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Italy Travel Guide

Last Updated: November 17, 2023

A beautiful view overlooking the city of Florence, Italy, with its stunning red roofs and mountains in the background

Italy is one of Europe’s most iconic and popular destinations. Home to incredible food, fabulous wine, tons of ancient ruins, undying romance, and picturesque landscapes, it should come as no surprise that this is one of the most sought-after travel destinations in the world.

I’ve been visiting since 2006 and I never tire of it.

The vineyards in Tuscany, history in Florence , ancient streets of Rome , gorgeous views and hills Cinque Terre , romantic canals in Venice — I love it all.

Italy is best experienced slowly so pace yourself. Soak in the atmosphere and way of life as you explore. Italians move slowly and enjoy la dolce vita and so should you! Relax, take in the scenery, enjoy a cappuccino or a glass of wine. The slower you go, the better you’ll be able to appreciate the charms and nuance of this iconic southern European gem.

This travel guide to Italy can help you plan your trip, save money, and make the most of your time here.

Table of Contents

  • Things to See and Do
  • Typical Costs
  • Suggested Budget
  • Money-Saving Tips
  • Where to Stay
  • How to Get Around
  • How to Stay Safe
  • Best Places to Book Your Trip
  • Related Blogs on Italy

Click Here for City Guides

Top 5 things to see and do in italy.

View over colorful town in the Cinque Terre along the coast in Italy.

1. Explore Venice

While crowded, Venice is an astounding place to visit. I love the city’s iconic architecture and picturesque canals. Don’t miss the Piazza San Marco, Doge’s Palace, Rialto Bridge, the Basilica San Marco, and the city’s countless museums. Moreover, be sure to head to the old Jewish Ghetto for hip bars and cheap drinks (the English word ghetto comes from this area of Venice). Venice is also home to several world-class festivals. In late winter, the epic Carnival takes place here and, in August, the prestigious Venice Film Festival takes over the nearby island of Lido. If you have time, be sure to explore the neighboring islands on a day tour. They are charming in their own right.

2. Wander Rome

Rome has so much to see and do that you’ll need to make several trips to even scratch the surface. Besides obvious highlights like the Colosseum, Forum, Palatine Hill, and Trevi Fountain, make sure you explore the Trastevere neighborhood. It’s my favorite area in Rome and feels almost like a village inside a big city. Trastevere offers delicious food, funky bars, and ancient winding streets. I love the family pizzerias and cafes here for people-watching and the gelato. Vatican City, the smallest independent city-state in the world, is nestled within the heart of Rome and is home to the Pope, St. Peter’s Basilica, the Sistine Chapel, and many fantastic museums. You can fill an endless amount of time here so don’t try to rush your visit!

3. Tour Pompeii

Located a 20-40-minute train ride from Naples , Pompeii is an ancient city that was destroyed by a volcano, preserving it in a blanket of ash still frozen in time. Walk around the Roman city as it stood the day that Mount Vesuvius exploded in 79 CE, moving in and out of homes, villas, baths, and businesses where pots and vases still lay. What really struck me was entering the houses and seeing that the fountains and most of the beautiful frescoes are still intact. Admission is 16 EUR while a guided tour with a professional archeologist is 50 EUR. It’s a huge site and will take a full day to visit in depth.

4. Hike the Cinque Terre

The Cinque Terre consists of five colorful coastal villages on the west coast of Italy, backed by steep vineyards and mountains. These small towns are by no means undiscovered by tourists but still absolutely beautiful and teeming with great shops and cafes. Each village has its own unique charm and personality so be sure to visit all of them. I absolutely love the fun hikes in the stunning hills high above the sea between the villages that range in difficulty. The Cinque Terre express train makes it super easy to pop around to the different villages if you don’t want to hike between the towns. Trail #7 is my favorite.

5. Relax on the Amalfi Coast

Other things to see and do in italy, 1. party at the venice carnival.

Carnival is ten days of masquerade madness every February leading up to Mardi Gras. The tradition goes back centuries, starting in the 12th century and reaching the height of popularity in the 18th century. Today, it’s one of the biggest festivals in Italy, with millions of people attending every year. The iconic and diverse masks are a central part of the festivities and every year there is a contest for the most beautiful mask. If you want to splash out, you can even attend a traditional masquerade ball! Just be sure to book your accommodation early as the city fills up months in advance.

2. Explore Milan

Milan is the fashion capital of Italy. Spend some time taking in the glamor but don’t spend more than a day or two here unless you’re looking to splash out. While you’re here, don’t miss the beautiful Milan Cathedral, which boasts 3,500 statues, 135 spires, and five bronze doors. Sforzesco Castle, a 15th-century castle that houses Michelangelo’s last sculpture, is also worth a visit. There’s also Leonardo da Vinci’s The Last Supper , located inside Santa Maria delle Grazie church (which is itself a UNESCO World Heritage Site) as well as Leonardo’s Horse, one of the largest equine statues in the world. To get away from the crowds, spend some time relaxing in Parco Sempione, Milan’s most famous city park. It’s a vast oasis of green space and perfect for a picnic when the weather is nice.

3. See the Leaning Tower in Pisa

The entire city of Pisa is focused on taking photos of this famed tower. Started in 1173 and finished in 1399, it’s the bell tower of Pisa’s cathedral, located next door. Although it was meant to be perfectly vertical, the tower started leaning during construction due to the weight of the building on an unstable foundation. Admission to the top is 20 EUR or 27 EUR for a ticket that includes all the monuments in the complex. DiscoveryPisa runs a guided tour of all three sites for 30 EUR if you want a more in-depth experience.

4. Visit Siena

Everyone who visits Siena walks away loving it. Located in Tuscany, it’s one of the best-preserved medieval cities in Italy and boasts a labyrinth of lanes gathered around the arena of Piazza del Campo. Spend a few days admiring this charming city and exploring one of Italy’s most popular and famous regions. The main draw to the city is the stunning Siena Cathedral, which was constructed with white and black marble and is one of the most beautiful cathedrals in the country (the interior is massive and ornately decorated and lined by huge columns). Be sure to also visit the Torre del Mangia, a narrow 14th-century tower that offers stunning views of the area, as well as the 14th-century Fonte Gaia fountain, which is decorated by centuries-old marble panels.

5. Wander Naples

Naples , made famous as the birthplace of pizza, is a gritty city home to a wealth of historical treasures. There’s the medieval Naples Cathedral, the 18th-century Villa Comunale Park, and nearby Naples , Pompeii , one of the most amazing and important sites to visit in the country. The Archaeological Museum of Naples is also worth a visit, and if you enjoy hiking you can climb up the iconic Mount Vesuvius. Naples is the gateway to the south so you’re very likely to come here if you’re crisscrossing the country. Its location near Pompeii, Capri, and Sorrento makes it the perfect starting point for exploring the region. Best of all, it’s a foodie city like no other; I ate my weight in pizza during my visit!

6. Explore Florence

There’s no real need to explain why one should visit Florence — the city speaks for itself. Everything people say about it is true: great food, amazing museums, ancient buildings, small streets, awesome gelato. The city has it all. Be sure to visit The Uffizi, which holds the world’s most important collection of Renaissance art (including the The Birth of Venus and La Primavera by Botticelli, Bacchus by Caravaggio, and Doni Tondo by Michelangelo). The famous David statue is also in Florence, housed in the Galleria dell’Accademia. It’s one of the most impressive sculptures in the world and at 5.17 meters (17 feet) tall, it’s a lot bigger and more detailed than you think it would be! While here, make sure you take a few wine tours throughout the region to get a feel for the verdant countryside.

7. Drive around “the Heel”

Few travelers ever visit the southern heel of the Italian “boot.” But, if you have time, it’s worth the trip. This is where most of the fruits and vegetables in Italy come from so a trip down here will give you the best glimpse into rustic Italian life far from the maddening crowds of Rome and Italy’s other tourist hotspots. Don’t miss the picturesque Polignano a Mare, with its rugged cliffs and white-washed houses. Gallipoli, with its labyrinth of narrow lanes and historic port, is also worth visiting. There are tons of amazing beaches in this part of the country too, including Marina di Pescoluse (Salento), Cala Porto (Polignano a Mare), and Torre Guaceto (Brindisi).

8. Eat your way around Sicily

There’s Italian culture and then there’s Sicily. Sicily has its own unique cooking style, traditions, and customs. It’s unlike the rest of Italy. Be sure to spend some time in Taormina and Palermo (the capital of Sicily). The UNESCO Valley of the Temples is also in Sicily, a national park home to incredible Greek ruins that are over 2,000 years old. Don’t miss the stunning Mount Etna , an active volcano that you can ski on it in the winter or take a tour of the top in the summer.

9. Stroll through Sorrento

Sorrento is a small city in southwestern Italy surrounded by a dreamy landscape of rolling hills, deep valleys, and the Lattari Mountains. There’s not a lot to do in the town itself but Sorrento makes an ideal starting point for numerous excursions to nearby cities and islands around the famous Amalfi Coast, like Capri and Ischia. I especially love driving along the winding coastal roads overlooking the sea. Don’t miss a visit to the nearby Blue Grotto .

10. Attend Settimana Santa (Holy Week)

This is the last week of Lent, known as Holy Week. During this time, there are several processions throughout Italy, drawing crowds of thousands. Throughout the week, there are various gatherings in Puglia, Abruzzo, and Sicily but the major event occurs on Easter Sunday and is led by the Pope himself. It’s an amazing time to visit, but expect huge crowds and for accommodation to sell out months in advance.

11. Visit Alberobello

A UNESCO World Heritage Site, this is an interesting and picturesque little town just south of Bari (a port city on the Adriatic Sea) known for its unusual white cone-shaped houses (they’re super peculiar). It’s well worth a visit between the months of November and April (to avoid the flocks of tourists) as there are a couple of museums to peruse, in addition to some great restaurants, bars, and markets.

12. Tour the Vatican Museums

Founded in the early 16th century, it is a complex of museums spanning over 12 acres. There are so many priceless highlights, including Michelangelo’s works in the Sistine Chapel. You could easily spend hours here. Consider getting a guide to make the museum come to life. Admission is 17 EUR and skip-the-line guided tours with Get Your Guide cost 50 EUR. For a more unique experience, check out the

13. See Chiesa di Sant’Efisio

When you find yourself in Cagliari on Sardinia, wander over to the Stampace quarter to see this church. Dedicated to the patron Saint Ephisius, this is the most important church in the city. The original building dates to the 13th century, though it was rebuilt and expanded in the 16th century and then again in the 18th century, this time in the Baroque style. Admission is free.

14. Take a cooking class

Italy is a dream destination for foodies and the best way to learn about this amazing cuisine is to take a cooking class . You’ll get to visit a local market, learn about the history of some of the country’s best dishes, and then learn how to make them yourself so you can impress friends and family back home. You can find cooking classes all over the country. They are very common. Prices vary depending on what city you take a class in, but most cost at least 70 EUR and last a few hours.

15. Take a walking tour

Walks of Italy offers incredible, detailed tours all around the country. They are my favorite tour company in the country. And they are relatively inexpensive and you definitely get your money’s worth. If you are big into history, culture, or architecture these tours are for you. You’ll walk away with a much richer understanding of the country. Don’t miss them.

For information on specific cities in Italy, check out these city guides:

  • Cinque Terre Travel Guide
  • Florence Travel Guide
  • Milan Travel Guide
  • Naples Travel Guide
  • Pisa Travel Guide
  • Rome Travel Guide
  • Sorrento Travel Guide
  • Venice Travel Guide

Italy Travel Costs

Colorful buildings along the canal in Burano, an island near Venice, Italy.

Accommodation – Hostel dorms average 27-40 EUR per night for rooms with 6-8 beds. Private rooms are usually between 55-100 EUR per night. Free Wi-Fi is standard and most hostels also have self-catering facilities and include breakfast. During the summer months, expect prices to double. In Rome and Florence, prices throughout the year are about 20% higher than anywhere else.

For those traveling with a tent, campgrounds are available around the country, usually costing between 15-30 EUR per night for a basic plot for two people.

A night in a two-star budget hotel ranges between 70-125 EUR per night. Expect basic amenities like free Wi-Fi, TV, AC, and occasionally free breakfast. Prices are on the higher end in cities like Rome and Venice and also double during the summer.

On Airbnb, private rooms start around 45-90 EUR, while entire apartments usually start around 100-150 EUR. Expect prices on the higher end in hotspots like Rome and Venice. Prices can also double (or triple) when not booked in advance. Additionally, expect even higher prices in the busy summer months.

Food – Italian cuisine is beloved around the world, though every region in Italy offers its own distinct flavor. Tomatoes, pasta, olives, and olive oil form the backbone of most dishes, with meat, fish and various cheeses rounding out the menu. Gelato and pizza, of course, are also super popular. Some traditional dishes include bigoli in salsa (pasta in anchovy sauce), risotto al nero di seppia (risotto with cuttlefish ink), gnocchi alla Sorrentina (potato gnocchi), cassoeula (a meat and cabbage stew), and tagliatelle funghi porcini e tartufo (pasta with mushrooms and truffles).

A casual restaurant meal of pizza or pasta usually costs 10-20 EUR. In tourist hot spots, add 5-10 EUR to that.

Quick eats like pizza by the slice, paninis, and light snacks cost between 3-8 EUR. Snacks like croissants are less than 2 EUR.

Fast food (think McDonald’s) costs around 8-10 EUR for a combo meal while Chinese, Thai, or Indian food is 10-12 EUR for a main dish. Dessert is usually around 4-8 EUR for something like tiramisu.

Your average restaurant meal costs around 30 EUR with a drink. Most main dishes cost around 15-20 EUR while a pizza is around 10-15 EUR. For higher-end meals, expect to spend about 70 EUR for a three-course meal with a drink.

Beer costs around 4-5 EUR while a glass of wine costs 4-8 EUR. For non-alcoholic drinks, a latte or cappuccino is around 1.50 EUR and bottled water is 1 EUR.

If you plan on cooking your own groceries, expect to spend 50-65 EUR per week. This gets you basic staples like pasta, rice, seasonal produce, and some meat or fish.

Backpacking Italy Suggested Budgets

If you’re backpacking Italy, my suggested budget is 60 EUR per day. This assumes you’re staying in a hostel, cooking all your meals, limiting your drinking, taking public transportation to get around, and sticking to mostly free activities like hiking, free walking tours, and the beaches. If you plan on drinking a lot, add at least 15 EUR to your daily budget.

On a mid-range budget of 140 EUR per day, you can stay in an Airbnb or budget hotel, eat out for a couple of meals, enjoy a few drinks, take the occasional taxi, and do more paid activities like touring the Colosseum or exploring Pompeii.

On an upscale budget of 255 EUR or more per day, you can stay in a budget hotel, eat out for all your meals, drink as much as you want, rent a car, and do whatever tours and activities you want. This isn’t a real luxury budget but it’s a budget that affords you the ability to do anything you want. If you want real luxury, you’ll need to read a different blog for that!

You can use the chart below to get an idea of how much you need to budget daily, depending on your travel style. Keep in mind these are daily averages — some days you’ll spend more, some days you’ll spend less (you might spend less every day). I just want to give you a general idea of how to make your budget. Prices are in EUR.

Italy Travel Guide: Money-Saving Tips

It’s very easy to break the bank in Italy, owing to all the historic sites, expensive accommodation, and delicious but pricey restaurants. After all, Italy is one of the most expensive Eurozone countries. You’re going to be spending a lot on a visit here. However, there are still lots of ways to reduce your expenses. Here are some tips to help you save money in Italy:

  • Skip the bread – Many restaurants offer you bread when you sit down — but they don’t mention that it’s not free. If you’re on a budget, decline the bread and save a few Euros each dining experience.
  • Picnic – Head to the store or one of the many markets in the country and grab food for a picnic. It’s cheaper than eating out and you can lounge in one of the many parks to watch the day go by. Food markets are a good place to try things, get fresh cheese and cold cuts, pasta, and snacks like ‘arancini,’ a super-filling rice ball stuffed with meat or cheese.
  • Drink the tap water – When out at a restaurant, ask for tap water or you will automatically get expensive bottled water included on your bill. Since the tap water is safe to drink, bring a reusable water bottle to save money and reduce your plastic use. LifeStraw is my go-to brand as their bottles have built-in filters to ensure your water is always clean and safe.
  • Buy wine at the store – You can buy a great bottle of wine for 6-10 EUR at the store. It’s a lot cheaper than drinking at the bar. Take it outdoors and sit around and enjoy the day/evening or skip expensive nightlife and go out for a long dinner and just drink it at the hostel. Just make sure you have a travel corkscrew on you if you’re going to sit outside somewhere!
  • Take the bus – Budget bus companies like Flixbus can take you across the country for cheap. It isn’t glamorous, but with tickets starting at 6 EUR you really can’t complain! (And it’s cheaper than the train.) Taking the bus in town inside big cities instead of taking taxis everywhere or renting a car will save you lots of money.
  • Take a free walking tour – Most cities in Italy offer free walking tours that cover all the main highlights. It’s the best budget-friendly way to explore and also a great way to meet other travelers if you’re alone. Just be sure to tip your guide at the end!
  • Stay with a local – Accommodation is expensive in Italy, even in the hostels. Use Couchsurfing to stay with locals who have extra beds or couches for free. It’s the best way to save money and meet people. Just be sure to send your requests early (especially in the summer). Also, it’s a good idea to research the area you’re staying in first so you’re not so far away from the city center (or city!) that you need to spend a lot of time/money getting into town to see the sites.
  • Get a city tourist card – Many tourism offices offer tourist cards that provide free or discounted entry to the main attractions. Some even include restaurant discounts and free transportation. If you plan on sightseeing a lot, these cards can cut your costs drastically. Check the local tourism board in each city for info when you arrive.
  • Rideshare – If you’re flexible in your schedule, use the ridesharing service BlaBlaCar to catch rides with locals between cities. I used this service and not only did I save money, I got to meet interesting people and learn more about life in Italy. This is a good option to book a few days in advance. Just make sure to pick someone who has good ratings because newer drivers can have a tendency to be unreliable or cancel at the last minute.

Where to Stay in Italy

There’s a lot of hostels and hotels in Italy to choose from. To help you save money on accommodation, here’s a list of my recommended hostels and budget hotels in Italy:

  • Loly Boutique Hotel (Rome)
  • The Beehive (Rome)
  • Hotel Montecarlo (Venice)
  • Generator (Venice)
  • Hostel of the Sun (Naples)
  • Ulisse Deluxe (Sorrento)
  • Hotel Bologna (Pisa)
  • Hostel Pisa Tower (Pisa)

How to Get Around Italy

High speed train in Italy.

Public transportation – Public transportation is available in all the major cities in Italy (many of which have comprehensive metro systems). Tickets usually cost between 1-2 EUR for a single journey. Some cities also have day passes that offer unlimited travel. In Rome, you can purchase a one-day pass for unlimited travel for 7 EUR. A one-week pass costs 24 EUR, for example. While public transportation is generally reliable, traffic can be a nightmare — especially in Rome.

Train – The best way to get around Italy is via their extensive train network. Prices are affordable too, with most trips costing just 10-30 EUR. Rome to Florence takes just 90 minutes (on the fast train) with tickets starting at 20 EUR. Rome to Venice takes around 4 hours with tickets starting around 30 EUR. Rome to Naples is just over one hour and costs around 20 EUR.

Italo and Trenitalia are the two main rail systems. Tickets on Trenitalia are often a standard price, while Italo’s ticket prices fluctuate more widely. It’s worth it to check both.

Bus – The bus is slower than the train but cheaper, with prices on FlixBus starting as low as 6 EUR. This isn’t the most convenient or fastest way to travel, but the buses are comfortable and good for short and medium journeys. Most buses come with outlets and free Wi-Fi too.

The 4-hour trip from Rome to Florence costs around 7-15 EUR, while a longer trip like Venice to Naples takes 10-15 hours and costs just 20-32 EUR.

Flying – If you’re pressed for time and are looking to jump from one city to the next, a budget airline might be the way to go. Prices can be incredibly low — just 20-100 EUR round trip on airlines like Ryanair.

That said, when you factor in the time spent at airports, you’re likely not going to save much time. Also, keep in mind that you’ll have to pay to check your baggage on these cheap flights and you usually need to print your boarding pass out too (or pay a fee).

Ferry – If you want to visit some of Italy’s amazing islands, you’ll have to book a ferry. Ferries are frequent and you don’t need to book too far in advance, but during peak season it’s a good idea to book at least a few weeks ahead. You can use FerryHopper to find routes and prices. The popular one-hour ferry from Naples to Capri starts from 25 EUR.

Car rental – Car rentals are generally quite affordable here, usually starting around 25-35 EUR per day for a multi-day rental. Just make sure you have an International Driving Permit (IDP) as it’s required before you rent a car. Also, keep in mind that Italian drivers can be on the aggressive side so drive cautiously. For the best rental car deals, use Discover Cars .

When to Go to Italy

There’s no wrong time to visit Italy. Historically, the peak season has been July and August, but post-COVID cities like Rome, Florence, and Venice are busy pretty much year round. Temperatures can soar as high as 36°C (98°F) during the summer, and popular cities like Rome, Venice, and Florence experience a huge influx of visitors. I’d try to avoid visiting in the summer if you can as it’s just too crowded, too hot, and prices increase during this time as well.

Personally, I think the best time to visit Italy is during the shoulder season (March-May and September-October). It’s still warm but the crowds have thinned and prices are lower. This is a particularly great time to hang out in the Mediterranean. Expect daily highs around 22°C (72°F).

Winter is from November to February. It gets cold, and tourist crowds thin out considerably. Temperatures vary quite a bit from north to south, with it sometimes dropping to 2°C (36°F) in Milan and 4°C (39°F) in Rome. On the other hand, November to December is fantastic — you’ll find Christmas markets and festivals galore!

How to Stay Safe in Italy

Italy is a safe country to travel as violent crime against tourists is very rare. However, scams and pickpocketing are common, especially around high-traffic tourist sites in places like Rome and Venice. Always keep your valuables secure and out of sight on public transportation and when out and about. The biggest things to watch out for are pickpockets on public transportation and in crowds. Don’t leave your bag open or put your mobile phone in loose jacket pockets on the tram or subway.

Be wary of people selling discounted tickets on the street. Chances are they are fake so always buy tickets from reputable sellers only. If you take a taxi somewhere, make sure the driver uses the meter so you don’t get ripped off.

If you’re worried about getting ripped off you can read about other common travel scams to avoid here.

Solo female travelers should generally feel safe in Italy, however, the standard precautions apply (never leave your drink unattended at the bar, never walk home alone intoxicated, etc.). Catcalling is not uncommon in Italy. Also, on public transport be mindful of groping on public transport. For specific tips, check out one of the many solo female travel blogs on the country as they will have better advice for you.

If you rent a car, make sure you drive carefully and also have extra insurance. The roads in much of the country are very winding and narrow and drivers here are on the aggressive side.

Natural disasters here are uncommon, but since there are several active volcanoes in the country they can occur. Venice is also prone to flooding, so always be mindful of the weather while you’re here and heed any warnings or advisories.

If you experience an emergency, dial 113 for assistance.

Always trust your gut instinct. Make copies of your personal documents, including your passport and ID. Forward your itinerary along to loved ones so they’ll know where you are.

The most important piece of advice I can offer is to purchase good travel insurance. Travel insurance will protect you against illness, injury, theft, and cancellations. It’s comprehensive protection in case anything goes wrong. I never go on a trip without it as I’ve had to use it many times in the past. You can use the widget below to find the policy right for you:

Italy Travel Guide: The Best Booking Resources

These are my favorite companies to use when I travel. They consistently have the best deals, offer world-class customer service and great value, and overall, are better than their competitors. They are the companies I use the most and are always the starting point in my search for travel deals.

