Slow Trains Heading South


Italy, birth place of Slow Food and Slow Cities, is also the most popular destination for a new Scandinavian trend - charter slow train.

Charter travel - with the image of a gaggle of tourists sporting matching flight bags and following a harried trip leader - is ingrained in popular culture here. But as Europe's climate conscience grows, charter trips have also been criticized for their contribution to carbon dioxide emissions.

At the beginning of this summer season one of Sweden's largest charter companies, Fritidsresor, tentatively offered a total of 80 charter spaces by train to Lake Garda in Italy - the spots were sold out in hours!

Gearing up for the 2008 summer season, two Swedish companies will offer a total of about 8,000 different charter train trips - where the travel, lodging and most meals are all included. While charter train trips can be a little bit cheaper - perhaps $150 U.S. out of a total $800 - $1,000 price tag - they are also a lot slower.Flight times to Venice from Stockholm, for example, are about 2 hours. The train trip from Southern Sweden to Venice? Twenty-three hours, with a train change after an overnight train to Berlin (the train takes a ferry for the waters between Sweden and Germany).

Researchers at Sweden's Royal Institute of Technology have calculated that Swedish trains emit about 4 kilos of CO2 per passenger per 1,000 kilometers traveled, and charter flights by contrast put out about 130 kilos of CO2 per passenger per 1,000 kilometers traveled. Even using average figures for all European trains of about 36 kilos of CO2 per 1,000 kilometers per passenger, a trip from Stockholm to Verona by charter plane emits about five time more greenhouse gases than the train.

Fritidsresor says it is not just eager eco-travel buffs snapping up the train charter trips, but also a heretofore untapped group of travelers afraid to fly, as well as recent retirees who are nostalgic for the longer train trips of their childhood.

This year, in addition to a few destinations in Italy, there are also trips to Austria, Croatia, France, Germany, Poland, and Slovania - all with a charter trip guide, accomodations and meals included. One train charter to Poland also combines cycling with train travel. Via

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