Culture

Rail Wonders of Sardinia and Corsica

11/17 to 26 October
Italy

It was easy enough to build a standard gauge railway along the wide north-south valley of Sardinia but the towns in the hills either side of it, or the ports and fishing villages on the east and west coasts could only be reached by narrow gauge feeder lines. Think of the Douro Valley in Portugal—though here in Sardinia the narrow gauge lines are longer (and still open).

Our tour of Sardinia gives you the chance to travels over every railway line on the island, both standard and narrow gauge and includes the two new tramway systems. We will visit engine sheds, workshops and railway museums, and expect to see most of the locomotives and railcars on the island, both standard and narrow gauge.

Corsica, the fourth largest island in the Mediterranean also called “The island of beauty”, a veritable mountain in the sea. Corsica is an island of strong character. Just look at the wild and rugged natural environment and its tumultuous history. Boasting a natural granitic heritage with exceptional schistose. We will have a relaxing day before we travel the narrow gauge lines forming a gigantic Y.

Tour Managers: Angelina Pons

Tuesday 17 October Flight from London Gatwick to Olbia Airport. Transfer by road in our luxury bus to Palau, a well-to-do resort with lively streets lined with surfing shops, boutiques, bars and restaurants. Welcome Dinner and overnight stay in Palau. An overland option via the Eurostar and ferry (from Genoa) is also available.

Wednesday 18 October (B,D) A free day to relax by the sea or to enjoy any of the various natural attractions around Palau like La Maddalena or Capo d’Orso. Welcome dinner.

Thursday 19 October (B) The coast in the vicinity of Palau is famous for its bizarre weather-beaten rocks, some of which we will hope to see from our narrow gauge loco-hauled charter passenger train over the little-used line from Palau to Sassari, a journey of 150 kms with some fabulous views. The first section, from Palau to Nulvi, has no regular traffic but is still traversable by charter trains. We can have photo stops and run-pasts. There is a lunch break in Tempio Pausania where we hope to visit the railway workshop, a masterpiece of industrial archaeology. The following section is one of a succession of viaducts and tunnels, including the Bortigiadas Spiral Tunnel, as we descend out of the hills and approach Sassari. Night in Sassari, Hotel Vittorio Emanuele located in the heart of Sassari.

Friday 20 October (B)There are some options today. Enthusiast option: visit the FdS engine sheds and the tram depot. Free time to ride the Sassari tram system end-to-end and free time for lunch. We cover the line to Porto Torres Marittima and Sassari-Sorso narrow gauge branch. The enthusiast on their own can choose to ride the 6.40 departure wich is non stop to Macomer, and so cover the Ozieri Avoiding Curve. Cultural Option: Enjoy a guided tour of old Sassari in the morning with a professional guide. Sassari, the island’s second largest city, has a fine urban landscape of wide boulevards, impressive piazzas and stately palazzo (town houses of the nobility), and an evocative medieval centre with Dickensian alleyways of small workshops and hidden churches. Charter bus to Santíssima Trinità di Sacargia. Free time and lunch break in Sassari. Afternoon the whole group travel by rail along the branch line to Alghero, a pretty city on the seaside. We stay at Hotel Alma di Alghero for two nights.

Saturday 21 October (B) A free day to relax by the sea or to visit Alghero old town and its natural atractions as the Grotta di Nettuno.

Sunday 22 October (B) Transfer by road southwards along the spectacular coastal road to Bosa Marina, dominated by an imposing medieval castle, where we board another loco-hauled narrow gauge charter to Macomer, a junction with both the FS standard gauge railway and another FdS narrow gauge line to Nuoro, the largest city in the interior of the island. Our train consistes of diesel loco LDe in brown livery with a parcels coach and a beautifully restored bauchierocoach dating from 1913, in varnished wood. The Bosa line only sees public service trains in July and August, and only on two days a week. The journey starts virtually “on the level” along the coast for a wile and then twists and turns for a considerable distance to gain height, still giving splendid views of the coast. In Macomer, there will be time to find some lunch. Then we board a narrow gauge service train to Nuoro, before rejoining our bus for the transfer to Arbatax, a seaside town on the east coast and our Hotel La Bitta for two nights.

Monday 23 October (B,L) Today we have a charter special on the long (160 km) and very scenic narrow gauge line inland from Arbatax through the Gennargentu Mountains, with an elderly diesel railcar. Again the line sees no regular traffic, only charter trains. In Sadali we stop for a three course lunch with spit-roast pig (included). The line between Arbatax and Mandas is considered by many to be the most spectacular on the island; a gravity-defying track through some of Sardinia’s least accessible mountain terrain. At the end of the day, our bus takes us to Cagliari where overnight accommodation for the next three nights is in the 4-star Hotel Regina Margherita. Cagliari has been the capital city of Sardinia for over 2000 years; today, it has a still-busy, working port and a large student population, grand boulevards, neo-Gothic palaces and art-nouveau cafés.

