My favorite way to see this wonderful continent is by train. For me there is no better way of living travels. Landscapes passing one after the other, from a safe and comfortable train. With no restriction on baggage weight. In the era of everything rushed and fast, train travel gives you time. “Slow” train travel it is a privilege during these “fast times”.
Here I share my experience traveling from the everlasting Roma passing through the incredible magical Ljubljana in Slovenia, arrive to the dream come true that is Zagreb in Croatia and end this train adventure in Imperial Vienna.
I call this a fantastic way of starting this fantastic new year 🙂
Grab a good book, bring yourself snacks and drinks and enjoy the scene
Once more the website Seat61 gave me the details to put together this trip. There are few changes from the info they provide, although it is very accurate.
Remember that if you know your travel dates in advance it will be a good idea to buy the ticket at least 2 months before (Sales opens 120 days in advance for Trenitalia) to find the best rates. It kinda works like airlines. Book in advance and save a big difference.
I rarely do fast trains because they are much more expensive, so I always pick regional trains. Which are also packed with locals and funny characters…
I took a train from Roma Termini to Trieste Centrale
Leaving Rome at 15.40 arriving to Trieste at 23.37. Trieste is a super nice and safe city so dont be afraid to walk out of the station to your hotel. I stayed at an AIRBNB for aroudn 30 Euros the night which included a spectacular breakfast. This is the cheapest I got for the time of the year (arrived on Dec. 27th).
Next morning you should take a tram to Villa Opicina
The problem is the tram is not currently working because of repairs (December 2016), so make sure to check if it works and the times… You need to arrive to V. Opicina train station before 10.30AM to catch the train to Slovenia. Instead of the tram I took Bus #42 from the same tram station (Piazza G. Oberdan). Ticket cost 1.35 Euros and you buy it at the Tabacchi place across the street, like everywhere else in Italy.
Be aware that the bus takes longer than the tram so make sure you leave on time. I took the one at 9.05AM and arrived just in time, but I was pretty anxious because the bus keep driving around… At least I got to see some wonderful towns and neighborhoods in Northern Italy that look more Slovenian than Italian. It took about 1 hour to arrive to V. Opicina. The bus wont leave you at V. Opicina train station. It will stop at the town center and you need to find your way to the train station. It is not far, about 10 min. walk. If you have a smart phone with you make sure your map is on and working so you can find it. The walk is not difficult but there is no much signalization, you can always ask the locals.
Villa Opicina Train to Ljubljana, Slovenia
When you arrive to the train station in Villa Opicina just hop on the train (usually it will only be one train at that time). You buy the ticket on board from the guard, try to have cash with you. The cost is 9.70 Euros (they will give you different tickets for that price, one is from V.Opicina to Sežana in Slovenia -2Euros-, and the second from Sežana to Ljubljana -7.70Euros-). Train leaves at 10.30Am and arrives at around 1PM to Ljubljana train station.
I recommend that you stay in Ljubljana one night if possible. It is an amazing city, with dragon sculptures and fantastic views of and from the castle. It is a magical European gem. I stayed at Zappeling Hostel not far from the train station and close to the city center.
Imagine it as if Salzburg (Austria) and Prague (Czech Republic) had a baby… That would be lovely Ljubljana.
Next morning you can catch a train from Ljubljana (Slovenia) to Zagreb (Croatia)
The train cost 9 Euros and you buy the ticket at the train station. The earliest is at 6AM, I took the one at 8.30Am. The trip last about 2 hours but remember that it will be passport control when entering Croatia and this usually takes about an hour. Be aware that usually more than one police officer will check your passport. If you travel by bus between these two cities the passport control will be faster… but train rides rule!!!
Train tickets does not need validation. Being used to travel in Italy where you MUST validate your ticket or will be thrown out of the moving train… kind of… I was desperately looking for a machine to validate them. Do not panic. You don’t need to validate them here. Just hop on and grab a free seat (if you want an specific one you would have to pay extra for a reservation).
Then you will arrive to Zagreb… and let the dream begin (if it didn’t start in Ljubljana already). I stayed at one of the best hostels I’ve ever stayed at… Palmers Lodge Hostel. This is a great place near Zagreb’s train and bus stations and walking distance from the city center.
If you are in Zagreb make time to visit Plitvice National Parks. Whether in Winter or Summer this naturally amazing place will captivate you.
Zagreb to Vienna
After new years I took a bus from Zagreb to the Imperial Vienna. Even though the cold was rough on me (living 6 years in New Orleans made me a chicken when it comes to winter), I enjoyed every moment of this New Years trip.
There are regular train and bus options from Zagreb to the Austrian Capital. The train costing about 40 Euros and the bus 25 Euros (Dec. 2016) . I picked bus this time to save some money. The trip last about 5 hours and you will arrive to Erdberg Station in Vienna. There is a subway station to take you to the city center right away.
In Vienna I stayed at the Meininger Hotel Vienna Downtown ‘Franz’. It is fairly closed to the city center and well connected by subway and tram.
The way back home
From Vienna there is an overnight train to Rome, the more in advance you book it the more you will save.
I took second class seat for 100 Euros for a seat in a compartment for 6 (I bought it the day before… I wasn’t sure before hand when to come back to Rome). It was pretty comfortable. There are options of sleeping carts of 6, 3, or singles.
The train ride last about 14 hours, it leaves Vienna at 7.23PM and arrives to Rome at 9.22AM next morning.
It is a pleasant ride, although long… But is never wasted time if you have a good supply of Austrian food and good books with you.
Cheers to a year full of travels, love and success!!!
You can read my post about Ljubljana, Zagreb and Plitvice Parks or Vienna clicking on the links.