The Iconic Orient Express Returns To Italy In 2023

The Golden Age glamour of this luxury train is set to welcome passengers next year.

After 46 years, the Orient Express will resume operation in one of Europe’s most beloved countries. A new version of this famed rail experience, aptly named La Dolce Vita, will debut six new routes across 14 Italian regions, as well as itineraries that stretch to Istanbul, Paris, and Split.

The history of the Orient Express

It all began in 1867 when a young Belgian engineer, Georges Nagelmackers, was set to explore America by train. He discovered the ingenuity of railroad sleeper cars to accommodate guests on their long journeys and realized that no such thing existed in Europe. With this in mind, he returned home and began crafting a line of luxury trains that he hoped would someday connect Europe to the Orient.

Nagelmackers’s larger-than-life ideas continued to balloon as his trains gained popularity and solidified a reputation for their grand decor, 5-star services, and unmatched comfort onboard. The inaugural journey of the official Orient Express departed Paris in October of 1883 and headed towards Constantinople (present-day Istanbul). Nagelmackers had finally achieved his dream, and with that, cross-continental travel was changed forever.

Italy came bursting onto the luxury train travel scene in 1919 with the addition of the Simplon Orient Express and its sultry midnight blue cars. Thanks to the Simplon tunnel, Paris now connected to Istanbul via Milan and Venice with a stunning and newly accessible route through the Alps.

The 1920s brought glitz and glam to the Orient Express with a unique Art Deco style that bled elegance and rarity. Agatha Christie’s Murder on the Orient Express in 1934 further propelled the luxury train into becoming the icon that it remains today, and many future film adaptations from her work would continue to intrigue world travelers for decades. But after nearly 100 years in operation, the train made its final trip from Paris to Istanbul on May 20, 1977, largely due to the surge in the up-and-coming air travel market.

It was the end of a long and luxurious era. Now, a new chapter is raring to begin.

Orient Express
Rendering of a lounge for the Orient Express La Dolce Vita. Photo: Dimorestudio.

A grand welcome for the Orient Express La Dolce Vita 

A general shift for slower, more eco-conscious travel in recent years has revived long-haul train tourism in Europe. Cruising the railways emits far less carbon per kilogram than going by car or plane, so the return of the Orient Express next year couldn’t be timed better.

The soon-to-be-launched luxury train line will celebrate the historic period of 60s and 70s Italy, lovingly known as La Dolce Vita. Fellini’s famous 1960 film of the same name must also be an honorable mention, fueling inspiration from icons such as Sophia Loren and Marcello Mastroianni. That era boasted all things glam, art, and pleasure, after all.

The Orient Express La Dolce Vita pays tribute to this legendary time with beautiful, dreamlike Art Deco themes with a modern twist. Dimorestudio, a global architectural and design studio founded by Emiliano Salci and Britt Moran, has been trusted with the task of creating the interior decor that can only be described as flawless elegance.

Each of the six different trains will vary slightly from each other in design, but all will include 12 deluxe cabins, 18 suites, one honor suite, and a restaurant that will put forth delicacies that are second to none. All ingredients and dishes will, of course, highlight Italian cuisine and will be locally sourced. Additional information regarding the train’s lounge bars and other entertainment areas has yet to be released, but those following La Dolce Vita’s development continue to sizzle with great anticipation.

Orient Express
A rendering of a suite designed by Dimorestudio for the Orient Express La Dolce Vita. Photo: Dimorestudio.

Discover La Dolce Vita in Italy

With this new trend in slow train tourism, where can one expect to go on the Orient Express La Dolce Vita? Travelers will have the option of spending one to three luxurious nights on the train. They’ll be whisked away through some of Italy’s most stunning coastal towns, mountain villages, rolling countrysides, and historical sites, as well as some of the country’s most famous cities, but it will also delight its passengers with lesser-known gems that other tourists may never think to explore.

Aside from seeing Italy’s own treasures, La Dolce Vita trains will have three dedicated routes that connect its passengers to other international cities:

Journey between Paris and Rome

Passengers will be treated to a romantic ride through southern France, via Nice, and along the lush French and Italian coasts. Part of the modern-day route will cross with Nagelmackers’s historical route that initially linked Italy to England in 1883.

Orient Express
Rendering of a sleek restaurant on the Orient Express La Dolce Vita. Photo: Dimorestudio.

Head east to Istanbul

The route begins in Rome — rich in history and La Dolce Vita inspiration. Headed for Venice, you’ll course north and join the original Orient Express route that continues eastward to the storied city of Istanbul.

Chase the Dalmatian coast to Split

You will travel from Rome to Croatia via Venice, and embark on a portion of the original Orient Express route while in northern Italy. Croatia’s Dalmatian coast provides views of sun-soaked islands that eventually lead to Split — a town known for its enthralling palace and bustling seaside promenade.

With reservations set to open in June 2022 for travel starting in 2023, we expect further details regarding itineraries and other logistics to be revealed in the coming months. You may just have to add the Orient Express La Dolce Vita to your Italian travel bucket list for 2023.