walked around the Grand Prix circuit and checked out the crazy superyachts!

  • Reply
    alison abbott
    April 17, 2017 at 3:18 am

    I visited Colmar last December on a Viking River cruise. You will love it, I can’t imagine how beautiful it will be in the nice weather. You have an amazing trip planned and I love how you turned a quick hotel stay into a wonderful two week itinerary. Enjoy every minute.

    • Reply
      Lucy
      April 17, 2017 at 9:52 pm

      Thanks Alison, I loved Strasbourg so am really looking forward to comparing it with Colmar!

  • Reply
    Kathryn Burrington
    April 17, 2017 at 9:00 pm

    I have to say I’m extremely envious. I long to go back to the Cinque Terre and I’d love to visit the Alsace. I’m looking forward to following your journey on Instagram and such and hearing all about it afterwards here on your blog. Have a really fabulous time.

    • Reply
      Lucy
      April 17, 2017 at 9:55 pm

      Thanks Kathryn, I’m so happy to be finally making it to the Cinque Terre, and loved the Alsace before. No doubt there’ll be a lot of photos to come!

  • Reply
    Chel Sees The World
    April 18, 2017 at 9:23 am

    Hi Lucy! Long time reader, first time commenter here.

    This sounds like a great itinerary! I’m surprised it’ll be your first visit to Provence – it seems like you’re constantly popping over to France (lucky duck, living so close). Avignon and all the little villages nearby are so lovely!

    I’m a big fan of train travel in France too – it’s so much more convenient that flying in every way.

    Can’t wait to see your pictures from this trip.

    • Reply
      Lucy
      April 19, 2017 at 10:45 am

      Thanks – yes I love France but Provence has been a big oversight until now! So looking forward to finally getting there though – and I expect there’ll be a lot of photos to come!

  • Reply
    meghansilva
    April 18, 2017 at 12:32 pm

    This is something I will have to try at least once in my life, I have traveled from Belgium to Paris but a long journey must be so much better.

    • Reply
      Lucy
      April 19, 2017 at 10:46 am

      There’s something so relaxing about travelling slowly by train and just watching the world go by!

  • Reply
    invertedsheep
    April 23, 2017 at 7:27 pm

    Beziers itself is quite a nice town to spend a few hours in if you get the chance. It’s one of the oldest towns in France and the Canal du Midi is a World Heritage Site. The nearby Fonserannes locks are quite interesting and a nice place for a stroll.

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