There was a time when a train journey through Europe aboard the Orient Express could be considered the pinnacle of luxury travel. Sadly, those days ended over 10 years ago, as high speed rail became more popular and air travel fares became cheap.
If you’re a fan of what’s now called “luxury train travel,” here’s some good news: the Orient Express is slated to return in 2023.
Under the new initiative, known as Orient Express La Dolce Vita, six trains will follow routes in 14 regions, including three international destinations from Rome to Paris, Istanbul and Split, Croatia. One of these routes will even include a stopover in Rome so that guests can stay at the Orient Express Hotel, which is slated to open in 2024.
The initiative is the result of work between the real estate investment company Arsenale SpA and Orient Express of the Accor group.
“We consider it a huge privilege to relaunch the historic Orient Express brand for passionate and demanding travelers,” said Sébastien Bazin, Chairman and CEO of Accor, in a press release. “These trains offer a new vision of luxury travel that is beyond our imagination. “
A historical past
The original Orient Express was launched in 1883 by entrepreneur Georges Nagelmackers. It originally offered a bi-weekly service that started in Paris and then worked its way through Strasbourg, Vienna, Budapest and Bucharest before ending in Varna on the Black Sea, an article on The Guardian recount. Then a steamboat transported travelers across the Black Sea to Istanbul.
In the process, the luxury train has also become a cultural icon, thanks to well-known books and films. For example, in 1929, the Orient Express was stuck in the snow for several days near Istanbul, which inspired Agatha Christie’s novel. Murder on the Orient Express.
You may also remember that the Orient Express features prominently in Ian Fleming’s novel and film of the same name, From Russia with love. Even James Bond traveled aboard the Orient Express with Russian employee Tatiana Romanova as they escaped agents working for the international criminal association SPECTER.
A triumphant return
The original Orient Express ceased service in 2009. In 2023, however, the new Orient Express will begin offering service in 14 regions of Italy and will travel to Paris, Istanbul and Split. Although the exact train routes have not yet been confirmed, journeys are expected to last between 1 and 3 days, with room for around 60 passengers.
The trains will cross approximately 10,000 miles of track, of which 4,400 are unelectrified and are historic routes. Along the way, passengers will be able to see alpine mountains, southern sandy beaches, and metropolitan centers like Milan, Florence and Venice, depending on the itinerary.
The highlight of every trip might just be the train itself. The concept of the new Orient Express La Dolce Vita trains “pays homage to ‘La Dolce Vita’, a historic period of glamor, joie de vivre and artistic fervor in Italy in the 1960s”, explains the Accor group.
The architecture and design studio Dimorestudio designed the trains to “embody the Italian art of living and all its beautiful traditions” combined with a contemporary spirit. Each train will include 12 luxury cabins, 18 suites and an honor suite, as well as a restaurant.
The train service will also feature a collaboration with local and international chefs and sommeliers to offer travelers a five-star service so that they can “savor the beauty and excellence of” Made in Italy “through award-winning Italian wines and an exclusive haute cuisine “, the company explains. Additionally, travelers will be greeted at the Orient Express Executive Lounge prior to departure so they can relax and enjoy refreshments.
“The original train route was innovative in the way it paradoxically brought together cultures – West with East, history with modernity,” said Stephen Alden, CEO of Raffles and Orient Express, Accor. “We want to revive this grandiose ‘journey to elsewhere’ of yesteryear and reconcile certain paradoxes: a journey and a destination, astonishment and inspiration, movement and contemplation.
Start dreaming now
Unfortunately, you cannot yet book accommodation on Orient Express La Dolce Vita trains. The exact routes have not yet been plotted, but most will start in Italy, before traveling through Europe.
If you love to travel by train, be sure to read all of our rail coverage, including: