Tag Archives: rail

All Aboard Italy!

Everyone loves Italy. And with its rich abundance of food, art, scenic drives and romantic waterways, what’s not to love? As a diverse country with so much to offer, Italy is a great destination for the train-hopper. Here’s some of the best destinations on rail in the country:

Ask Yourself: Should I get an Italy Rail Pass? Italy Rail Passes are generally not good value for most people, as regional trains tend to be very low cost, and major trains almost always require seat reservations. You will probably spend your rail time on the main circuit of Milan, Venice, Florence and Rome, and first class fares for these are generally low enough that they don’t warrant a rail pass. It’s less expensive to buy point to point train tickets. When in doubt, ask our travel agents if a rail pass is right for you.

Ventimiglia (c) Mark Fischer, Creative Commons

Ventimiglia. Usually the first stop on a route from Nice, France, Ventimiglia is a great introduction to Italian culture. Make a detour on your route to Milan or Genoa to explore the town’s gorgeous medieval city center and famous Friday Outdoor Market. Nice to Ventimiglia: 45min. Ventimiglia to Genoa: 2h.

Verona. Most lauded as the setting for three Shakespearean plays, Verona is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site. That means cobblestone streets, medieval buildings, Roman churches, and the Juliet balcony. You can stop in Verona for a few days on your way to Venice or to the northern town of Bressanone-Brixen. Verona to Venice: 1h-1.30h.

Verona (c) David Schiersner, Creative Commons

La Spezia. This town is the first stop for many travelers heading on to Cinqueterre. With a scenic waterfront and modern port, its inspirational center has charmed poets from Byron to Shelley to DH Lawrence, earning its nickname: the Gulf of Poets. Florence to La Spezia: 2h, with a change in Pisa.

Turin. Turin is a major city often overshadowed by its grand neighbors. But don’t overlook its beautiful baroque architecture or the excellent truffles and wine available at its restaurants. Turin is also home to the famous Shroud of Turin, displayed only once every 10 years. Turin to Milan: 45min.

Turin et ses arcades

Turin and the Arcades (c) Frederique Voisin-Demery, Creative Commons

Milan. The unofficial capital of the north, Milan is the center of commerce, fashion and design. Don’t miss the spectacular Duomo, and “The Last Supper” by Leonardo da Vinci. Much of its old architecture was demolished during the WWII bomb raids, however since then Milan has rebuilt itself into a thriving new cosmopolitan city, a major hub for soccer and shopping! Milan to Florence: 2h.

Naples. The birthplace of pizza has one of the largest historic center in the world, covering over 4,000 acres and 27 centuries. It has the largest collections of antique churches (448) in the world. Naples is a great base for exploring nearby Mount Vesuvius and Pompeii—and the city is often the first stop for travelers heading to the Isle of Capri or Sorrento. Rome to Naples: 1h.

Venice. With its romantic gondolas, ancient canals and gorgeous glass traditions, Venice has long been known as the jewel of Italy. Part of its charm is its incredibly preserved lagoon, virtually the same as it was six hundred years ago. Florence to Venice: 2h.

Florence. Florence is the center of aficionados of art and architecture. As the birthplace of the Italian Renaissance, Florence’s artistic gems still stand tall—the Uffizi, the Accademia, the Pitti Palace. Visit the library of San Lorenzo for its magnificent Michelangelo exhibition. Venice to Florence: 2h, Florence to Rome: 1h30m.

Sunset over Florence (c) Steve, Creative Commons

Rome. All roads lead to Rome, and all the trains do too! Easily accessible from Florence in the north, and Naples in the south, Rome is often the first or last stop on any Italian itinerary. You could spend at least a week here exploring the museums, Roman ruins, Vatican City, and that elusive dolce vita (the sweet life)—and it still wouldn’t be enough time in Roma! Continuing internationally? Hop on an overnight train from Rome to Vienna, Innsbruck, Munich, or even Paris (connecting in Milan)!

Thinking of a trip to Italy? Our agents have extensive travel experience all through Italy and can advise you on air tickets, rail, villa rentals, hotels, and the best time to go! Give us a call at 503.224.0180 or email info@wittravel.com.

Read our related post about Vatican fun facts!

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Filed under Art & Architecture, Europe, Italy, Travel by Rail

All Aboard to Europe with Avanti Destinations!

On the lookout for a quick getaway to Europe this year? Our friends over at Avanti Destinations, a Portland-based travel operator, offer several rail packages to choose from! Here are some sample itineraries to inspire! Call Willamette Intl Travel for more options, general questions, or to book one of these fabulous European escapes. 

Norway in a Nutshell—Explore Oslo, Flåm and Bergen by Rail & Ferry (3 nights)rail3

During this 3-night excursion, take the scenic rail journey from Oslo to the mountain station of Myrdal, and transfer to the Bergen Railway for a stunning natural experience. This train moves slowly so you can take in the spectacular scenery of Norwegian waterfalls, mountains and fjords.

Read more!

