Insider tips for best exploring Italian cities by rail and getting a true taste of Italy's diverse food culture.
Rail travel in Italy has been transformed over the last 20 years by the opening of new high-speed routes. Competitive pricing, slick and stylish trains give travellers fantastic options for rail trips. In Italy, it is always a great idea to pair your train travel with a trip to local food festivals as well as exploring the regional variety from Neapolitan creations to slow food in Turin. We’ve pulled together some ideas for rail trips throughout Italy this summer focusing on the unique food events and ‘sagre’ - from the Latin word “sacrum” - where you can savour local products or dishes. Sagre are mostly outside of the big cities and several of them also offer live music, performances, and street arts.
London to Turin
Turin is a major city in the shadow of the Alps and can be reached from London in 9 hrs. This one-time capital of the Duchy of Savoy is now one of Italy’s leading cities to visit and a key place for all things slow food. In October, the city hosts Terra Madre, the world's biggest slow food festival. You’ll find stunning architecture, lavish street markets and enough designer shops to empty your wallet. Take a 14 min train trip to Villastellone at the end of July when the town hosts Sagra dello Spiedino, a local food festival where you can taste skewers of all types: roast meat, seafood, mixed fruit and vegetables. In the central square, there is also plenty of musical entertainment and dancing. An hour outside of Turin by train, you'll find the small town of Alba. Home to the International White Truffle Fair which runs from early October to late November.
Florence to Lucca
Tuscany has all the ingredients you could wish for in making the perfect summer. Florence has a galaxy of palaces, galleries and museums, each housing a collection of world-class art. Make sure you make time for the famous Galleria degli Uffizi, the former barracks and prison, Bargello, and the Palazzo Vecchio. Florence to Lucca takes just over an hour and in November they host the Il Desco Food Festival, showcasing the very best flavours and ingredients of Tuscany with a local twist from Lucca itself.
Naples to Palermo
As well as boasting superb food all year round, every September Naples hosts a week-long pizza festival, Napoli Pizza Village. A great time to visit the city and sample some of the best pizza in the world. Travel from here to Sicily on one of Italy's most exciting train journeys, whereby the trains are shunted onto a ferry to get to the island. There are direct trains to Palermo, Sicily's capital, from Naples, Rome, Genoa and Milan to Palermo Centrale. On Sicily, seek out Trapani's Stragusto Street Food Festival in July, a 4 hr train journey from Palermo. You’ll find a festival that celebrates the street food of the Mediterranean. Specialties on offer include: panelle - fried chickpea polenta, arancine - stuffed rice balls, sfincioni, rascadura, focacce, panini cà meusa, dolci, typical trapanese food and more.
Rome to Verona
The 4-day Taste of Roma festival starting in September opens up some of the city’s finest restaurants offering tasting sessions and cooking lessons. For a foodie day trip from Rome, take the 1 hr train to the Sperlonga by train for a seafood feast overlooking the water (and fireworks in September to celebrate local saints Rocco and Leone). It takes just over 3 hrs on a direct high-speed train to get from Rome to Verona, where the back street osteria are the places to find have a real food experience. Risotto is a big player here with risotto al tastasal, al radicchio, and all’Amarone all local favourites.
From Verona, enjoy a day trip to Lake Garda by heading to Desenzano del Garda/Sirmione which is only a 20-min hop on a Trenitalia local train. Lake Garda is less than 30 mins walk from the station. It's a short hop from Verona to Venice, famous for many things including the Venice Carnival. Food, of course, plays a key role at the Venice Carnival, the festivities create a great opportunity to immerse yourself in the local cuisine of the Venice region.
Parma to Modena
Two of Italy's gastronomic greats in the Emilia-Romagna region, Parma and Modena are just 30 mins away from each other by train. Known for producing some of Italy's finest traditional produce, Parma and Modena both celebrate the best of Italian cuisine with their own respective food festivals. Visit Parma in September for its annual Parma Ham Festival, and head to Modena and Spilamberto (17km from Modena) in October for Mast Còt, an annual celebration of the city's most famous export, balsamic vinegar. If fantastic food isn't enough to whet your appetite, both Parma and Modena offer treasure troves of art and culture, including a plethora of palazzos, art galleries and medieval, Renaissance and Baroque architecture.
Buone vacanze e buon viaggio with Trenitalia.
Photo credits top to bottom: Red tasty caramelized apple in a copper pot with syrup iStock ©ChiccoDodiFC, Turin San Carlo Square iStock ©Alessandro Cristiano, Lucca, Tuscany iStock ©tupungato, Chef preparing pizza, iStrock© Aleksander Nakic St. Peter's cathedral over bridge iStock © neirfy, Calles de Sperlonga ©Facundo Ratti, Beautiful old streets of Verona, Veneto region, Italy ©Olena_Znak.
Powered by Froala Editor
Looking for inspiration?
Ten scenic train trips for independent travellers
Ten trips to inspire your next holiday by train - and not an escorted tour in sight. Our selection of scenic train trips for independent travellers in Europe.
European city breaks by rail from London
It's easier than ever to take the train across Europe - and capital cities are by no means the only destinations available to those planning a city break by rail.