Tuesday 24 October (B,PL) After breakfast, our bus transfers us to Mandas where we board a steam loco hauled train. In the Mandas area there are no suitable hotels. We travel over the almost-unused section to Sorgono (95 km) which is very rarely run by steam trains. Sorgono is at the geographic centre of the island. The railway runs through the mountains with lots of brick and steel bridges and several tunnels, the longest is 999 metres. From Sorgono our bus take us again to Mandas Junction where we have the chance to eat the packed lunch brought from the hotel in Cagliari. In the afternoon, we take the service train to Cagliari Monserrato (69 km). On arrival option to ride the new tram system before retiring.

Wednesday 25 October (B,D) There are two railway museums in Cagliari and we start today with a visit to the FS (or standard gauge) museum. After the visit we ride the FS lines in the area, using services trains Cagliari-Carbonia-Villamassargia-Iglesias-Cagliari. Arriving back at Cagliari station in time to join the guided city tour. The Culture group in the morning will visit the archaeological site of Nora, 40 kilometres from Cagliari. Nora is an ancient Roman town placed on a peninsula. The ruins of Nora function as an open-air museum with mosaics and remains of the amphitheatre and several buildings. Return to Cagliari for the lunch break and for a guided tour of the old city, with a professional local guide. Farewell group dinner at our hotel.

Thursday 26 October (B) Morning Railfan Option: The FdS (narrow gauge) Museum is closed to the public due to serious damage. We visit the FdS workshop, engine sheds and the tram depot. Return to the city centre by bus. Lunch break in or near the main FS (std gauge) terminal station. In the afternoon, we take the FS service train from Cagliari to Golfo Aranci, a 4 hour ride from the south to the north of the island. In Golfo Aranci we board our bus to Santa Teresa di Gallura, where we will stay in the Hotel Majore for overnight accommodation. Those returning home today take the bus from Golfo Aranci to the airport for the evening flight back to Gatwick. Santa Teresa di Gallura is the ferry port for the conection to Corsica (France).

PRE-TOUR add-on to Pisa and Corsica

Wednesday 11 October (D) We leave Gatwick at 13.40 on the Easyjet flight to the Italian city of Pisa. Overnight in Pisa. Welcome dinner.

Thursday 12 October (B) Pisa straddles the River Arno just before it empties into the Tyrrhenian Sea. Although Pisa is known worldwide for its leaning tower, the city of over 89,940 residents contains more than 20 other historic churches, several medieval palaces and various bridges across the River Arno. Much of the city’s architecture was financed from its history as one of the Italian maritime republics. We have a guide tour of the main sites in the morning leaving the afternoon free for your own exploration.

Friday 13 October (B)  We travel the short distance from Pisa to Livorno by rail (followed by our coach). At Livorno we board a “Corsica Ferries” ferry at 14.15 for the four hour crossing to Livorno to Bastia. Short transfer to hotel.

Saturday 14 October (B) Bastia is the principal port of the island, the city centre is mainly composed of the “citadelle”, the stronghold, also called Terra-Nova, the Genoese Governor’s Palace, the old port and its popular quarter and the market plaza. In the morning we have a guided tour. The afternoon is free.

Sunday 15 October (B) Today we travel by train to Calvi so covering the upper branch of the Corsica railway. From Ponte Leccia the train goes up a dry and uninhabited valley but soon we have a view of the sea in the distance. The train goes alongside the sea stopping at seaside villages. In Calvi we have a guided tour of the city, built on a promontory in a beautiful bay. We have time for a lunch break before taking our charter bus back to Bastia, through the Balagna the most pleasant region of the island.

Monday 16 October (B) Today we travel by service train from Bastia to Ajaccio, the Corsican capital city. The train crosses the island, winding round the mountain, crossing audacious bridges and magnificent forest before reaching the tropical atmosphere of the Gulf of Ajaccio, one of the most beautiful locations in Corsica. Leaving Bastia at 08.55 we arriving into Ajaccio in time for lunch and a free afternoon exploring this pretty town.

Tuesday 17 October (B) Morning free before we transfer by coach to Bonifacio. Here we have a guided tour of the old town built on a promontory of white rocks before we board the 17.00 ferry for a one hour crossing of the Bocche di Bonifacio strait to Santa Teresa di Gallura on Sardinia. Coach transfer to our hotel in Palau to join the main Sardinia group.

Place(s) available
Holiday prices per person
  • 10 day Sardinia holiday from London Gatwick: £1,899
  • Own travel to and from Sardinia: £1,699
  • Full 16 day Pisa, Corsica, Sardinia holiday from London Gatwick: £2,950
  • Full 16 day Pisa, Corsica, Sardinia holiday joining in Pisa: £2,750

Options

  • Single room Supplement (10-day Sardinia only): £320
  • Single room Supplement (16-days): £540
  • Upgrade to half board (Sardinia only): £140
  • Upgrade to half board (full tour): £260
  • Overland from St Pancras: POA

Deposit

  • Travelling by air: £500
  • Travelling overland: £1,000
  • Own travel: £300
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Highlights
  • No fly option
  • Great scenery
  • Private charter of several vintage trains
  • Steam train
  • Plenty of off train options
Your holiday price includes
  • All travel and excursions as outlined in the itinerary
  • Good quality en-suite accommodation
  • Meals as shown in the itinerary; B = Breakfast, L = Lunch, D = Dinner
  • Services of our tour manager. Holiday is fully escorted.
Flights
  • We recommend the direct Easyjet flight from Gatwick to Olbia although there is also a direct flight from Luton.