 

Culture and Tradition—Madrid, Cordoba, Seville and Granada (8 nights)

Spin away for a week to the land of flamenco dance and tapas. Rail is the best way to explore Andalucia, and the major cities: the grand capital Madrid, architecturally exquisite Cordoba, artistic Seville, and the Moorish Granada.

Read more!

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Majestic Mountain Experiences—Tops of Switzerland (4 nights)

The Tops of Switzerland rail and hotel package includes 5-days of camera-ready rail travel through the lofty splendor of Switzerland, including excursions to two renowned mountaintops. You’ll visit the unforgettable alpine wonderland, Jungfraujoch, Europe’s highest-altitude railway station with a 100% guarantee of ice and snow and heart-thumping, panoramic views as far as the Vosges Mountains in France to the Black Forest in Germany. Then it’s on to Lucerne and a unique rail trip up Mount Pilatus – via the world’s steepest cogwheel railway

Read more!

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Cosmopolitan Adventure—London and Paris (6 nights)

Steeped in tradition and history, these world-class cosmopolitan cities are easily accessible by high-speed rail. Experience trendy London’s cosmopolitan energy and three delicious nights in Paris, the City of Lights.

Read more!

 

rail2Prefer a Roadtrip? Try Avanti’s jaunt through Three Romantic Roads in Germany.

Who is Avanti Destinations? They offer fully customizable tours in a range of destinations in Europe and Latin America. Read more about them in our previous blog post.

 

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Filed under Avanti, Europe, Travel by Rail, Vendors, Where in the World is the WIT Agent?

Rail Europe Updates for 2013

SNCF Withdraws from Eurail Select Pass Program

Beginning January 1, 2013, the French national railway Société Nationale des Chemins de fer français (SNCF) will withdraw its participation in the Eurail Select Pass. Select Passes purchased before Dec 31, 2012 will still be valid if redeemed within six months of purchase. Eurail Global Passes and Eurail Regional Passes will still be valid in France. TIP: In Portland, Oregon? Buy your rail pass from us before Friday 28 December and pay the 2012 price!

Train Chartering, Creative Commons

Turkey Accepts Eurail Passes

In January Turkey will start accepting Eurail Global and Select Passes on Turkish State Railways. Travelers should be aware of construction work on some Turkish routes until Fall 2013.

Eurostar to Launch New Service to France

Eurostar, which connects London and mainland Europe via the Chunnel, is launching a new direct service from London to Lyon, Avignon, and Aix-en-Provence. The service will be offered for a trial period from May 4 to June 29, 2013 and tickets are already on sale. This route runs from London St. Pancras International or Ashford International nonstop to Provence. On the return, disembarkation is required in Lille Europe to complete security and passport checks necessary for Chunnel travel before re-boarding to the UK.

photo by Alain Gavillet, Creative Commons

Italian NTV Trains

This year Italo fast trains, run by the private operate Nuovo Transporto Viaggiatori (NTV) became available to book through Rail Europe. However, rail passes are still not accepted on these trains, so passholders are advised to opt for the Eurostar Italia or Le Frecce services. Italo trains typically run at 300 km/hour. They offer three different classes of service: “Club,” “Prima,” and “Smart” with varying degrees of comfort. Stations served are still limited: Venice, Torino, Milan, Bologna, Florence, Rome, Naples and Salerno. Torino Porta Susa and Milano Porta Garibaldi are connection stations for the TGV to Paris.

photo by Luca Volpi, Creative Commons

We issue rail tickets and passes for domestic, European and other international travel in-house. Come into the office and you’ll have your ticket in 15 minutes! Call us at 503.224.0180 or email wailanak@wittravel.com for more information.

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Filed under Europe, News, Travel by Rail

Vendor of the Month: MIR Trains

The MIR Corporation hosts private train travel throughout Eastern Europe, Central Asia and China. These customizable journeys are scheduled by Seattle-based experts who work closely the Trans-Siberian Express Co. National Geographic Adventure has rated MIR twice as one of the “Best Adventure Travel Companies on Earth,” and we’re inclined to agree.

Since the fall of the Soviets, this entire region has been opening up, revealing vast histories and complexities. Train is an ideal way to travel through these lands, as many roads and infrastructure have yet to be improved. The train network has existed in this area since the Russians first set down rails in the late 19th century as part of the Great Game political struggle with Britain over India.

The tours will take you on paths as diverse as the Caucasus, Balkans, Silk Route, and the Trans-Siberian Railway. Ride on one of their packaged tours or build one of your own. Their customizable nature allows them to tackle any challenge; within memory they have coordinated with overland 4X4 trips, RTW travelers, and those hoping to catch the solar eclipse in Siberia.

MIR CorporationWhile onboard, you’ll sleep in well-equipped cars, all-inclusive drinks and meals. Stops will be to major highlights on the route, terrific events like the Mongolian horse races or historic monuments like the Kremlin. Wander the Ring of Fire on the wild Kamchatka Peninsula or relish in the rich Mediterranean-like cuisine and wine of Tbilisi.

