How to travel from the UK to Italy without flying
Updated: Mar 28
There are several ways to travel to Italy from the UK without flying thanks to Eurostar's service from London connecting with a variety of high-speed train services from either Paris or Lille/Lyon and to northern Italy. The good news is that you can reach cities such as Turin and Milan as well as lakes Como and Garda in the north of Italy within a day from London. The following morning you can then whizz down by train to further destinations in Italy, including Rome, Florence and Naples, to the Amalfi Coast, and across by ferry to the islands of Sardinia and Sicily.
There is also a slower route to Italy by ferry from Harwich in the East of England to Rotterdam in The Netherlands and then onward by train to Italy, or alternatively, if you live in the North of England or Scotland, you could take the ferry from Newcastle or Hull to The Netherlands an then onward by train to Italy. For detailed information to how to take public transport to the UK's ferry ports, see Green Traveller's Guide to travelling as a foot passenger from the UK to Europe.
Our team has tried and tested many of these routes and so we have tried to summarise all the available options in this post based on our experience. On arrival in Italy, there are plenty of options at rail terminals for onward travel by rail and bus.
It's a lovely journey by train to Italy. Photos: Eurostar and Wix Media
By train from the UK to Italy
Route 1: Via Paris
It is possible to travel by train to Italy in a day from the UK. The fastest route is to take the Eurostar from London St Pancras International Railway Station then change in Paris to catch one of the many high speed TGV trains to Turin and Milan in northern Italy. For instance, you could catch the 10.22am Eurostar and reach Turin at 9.18pm and Milan at 10.07pm. You could also take any Eurostar to Paris and stay overnight in the French capital and then catch one of the high-speed TGV trains to Italy the following day.
See our detailed guides for sample departure and arrival times and transfers in Paris:
Train from London to Milan (the arrival station is 'Milan Porta Garibaldi')
Train from London to Turin ('Torino Porta Susa')
Train tickets provided by Trainline:
In Paris, you have to change stations in Paris from Gare du Nord to Gare de Lyon, which can take about half an hour on the Paris RER line (it's only two stops, though we recommend you leave at least 50 minutes for the entire transfer - you have about an hour and a half to get the connection, though you could get an earlier train and spent a bit more time in Paris, e.g. have lunch at the wonderful Train Bleu Restaurant in Gare de Lyon). At Gare de Lyon, you board a TGV high speed train to Torino Porta Susa station, which continues to Milan Porta Garibaldi.
See our guide to How to transfer between train stations across Paris.
Stopover hotels to break the journey in Paris
If you want to break the journey en route (either on the outward journey and/or on the way back) and stay overnight to see a bit more of Paris, there are lots of lovely places to stay in Paris conveniently near both Gare du Nord and Gare de Lyon. Here are some examples of hotels that are conveniently near these stations:
Hotels near Gare du Nord, Paris (where Eurostar arrives from London)
Hotels near Gare de Lyon, Paris (for your departing train to Italy the following day)
Return journey back from Italy to the UK via Paris As with the outward journey via Paris, you can travel back from Italy to the UK in a day by train via Paris. For instance, you could take the 6.00am train from Milan or the 7.39am from Turin to Gare de Lyon, transfer across Paris to Gare du Nord to catch the Eurostar and arrive back in London at 4.37pm.
Route 2: Via Lille and Lyon
If you prefer not to cross Paris to change trains, then the option of simply changing trains in Lille could be for you. It requires a simply same-station change of train in Lille down to Lyon where you stay overnight (there are plenty of hotels very close to the station in Lyon - see below), and then in the morning you can take a 'Frecciarossa' high-speed train to Turin and Milan. These Frecciarossa trains are run by Trenitalia (the Italian railway operator).
Hotels near the railway station in Lyon (for your departing train to Italy the following day)
Onwards by train through Italy from Turin and Milan
There are onward trains from Turin and Milan to destinations throughout Italy. It's just a short onward journey to both Lake Como (Como San Giovanni) and Lake Garda (there are two stations on Lake Garda (it's a big lake!): Desenzano del Garda-Sirmione and Peschiera del Garda). In fact, both lakes can reached in the same day from London – just take the onward train from Turin or Milan –Lake Como is just 50 minutes from Milan and Lake Garda is about an hour and half from Milan.
See our guides to how to travel to the following destinations, with sample schedules and transfers, all the way from London:
Return journey back from Italy to the UK via Lyon and Lille As with the outward journey via Lille and Lyon, you can travel back from Italy to the UK by train via Lyon and Lille (you can actually do the return journey in one day). For instance, you could take the 6.25am train from Milan or the 7.11am from Turin to arrive in at Lyon at 11.08 then take the 11.35am train to Lille arriving at 3.48pm to catch the 4.48pm Eurostar and arrive back in London at 5pm – or if that's a bit tight (remember you'll have the 45-60min check in time for Eurostar), you could catch the 7.35pm Eurostar arriving in to London at 7.57pm.
By ferry and train from the UK to Italy
There are three options to go by ferry:
i. From Harwich in the East of England to The Netherlands and then onward by train to Italy. The ferry service is Stenaline's integrated Rail & Sail initiative, which combines a rail ticket to Harwich with the cost of the overnight ferry over to Hoek van Holland (Rotterdam). The joy of this trip is that as well as the excellent on board facilities on the ferry (including restaurants and cabins) it's just a short walk from Harwich railway station on to the ferry, and also on arrival off the ferry at Hoek van Holland to the departing train. On arrival at Hoek van Holland you can take the train to Amsterdam and then onwards to Munich (arriving in the early evening) and then catch any number of trains to Italy, including an overnight sleeper train to Venice (from where you can take trains to Florence, Rome and Naples).
ii. From Hull to The Netherlands and then onward by train to Italy. P&O operates an overnight cruise ferry from Hull to Hoek van Holland (Rotterdam) from where you can take the train via Amsterdam and the sleeper from Munich to Venice (see above).
Tickets provided by P&O ferries:
iii. From Newcastle to The Netherlands and then onward by train to Italy. DFDS Seaways run an overnight cruise ferry from Newcastle to IJmuiden (Amsterdam) from where you can take the train to Munich and then the sleeper to Venice (see above).
Tickets provided by DFDS Seaways:
The slow route to Europe, by overnight ferry from Harwich, Hull or Newcastle to The Netherlands
Please note: The information on this page aims to give you a reasonable idea of train and ferry routes, times and tickets, in order that hopefully there’s enough detail to know what's available, how to plan a journey and where to book tickets. The information was up to date at time of publication, but services do change from time to time and we cannot take responsibility for any errors or inaccuracies we provide. Always confirm details when you book with the relevant travel operator. If you are aware of any inaccuracies, we'd really appreciate being informed via our contact page so we can make the relevant changes to the information provided for the benefit of other travellers.