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Taking a Grand Tour to Italy: arriving by train

When I decided to finally make a trip to Italy after years of putting it off, I made the decision to travel by train into the country. To me, there’s something very romantic about train travel, and even more so in Europe. Historically, taking a long voyage through Europe to Italy has been part of a Grand Tour—something I always remembered from my days studying art history.

The Grand Tour was a tour for young men (usually from the UK) who would set out on a tour of Europe. They would sometimes have a tutor with them but would undoubtedly make their way to Italy where they would study the Renaissance and antique arts. It was a very elite and aristocratic tour lasting from several months to maybe even years. Many would end up living in either Rome or Venice during their Grand Tour of Europe.

I always wanted my own Grand Tour so when I finally decided to visit Italy this summer, I opted to arrive by train. It just seemed like it would be much more appropriate for a trip to Italy.

City Night Line sleeper (overnight train from Munich to Venice)

I set out from Munich on a City Night Line train direct to Venice. My first time in an overnight sleeper in Europe and my small compartment didn’t disappoint. I was lucky to have the room to myself so there was no top bunk which gave me plenty of space to get comfortable. With two power outlets in the cabin I was even able to get a little bit of work done. The room had a sink and some towels—and there was a shower at the end of the hall. On top of it all, my neighbors in the cabin next door were super friendly. We were able to open up a door between our rooms so we could chat about European train travel over a round of beers without disturbing other passengers.

The train journey from Munich to Venice was an enjoyable one, even if it took all night. But being able to take a shower and arrive in Italy all fresh and clean was a huge comfort. Whether because the journey to Italy was so pleasant or because Italy itself is just so damn beautiful, Venice captivated and hooked me from the moment I stepped out of the Santa Lucia train station.

Venice was absolutely beautiful.

I’m not sure if the city was so captivating and so beautiful because it is, or because I’d just done a bit of “old-school” train travel. Or maybe it was the early morning calm I witnessed. But everything about this city just made my eyes ache for more.

I can’t think of a better way of first seeing the city. Riding the train over the lagoon as dirty as it was. Stepping off the platform to a quiet train station. Walking outside the station, seeing the Grand Canal, sitting on the steps in front thinking I’m in Venice! I’m in Italy!


CNL logoMy train journey on the City Night Line train was paid for by the company. Though CNL provided the train ticket, the views of the journey are my own.

  1. Tammy Lau says:

    arh…..I didn’t know there’s a thing called Grand Tour until I read this post:) Cool, I had did a couple of train tours myself and my favorite so far is the Trans-Siberia train:)…Enjoy :)..and remember to eat a lot:)

    • Adam says:

      I learned about the Grand Tour back when I studied art history. It always fascinated me to imagine people who have the opportunity to go travel for months at a time and learn about the world. Probably a bigger inspiration for how I run my life now than I could’ve expected!

  2. […] must have just missed seeing Adam in Italy, but he loved arriving in style. Sleeper car from Munich to Venice? There is something magical and nostalgic about overnight train […]

  3. Rob says:

    I didn’t know about the Grand Tour either.

    • Adam says:

      Hmm, I must be a bigger dork than I originally thought! Didn’t realize it wasn’t so well known but it was alllll over my European history and Art History textbooks.

  4. I took the night train into Venice once. I love that you can leave from one country and wake up in another country. It is a bonus that you had the whole cabin to yourself.

  5. Leah Travels says:

    I really like the idea of a Grand Tour. As a former teacher, I feel that taking kids out of the classroom is the best way for them to learn. I’d like to do that for myself, not so much when I was teaching, but as a student. Very interesting.

    • Adam says:

      Thanks for commenting Leah!

      That was definitely the purpose of the Grand Tour – to see the art for yourself so you could better learn about it.

  6. Waegook Tom says:

    Ooh la la, get you fancypants! Well, maybe not so fancy, but the whole Grand Tour thing does sound rather classy. Nice spot of luck having the room to yourself, too – love it when that happens!

    Interesting to hear that you loved Venice – I wasn’t sure if it’d be your cup of tea or not, as it does seem to be a love-it-or-hate-it kinda place, and it is of course traditionally so, so touristy. Glad to hear that you fell for the place :)

    • Adam says:

      Doing a legitimate “Grand Tour” would be so cool! And so very expensive. Venice was amazing – I was surprised to like it so much. It originally wasn’t even going to be on my original itinerary for Italy either, so I’m so glad I went!

  7. […] wasn’t really sure what to expect from the experience after reading about Adam’s grand tour experience from Munich to Venice, I was pretty excited. What could be more romantic than an overnight train across […]

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