  • Skyscanner – Skyscanner is my favorite flight search engine. They search small websites and budget airlines that larger search sites tend to miss. They are hands down the number one place to start.
  • Hostelworld – This is the best hostel accommodation site out there with the largest inventory, best search interface, and widest availability.
  • Booking.com – The best all around booking site that constantly provides the cheapest and lowest rates. They have the widest selection of budget accommodation. In all my tests, they’ve always had the cheapest rates out of all the booking websites.
  • HostelPass – This new card gives you up to 20% off hostels throughout Europe. It’s a great way to save money. They’re constantly adding new hostels too. I’ve always wanted something like this and glad it finallt exists.
  • Get Your Guide – Get Your Guide is a huge online marketplace for tours and excursions. They have tons of tour options available in cities all around the world, including everything from cooking classes, walking tours, street art lessons, and more!
  • The Man in Seat 61 – This website is the ultimate guide to train travel anywhere in the world. They have the most comprehensive information on routes, times, prices, and train conditions. If you are planning a long train journey or some epic train trip, consult this site.
  • Rome2Rio – This website allows you to see how to get from point A to point B the best and cheapest way possible. It will give you all the bus, train, plane, or boat routes that can get you there as well as how much they cost.
  • FlixBus – Flixbus has routes between 20 European countries with prices starting as low 5 EUR! Their buses include WiFi, electrical outlets, a free checked bag.
  • SafetyWing – Safety Wing offers convenient and affordable plans tailored to digital nomads and long-term travelers. They have cheap monthly plans, great customer service, and an easy-to-use claims process that makes it perfect for those on the road.
  • LifeStraw – My go-to company for reusable water bottles with built-in filters so you can ensure your drinking water is always clean and safe.
  • Unbound Merino – They make lightweight, durable, easy-to-clean travel clothing.
  • Top Travel Credit Cards – Points are the best way to cut down travel expenses. Here’s my favorite point earning credit cards so you can get free travel!
  • Walks of Italy – This walking tour company provides inside access to attractions and places you can’t get elsewhere. Their guides rock and they have some of the best and most insightful tours in all of Italy.
  • BlaBlaCar – BlaBlaCar is a ridesharing website that lets you share rides with vetted local drivers by pitching in for gas. You simply request a seat, they approve, and off you go! It’s a cheaper and more interesting way to travel than by bus or train!

Italy Travel Guide: Related Articles

Want more info? Check out all the articles I’ve written on backpacking/traveling Italy and continue planning your trip:

The 8 Best Hotels in Rome

The 8 Best Hotels in Rome

The Best Walking Tours in Milan

The Best Walking Tours in Milan

The Best Walking Tours in Venice

The Best Walking Tours in Venice

The 4 Best Hostels in Florence Worth Staying At

The 4 Best Hostels in Florence Worth Staying At

Food Tour  Review: My Experience Eating in Bologna

Food Tour Review: My Experience Eating in Bologna

The 24 Best Things to Do in Rome

The 24 Best Things to Do in Rome

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Covid-19: travel information

Considering the epidemiological situation, Italy has foreign travel restrictions in place depending on where you are travelling from/to. 

An interactive questionnaire is available from https://infocovid.viaggiaresicuri.it  to check the rules currently in force regarding travel to and from Italy.

Please find below a list of other useful web pages:

  • Covid-19 Information for travellers  
  • Information for Italian nationals returning to Italy and foreigners in Italy
  • Information from Embassies and Consulates
  • Useful information for travellers on the ‘Viaggiare sicuri’ website  
  • Getting around Italy: Transportation Tips

Book your individual trip , stress-free with local travel experts

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Unless you opt for a one-base holiday, you will probably find yourself travelling around Italy a fair bit. When planning on how to get around Italy, it is worth considering personal and public transport options. Both rail and bus services are good value and efficient. Regular ferries service the islands, and local buses link more remote areas. Internal flights can be worthwhile and even work out cheaper than the train for some of the longer journeys. Naturally, you’ll have most flexibility with your own transport. Discover the best way of getting around Italy and plan your trip with our travel guide.

Getting to Italy and getting around

Travel by train in italy, bus travel in italy, flying around italy, renting a car in italy, driving around italy, cycling in italy, motorbikes & scooters in italy, italy by boat.

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Experience the hit TV show 'The White Lotus' in Sicily

Stay in beautiful Taormina with gorgeous views of Mount Etna and discover Sicily, including famous filming locations. Go on exclusive wine tastings, discover the Greek theater in Taormina with a private guide, visit other Sicilian towns and enjoy the crystal clear water on this week-long trip.

Enchanting Italian Lakes

8 days  / from 3289 USD

Enchanting Italian Lakes

Experience the picturesque lakes of Northern Italy, including Lake Garda, Como, Lugano and Maggiore; explore the charming Borromean Islands – former favourites of Ernest Hemingway – and stroll the romantic streets of Verona and Milan. All of this, and much more, with this self-drive trip!

From Venice to Florence: A Grand Tour of Northern Italy

16 days  / from 3289 USD

From Venice to Florence: A Grand Tour of Northern Italy

From the atmospheric canals of Venice and the picturesque coastline of Cinque Terre, to the trendy designer boutiques of Milan and the Renaissance-infused streets of Florence, Northern Italy has plenty to offer. Experience it all with this comprehensive trip.

Florence: A Trip Back In Time

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Eternal Rome for the Weekend

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Wonders of Rome and the Amalfi Coast

8 days  / from 2317 USD

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A gastronomic journey in Tuscany and the Amalfi Coast

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Italian Cities of the Renaissance

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Exploring Vatican City and Assisi

6 days  / from 1561 USD

Exploring Vatican City and Assisi

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Treasures of Italy: Venice, Florence and Rome

9 days  / from 3181 USD

Treasures of Italy: Venice, Florence and Rome

From the charming waterways of Venice, to the Renaissance-imbued streets of Florence, to the historic city of Rome, Italy's top three cities are as unique as they are unmissable. Experience them all on this fascinating trip.

Highlights of Italy - Rome, Amalfi Coast, Cinque Terre and more

16 days  / from 4860 USD

Highlights of Italy - Rome, Amalfi Coast, Cinque Terre and more

This trip is nothing but short of highlights: spend the first few nights in the capital city of Rome before moving down south to Naples. From here, you will discover the Amalfi Coast before heading to Florence. Tuscany and Cinque Terre await and finally - the fashion capital Milan.

Classic Italy - Rome, Florence & Venice

13 days  / from 4104 USD

Classic Italy - Rome, Florence & Venice

A trip for everyone - learn how to cook pasta in Rome, sample the best gelato in Florence, hike Cinque Terre and explore Venice on your own. This trip is packed with highlights for the whole family.

There are regular direct flights to Italy from the UK and the US . Airlines from Australia , New Zealand and South Africa fly via Asian or European cities. Rail connections with the rest of Europe are also good and link well into the national network.

Once in Italy, you’ll have a good choice of affordable and efficient transport options. Note that on Sundays and public holidays, the frequency of public transport can be heavily reduced or even non-existent, so it is important to check before you travel.

Getting around Italy by train is a great option. The Italian train system is pretty efficient and one of the least expensive in Europe. Ferrovie dello Stato Italiane runs trains under the brand name Trenitalia , operating a large network across the country. Sleeper trains connect the major Italian cities with Paris , Vienna , Hamburg and Barcelona .

Validating your ticket

All stations have yellow validating machines in which passengers must stamp their ticket. Passengers must validate their ticket before starting their journey. If your ticket is booked for a specific train, there is no need to stamp it. If in doubt, ask. Look out for the machines in the station or as you come onto the platform. Failure to validate your ticket can result in a hefty on-the-spot fine. Tourists who feign ignorance are not exempt.

Regionale trains

Regionale trains are the most economical, but can be very slow. No reservation is necessary, and there’s no need to buy in advance for these.

Le Frecce is the country’s swish high-speed train network offering daily connections between the main cities. Book tickets in advance for the best fares. Seat reservations are required for all these services. Even if you have a rail pass you’ll need to pay a €10 or €15 supplement.

Intercity and Eurocity trains

Intercity and Eurocity trains are fast and comfortable, connecting main towns. A number of Eurocity trains cross the border to connect with European cities.

Train in Italy © Shutterstock

High-speed Trenitalia Frecce trains © kaband/Shutterstock

Italo trains

Privately run high-speed Italo trains connect a number of destinations in Italy, from Bolzano in Alto Adige to Salerno in Campania . There are also a number of smaller privately run lines, using separate stations but charging similar fares to the FS trains.

Timetables and fares

Timings and route information are posted at train stations. Check the Trenitalia website for the latest schedules.

Fares are inexpensive. They are calculated by the kilometre and easy to work out for each journey. The timetables give the prices per kilometre. As a rough guide, a second-class one-way fare from Milan to Verona (1hr 50min) currently costs about €22 by Intercity, €13 on Regionale.

Return tickets

Return tickets are valid within two months of the outward journey, but as two one-way tickets cost the same it’s hardly worth bothering. Children aged 4–12 qualify for a fifty percent discount on all journeys. Children under four travel free.

Booking in advance

There are huge savings to be had by booking in advance online, especially for Le Frecce. As a rough guide, a Frecciarossa high-speed train from Rome to Milan costs from €45 for the three hour journey.

Rail passes

A rail pass is unlikely to be worthwhile for an Italy-only trip. Prices are low and as you need to have a reservation for the faster trains. The convenience of a pass is outweighed by the extra queues and booking fees.

Interrail and Eurail passes

Europe-wide InterRail and Eurail passes are accepted on the Trenitalia network. You will still have to book for certain trains and pay a supplement for travel on the Freccia trains. Children’s, youth and group tickets are available.

If you are travelling around Italy by train, it is more than likely you will need to use a bus at some point. Nearly all places are connected by some kind of bus service, but in remote towns and villages schedules can be sketchy and are reduced, or even non-existent, at weekends.

Bus terminals ( autostazione ) are often conveniently located next to the train station. In smaller towns and villages, most buses pull in at the central piazza.

Tickets for bus travel

Buy tickets before you travel from the bus station ticket office, or on the bus itself. On longer hauls, you can try to buy them in advance online direct from the bus company. To get off, ask Posso scendere? “The next stop” is la prossima fermata .

City buses are always cheap, usually costing around €1.20. Tickets are commonly available from newsagents and tobacconists. Once on board, you must validate your ticket in the machine at the front or back of the bus. The whole system is based on trust, though in most cities checks for fare-dodging are regularly made. Hefty fines are issued to offenders.

ilitalia-airplane-italy-shutterstock_614217170

Alitalia plane at Milan's Malpensa airport © Alexandre Rotenberg/Shutterstock

Depending on where you’re travelling to, it may be worth considering travelling around Italy on internal flights. These can sometimes be cheaper and quicker than travelling by train. Budget airlines open and close every season and there are often special deals being advertised. You can save by shopping around and, as always, booking as far in advance as you can.

Domestic Airlines in Italy

  • Air Dolomiti
  • Blue Panorama

Car rental in Italy can be pricey, especially in high season and in smaller towns. In bigger cities there are savings to be made. By booking in advance and shopping around, you can rent a small car for a week for under £100. Local firms can be less expensive and often have an office at the airport. Generally, the best deals are to be had by arranging things in advance.

Information for Renting a Car in Italy

You need to be over 21 to rent a car in Italy. You will need a credit card to act as a deposit when picking up your vehicle. If booking with a small local company, be sure to check whether CDW is included in the price before booking. Sat nav systems are available to rent with cars from many outlets and as always, be sure to reserve in advance.

Camper Van Rental

Camper van or mobile home holidays are in Italy are growing in popularity. They are convenient, facilities in campsites are usually dependable, and more and more resorts have created free camper-van parking areas ( sosta camper ). Blurent , Comocaravan and Magicamper are among the companies offering reasonably new quality vehicles for rent. Prices are usually around €900 for a four-berth vehicle for a week in high season, with unlimited mileage.

Driving is one of the best ways to travel around Italy. It is a great place for a self drive holiday , though cities and their ring roads can be hard work. The roads are good and the motorway network is very comprehensive. Italian drivers are also less erratic than their reputation suggests.

Driving in cities should be avoided whenever possible as congestion, complex one-way systems and confusing signage can make it a less than relaxing experience. Out of the towns, there are stunning rural routes like the Passo dello Stelvio in the Ortles mountains, which many claim to be one of Europe’s best drives.

Traffic can be heavy on main roads and appalling in city centres. During rush hour, roads in and around the major cities can be gridlocked and are best avoided.

Although Italians are by no means the world’s worst drivers they don’t win any safety prizes either. The secret is to make it very clear what you’re going to do and then do it. A particular danger for unaccustomed drivers is the large number of scooters that can appear suddenly from the blind spot or dash across junctions and red lights with alarming recklessness.

Rules for Driving in Italy

Rules of the road are straightforward. Italians drive on the right and give way to vehicles coming from the right. The speed limits are 50km/hr in built-up areas, 110km/hr on dual carriageways (90km/hr when it’s raining) and 130km/hr on autostradas (110km/hr in the rain). For camper vans, these limits are 50km/hr, 80km/hr and 100km/hr respectively. Drivers need to have their dipped headlights on at all times when using any road outside a built-up area. Drinking and driving is illegal, so do not do it.

Zona Traffico Limitato

The majority of Italian towns and villages have a Zona Traffico Limitato (ZLT; restricted traffic area), where access is for residents only. These zones are marked by a red-rimmed circular road sign giving the hours and days of the limitation and are vigorously enforced, often by police on the ground as well as by cameras.

Legal requirements

If you’re bringing your own car, as well as current insurance, you need a valid driving license and an international driving permit if you’re a non-EU licence holder. It is important to carry your car documents and passport when driving as failure to provide them if stopped by the police, can result in a fine on the spot. It is also obligatory to carry a warning triangle and a fluorescent jacket in case of breakdown.

Snow tyre and chains

It is a legal requirement to have snow tyres or chains on board between mid-November and mid-April when travelling on motorways. You can incur a hefty fine if you are not suitably equipped.

italy-highway-shutterstock_1103964038

Autostrada in Piemonte, Italy © Fabio Lamanna/Shutterstock

Motorway driving

The majority of motorways ( autostrade ) are toll roads. Take a ticket as you join the motorway and pay on exit. Paying by cash is the most straightforward option. Booths which accept cash are marked “cash/ contanti ” and colour-coded white. Avoid the yellow colour coded Telepass lane, for which you need a linked bank account.

Since other roads can be frustratingly slow, tolls are well worth it over long distances, but be prepared for queues at exits at peak times, and rates can mount up on a long journey.

Petrol Stations

Most petrol stations have someone who will fill the tank for you, with some giving the choice of self-service ( fai da te ). With the exception of the ones on motorways, they often have the same working hours as shops, meaning they’ll be closed for a couple of hours at midday, all day Sunday, and will close at around 7pm.

Self service

Outside opening hours, many petrol stations have a self-service facility for which you pay into a machine between the pumps by bank note or credit card. These are often not well advertised so you might need to go onto the forecourt to check.

In the event of a breakdown when travelling around Italy, call 116 or the ACI (the national motoring association) on 803 116, who will send someone out – this is expensive if you need a tow, unless you already have cover with a motoring organization in your home country. Alternatively, consult the Yellow Pages ( Pagine Gialle ) under “ Autoriparazioni ” for specialised repair shops.

Italians may seemingly park just about anywhere, but we advise not to follow suit. Parking attendants are especially active in tourist areas and if you park in a zona di rimozione (tow-away zone), then do not expect your car to be there when you get back.

Never leave anything visible in the car when you’re not using it. Certain cities have appalling reputations for theft. In Naples , some rental agencies won’t insure a car left anywhere except in a locked garage.

Most towns and villages have pay-and-display areas just outside the centre but these can get very full in high season. Lots of towns now operate a colour coded parking scheme:

Spaces in these zones (blue lines) have a maximum stay of one or two hours, cost around €0.70-1.50/hour, and are sometimes free at lunchtimes, after 8pm and on Sundays. You can usually pay at the meter or buy tickets from local tobacconists.

These spaces (white lines) are much coveted as they are free, so will be difficult to come by.

These areas (yellow lines) are for disabled drivers or delivery zones.

It is handy to have a mini clock like dial which you set and display in the windscreen when you park to indicate that you’re still within the allowed limit. Rental cars generally come with these, and some tourist offices have them too.

Secure car parks often come in the form of small, enclosed garages, which are universally expensive. These can cost up to €20 a day in big cities. A patrolled car park is probably the safes overnight option, especially if you have foreign plates.

Parking in the street

Finding a place can be much easier at night, but make sure you’re not parked on a street which becomes a market in the morning or on the day of the week it gets cleaned in the small hours, otherwise you’re likely to be towed.

lake-garda-italy-bicycle-shutterstock_551808769

Spectacular views - mountain biking around Lake Garda, Italy © gorillaimages/Shutterstock

Cycling is a very popular sport and mode of transport in much of Italy. Hotels and hostels will take your bike in overnight for safekeeping. On the islands, in the mountains, around the Italian Lakes , in major resorts and larger cities, it’s usually possible to rent a bike. In rural areas rental facilities are few and far between. Unless you are travelling to Italy for a cycling trip, public transport or renting a car, remain the best way to travel around Italy, especially over long distances.

Accommodation for cyclists in Italy

Serious cyclists might consider staying at one of a chain of hotels, such as Italy Bike Hotels . These hotels cater specifically for cycling enthusiasts. Each provide a secure room for your bike, a maintenance workshop, overnight laundry facilities, suggested itineraries and group-tour possibilities, a doctor on hand and even dietary consultation. Bikes can be taken on local and slower Regionale trains if you buy a supplemento bici (bike supplement) for €3.50, or for free in a bike bag. On faster Eurostar or equivalent trains cycles must be placed in bike bags.

It is possible to tour Italy by motorbike, but there are relatively few rental places. Mopeds and scooters are comparatively easy to find: virtually everyone in Italy can ride one and although they’re not really built for long-distance travel. They are ideal for shooting around towns and islands. Helmets are compulsory.

Boat and Hydrofoil are the best ways to travel to Italy’s islands from the mainland.

Italy has a well-developed network of ferries and hydrofoils operated by a number of different private companies. Large car-ferries connect the major islands of Sardinia and Sicily with the mainland ports of Genoa , Livorno, La Spezia, Civitavecchia, Fiumicino and Naples .

The smaller islands of the Bay of Naples islands, the Pontine islands, the Aeolian islands are usually linked to a number of nearby mainland towns. The larger lakes in the north of the country are also well served with regular boats and ferries in season, but are drastically reduced in winter.

Fares are quite expensive, and on some of the more popular services, to Sardinia , for example, you should book well in advance in summer. Remember that sailings are cut outside the summer months, and some services stop altogether. For full schedules and prices, check directferries.co.uk or the Italian website traghetti.com .

Top image: Travelling in italian Alps © Andrey Armyagov/Shutterstock

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The Best Way to Travel in Italy: Tips and Tricks from the Experts

Home > Blog > The Best Way to Travel in Italy: Tips and Tricks from the Experts

travelling across italy

Italy is a nation of delectable food, ancient history, and stunning scenery. It’s a beautiful country to explore, but with so many tourist attractions and big crowds throughout much of the year, it can seem impossible to travel around and uncover authentic Italian culture.

But from traveling with expert, specialist tour guides to uncovering the local spots across the country, there are many great ways to really get under the skin of Italy.

To help you to make the most of  your Italian getaway , here are the best travel tips and tricks from the experts.

One of the best ways to explore Italy is to rent a car and road trip across the country. Nothing beats the feeling of a summer drive, as you roll down the windows – or better yet, rent a convertible – and feel the wind in your hair.

Renting a car removes the need for using public transport, and you’ll easily be able to escape the tourist trails and discover lesser-known parts of the country. You can escape the crowds and find local and authentic experiences on the way.

Of course, if you’re road tripping, you’re on your own out there and you’ll need to brush up on the rules of the roads in Italy – these can vary even compared to other European countries – and you’ll need to be confident navigating your way around.

Italians are also somewhat regarded as aggressive drivers, and the rules you just tried to learn might just as quickly be thrown out of the window. You’ll want to brush up on basic Italian too, to ask for directions when you inevitably get lost in the maze of rural lanes and countryside roads.

Cars aren’t a great idea for cities though. If you try to drive into the center of Rome or Milan, then you’re going to have a nightmare experience in the process. The large cities are best visited on foot or by metro – or perhaps on a classic Vespa!

A rental car comes into its own in the countryside though, where there are few local transport connections, and where you can find solitude and rural charms.

travelling across italy

TRAVEL ITALY BY TRAIN

 Train travel can be a great way to see Italy because the country is well connected by a network of high-speed intercity trains and slower regional trains.

Italian trains can be super fast too, with the journey time between Rome and  Milan  taking just under three hours and the time between  Rome  and  Venice  taking just under four hours.

Fares can be super cheap too, but to get the best prices you need to do as the locals do and book your tickets far in advance. If you try to reserve on the day, then you might be left with a rather high price tag.

Getting those cheaper fares can be tricky online too unless you know Italian, but you can always get a tour operator to help you out as part of a wider itinerary if you want to travel as the locals do.

While it’s a more authentic way to see Italy, you do need more time than if you were to join a group tour or to have a specialist,  private tour  organized for you. You’ll need to be flexible in case of cancellations and you’ll need a basic knowledge of the fare systems and how to validate your tickets.

Validating tickets is incredibly important, because failure to do so can land you a hefty fine from the fare inspectors, which is sure to dampen the holiday mood.

FLYING IN ITALY

Italy has become a major hub for European airlines, and there are loads of great connections if you’re flying domestically or internationally.

Domestic flights in Italy can be cost effective and quick, but once you factor in the time needed to get to the airport and then through security, it might be much more relaxing to take a high-speed train. Ultimately, you’ll probably get to your destination at the same time.

If you’re traveling to islands such as  Sicily  or Sardinia, flying can be the quickest way to get there, and if you don’t like sea travel it’s the only option.

If you’re short on time and need to hop from one place to the next then flying is a great option, particularly if you’d like to see both the north and the south. Italy is a very long country after all.

Major hubs for international flights in Italy include Rome, Milan, and Venice, but most cities have their own airport too with domestic connections and regional flights with airlines within Europe.

TRAVEL WITH A LOCAL TOUR GUIDE

While you can make local friends on trains or experience rural life on a road trip, there’s no better way to see Italy than with the help of a local tour guide.

This is our top travel tip from our Italian experts, because no one knows Italy better than an Italian!

For starters, your local tour guide will speak excellent English, which automatically nulls any problems if Italian isn’t your strong point. Importantly, they’ll be able to not only translate basic things such as menus, road signs, etc., which can be problematic if you were on your own, but they’ll be able to help you to make connections.

Experiential travel is all the rage right now and being able to form those relationships and connections on the road is a great way to delve head first into the culture.

Local tour guides can help you to  meet that old winemaker  in the Tuscan Hills that no one else knows about. They’ll be able to show you that secluded beach along the  Amalfi Coast  that the tour groups have yet to discover. They’ll also be able to recommend the best restaurants and pizzerias and, of course, help you to order the best food and drink while you’re there.

While independent travel can be an adventure and a challenge, a good local tour guide can turn a holiday into a truly authentic local experience that you wouldn’t otherwise be able to enjoy.

travelling across italy

LEARN THE LANGUAGE

Even if you do have the talents and knowledge of a local tour guide to show you Italy’s most secretive and treasured spots, it’s never a bad thing to learn some of the local language yourself.

Italy has a multitude of different dialects and accents, and things can change even as you simply travel from one town to the next. Everyone is fiercely proud of their own dialect, some even counting the Italian spoken in say Rome or Milan as entirely separate languages to one another.

But standard Italian unites the nations still and is understood everywhere. Take the time before your trip to learn a few basic phrases or even take a few Italian lessons if you have the opportunity, and you’ll find that you’ll not only endear yourself more to locals but that you’ll find it becomes a lot easier to get around and to uncover new and exciting places to visit.

If you speak a little Spanish or French, then you’ll find that Italian can be easy to understand anyway, with many similarities in grammar and vocabulary. If English is your only language then you’ll have a harder time of it, but make the effort and you can be richly rewarded when you’re in Italy.

EAT LIKE THE LOCALS

Local tour guides and language efforts aside, our Italian experts will always, always point to the food when it comes to having a great trip around Italy.

Italian food is some of the most popular in the world. But the pizza or pasta you might find in the US or anywhere else isn’t quite like the food you’ll find in Italy itself.