Your hosts will be English speaking guides who serve as cultural ambassadors. WIT and Mir will also coordinate if you would like to spend extra days before, between, or after you travel. Willamette will also assist you in preparing for all your visas, flight routes, and border requirements before your trip—in order to make sure your trip is enjoyable, authentic and stress-free.

MIR Corporation

For a terrific firsthand report on one client’s tour to on the Trans-Siberian express, check out the link: WIT Client Chet Benson’s train trip from Mongolia to Moscow. He compares Siberia’s green and lush landscape to Oregon: it was “like traveling through an endless series of Willamette Valleys.”

NEW 2012 Space Program: In their recent May 2012 issue, National Geographic Traveler selected Mir’s “Inside the Russian Space Program” tour as a 2012 Tour of a Lifetime. The tour, only available in September, permits guests to witness the manned launch of the Soyuz spacecraft on its way to relieve the crew of the International Space Station. Led by Dr. Steven Lee of the Denver Museum of Nature and Science, it will provide exclusive access and insight into Russia’s Space Program. For a fee, you can even attend actual cosmonaut training, ride the world’s largest centrifuge, fly in zero gravity, or climb into a Russian Orlan space suit.

Willamette International Travel is proud work with Mir! Call us for info or to book a tour, at 503.224.0180 or email info@wittravel.com.

Photos courtesy of the MIR Corp

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Filed under Asia, Travel by Rail, Vendors, VOTM

Where in the World is the WIT Client? ~~ Traversing Canada by Train

Copy of blog post

Lately we have been booking rail journeys in the Great White North, so we decided to feature this month’s Where in the World is the WIT Client? in Canada! Check out how our clients travel by rail and which options might be right for you.

Popular due to gorgeous vistas, high level of comfort, and spacious car designs, traveling Canada by train often offers a cozier journey and more stunning views than travel by plane. Since a trip will often take a few days, many trains offer accommodations, sleeper cars and meals to their passengers. Peak time to travel is from March to September.

There are also a number of vacation packages on offer that include rail, transfers, accommodation, and city tours together. Call Willamette International Travel and speak with one of our many qualified agents if you’re interested.

photo by Shayne Kaye

Which Route is Right for Me?

There are dozens of train routes all across Canada—the longest one coursing from Vancouver to Toronto. Before choosing a route, consider what you find most valuable in travel—destinations, vistas, onboard service and comfort. Each train is different and each has its own unique offerings. Let’s take a look at five of the most popular.

East Coast: Montreal to Halifax

The route from Montreal and Halifax is more than 1300 km and offers chances to view some spectacular scenery. Passengers are treated to fantastic panoramas of Matapedia Valley, Chaleur Bay, and the countryside of New Brunswick and Nova Scotia. Fun fact: one train’s sleepers were originally intended for the Channel Tunnel that runs between Great Britain and France.

Ontario and Quebec

The tracks that run through Ontario and Quebec showcase the best of Canada’s culture, traveling from Quebec City and Montreal to Ottawa, Toronto and Niagara Falls. Passengers can stop and enjoy French-speaking Montreal, wander through the elegant neighborhoods of Ottawa, shop in boutiques in Toronto, or stroll through the charming water town of Kingston. This route is popular with business travelers and tourists alike as its trains are frequently as fast as commercial airlines.

photo by Martin Cathrae

The Canadian: Vancouver to Toronto

Probably the most popular of routes for leisure travelers, the Canadian travels from Vancouver, stopping at the major cities Jasper, Edmonton, Saskatoon, Winnipeg, and ends in Toronto via a breathtaking transcontinental route. This train takes 4 nights and 3 full days, traversing 5 provinces and 4466 kilometers, and hosting some of the finest sleeper facilities in North America. It departs three times per week and guarantees striking views of the Rockies, the vast Prairie grasslands, and the serene Muskoka Lakes.

The North

This northbound route takes travelers up to the far arctic province of Manitoba and the town of Churchill. It is a popular route for seasonal tourists hoping to catch glimpses of polar bears and the Northern Lights. Passengers can also enjoy the beautiful transition from gentle prairie to stark tundra. The train travels 1,700 km in two days, departing from Winnipeg on Tuesdays and Sundays, and from Churchill on Thursdays and Saturdays.

The Jasper-Prince Rupert

The Jasper-Prince Rupert route is a unique rail journey through the Pacific Northwest and fjord country. Crossing 1160 km, it departs from Jasper, coursing past Mount Robson and the rest of the Canadian Rockies, and through the incredible wild scenery of upper British Colombia. The train departs three times a week from Jasper in Alberta, overnights in Prince George, and continues on to Prince Rupert on the Pacific coast.

Interested in traversing Canada by train? Or just want to get more information about tickets, routes, or discounts? Call us at 503.224.0180 or email our rail specialist at wailanak@wittravel.com.

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Filed under Canada, North America, Travel by Rail, Where in the World is the WIT Client?