Take the train from France to Italy and you'll have good reason to wonder why anybody would ever choose to fly between these European neighbours. Since they usually pick you up and leave you right in the city centre, trains mean much less hassle than flying or finding your way around in a hire car. And best of all – thanks to fantastic train networks in both countries, taking the train from France to Italy can help you get to places a little off the beaten track.
How to reach Italy by train from France
There are several possible routes from France to Italy by train. The shortest, easiest route is over the border between the French and Italian Rivieras, while high-speed trains run on the route from Paris to Milan 3-4 times a day, and a 14-hour sleeper train even carries you the entire 1,100 km direct from Venice to Paris. So, figuring out how to reach Italy by train from France depends largely on you – where you're coming from, where you'd like to go, how you'd like to travel and how much time you have.
Luckily, we've done a lot of research – and we've built a lot of algorithms – on this very topic, so it's easy to plan your trip. Have a look at our dedicated pages on trains in France and trains in Italy to find more about how to travel by train in each country. You'll find information on ticketing format options, making online bookings, using rail cards and discount passes, train maps, FAQs, and tips on popular routes and places to visit. It's a one-stop shop for finding out how to reach Italy by train from France.
But flying is so cheap?
Yes, it is. Until you add in the ground transport to and from the airport at each end. And the over-priced sandwich and coffee at the airport. And the time wasted queuing at check-in, security, boarding gates, and baggage claim. By comparison, although the actual duration of train journeys between cities can be longer than flying, the time at either end is much shorter. All you need is a ticket (most of the times you can simply show it on your mobile device), a general sense of direction to find the train station (usually a landmark in the middle of town), and off you go.
Trains are particularly preferable in France and Italy where, thanks to SNCF and Trenitalia, the respective national railway operators, you can depart from and reach almost anywhere, because even the most picturesque old villages usually have an equally picturesque train station. That means you're not tied to big cities and international airports. Instead, enjoy some of the quieter corners as you explore the smaller cities and towns of La Bella Italia.
From Paris to Italy by train
You can reach Italy by train directly from Paris in under 5 hours. This is thanks to the high-speed TGV train that runs up to four times daily between Paris and Milan, passing through Turin, reaching speeds of up to 270 km/h (168 mph). Milan is known across the world as the centre of Italian fashion and the home of incredible historical sites and priceless artworks. But there's a lot more beneath the surface here once you start scratching – think cavernous jazz clubs, a network of underground bomb shelters, and a gritty street-art scene.
Venice is another Italian destination that needs little introduction – although some people are surprised to find that a city famous for being built on the water actually has great train services. You can travel from Paris to Venice by train in as little as 9 hours if you're willing to make a few changes. Or, if you like to travel in style, why not check out the direct sleeper train operated between Paris and Venice by Thello? This 14-hour overnight service has everything from regular seats and shared sleeping compartments to private cabins with your own bathroom, toilet, and shower.
From the French Riviera to Italy by train
Looking to pop over to Italy while on the French Riviera? We wouldn't blame you. The stretch of Ligurian coastline from the French Cote d'Azur to Pisa is one of the most beautiful you'll find in Italy. That means not only great beaches and charming seaside villages, but also incredibly fresh seafood, rich local history, and some of the most breathtaking train-window views you can imagine. Best of all is that the French and Italian Rivieras are extremely well connected by rail.
The train route linking Marseille with Genoa stops at a huge number of pretty seaside towns such as Antibes, as well as glitzy cities like Nice, Cannes, and Monaco (well, more of a country than a city but, you know). If you're just looking for a quick taste of la dolce vita, then the quaint and colourful Ligurian town of Ventimiglia is just over the border, less than an hour by train from Nice. Or head to one of the many beautiful beaches around San Remo, just 30 minutes further on. If you feel like digging deeper, it's only 5 hours from the French Riviera to the Cinque Terre on the train from Nice to Monterosso.
From Lyon to Italy by train
Heading into (and under) the mountains, the train ride from Lyon to Italy can be pretty rewarding. It takes just under 4 hours to get from Lyon to Turin by direct train. Despite being the home of the Italian royal family and set against a stunning mountain backdrop, Turin is somehow still something of a hidden gem. That's probably because most travellers skim over it en route to Milan – something we strongly advise against. For car lovers, Turin is an absolute must. It's the home of Fiat and the National Automobile Museum of Italy.
For food lovers wanting to get a taste of la cucina italiana, Lyon is a great place to start. By train from Lyon, you can reach Genoa, Italy's most important port city and the place where every Italian agrees the best focaccia comes from, in as little as 6h 53m. Bologna, the home of fresh pasta, is only 6h 51m away. As the capital of Emilia-Romagna, Bologna is also the perfect base for taking the train to Modena (home of balsamic vinegar), 20 minutes away, and Parma (home of Parmesan cheese and Italy's best prosciutto), 45 minutes away.
Hungry? Thought so. If your taste buds or itchy feet are tingling, you can find out more about how to book trains from France to Italy (or just go ahead and do it) with our Journey Planner.