You can visit Naples for pizza and calzone, you can eat your way through ancient recipes such as rabbit stew in Rome, or you can chow down on the original bolognese in Bologna.

But, once again, there’s nothing that can compare to local tips and tricks from specialists, locals and tour guides when it comes to finding the best restaurants in Italy.

Often, the most authentic eateries are small, tucked away, family-run businesses that are not on the main tourist drag. You’ll never find the best restaurants in Venice on the main squares; all you’ll find there are overpriced tourist shows. But with the help of a Venetian, you might just find your way into a hidden side street where the food is cheap and wholesome and the recipe hasn’t changed in over a hundred years.

Food is one of the best reasons to go traveling and one of the best reasons to visit Italy. But without the advice of an Italian, you’re unlikely to escape the tourist trail and find that truly delectable cuisine the country is famous for.

travelling across italy

HIGH SEASON VS. LOW SEASON

Italy is one of the most popular tourist destinations in Europe. While it’s always busy to some extent all year round, there’s a remarkable difference in visitor numbers between the high season and the low season.

High season runs from June to September, and you can expect prices to skyrocket and crowds to be enormous at iconic destinations such as Venice and Rome. The weather is bright and sunny, and it’s a great time for a beach holiday.

Low season runs from November through to March and this is when the weather starts to get cold and rainy. On the plus side, cities such as  Rome , Milan,  Florence  and Venice will be devoid of tourists in comparison to the summer. Head south and you can even enjoy the warm Mediterranean climate well into winter.

There can be a big difference not only in the weather but in the experience you have, depending on the time of year you visit.

Our expert tip is to travel in the shoulder seasons. You’ll miss the worst crowds of the summer high season, but you won’t yet have to deal with the cold and rain of winter. The weather can be wonderful in spring and autumn.

Ultimately though, it’s down to personal choice which season you choose to travel in. If you want to have the most iconic sights to yourself, then you’re going to have to brave the unpredictable weather of low season. If you want scorching hot sunshine and the best beach weather imaginable, then you’ll need to brave the crowds and travel to Italy in summer.

AUTHENTIC VS. TOURIST TRAPS

Italy is such a great travel destination because there’s so much to see everywhere you go. Many of Europe’s top tourist attractions are found here. For many travelers, it’s these iconic sights that are the reason the country is in their bucket list.

Many of these famous places have become tourist traps though. The thought of crowds and queues can put even the hardiest traveler off the prospect of visiting  the Roman Colosseum  or taking a gondola  through the Venice canals .

Luckily though, while Italy is best known for the likes of the  Leaning Tower of Pisa  or colorful but crowded coastal towns such as  Cinque Terra , there are many more destinations that have yet to be really discovered.

There are countless villages and medieval towns in  the Tuscan Hills  that are yet to be overrun, there is mile upon mile of coastline in the south and in Sicily and Sardinia that hasn’t yet been developed, and there is always a unique alternative to the Venice canals or the Roman ruins of Rome.

These authentic experiences are waiting to be found by those looking to escape the tourist trails, but you might need a little help from our experts to really uncover the best ones out there across Italy. After all, many remain hidden because the locals will only want a select few tourists to ever know about them.

travelling across italy

If you want to put our expert travel tips and tricks to the test, then  contact our Italy specialists at Italy4Real  today to book your next adventure.  

About the Author

travelling across italy

Rem Malloy started Italy4real back in 1995 with his mother, Deborah de Maio.

He specialises in Italian tours as well as customised tours to France, England, Ireland, Germany, Switzerland, Greece and Spain. He was also featured in the Travel Channel show Mysteries at The Museum in 2016.

Rem has family in Italy and his mothers home town is Cava di Terrani, near the Amalfi Coast. The family has a street named after them in Sorrento, Via Luigi de Maio; a relative who was mayor of Sorrento.

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Train Travel in Italy: The Ultimate Guide

Italian train in Manarola Cinque Terre

Train travel in Italy is relatively easy, but may pose some challenges if you have never been to the country or if you are not used to this mode of transportation. This is why we have created this ultimate guide to traveling by train in Italy, which you can also print out and carry with you during your trip as a reference. 

Let’s look at the main points to consider. 

What is the Best Way to Get Around Italy?

Buying an italian train ticket, arriving at the train station in italy, safety at the train station.

  • Types of Italian Trains
  • Should I Book a First Class Ticket or a Second Class Ticket?  
  • What To Do If Your Train is Canceled or Delayed

How to Pack for Train Travel in Italy 

  • Train Travel Times for the Most Common Italian Routes  

The Most Important Train Stations in Italy

The train is one of the easiest and most convenient ways to travel around Italy, however this does not mean you have to do it all by train. Whether you use the train for all or part of your Italian trip depends on the itinerary that you are planning. If you do the classic Rome-Florence-Venice tour, then you can do it all easily by train, and it is the recommended option because the train stations in these cities are conveniently located in the city centers and you do not need a car to tour them. If you plan to visit the countryside or the mountains, you should consider renting a car as it gives you more freedom and flexibility. You can also combine different modes of transport: train between major art cities, a rental car for an on the road and to reach smaller towns and hilltop towns that may not be as well connected, plane if you need to go from the north to the south of Italy or vice versa. 

Most train stations in Italy are located in or very close to the city center (hence why many have ‘centrale’ in their name), so they’re very easy to reach, sometimes even on foot from your centrally located hotel. 

Where Italian trains are the best or only choice:

  • Rome, Florence, Venice, Naples, Milan, Cinque Terre

Where Italian trains are better avoided:

  • Amalfi Coast, Sicily, Sardinia, remote countryside

Where a car is a good option, but you can also get by with trains and buses:

  • Tuscany, Umbria, the Dolomites 

train agrigento

You have two options to buy train tickets for your Italian trip:

  • Buy your ticket online in advance via the train company’s website (Trenitalia and Italo), an intermediary like Italian train travel specialists ItaliaRail , or through your travel agent;
  • Directly at the train station in Italy, either at the ticketing window or using the self-serve ticket machines (instructions are available in English and the machines accept credit cards).

We recommend buying your tickets in advance whenever possible so that you do not have to wait in line, deal with a machine if you’re in a hurry, you have more seat options, plus having your trip mapped out beforehand can save you precious time while in Italy.

As a general rule of thumb, the sooner you book, the cheaper the fare. Seniors and children (or family packages) generally have reduced fares on Trenitalia’s Frecce and Italo. 

*For more information about buying train tickets in Italy, see our dedicated feature .

First of all, always arrive early (at least 20 minutes before your train’s departure time). Train stations in major cities like Rome, Milan and Bologna are very big and you may have to walk five to ten minutes to reach your track ( binario in Italian). 

The first thing you want to do when you get to the train station in Italy is to find the electronic board with the trains departure information. There are several throughout the stations, with the bigger one in the main hall and ticketing area, and smaller ones on each platform, in underground passages and waiting areas.

The board has the following information:

  • Type of train and train number ( treno )
  • Train’s final destination ( destinazione )
  • Departure time ( orario )
  • Delay ( ritardo ) - expect a 5-10 minute delay as standard in Italy
  • Information ( informazioni ) - this usually displays the intermediate stops of the train with arrival times and where the different classes are located scrolling by
  • Platform number ( binario )

To identify your train, look for the train number on your ticket, as the destination shown on the board is the final one, but your destination may be an intermediate stop (which you will see in the part of the display that scrolls by). 

If your train does not have a specific train number, date and time printed on it, you must validate it before boarding . Look for a green, white or yellow electronic box and insert your ticket into it to get it timestamped (ie validated) before getting on your train (the validation lasts for six hours). This mostly applies to regional trains. You do not need to validate your ticket if you are taking a Freccia high-speed train or Italo train (see below for specifics). 

When at the platform, double-check that the train you are about to board is the right one by looking at one of the several boards positioned overhead along the track, it specifies train number and destination.

Also, make sure to board the correct carriage; the number is visible on the side of the train, on an electronic sign on the door, and before boarding, on a screen overhead. This way you will avoid creating more confusion and blocking aisles as you walk through carriages to reach your seat.  

trai station

Generally speaking, traveling by train in Italy is safe, but be vigilant of pickpockets and other petty criminals that may target disoriented travelers intent on finding their way through the station. Always carry your bag in the front, and consider investing in a money belt to place your passport, credit card, money and important documents. 

If your luggage on the train is not close to you (ie if it’s big you’re going to have to place it in the luggage area at the front or end of the carriage), take a look at it when the train stops at intermediate stations.

Do not accept help from strangers who may offer to carry your luggage or help you get a ticket at the ticketing machine. They may insist on getting a ‘tip’ from you once their ‘service’ is done and not leave until you do. Just send them away as soon as they approach you. 

Types of Italian Trains 

Two companies run trains in Italy: Trenitalia and Italo. For a long time, Trenitalia has been the only railway company in Italy and to this day it has the widest network and routes. Italo began operating in 2012, and offers high-speed service between major Italian cities. 

When traveling on Trenitalia, you have three different types of train to choose from which differ based on speed and price. 

Le Frecce - they are Trenitalia’s most modern, comfortable and fastest trains, which also means they cost more. They require advance reservation, have seat assignment, and provide most of the high-speed service on the main lines between Turin, Milan, Venice, Bologna, Florence, Rome, Naples, and Bari. 

There are three types of Frecce: 

Frecciarossa : the fastest and most expensive trains, traveling up to 300 km/h. They connect Italy’s biggest cities (Turin, Milan, Bologna, Florence, Rome, and Naples), but not Venice. Frecciargento : these trains use both the high-speed and traditional lines; they are not as fast as the Frecciarossa and take you to main cities such as Florence, Bologna, Rome, and Naples, but not to Milan or Turin. They go to Venice and southern regions like Apulia and Calabria.

Frecciabianca : the slowest among the Frecce, they run on traditional lines and connect large and medium-sized cities in 14 of the 20 Italian regions (Valle d’Aosta, Trentino Alto Adige, Umbria, Basilicata, Sicily and Sardinia are not covered).

Intercity - these trains are less expensive than the Frecce ; they operate outside of the high speed line, therefore your trip will take longer. They connect medium to large cities across Italy, making few intermediate stops. It is not always possible to reserve your seat in advance. These trains are usually quite old and don’t have amenities like wi-fi and restaurant service, available on the Frecce .

Regional trains   - the cheapest option, these trains are used by locals to get to and from work and school, connecting minor towns and villages. You cannot reserve a seat in advance, therefore if you need to take a regional train, try to avoid rush hours. Coaches are mostly second class, with only one or two reserved for first (which in this case you may want to get). These are the trains you would take for example if you were going to the Cinque Terre or to Assisi.

General tip : use the Frecce to reach the biggest cities, then use regionali to move around the region to smaller centers (when possible - sometimes you will need to take a bus instead; sometimes renting a car will be the easiest option). 

Italo

Should I Book a First Class Ticket or a Second Class Ticket? 

All trains generally offer first class and second class, or, in the most modern trains, ‘standard’, ‘premium’, ‘business’, ‘executive’ (the most expensive, the less seats available and the less people around you). What corresponds to second class (or standard) on the Frecce and Italo is absolutely decent, but obviously more crowded, so if you wish for tranquility and silence, go for an upper class of service. You may want to step up to first class on the Intercity and regional trains.  

What To Do If Your Train is Canceled or Delayed 

When you travel by train in Italy, you should be aware that things don’t always go as smoothly as you may expect in countries such as, say, Switzerland or Germany. Try to remain patient as your train may be canceled or delayed because of a strike, an accident or repairs on the line. 

As reported on the Trenitalia website:

- if your Freccia train is delayed by 30 to 59 minutes, Trenitalia will issue a bonus equal to 25% of the ticket price that you can use for future purchases.  

- If your Freccia train is over an hour late when you get to your destination, you are entitled to a compensation equal to: 25%   of the ticket price for a delay ranging from 60 to 119 minutes; 50%   of the ticket price for a delay of more than 120 minutes. The compensation may be issued in the form of a bonus for a new ticket to be purchased within 12 months; cash if the ticket was paid cash or refund on the card that you used for payment.

You can request your bonus after 24 hours from the date of travel and up to 12 months, at the ticket office of any train station, online on the Trenitalia website, at the travel agency that issued the ticket, or by calling the Call Center. 

Use this page for reference .

Pack light! You don’t want to have to carry around a huge suitcase that is hard to lift and lower when you get on and off the train. Remember, there are a few steep steps up (and down) the train, there may be stairs to the platforms, especially in the older stations where you won’t find the automatic ones, and you may have to walk the distance in large train stations like Rome Termini or Bologna Centrale. 

Go for a light carry-on or even a backpack, this will be helpful in general as you may decide to also walk between your hotel and the train station. 

We have a great feature with general tips on how to pack for travel to Italy by Sarah Murdoch, a Rick Steves tour guide and Italy expert. 

Train Travel Times for the Most Common Italian Routes  

Rome – Florence 

1 hour 31 minutes (Frecciarossa – Trenitalia)  

1 hour 23 minutes (Italo)

Rome – Venice 

3 hours 45 minutes (Frecciargento – Trenitalia)

3 hours 45 minutes (Italo)

Rome – Milan 

2 hours 55 minutes / 3 hours 20 minutes (Frecciarossa – Trenitalia) 

3 hours 14 minutes (Italo)

Rome – Naples  

1 hour 10 minutes (Frecciarossa – Trenitalia) 

1 hour 20 minutes (Italo)

Florence – Milan 

1 hour 40 minutes (Frecciarossa – Trenitalia) 

1 hour 50 minutes (Italo)

Florence – Venice 

2 hours 5 minutes (Frecciargento – Trenitalia) 

2 hours 5 minutes (Italo)

Milan – Venice 

2 hours 23 minutes / 2 hours 35 minutes (Frecciabianca – Trenitalia) 

Milan – Naples 

4 hours 40 minutes (Frecciarossa – Trenitalia)

4 hours 31 minutes (Italo)

  • Rome: Roma Termini
  • Florence: Firenze Santa Maria Novella
  • Venice: Venezia Santa Lucia
  • Milan: Milano Centrale
  • Naples: Napoli Centrale
  • Turin: Torino Porta Nuova
  • Bologna: Bologna Centrale 

Now that you know everything you need to know about train travel in Italy, enjoy the ride as you watch Italy’s beautiful scenery roll by!

For more Italian train travel, check our dedicated section , Italy by Train. 

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Solo Travel in Italy Done Right: 10 Tips You Need to Know

This article may contain compensated links. See our full disclosure here

10 essential tips from a solo traveler with over a decade of experience wandering off the beaten path in Italy and beyond.

Are you dreaming about a solo adventure in Italy? With so many incredible places to explore, dishes to try, and sights to see, Italy is a fantastic destination for anyone new to solo travel. Besides having so much to see and do, Italy also offers the perfect stepping stones for adjusting from a total solo travel newbie to advanced solo traveler.

In fact, on my very first trip to Italy I was so scared of getting lost that I panicked when we had free time to explore and glued myself to other people in the travel group. Gradually I grew more comfortable and learned a lot of lessons that added up to my most recent solo trip which was full of adventure–taking an overnight ferry from Italy to Albania!

As the shy girl who grew up in a town too small to even have a traffic light, I never could’ve imagined that I would go on to author The ULTIMATE Guide for the Solo Woman in Italy , the most comprehensive e-book to learn the skills, strategies, and tools you need to finally take the leap and travel solo in Italy. But life has a funny way of surprising us! I’m beyond grateful for the life changing experiences that solo travel gave me and I want to help others get past their roadblocks and have incredible solo travel experiences, too.

Whether you want to stay in one, walkable city for a simple first-time solo trip or take multiple trains and buses to reach far-flung corners of Italy, there are some important tips that will help you get the most out of your solo adventure in Italy!

10 Tips for Solo Travel in Italy Done Right

1. dream your most beautiful dream.

Don’t fall into the trap of feeling obligated to plan your trip entirely around the most famous sights in Italy. Almost anywhere you go in Italy is amazing. Take time to journal about what your intention for this solo adventure is and choose destinations that support your goals.

For example, if you’ve been through a lot in the past year and want to find yourself again, a slower paced, lesser-known destination where you’ll feel like you’re making your own unexpected discoveries might better support that goal than a whirlwind trip to the top cities. Or it might be the opposite for you! Just take the time to decide for yourself.

2. Choose accommodations that support your goals for the trip

Hostels are great for meeting international friends. Now that most hostels offer private rooms as well, you can still enjoy privacy and comfort while being able to easily meet fellow travelers.

If you’re aiming to check off some bucket list sights, staying in a hotel in the city with 24 hour front desk service is a good option for solo female travelers.

However, my personal favorite for meeting my goal of immersing myself in the culture is staying in an agriturismo or masseria (farm stays). For these, it’s best if you have a rental car . Sometimes the owners will offer to pick you up from a nearby train station, but you need to be ok with not being able to go places easily on your own. That being said, many farm stays offer a few activities on site, such as wine tastings or cooking classes.

For a happy medium between being in the middle of the city or the middle of nowhere, you can find lots of unique and charming, family-run B&Bs in small villages. This option allows you to explore without so much overwhelm about getting lost and be able to find things to do right outside your door.

3. Reframe your thoughts to combat loneliness

The question I get asked most about traveling solo is, “Don’t you get lonely?” And here’s the truth about it. Your body’s natural response to all this new stimuli of being alone in a foreign country is to protect itself from this unknown state by being around people who comfort you – so your body generates this feeling of being homesick and lonely.

Once you recognize that what you’re feeling is just a chemical response, it can help you separate yourself from it and redirect your thoughts.

Inside my solo travel e-book , you can find tips on how to “flip the script” and reframe the thoughts you might start having as part of this downward spiral of loneliness you can get yourself into.

For example, if you’re thinking “I can’t enjoy any of this, I’m just lonely” – Instead of focusing on how lonely you feel, find something you can get excited about.

*Reframe* – “I’m excited about that hike tomorrow, I’m going to reach that peak and buy myself a glass of wine to celebrate!”

Remind yourself at one point you were back home feeling SO excited to be there, then find something to focus on that makes you feel happy and excited. Most of all, know that the loneliness fades. The more you travel solo, the less loneliness is part of it.

4. If you’re on a budget, get creative and strategic

Plan ahead which meals you’ll eat out each day and which meals you’ll eat cheap. If you wait until you’re hungry to decide what to eat, you’ll inevitably opt for the more exciting, cozy, and costly option of a restaurant. Take advantage of apericena deals or enjoy the bakeries where you can fill up on delicious and affordable focaccia or pizza slices. Get lots more tips about saving money without missing out in my 30-Minute Budget Builder !

5. Solo travel safety is all about being prepared and trusting your intuition

It’s easy for safety issues to get overblown, especially if you’re looking for tips in online forums. What’s most important is that you trust your intuition and use the same common sense as you would traveling in your home country. Take care of basic things such as having a working phone and WiFi , having local taxi numbers written down, and having a Whatsapp group with close friends and family where you can share your live location. I’ve made safety easy for solo travelers by including a Safety Checklist, Accommodation Safety Checklist, and Dating Safety Checklist in my e-book !

6. Fall in love with dining alone

It may feel strange and a bit awkward at first, but no one else in the restaurant is even thinking about it. Celebrate the fact that your own two feet brought you here to this beautiful moment. Order more food than you can eat and indulge in the pleasure of each bite without the distraction of conversation. Relish being the mysterious woman in the corner with a story!

7. Meet the locals

One of my favorite and easiest ways to meet locals is to check Meetup.com or Facebook Events for language exchange groups. You’ll likely find Italians who want to practice English and expats who want to practice Italian. It’s the perfect opportunity to meet locals and practice Italian in a space where you feel more comfortable making mistakes.

8. Connect with locals by learning compliments or a phrase in local dialect!

If making friends with locals is part of your Italian dream, don’t let learning the language overwhelm you. Every bit of Italian you know helps tremendously, but you don’t necessarily have to study the language to be able to connect with locals. Learn a couple of nice compliments in Italian to make locals more open to you.

My favorite way to grab their attention and stand out from other tourists is to learn a phrase in local dialect and use Italian colloquialisms . Throw some hand gestures in there and you’ll really pique their curiosity!

9. When it comes to activities and experiences, think bigger!

The activities most people want to book in Italy are wine tastings, cooking classes, and guided tours in museums. And sure, those are staple experiences. But Italy offers so much more that most people wouldn’t even know to ask for!

How about a cooking class with a live opera performance, afternoon tea in a private palazzo hundreds of years old where descendants of a noble family still live, or helping in an archeological dig outside of Rome? Or one of my top favorites–sip Prosecco on a private boat with my friend Luigi as you eagerly wait for a volcano in the Aeolian Islands to erupt!

Start by making a list of all your passions, hobbies and interests–this is YOUR trip, might as well dive right into the things that totally light you up. Then actually google the items on your list combined with the word “Italy” and see what comes up.

For example, I love horseback riding so I might search “horse experiences in Italy” and browse the results for an activity I might want to book for a special day during my solo trip. I’d probably be delighted to discover that I can book an experience immersed with butteri , Tuscany’s cowboys (yes, that’s a thing!). Get in touch with me for help coming up with some ideas for unique experiences that fit your interests and style!

10. Write everything down!

Seriously, the details of your experiences will fade so quickly. Give yourself the gift of being able to relive the experience by journaling everyday. Quick little sketches (even if they’re “bad”) bring the moment back to life even more. I like to jot down every dish I eat and the new flavors and combinations to inspire me in the kitchen when I’m back home. Pro Tip: Getting caught up on journaling is a great thing to do to make dining alone to feel less awkward!

Take these 10 tips to heart and you’ll be on the road to a meaningful solo travel adventure in Italy! For more guidance and expert tips to help you prepare for taking the leap, check out The ULTIMATE Guide for the Solo Woman in Italy .

Buon viaggio!

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Sierra busch creative edge travel.

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Train advice from the Man in Seat 61...

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A beginner's guide to

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Ride the trains in Italy from €9.90

There's no better way to see the cities of Italy than by train, trains link almost every town & city of any size, centre to centre.  Driving & parking in Italian cities is not recommended.  The high-speed trains are now faster, more convenient & more relaxing than flying (between 2008 & 2018, the airlines' share of the Milan-Rome market dropped from 50% to just 14%!).

Rome to Florence takes just 1h32 at up to 300 km/h (186 mph) & costs from €19.90, Rome to Venice 3h45 from €29.90, Rome to Naples 1h12 from €19.90, Rome to Milan 2h55 from €29.90.

No check-in, no need for transfers to/from out-of-town airports, no baggage fees or weight limits.  There are even trains to Sicily !

  Buy tickets online

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How to reach specific places

Station guides

City maps showing stations

International trains to & from Italy

Other useful information

Useful country information

How to check train schedules & fares.

Check train times & fares within Italy using any of the websites shown here .

Some major cities have more than one main station, see which station to use in which city .  If you're not sure, most websites allow you to select the plain city name, or any station .

Maps of the Italian rail network

How to buy tickets, do you need to buy in advance.

Regional trains, no

For example, Pisa to Florence, Florence to Lucca or Siena, Milan to Como or Tirano, Venice to Trieste.

There's no need to buy in advance and no cost advantage in doing so as the price is fixed, buying online or in an app just saves time at the ticket office.  There are no assigned seats, you sit where you like.  In most cases tickets are sold in unlimited numbers so the train can't sell out, although regional trains on a few routes now have limited numbers.  More about regional (R) & regional express (RV) trains and how they are ticketed .

Long-distance trains, yes

For example, Venice to Florence or Rome, Rome to Naples or Turin, Milan to Venice.

All seats on Frecciarossa , Frecciargento , Frecciabianca & InterCity trains are reserved, so they can in theory sell out.  However, as there are so many trains each with hundreds of seats there are almost always places available on most trains even just before departure. So you can buy at the station on the day if you want. The issue is price.  Trenitalia ditched the old fare-per-kilometre approach to pricing in 2009 and adopted airline-style dynamic pricing for advance-purchase fares whilst increasing the fully-flexible Base price.  So on the day of travel you'd pay the Base fare, Rome-Florence €55, Rome-Venice €99, but if you book in advance you can buy a cheap Economy or Super-Economy fare from as little as €19.90 Rome-Florence or €29.90 Rome-Venice, assuming you're OK with limited or no refunds or changes to travel plans.  It's your call!

