Insider tips for best exploring Italy by rail.
Rail travel in Italy has been transformed over the last 20 years by the opening of new high-speed routes. Competitive pricing, slick and stylish trains - such as the high-speed Frecciarossa and Frecciargento operated by Trenitalia - give travellers fantastic options for rail trips. In our recent Great Train Comparison report, Trenitalia was shown to be the best rail operator in Europe for providing business class service. If you fancy a first class treatment, try their Business and Executive Classes and experience why they came out on top in this category - think locally sourced food, free movies and meeting rooms available onboard the long-distance Frecce.
We’ve pulled together some ideas for rail trips throughout Italy this summer focusing on the unique food events and ‘sagre’ - from the Latin word “sacrum” - where you can savour local products or dishes. Sagre are mostly outside of the big cities and several of them also offer live music, performances, and street arts.
London to Turin
Turin is a major industrial city in the shadow of the Alps and can be reached from London in 9 hours. This one-time capital of the Duchy of Savoy is now one of Italy’s leading cities to visit. You’ll find stunning architecture, lavish street markets and enough designer shops to empty your wallet.
Villastellone - Sagra dello Spiedino
A short 14 minute trip on a local Trenitalia train from Turin will take you to Villastellone. From 22 to 24 July 2018 they host a Sagra dello Spiedino, a local food festival where you can taste skewers of all types: mixed meat, roast mutton, seafood, mixed fruit, and veg. The skewers will be served in pavilions with table service. In the central square, there will be musical entertainment and dancing.
Florence to Lucca
Travelling by rail in Tuscany immediately sounds like a good idea. Tuscany has all the ingredients you could wish for in making the perfect summer. Florence has a galaxy of palaces, galleries and museums, each housing a collection of world-class art. Make sure you make time for the famous Galleria degli Uffizi, the former barracks and prison, Bargello, and the Palazzo Vecchio.
Florence to Lucca takes just over an hour with the Trenitalia Regionale services. The walled city of Lucca gives a very different feel to Florence being quieter and distinctly more rural. A city on the Serchio river, known for the well-preserved Renaissance walls encircling its historic city centre and its cobblestone streets. You’ll find tree-lined pathways and handsome piazzas and shady promenades make it a perfect destination to explore by foot during a day trip from neighboring Florence.
Lucca - Desco Food Festival
For three weeks from 18 November 2018, the Il Desco food festival comes to town and aims to showcase the very best flavours and ingredients of Tuscany with a local-twist from Lucca itself. From desserts, to local wine, to fresh salads made with veg grown a stone's throw away, the festival - on each day of the week - really has it all.
Naples to Palermo
Hitting the rails to Sicily might not be your first thought when you think of a train trip to Italy. It’s actually rather easy and highly recommended as the island is well connected by rail. It has direct Trenitalia Intercity trains from Naples, Rome, Genoa and Milan Palermo Centrale. From Naples, Intercity trains run twice daily and are shipped on a ferry over the Strait of Messina. Tickets are normally available from £27.00 and the fabulous coastal trip takes just over nine hours.
Palermo, the capital of Sicily and Italy’s fifth largest city, is in the spotlight in 2018 for being Italy's designated capital of culture. The city’s striking architecture gives it a unique feel, many visitors will continue to come back and explore what is one of the country’s most fascinating locations.
Trapani - Stragusto Street Food Festival
If you travel to Sicily between 25 and 29 July 2018, you’ll be able to attend the Stragusto Street Food Festival in Trapani. The city is around 4 hours away from Palermo as you skirt around Sicily on a Trenitalia local service. You’ll find a festival that celebrates the street food of the Mediterranean. Specialties on offer include: panelle - fried chickpea polenta, arancine - stuffed rice balls, sfincioni, rascadura, focacce, panini cà meusa, dolci, typical trapanese food and more.
Rome to Verona
Italy’s capital is one of the world’s most beautiful cities. You can be sure of finding a world-class collection of art, historic ruins throughout the city and a vibrant buzz to daily life. Travelling from Rome to Verona on a Frecciargento train takes less than three hours and can cost £18.30 if you book in advance. Trenitalia operates a vast high-speed and regional network available to be booked six months in advance! Travellers can buy Super Economy tickets offered by Trenitalia with a 70% reduction on the base everyday fares. There are other year-round promotions offered by the Italian operator, like 2-for-1 travel on Saturdays.
Taste of Roma festival
The four-day Taste of Roma festival starting on 20 September 2018 opens up some of the city’s finest restaurants offering tasting sessions and cooking lessons. You will have the chance to learn some of the secrets behind top-class Italian cooking!
For a day trip from Rome, head to Sperlonga - a coastal town that’s halfway between Rome and Naples. The Trenitalia Regionale service takes just over an hour, heading for Sperlonga by train will delight any beach-lover. There are a series of short beaches and rocky cliffs on its east side towards Gaeta - another place worth exploring for a day trip from Rome.
Verona to Lake Garda
Verona is a major trading and commercial centre in the Adige Valley in Veneto, northern Italy. Shakespeare and Verdi both did their bits to put this city on the map - and rightly so. The opera festival at the famous Verona Arena is one not to be missed if you visit Romeo’s and Juliet’s city. Verdi’s Aida has become synonymous with the local summer.
From Verona, enjoy a day trip to Lake Garda by heading to Desenzano del Garda/Sirmione which is only a 20-minute hop on a Trenitalia local train. Lake Garda is less than 30 minutes walk from the station. This is the largest lake in Italy known for its crystal clear water. Close to the shore of the lake, explore the beautiful lakeside town of Sirmione. It’s known for its thermal baths and Rocca Scaligera, a medieval castle overlooking the lake.
Veleggio Sul Mincio - Tortellini e Dintorni Festival
Near Lake Garda, the territory of Valeggio hosts three days of Tortellini e Dintorni. From 1 September 2018, you will have the opportunity to taste the delicious wines and tortellini-based dishes that this area can offer while also enjoying unique landscapes.
Buone vacanze e buon viaggio with Trenitalia!
Photo credits top to bottom: Frecciarossa ©Trenitalia, Turin San Carlo Square iStock ©Alessandro Cristiano, Lucca, Tuscany iStock ©tupungato, Colorful streets of Naples, Italy iStock ©javarman3, St. Peter's cathedral over bridge iStock © neirfy, Calles de Sperlonga ©Facundo Ratti, Beautiful old streets of Verona, Veneto region, Italy ©Olena_Znak, Wild swimming ©Michele Tameni.
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