Rail Journeys

Rail Wonders Of Sardinia And Corsica

Tour Date: 2 to 11 October 2024
Location: Italy, France

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 the best sections are still open for tourist trains (and charter hire).

Our tour of Sardinia gives you the chance to travel over every open railway line on the island, both standard and narrow gauge, and includes the two tramway systems.

Corsica, the fourth largest island in the Mediterranean is also called “The island of beauty”; a veritable mountain in the sea and an island of strong character. Just look at the wild and rugged natural environment and the island’s tumultuous history. We start our tour in Pisa and tour the sights before travelling to Corsica and its narrow-gauge lines.

Tour Highlights

  • Historic cities
  • Great scenery
  • Vintage trains
  • Good hotels
  • Stunning narrow gauge railways
  • Plenty of off-train options

Tour Itinerary

PISA and CORSICA (Pre-tour option)

Pisa straddles the River Arno just before it empties into the Tyrrhenian Sea. Although known worldwide for its Leaning Tower, the city of over 90,000 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 guided tour of the main sites in the morning leaving the afternoon free for your own exploration.

We travel by charter bus to Livorno where we board a Corsica Ferries ferry for the four hour crossing from Livorno to Bastia. Short transfer to hotel.

Livorno port

Bastia is the principal port of the island and 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.

Bastia port

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 and before long we are travelling 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 which is considered to be the most pleasant region of the island.

Ponte Leccia
The railway follows the beach into Calvi

Today we travel by service train from Bastia to Ajaccio, the Corsican capital city. The train crosses the island, winding round the mountains, crossing some superb bridges and passing through 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 arrive in Ajaccio in time for lunch and a free afternoon exploring this pretty town. Overnight in Ajaccio.

The train from Bastia to Ajaccio passes through spectacular scenery
The attractive and classy resort of Ajaccio

We transfer by coach to Bonifacio stopping in Sartene for a short visit. Time to visit Bonifacio old town built on a promontory of white rocks. We board the 15:30 ferry for the one hour crossing of the Bocche di Bonifacio strait to Santa Teresa di Gallura on Sardinia. Coach transfer, of just under an hour, to our hotel near Tempio Pausania to join the main Sardinia group.

Sardinia Itinerary

Nearby is a fascinating narrow-gauge railway line that used to run from Palau on the coast to Sassari. Sadly, only a short section of this line is still open and only for special “green train” rides in the summer months. But it is still an interesting ride and scenic ride. Our narrow gauge loco-hauled vintage train over the line from Arzachena to Tempio Pausania. This will be a special train just for our group.

Tempio Pausania

We can also visit the depot at to see the vintage vehicles that are stored here. Lunch by the Nuraghe Majori after which we have a guided tour of this, one of the 10,000 stone towers built on the Island during the bronze age.  At the time of writing (December 2023) we have had news that the full railway line is to be reopened but we do not know how much will be in time for our visit. Welcome dinner.

Today we transfer to Sassari. If the railway line (or part of it) has reopened then we will make as much of the journey as we can by rail. If not then our coach will take us by road to the coast at Punta Tramontana. We will break here for some lunch before driving along the coast (for about 25 minutes) to Sorso. Sorso is at the end of a narrow-gauge branch line from Sassari and we will travel by train from here, at 14:00, to Sassari arriving at 14:15.


Enthusiast option: Visit the Sassari workshop (TBC). Only the outside yard is open for visits, here we will see 2 Breda 1930: Wally and Elsa! The names were given to them by the owner of the railways, count Pasquini, he named them after his 2 lovers! Free time to ride the Sassari tram system end-to-end and after time for lunch travel the lines to Porto Torres Marittima. Cultural Option: Our bus and a professional guide will take us to Santissima Trinità di Sarcargia, the most important Romanesque site on the island and dating from 1116. If there is time we will also visit Nuraghe S. Antine. We return to Sassari and have a 2-hour guided city tour. Evening train to Alghero for the first of our two nights at the excellent Hotel Alma di Alghero.

Enthusiasts: Catch the 10:20 train south from Sassari, on the standard gauge line to the junction at Ozieri-Chilivani a 45 minute journey. Returning on the same train to Sassari arriving 11:50. Culture option: Free morning for your own relaxation. Everyone: has free time for lunch and to check out of the hotels before we take the 13:50 train along the branch line to Alghero, a pretty city at the seaside with the rest of the afternoon and evening for your relaxation. A visit to the caves at Grotta di Nettuno is recommended. We stay at Hotel Alma di Alghero.