When does booking open?

Booking opens up to 4 months ahead, but this varies

It can shrink to as little as 30 days for dates immediately after Europe-wide timetable changes on the 2nd Saturday in June and the second Saturday in December.

If some trains are shown, but others are missing...

Trenitalia loads trains in blocks, usually high-speed trains first and regional, InterCity & sleeper trains later.  I've seen high-speed trains loaded, but not regional trains.  I've seen regional trains loaded, but not high-speed trains.  Intercity trains to Sicily and ICN sleeper trains usually get loaded last, after other trains.  The Milan-Sicily night train usually gets loaded last of all!

So if you don't see all the trains you expect to see, don't assume that the missing trains have all been mysteriously cancelled, assume they haven't been loaded yet.  Wait!

Types of fare

This is the fully-flexible fare for Trenitalia's high-speed Frecce & intercity trains, it's what you'd pay at the station on the day.  Refundable, only valid on the train booked but can be changed before departure or at the station up to an hour after departure.  The Base fare was originally one fixed price for a given journey, but since 2017 the Base fare for Frecciarossa & Frecciargento trains can vary slightly by day of the week or the popularity of each particular train.

Economy & Super-Economy

These are advance-purchase fares for Trenitalia's high-speed Frecce & intercity trains, only valid on the train booked, limited refunds & changes, limited availability, these are the fares you want for cheap travel if you are certain what time train you want.  The price varies like air fares, cheaper in advance and on less popular dates, more expensive close to departure and on busy days or times of day.

Speciale Frecce

An ultra-cheap advance purchase fare for Trenitalia's high-speed Frecce & intercity trains, must be bought at least 14 days ahead.  No refunds, no changes, use it or lose it.  But it's cheap!

A small group fare for 3-5 people.  Limited availability, price varies.  No refunds, no changes, use it or lose it.

Senior & FrecciaYoung

These can only be bought if you have Trenitalia's Cartafreccia railcard which you probably haven't, so ignore these.  When you select them it immediately asks for your Cartafreccia card number, so you can't buy them by mistake!

This is the normal fare for regional trains.  It's fixed-price, you can buy a ticket at that price even on the day.  As of 2023, tickets are only good for the specific regional train you've selected, but you can change the date or time of departure free of charge up to the day before departure, and you can change the time of departure on the day of travel.  Ordinaria tickets are available in unlimited numbers on most regional trains, although there are now some regional trains where the ticket numbers sold are limited, see more information about how regional (R) & regional express (RV) trains are ticketed .

Option 1, buy at Italiarail.com

You can buy Trenitalia tickets at www.italiarail.com in €, £, $, Ca$ or Au$ - to book in US$ click here .

ItaliaRail are a well-established US-based agency who link directly to Trenitalia's ticketing system.  They don't sell tickets for Italo .

Italiarail books the same trains as Trenitalia's own website, but in plain English with no quirky translations.  You can use familiar English place-names such as Venice or Florence.

Italiarail shows a whole day's trains in the search results and can book up to 20 people at a time.  Trenitalia's own website only shows a couple of hours-worth of trains at a time and can only book up to 5 people at a time.

For en extra €2 you can choose an exact seat from a seat map on Trenitalia high-speed & intercity trains, to make sure you all sit together.

Italiarail can be cheaper than Trenitalia for 2 or more people travelling together as it is capable of combining (for example) the last remaining €19.90 ticket with a ticket at the next price level up, say €29.90.  Trenitalia.com cannot mix & match price levels within the same booking, so will offer 2 x €29.90 even if there is one €19.90 fare left.  For family groups the cost saving can be significant.

High-speed & intercity trains are ticketless, you simply print your booking reference or show it on your phone.  For regional trains you print your own ticket or in some cases collect it from the self-service machines at a Trenitalia station.

Tip:   Italiarail charge a €3.50 booking fee, but they'll refund this to seat61 users if you email them at [email protected] quoting your booking reference.

Option 2, buy at Thetrainline.com

Thetrainline also connects to Trenitalia's system to sell tickets in plain English at the same prices as Trenitalia, in €, £, $, Ca$ or Au$, overseas credit cards no problem, small booking fee.

For an extra €2, you can choose your seats from a seat map on Trenitalia high-speed & intercity trains.

Thetrainline.com has two key advantages:

First, it sells tickets for Italo as well as Trenitalia, so you can compare times & prices for both operators.

Second, it also links to the French, Spanish, Swiss, German, Austrian & Benelux national ticketing systems so you can book train tickets across much of western Europe together all in one place.

High-speed & intercity trains are ticketless, you simply print your booking reference or show it on your phone.  For regional trains you print your own ticket or in some cases collect them from the self-service machines at a Trenitalia station.  Who are Thetrainline.com?

Option 3, buy at Raileurope.com

You can also buy Trenitalia & Italo tickets at www.raileurope.com , also in plain English with prices in €, £ or $, small booking fee.  It also connects to the French, German, Austrian, Spanish, British ticketing systems (but not the Swiss) so can sell train tickets for much of western Europe all in one place.  Again, high-speed & intercity trains are ticketless so you simply print out your booking reference or show it on your phone, for regional trains you usually print your own ticket or collect tickets from the self-service machines at any main Trenitalia station.  Who are Raileurope.com?

Option 4, buy at Trenitalia.com:   You can of course buy Italian train tickets direct from Italian Railways at www.trenitalia.com , English button at the top, only in €, no booking fee.  It's pretty easy to use but you'll need to use Italian-language place names and it has a few quirky translations & processes especially when booking sleepers or international trains so see the step-by-step guide below .

High-speed & intercity trains are ticketless, you print your booking reference or show it on your phone, other tickets can be printed or collected at any main Italian station from the self-service machines .  It also offers seat selection for €2 on high-speed & intercity trains.  For 2 or more people travelling together, you may find Italiarail cheaper, see option 1 above.  Obviously, they don't sell tickets for their competitor Italo !

Buying tickets at the station

It's easy to buy tickets at the station on the day of travel or perhaps the day before, even if you don't speak Italian.  Simply go to one of the Fast ticket machines installed at all main stations, these have a touch screen with an English language facility, see an illustrated step-by-step guide to using these ticket machines .

The machines will sell both regional and long-distance tickets, including seat reservations for long-distance trains, for any date you like within the next 90 days.  They take Visa and MasterCard credit cards, but your card needs to have a PIN code.

Trains seldom sell out, so finding tickets even on the day of travel isn't a problem unless you hit a major holiday period.  If one train is full, the next will have seats.  The issue is the price you pay, as long-distance tickets are much cheaper booked in advance, just like flights.  There are Super-Economy & Economy fares from just €9.90, €19.90 or €29.90 on most routes if you book ahead and commit to a specific train on a no-refunds, limited-or-no-changes-to-travel-plans basis.

How to buy international tickets

The easy way

The easiest option is to use either www.thetrainline.com or www.raileurope.com as they can book most international journeys to/from Italy.

Both sites connect to the Trenitalia, SNCF (French), SBB (Swiss), ÖBB (Austrian) and DB (German) ticketing systems so they can book most routes to/from Italy including any Italian domestic connecting trains.

They're very easy to use, you can book in €, £ or $, international credit cards are no problem.  There's a small booking fee.

Thetrainline.com allows you to select seats from a seat map on Trenitalia's high-speed & Intercity trains, and on French TGVs in 1st class.

For more specific information on international trains from Italy to other European cities and how to book them, click on your starting city:

Rome   Naples   Florence   Venice   Milan

The advanced way

Alternatively, you can book with the relevant operator, usually with no booking fee, but you need to know which operator runs which route.  You'll often need to book any connecting trains separately, as most operators can't book each other's trains.

To/from Switzerland

The direct EuroCity trains between Milan and Brig, Lausanne, Geneva, Lugano, Luzern, Bern, Basel & Zurich can be booked at either www.italiarail.com or www.trenitalia.com .  Italiarail will refund their small booking fee if you email them at [email protected] after booking.

Both sites can book from anywhere in Italy to any Swiss station that is directly served by the EuroCity trains from Milan.  But they can't book onward tickets within Switzerland such as Brig to Zermatt, Arth-Goldau to Luzern or Spiez to Interlaken, so buy those separately from Swiss Railways at www.sbb.ch .

To/from Paris

The Frecciarossa trains between Milan/Turin & Lyon/Paris can be booked at either www.italiarail.com or www.trenitalia.com .  Both sites can book from anywhere in Italy to Lyon or Paris.  However, they can't book onward French trains to other French cities (or to London or Brussels) so you'll need to book those separately at www.sncf-connect.com .

The French TGV trains between Milan, Turin & Paris can be booked at the French Railways website www.sncf-connect.com with no booking fee.  It allows you to choose a seat from a seat map in 1st class, too.  However, it cannot book connecting Trenitalia trains within Italy, so you'll need to book those separately at either www.italiarail.com or www.trenitalia.com .

To Nice, Cannes, Monaco or Marseille

First book from anywhere in Italy to Ventimiglia (on the French border where Trenitalia's trains terminate) at either www.italiarail.com or www.trenitalia.com .  Trenitalia can't sell an onward French ticket, so buy your onward ticket from Ventimiglia to any French destination at the French Railways website www.sncf-connect.com .  There's more information about the Italy-Nice route on the Italy to Nice page .

To Innsbruck, Munich & Germany by daytime trains

The EuroCity trains between Bologna/Venice/Verona and Innsbruck or Munich can be booked at the German Railways website int.bahn.de with no booking fee, this can book tickets from the EuroCity train's starting stations to anywhere in Germany, but it cannot book connecting Trenitalia trains within Italy (at least not in their main system with through fares), so book those separately at either www.italiarail.com or www.trenitalia.com .

To Vienna by daytime trains

The railjet trains between Venice and Vienna can be booked at the Austrian Railways website www.oebb.at with no booking fee, this can book tickets from Venice to anywhere in Austria, but it cannot book connecting Trenitalia trains within Italy, so book those separately at either www.italiarail.com or www.trenitalia.com .

To Munich & Vienna by Nightjet sleeper train

The Nightjet sleeper trains between Rome, Florence, Genoa, Milan, Venice and Munich or Vienna can be booked at the Austrian Railways website www.oebb.at , but this can't book connecting trains within Italy, so book those separately at either www.italiarail.com or www.trenitalia.com .

Back to top

Railpasses for Italy

Interrail & eurail passes.

Global & one-country passes

You can buy an Interrail pass (if you live in Europe, including the UK) or a Eurail pass (if you live outside Europe) giving unlimited travel on all Trenitalia trains all over Italy.  An Interrail/Eurail global pass covers most of Europe including Italy, a cheaper one-country pass only covers Italy.

Interrail & Eurail passes cover all Trenitalia trains, high-speed, intercity, Intercity Notte and regional.  They don't cover Italo trains , or some small railways such as the Circumvesuviana Railway Naples-Sorrento.

Reservation fees

Interrail & Eurail passholders must reserve seats to travel on Frecciarossa , Frecciargento & Frecciabianca trains, this costs €13 in addition to the cost of the pass.  The reservation fee for Intercity trains is €3.  For Intercity Notte sleeper trains , see the reservation fees here .

You can make passholder reservations online as explained in the Italy section of the Interrail & Eurail reservations page .  You can also make them at stations, but at  the staffed counters only, not the self-service machines.  Passholder reservations cannot be made at Trenitalia.com.

Pass or point-to-point tickets?

The cost of reservation fees must be factored into the cost of a pass when comparing with point-to-point tickets.  All the point-to-point prices that you see online include any necessary reservation.

You must then realise that there are two types of point-to-point fare:  Cheap advance-purchase fares and the more expensive fully-flexible Base fare.

If all your dates and journeys are set in stone a month or two ahead, it's usually cheaper to buy advance-purchase Super-Economy or Economy fares.  For example Venice to Florence starts at €19.90, Venice to Rome starts at €29.90, seat reservation included.  A typical Interrail or Eurail pass might work out as €55 per day + €13 reservation fee = €68.

But advance-purchase fares vary like air fares, rising as departure date approaches, higher for busy or popular days or dates.  So you'll only know for sure if you go online and see what the point-to-point prices are for your specific journeys on your specific dates of travel.

Then remember that these cheap advance-purchase fares commit you to a specific train with limited or no changes to travel plans or refunds.  A pass gives you the flexibility to go wherever and whenever you like, you should really compare the pass with the fully-flexible Base fare you'd pay at the station on the day.

Even so, if you only plan to make relatively short hops such as Venice-Florence one day, Florence-Rome next day, Rome-Naples the next, the Base fare is often still cheaper than the per-day cost of a pass.  You basically need to be doing longer trips such as Venice-Rome or Milan-Naples every day, or multiple trips per day such as Rome to Florence and back again, to make a pass pay.  However, passes get cheaper if you are under 28 and children get free passes, so it's still worth doing the maths.  Youth passes can indeed make financial sense for a typical tour of Italy.

More about Interrail passes, with prices .  More about Eurail passes, with prices .  More about what these passes cover .

The Trenitalia Pass

Trenitalia also sell their own railpass called the Trenitalia Pass.  It can be bought by anyone resident outside Italy.

How is it different from a Eurail or Interrail pass?

Unlike Interrail & Eurail, it only covers Trenitalia high-speed, Intercity & Intercity Notte sleeper trains.  It doesn't cover regional trains. 

Unlike Interrail & Eurail it doesn't give you unlimited travel, you buy a specific number of journeys (3, 4, 7 or 10 trips) to be made within a set period of days, where a journey = one ride on one train.  If you went Rome to Florence in the morning and back in the evening, that's 2 trips on a Trenitalia Pass, but would be covered by just one day on an Interrail or Eurail pass.

However, unlike Interrail & Eurail there are no extra fees to pay for reservations, it's all included.

Is a Trenitalia Pass cheaper than a Eurail or Interrail pass?

A Trenitalia Pass for a given number of trips is significantly cheaper than a global Interrail or Eurail pass covering the same number of days.

A Trenitalia pass is about the same price as a one-country Interrail or Eurail pass for Italy covering the same number of days, but as you don't need to pay €10 for every reservation, the Trenitalia pass works out cheaper.

That's assuming you only want to use one train per day.  A 4-journey Trenitalia Pass gives 4 individual train rides, but a 4-day Interrail/Eurail gives unlimited train rides, as many as you care to cram in over 4 days .   If you're going to use multiple trains per day, an Interrail/Eurail pass is a better deal.

Is a Trenitalia Pass cheaper than point to point tickets?

A Trenitalia Pass saves money over the fully-flexible Base fare even for a series of short hops such as Rome-Florence, Florence-Venice, Venice-Milan, especially if you are under 28 so qualify for the youth pass.  But if you can book a few months in advance and don't need any flexibility, a no-refunds no-changes advance-purchase Super-Economy fare can still be cheaper than using a Trenitalia Pass, so check prices before buying a pass.

Trenitalia passes are available in 4 sizes:

3 journeys within 7 consecutive days;

4 journeys within 7 consecutive days;

7 journeys within 15 consecutive days;

10 journeys within 30 consecutive days.

Trenitalia passes come in 3 classes:

Easy - good for 2nd class, standard class on Frecciarossa , seats or couchettes on Intercity Notte trains .

Comfort - good for 1st class, business class on Frecciarossa , seats, couchettes or double or triple sleepers on Intercity Notte trains trains.

Executive - for executive class appears to have been discontinued in 2024.

Trenitalia passes come in 3 passenger types:

Adult - up to 2 children aged 4 but under 12 can be added to an adult pass for free (infants under 4s go free anyway)

Youth - anyone under 28 on day of purchase.

Senior - anyone over 60 on day of purchase.

For more details and all the small print, see www.trenitalia.com and look for Trenitalia Pass .

To buy a pass , go to the www.trenitalia.com home page and switch it to English top right.  Then click Others/Best Price just below the journey planner.  Then select Subscription & Carnet .  Then select Trenitalia Pass .  Then select Purchase .

Tip:   I strongly recommend registering for an account at Trenitalia.com before buying a pass. Log into your account before buying.

How does the pass work?

You don't need to specify travel dates when you buy a Trenitalia Pass, you can buy one and activate it any time in the next 11 months.

After buying the pass, you are emailed your pass number.  The pass is entirely electronic.

Warning: DO NOT ACTIVATE YOUR PASS UNTIL YOU WANT TO START USING IT!!

Activating the pass triggers the start of the 7, 15 or 30 day pass validity period.  You can then start booking trains.

You cannot book trains before you activate, but activation automatically starts the 7, 15 or 30 day pass period.  Once you activate, activation cannot be cancelled, the start date cannot be changed, your pass becomes non-refundable and Trenitalia will not help.

Many people have mistakenly activated their pass months before they travelled to Italy, thinking they could choose a pass validity start date later in the process, but activation triggered the pass start date and they burned through their 7/15/30 pass days before they even got to Italy and wasted their money.  So DO NOT ACTIVATE your Trenitalia pass until you are actually in Italy and ready to travel!

How to activate, if you've registered for a Trenitalia account

When you're ready to activate the pass, log in to your Trenitalia account.  Go to the Customer Area , choose the Activate tab.  You can then go to the booking page where you can book your seats.  You must activate the pass within 11 months of buying it, and the first day of travel must also be within 11 months of buying it.  Feedback appreciated .

How to activate, if you've bought a pass without registering

Go to the www.trenitalia.com home page and switch it to English.  Then click Others/Best Price just below the journey planner.  Then select Subscription & Carnet .  Then select Trenitalia Pass .  Then select Activate .  Fill in name, pass number, and click Confirm.  You must activate the pass within 11 months of buying it.

You can only book trains after activating the pass

But activating the pass starts the 7/15/30 day validity period.  Has that sunk in?  So you cannot book all your trains 2 months in advance as you can with Eurail or Interrail, or with normal tickets.  To book trains with a Trenitalia pass, you first need to activate it, and activating it automatically triggers the 7, 15 or 30 day validity period.  You should only activate a Trenitalia pass when you get to Italy and are ready to travel, so you'll be booking trains for today, tomorrow, the day after tomorrow, not months ahead.  That's not a big deal as there are always places, and if one train is full there will be others before or after with seats, but no, with a Trenitalia pass you cannot book all your trains months or weeks in advance, only days ahead at most, after the pass is activated and the 7/15/30 day validity period has started.  Got that?  Good!

To book trains online using a Trenitalia Pass

Seat reservations are still needed on each train, but they are free and can be made online at Trenitalia.com or at stations.  Go to the www.trenitalia.com home page and switch it to English.  Then click Others/Best Price just below the journey planner.  Then select Subscription & Carnet .  Then select Trenitalia Pass .  Then select Book .

Reservations have the same change conditions as a Base fare.  So you can cancel or change a reservation any time up to 60 minutes after the departure of the train.  If you don't do that, 60 minutes after departure that journey is considered 'used up' even if you missed the train.

When travelling, the pass can be shown on your phone or printed out.

Tours of Italy by train

Railbookers are a train travel specialist who can put together a tour of Italy for you as a package, including rail travel, hotels & transfers.  On their website you'll find a range of suggested tours which can be varied or customised to your own requirements.  And as you're booking a package, they'll take care of you if anything happens to one part of the itinerary such as a strike or delay.  They have offices in the UK, USA & Australia.

UK flag

Tailor Made Rail can arrange tours of Italy by train based on your own requirements, they welcome complex itineraries.  As it's a package, they'll take care of you if anything happens on one part of the trip, for example, a national strike.  They're TTA-protected - like ATOL, but not only for agencies that sell air travel.

Call their dedicated seat61 phone line 020 3778 1461 and quote seat 61 when booking.  From outside the UK call +44 20 3778 1461 .  Lines open 09:00-17:30 Monday-Friday.  Their website is www.tailormaderail.com/destinations/italy .

Expert individual trip planning & advice

DiscoverByRail.com offers expert help in planning trains in Italy & around Europe, with suggestions for routes, trains, hotels to your own specification.  They charge a small fee, around £35 per trip.

What are Italian trains like ?

Frecciarossa:  see the frecciarossa guide.

Trenitalia's top high-speed trains are the Frecciarossas (red arrows) , mostly operated either by the original 300 km/h (186 mph) Frecciarossa 500 trains or the latest Frecciarossa 1000 trains introduced in 2015.  Some are operated by 250 km/h (155 mph) Frecciarossa 700 & Frecciarossa 600 trains.

Frecciarossas have 3 or 4 classes of accommodation, a cafe-bar, power sockets at all seas & free WiFi, s ee the Frecciarossa page for more information .

Tickets for all Trenitalia's long-distance trains include a seat reservation and are only valid on the specific date & train you've booked.

Principal Frecciarossa routes:   Turin-Milan-Bologna-Florence-Rome-Naples-Salerno ( Frecciarossa 1000 & 500 );  Venice-Florence-Rome-Naples ( Frecciarossa 1000 & 500 );  Turin-Milan-Verona-Venice (usually Frecciarossa 700 );  Milan-Ancona-Bari-Brindisi-Lecce ( Frecciarossa 500 ).  See seat maps .

Frecciargento :  See the Frecciargento guide

Next down the pecking order are Trenitalia's 250km/h (155mph) Frecciargento (silver arrow) tilting trains, although these are now rare as most are being rebranded as Frecciarossa.  Frecciargento services are operated by pendolino tilting trains, air-conditioned with cafe-bar, power sockets at all seats & free WiFi.  The trains reach 250 km/h on the high-speed lines and use their tilt to cut journey times through curves when running on classic lines.

Principal remaining Frecciargento routes:   Rome-Bari, plus the odd Genoa-La Spezia-Pisa-Rome trains.  See seat maps .

Frecciabianca

One step down from Frecciarossa and Frecciargento are the Frecciabianca (white arrow) services, now getting very rare. The remaining Frecciabianca services on the Rome-Pisa-La Spezia-Genoa route are operated by older ETR460 tilting trains bumped off Frecciargento service.  They have 1st & 2nd class, power sockets at seats & free WiFi.  Tickets include a seat reservation and are only valid on the specific date & train you've booked.

Principal remaining Frecciabianca route:   Milan-Genoa-La Spezia-Pisa-Rome.

Intercity trains :  See the IC guide

Next in the pecking order are the Intercity trains, fast trains hauled by locomotives at up to 160 km/h (100 mph), sometimes 200 km/h (125 mph).  Most Intercity cars are open-plan with a centre aisle, a few are classic side-corridor-and-compartment cars with 6-seat compartments, though you don't always get both sorts in both classes on a given train.  Some Intercity trains have a cafe counter, some just vending machines selling drinks and snacks.  You're free to bring your own food & drink, even a bottle of wine if you like.  See the Trenitalia Intercity page for more information .

Principal Intercity routes:   Rome-Naples-Sicily;  Rome-Livorno-Pisa-Cinque Terre-La Spezia-Genoa-Milan;  Milan-Genoa-Savona-Ventimiglia (for Nice).

Intercity Notte sleeper trains:   See the ICN guide

Comfortable Intercity Notte (ICN) overnight trains link Milan, Bologna, Rome, Naples with Messina, Palermo, Catania & Siracuse on Sicily, see the Trains to Sicily page .

Intercity Notte overnight trains also link Trieste/Venice with Rome, Turin/Milan with Naples, and Turin/Milan with Bari, Brindisi & Lecce, see the Intercity Notte page .

Regionale & Regionale Veloce (R, RV)

Regional trains come in many different shapes & sizes, they operate all over Italy including Florence-Pisa, Florence-Siena, Florence-Lucca, Venice-Trieste, Rome-Civitavecchia.  On regional trains there are no assigned seats, you sit where you like.  Luggage goes on the racks or simply on the floor.  There's no catering, so bring your own food & drink.  Many are 2nd class only.

There's little point in booking regional trains in advance as there's just one cheap fixed Ordinaria fare that can be bought on the day at that price.  Buy a ticket from the ticket office or self-service machines or buy online or in the Trenitalia app.  Interrail or Eurail passholders can just hop on, nothing more to do or pay.

