Stockholm-Malta by train part 6: Salerno to Sicily (Catania)


After spending three days in fantastic (but super expensive) Positano, we were back in Salerno for a last night at the Hotel Plaza. After breakfast we went to a nearby sandwich shop to stock up on some provisions for our next leg on our way to Malta; Salerno-Catania on a Trenitalia intercity train.

Salerno-Catania in Trenitalia Intercity First Class
As the grafitti covered train rolled into Salerno Centrale station we realized that we might not be as happy with this trip as our latest onboard the amazing Italo. We had paid roughly €30 per person for “1 classe” which was about the double from 2nd class, but still a worthwile upgrade for the nearly 7 hour ride. The carriage felt quite modern, and there were electrical sockets so we could charge your phones which is always appreciated.

Unfortunately we sat on the wrong side of the train, going backwards, and in a seat where we were facing our co-passengers. Great if you want to chat with other people for a while, but not fantastic if you want privacy and to mainly relax for a 7 hour trip. To add to this the grumpy guy that sat on the “right” side of the train shut his window blind meaning all the pretty sea views were gone. The lady that sat facing us tried to convince him to open it up, but no success unfortunately. After about three hours with constant stops (meaning the air con was turned off) we arrived Villa San Giovanni from where we was to take our second train ferry of the trip, the one crossing the Messina straight over to the city of Messina and thus Sicily.

The ferry ride was a quite nice break from the train, and we went up on the deck to get some air and eat our sandwiches we bought in the morning. I did not check the ferry interior, so not sure if there are any restaurant or similar onboard (there isn’t any on the train). We were free to stay in the train, and some of the other passengers did. The views from the ferry is quite nice though, so in my mind it is definitely worth it to get up on deck. We left our bags while away, but as mentioned the train is open (unlocked) if you have valuables with you.

A few minutes before arrival in Messina we were told via loudspeakers to head back to the train, and shortly after we rolled off the ship and into Messina Centrale. Here we had to stop for about 30 minutes for an unknown reason, and many in our carriage got off getting some air. Since we did not understood the announcement which was in Italian (and to lazy to ask someone) we remained onboard. After 30 minutes we took off again, only to stop every 10 or so minutes for about the same time. This time though, we sat on the right side of the train and could view the beautiful Sicilian coastline while slowly progressing. A word of warning here, the train stops shortly, and a couple of older tourists missed their stop, just because they were to slow disembarking. So they had to go to the next station and get off there instead, which probably was a good 20 minutes later. Eventually and finally reached Catania, where we stayed at Hotel Villa Romeo, which as most of the other places we stayed was basically next to the railway station.

This was probably my least favorite train of the trip, but if we’d have had our own seat pair I think it would’ve been an entirely different story. The carriage was quite nice and modern, but it got super hot since the regular stops meant that the air con was off and did not fully cool the train until it was time to stop again. But this might have been extraordinary and not something that always happens.

Ristorante I Moschettieri
We arrived quite late and through Google Maps we found a restaurant next door that had good reviews and decided to head there. While not maybe a 4,6 as the current rating states, we were quite happy with the food and the price. The food was rustic and tasty, and we had Sicilian starters, a huge plate of spaghetti alla norma (eggplant tomato sauce) covered in ricotta salata, and a mixed grill platter with sweet Sicilian onion & tomato salad. All this was washed down with house wine, and I believe the total bill was around €40. Staff spoke good English and were very friendly. A classic cozy family restaurant, that felt super Italian.

A day trip from Bologna via Rimini to San Marino with Trenitalia and Bonneli bus

Since I have the fun, but also challenging, ambition of visiting all the countries in the world, naturally I had to visit the small mountain country of San Marino during my eating-frenzy in Bologna recently.

To get to San Marino from Bologna, I could not really find any simpler alternative (apart from driving yourself) than catching a train to Rimini and from Rimini station taking the international Bonneli bus line to the tiny little kingdom in the mountains.

Taking the bus to San Marino from Rimini’s Central station
We had done our reading, and were well aware that it may become crowded, especially so since we went in mid-July and on a Sunday, and by some reason the bus leaves only every 75 minutes. As we arrived from Rimini about 9 o’clock, we just missed one bus. We went to the tourist office adjacent to the station and bought our bus tickets. We then crossed the road (where Burger King is) and went to check where the bus would depart. It was now 45 minutes before departure and no one was there. – Good, we thought, and went to the nearby cafe for breakfast (boring sandwich, good cappuccino). About 25 minutes before departure we thought we should go and line up. Unfortunately, during our 20 minute breakfast, approximately 70 people had somehow sneaked past us and now formed a twisted line starting in a few different directions. The law-abiding of us formed a line, and a few more ego-centric soon started their own closer to the supposed bus stop. There was however decent order, despite no staff from the company. Suddenly the bus appeared, half full from two earlier stops, and chaos ensued. The semi-orderly lines formed into a wall of people trying to force their way on to the bus. Fortunately, someone had done a little thinking and another empty bus arrived. This meant that the people still trying to push themselves on half-full bus 1, now tried to push their way off and on to the empty one instead.

I’ve heard that it is not at all rare for people to be left behind due to the buses being too crowded, but this time I think all of us actually got onboard, even though it meant us less pushy had to stand up for the one-hourish trip up the mountain.

My suggestion here would be to get on the bus on one of the earlier stops before the Rimini Central station (or just grab a taxi) if you’re traveling during high season. If I were the bus company I would do much more frequent departures or sell reserved tickets on a few departures. The return was not much better, but we eventually managed to at least get a seat.

San Marino, the land of beautiful views
Anyway, after the sort of painful trip we found ourselves in San Marino. The tiny mountain kingdom has a resident population of approximately 33 000 (2016) and is not a member of the European Union (although the border with Italy is open, so no passport control). This also mean that the free intra-EU roaming is not in effect in San Marino, eg. shut off your roaming (or at least check with your service provider).

We had about 5 hours before we needed to go back to Rimini for our trip back to Bologna and chose to spend the first part visiting on of the towers of San Marino for some views of the kingdom itself, the surrounding countryside and also of the Med, looking very inviting in the distance.


Then there was food, of course. I had found a restaurant called La Terrazza that I’d booked online a few days earlier. Problem was, many restaurants was named “La Terrazza” due to having a view, and I had not internet. Fortunately, after some walking around we found the correct La Terrazza and were seated with an incredible view over the surrounding area. We ordered a Piemontese craft beer that the waiter suggested as well as a board of local charcuterie, cheeses and condiments.

I had read in advance that they eat a fair bit of rabbit in San Marino, so naturally I had to try their “Strozzapreti al ragú bianco di coniglio e olive taggiasche”. A delicious rabbit ragu with mini olives on strozzapreti pasta.

The food at La Terrazza was actually very nice, even though slightly pricey. The atmosphere was very relaxed and it was a nice contrast to the busy streets outside crowded with touristy shops and day-visitors like ourselves.

Our schedule worked out in the end and we caught the bus from San Marino back to Rimini about 3 pm and then the Trenitalia train back to Bologna 4.30 pm. Happily we found out that they sold bottled Aperol Spritz onboard which we enjoyed together with the scenery for the rest of the trip. A long day, but absolutely worth it in the end.