Mediterranean Mosaic Coastal Train Routes in Southern Europe

Mediterranean Mosaic Coastal Train Routes in Southern Europe

Trains connect picturesque seaside villages, rugged cliffs, and azure waters on a coastal journey through Southern Europe. Here, centuries-old traditions meet cosmopolitan vitality.

This summer GCI field projects team members Leslie Friedman and Tom Roby visited Bulla Regia to work on a model field project and training course for technicians, two components of the MOSAIKON initiative.

Train Routes

Train routes that take in the Mediterranean’s world-class destinations and stunning scenery are always popular. From Italy to France and Spain to Portugal, you can enjoy cosmopolitan capital cities and storybook canalside towns while making your way through lush vineyards and snow-capped mountain ranges on these epic train journeys.

As the summer heats up, Europe’s high-speed trains become busier, so you may need to book seat reservations in advance or travel on reservation-free routes (particularly in Italy) to ensure you have a ticket. For an easy and comfortable way to explore the southern shores of the Mediterranean, the Ionian Line provides a relaxing trip between ancient Metaponto and comparatively little-visited coastal cities like Crotone and Catanzaro.

Marseille is a fascinating Mediterranean melting pot that speaks with a jovial French accent and offers sweeping sea views from its lofty hilltop vistas. However, beneath its surface are rumbling socio-economic problems – from urban deprivation to growing unemployment and the erosion of traditional working-class neighborhoods. In 2021, the city launched a new strategy called ‘Mission Marseille’ to address these issues, which includes a €7 billion investment plan to promote economic growth, improve living standards, and deliver a just post-COVID-19 recovery.

With the relaunch of the Paris to Berlin sleeper train in 2018, you can now reconnect with the iconic capitals of northern Europe in one easy, night-time journey. The thrice-weekly OBB service has been one of the most celebrated new routes in recent years and, with no daytime connections, it’s ideal for those seeking to see both Paris and Berlin with ease.

A new initiative, MEDWAYCAP aims to enhance the regional and cross-border management of water resources in the Mediterranean region through innovative solutions that combine water use efficiency with non-conventional water resources (NCW). The project will also support awareness-raising, capacity building and easy access to knowledge and tools for implementation of these solutions at local level and in a multi-level and multi-sector governance set-up.

The UNESCO-listed Greek island of Corfu is famous for its pristine beaches and smattering of medieval ruins, while in Sicily, the ancient Temple of Apollo stands among the most prominent sights in Palermo’s historic center along with a Norman palace, vast cathedrals, and Baroque architecture. You can also discover Greece’s storied past in the historic Sicilian town of Siracusa, where Archimedes was born and where you can find his remains in a Greek temple within a simple Byzantine church.

Train Timetables

The world-famous European Rail Timetable is a train traveller’s bible, with route maps and up-to-date timetable information for trains, buses & ferries in Europe (including Asian Turkey & Russia) – plus the Trans-Siberian railway. You can also use this tool to check scheduled departures & arrivals at any station in the world – just click here and enter your start & end stations.

The tool only suggests connecting trains that are operated by signatories to the so-called ‘Agreement on Joint Timetables’, including Eurostar, DB Schenker, PKP & HZPP. You can find out which operators are members by looking at their logos on the left-hand side of the page in this tool.

By default the system allows the minimum amount of time to change trains, which may not be enough if the first train is running late or the second one has a delay. For this reason it is always a good idea to allow at least a little more time for transfers than is suggested by the tool.

Local & domestic trains in Europe typically don’t run on strict schedules, so it is usually perfectly fine to hop on the next train even if you’re only a few minutes late. You don’t need to reserve your seat on these trains, and your Eurail pass is valid on all departures. On the other hand, sleeping trains & some regional routes do have to be reserved in advance, so it’s a good idea to check the timetables for these services just to make sure you can catch your chosen connection.

This two month Europe train itinerary features some of the continent’s iconic must-see cities, fairytale villages like Bruges and epic scenic rail journeys. It can be tailored to suit your budget, timeframe and travel preferences, whether you want to spend a week or two in each destination or just sample the best of each region.

Train Schedules

Visiting the coastal cities of Italy, France, and Spain by train is one of the most scenic and convenient ways to explore the region. These enchanting coastal cities and their surrounding regions offer something for everyone, from ancient temples to the world’s oldest continuously operating opera house and everything in between.

Located on the western edge of the Mediterranean Sea, the city of Marseille has a rich cultural history that spans millennia. Its evocative, often contradictory landscapes include limestone calanques (sea inlets) and pristine beaches as well as subsidized apartments and concrete tower blocks. The rap song Bande Organisee (Banded Together) by the Marseille-based hip hop group L’Autre de la Société articulates this tension between the beautiful and the ugly in the city.

As a result, the city’s urban fabric is highly diverse. It is also a major center for the arts and culture. This is reflected in the eclectic mix of museums and galleries, as well as in the music scene. Among the most famous musicians to hail from the city is the singer Edith Piaf, whose songs and autobiographical writings speak of life in an era marked by war, poverty, and political unrest.

Mosaics left in situ at archaeological sites can face challenges such as exposure to the elements, damage from looters and other mischiefmakers, and wear and tear from eager tourists. But the same is true for mosaics that have been “lifted” from those sites and moved to museums, where they can be damaged or lost as a result of improper handling or storage.

A key aspect of MOSAIKON’s mission is training the site managers and restorers who care for these heritage masterpieces. One of the first training courses was scheduled to open in Damascus in early 2011—precisely when protests began roiling the country. In response, the course was relocated to a conservation training facility near Rome.

Aside from these important preservation projects, the MEDiterranean is home to many other interesting and exciting initiatives. These range from projects that seek to address water scarcity to those that focus on climate change adaptation, disaster risk reduction, and improved governance.

Train Tickets

From the Italian coast to the French Alps and beyond, there’s a huge variety of scenic train routes in Southern Europe. The world-class art of Barcelona’s museums, the lush beauty of the French vineyards and Portugal’s iconic Douro River region are all part of this incredible area. So grab a two month Europe train itinerary and let’s start planning your European adventure!

The IC Aubrac is an excellent option for travel between the Mediterranean coast and Paris, with daily services to Clermont-Ferrand, Vichy, Nevers and then on to Paris. It’s also possible to continue onward to Marseille and Bruges from Paris, giving you the chance to enjoy the amazing landscapes of the Occitanie region while getting to your final destination in style.

For the best value on this route we recommend purchasing a Eurail pass that covers all of the main sights and cities on your trip. This way you can choose from a range of different train options, including the high-speed TGV that is available in winter and summer.

To save even more money on your trip to the Italian Alps we recommend using regional trains that don’t require seat reservations (so they’re free with a Eurail pass or super cheap if bought outright). The journey starts with a regional train from Lyon to Geneva (1h 57m), a change in Geneva and then the Zermatt – Visp – Disentis/Muster – Reichenau-Tamins train to St Moritz.

You could also catch a ferry from the Italian port of Messina to the Sicilian city of Catania, but that’s much more time-consuming. The ferries are usually busy and expensive too so we don’t recommend this for most people.

Sicily is a fascinating place, with Greek temples, Roman ruins, Norman castles and beautiful Baroque towns to explore. The capital Palermo is famous for its lively markets, Byzantine mosaics in the Norman Palace and its huge cathedral.

This is a charming small town that’s more low key and relaxed than the next few stops on this two month Europe train itinerary. It’s a nice place to spend a few days, especially if you want a break from the hectic tourist scene in Rome and Venice.

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