Ticketing for regional trains

The old system of having to stamp your ticket in a validator machine is gone, as is the system of tickets being good for any train in a 4-hour time slot.

From 5 August 2023, tickets for regional trains bought online or in an app are only good for a specific train.

You can change the date & time of your train free of charge using the Trenitalia app or website, as many times as you like, up to 23:59 the day before departure. It's also refundable up to that time.  On the day of travel, you can change the time of your train as many times as you like, free of charge.

Before boarding the train you must 'check in' online using the app or the website link provided, this validates the ticket for use on that train, your ticket is then considered used and no further changes can be made.

Remember you'll need internet access on your phone for this, if you can't rely on that, buy at the station at least 5 minutes before departure.

Can regional trains sell out?

Tickets are usually available in unlimited numbers so regional trains can't sell out, for example Milan-Tirano, Florence-Siena or Florence-Pisa.  However, Trenitalia now have some regional routes such as Venice-Trieste where the number of tickets sold for each train is limited so they can in theory sell out and occasionally do - even though specific seats aren't assigned.  This devious practice started during the pandemic and has continued.  To check, find the train on www.trenitalia.com and click the 'i' symbol for details.  If it says non-prenotabile , you're fine, tickets are unlimited and can't sell out.  If it says prenotabile ticket numbers are limited, so bear that in mind.

A regional train of the sort that runs from Florence to Pisa, Livorno & Siena.

Italo high-speed trains:   See the Italo guide

Private operator NTV (Nuovo Trasporto Viaggiatori) started operating its Italo high-speed trains on the Milan-Bologna-Florence-Rome-Naples route in 2012, and now competes with Trenitalia on the Turin-Milan-Verona-Venice and Venice-Florence-Rome-Naples routes as well.  Competition between Trenitalia and Italo has driven up quality, increased capacity and driven down fares.  It's well worth considering Italo for a journey between the main Italian cities.

See the Seat61 Italo information page for more information, an illustrated guide and the Italo video guide .

An Italo AGV train at Rome Termini .

Travel tips

1st or 2nd class?

2nd class (or standard class on Frecciarossas ) is absolutely fine.  It's very comfortable and there's plenty of luggage space, there's no need to pay for 1st class (or business class on Frecciarossas ) if you are on a budget.  There are very few peasants & chickens in 2nd class on European trains these days...

On the other hand, 1st (or business) class is nicer, with wider, plusher seats and a quieter environment with more laptops tapping and fewer noisy kids.  And with long-distance trains dynamically priced, it often costs only a little more to go 1st class if you book ahead. 

1st class seats are generally arranged 2+1 across the car width rather than 2+2, so you get solo seats (ideal for single travellers) and face-to-face tables for two on one side of the aisle, ideal for couples as you then face each other and both get a window seat that is also an aisle seat, the best of both worlds. 

On Frecciarossa trains you also get a complimentary glass of prosecco and a small snack box in business class.

Luggage arrangements:   See the luggage section .

Ticket validation

Language problems

First-time visitors often think this will be a problem, but it hardly ever is.  At stations, finding your platform & train using the various departure screens is no different from finding your gate & plane at an airport.  Signs are often in English as well as Italian, or pictograms are used.  On high-speed trains, announcements are usually repeated in English.

At ticket offices clerks have a pretty shrewd idea you want a train ticket not a packet of washing powder, in fact clerks in popular tourist cities will be used to dealing with Brits, Americans & Australians and will usually know the relevant words in English about one-ways & round trips, first or second class.  The ticket machines at every main station have a touch-screen with an English language facility.

The one thing that does help is knowing Italian place names:  Rome = Roma, Florence = Firenze, Venice = Venezia, Naples = Napoli, Milan = Milano, Turin = Torino, Genoa = Genova.

Food & drink on trains in Italy

Most high-speed trains have a cafe-bar, although most Intercity trains (and Italo trains) only have vending machines.  Feel free to bring your own food and drink with you, even a bottle of wine if you like, no rules against that on the rails!

You can take a bike with you on suburban, Regional & InterRegional trains if you buy a bike ticket costing about €4.  You can also pay to reserve a bike space on most Intercity trains .  However, on high-speed trains such as Frecciarossas you need to put your bike in a zip-up bike bag, front wheel & pedals removed and handlebars turned, see the bikes by train page .

Dogs & pets

Go to www.trenitalia.com and search under Services for Transport of pets .  You can take pets on many trains, but the rules vary slightly by type of train.  Very small dogs, cats & other pets in containers no bigger than 70cm x 30cm x 50cm are carried free on almost all trains & classes.  Larger dogs on a lead & muzzled are allowed on almost all trains but must have a ticket bought for them at 50% of the adult 2nd class fare (whatever class the owner is using) and they are not permitted in Executive or Premium classes on Frecciarossa trains, or in catering cars.  You can take a dog in sleepers or couchettes only if your party occupies the whole compartment.  Guide dogs are always free.

First class lounges at Italian stations

Executive class passengers & holders of Trenitalia's frequent traveller card can use the FrecciaClub lounges at stations in major cities.

Club class passengers on Italo , can use the Club Italo lounge at major city stations.  Prima class passengers can also use the lounge if they pay a €12 add-on when booking - though this may not be offered at busy times or with the cheapest tickets.

A train planner app for your phone

Railplanner is a free offline train timetable app that you can download onto your phone to check train times, station departures & train calling points on the move without the need to be on WiFi or to use mobile data .  It's blisteringly quick and covers not just Italy but most of Europe.  It highlights the reservation-required high-speed & InterCity trains in red and the no-reservation-required regional trains in green.  It's created with Eurail & Interrail passholders in mind, but is useful for anyone. Download for iPhone or Android at www.eurail.com/en/plan-your-trip/rail-planner-app - please let me know if the link stops working.

Are the trains running on time?

You can check real-time arrivals and departures at any Trenitalia station or the running of any train by train number at www.viaggiatreno.it .  Most regional trains run more or less on time, and so do most high-speed long-distance trains, with perhaps a 10 or 20 minute delay here and there.  However, make allowances for a typical 30 to 90 minute delay when catching the overnight sleeper trains to/from Sicily, for example.

Choosing your seat

Trenitalia.com , Italiarail.com & Thetrainline.com allow you to choose your seats from a seat map on Frecciarossa , Frecciargento , Frecciabianca and Intercity trains within Italy.

It's pretty self-explanatory, but as I'm often asked, yes, the grey bars are tables, and no, you can't tell which way seats face.  Indeed, most Naples-Rome-Venice and Naples-Rome-Milan trains change direction at both Rome Termini and Florence SMN station , both of which are dead-end terminus stations.

For a couple in 1st class I recommend a face-to-face table for two.

Choosing a seat on an Italian train

Luggage on trains in Italy

Luggage is no real problem on Italian trains, and it makes no real difference whether you go 1st or 2nd class, there's always room for bags.  You don't check your bags in and there is no baggage car.  You simply take whatever you like into the train with you, and stick your bags on the racks above your head or on the big luggage racks at the end of each car or between the seat backs.  On regional trains, it just goes on the floor next to you if there aren't any racks.

There are no baggage fees or weight limits to worry about, for most practical purposes if you can carry it you can bring it.  It's so simple, it hardly needs explaining, yet overseas visitors chase their tails worrying about it.  Don't over-think it, but don't travel with more than you really need.  Anything up to backpack-sized fits on the racks above your head, larger items such as bulky suitcases go on the racks at the end of the car, in the seating area, or between the seat backs.

Security is not a major problem, your bags full of clothing are no more likely to be stolen than airline checked baggage.  There's no need to chain your bag to the rack, any more than you'd chain you bags to the luggage bin on a plane.  Although I like to use a rack which I can see from my seat and I always keep cameras, passports and so on in my daypack at my seat.  But I thought that was obvious?

Porters are pretty much a thing of the past along with butlers, valets and ladies' maids.  However, Milan Centrale , Milan Porta Garibaldi , Venice Santa Lucia , Rome Termini , Florence SMN , Turin Porta Nuova are all termini with level access to and between all trains.  You can just pull your bag on its wheels from street or taxi rank across the station concourse right up to the train door, lift it two steps up into the train, and wheel it to a convenient rack or space between the seats next to your seat.  If you're elderly or pregnant, another passenger will almost always help you get your bags the two short steps into the train.

Luggage storage at stations

All main Italian stations including Turin Porta Nuova , Milan Centrale , Verona Porta Nuova , Venice Santa Lucia , Florence SMN , Rome Stazione Termini & Naples Centrale have left-luggage facilities, either lockers or a staffed facility.  Information on left-luggage prices & opening times .

Which station in which city?

The main station in Rome is Roma Termini , walking distance from all the sights.  Roma Ostiense and Roma Tiburtina are on the outskirts of the city, you'll need a taxi (around €12) or local train into the city centre.  The Vatican has its own suburban station, Roma San Pietro, but it’s easy to reach St Peter’s from the Stazione Termini by bus or taxi.  See the Roma Termini station guide .

The main station in Venice is Venezia Santa Lucia , located in the city of Venice itself on the banks of the Grand Canal, walking distance from the Rialto Bridge and St Mark's Square.  Venezia Mestre is on the mainland in an industrial area, a long way from Venice, always book to Venice Santa Lucia unless you have a hotel in Mestre.  See the Venice Santa Lucia station guide .

The main station in Florence is Firenze Santa Maria Novella , normally abbreviated to SMN, in the city centre easy walking distance from all the sights.  A few trains use Campo Marte or Rifredi stations outside the city centre, linked to SMN by frequent local trains, but avoid booking to these stations, look for a train to Florence SMN .  See the Florence SMN station guide .

Milano Centrale is the main station, a vast magnificent terminus in the city centre, served by most mainline and international trains.  Milan Porta Garibaldi is also central, used by the French Railways TGVs to Paris and by some Trenitalia trains, it's a 25 minute walk, 5 minute metro ride or 8 minute taxi ride from Centrale.  Some Malpensa airport trains arrive at Milan Cadorna, a small local terminus also located in the city centre, although other Malpensa airport trains run to Milan Porta Garibaldi and Milan Centrale .  Milan's Lambrate station is much less central, and Milan Rogoredo is 5 km from the city centre.  See the Milan Centrale station guide .

Torino Porta Nuova is the main station, a big terminus.  However, TGV trains to Paris leave from the other station, Turin Porta Susa , and most trains to Rome, Milan or Venice call at Porta Susa after leaving Porta Nuova .  Both stations are in Turin's historic city centre, walking distance from all the sights.  See the Turin station guide .

In Siena, the station is at the foot of the hill and used to be a steep trek up to the old town.  However, there's now a series of modern escalators and moving walkways that ferry you almost painlessly to the top of the hill, from where it's just a minute or two's walk to the Porta Camollia at the entrance to the old town.  From the Porta Camollia it's a pleasant 15 minute stroll to the famous Piazza del Campo.

Leaning Tower of Pisa

Map of Pisa showing tower & railway stations .  Many people do Pisa as a day trip from Florence, using the frequent local trains.  Pisa Centrale is 2km from the Tower, a 30 minute walk, but if you take a train to Pisa S. Rossore station it's only a 5-10 minute walk to the Tower.  Some trains from Florence go direct to Pisa S. Rossore, 1 stop beyond Pisa Centrale, others require a change at Pisa Centrale.  Check train times using www.trenitalia.com or www.italiarail.com .

How to travel to Sicily

The train is a wonderful way to reach Sicily, an experience in itself.

There are two daytime InterCity trains from Rome & Naples to Palermo, Catania, Siracuse and time-effective overnight sleeper trains from Milan, Rome & Naples direct to Palermo, Catania & Siracuse.  See the timetable & information on the Trains to Sicily page .

If you use the daytime trains, bring a picnic and bottle of wine (as there's no catering car) and enjoy the ride, much of it along the Italian coast just a stone's throw from the sea towards the toe of Italy. 

All these trains are shunted onto a ferry at Villa san Giovanni for the short crossing of the Straits of Messina to Sicily.  It's the last remaining place in Europe where passenger trains go onto a ferry, a unique experience, watch the video .   Once the train is secured in the ship's hold, steps are placed next to the train doors, and you can either remain on board the train or get off and walk upstairs to the deck to take some sea air, returning to the train as the ferry docks on the other side.  Highly recommended!  You can book all of these trains to Sicily as shown here .

Or use an overnight ferry from Naples :  You can sail from Naples to Palermo by comfortable overnight ferry, with a  or shared cabin with en suite shower & toilet, and there are restaurants and bars for an enjoyable evening on board.  Ferries typically sail every day at around 20:00 and arrive around 06:30 in both directions.  See www.tirrenia.it & www.snav.it for times, dates, fares & online booking.

How to reach Herculaneum, Pompeii & Sorrento

Naples to Herculaneum, Pompeii & Sorrento by Circumvesuviana train

The railway from Naples to Herculaneum, Pompeii & Sorrento isn't run by Trenitalia, it's the privately-run Circumvesuviana Railway, www.eavsrl.it .  That's why you can't find trains to Sorrento on trenitalia.com or italiarail.com.  Map of Naples showing stations .

Simply buy a mainline ticket from Venice, Florence, Rome or wherever to Naples Centrale at www.italiarail.com or www.trenitalia.com .  On arrival at Naples Centrale, follow the signs to Circumvesuviana , these will take you downstairs to the Circumvesuviana station.

The Circumvesuviana station has its own ticket office, either buy a ticket to Ercolano, Pompeii Scavi or Sorrento there or use the ticket gate that allows you to touch in with a contactless bank card.  Go through the automatic ticket gates onto the platform and hop on the next train.

Trains run to Herculaneum (Ercolano), Pompeii and Sorrento every 30 minutes throughout the day, no reservation is necessary or possible.  Outside the weekday rush hours the trains are not crowded, there are plenty of seats and it's very easy to use.  Luggage goes on the racks or just on the floor, no problem.  This handy video shows you what to expect .

Naples to Pompeii costs around €3.20 one-way, journey around 40 minutes. 

Naples to Sorrento costs around €4.50 one-way, journey 55-65 minutes.

Naples to Sorrento by ferry

You can also travel from Naples Beverello ferry terminal to Sorrento by fast ferry with around 5 departures a day, journey time 45 minutes, fare around €13, bags €2.10, see www.alilauro.it .  You can buy online or just buy at the ferry terminal on the day.

To the top of Vesuvius

To visit the summit of Vesuvius, two morning buses run from Naples or a more regular bus service runs from Pompeii, both run by EAVBUS, see www.eavbus.it (Italian only) or (more usefully) www.unicocampania.it , click English top right and look for 'Vesuvio Fares' under 'Tourist Info'.

Day trip to Pompeii?   It's easy to arrange a trip to Pompeii yourself by train, see the guide here .

How to reach Capri

Buy a mainline ticket from Venice, Florence, Rome or wherever to Naples Centrale at www.italiarail.com or www.trenitalia.com . 

The island of Capri is just off Sorrento.  You have two options:  You can take a direct ferry from Naples to Capri, journey time around 45 minutes, fare €20.10, or you can take the Circumvesuviana Railway to Sorrento (55-65 minutes) then a shorter ferry crossing to Capri (around 25 minutes, fare €18.10).

If you choose the ferry from Naples, take a taxi (5-10 minutes) or walk (about 25 minutes) from Naples Centrale to Naples Beverello ferry quay.  Fast ferries taking just 45 minutes link Naples Berevello with Capri every hour or two between 07:00 & 18:00, see either www.snav.it or Omio.com for times & fares.  The ferry fare is about €20.10 plus a euro or two per item of large luggage.  You don't need to pre-book the ferry, just turn up, buy a ticket and hop on.  Map of Naples showing station & ferry terminals .

If you choose to take the local Circumvesuviana Railway to Sorrento, there are many ferries to Capri, no pre-booking necessary.  Just be aware that it's a longish steep walk from Sorrento Circumvesuviana station down the hill to the ferry terminal.

Ferries from both Naples & Sorrento arrive at Capri's busy Marina Grande, there's a funicular railway up the steep hillside to Capri town itself. Bring plenty of money to Capri, even a small beer costs over €7!

How to reach Ischia

Ferries link Naples with Porto Ischia, see either www.caremar.it (sailings every hour or two, crossing time 45 minutes fast ferry or 90 mins conventional ferry) or www.alilauro.it .

How to reach Amalfi, Positano, Praiano

Option 1, by bus from Salerno

There's no railway to these towns on the famous Amalfi Coast, but buses run from Salerno to Amalfi.  So buy a train ticket for one of the many high-speed trains from Milan, Florence and Rome direct to Salerno, then hop on a bus to Amalfi.  This Salerno bus option is the quickest way to Amalfi.

Buses link Salerno & Amalfi every hour or better between 06:00 & 22:30 on Mondays-Saturdays, slightly less frequently on Sundays, journey time 1h15, fare around €2.20 one-way, you buy a ticket at the tobacconists shop inside Salerno station.  The buses are operated by SITA, to check bus times see www.sitasudtrasporti.it (in Italian only, click 'Orari' then 'Campania').  To check fares, you'll need to use public transport site www.unicocampania.it , click English top right then 'Fares & Tickets'.

Option 2, by ferry from Salerno

Alternatively, you can take a ferry from Salerno to Amalfi or Positano.  See www.coopsantandrea.com for a timetable of small coastal ferries from Salerno (Concordia dock, 800m from Salerno railway station) to Amalfi and Positano.  At the time of writing, they had departures from Salerno at 08:40, 09:40, 10:40, 11:40, 14:10 and 15:30, journey time to Amalfi just 35 minutes, but check their website for current timings.  This is a good option in summer when the narrow coast road is clogged with traffic.

Option 3, by bus from Sorrento

You can also buy a train ticket to Naples, hop on the Circumvesuviana Railway to Sorrento as shown above then take a bus to Positano, Praiano & Amalfi.  For buses linking Sorrento with Positano, Praiano & Amalfi, see www.sitasudtrasporti.it (in Italian only, click 'Orari' then 'Campania').  Sorrento-Amalfi takes 1 hour 40 minutes, buses run hourly or at certain times half-hourly 06:30 to 22:00, and the fare is around €2.90.  The journey along the coast road is dramatic, the bus hugging the cliff and it rear end swinging out precariously at every hairpin bend!

Option 4, a private transfer from Naples to Praiano, Positano or Amalfi hotels

If cost is no object, a private car transfer from Naples Centrale railway station to Positano or Praiano costs around €95 one-way for up to 3 people, or around €110 to Amalfi.  Try www.amalfishuttle.com or www.positanoshuttle.com (same people - click 'transfer' at the top).  I have not had any reports about them yet, so feedback would be appreciated.  They will also do transfers from Sorrento Circumvesuviana station, which reduces the cost.

How to reach Elba

Travel by train to Piombino Marittima.  Moby Lines ( www.mobylines.com ) sail every hour or so from Piombino to Portoferraio on Elba, crossing time 1 hour, foot passengers €7 one-way.

How to reach Lake Como

Como San Giovanni is the mainline station for Como, it's on the Zurich-Milan main line and linked to Milan Centrale by frequent regional train.  Check times as above .

Lecco, Varenna  & Bellanoare on the eastern side of Lake Como, there is a station at Lecco & Varenna-Esino (for the ferry to Bellagio) and Bellano on the Trenord local line linking Milan Centrale with Tirano (near the Swiss border, for the fabulous narrow-gauge Bernina route to Chur & Zurich).  Check times as above

How to reach Lake Garda

The station for Lake Garda is either Desenzano del Garda-Sirmione or Peschiera del Garda .  Both stations are on the Milan-Verona main line.  As well as regional trains, some fast Milan-Verona-Venice trains call at Peschiera or Desenzano.

Alternatively, take a train to Verona Porta Nuova .  Buses run frequently times an hour from outside the station to the eastern shores of Lake Garda including Lazise, Bardonlino & Garda, see the bus company website www.atv.verona.it .

How to reach San Marino

San Marino has no rail station, but can easily be reached by bus from Rimini.  Buses leave from outside Rimini railway station every hour or so between 08:10 and 19:25 in winter, between 06:45 and 20:30 in summer, less frequently on winter Sundays, journey time 50 minutes, fare around €5.00 one-way.  You can check bus times and fares at the bus company website, www.bonellibus.it .

How to reach Sardinia

Ferries to Sardinia

Ferries sail from Civitavecchia, Livorno, Naples & Palermo to various ports on Sardinia including Olbia & Golfo Aranci in the north and Caligari in the south.  Operators include Tirrenia, Grimaldi Lines, Corsica-Sardinia Ferries, use Direct Ferries to check and book all ferry routes & operators .

The shortest ferry crossing is Civitavecchia (just north of Rome) to Olbia where the daily daytime ferry takes 5h30, and an overnight ferry with cabins takes 7h.  A daily ferry with cabins links Naples with Caligari overnight.

Trains on Sardinia

Regional trains run by a division of Trenitalia link the major centres and ports:  Golfo Aranci, Olbia, Sassari, Porto Torres, Oristano, Cagliari.  You can check train times at www.trenitalia.com although as trains are classed as regional you may as well just buy tickets at the station on the day.

In addition to the main Trenitalia routes, tourist services called the Little Green Trains run on two or three very rural routes, see www.treninoverde.com (in Italian only, use Google Chrome translation feature).  These trains are run by transport authority ARST, a company formed by merging the urban transport authority with Sardinian Railways.

Airport train connections

Milan malpensa airport.

There are regional trains from Milan Malpensa airport to Milan Centrale every 30 minutes, journey time 52 minutes, fare around €12, no reservation necessary or possible, just buy a ticket at the station and hop on the next train.

Change at Milan Centrale for high-speed Frecciarossa & Frecciabianca trains to Venice, Florence, Rome, Naples or anywhere else in Italy.  You can check times & fares at www.italiarail.com or www.trenitalia.com .  Reservation is required for Italian long-distance & high-speed trains, make sure you read the tips below.

Rome Fiumicino airport

Leonardo Express trains run from Rome Fiumicino airport to Rome Termini in the city centre every 30 minutes, journey time 32 minutes, fare around €14, no reservation necessary or possible, just buy a ticket at the station and hop on the next train.

Change at Rome Termini for high-speed Frecciarossa & Frecciargento trains to Venice, Florence, Naples or anywhere else in Italy - indeed, there's even a very occasional direct high-speed train from Rome Fiumicino Airport to Florence & Venice.   You can check times & fares at www.italiarail.com or www.trenitalia.com - Reservation is required for Italian long-distance & high-speed trains, make sure you read the tips below.

Pisa airport

A people-mover (driverless train) shuttles passengers from Pisa airport to Pisa Centrale in the city centre in just 8 minutes.  Change at Pisa Centrale for hourly regional trains to Florence, and regular regional, Intercity or Frecciabianca trains to Rome, La Spezia and Monterosso in Cinque Terre.  You can check times & fares at www.trenitalia.com selecting Pisa fermata Aeroporto for Pisa airport station - but read the tips below.

Bologna airport

A people mover links Bologna Centrale with Bologna airport, for more info see the Bologna Centrale station guide .

Tips for buying plane-to-train tickets

The regional trains from Malpensa into Milan, from Fiumicino into Rome or from Pisa to Florence are no problem - you can turn up, buy a ticket at the station & hop on the next train.  No reservation is possible and no pre-booking necessary.  They cannot sell out.

But if you intend to catch an onward high-speed train from Milan or Rome to (let's say) Florence, Naples or Venice, remember that Italian high-speed trains require reservation and tickets are only valid on the specific train you book .

Cheap advance-purchase economy or super-economy tickets become worthless if your flight is late and you miss your train.  Even a flexible 'base' ticket becomes worthless one hour after departure if you can't get to a Trenitalia ticket counter to change the reservation to a later train.

So when arriving by air at Malpensa or Fiumicino and going to Florence, Naples, Venice and the like, you must choose one of two strategies:

Option 1, prioritise your budget:  The money-saving option is to buy a cheap Super-Economy fare and commit to a specific train in advance at www.italiarail.com or www.trenitalia.com , but allowing a hefty 3-4 hours between flight arrival and train, to allow for any flight delays or long lines at immigration.

