Top 10 Cities to Visit in Italy, Perfect by Train.

Forum in Rome, Italy.
Forum in Rome, Italy.

Everyone loves Italy. And why not? It’s a country of great passions: food, wine, sculpture and painting to name a few. So how do you choose where to go? To help you plan your dream trip, here is a list of the top 10 cities to visit in Italy popular with Rail Europe’s travelers. You can easily travel between any of these fabulous locations by train. But which to choose? When I needed help regarding  Trenitalia trains and Italo trains, Rail Europe was there to assist. Plus, I was able to book my train tickets and rail passes from the comfort of home. Below you’ll see what gives each city its unique personality; its appeal to foodies, art-lovers, romantics and others… year after year.

10. Ventimiglia

Many people hop between the neighboring border towns of Nice and Ventimiglia with a train ticket. A trip so close, and made even easier with a France-Italy Rail Pass. You’ll find both French and Italian regional lines service Ventimiglia. More than a train hub, Ventimiglia has a stunning, quintessentially Italian medieval city center. As it always has, its classic architecture stands guard on a hilltop over the Gulf of Genoa, but now with the new city between them. Make sure you visit Ventimiglia’s famous Friday Outdoor Market!

9. Bologna

Why not visit the oldest university in the world, the University of Bologna, founded in 1088? Naturally, there’s plenty to study: from medieval, renaissance and baroque monuments to modern day industrial marvels like Ducati, headquartered there. More high-speed thrills? Travel by train from Bologna to Verona in just under an hour.

8. Verona

What do you call a city dramatic enough to be the setting of three Shakespearean plays, and interesting enough to be named a UNESCO World Heritage Site? This is Verona. Along the Adige River, this picture-perfect city of cobblestone streets lined with medieval buildings, Roman sites and churches is second to none for inspiration. Known for its pink buildings and Juliet balcony (yes, one of those plays was Romeo and Juliet), a visit to this city will immerse you in the classic Italian experience. Want more inspiration?  Venice is one of the perfect destinations for it. Verona to Venice is about an hour by train.

 7. La Spezia

Located on the Gulf of La Spezia, this port city is a bustling mix of old and new. This scenic waterfront is perfect for arrival by train from Verona (via Milan) with a Eurail Italy Pass. Today, this modern-day port stands in stunning contrast to the spectacle of its antiquity and charm. So much charm that many poets have found inspiration here, from Byron to Shelley to DH Lawrence. It is, in fact, referred to as “the Gulf of Poets.” What will it inspire in you?

Manarola town in the province of La Spezia, Liguria, Northern Italy
Manarola town in the province of La Spezia, Liguria, Northern Italy

6. Turin

Baroque architecture with the Alps as the ultimate photo backdrop. Site of the 2006 winter games. And, of course, the Shroud of Turin. The amazing city of Turin is one of contrasts that include a café society of truffles, wine and other extravagances, and Turin Cathedral, home to the Shroud of Turin. (Please note that while The Museum of the Holy Shroud is open daily, the shroud is only displayed once every ten years.) Next stop? Milan. Aboard Frecciarossa trains, Turin to Milan is just about an hour’s journey.

5. Milan

High style all around. The Italian center of finance, industry and commerce, as well as a global capital of fashion, industrial design and architecture. Milan is also the home of “The Last Supper” by Leonardo da Vinci in the refectory of the Convent of Santa Maria delle Grazie. Don’t miss the spectacular Duomo, which took over 6 centuries to complete. (And don’t forget to get your Milano Card for easy transportation and discounts all over town.) Also, remember it’s just as easy to arrive from Paris to Milan by the high speed TGV trains.

Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II in Milan, Italy.
Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II in Milan, Italy.

4. Naples

The birthplace of pizza has drawn many hungry visitors, including those hungry for culture: its historic center is the largest in Europe, covering over 4,000 acres and 27 centuries. It’s almost unreal how much this port city has to offer — including hydrofoils to the Isle of Capri and the Blue Grotto. Naples is a must-see for every history/arts/culinary/naval/political/cinema-buff. And so is Venice. Naples to Venice is about a 4 hours and 45 minutes journey by train.

 3. Venice

Venice, the land of gondola-filled canals, ancient trades and water taxis. Enjoy a  Grand Canal boat tour and views that have remained basically unchanged for centuries. See how Venetian glass and Venetian paper is made. Shop on the Rialto and along the waterways to roving (and rowing) tenors, as well as the occasional accordion. There is only one Venice, so how could it be #3?

2. Florence

Florence is Italian perfection: the Duomo, the Uffizi Museum Tour, crossing the Arno River on the Ponte Vecchio, the Pitti Palace… everything that makes Italy, Italy, is here in the appropriately titled “cradle of the Renaissance”– except you! You’re not here yet, and nothing makes it easier to get here than the train. On Italo trains, Venice to Florence is about a 2 hours trip, while Florence to Rome is an about 1 hour and 30 minutes of relaxing, stress-free enjoyment.  Which is perfect since…

Duomo in Florence, Italy.
Duomo in Florence, Italy.

1. Rome

Well, the saying is “all roads lead to Rome”. Fortunately, so do the trains! Travel from Vienna, Innsbruck or Munich to Rome via direct overnight trains. All those “Roman ruins” around Europe, why not visit their birthplace? And where else can you see the Colosseum? Classical architecture buffs will enjoy researching the arch, the dome, and the vault—all developed here. Of course, a Vatican Sistine Chapel Tour is guaranteed to provide a most divine experience. This is it people. This is where the world changed. And when you visit, well, it can change your world too. 

So where in Italy do you want to go? For how long? We’d love to know what you think about this Italian cities top ten list and whether you have one of your own. Please share your comments with us! Pictures? Those are welcome too.

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  1. Jacob Bryan Arbaugh

    Thanks this was very helpful

    | Reply
    • Dezty

      We are doing the same thing in September and renting a car.We are too soeilpd to take public transit and we are too used to the freedom’ you mentioned to go on any organized tours. If we get lost? We are on HOLIDAYS .not meeting a work deadline. It will all be an adventure of a lifetime.Just do it!

      | Reply
  2. Rahul Gupta

    Thanks Lisa for the info. It would be helpful for planning our tour! 🙂

    | Reply
  3. Shaheen

    Hi there!

    Can you help me to plan my Italy trip? I am planning on travelling to Italy from Dubai next summer and would like to travel around Italy to some of the cities.

    What cities would you recommend? We definitely would like to visit Rome, Venice, Milan and Florence but I am open to suggestions.

    Can I book train tickets in advance or would I need to purchase as I go along?

    Any help would be greatly appreciated.


    | Reply
  4. tasneem

    travelling to italy in march 2016 need to know about train prices and how to get a train and how do you know when you have reached your stop

    | Reply
  5. diana Maloney

    Flying into Italy from Dublin in September. Joining a 14 day tour a week later which begins in Venice. Question-should we fly into Milan and train to Venice? If so which towns to stop in along way? What trains stop in towns along way? Or do we fly into Venice and make day trips from there by train. (Our preference is to use public transportation.) Will 4 days in Venice be enough? Thank you for taking the time to respond. Diana M.

    | Reply
  6. Patricia Bennett-Sicilia

    I’m trying to find the town or city of roliagno in calabra. Could someone help me as I’m having no luck. Your help would be greatly appreciated. Thank you, Patricia

    | Reply

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