For more than a century, the Orient Express has captured travelers’ imaginations as a grand European hotel on rails, shuttling high society from Paris to Istanbul since 1883. The luxury train became the stuff of legend (as the “spies’ express”) and pop culture, be it Bram Stoker’s Dracula or Agatha Christie’s Murder on the Orient Express, while setting the standard for transcontinental travel.
Sadly, the luxury of slow travel couldn’t compete with high-speed rail and budget flights, reports the Guardian, prompting the final run of the original Orient Express line in 2009.
But in 2023, the legendary locomotive brand will live once again, with six different trains spiriting visitors across 14 regions in Italy and to three international destinations: Paris, Istanbul, and Split, Croatia. Though the trains’ exact routes haven’t been confirmed yet, trips are expected to run between one to three days, with room for 62 passengers on each train, sleeping in a mix of deluxe cabins and suites. A stop in Rome is sure to be on the itinerary, where there will be a dedicated Orient Hotel, the Minerva, slated to open in 2024.
As for the concept for the new Orient Express? “La Dolce Vita trains pay tribute to ‘La Dolce Vita,’ a historical period of glamour, joie de vivre, and artistic fervor in Italy during the 1960s,” according to a press release. Dimorestudio dreamed up the midcentury-inspired design aboard the train’s renovated carriages—think pops of terra-cotta paint, tongue-and-groove ceilings, and brass accents galore. Dining aboard La Dolce Vita trains is a sophisticated affair as well: Travelers will enjoy exclusive recipes created by master Italian chefs using local ingredients, while sipping award-winning Italian wine. There will, of course, also be a lounge bar, as well as entertainment, with details forthcoming.
Born from a collaboration between hospitality group Accor, SNCF Group, and real estate investment firm Arsenale, the Orient Express La Dolce Vita (not to be confused with the Venice Simplon-Orient-Express, which is currently owned by LVMH and runs from London to Venice) is the latest incarnation of the OG trainline. SNCF Group, which also manages the French rail network, has owned the Orient Express brand since 1972 and signed a partnership with Accor in 2017 to develop Orient Express hotels after Accor acquired a 50 percent stake in the brand. While SNCF group still holds ownership of the Pullman Orient Express, all groups involved are committed to preserving and sharing the history of the legendary trainline.
The trains will cross about 10,000 miles of railway lines, 4,400 of which are not electrified and are historic routes traversing less-frequented parts of the countryside. Passengers will get their share of landscape gazing (alpine mountains and sandy southern beaches) and metropolitan centers like Milan, Florence, and Venice. “It is thrilling to be bringing the refined nomadic spirit of Orient Express back to life for a new generation of travelers,” Raffles and Orient Express CEO Stephen Alden said in a press statement. “… against the backdrop of breathtaking panoramas and a unique blend of cultures, we are convinced that travelers will have unforgettable experiences in Italy with Orient Express La Dolce Vita.”
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Mae Hamilton Mae Hamilton is an assistant editor at AFAR. She covers all things related to arts, culture, and the beautiful things that make travel so special.