Sicilian Rail Adventure: Palermo to Rome – The Overnight Adventure

Sicilian Rail Adventure: Palermo to Rome – The Overnight Adventure

This was the most exciting part of our entire journey: the overnight train from Sicily to Rome.

The train departs from two cities – Palermo and Syracuse. In Messina, both sections board a ferry to cross the sea and continue as one train to Rome.

There are actually two nightly departures from Palermo and Syracuse. One leaves before 7 pm, and the other after 8 pm, arriving in Rome at 8:30 am and 10 am, respectively. The 10 am arrival would have been more convenient for us, but I didn't want to wait until 8:30 pm to depart. So, we opted for the earlier connection.

Direct Overnight Train Timetable from Palermo to Rome | Source:

The night train from Palermo to Rome consists of four-berth couchette cars or sleeping cars called "letto relax" (relax beds). We chose the couchette car so I could have two lower berths next to each other. My daughter hadn't slept alone in a train compartment before, so I wanted her to be close to me. We booked the entire compartment for ourselves. The train doesn't have a dining car or a bistro car. There are no showers in the couchette section either.

The interior was clean, the compartment was set up for seating, and the seats had bedding and amenity kits with snacks and toiletries. The kit included juice, water, a sweet biscuit, a wet wipe, and soap.

Couchette Welcome Bag Contents for Passengers

The route follows the coast of Sicily to Messina, where the trains are transported across the sea by ferry. I had debated whether the night journey would be worthwhile. I was curious about this mode of transportation. One plan was to take a daytime ferry crossing from Messina to Villa San Giovanni on the mainland and back. We could then return to Catania or do it during our transfer from Catania to Palermo, taking the coastal route. However, the first option would have taken almost the entire day, which seemed like a waste of time. The idea of traveling through the heart of Sicily was more appealing. So, the "only" option left was the overnight crossing.

Our train departed on time, but since it was March, it was already dark outside. We didn't get to enjoy much of the scenery.

Palermo to Rome Connection Map | Source: Scotty ÖBB

We arrived in Messina around 10 pm and waited at the station for the second part of the train from Syracuse, which travels through Catania and Taormina. Upon arrival, the trains coupled together and gradually boarded the ferry. The whole process took less than an hour, followed by about a half-hour ferry ride. During the crossing, passengers could leave the train and go on deck. The view would have been better during the day, but luckily it wasn't raining or windy.

Towards the end of the crossing, an announcement instructed us to return to our compartments. The disembarkation process began. Our part of the train disembarked first. After leaving the ferry, the train switched tracks and re-boarded the ferry to collect the rest of the train. Then, we exited the ferry and traveled through the port to the Villa San Giovanni station.

VIDEO: Night Train Departs Ferry Between Sicily and Italy

From there, we continued to Rome at midnight. I went to sleep, and we woke up around 6 am. I had to ask a few times during the night for them to increase the heating. It was quite cold, and the thin blankets didn't provide much warmth. The temperature in the compartment couldn't be regulated individually. There was no breakfast in the morning; the only refreshment was the snack from the evening. Fortunately, we arrived on time, so we had breakfast at the Rome station.

Overall, the couchette car journey was very pleasant, far better than the subsequent couchette car trip from Rome to Vienna. The carriage was tidy, clean, and felt very comfortable. The option to book the entire compartment for ourselves was an excellent idea and wasn't that much more expensive at €116. The only things missing were showers, which are generally not available in couchette cars, and breakfast. The 7 am arrival time was well-chosen, instead of 10 am. The compartment doors with glass and blinds were also somewhat uncomfortable. Even with the blinds drawn, quite a bit of light entered the compartment.

The couchettes were relatively comfortable for sleeping. Since we only used the two lower berths and the rest were folded up, there was ample space in the compartment. We bought the tickets about two weeks before the trip, and the price of just under €116 was reasonable for the service provided and far more justifiable than the ÖBB train from Rome to Vienna.

Our night train from Sicily terminated at Roma Termini, where we arrived right on time. We took the escalators to the upper level of the station and had breakfast. After a quick meal, we bought a 100-minute public transport ticket (€1.50) and took the metro to Porta S. Paolo station (Piramide metro stop), where the train to the coast departs (Roma - Ostia Lido line). In half an hour, the train took us to Ostia Centro station, where we would stay until the next day.

We chose Ostia for two reasons. First, the accommodation was significantly cheaper (especially in the off-season), and second, its location by the sea. We had been here six months ago, so we already knew where to find the children's playground, good ice cream, and places for dinner and beer in the evening.

The next day, we moved back to Rome. The last night train of our trip awaited us – to Vienna. Due to track work, the ÖBB train was departing at 4 pm (usually around 8 pm) and would travel via Rimini. After breakfast around 10 am, we left the hotel and went to buy some souvenirs. We stayed in Ostia for lunch and boarded the train back to Rome at 1 pm. From Piramide, we took a bus to the Colosseum and then walked to a park with a playground, which we always visit when we're in Rome.

I liked the option of taking the night train from Sicily instead of flying. Although the price was ten times higher than the cheapest flights (you can find flights within Italy for as low as €10), when you factor in the cost of a hotel night that we spent on the train, it wasn't that bad. The timing suited me well; boarding the train at 6 pm and arriving in Rome at 7:30 am was convenient. I would choose the train again for this route, although perhaps a sleeping compartment instead of a couchette.

The same cannot be said for the next night train and the continuation of our journey from Rome to Vienna...