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Sunday, 1 December 2013

23. Paris to Florence

The itinerary has changed yet again. Forget Milan, forget Venice, forget Rome - Florence or Firenze as it is called in Italian is the place I'll be going to if I do the train journeys thing. Having spoken with some Italian friends, one said "Roma!", one said, "Venice" and another said, "Florence!. Forget Milan, forget Venice, Rome? go to Florence". Having done a bit of research, Florence seems like my kind of place. And I've seen Venice anyway - well sort of. When I was in Macao last year, I went to Cotai primarily to go to the Hard Rock Hotel and get a pin (I collect the pins, you can see where I wrote about them in this blog) and saw this wonderful hotel the Venetian and the surrounding areas with canals and gondolas and I thought gee it looks like Venice. When I got back after my trip, I set about finding out and yes there's St. Mark's Campanile, the Rialto Bridge, Doge's Palace, St. Mark's Square complete with gondolas and all. You can see what it looks like HERE. Even the street lamps are the same! (Well almost)

With this in mind, I've written down the different ways of doing this, including fare costs, always bearing in min that the fares are "from" prices! Gotta do some serious thinking about this, weigh up cost and justification.

Option 1: Eurostar & TGV daytime train...
Day 1: London to Turin
Depart London 09:17 arrive Paris Gare du Nord 12:47 Eurostar £39 ($70.10)
Depart Paris Gare de Lyon 14:41 arrive Turin Porta Susa 20:18 (high-speed TGV train) £25 ($45)
Overnight in Turin.

Day 2: Turin to Florence €29 ($44)
Depart Turin Porta Susa at 08:14 arrive Florence SMN at 10:55 (Frecciarossa high-speed train)
Day 3: Florence
Fare cost: $159.10

Option 2 Thello sleeper
Day 1: London to Paris. £39 ($70.10)
Depart Paris 19:59 to Milan (Thello sleeper) €35 ($53)

Day 2: Milan to Florence
Milan Centrale arrive 6:00
Depart Milan Centrale 07:15 (Frecciarossa) €19.00 ($29)
Arrive Florence SMN 08:55

Day 3: Florence
Fare cost: $153.10

Option 3 via the Swiss Alps...
Day 1: London to Zurich.
Depart London 13:31 arrive Paris 16:47 £39 ($70.10)
Paris to Zurich. Depart Paris 18:23 arrive Zurich Hauptbahnhof 22:26 TGV-Lyria From £21 ($38)

Day 1: Depart London St Pancras 07:55, arrive Paris Nord 11:17
Paris Gare de Lyon depart 12:22, arrive Zurich Hauptbahnhof 16:26

Day 2: Zurich to Florence
Depart Zurich 07:09 arrive Milan Centrale 10:50. CHF 40.00 ($49)
Depart Milan Centrale 12:15 arrive Florence SMN 13:55 (Frecciarossa) €19.00 ($29)

Day 3: Florence
Day 4: Florence to Paris
Fare cost: $186.10

Option 4 via Munich
Day 1: London to Paris to Munich
Depart London St Pancras 15:31 arrive Paris Gare du Nord 18:47 £39 ($70.10)
Depart Paris Gare de l'Est 20:05 (City Night Line sleeper train) 4 berth couchette 69.00 EUR ($103) 6 berth €59.00

Day 2: Munich to Florence
Arrive Munich 07:10.
Depart Munich 09:38 arrive Bologna Centrale at 16:20. (Austrian EuroCity train) 39.00 EUR ($59)
Depart Bologna Centrale 17:20 arrive Florence 17:55 €15.00 ($23)

Day 3: Florence
Fare cost: $255.10

Option 5, the super-scenic Bernina Express

Step 1, London & Paris to Zurich
Day 1: London to Paris by Eurostar, depart London at 13:31 (14:01 on Saturdays) arriving Paris at 16:47 (17:17 on Saturdays). Cross Paris by metro to the Gare de Lyon.