Grotta di Nettuno

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 train to Sindia and then by bus to Macomer, (Dec 2023 – we are told the whole Bosa to Macomer line will reopen in time for our visit) 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 should consist of diesel loco type LDe in brown livery with a parcels coach and a beautifully restored “bauchiero” coach dating from 1913 made from varnished wood. The journey starts virtually “on the level” along the coast for a while and then twists and turns for a considerable distance to gain height, still giving splendid views of the coast. Lunch will be in a local restaurant in Macomer. Overnight in Macomer.

Vintage train near Bosa

Then we board a narrow guage train (at 12:25) to on the pretty branch line to Nuoro. A journey of around and hour and a half. We have two hours in Nouro for exploration and lunch (own cost). Nuoro is called the “Sardinian Athens” by locals because of its continuous, eternal cycle of cultural innovations and constant change. It’s located in the heart of the Sardinian mountains, in the Barbagia area, and will leave you stunned by its beauty and unique atmosphere. After three hours we return to Macomer, arriving 18:20. Timings based on the 2023 timetable.

Old steam loco at Macomer

After breakfast we leave Macomer by coach we head south (for about 50 minutes) to the village of Samugheo – the “capital” of textiles craft, and is also famous for its ancient buildings, beautiful landscapes, carnival and bread-making traditions. We have an hour here for a comfort break before we continue by coach (another 50 minutes) to Mandas. We aim to arrive by 12:00 giving time for lunch before we catch the narrow gauge train at 13:34 south to the city of Caglairi (arriving 15:07) where our 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 2,000 years; today, it has a still-busy, working port and a large student population, grand boulevards, neo-Gothic palaces and art-nouveau cafés.


We start today with a visit to the small FS (or standard gauge) railway museum. We will also visit the narrow-gauge museum if it has reopened (it has been closed for repairs). We arrive 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 located on a peninsula and the ruins function as an open-air museum with mosaics and the remains of the amphitheatre and several buildings. We return to Cagliari for lunch and then a guided tour of the old city with a professional local guide.

Cagliari port

Today we ride the FS lines in the area, using service trains Cagliari – Carbonia – Villamassargia – Iglesias – Cagliari. There is not much to see in Carbonia but we will have a break in the Iglesias. Iglesias is the most important town in the region, characterized by its many churches and its traditions linked to the medieval folklore. It’s a lovely place to explore, The vibe is great, and while it has a lot to offer – it’s a great base to explore the southwestern coast of Sardinia – it remains humble and not nearly as touristy as other places on the island. You can spend as long as you like here before taking one of the hourly trains back to Cagliari. For those who want to, there is a mining museum near Carbonia that we can visit.

We take the FS service train from Cagliari to Golfo Aranci, a four-hour ride from the south to the north of the island, then transfer by road from Golfo Aranci to Olbia airport for the evening flights back to Gatwick (direct) or Manchester (via Munich). For those flying back to Heathrow or Bristol you have a night in Golfo Aranci before your direct flights from Olbia on Wednesday 12 October. Gatwick and Manchester customers can opt for an extra night here should you wish. Flights to Gatwick are at 10:25 or 17:10 and to Manchester there is a direct flight with Jet2 at 10:35 but is quite expensive.

Train approaching Golfo Aranci

Prices & Options

Holiday Prices (per person)

  • 11-day Sardinia holiday from London Gatwick, Bristol or Manchester: £2,250
  • Own travel to and from Sardinia: £1,995
  • 7-day Pisa and Corsica holiday from London Gatwick: £1,475
  • Own travel to Pisa (or joining from Sardinia): £1,275
  • Combined 17-day trip from Gatwick, Bristol or Manchester: £3,475


  • Single room Supplement (Sardinia at Main Hotel): £420
  • Single room Supplement (Sardinia at Alternative Hotels): £195
  • Single room Supplement (Corsica at Main Hotel): £310
  • Single room Supplement (Corsica at Alternative Hotels): £120
  • Overland from St Pancras: POA


  • Travelling by air: £500
  • Travelling overland: £1,000
  • Own travel: £300

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



  • 1 October for 2 nights: Hotel Pisa Tower


  • 3 October for 4 nights: Hotel Port Toga


  • 7 October for 2 nights: Hotel Palau, Palau
  • 9 October for 1 night: Hotel Vittorio Emanuele, Sassari
  • 10 October for 2 nights: Hotel Alma di Alghero
  • 12 October for 2 nights: Hotel La Bitta, Arbatax
  • 14 October for 4 nights: Hotel Regina Margherita, Cagliali


Direct flights from Bristol, Heathrow, Gatwick and Manchester with Easyjet.