Option 2, prioritise your time:  The time-saving option is to just buy a ticket at the base price when you get to the airport station.  Then you can buy a ticket for the first train leaving after you have landed, collected your bags and are ready to go.  I know this goes against the grain for overseas visitors desperate to reserve every Starbucks cappuccino 6 months ahead, but unless it's Christmas Eve or the like, you'll always find places available even right before departure as there are so many seats on so many trains, this shouldn't be a concern.  You can check what the base fare is by running an enquiry on www.italiarail.com , clicking on a train then clicking the button marked '+ show flexible fares'.  The flexible fare is what you pay at the station on the day.

A compromise option?    You may find it cheaper to book cheap advance-purchase tickets on two trains - the train you should easily make if your flight is on time and a back-up train an hour or two later - than to pay the base fare for one train as in the time-saving option above.  Or book one train that you should normally easily be able to make, then just accept that if the plane is significantly late, you'll have to buy another ticket at the base fare.

How to use Trenitalia.com

The Italian Railways website www.trenitalia.com is well worth getting to know.  It can sell:

Domestic Italian train tickets for any train journey within Italy, including couchettes & sleepers on overnight trains, at cheap prices with no booking fee.

International train tickets for most direct international trains starting in Italy heading for Paris, Switzerland, Austria, Germany and Slovenia, including couchettes & sleepers on overnight trains, again with cheap tickets if you pre-book.  Remember that ticket collection for trains to Austria & Germany is only possible at stations in Italy!

Or use Italiarail.com instead.   You may find www.italiarail.com easier to use than trenitalia.com for sleeper trains, international trains and passholder reservations.  ItaliaRail is a US-based agency who connects directly to the Trenitalia ticketing system to sell the same trains at the same prices as Trenitalia, but in plain English using English-language place names.  They charge a booking fee of around €3.50, but this will be refunded if you send them an email at [email protected] after you book.

How to use www.trenitalia.com

Base is the fully-flexible fare, it's what you'd pay at the station on the day.  Refundable, only valid on the train booked but can be changed before departure, or at the station up to an hour after departure.  The base fare was originally one fixed-price for a given journey, but as from late 2017 the base fare for Frecciarossa & Frecciargento trains can vary slightly by day of the week or the popularity of each particular train.

Economy & Super-Economy are Trenitalia's cheap advance-purchase fares, only valid on the train booked, limited refunds & changes, limited availability, these are the fares you want for cheap travel, if you are certain what time train you want.

Cartafreccia Special fares can only be bought if you have a Cartafreccia card, which you probably haven't.

Ordinaria is the regular fare for regional trains.  It's fixed-price, you can buy at that price even on the day.  In principle this fare is good for any train, but you now need to select a specific departure and check in online for it before boarding, see more information about how regional tickets now work .

Posto Doppio - Compart. Intero = books a whole private 2-bed sleeper for 2 people.  If there's 2 of you, this is what you select for both passengers.

Posto Doppio - Uomo = reserves a bed or beds in a shared 2-bed sleepers, male-only compartments.

Posto Doppio - Donna = reserves a bed or beds in a shared 2-bed sleepers, ladies-only compartments.

Posto Singolo = single-bed sleeper, books one private compartment for one person.

Cuccette C4 Comfort-Promiscuo = bunk in shared 4-berth Comfort couchettes, normal mixed sex compartment.

Cuccette C4 Comfort - Donna = bunk in shared 4-berth Comfort couchettes, in special ladies-only compartment.

Cuccette C4 Comfort-Compart. Intero = whole 4-berth Comfort couchette compartment (must have 4 passengers selected).

Compartimento 3 Letti - Uomo = bed in shared 3-bed sleeper, male-only compartment.

Compartimento 3 Letti - Donna = bed in shared 3-bed sleeper, ladies-only compartment.

Compartimento 3 Letti - Intero = 3-bed sleeper, whole compartment (need to have pre-selected 3 passengers).

To book 2 people together in a 2-bed sleeper you'd select Posto Doppio - Compart. Intero for both passengers.

On some international routes they use slightly different sleeper terminology:

Cabina A3 = 3-berth.  Cabina A2 = 2-berth.  Gran classe = deluxe with shower & toilet.

But again, Uomo means male, donna means female, intera means you want to book a whole compartment.

Other problems?   If you get stuck, you can contact Trenitalia's web team at [email protected]  to unfreeze frozen accounts and so forth.  They can handle emails in English.  Or you can call Trenitalia telesales on +11 39 06 6847 5475.

How to use Trenitalia ticket machines

It's easy to buy tickets at the station using the self-service ticket machines at all main Italian stations, as long as you have a credit card with a PIN (4-digit personal identification number).  They have an English language facility, and it's faster and easier than using the ticket office.  The machines are pretty self-explanatory, but to give you confidence and so you know what to expect, here's how to use them.

Incidentally, you'll sometimes find annoying types who hang around offering to 'help' foreigners, just be healthily suspicious of them and refuse all help, you don't need it as the machines are self-explanatory and you certainly don't need anyone near your wallet or pockets while you are distracted.  Italian stations are perfectly safe (I've spent literally hours hanging round them out of professional interest, without any problem whatsoever), but it pays to be streetwise!

To buy a ticket

Children under 4 go free with no ticket needed, children under 12 can use a child rate ticket on regional trains, children under 14 can use a child ticket on Frecciarossa, Frecciargento, Frecciabianca, InterCity & InterCity Notte mainline trains.

Paying for a guidebook may seem an unnecessary expense, but it's only a fraction of what you spend on the whole trip.  If you have a decent guidebook, you see so much more and know so much more about what you're looking at.  I think the Lonely Planets or Rough Guides are the best ones out there for the independent traveller.

Click the images to buy at Amazon.co.uk

Or buy in the usa from amazon.com.

Alternatively, you can download just the chapters or areas you need in .PDF format from the Lonely Planet Website , from around £2.99 or US$4.95 a chapter.

European Rail Timetable & maps

Traveller's Railway Map of Europe - buy online

Rail Map Europe is the map I recommend, covering all of Europe from Portugal in the west to Moscow & Istanbul in the east, Finland in the north to Sicily & Athens in the south.  Scenic routes & high-speed lines are highlighted.  See an extract from the map .  Buy online at www.europeanrailtimetable.eu (shipping worldwide) or at www.amazon.co.uk (UK addresses).

Recommended hotels

Here are my suggested hotels in key Italian cities, conveniently located for arrival by train and all with good or great reviews.  You are unlikely to be disappointed by any hotel scoring over 8.0 out of 10 on Booking.com .

There are lots of hotels near Milan Centrale , used by the Frecciarossa to/from Paris, the EuroCity trains to/from Switzerland and the majority of Italian domestic trains.

Affordable hotels & guesthouses with good or great reviews just outside the station include the Hotel Bristol , Hotel Bernina , 43 Station Hotel , B&B Hotel Milano Central Station , Guesthouse Teodora .

M ore upmarket hotels include HD8 Hotel , Glam Hotel , Made to Measure Business , Starhotel Echo or Starhotel Anderson .

At the top end, the 5-star Excelsior Hotel Gallia is just across the road, you won't go wrong with that if your budget will stretch!

Near Milan Porta Garibaldi (used by the TGV to/from Paris), the AC Milano Hotel (a Marriott Lifestyle Hotel) is just 350m from the station and gets good reviews.  Also try the Holiday Inn Porta Garibaldi , which offers family rooms.

Hotels near Verona Porta Nuova station with good or great reviews include the Corte Merighi Rooms & Breakfast , Novo Hotel Rossi , Guesthouse Verona or (a little closer to the centre, but with fab reviews) the Relais Empire .

Location, location, location!   Some people try to save money by staying on the mainland at Mestre , hotels in Mestre being naturally cheaper.  It's an option, but don't do it if you don't have to.  You want to be a resident in Venice, not a serial day-tripper, so try to find an affordable place in the historic city of Venice itself.

Venice Santa Lucia station is walking distance from everywhere in central Venice including the Rialto Bridge and Piazza San Marco, so a hotel near the station which you can easily walk to with your bags makes a lot of sense.

Relatively inexpensive places with good reviews near Venice Santa Lucia include Albergo Marin , Hotel Marte , La Loggia della Luna , Albergo ai Tolentini .

An excellent upmarket choice just 5 minutes walk from Venice Santa Lucia is the small and intimate Hotel Canal Grande - I've stayed there myself.  Also try the Abazzia De Luxe .

For the least expensive places in central Venice check www.hostelworld.com .  Use the map view to see places in Venice itself.

Of course, if you have the financial backing for a water taxi, then fine, stay near San Marco or wherever you like.  My son nagged me continually until I caved in and splurged €70 on a water taxi from Santa Lucia station to St Marks.  I have to say that it was the best thing I have ever done in Venice, and that includes a gondola ride!

If you do decide to stay in Mestre to save money and travel in & out of Venice by train every day, try the Hotel Cris which has great reviews 200m from Venezia Mestre station , and the Best Western Plus Hotel Bologna .

In Florence

For something fancy, try the Hotel Santa Maria Novella with a 9/10 review score and rooftop terrace overlooking the Basilica of Santa Maria Novella.  It's a mere 5-minute 400m walk from Florence Santa Maria Novella station .

For something more affordable but also an easy walk from the station, try the Hotel Art Atelier .

Other hotels nearby with good reviews include C-hotels Club , 7Florence B&B , Hotel Lombardia .

There are many hotels near Rome Termini .  However, an affordable top choice with a 9/10 review rating is the Hotel Diocleziano , a 5-minute 400m walk from Roma Termini's main entrance, set in a 19th century building next to the Terme di Diocleziano ancient Roman baths.

An upmarket option near the station is Hotel Le Petit , an 8-minute 700m walk from the station, also with great reviews.

Other hotels near the station with good or great reviews include The Hive Hotel , Dream Station , The Republic Hotel .

There are lots of hotels near Naples Centrale .

The Starhotel Terminus is just across the road from the station, gets great reviews and has a roof terrace with views over the Bay of Naples.

The Hotel Potenza is only a little further into the Piazza Garibaldi, cheaper, also with good reviews.

The Unahotel Napoli is highly recommended, on Piazza Mancini overlooking Piazza Garibaldi, on the far side facing the station.

Also consider the Pit Stop Napoli Centrale .

Booking.com for hotels

I generally use Booking.com for hotels for 3 reasons:

(1) It keeps all my hotel bookings together in one place;

(2) I've come to trust Booking.com 's review scores;

(3) Booking.com usually offers a clearly-marked Free cancellation option.

Free cancellation means you can secure hotels risk-free even before trains open for booking, and if necessary change those bookings if your plans evolve.

If I'm only staying a night or two, I look for a hotel near the station to make arrival & departure easy.  You can enter the station name (e.g. Berlin Hbf ) as search location.  If staying longer, I look for a hotel close to the sights, entering the name of a city attraction as the search location, then using map view.

AirBnB:  Airbnb.com

www.airbnb.com began in 2008 when two designers who had space to share hosted three travellers looking for a place to stay.  AirBnB is a platform which connects hosts with guests, so you can now book a room in people's homes, or an apartment, flat or house which people want to rent out.  It can be nicer than a hostel, cheaper than many hotels.

Backpacker hostels:  Hostelworld.com

www.hostelworld.com offers online booking of dorm beds or cheap private rooms in backpacker hostels most European cities at rock-bottom prices.  It's one way to cut costs significantly compared to using a hotel every night.

Travel insurance & other tips

Always take out travel insurance.

You should take out travel insurance with at least £1m or preferably £5m medical cover from a reliable insurer.  It should cover trip cancellation and loss of cash & belongings up to a reasonable limit.  These days, check you're covered for covid-19-related issues, and use an insurer whose cover isn't invalidated by well-meant but excessive Foreign Office travel advice against non-essential travel. An annual policy is usually cheapest even for just 2 or 3 trips a year, I have an annual policy with Staysure.co.uk myself.  Don't expect travel insurance to bail you out of every missed connection, see the advice on missed connections here .  Here are some suggested insurers, I get a little commission if you buy through these links, feedback always welcome.

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Get an eSIM with mobile data package

Don't rely on WiFi, download an eSIM with a European mobile data package and stay connected.  Most newer mobile phones can download a virtual SIM including iPhone 11 & later, see device compatibility list .  There's no need to buy a physical SIM card!  Maya.net is a reliable eSIM data retailer with a 4.5 out of 5 Trustpilot rating and a range of packages including unlimited data .

Get a Curve card for foreign travel

Most banks give you a poor exchange rate then add a foreign transaction fee on top.  A Curve MasterCard means no foreign transaction fees and gives you the mid-market exchange rate, at least up to a certain limit, £500 per month as I write this.  The money you spend on your Curve card goes straight onto one of your existing debit or credit cards.  And you can get a Curve card for free.

How it works:   1. Download the Curve app for iPhone or Android .  2. Enter your details & they'll send you a Curve MasterCard - they send to the UK and most European addresses.  3. Link your existing credit & debit cards to the app, you can link up to two cards with the free version of Curve, I link my normal debit card and my normal credit card.  4. Now use the Curve MasterCard to buy things online or in person or take cash from ATMs, exactly like a normal MasterCard. Curve does the currency conversion and puts the balance in your own currency onto whichever debit or credit card is currently selected in the Curve app.  You can even change your mind about which card it goes onto, within 14 days of the transaction.

I have a Curve Blue card myself, it means I can buy a coffee on a foreign station on a card without being stung by fees and lousy exchange rates, just by tapping the Curve card on their card reader.  The money goes through Curve to my normal debit card and is taken directly from my account (in fact I have the Curve card set up as payment card on Apple Pay on my iPhone, so can double-click my phone, let it do Face ID then tap the reader with the phone - even easier than getting a card out).  I get a little commission if you sign up to Curve, but I recommend it here because I think it's great.  See details, download the app and get a Curve card , they'll give you £5 cashback through that link.

Get a VPN for safe browsing.  Why you need a VPN

When travelling you may use free public WiFi which is often insecure.  A VPN encrypts your connection so it's always secure, even on unsecured WiFi.  It also means you can select the geographic location of the IP address you browse with, to get around geoblocking which a surprising number of websites apply.  See VPNs & why you need one explained .  ExpressVPN is a best buy with a 4.7 out of 5 Trustpilot ranking which I use myself - I've signed up as an ExpressVPN affiliate, and if you go with expressvpn.com using this link you should see a special deal, 3 months free with an annual subscription.  I also get some commission to help support this site.

Carry an Anker powerbank

Tickets, reservations, hotel bookings and Interrail or Eurail passes are often now held on your mobile phone.  You daren't let it run out of power, and you can't always rely on the phone's internal battery or on being near a power outlet.  I always carry an Anker powerbank which can recharge my phone several times over.  Buy from Amazon.co.uk or Buy from Amazon.com .

Touring cities?  Use hill walking shoes!

One of the best things I've done is swap my normal shoes for hill-walking shoes, in my case from Scarpa.  They're intended for hiking across the Pennines not wandering around Florence, but the support and cushioning for hiking works equally well when you're on your feet all day exploring foreign cities.  My feet used to give out first and limit my day, now the rest of me gives up before they do!

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Follow this Italy itinerary by train with the Eurail Italy Pass and be in for a real treat. Take a memorable gondola ride along Venice's Grand Canal, set out on a shopping extravaganza in Milan, and tour Rome's magnificent monuments and museums. Reserve a seat on Italy's Frecce high-speed trains for a fast and comfortable journey between the country's major cities. Or, hop on board Trenitalia regional trains and visit Italy's authentic towns and villages. The Eurail Italy Pass gives you the freedom to travel around Italy at your own pace and along the route that you choose.

Itinerary in short

Cities visited in this itinerary:.

Click here or on the map to view this route in our Trip Planner

Italy

For this itinerary, we recommend:

  • Eurail Pass: Italy
  • Travel days:  4 days within 1 month

Most of the high-speed trains in Italy require reservations. These reservations are not included in your Eurail Pass. Make sure to book your seats in advance; there are limited seats available for Eurail Pass holders. It's also possible to avoid reservations altogether simply by taking  regional trains . 

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Milan, Italy

Milan is Italy's city of class and elegance, with some of Europe's best shopping. Head to Quadrilatero d’Oro for a retail experience to die for with all the major designers concentrated together, such as Prada, Giorgio Armani, and Dolce & Gabbana. By night, get tickets for an opera or ballet at La Scala (Teatro alla Scala) for a memorable night of entertainment from the country's most renowned performers. Leonardo da Vinci's 15th-century mural, The Last Supper,  is housed within the Santa Maria della Grazie church and is a must-see on a visit to Milan. Another top attraction to include is the magnificent Milan Cathedral – swoon at the Gothic architecture from the exterior and inside, marvel at intricate stained glass windows and a rich array of sculptures and paintings.

italy-milan-cathedral-sunset

From Milan to Venice

Travel time:

Reservation needed:

Milano Centrale

Reservation required

Venice, Italy

Stazione di Venezia Mestre

If you're searching for an affair of the heart, Venice will reel you in with its artistic setting and labyrinth of enchanting canals. The best way to taste the city's riches is on board the iconic gondola. As you're propelled along the Grand Canal – Venice's most ancient water thoroughfare – admire views of grand Renaissance palaces and intricate arch bridges. Located just off the Grand Canal is Piazza San Marco , drawing in large crowds as well as musicians and artists. The square's centrerpiece is San Marco's Basilica – a fine example of Venetian-Byzantine architecture. The church is known as the "Church of Gold" thanks to its dressing of opulent gilt and intricate frescoes.

italy-venice-san-marco-square

From Venice to Florence

Venezia Santa Maria

Florence, Italy

Firenze S.M.N.

Michelangelo's Statue of David is by far one of the most recognized sculptures on the planet and an absolute must-see on a trip to the Renaissance city of Florence. The original is housed in the Galleria dell'Accademia with a replica standing in Piazza della Signoria. This Renaissance masterpiece represents the biblical hero, David, which is made of marble, and stands at an astounding 17 ft (5.17m). Another popular attraction is il Duomo (Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore) – its impressive dome is the symbol of Florence. Climb the 463 steps up to the top for a panoramic vista across the city. The route also takes you to the dome's interior, where you can get up close to Giorgio Vasari's incredible frescoes of the Last Judgment. Whether you’re an art lover, a history buff, or just a curious adventurer, Florence offers a celebration for the eye and palate.

duomo_florence

From Florence to Rome

Rome, italy.

Roma Termini

Rome will be the highlight of your Italy itinerary. The Colosseum was the largest ever built in the Roman Empire and is regarded as one of the greatest examples of Roman architecture. Step into the core of the ancient amphitheatre to imagine the buzzing atmosphere of the chanting Roman crowds as barbarous fighting between gladiators took place. Within Rome sits the Vatican – the sovereign city-state packed with fascinating museums and imposing architecture. Take a tour of the Vatican Museums , which were established and developed over the centuries by the reigning Popes. In the Sistine Chapel, you'll see Michelangelo's remarkable frescoes that adorn the walls and ceilings—Nearby is St  Peter's Basilica – an impressive example of Renaissance architecture and the holiest Catholic site.

italy-rome-vatican-river-view

From Rome to Naples

Naples, italy.

Napoli Centrale

If you're looking for an insight into the real, gritty Italy of the south, Naples is your place. The city is Italy's third biggest and has some of the world's best opera houses and theatres. Head to the Bay of Naples for glorious views of Mount Vesuvius – one of Italy's three active volcanoes. Just a short boat ride away is the stunning Capri Island , where wealthy Italians spend their summer vacations. It makes for the perfect day trip from the hustle and bustle of Naples. Take a clifftop walk to admire views across the sun-kissed Tyrrhenian Sea, and be sure to enjoy a refreshing drink of fresh orange and lemon juice – made with fruit hand-picked from the island's groves. The boat ride to Capri is not included in your Eurail Pass.

Capri Island

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best hikes in italy

17 Best Hikes in Italy for your Bucket List [2023]

  • October 10, 2021 October 21, 2023

Italy is a dream vacation spot for many people who seek beautiful beaches, colorful villages, big cities, historic sites, and also a variety of natural landmarks. Hikes in Italy offer a variety of diverse landscapes from big alpine mountains to short and low walking paths.

On the current list of best hikes in Italy , you will find spectacular trails from north to south, from easy to difficult levels, and from short to long treks.

Disclosure : This article features affiliate links, including Amazon.com. If you decide to buy through one of these links, I’ll earn a small commission at no extra expense to you. For more details, please see my disclosure policy .

1. Cinque Terre hike

  • Location : Italian Riviera, Liguria.
  • Distance : 12 km (7.5 mi).
  • Duration : 3 hours to 1 day.
  • Maximum elevation : 220 m (722 ft).
  • Difficulty : Easy.

Cinque Terre in the Italian Riviera is one of the most visited places in the country. The area is attractive due picturesque five villages, surrounding beautiful landscape, and the deep blue Mediterranean Sea. From there you can also find one of the best hikes in Italy.

There are several hiking options around Cinque Terre from short walks to multi day treks. The most busiest and attractive is the Blue Path trail that connects all five fisher villages. The 12 km hiking path is divided into four sections, connecting all the villages.

The Blue Path trail is doable each way, either starting from Monterosso al Mare on the north or Riomaggiore on the south. It’s a relatively easy trail and you don’t need any special hiking experience or training, just a bottle of water and some energy. Also, many people only do some sections, so you don’t need to complete the whole 12 km trail.

Keep in mind that it’s mandatory to wear proper shoes. So leave your flip flops and wear at least some sports shoes. Also on two tracks, you have to pay a small fee to enter the trail.

Hiking in Cinque Terre is extremely scenic all the way. You can wander between the fields of lemon, grapes, and olives. Also, enjoy the views over the steep Cinque Terre National Park, admire the infinite Mediterranean Sea, and these beautiful five villages.

Read more : Hiking in Cinque Terre .

2. Tre Cime di Lavaredo Loop hike

Recommended by Jurga from FullSuitcase

  • Location : Dolomites, Northern Italy.
  • Distance : 10km (6.2 mi).
  • Duration : 3 h.
  • Maximum elevation : 2,454 m (8,050 ft).
  • Difficulty : Moderate.

The three peaks of Tre Cime di Lavaredo are the symbol of the Italian Dolomites and one of the most visited places in the region. Tre Cime loop hike is also extremely popular, attracting big crowds. So if you are planning to hike here, be sure to arrive as early in the morning as possible.

The circular hike starts and ends at Rifugio Auronzo. You can either get here by car or – in high season – by public transport from Cortina d’Ampezzo via Misurina. If driving by car, you’ll have to pay a fee (30 € at the moment of writing), but there are no extra fees for parking or similar.

The views along the Tre Cime di Lavaredo hike are phenomenal from start to finish. One of the best hikes in Italy also offers more variation than it looks at first sight – from rocky barren landscapes to streams and mountain lakes surrounded by colorful wildflowers. There are also a few mountain huts along the way, with restaurants serving regional specialties.

And while Tre Cime loop is a moderate hike with some short steeper sections, it’s not too strenuous. A total elevation gain is less than 400 meters. If you take your time, you can easily do this hike with children from about the age of 6 as well.

Good hiking shoes are a must and you should always carry a light sweater and a rain jacket – the weather can change quickly. Please also note that due to elevation, the best season to hike here is between June and September. Furthermore, there’s always a risk of thunderstorms in the afternoon – another good reason to start the hike early.

Read more : Hiking in the Alps .

3. Lagazuoi Circuit hike

Recommended by Dean and Laynni from Routinely Nomadic

  • Location : Cortina D’Ampezzo, Dolomites
  • Distance : 15 km (9.3 mi).
  • Duration : 5-6 h.
  • Maximum elevation : 2,800 m (9,200 ft).
  • Difficulty : Difficult.

Some of the best and most varied hiking to be found in the Dolomites is around famous Mount Lagazuoi. With a checkered past as the front lines of the fighting in World War I this wildly scenic area offers incredible views, challenging climbs, and fascinating history. Often completed as part of the world-famous Alta Via trek, it is also possible to hit all the best spots on a single day hike.

