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TTG Features Malta, Italy & Med Islands

overland from the UK to Milan in a day has made Italy more accessible to those who are reluctant flyers.”

Ffestiniog Travel offers a Dan Brown-inspired rail trip from London to Venice

Going it alone Some prefer the freedom of travelling without a group. Expressions Holidays offers rail holidays to and within Italy, which are fully customisable and independent of a tour manager. A 12-night itinerary covering Venice, Florence and Rome starts with the Eurostar from London to Paris, where clients board the sleeper to Venice. With the return journey via Milan, Lausanne and Paris, there’s scope to extend the trip in any of these cities. First-class tickets start from £2,690pp, while second-class leads in from £2,465pp. The tailor-made specialist also

offers a five-night trip including a trip on the Bernina Express, a low- speed train taking in the scenery of the Swiss Alps. On arrival at Lake Como, guests stay at the five-star Grand Hotel Villa Serbelloni for four nights. The trip costs from £2,660pp for first-class travel, including B&B accommodation. Clients can travel with Kirker on the Glacier Express through Switzerland on their way to Italy HOW TO DYNAMICALLY PACKAGE ITALIAN RAIL

For clients who want to experience rail travel in Italy, but not commit to a whole tour, Voyages-sncf UK offers an online booking service for individual journeys via its trade website or dedicated trade call centre. There are two main ways to

reach Milan from Paris by rail, either overnight on the Thello service or on high-speed TGV France Italy day services. Within Italy, there are two options for rail travel: the

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state-owned Tren Italia and the privately operated Italo trains. Tren Italia has three main types

of high-speed train – Frecciarossa, Frecciargento and Frecciabianca – which can be booked up to 90 days in advance. Frecciarossa is the fastest, travelling down the west of Italy, linking Milan, Rome and Naples at speeds of up to 360km/hr. Italo began operating in 2012 and

runs a variety of high-speed routes, which can be booked up to six months in advance.

Paul Lacey, head of trade sales

at Voyages-sncf UK, said: “We’re seeing an increase in requests from agents building customised itineraries for independent travellers. Sales of high-speed services from Paris to Italy are up more than 30% year-on-year. “The entry to the market of the

Italo trains has widened the choice for travellers within Italy, and we’re seeing high levels of interest in these services.”

Book lovers, take note Ffestiniog Travel also offers rail-based itineraries across Italy. One of its more unusual trips draws inspiration from Dan Brown’s bestseller Inferno and takes guests on an alternative tour of Florence and Venice, based on the sights mentioned in the novel. From £945pp, passengers take the

Refined dining onboard the Orient-Express

Eurostar from London to Venice via Florence and travel on the Frecciargento train – the same route taken by the novel’s protagonist. Other options are 12 days in Milan,

Florence and Venice, or nine days in Florence and Lake Garda. Maria Cook, general manager at Ffestiniog Travel, says: “Being able to travel

Best of both worlds For customers short on time, Treyn has launched new Fly:Rail holidays to Italy, which allow travellers to fly to their destination and then travel on by rail. On the Fly:Rail trips, a tour manager escorts clients from Gatwick. Tony Byrne, national sales manager for Treyn, says: “We hope these new tours will offer agents and their customers more flexibility.” Tours include Classical Italy; Lake

Como and the Bernina Express; and Sorrento and Pompeii. They start from £745pp for a seven-day tour. Kirker Holidays also offers

flexibility with its tailor-made rail trips, incorporating journeys through scenic Swiss landscapes and extra overnight stops. Clients can travel one-way by air if preferred. For a three-night holiday in Milan –

travelling outbound by rail and inbound by plane to Gatwick – prices start at £899pp. A longer trip around Italy by train

is the Italian Trilogy from £2,698 for nine nights in low season. Price includes reserved seating and transfers between stations. For a special occasion Kirker

recommends the legendary Venice Simplon Orient-Express. The trip leads in from £2,659pp, and includes an outbound flight to Venice and return travel on the luxury train.

Service where it counts Rail gives agents a chance to show their worth. Patrick Millar, marketing manager at Kirker, says: “Rail holidays are a good opportunity for agents to provide expert advice. There is still a perceived fear factor to arranging international rail tickets; consumers find it harder than a flight booking. “We have had particular success

with tailor-made holidays which combine an outbound journey by rail with an inbound flight.” For clients who like a slower, more

scenic pace of life, agents are on the right track with an Italian rail trip.

John Robson

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