Suite on the Venice Simplon-Orient-Express, A Belmond Train

Back on track:
Europe by luxury train


Of course, in its simplest form, the idea of travel is to get from point A to B. But then, we never liked ‘simple’. If it’s possible, why not make an initial trip to a destination a memorable journey in itself, and one that involves a smorgasbord of sumptuous luxury? Perhaps no mode of transport is more suited to this concept than the train. It’s lucky, then, that there will be a couple of exciting new routes to take Europe by luxury train in the coming months – and they’re set to showcase the continent in all its splendour.

If anything is an antidote to an increasingly fast-paced world where everything seemingly has to be done in a jiffy, it’s Rocco Forte Hotels’ soon-to-be-launched ‘slow’ train excursion. Why? Because this unique experience will be a welcome escape from the demanding carousel of contemporary life, since its relatively sedate speed ensures passengers can slumber and take in some of our planet’s sublimest cities and most scintillating bucolic scenery.

Indeed, this locomotive jaunt begins in Scotland’s enchanting capital, Edinburgh, and over a fortnight later, winds up in the balmy climes of Palermo, Sicily. On the way, guests spend 48 hours in six other iconic settlements including London, Munich and Florence. And as there’s not a fixed itinerary at any location, individuals can indulge in the more offbeat: acquire the skills of an ancient warrior in Rome’s gladiator school; explore Berlin’s 1970s-built nuclear bunker; or feast on the planet’s loveliest chocolate, in Brussels, inter alia.

Rocco Forte Hotels bill this rail odyssey as a ‘modern-day Grand Tour’, which, in the predominantly 17th to early 19th century was the tradition of the elite visiting parts of Europe by luxury train – and especially Italy – as a rite of passage. Two figures who wrote about the beauty of undertaking this heady adventure back then were Lord Byron and Mark Twain, and anyone doing it now will have just as much of a seismic thrill, especially as everything ought to be top-notch: magnificent 5-star des reses – the hotels Amigo, Charles and Savoy, etc, and first-class train transit in exquisite carriages.

In our view, such plush conditions, on what is a well-maintained and extensive locomotive network, are some of the reasons Europe is ideal for this type of travel. Another one is that so many destinations are near one another, so there’s the charming opportunity of going to bed in one country and waking up in another. This will distinctly appeal to those from further afield, and those with fewer holidays – Americans, Asians or Australians – who would like to take in as much of the continent as possible on a single trip.

Another rumble along the tracks that’s sure to be just as enticing, if a bit shorter, is the Venice Simplon-Orient-Express’ eagerly anticipated overnight service from Paris to the jet-set haven of Portofino. Utilising a Belmond sleeper, operations will start in June – on an annual footing – when the elegant vehicle leaves from the French capital and proceeds to the Italian Rivera. Thus, departees can expect to be awestruck as they move through the Gallic countryside and traverse the Mediterranean coastline before reaching the aforementioned final stop, a captivating, colourful town clustered around the indigo of an atmospheric harbour.

The ‘la dolce vita’ vibe is additionally enhanced as all the carriages are vintage originals from the 1920s and 1930s, so are imbued with an impressive Art Deco aesthetic. There are three categories of cabins to suit every kind of vacationer, with the six vast Grand Suites being the most exclusive. The décor in each takes its inspiration from one particular European city during its ‘Golden Twenties’ period – Istanbul, Prague, Vienna, and so forth. While aboard, treats include hand-crafted cocktails and a musical trio playing swing, boogie and calypso. Now that’s it-shouldn’t-be-allowed funky!

If you ask us, the idea of travelling ‘slowly’ around Europe by luxury train being on the rise can only be a good thing: the general consensus is that this mode of conveyance has approximately 13 times less carbon emissions per passenger than the equivalent airplane commute. That’s a win-win everyone can applaud; great for the sustainability of the environment and guests get to kick back in ultra-comfort as they encounter a whirlwind of wonderful experiences. And who said romance was dead… |

Photography courtesy of Belmond and Rocco Forte Hotels

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