Starting from Passo Falzarego, just a short drive from popular Cortina D’Ampezzo, take the cable car up to Rifugio Lagazuoi . You can hike the entire way if you choose but with several more big climbs to come, you may want to save your energy. History buffs can explore the Lagazuoi Tunnels before continuing up to Piccolo Lagazuoi, one of the most extraordinary panoramic viewpoints in Italy.

From there it is a long, rocky downhill to reflective little Lago Lagazuoi. Give your legs a short rest before tackling the big climb to Forcella del Lago, a stunning notch in the mountains with fantastic views back toward Lagazuoi. 

Then, after carefully making your way back down, retrace your steps as far as Forcella Lagazuoi (about 150m below the rifugio. Then head east to enjoy pleasant meadows and more great mountain scenery on an easy trail around Col de Bois before starting down direct views of Cinque Torri and Mount Nuvolau looming in front of you the entire way.

This is a strenuous hike over rough terrain with steep, exposed sections so be sure to wear good hikers and pack food and water in case it takes longer than planned. It’s also recommended to take hiking poles to help on the steep slopes.

4. Lake Sorapis hike

Recommended by Caroline from Veggie wayfarer

  • Location : Veneto region, Italian Dolomites
  • Distance : 14 km (8.7 mi).
  • Duration : 4.5 h. 
  • Maximum elevation : 1,923 m (6,309 ft).

Lake Sorapis is one of those amazing lakes in the Dolomites the region is known for. Except that to get to witness the beauty of Lake Sorapis, you will need to undertake a 14km hike (roundtrip). Do not let that stop you though, as one of the best hikes in Italy is beautiful and the Sorapis Lake is just the cherry on top of the sundae.

Reaching the starting point for the hike is relatively easy in both car and public transport (bus). Should you be driving, simply put Passo Tre Croci in your GPS. If you are taking the bus, leave from Cortina and take bus number 30, get off at bus stop Passo Tre Croci . There are no toilets or stores on the trail, so your best is to stock up on anything you need at the little restaurant 200 meters from the trailhead.

Time to get started! The first part of the trail will lead you to wind paths in the forest, slowly creeping up. Clamber across a few rivers and a few (slightly rickety) stairs to reach your end goal of Lake Sorapis. You will need to wear proper footwear as the path is unpaved and there is a little climbing involved here and there (minimal). The rocks on the path can get slippery when it has rained, bear that in mind.

For those who suffer from vertigo, this is perhaps a hike you will want to skip. There are more than a few narrow paths and staircases that offer the most majestic views over the valley below, but can be daunting for those who are afraid of heights.

5. Monte Subasio hike

Recommended by Sophie from Just Heading Out

  • Location : Assisi to Spello, Umbria.
  • Distance : 17.3 km (10.8 mi).
  • Duration : 6 h.
  • Maximum elevation : 1290 m (4230 ft).

Monte Subasio is a mountain in Umbria, just east of Assisi. The mountain is part of a protected nature reserve called Parco del Monte Subasio and connects to the Apennine Mountain Range.

The mountain is known for its flattened dome shape, making it a popular spot for paragliders and hikers. Some hiking trails connect to the longer Via Francescana, a pilgrimage trail named after the famous St. Francis of Assisi.

A network of trails runs along and up the mountain. The most popular trail, nr. 50, goes over the summit, from Assisi to Spello. The trail is well maintained and marked. It leads you along with several points of interest and viewpoints. The summit of Monte Subasio offers a stunning 360-degree view of the surrounding landscape, with the Sibillini Mountains on one side and the Valle Umbra on the other.

It’s one of the best hikes in Italy, not too difficult but with an elevation gain of over 1000 meters. The lack of shade at the top makes this hike more strenuous during the hot summer months. Several water points along the trail are turned off during drought and frost, and there is no option to buy food or drinks on the mountain. So be sure to bring plenty of water and food. It gets very windy at the top of the Monte Subasio, so wear good hiking boots and layered clothing.

Both the start and finish points are connected to the local railway system.

6. Portofino to San Fruttuoso hike

Recommended by James Ian at Travel Collecting

  • Distance : 4 km (3 mi).
  • Duration : About 2 hours one way.
  • Maximum elevation : 263 m (863 ft)
  • Difficulty : Moderate

One of the great things about this hike is that you can do it one way only. If you are coming from Rapallo, you can take a ferry to Portofino, via Santa Margherita Ligure. The trail ends at San Fruttuoso and you can take a boat back to Rapallo or Portofino directly from there rather than having to hike back.

One of the best hikes in Italy, the trail heads up a steep staircase leading up from the boat dock in Portofino. It passes terraces with tiny patches of olive trees before heading into the hills past wildflowers, lemon groves, and more olive trees. It soon flattens out, and most of the trail is easy, hugging the tops of cliffs with the Mediterranean Sea sparkling in the sunshine far below. 

After the final viewpoint over the Mediterranean, the trail heads down through a forest in a series of steep switchbacks to the hidden cove of San Fruttuoso. The bay can only be accessed on foot or by boat. There are glimpses of the 10th-century abbey at San Fruttuoso before you arrive at the abbey and tiny beach. There are a few restaurants there, so you can spend the day relaxing on the beach before taking the boat back.

Although the trail is steep at the start and end, it is well-maintained and mostly flat, so you don’t need any special equipment for the hike.

7. Path of the Gods hike

Recommended by Terri at Female Solo Trek

  • Location : Amalfi Coast, Campania.
  • Distance : 8 km (5 mi).
  • Duration : 4 h.
  • Elevation gain : 291 m (950 ft).

The Sentiero Degli Dei, which is translated as the Path of the Gods, is truly a heavenly walk and of the best hikes in Italy. This cliff top trail leads down from Bomerano (in Agerola) to the magnificent Positano. 

The famous trail is located next to the beautiful Amalfi Coast winding along the Mediterranean Sea. The five-mile hike is considered moderate if the hiker is climbing down the trail, but it might be difficult for the knees when ascending. For the beginner Sunday hiker, it may take 4.5 hours to walk the trail. 

The elevation gain for the trail is 291 meters (950 feet), and it doesn’t stop any hiker from completing the scenic track. During the peak tourist months (April-September), it may be heavily trafficked, as it’s one of the most popular trails in Italy.

On the trail, you can sniff the lemon trees that bloom with fruit and listen to the donkey’s bray. On a clear day, you can also see colorful Capri and the endless Mediterranean Sea. The hike starts in Bomerano, a medium-size town high in the mountains offering restaurants, small hotels, and friendly dogs.

Wear hiking boots and bring a ski jacket if it is cold. There is a steep decline down 1,500 stone steps at the end to reach Positano. So promise yourself an espresso as your reward for completing the trail.

Read more : Best hikes on the Amalfi Coast .

8. Villa Jovis hike

Recommended by Lori at Travlinmad

  • Location : Capri, Campania.
  • Distance : 4.5 km (2.8 mi).
  • Duration : 45 min to 1 h.

Max elevation : 334 m (1095 ft).

Difficulty : Easy to moderate.

One of the most scenic and best scenic hikes in Italy is a trail on the picturesque island of Capri to the palace Villa Jovis (Villa of Jupiter) built by the emperor Tiberius in 27 AD. It’s one of the most unique things to do in Capri and a literal hike back into Roman history.

The palace is in the northeast of the island perched on the second highest peak on the island, Monte Tiberio. To reach the trail follow the signs from the Piazzetta until reaching Via Tiberio. From there it’s a gradual uphill walk to the palace.

Along the way, there are the homes of residents with beautiful gardens, flowers, and vegetables. If you get lucky, there will be enticing aromas coming from kitchens. And there is the inescapable blue of the Mediterranean from every vista along the trail.

The trail is best from around April through September, and light clothing and sturdy footwear are all that is required.

Just before the palace entrance watch for the entrance to Parco Astarita. It’s free and the view from the final terrace is spectacular. You’ll have company. Free roaming Capri mountain goats will accompany you while you’re in the park.

9. via Degli Dei trek

Recommended by Lori at ItalyFoodies

  • Location : Bologna to Florence, Tuscany.
  • Distance : 135 km (84 mi).
  • Elevation gain : 900 m (2,952 ft).
  • Duration : 6 or 7 days.

Connecting the cities of Bologna and Florence, Via Degli Dei or “Route of the Gods” is a scenic hiking trail that meanders through the Tuscan-Emilian Apennines. The trail follows the 2000-year old Flaminia Military Roman Road between Bologna and Florence, and there are places where that road can still be seen.

Along the way, the trail winds through natural parks and crosses over several mountains – Mount Venus, Monzuno, and Monte Luario.

The trail is well marked and has alternate paths to take if you like. Water fountains are few and far between so be sure to pack sufficient water. You can resupply your food and water in the small towns along the trail, or stay in small hotels and B&Bs.

This is slow travel at its best, a way to enjoy the scenery and absorb the history and culture, and of course, all the amazing Italian food and wine of the Emilia Romagna and Tuscany regions.

One of the best hikes in Italy includes some fairly long inclines and declines on uneven rocky surfaces. Be sure to wear good hiking boots. Spring and Fall are mild so you won’t need heavy clothing. In summer it can get very hot so only light clothing is needed.

10. Monte Cofano Reserve hike

Recommended by Zoe from Together In Transit

  • Location : Monte Cofano Reserve, Sicily.
  • Distance : 12 km (7.46 mi).
  • Duration : 4-5 hours.
  • Maximum elevation : 659 m (2162 ft)
  • Difficulty : Easy to Moderate

A lovely and one of the best hikes in Italy well worth doing on the island of Sicily is the Monte Cofano reserve loop near San Vito Lo Capo. Located at the North West of the island, the whole area is perfect for hiking, whether route loops like this one to other more adventurous hikes taking you right to the top of the peaks. 

The Monte Cofano reserve is a beautiful nature area that many locals head to for the beach as well as hiking. Starting the hike from the beach area near the Tonnara del Cofano, you can follow a dirt path that first follows the route along the rock edge with the gorgeous blue waters below. This is the prettiest part of the route as you can see the coastline to San Vito Lo Capo.

Further along the route, you arrive on the coast looking towards Cornino. Here it is just as beautiful with the mountains in the distance. If you’re lucky, you will enjoy the hike with some local wild cows that wander the area. They are pretty friendly but keep your dog on a leash for safety if you’re hiking with your four-legged friend. 

From here you can choose to hike to the top of the peak of the Monte Cofano or head over and back down to where you started. Either way, stop here for some beautiful views from both coastlines and to enjoy the nature of wildflowers. 

In total it’s roughly 4 to 5 hours to hike if you have a good level of fitness for the 12-kilometer loop. Always remember to take some snacks and water with you too, as well as dressing appropriately for hiking with good walking shoes. 

11. Hike to Gorropu Gorge

Recommended by Greta from Greta’s Travels

  • Location : Province of Nuoro, Sardinia.
  • Distance : 10 km (6.21 mi).
  • Duration : 5-6 hours.
  • Maximum elevation : 1,018 m (3340 ft).

Su Gorropu is a canyon 450 m (1476 ft) tall, it’s the deepest gorge in Italy and amongst the biggest ones in Europe. This alone would make it a must-see on any Italy itinerary , add to that the stunning views, and you have an all round winner.

The start of Gorropu Gorge is deep in the mountains and forests of Sardinia. To reach it, you have to either hike one of the many trails or do a jeep tour starting from the Gorropu Gorge base camp.

It’s recommended to start the trail from Bar Silana. You will start at the top of the mountains and hike down almost 5 km (3.1 mi) for a 700 m (2300 ft) elevation change to reach the entrance of the gorge.

The hike from Bar Silana to the entrance of Gorropu Gorge is amongst one of the best hikes in Italy. You will enjoy stunning views over the Sardinian mountains and cliffs, as well as walking through trees that will give you enchanted forest vibes.

This is all before reaching the actual gorge! Once you reach the gorge it’s up to you how deep you want to walk into Gorropu Gorge. The deeper you go, the wilder the trail becomes and you’ll have to climb over rocks to keep going. Walking into the gorge for about 500 m (1640 ft) is enough to see the majestic canyon sides towering above us.

Once you’re done enjoying Gorropu Gorge, it’s time to hike back up to Bar Silana. The trail is challenging, but well maintained and well marked so it’s easy to follow and hike along. The best time to hike Gorropu Gorge is early morning in spring.

12. Alta Via dei Monzoni hike

Recommended by Claudia from My Adventures Across The World

  • Location : Dolomites of Trentino.
  • Distance : 13 km (8 mi).
  • Duration : 5 h.
  • Maximum elevation : 2,528 m (8,294 ft).

Among the best hikes in the Dolomites , the trail of the Alta Via dei Monzoni starts at Seggiovia Costabella, in Passo San Pellegrino, where you can take the chairlift to the starting point to save yourself one hour walking. 

From there, it’s a nice moderate hike that goes along what once were the Italian / Austrian trenches of World War I. On one of the best hikes in Italy, you can admire stunning views of the Cimon del Bocche massif, Lagorai, Latemar, Catinaccio, and Pale di San Martino peaks.

You will need to be appropriately geared for this hike, which is only accessible in the late spring and summer months (it’s all ski-slopes in the winter). Make sure to wear layers and hiking boots. Bring water as there are no fountains along the way, but you can stop for a meal at one of the local “rifugi”. 

For a better experience, you may want to enquire locally with your hotel to book a guide for the tour – this area is of great historical relevance, so you can put together hiking and love of nature with a more cultural experience to learn about the history of WWI. 

13. Cala Luna hike

Recommended by Claudia from Strictly Sardinia

  • Location : Sardinia.
  • Duration : 10 h.
  • Maximum elevation : 141 m (462.5 ft).
  • Difficulty : Moderate to difficult.

The hike to Cala Luna is one of the most charming coastal hikes in Sardinia. The gorgeous Cala Luna beach can only be reached by boat or on a hike, so this is an extremely rewarding experience. 

The hike starts in Cala Fuili beach, the last cove you can reach by car from Cala Luna, a seaside village about 30 minutes drive from Dorgali. Once you park your car, you will have to go down some (at times) steep steps to get to the beach where the trail begins.

One of the best hikes in Italy winds along mostly in the shade, but it’s nevertheless best to avoid this hike in the peak summer months as it will be too hot. You will need good hiking shoes, water, and food for the duration of the hike. Make sure to carry your swimsuit and a towel as you will be able to swim once in Cala Luna. 

Should you decide to hike there in May, beginning of June, or September, you can also make use of the boat that will take you back to Cala Gonone, from where you can hop on a shuttle to the parking lot in Cala Fuili – that will save you a good 5 hours of walking and allow you to spend more time at the beach!

14. Mount Etna hike

Recommended by Samantha from The Wandering Wanderluster

  • Location : Sicily
  • Distance : 5 km (3.1 mi)
  • Duration : 5 – 6 h.
  • Elevation gain : 1000 m (3280 ft)

Hiking is all about walking and connecting with nature and your surroundings. But what if your surroundings were the most active volcano in Europe? As the largest and most active volcano in Europe, Mount Etna in Sicily is one of the most popular and best hikes in Italy.

There are several hiking options on Mount Etna, some of which can be done independently and with little hiking experience. The most popular independent hike begins at Rifugio Sapienza and ends at Torre del Filosofo at 2,920 meters (9,580 ft), which is currently the endpoint for solo hikers without an experienced guide. 

The trail is of moderate difficulty and is well marked and has a well trodden path to follow. Its moon-like landscape is a sight to behold but hikers should be prepared for unpredictable weather and limited views over the 1000m elevation gain. 

Due to its high altitude, appropriate clothing and footwear should be worn. Layers that provide warmth, wind, and rain protection are advised as the weather changes the higher up you walk, and proper hiking boots are essential. Hiking poles are non-essential but many people benefit from using them especially on the descent. 

Experienced hikers can expect to complete a round trip hike in approximately 5 to 6 hours, or less if they decide to take the cable car back down to the Rifugio instead.

15. Laghi d’Olbe hike

Recommended by Daniel from Urban Abroad

  • Location : Sappada, Udine.
  • Distance : 18.8 km (11.71 mi).
  • Duration : 3h.
  • Maximum elevation : 2146 m (7040 ft).
  • Difficulty : Medium

There are a few beautiful hikes you can choose from to reach Olbe Lakes from Sappada which are located 130 km (81 miles) north of Venice and are close to the border with Austria. 

The Olbe Lakes are three glacial lakes nestled in the mountains of the Carnic Alps, located on a plateau of karst origins surrounded by some of the most scenic peaks of Friuli Venezia Giulia, Monte Lastroni, and Monte Chiadenis. 

The first option is to start one of the best hikes in Italy from Borgata Granvilla in Sappada (path n. 141). The village road connects to a dirt road that leads to the Monte Ferro Refuge. A little further up, a path leads to the meadows. Keep walking along the moraines of the Righile ridge on the left until you reach the Olbe Lakes (altitude 2146 m).

Alternatively, start from the Rododendro Refuge (path n. 138), reach Pian delle Bombarde, and walk in the woods. After some hairpins, the path gains altitude up to a panoramic ledge and connects to the chair lift Sappada 2000 path. 

The easier option is the one which involves taking the chair lift Sappada 2000 (ticket cost with return: €8 adults, €4 children) and arrive at the Sappada 2000 Refuge. From here, follow path n.135 and in about 1 hour, you can easily reach the first lake.

16. Hike of the 5 falls of Cerveteri

Recommended by Lisa of Travel Connect Experience

  • Location : Cerveteri-Bracciano, Rome.
  • Distance : 17 km (10.56 mi).
  • Maximum elevation : 112 m (367 mi).

The ring-route of the so-called “5 waterfalls of Cerveteri” allows you to discover some underrated naturalistic and archaeological sites about 40 km northwest of Rome. 

The starting point of the trail coincides with the ” Way of the Underworld”, a free and open-access part of the Etruscan Necropolis of Cerveteri , which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 2004 and also the largest necropolis in the Mediterranean area.

For about 300 meters, the path is dug through a wall of tufa rock, and on the right and left, on different levels, hundreds of burial chambers can be visited with a flashlight, dating back to the 7th-4th centuries BC. 

Once past this part of the necropolis, you reach the walls of the ancient Etruscan acropolis of Caere and then you go down in an uncontaminated gorge where you meet 5 waterfalls, the highest of which reaches 25 meters. This walk crosses the territories of Cerveteri and Bracciano. 

Given the distance, adequate equipment including good hiking shoes, food, and water for one day is recommended. It is also necessary to consider that cell phones do not have a signal for most of the route.

There is a small ford to be made across a stream that does not exceed 10 cm in height, many hikers carry fairly thick garbage bags to wear on their shoes, but you won’t need them if your boots are waterproof. Where the water around the waterfalls is high enough it is possible to get wet, so if you visit these places in the summer bring everything you need for swimming.

To reach the starting point to this one of the best hikes in Italy, the best way is to hire a private car. There is a free, big parking space at the entrance of the Necropolis of Cerveteri.

17. Stromboli Volcano hike

Recommended by Diana from The Globetrotting Detective

  • Location : Aeolian Islands, Sicily.
  • Maximum elevation : 400 m (1310 ft).

To get to the island of Stromboli, you need to take a ferry. You can easily get there from the Sicilian port town Milazzo by slow ferry or by speed boat. Hiking Stromboli is not your average hike as it’s one of the best hikes in Italy on an active volcano.

Stromboli is one of the most active volcanoes in the world and one of the three active volcanoes in Italy. It’s been erupting for 2,000 years now and it doesn’t seem it will stop anytime soon. 

The most popular hike on Stromboli is hiking to its craters as close as possible. The hike should start at 4:00 pm before sunset from Piazza San Vincenzo.

The highest crater of Stromboli is situated at 926 meters high above sea level. Today, due to the powerful volcanic explosions and molten lava flows, you can only hike up to 290 meters without a guide, and up to 400 meters above sea level with a tour guide.

Once you are up there, you will have the chance to sit down and admire the beautiful sunset over the island and witness its fiery explosions.

You will see a couple of short and energetic bursts. They are a few hundred meters high and contain ash, incandescent lava fragments, and small-sized stones.

It’s a spine-chilling experience to hike a volcano constantly making noises similar to thunderstorms, smoking, and generating small avalanches. This experience is a hike you should not miss.

As it is an easy hike, there is no special equipment needed but hikers on Stromboli use a helmet for safety reasons and a headlamp for lighting the path in front of you at night.

More about Italy

  • Tips for Traveling Italy on a Budget
  • Naples – Travel Guide
  • Castelmezzano – Travel Guide
  • Cinque Terre – Travel Guide
  • 12 Lesser Known Villages in Italy

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Where to travel in 2024, without crowds

12 destinations across italy, japan, mexico and more to add to your travel wish list.

We made it through January, which means it’s time to put away resolutions you won’t keep and nurture the habit that will stick: more travel.

Health and wellness experts have determined that taking multiple vacations a year is beneficial to your overall well-being. To actually decompress, though, you’ll want to go somewhere with room to breathe. Crowds have clogged up Paris , Rome and Tokyo , especially in the high seasons.

To plan a trip away from the pack, we asked industry experts for their favorite under-the-radar destinations. We also considered our collective travels, putting a premium on opportunities to spot wildlife, sample local cooking, relax by the water and commune with nature.

travelling across italy

(Shutterstock)

travelling across italy

Bracciano, Italy

Italy remains one of the most desirable destinations for Americans, meaning popular spots (Rome, the Amalfi Coast, Lake Como) will stay crowded and expensive. Enter Lake Bracciano, a picturesque place that has fallen off Americans’ radars since Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes got married there in 2006. “You have this really, really rich medieval and Renaissance history, but nobody goes there,” said Rome-based cookbook author and tour guide Katie Parla . You can get to Bracciano easily from Rome in about an hour and change.

Don’t miss: Viterbo, another overlooked gem, is about 30 miles north of Bracciano — or take a direct train from Rome in two hours or less. “It is just a vast, beautiful, haunted, magical, medieval city,” Parla said.

A sunny day on Lake Bracciano near Rome.

Fukui , Japan

If the past few months are any indication, tourism in Japan could surpass pre-pandemic levels in 2024. To escape the urban sprawl and see one of the most spiritual parts of the country, go to Fukui. Naomi Mano, president and chief executive of the Tokyo-based travel company Luxurique , says the city is a destination for temples , onsens (hot spring baths), art and food (specifically Echizen crab ). With a new bullet train line set to open in March , travelers can get to Fukui from Tokyo in about three hours.

Don’t miss: Mano sends visitors to Eiheiji Temple , one of the most important sites for Zen Buddhists. “It’s the temple where all of the Zen monks go to train to become higher monks,” she said.

Eiheiji Temple is an important site for Zen Buddhists monks in training.

Asheville, N.C.

Asheville has achieved the tricky balance of staying down to earth while catering to refined tastes. Restaurants in the western North Carolina city are regulars on the James Beard Awards circuit. Two of its breweries medaled in last year’s World Beer Cup . Independent hotels in repurposed buildings, such as Zelda Dearest , the Radical and the Flat Iron , are opening at a steady clip. Yet, whenever you wish to return to Asheville’s roots, take a walk in the Blue Ridge Mountains.

Don’t miss: The mile-long Asheville Black Cultural Heritage Trail , which encompasses three neighborhoods, introduces visitors to pillars of the community, such as Alderman Newton Shepard, a formerly enslaved man who in 1882 became the city’s first Black person to win an election .

Diners and tourists outside the French Broad Chocolate Lounge near Pack Square in Asheville.

Dhërmi, Albania

Over the past few years, Albania has been quietly heating up as Europe’s next big beach spot. Clear water, rugged coast and affordable accommodations all call out to tourists. And unlike some of its Balkan neighbors, “it is untouched,” said Ema, the anonymous Albanian travel journalist who runs the award-winning magazine and Instagram account Ema’s Light . Rent a car and head to the Albanian Riviera, where you’ll find a constellation of small towns with perfect beaches, such as Dhërmi.

Don’t miss: The capital city of Tirana is a must-visit worth at least two to three days of your trip for its restaurants and history, Ema says.

The Dhërmi Beach at Dhërmi, Albania.

Popayán, Colombia

This UNESCO City of Gastronomy is full of restaurants, outdoor markets and street vendors. Two points of pride in the traditional cuisine are empanadas stuffed with pipián — a puree of potatoes, peanuts and spices — and desamargado valluno , a dessert made from candied fruit peels. The capital of the Cauca state is also known as “La Ciudad Blanca” because of its bone-white buildings.

