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Train from Rome to Catania - A Reasonable Alternative for Jet Lag?

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I have been forewarned about wasting my time on the train from Rome to Sicily, but if I want to spend a day sacking out after a long plane ride from the U.S. to Rome with my husband and child rather than trusting a Windjet flight followed by rented car drive to wherever we end up in that area, what is the best strategy for a train ride to Catania from Rome/FCO (flight arrives around 9 a.m Rome time)? Should I book ahead or trust that on 11/17 I will not have to fight for a sleeper (but in any event, how to book now)? What are the practical logistics of this adventure? Horror stories and success stories welcome.

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