Belmond, the luxury hotel, train, and river cruise company, has had a very big 2023, including announcing the return of the iconic Eastern & Oriental Express and the debut of two new Grand Suites aboard the celebrated Royal Scotsman. And after the addition of a new route from Paris to the French Alps, the company’s lavish Venice Simplon-Orient-Express will soon be welcoming an exciting new rail itinerary that will whisk travelers from Paris to Portofino, Italy, for the first time in the brand’s more than four-decade history. Apropos of such an extravagant experience, the tour will also include a two-night stay at Belmond’s palatial Splendido hotel and a gala dinner hosted by one of Paris’s most acclaimed chefs. Here’s everything you need to know about the epic rail journey.
The Venice Simplon-Orient-Express Paris to Portofino itinerary
The new trip will kick off in Paris on June 20, 2024. Guests will be picked up from their accommodations in Paris and brought to Paris Gare de l’Est station, where they’ll board and settle into their cabins or suites on the Venice Simplon-Orient-Express train.
Onboard the train, guests have three room choices. Most of the train consists of Historic Cabins, which feature a daytime lounge that transforms into upper and lower berth beds at night and a sink; full bathrooms are at the end of each carriage. There are also 16 suites (8 of which will be added in 2024) that offer twin or double beds and a marble en suite bathroom. Finally, there are 6 Grand Suites, each with a unique design that pays homage to a European capital city (think Moorish lamps and detailing in the Istanbul Grand Suite and baroque flourishes in the Vienna Grand Suite). Each Grand Suite has a queen-size bed, a marble en suite bathroom (with brass showers and a blown-glass sink), a separate lounging area, and a private bar with unlimited champagne.
As you pull out of the station, stewards will come by with pastries and coffee to enjoy while the train click-clicks down the tracks, through the countryside, and past the cities of Dijon, Lyon, and Avignon.
That evening, guests will make their way to one of the three restaurant cars—Côte d’Azur, L’Oriental, or Étoile du Nord—for a meal overseen by chef Jean Imbert, whose Paris restaurant, Jean Imbert au Plaza Athénée, earned a Michelin star. There’s no word yet about what the dining experience will entail, but according to Belmond, it will “pay respect to the regions and cultures touched on the journey and reinvigorate time-honored classics with a modern twist.” Fittingly, given that the train will travel through celebrated wine regions like Burgundy, each course will be accompanied by a wine chosen by the train’s sommelier.
After dinner, passengers can choose to retire to their rooms or spend time in the Bar Car, known as 3674, where The Uppertones, a three-piece band, will play swing and calypso music late into the evening.
The following morning, guests will wake up in southern France and will be able to enjoy a leisurely continental breakfast in their cabins as the train passes Cannes, Nice, and then crosses into Monte Carlo, Monaco. Then it will pass a border once again into Italy, where the train will hug the coast and cruise by Ventimiglia, Savona, and Genoa. In the afternoon, the journey will conclude in Santa Margherita Ligure, a fishing village–turned–coastal resort just three miles from Portofino.
The Italian portion of the trip continues at Splendido, which is also under the Belmond umbrella.
Staying at Splendido
Perched on the hills overlooking Portofino and the Gulf of Tigullio, this former 16th-century Benedictine monastery is now a seaside resort that offers 70 rooms and suites that have welcomed the likes of Elizabeth Taylor, Humphrey Bogart, and Liza Minnelli.
With two full days at Splendido, guests will have time to enjoy the amenities, including a dip in the new saltwater pool that overlooks the harbor, a visit to the spa for an open-air massage, a walk through the tropical garden, or a meal at the two on-site restaurants, Splendido Grill and La Terrazza. The latter is where chef Imbert will host a five-course tasting menu on the first night in Portofino.
Off property, the Abbey of San Fruttuoso, Paraggi Beach, and Castello Brown are popular nearby attractions, as is La Piazzetta, the historic main square in town, where on the final night, guests will be invited to a private film screening.
Fares start at £7,920 (US$10,000 based on current conversion rates) for two guests sharing a Historic Cabin on the Venice Simplon-Orient-Express and a garden view room at Splendido. Rates include complimentary transfers in Paris and Portofino, all meals and wine pairings aboard the train, a dedicated steward service, two nights at Splendido, and the gala dinner at Splendido’s La Terrazza restaurant. For now, the three-night itinerary is only offered once a year. Tickets can be purchased at belmond.com.