Italy is a wonderful addition to a broader European vacation, but a trip that focuses solely on Italy can easily be justified as well. From the majesty of Rome to the romance of Venice, few countries can match the history, the scenic beauty, the cultural richness of Italy. There’s certainly no risk of running out of places to go and things to see.
If you are lucky enough to visit Italy, a great way to get to know the country is to travel by train. Italy has a very well developed passenger rail system.
Let’s first learn a little more about your options for train travel in Italy, before noting a few of the attractions you’ll want to be sure to see on your journey.
There are multiple types of trains in Italy. The Eurostar is for the most rapid travel between major cities. It is the most expensive of the trains, and requires reservations.
The Intercity and Intercity Plus trains service a few more destinations than the Eurostar, and are fast but not quite as fast as the Eurostar. They are divided into first and second class, with second class a lot more likely to be full to the point of being quite crowded. Reservations are required for the Intercity Plus trains.
Regionale trains are Italy’s local trains, used extensively for commuting to and from work or school. Many Regionale trains will be very crowded during the busier times of day. Many have only the equivalent of second class, though a few do have a more expensive first class section where you’re more likely to be able to get a seat, if you don’t mind paying extra.
An important thing to know when traveling by train in Italy is that it is your responsibility to validate your ticket before you board the train. This means that you insert your ticket into one of the marked yellow boxes at the train station, which stamps it with the current date and time to indicate the start of its use. If you don’t do this, then you can get in trouble if and when a conductor on your train asks to see your ticket. An unvalidated ticket is one that can be used again, so getting caught with one can bring a heavy fine.
In order to learn more about trains in Italy, check maps, check schedules, make reservations, etc., visit Trenitalia.
Chances are you’ll do fine on the trains, and they’ll take you where you want to go. But where is that? What are some good destinations to include on your itinerary?
Of course everyone knows the uniqueness of Venice, the famous city of canals, gondolas, and gondoliers.
However you may picture it though, it’s not as if Venice doesn’t have plenty of normal streets. It’s not all water travel to get from place to place within the city; you can do a great deal of exploring on foot.
So in addition to the obligatory ride in a gondola, check out some of Venice’s most famous attractions, including the Basilica di San Marco, the Galleria dell’Accademia, the Palazzo Ducale, and the Rialto Bridge. You may never be in a better place for seafood, so be sure to sample some of the fresh fish from the Adriatic at one of Venice’s many fine restaurants, or at an open air fish and produce market.
Much of the best sightseeing in Bologna is around the 13th century Piazza Maggiore. There you can visit attractions such as the Palazzo del Podesta with its Arengo Tower, Giambologna’s great statue of Neptune, the Palazzo d’Accursio and its statue of Pope Gregory XIII out front, the Basilica of San Petronia, and the Palazzo dei Notai. Bologna is also well known for its active night life.
If you have the time for any side trips by train while in the Bologna area, some of the more attractive possibilities are Ferrara, Parma, and Ravenna. Ravenna is known for its many beautiful mosaics, dating back to the earliest periods of Christian art.
Florence is one of the great art cities of the world. At the Uffizi Gallery, you can see Botticelli’s Primavera and Birth of Venus. Michelangelo’s David is at the Galleria dell’Accademia.
Also not to be missed are the Piazza del Duomo, the Medici Chapels, and the church of Santa Croce, plus you’ll certainly want to see the magnificent panoramic view of the city from the Piazzale Michelangelo.
Yes, there’s the Leaning Tower, which you’ll want to visit. (But hurry; some experts predict that if no methods to stabilize it are successful, it could fall over in 75-100 years.) There’s more to Pisa than just the Tower though, including the Duomo, the Battistero, and the Baptistry, as well as a walk along the scenic Arno River.
For a side trip in the area, consider taking the train to nearby Lucca, an historically fascinating walled medieval city.
Any trip to Italy must include the Eternal City. If possible, devote extra days to Rome, as you’ll have no problem filling them. A very partial list of the sites worth visiting would include the Sistine Chapel, St. Peter’s Basilica and Square, the Pantheon, the Colosseum, the Forum, the Capitolene Museums, the Piazza Navona, and the Trevi Fountain. And that’s not even counting restaurants and night life.
Enjoy Italy by train. A great place to visit, and a great way to do it.
Martha Bakerjian, “Italy Train Travel-Tips on Riding Italian Trains.” About.com.
“Building an Italy Itinerary: Tips for First-Timers.” Fodor’s.
“Italy Tourist Attractions.” Vacation Idea.