Taking the Overnight Train in Italy

After reluctantly saying ciao to beautiful Cinque Terre, we were ready to head towards Sorrento which would be our base camp for the next few days. We decided to take the overnight train from La Spezia to Naples, and then from there we would take the local Circumvesuviana train to Sorrento. This was so that a) we could save some time and sleep while the train took us to Naples, and b) to save a little bit of money on the accommodation that night.

When we were planning the trip, I couldn't find much detailed information online about these overnight trains so I wanted to share my experience in case anybody was interested in taking them and wanted to see what they are like. Unfortunately, this post will not be the usual post that consists of pictures of beautiful places. If that's what you're looking for, you can check out this, this, or this page. Or you could stay and read about how I nearly froze to death waiting for the train, if that tickles your fancy!

Booking the Tickets

Some quick tips on booking your overnight (InterCity Notte) train tickets:

  • We booked our tickets through the Trenitalia website. Pick your departure and arrival stations, and the date you want to travel and it'll list the options you have to choose from.
  • Try to find a 'Super Economy' option for cheaper fairs, but keep in mind that Super Economy tickets can not be changed or refunded.
  • Pick the type of seat you want. There were 3 of us, and we wanted a sleeper compartment. I believe these are only available in the InterCity Notte trains. We opted for 'Compartimento 3 letti - intero', which is a sleeper compartment with 3 beds. Intero means the whole cabin, so you can't book it if you have less people in your party than the number of beds in the compartment.

The Wait

This is where the nearly freezing to death part comes in.

We had picked the very late night train, the one that leaves La Spezia at 1:27 a.m. and arrives in Naples at 8:17 a.m. This was because this train was a direct train so we didn't have to make any transfers, and also because we didn't want to arrive in Sorrento too early in the morning. We assumed there would be some sort of a sheltered area at La Spezia station that we could wait at, but we were wrong. So very wrong.

We arrived at La Spezia station at around 9 p.m. Many of the shops at Monterosso were already closed by then (many were closed completely for the off-season), so we thought we might as well just head to La Spezia to wait. We were thrilled to see a McDonald's at the station, and were hoping it would have longer hours to cater to the commuters, but alas, it closed at 9:30 p.m. Until then we decided to wait there, in the warmth. But at 9:30 p.m. on the dot, we were asked to leave. We spotted a sheltered waiting area on the platform and decided to wait in there for the rest of the night. We were only there a few minutes before some of the station staff asked us to leave as they had to lock up the shelter. What!? That closed at 9:30 p.m. too. Literally everything closed at 9:30 p.m. at La Spezia station. Even the toilets closed at that time. So a quick tip here for my fellow small-bladdered friends, use the washroom before 9:30 p.m. if you are waiting for the overnight train at La Spezia station!

If you recall, our train wasn't supposed to arrive until 1:27 a.m. so we had 4 hours to wait on a bench on the train platform, pretty much exposed to the elements. Now, we are Canadians that live in a city where temperatures drop down to -30 degrees Celcius in the winter, so trust me when I say that we are no strangers to the cold. But waiting outside for 4 hours in close to 0 degree weather (this was in November) really took a toll on us! We put on our layers and tried to stay warm by huddling together on the bench. When that didn't work, we started walking from one end of the platform to the other continuously. I even caved and bought a hot chocolate from the vending machine, but that warmth didn't last long! 

I'm not sure if it's a common issue, but many of the trains that were coming into La Spezia station that night before ours were delayed, so we were really worried that our train would be late as well. Luckily for us, it came on time, and thank goodness because any later, and I don't know if we would have made it! 

The Train

Our sleeper compartment was quite narrow. If you have a lot of luggage, it might not all fit inside. There were three bunks in ours but I saw some other compartments with just 1 or 2 beds in them. Given the small space, I was quite impressed that they managed to fit a sink in there where you could freshen up. They even provided a toothbrush, toothpaste, soap, and towels for each person. Refreshments were waiting for us in the compartment as well. We each had water, a croissant, and some sweets.

Most importantly, I felt quite safe in the compartment. There was a lock that we kept locked from the inside so no one was able to enter. As a precaution we always ensured that one of us were in the cabin watching our stuff if anyone had to leave to use the washroom. But at no point on the train did I feel unsafe.

The beds were not fancy but they were decently comfortable and were clean. There was an outlet at every bunk, so we could charge our electronics while we slept.

We had no trouble sleeping whatsoever. Maybe because we were so tired from shivering in the cold for the past 4 hours! I slept right through the night until we were close to Naples. The steward came knocking on our door to wake us around 30 minutes before we arrived, and he even had a newspaper and orange juice waiting for us! 

All in all, I don't regret taking the overnight train. The train ride itself was great! But I do regret not taking an earlier train because those 4 hours of waiting for the train to arrive were some of the longest 4 hours I've ever experienced in my life. If you are contemplating taking a late overnight train in the winter, I would recommend against it unless you have somewhere sheltered and warm to wait until closer to your train's arrival time. That night we nearly froze to death while waiting for the train in Italy will probably be one of those stories my friends and I will be talking about for years to come!

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