There was a time when a train journey across Europe aboard the Orient Express could be considered the pinnacle of luxury travel. Unfortunately, those days ended over 10 years ago as high-speed rail became increasingly popular and airfares became inexpensive.
If you’re a fan of what is now called “luxury train travel,” here’s some good news: The Orient Express is set to return in 2023.
Under the new initiative, known as Orient Express La Dolce Vita, six trains will follow routes across 14 regions, including three international destinations from Rome to Paris, Istanbul and Split, Croatia. One of these itineraries will include a stop in Rome so that guests can stay at the Orient Express, set to open in 2024.
This initiative is the result of a work between real estate investment company Arsenale SpA and Orient Express of the Accor Group.
“We consider the relaunch of the historic Orient Express brand a major privilege for the enthusiastic and discerning traveller,” said Sebastien Bazin, Accor’s Chairman and CEO, in a statement. “These trains offer a new vision of luxury travel that is beyond our imaginations.”
The original Orient Express train was launched in 1883 by businessman George Nagelmakers. It originally offered a twice-weekly service that began in Paris, then made its way through Strasbourg, Vienna, Budapest and Bucharest before ending in Varna on the Black Sea, an article on Watchman Tells. After that, a steamer transported the passengers across the Black Sea to Istanbul.
In the process, the luxury train has also become a cultural icon, thanks to popular books and movies. For example, in 1929, the Orient Express got stuck in the snow for several days near Istanbul, which served as the inspiration for Agatha Christie’s novel Murder on the Orient Express.
You may also remember that the Orient Express appears prominently in Ian Fleming’s novel and film of the same name, From Russia with love. Even James Bond traveled on the Orient Express with Russian writer Tatiana Romanova as they escaped from agents working for the international criminal association SPECTER.
The original Orient Express service was discontinued in 2009. However, in 2023, the new Orient Express train will start providing service across 14 regions in Italy and travel to Paris, Istanbul and Split. Although the train tracks have yet to be confirmed, journeys are expected to take between 1 and 3 days, with space for around 60 passengers.
The trains will cross about 10,000 miles of rail, of which 4,400 are non-electric and are historic roads. Along the way, passengers will be able to see the Alps, the sandy southern beaches, and urban centers such as Milan, Florence and Venice – depending on the route.
The train itself may be the highlight of every journey. The Accor Group explains that the new Orient Express La Dolce Vita concept trains “commemorates ‘La Dolce Vita,’ a historic period of brilliance, liveliness and artistic fervor in Italy during the 1960s.”
Architecture and design studio Dimorestudio designed the trains to “embodies the Italian art of living and all its beautiful traditions” combined with a contemporary spirit. Each train will include 12 luxury cabins and 18 luxury suites and suites, as well as a restaurant.
The train service will also feature a collaboration with local and international chefs and bartenders to provide travelers with a five-star service so they can “taste the beauty and excellence of ‘Made in Italy’ through award-winning Italian wines and exclusive gourmet cuisine,” the company explains. Furthermore, travelers will be welcomed into the Orient Express Executive Lounge prior to departure so that they can relax and enjoy refreshments.
“The original train route was innovative in the way it brought cultures together – paradoxically – West with East, and history with modernity,” said Stephen Alden, CEO of Raffles and Orient Express, Accor. “We wish to revive this ancient world of amazing ‘journey to another’ and reconcile some paradoxes: journey and destination, amazement and inspiration, movement and contemplation.”
Start daydreaming now
Unfortunately, you cannot book accommodations on the Orient Express La Dolce Vita trains yet. Exact routes have yet to be determined, but most will start in Italy, before traveling through Europe.
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