Overnight and Over Water: Train from Rome to Sicily

In this post, I go over my experience taking a sleeper train in Italy from Rome to Palermo. I hope this is useful for others who want to do the same. 

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I moved to Italy from the United States in March of 2022, both to have a new experience and have my Italian citizenship recognized (backstory here). As part of this experience, I wanted to see all 20 regions of Italy.

While I had been to Sicily before, I had not been it’s capital and largest city, Palermo. Additionally, as I have written about before, I love train travel in Italy, but I had not yet taken an overnight train.

When I came across a special that Trenitalia was offering for an overnight sleeper train, I jumped on the opportunity. Especially considering that for part of the journey, the train is on a ferry. See Palermo, and experience a unique train. It’s all for the readers, folks, I promise. 

If you’re planning a trip to Italy, check out my post Essential Resources for Italy Travel

The Details

This overnight train was a Trenitalia InterCity Notte train. You can see more information about InterCity Notte here, including the cities which are serviced (unfortunately this page is only available in Italian but if you use Google Chrome you can easily translate it). 

My booking details:

  • Roma Termini to Palermo Centrale, departing at 8:31 PM and arriving at 9:24 AM
  • Cuccetta Comfort 4 posti – Promiscuo / Economy (4 person mixed bunk)

At the time of this writing, the cost for the economy ticket if booked in advance costs between 45€ and 70€, depending on the day of the week. The prices increase closer to the date. 

Other ticket options are:

  • 2 person rooms
  • single rooms “deluxe”
  • 4 person rooms (female only)

Buying Tickets

My normal recommendation for tourists buying train tickets in Italy is to use Trainline, because it’s easy to use, the website is in English, includes multiple train companies, and can be used beyond just in Italy. 

However, after looking at the ticket options, Trainline unfortunately doesn’t include all the options available for this specific train (rooms for 4, for 2, single, rooms for 4 women only, etc.). So for that reason, I recommend you book these tickets directly with Trenitalia

The Experience

I shared a room with 4 other people. I was sick the week before and had a lingering cough (it wasn’t COVID – I checked). So I was prepared with some lozenges and a face mask.  

The inside of the train was clean pretty much everywhere. 

Typical hallway
Clean and spacious-enough shared bathroom.

The room for 4 was pretty tight, but had enough space for all of our stuff with space under the beds and an overhead shelf. It was me, a father and son, and another guy. All very friendly. 

InterCity Notte 4 person room
Intercity Notte 4 Person room (Cuccetta Comfort 4 posti)
How I fit in the Bed
Outfit theme: 50 Shades of Grey

The bed, which could be turned into 3 seats just by folding down the arms, was firm. My concern was that it would be too short. I’m 6’4″ (1.93 m). Luckily, with the arms folded up at the head and foot, I had room with an extra 2″ (5 cm) on each end.

Each bed had its own outlet and light.

The Ferry Portion

The train transitions onto the ferry around 3 AM at Villa San Giovanni. While the train is on the ferry (for about 35 minutes), you can get off the train, walk around, go up to the deck of the boat and look around, though it will be night time and you won’t be able to see much. I didn’t get up and walk around for this journey (because to be honest I wasn’t aware that we could). I did do this on the trip back – more on that later.

How did I sleep? Not well. For a few reasons, probably. I had that lingering dry cough, which I tried to suppress so as to not disturb my room mates. The bed was firm, real firm. Also, I was excited for the fact that our train was going onto a ferry and I wanted to see it. All to say, not great sleep. I did finally get some deep sleep in the late morning, but upon arrival in Palermo the staff wasted no time giving us coffee and telling us to leave. 

Speaking of breakfast – the ticket includes a small breakfast: coffee and cornetto/pasty – I think. They bring it door-to-door around when the train arrives in Palermo. In my half-awake stupor in the morning, I think I missed the pastry knock and only caught the coffee knock. 

night train body hygiene kit
The complimentary “shower”
bathroom outlet with 110 or 220v
The bathroom had an outlet with a transformer for both 220V (EU) and 110V (US) power.


The train arrived at Palermo Centrale on time. Within about 10 minutes of getting off the train, I loved Palermo – I’ll have another post about Palermo later. Update: here are my Palermo recommendations.

I left my recently-purchased Soundcore earbuds on the train. Dammit. Normally I’m good at looking back at any place that I leave (restaurant table, hotel, train seat, etc.) to make sure I didn’t forget anything. But not this time. Someone either threw away or is now using a practically new pair of bluetooth earbuds. I hope the latter.

Intercity Notte Train outside
Train after arrival in Palermo. If only I had known my earbuds were still on the train when I took this picture.

What Surprised Me

My bunk mates were ready to go to sleep at 9 PM, which was very out of character for Italians. I wanted to work on my computer. But given the small room, once the lights were off, between my lit screen and loud typing, and occasional cough, I was annoying even myself.

I thought, surely there’s a train car with normal seats that I can go sit in to work, or a car with a bar/cafe (like Trenitalia high-speed trains have).

I asked, and no. All cars on the Intercity Notte train are identical. Just rooms – and all occupied. So the only place to use my laptop was in my room. The only other places you could go were the hallway, and the bathroom. 


Despite my poor sleep, lack of convenient space to work, and annoying lingering cough, I still think this was a positive experience and would do it again.

I mean, for 45€ you can wake up in Palermo. Transport and a bed in one cost. Compare that to a night at a hostel or hotel, plus a train ticket the day after. 

In addition, arriving in a city at 9:30 AM means you have basically an extra day to spend in the city, as opposed to arriving at 6 PM.

What Would I do Differently

If I did this again and had extra funds, I probably would pay up to have my own room, which is about double the price of a 4-bed shared room. This would have let me work on my computer without disrupting others and just have more privacy in general. 

Bonus – The Trip Back

After my fun in Palermo, I had to get back to the mainland. This time I took a day train (still Trenitalia InterCity). When we got to the port of Messina and the train transitioned onto the ferry, my fellow travelers told me that everyone normally gets off the train to go up to the deck for the nice views. 

We ascended a flight of stairs into what I thought was in impressive passenger space on the ferry, complete with a proper Italian bar to get coffee, cornetti, beer, etc. 

This was an awesome experience, and you can do it too as long as your on a train which goes across the Strait of Messina.

Ferry from Messina to Villa San Giovanni - Passenger seating area
Passenger seating area
Ferry from Messina to Villa San Giovanni - Bar
I wasn’t the only one who needed to get up from my seat. This bar is likely closed at night for overnight trains.
Ferry from Messina to Villa San Giovanni - Train on a Boat!
Train on a ferry! 
Ferry from Messina to Villa San Giovanni - Passenger seating area outdoor
Outdoor seating on the ferry

That’s All For Now

I sincerely hope you found value in this article.  If you have recommendations of your own or have suggestions on what else you would like to see covered here, please write in the comments below. Additionally, if you’re planning a trip to Italy and need one-on-one support or guidance, check out my services page where you can get in touch with me.

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