Don’t miss : Daniel Buitrón Jaramillo of Colombia Ecotravel recommends Mora Castilla , a small cafe in the historic center, for classic empanaditas and champús, a drink made of pineapple, maize and tart lulo fruit.

View of the Cathedral Basilica Our Lady of the Assumption in Popayán, Colombia, in the morning.

travelling across italy

(Martin Zwick/Getty Images)

travelling across italy

(Robert Harding/Shutterstock)

Orkney Islands, Scotland

The Orkney Islands are more uninhabited than occupied, at least by humans. Of these 70 isles off the northern coast of Scotland, less than two dozen are developed. Gray seals outnumber people by several hundred, and flocks of puffins, guillemots and seaweed-grazing sheep dot the rocky coastlines. Papa Westray , one of the smaller Orkneys, boasts some 60 archaeological sites, and North Ronaldsay lights up at night as a Dark Sky Island .

Don’t miss: The Heart of Neolithic Orkney , part of Scotland’s UNESCO Trail, is a collection of ancient sites that includes a domestic settlement with stone furnishings and the Stones of Stenness, a henge of upright monuments standing nearly 20 feet tall.

Standing Stones of Stenness, part of the UNESCO World Heritage site Heart of Neolithic Orkney.

Isla Holbox, Mexico

Holbox heals what ails so much of Mexico’s resort-heavy Yucatán Peninsula. The 26-mile-long island north of Cancún does not have traffic, because of a car ban, or high rises, because of building height restrictions. The main form of transportation is bike or golf cart on dirt roads. To cross from the mainland, visitors must take a 25-minute ferry from Chiquilá (or a private jet). Holbox, which means “Black Box” in the Mayan language, is part of the Yum Balam reserve. One of its biggest return guests is the whale shark.

Don’t miss : On moonless nights, head to Punta Cocos Beach to swim or paddle with bioluminescent plankton that illuminate the water like hundreds of fairy lights.

No cars are allowed on Isla Holbox in Mexico.

The S chist Villages , Portugal

Tucked into mountainsides, through scenic valleys and snaking rivers, the Schist Villages (or Aldeias do Xisto, in Portuguese) is a network of 27 quaint towns. The villages — which date back to the 12th century and are named after the stone with which they were built — are particularly popular with hikers , bikers and nature lovers. You’ll find accommodations for all budgets, with luxury properties, such as the Casas do Côro in Marialva, and the Cerdeira Home for Creativity , a collection of nine restored Schist houses for rent.

Don’t miss: Lisbon-based journalist and food researcher Miguel Andrade says Talasnal is a highlight in the lush Lousã mountain region. Try one of his favorite Portuguese dishes, chanfana, a goat stew traditionally cooked with red wine in a clay pot over an open fire.

The view over the Piodão schist medieval mountain village in Portugal.

Tairawhiti Gisborne, New Zealand

Destination: Gisborne, the largest town in the North Island’s Tairawhiti Gisborne region, is advertised as the first spot in the world to greet the sunrise. No wonder so many surfers rise early to catch some of the best waves in the country. The East Coast area is steeped in Maori culture. The Tairawhiti Museum holds a vast collection of Indigenous art, including stonework, textiles and painted panels. The 2.5-mile Tupapa Heritage Trail is paved with history, landmarks and legends that Maori storytellers summon to life on the Tupapa app.

Don’t miss: Start the day atop Maunga Hikurangi, the sacred mountain of the Ngati Porou people where nine wood carvings of Maui and his whanau (family) bear witness to the rising sun.

Wood carvings of Maui and his family stand on the sacred mountain Maunga Hikurangi in Gisborne, New Zealand.

travelling across italy

(Jennifer M. Ramos/Getty Images)

travelling across italy

(Christine Wehrmeier/Getty Images)

travelling across italy

(Afriandi/Getty Images)

Fredericksburg, Tex.

Swimming holes. Wide-open spaces. Funky towns and burgeoning wineries. The Texas Hill Country screams road trip. Consider Fredericksburg for its German-Texas heritage (with beer gardens and Bavarian fare galore), says Austin-based travel journalist Pam LeBlanc. The town is known for its peaches and its National Museum of the Pacific War , plus a slew of mom-and-pop boutiques and restaurants. The chic Albert Hotel is opening this year, or you can camp in Pedernales Falls State Park, where LeBlanc loves taking a dip in the cypress-lined river.

Don’t miss: Enchanted Rock State Natural Area is 17 miles north of Fredericksburg, “where you can hike to the top of a huge dome of pink granite or go rock climbing,” LeBlanc said in an email.

The pink dome of Enchanted Rock State Natural Area is a draw for hikers and climbers.

Toledo District, Belize

For a Caribbean escape far from crowds, head to the southernmost district of Belize. “There is a lot to do,” Belizean birding guide Roni Martinez said, such as exploring waterfalls, caves and large rainforest reserves, and learning about the mix of people who have made Toledo home, including Maya and East Indian communities.

Don’t miss: As most of Toledo has rocky shores, Martinez recommends taking a boat tour to nearby islands — such as the Port Honduras Marine Reserve — for “picture-perfect” white-sand beaches.

A waterfall in Rio Blanco National Park in the Toledo District of Belize.

Sumba, Indonesia

Bali may be the most well-known of Indonesia’s thousands of islands, but it’s not the only one worth visiting. With new hotels and a population of wild horses that gallop across golden beaches, Sumba comes highly recommended by Catherine Heald, chief executive of the Asia-focused luxury tour operator Remote Lands . Beyond Sumba’s lush hillsides and surfable turquoise water, the island boasts beautiful thatched-roof architecture.

Don’t miss: Consider a side quest to Komodo National Park , home to some 5,700 of its titular dragons as well as world-class scuba diving. You can fly or sail to the UNESCO World Heritage site.

An aerial view of Wainyapu village in Sumba, Indonesia.

About this story

Editing by Gabe Hiatt . Design and development by Katty Huertas . Design editing by Christine Ashack . Photo editing by Lauren Bulbin . Copy editing by Jamie Zega .

Where to go

Our favorite destinations: In 2023, we explored an Alaskan bear paradise, Brooklyn’s famous pizzerias and a hidden gem in Italy, among other highlights . Traveler extraordinaire Rick Steves gave us this hot tip: don’t skip Europe’s second cities .

Travel like a local: Residents share their favorite places in our top city guides: New Orleans , Rome , Tokyo and Mexico City .

National parks: This comprehensive guide has details on all 63 U.S. national parks. For a deep dive into five of the most well-known, you can listen to the Field Trip podcast . Then explore tips from locals for visiting Yosemite , Glacier and Everglades .

Tales from the road: Dolly Parton has opened a new resort at her theme park complex in Tennessee, while “Fixer Upper” stars Chip and Joanna Gaines have a new hotel in Waco . Road-trippers may be just as excited to see the cartoon beaver at Buc-ee’s , and bargain-hunters should consider a stop at the Unclaimed Baggage store in Scottsboro, Ala.

Moving to Italy? Here's 3 mistakes American expats should avoid

  • Patrizia Di Gregorio founded the international social network group Expats Living in Rome.
  • Gregorio told Business Insider she's noticed an uptick in people looking to move to Italy. 
  • She shared three mistakes Americans make when moving to Italy. 

Insider Today

Some Americans dream of moving to Italy, but it takes more than a plane ticket and spunk.

Just ask Patrizia Di Gregorio, an Italian-American who founded the international social network Expats Living in Rome . She's lived in Italy for 23 years.

"Americans want to come and don't understand that you can't just move to Italy," Gregorio, 52, told Business Insider.

Expats Living in Rome has become a lifeline for many potential and current expats navigating the sometimes confusing and arduous process of moving overseas. While the network provides resources for financial advice and immigration services, it also offers something crucial every expat needs: community. The Facebook group Expats Living in Italy , which is connected to Expats Living in Rome, has 92,800 members and counting. Daily, people post questions, offer answers, and work through problems with each other.

Gregorio told BI she noticed an uptick in expats — including Americans — interested in leaving the United States for Italy. American expats who spoke to BI pointed toward a number of factors, including political climate and the cost of retirement, but it's not a simple leap.

Gregorio shared three mistakes Americans make when moving to Italy. Take a look.

The No. 1 mistake Americans make when moving to Italy is having incomplete or incorrect paperwork

Gregorio explained that some American expats arrive in Italy without proper paperwork, including visas and other forms.

"They don't have all their paperwork, so they can't go right to city hall and apply for dual citizenship," Gregorio said.

The US Embassy & Consulates in Italy's website notes that Americans staying in Italy for more than three months are considered residents and must obtain an entrance visa before arriving.

Other forms Americans may need to complete are the permesso di soggiorno (permit of stay) and accordo di integrazione (integration agreement).

Gregorio said some Americans don't plan or budget their finances properly, leading to struggles in Italy

According to Gregorio, splurging on big-ticket items in Italy without proper financial planning is a bad idea. It can feel magical to relocate to a new city, but it's important to be realistic about what you can afford and how to make ends meet.

For example, Italy's Elective Residence visa is tailored for people with the financial means to support themselves autonomously.

"They rent luxury apartments and then find themselves broke," Gregorio said. "And it's like, 'Why did you rent an apartment you can't afford? Didn't you think your savings were going to go?'"

Some Americans expect life in Italy to mimic their old one in the US, which creates unrealistic expectations

Gregorio said some Americans move to Italy and don't take the proper steps to embrace the local culture. She said they expect "everything to be just like home and then don't respond accordingly."

"An Italian guy said to me, 'When Americans come to Italy, the American owns Italy. When an Italian goes to America, Americans still own America,'" Gregorio told BI.

She added that it's helpful for American expats to be open-minded and learn to adapt to Italy's culture when they move.

Integrating into a new society can take some time, which is why it's so important to find a community.

"You need a network behind you that understands the intricacies," Gregorio said. "Joining Facebook groups like Expats Living in Italy or others is a good source to learn from others — especially the mistakes they made."

travelling across italy

Watch: Migrants who died in Italy shipwreck paid 8,000 euros each

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  • Main content

Exploring Italy by train

Brendan Sainsbury

Jun 21, 2016 • 6 min read

travelling across italy

With some of Europe’s fastest trains and most scenic routes, Italy is a great place to travel by train. The country might be more famous for its deluxe sports cars and challenging driving conditions, but Italian trains are economical, comfortable and direct, offering an insight into local life, often with great views thrown into the bargain.

With a bit of savvy route-planning and a flexible schedule, you can quite easily piece together an itinerary that’ll make the journey just as impressive as the destination.

The best way to get around the Cinque Terre's spectacular coastline is by train

Travel in style on Italy’s fastest trains

If you thought Ferraris were fast, you’ve clearly never travelled on a Frecciarossa 1000 , Italy’s arrow-headed high-velocity trains that reach a top cruising speed of 300km/h. The fastest Frecciarossas connect Turin , Milan and Venice in the north before heading further south via Bologna and Florence to Rome , Naples and Salerno .

As a rule, the fastest Rome–Naples trip clocks in at a smidgen over an hour, Rome–Florence zips by in roughly 90 minutes, while Rome–Venice takes 3 hours 40 minutes, which is still very respectable considering the same journey takes well over five hours by car. On these and other main routes, there are approximately two trains an hour.

Two Frecciarossa trains await departure in Milan's beautiful Stazione Centrale

These streamlined rockets-on-wheels are not only faster than Ferraris, they’re also invitingly comfortable with leather seats, a complimentary glass of prosecco (in business class) and a relatively luxurious dining car where the view changes every five seconds.

Italy’s most scenic train journeys

The speed of Freccia trains means that the scenery is often rendered a blur. For Italy’s most spectacular rail journeys, you’ll have to seek out small private lines and abandon any stringent time constraints.

The epic Centovalli , or ‘100 valleys’, line that starts in Domodossola in Piedmont and travels across 83 bridges in two hours of condensed alpine splendour to terminate in Locarno in Switzerland .

The Centovalli line passes through some pretty spectacular scenery

Another beauty is Sardinia ’s intentionally slow Trenino Verde , renovated in the 1990s, that runs four summer-only tourist trains along narrow-gauge track through some of the island’s most remote enclaves.

Equally seductive is the Ferrovia Circumetnea  which rattles out of Catania in Sicily circumnavigating Mt Etna on a diminutive locomotive that looks more like a trolley bus than a train. En route it crosses lemon groves and lava flows, stopping at remote stations every five minutes.

Rail is also the best way to travel in some of Italy’s most scenic and popular destinations, including the Cinque Terre , where cheap trains connect the five picturesque cliff-top villages, passing through numerous tunnels in the steep cliffs and giving views of the ocean. The bargainous Circumvesuviana connects Naples with Sorrento via the archaeological sites of Herculaneum and  Pompeii , providing views of Mt Vesuvius and the Bay of Naples along the way.

Arriving in Italy by train

Some of Italy’s finest train journeys cross its international borders with its neighbours to the north. The Brenner Pass route that links Munich with Venice over the Alps is sometimes touted as the finest train ride in Europe, while the EuroNight overnight train between Rome and Vienna with two-bed sleepers (from €100) is a fun option if you’ve never bedded down on a train.

All aboard the Orient Express!

If you’ve got over £2000 to blow and want to imagine you’re living in a Graham Greene novel or an Agatha Christie whodunit, take the Venice Simplon Orient-Express ( belmond.com ) from London (or Paris) to La Serenissima . This luxury art deco hotel on wheels runs roughly once a week between March and November and was seemingly invented with romance in mind.

Turin’s recently refurbished Porta Susa station is a terminus for French TGV trains which provide rapid service to Lyon and Paris . Milan offers Thello ( thello.com ) overnight trains to Paris or daytime coastal trains to Nice and Marseilles . By using a mixture of Eurostar and TGVs, it’s possible to travel between Milan and London in one day for a cost of around €65 (or Paris for as little as €25) and you get to see awe-inspiring alpine scenery into the bargain.

Operators and train types

The lion’s share of the country’s rolling stock is run by state-owned subsidiary, Trenitalia ( trenitalia.com ) which presides over a complex spiderweb of lines that penetrates all 20 of the country’s regions.

Alongside the flagship Frecciarossa, they also operate Frecciargento tilting trains, which run between Rome and Venice at speeds of up to 250km/h. Slightly lower down the speed scale are Frecciabianca and Intercity trains, though these are still usually faster than driving, especially when you factor in traffic and parking.

Many of Italy's regionale trains pass through spectacular scenery

If budget is more of a concern than speed or you want to get to smaller towns and villages, you’ll probably find yourself travelling on  regionale trains, which are surprisingly cheap and stop at all stations. The regionales ’ sometimes well-worn carriages aren’t exactly opulent, but a tight holiday budget will stretch a lot further travelling this way.

Providing a bit of friendly competition at the high-velocity end of things are the new-ish Italo trains ( italotreno.it ) run by NTV, which offer free wifi and lunch boxes provided by high-end food market, Eataly. Like the Frecciarossa, they connect Salerno and Naples in the south with Venice, Milan and Turin in the north, passing through Rome, Florence and Bologna on the way.

Tickets and passes

Rail passes such as Eurail and InterRail won’t usually save you money in Italy, because you still have to pay a reservation fee of around €10 for high-speed trains, and tickets for regular trains aren't expensive. It’s generally cheaper to purchase separate tickets for each journey.

High-speed train tickets come with a specific seat reservation and must be purchased before you get on the train. You can buy tickets online or in person at booths and multi-lingual machines (called biglietto veloce ) in stations.

Train passing through a tunnel on the Cinque Terre coast near Riomaggiore

Although trains rarely sell out, pre-booking can save you a lot of money. You can normally book tickets up to four months in advance, the earlier the better if you want to qualify for ‘economy’ or ‘super-economy’ fares which can – with luck – cost less than half the amount of same-day tickets.

Regionale trains, which stop at nearly every station, don’t require reservations. Just pay for your ticket before departure, jump on the train and grab a seat wherever you like.

Validating your ticket

Legion are the tourists who have been caught out by ticket validation in Italy. As regional train tickets aren’t dated, you must ‘time-stamp’ them in a convalida machine on the platform before boarding the train.

Ticket inspectors can fine people travelling with an un-validated ticket (around €50 if you pay on the spot) and although pleas of being an ignorant tourist sometimes work, it’s generally not worth the risk – or embarrassment.

Tickets for high-speed trains don’t require validation, as they can only be used on the specific service they are valid for.

Italy’s train stations inhabit a sliding scale that starts with Rome’s massive Stazione Termini, a mini-city with bookshops, bars and restaurants, and filters down to the kind of single-platform middle-of-nowhere stations that walkers stagger into at the end of lengthy hikes. Most reasonably sized towns will have a centrally located station with a bar where you can grab at least a caffè and a panino, along with slightly iffy toilets.

Venice's Santa Lucia station is right on the Grand Canal

Stations in large cities like Naples, Milan and Florence are rarely more than a kilometre from the city centre. Venice’s Santa Lucia station even abuts the Grand Canal. But beware: some cities have more than one train station. Turin has two (Porta Susa and Porta Nuova); Rome has four, the most central being Termini (the others are Tiburtina, Ostiense and Trastevere).

Punctuality

Popular legend suggests it was Mussolini who made Italy’s trains run on time, though it’s debatable that Il Duce was solely responsible for ending railway tardiness. Suffice to say, Italian trains are rarely inordinately late and probably suffer fewer delays than planes or car travel. However, keep an eye on the random one-day scioperi (strikes) which are part of Italian culture and can bring public transport to a virtual standstill.

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COMMENTS

  1. Getting around in Italy

    May 30, 2023 • 14 min read Back to Top Italy has more must-see sights than you could squeeze into a lifetime. From the exceptionally well-preserved Roman ruins of the capital to the blissful Mediterranean landscapes of Sicily and Sardinia, roaming around the boot-shaped peninsula is a journey of discovery that never fails to astonish.

  2. What you need to know about traveling to Italy right now

    Italy has gradually relaxed border controls and most restrictions as travelers return to one of the world's most popular destinations. And while there are plenty of new attractions to enjoy, from newly-opened secret tunnels in the Colosseum to recent discoveries in Pompeii, it isn't business as usual.

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    1. Explore Venice While crowded, Venice is an astounding place to visit. I love the city's iconic architecture and picturesque canals. Don't miss the Piazza San Marco, Doge's Palace, Rialto Bridge, the Basilica San Marco, and the city's countless museums.

  4. Covid-19: travel information

    Covid-19: travel information Considering the epidemiological situation, Italy has foreign travel restrictions in place depending on where you are travelling from/to. An interactive questionnaire is available from https://infocovid.viaggiaresicuri.it to check the rules currently in force regarding travel to and from Italy.

  5. Getting around Italy

    This site is owned by Apa Digital AG, Bahnhofplatz 6, 8854 Siebnen, Switzerland. Rough Guides® is a trademark owned by Apa Group with its headquarters at 7 Bell Yard London WC2A 2JR, United Kingdom. What is the best way to get around in Italy? Find out the safest modes of transport and enjoy a stress-free journey.

  6. Getting Around Italy

    Italy is one of Europe's bigger countries (slightly smaller in surface area than Germany, but slightly bigger than the UK). The narrow size of its famous boot shape makes travel distances from north to south quite significant—for example about 800 miles (1,200 km) from Venice to the tip of Italy's boot across the sea from Sicily. Driving around Italy isn't as straightforward as in other ...

  7. 13 things to know before going to Italy

    If you are planning a road trip, make sure to book your car well in advance. 4. Card payments are now widely accepted, but carrying some cash is a good idea. For a long time, Italy has been a cash-first country. But in 2022, a new law introduced a fine for businesses not accepting card payments.

  8. Traveling to Italy during Covid-19: What you need to know before ...

    CNN — If you're planning to travel to Italy, here's what you'll need to know and expect if you want to visit during the Covid-19 pandemic. The basics Italy has had some of the toughest...

  9. Travel in Italy and Covid rules this summer: what to expect

    As for travelling within Italy, as of May 1st, a valid health certificate is no longer required to access indoor venues and transport services. All visitors are free to travel across the country and enter restaurants, bars, cinemas, theatres and other indoor locations without having to provide a valid health pass.

  10. The Best Way to Travel in Italy: Tips and Tricks from the Experts

    One of the best ways to explore Italy is to rent a car and road trip across the country. Nothing beats the feeling of a summer drive, as you roll down the windows - or better yet, rent a convertible - and feel the wind in your hair.

  11. Italy

    Italy - Covid travel and national health rules in place. Using the EU Digital COVID Certificate, travel from an EU or non-EU country. Specific information covering national health measures including restrictions at regional or local level.

  12. How to plan an Italy trip

    Step 1 - Decide when you want to go and your budget Step 2 - Do some preliminary research and preparation Step 3 - Confirm your itinerary Step 4 - Book your flights, inbound travel & insurance Step 5 - Book accommodation and transport Step 6 - Book Attractions, tours and activities Step 7 - Get ready for departure

  13. 27 Essential Italy Travel Tips: Everything You Need To Know

    An orange juice. In hotels and B&B, you will also find fresh fruit, yogurt, cereals, bread, and jam. 10. Dinner doesn't start early. If you are going out for dinner at 6:30 pm and you see an empty restaurant, it doesn't mean that restaurant isn't popular. It just means no one in Italy is eating that early.

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  16. Transportation in Italy

    Main fast-speed train routes in Italy. If you want to see the major cities and perhaps do a side trip to smaller towns like Pisa, Verona and Bologna, train travel is the easiest option. Below are the main train lines in Italy. Venice - Padua - Bologna - Florence - Rome - Naples - Salerno. Turin - Milan - Bologna - Florence ...

  17. Italy: a first-timer's guide

    Where should I go? How do I get there? How much will it cost? This planning guide tackles these questions and provides clear practical advice on how to get the most out of your first Italian trip. Italy is fabulous in the fall as the crowds thin out (but the wows don't) ©Max Rive/500px When should I go to Italy? The short answer is anytime.

  18. Solo Travel in Italy Done Right: 10 Tips You Need to Know

    1. Dream your most beautiful dream Don't fall into the trap of feeling obligated to plan your trip entirely around the most famous sights in Italy. Almost anywhere you go in Italy is amazing. Take time to journal about what your intention for this solo adventure is and choose destinations that support your goals.

  19. Train travel in Italy, a beginner's guide

    The issue is the price you pay, as long-distance tickets are much cheaper booked in advance, just like flights. There are Super-Economy & Economy fares from just €9.90, €19.90 or €29.90 on most routes if you book ahead and commit to a specific train on a no-refunds, limited-or-no-changes-to-travel-plans basis.

  20. Italy Itinerary

    $ USD Italy Itinerary Follow this Italy itinerary by train with the Eurail Italy Pass and be in for a real treat. Take a memorable gondola ride along Venice's Grand Canal, set out on a shopping extravaganza in Milan, and tour Rome's magnificent monuments and museums.

  21. 17 Best Hikes in Italy for your Bucket List [2023]

    Italy is a dream vacation spot for many people who seek beautiful beaches, colorful villages, big cities, historic sites, and also a variety of natural landmarks. Hikes in Italy offer a variety of diverse landscapes from big alpine mountains to short and low walking paths.

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    The effects of overtourism across Italy. Starting this June, tour groups in Venice will be capped at 25 people per group, officials announced in December. And tour leaders will no longer be ...

  24. 6 of the best road trips in Italy

    1. The Amalfi Coast Best classic Italian coastal road trip Salerno-Sorrento; approx 75km/46 miles, 1 day Experience Italy's most spectacular coastal scenery on this white-knuckle drive along the Amalfi Coast.

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    Rail transport in Italy will face severe disruption on 12 February as employees of state-owned railway company Trenitalia and Trenord as well as private long-distance operator Italo walk out. The ...

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  27. Exploring Italy by train

    Rail is also the best way to travel in some of Italy's most scenic and popular destinations, including the Cinque Terre, where cheap trains connect the five picturesque cliff-top villages, passing through numerous tunnels in the steep cliffs and giving views of the ocean.