South of Italy by night train

Last month I traveled from Brussels to the south of Italy for the wedding of our dear friends Jan & Corentin. Since I managed not to fly for three years now, I booked myself a nice alternative for flying: a private “luxury” cabin on the night train.

In short the trip is:

  1. Brussels – Paris by high speed train (morning)
  2. Paris – Milano by high speed train (afternoon)
  3. Milano – Fasano by night train (night)

I took my folding cycle along which facilitated the switch of stations in Paris and Milano a lot. It is of course feasible to do it by subway (Paris) or walking (Milano), but it just involves a little extra time buffer needed.

I booked the Thalys (29-65 EUR one way) and TGV (49-74 EUR) on and the night train (Vagone Letto Deluxe Uso Singolo – Cabina Intera for just 85-95 EUR one way) on which worked fine. In total the transport for this trip costs 397 EUR, which I agree, is not really cheap if you can fly for 60-100 EUR. Nevertheless, the views from the train and a night of hotel saved make it worth it. I could take my folding cycle and a big backpack for free, which of course does not work while flying either.

I left for Paris on Wednesday morning, worked a bit in our Brussels office of Hinicio and left after lunch to catch the TGV from Paris Gare de Lyon to Milano. Even with a delay of almost an hour (for which I got a partial refund), I was nicely on time to buy dinner in the station and catch the first of the two night trains that leave Milano for the south of Italy at 21:15. Let’s be clear: luxury on this Italian night train is not at all the same as what e.g. OBB offers for a sleeper coupé. Breakfast was very basic, so better to bring your own food.

We arrived in Fasano at 8am after a comfortable night of sleep, some morning yoga and meditation, while sliding through the Italian countryside. I cycled to the beach and installed myself in for a morning swim and some reading.

Tine and August whom flew to the South joined me for lunch in Ardecuore, a great restaurant in Fasano.

After a walk in Fasano we started talking to some locals that were so amazingly friendly that they offered to take us to Alberobello with its special Trulli’s, round stone roofs.

After spending one night in Fasano we were picked up by our friend Jeanke that brought us to Masseria Corte Degli Asini, the hotel where the other wedding friends were staying as well. On Friday we visited the beautiful town of Ostuni with some of them.

It was a fairy tail weekend with the wedding of Jan & Corentin on Saturday night in Masseria Mozzone just next door, a pizza party, poolparty, lots of talking and dancing. Thanks again to the two amazing guys that organised all this (with a little help of Tabloo Margot)!

I left Fasano again with the night train on Sunday evening to go back via Torino, Paris and back to Brussels.

Dreaming of the Snow train

Just before the Corona crisis started to break through we took a train to the Alps. Let’s just dream away to what will be possible again after this is all over.

Leaving Belgium to go skiing was easy. Tickets for the Thalys from Brussels to Paris are sold as from 25 EUR (or 7 EUR with the Izy). Our friends took the direct Thalys from Antwerp to Paris. A nice bed in the night train from Paris to Briançon is sold as from 25 EUR as well… So if you’re really short on cash and flexible in the timing you can get to the Alps for 64 EUR going and back. That’s not bad, right?


We left Brussels in the late afternoon around 17h starting with an apero in the train. At 20h10 the night train left Paris Austerlitz where we enjoyed our pick-nick dinner and a bottle of wine with friends. The next morning we woke up with the sun in our cabin and the mountains sliding by.


Arriving in Briançon you end up at a 10 minute walk from the telecabine and the ski slopes. There’s plenty of airbnb and hotel options around so that shouldn’t be a problem either.




And since Sofie and Bart were there for four days only we hit the slopes of Serre Chevalier the very same morning. If you go for skiing it doesn’t promise to be a cheap holidays: around 50 euros per day for the ski pass and 25 euros for the material.



The slopes of Serre Chevalier are maintained very well (or we were very lucky with the snow and weather conditions). Only minor point was that “due to the wind”, a crucial ski lift was closed multiple times, so at closure time we couldn’t go back to our starting point without taking the bus.



This must have been more or less the point where we washed our hands that often to avoid Corona, that it started to hurt.