Day 1, travel from Paris to Zurich by TGV-Lyria train, leaving Paris Gare de Lyon at 18:23 and arriving Zurich at 22:26. (double-deck TGV-Duplex, book upper deck)

Or catch an earlier service from London to Zurich to arrive in Zurich in time for dinner.
Depart London 07:55 ( 08:01 or 09:22 Saturdays, 09:22 Sundays) arrive Paris 11:17 (12:47 Sunday)
Depart Paris 12:22 arrive Zurich 16:26 (Depart Paris 14:23 and arrive 18:35 Sundays)

Overnight in Zurich

Step 2, Zurich to Milan via the Bernina Express
Day 2, travel from Zurich to Chur by Swiss InterCity train. In summer when the Bernina Express leaves Chur at 08:32, you'll need to leave Zurich by InterCity train at 06:37, arriving Chur at 07:52. This is a scenic trip in itself, along the Zürichsee & Walensee lakes and into the mountains. In Chur, you'll find the Bernina Express waiting for you on the other side of the platform, a quick and easy interchange.

Day 2: travel from Chur to Tirano on the famous Bernina Express.
In summer from 10 May to 26 Oct 2014, the Bernina Express consists exclusively of panoramic sightseeing cars, seat reservation is obligatory, departing Chur every day at 08:32 and arriving at Tirano in northern Italy at 12:36.
You should check times at the official Rhätische Bahn website Rhätische Bahn as it varies on certain dates. A refreshment trolley comes down the train selling hot and cold drinks, snacks and souvenirs.

Tip 1: Going South, the best views are on the right hand side of the train, including the best views of the Landwasser Viaduct the Ospizio Bernina area and Brusio spiral, although unfortunately you cannot reserve a seat on a specific side.

Tip 2: The Bernina Express panoramic carriages have a small luggage vestibule at the opposite end to the entrance door, this has a small opening window, ideal for taking photographs without reflections.

Day 2, travel from Tirano to Milan by regional train. In summer when the Bernina arrives at 12:38, you can leave Tirano at 13:10 and arrive in Milan Centrale at 15:40. In Tirano, the Trenitalia and Rhätische Bahn stations are right next door to each other, and there are plenty of bars and restaurants near the stations. You may have time for a beer at Margy's bar across the road, or you could catch a later train to Milan and have lunch. You can use Trenord to find schedules, but pick a date within the next 7 days to see prices. Bring your own food and drink if you want any, as there is no catering on board the train. No reservation necessary or even possible for Tirano-Milan trains, just buy a ticket at the station and hop on, remembering to validate your ticket in the little yellow machine at the platform entrance. This is a pretty run, through more mountains and along the shores of Lake Como via Lecco.

Day 2, change in Milan for inter-city trains to Florence, Rome, Verona & Venice - use Trenitalia to find trains departing Milan any time after 16:20 (summer) or 18:20 (winter), to allow time for any delay to the train from Tirano.

How much does it cost?
• London to Paris by Eurostar starts at £39 one-way ($70.10)
• Paris to Zurich by TGV-Lyria starts at £23 (€25) each way if booked in advance. Book early for the cheapest fare ($43)
• Zurich to Chur costs CHF 38 (about £28) each way in 2nd class. Fixed price, no reservation necessary, can be bought at the station. ($46.10)
• Chur to Tirano by Bernina Express costs CHF 58 (£43) ($70.25) in 2nd class for the basic ticket, plus a reservation fee for the Bernina Express of CHF 12 (£9) ($14.55) in summer. Reservation is required for the Bernina Express itself, although other trains on the same route do not require reservations. ($70.25) plus ($14.55)
• Tirano to Milan by Trenord regional train costs €10.75 (£9) in 2nd class or €16.15 (£14) in 1st class. Fixed price, no reservation necessary, can easily be bought at the station. Check times at ($16.10) (First class $24.10)
• Milan to Florence €19.00 ($29)

Fare cost: $289.10

Information from The Man in Seat Sixty One

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