With enough sun it was a pleasure to relax on the many chalet terraces. Contrary to the big après-ski scene in Austria or other resorts, we kind of had to stick to the “during”-ski terraces here.


Even though Brainçon might not be known for the après-ski, it has many good restaurants:

  • Chez Maria (always fully booked, so reserve in advance)
  • Le Pied de la Gargouille (an impressive menu based on local products only, from the close-by vegetable producers, wine makers, cheese makers, …)
  • Restaurant L’Etage
  • Maison de Catherine (Puy-Saint-Pierre, also the place where I stayed last time when I came to Briançon)


After four days our friends returned home with the night train and we spent another three days enjoying the Alps in a different way: relaxing, reading, hiking and some bathing.


On day 5 we hiked uphill from Puy-Saint-Pierre, through hiking trails into nature.


Day 6 we hiked next to a small canal on the hillside. From village to village in the direction of Le Monêtier-les-Bains. Hiking trails can be easily find online and most of the trails on the Komoot application are accessible also in winter. With the snow still there we went quite a bit slower then normal, so we didn’t make it all the way and took a bus for the last part.


In Les Grands Bains we enjoyed the natural hot-springs with all kinds of outside and inside pools and hammam’s. Three hours of pure relaxing after the hike.


On day 7 we did a bit of culture: We visited the cité Vauban (the old fortified city center) and hiked over the Pont d’Asfeld all the way up to the Fort des Têtes. If you want to visit the insides of the fortress you have to visit Briançon during summertime, but the just the surroundings and the views are already worth it.




Inside the cité Vauban you can go up into the Fort du Chateau to catch the last sun of the day before you dive into one of the local bars or restaurants.

Leaving Belgium to go skiing was easy. Taking the night train back to Belgium in Corona times was quite a mental challenge though. We were happy to be back home in our safe apartment. Washing hands. A lot.

We agreed with Tine that we will visit the Alps every single year. The relaxing train trip and nature in the mountains are the perfect mix for our holidays.

Snowtrain to the Alps – Briançon

This one will be rather short, so just enjoy the images and scroll down for some practical information or ask me if you want more details on the trip.


I took the thalys from Brussels to Paris (25 EUR one way if you book early) and than a nice bunkbed in the nighttrain from Paris Austerlitz leaving at 20h50 to the alps (98 EUR one way, I booked only a couple of days in advance, so I’m sure you can get it cheaper). At 8h30 the next morning you arrive in Briançon, a 10 minute hike away from the closest ski lift of Serre Chevalier.

Note of december 2019: This year we booked a ski trip again to Briançon and managed to buy a one way ticket for 50 euro from Brussels to Brainçon: 25 euro from Brussels to Paris and another 25 euro for the sleeping train with a bunkbed from Paris to Briançon!

Next to that it’s worth checking out the new sleeping train line from Brussels to Innsbruck that will be operating as from January.



Hiking or ski?

Since I was staying in Puy-Sain-Pierre I had to rent my material in Briançon at the bottom of the main lift. You can just rent your material by the day and get your ski pass for as many days as you want. It’s rather expensive so try to group the ski days together and maybe plan some hiking before and after.

For hiking I did multiple hikes that start in Puy-Saint-Pierre: look on the Visorando website and do (1) (part of) the Notre dammes des Neiges hike in the snow (deep snow hike, requires some material and enough food). (2) Circuit des chapelles, which can be done mainly without hiking on deep snow.






I can only recommend the exact place I stayed, since it was absolutely perfect: Maison de Catherine. A room costs around 90 EUR per night for 2 people. Don’t worry about not having any other restaurants closeby, because the own cook provides plenty of variation and impressive food for a very reasonable price (normal 3-courses menu for 23 EUR or more gourmet for 30 EUR per person). The picture below was the view from my room.







Visiting Briançon

Since Briançon itself is at a strategic point in the Alps, it has plenty of military constructions and buildings around. The old citycenter is built within a fortress. Truly worth spending at least half a day visiting. If you go to the office de tourisme they give you a map with a nice 1-2 hour loop and some background information. If you’re cold an looking for gluhwein and pancakes: L’armure (the food was good, service medium friendly).