Travelling around Italy by train – the perfect two-week itinerary

This article originally featured in Luxury Lifestyle Magazine, but I’ve adapted this one slightly to include some personal recommendations, top tips and my own photographs from my travels around Italy.

Italy has it all – scenery, culture, heritage, food and wine. That’s why choosing the ideal place to visit can be a difficult decision. The fascinating history of Rome? The romance of Venice? Landscapes of Tuscany? Or the spectacular views of the Amalfi Coast?

It’s no wonder whittling your choice down to just one location is a challenge. Instead, why not enjoy some of the best highlights that Italy has to offer – and do it by train.

Travelling by train in Italy is a superb way to see the country in all its splendor, and you can easily plan your itinerary with Frecciarossa. These trains, which reach speeds of up to 250 miles per hour, are efficient, luxurious and convenient.

The time will certainly pass by quickly, as you sit back and relax in the buttery leather seats while sipping a chilled glass of prosecco and watch the lush Italian countryside whizz by.

First stop: Venice

A trip to Venice wouldn’t be complete without an atmospheric gondola ride, followed by a decadent breakfast at Café Florian (the oldest café in the world!) and people watching in the famous St Mark’s Square. Get a feel for the city’s unique history with visits to the Basilica, Doge’s Palace and the Rialto Bridge. If you have time, pop over to the neighbouring islands of Murano and Burano.

A gondola ride in Venice might be a cliché, but it's still a must-do, especially if it's your first time visiting.

My favourite restaurant in the world (bold statement, I know!) can be found on the neighbouring island of Burano. Al Gatto Nero da Ruggero is an intimate, family-run restaurant with absolutely incredible food. We went there four years ago and it's only grown in popularity over recent years - it was recently featured on the BBC's Remarkable Places to Eat with Angela Hartnett and Fred Sirieix.

My Top Tip: Venice!
The spider crab linguine at Al Gatto Nero da Ruggero

Second stop: Bologna

Be sure to arrive in Bologna with an appetite – it isn’t nicknamed La Grassa (The Fat) for nothing. Luckily, you can easily spend a day calorie-burning simply by wandering under the famous porticos. For a serious workout, climb the 498 steps of the Asinelli Tower and you’ll be rewarded with mesmerising views of the city. Build your energy up again by sampling at least one dish of tagliatelle al ragu (the REAL spaghetti Bolognese). If you’re a foodie, you’ll be in your element exploring the many local food markets in the medieval Quadrilatero area. Together with tagliatelle al ragu, a Bologna food bucket list wouldn’t be complete without sampling mortadella, prosciutto, Parmigiano-Reggiano PDO, tigelle and tortellini in brodo  – all washed down with a glass or two of Pignoletto.

The view from the top of the Asinelli Tower is worth the effort!

Bologna truly is a food paradise, which means you’re spoilt for choice when it comes to great restaurants, but Drogheria Della Rossa is an institution (be sure to book in advance!) My favourite place to drink is Marsalino, an unpretentious and cosy bar with great wine that's always filled with the animated chatter of locals.

My Top Tip: Bologna!
Tagliatelle al ragu

Third stop: Florence

Firenze is heaven for any art enthusiast. Visit Michelangelo’s David and other incredible works of art at Galleria dell’Accademia, before getting lost in the Uffizi Gallery. Learn about the Florentine history, Renaissance inspirations, and how the Medici family built their empire. Walking tours are a great idea as there’s so much to take in. A VIP ticket to Duomo will undoubtedly save time, as queues can snake around the magnificent cathedral with no end in sight. Finish your day with an aperitivo overlooking the Piazza del Duomo or at a rooftop bar. Food-wise, you’ll forever regret it if you don’t order a bistecca alla fiorentina. If you have time, take a day trip to the Tuscan countryside and go wine tasting in the scenic vineyards of Siena and San Gimignano.

Florence horse
Florence is such a romantic city already, but a horse-drawn carriage tour certainly adds to the romance!

Head up to Piazzale Michelangelo for a stunning viewpoint of Florence from above, then if the sun is shining, pack a picnic and venture to The Boboli Gardens. Be sure to also pay a visit to Mercato Centrale for an impressive array of food and drink in a buzzing atmosphere.

My Top Tip: Florence!
The view on the way up to Piazzale Michelangelo

Fourth stop: Rome

It doesn’t get much better than the Eternal City when it comes to sightseeing. Pack comfortable shoes, as the city is walkable and it’s the best way to see all the main sights. There’s the Colosseum, Forum, Pantheon, Trevi Fountain, Vatican and of course, the Sistine Chapel – to name just a few, and you can also tour the Catacombs. Private tours certainly make the visits much more enjoyable, particularly in high season when tourists take over the city. There are so many fabulous areas to explore – I love Campo de’ Fiori for the buzz, and the Trastevere neighbourhood, which is a wonderful place to wander.

Set off to visit any tourist hotspots as early as you can!

If you're looking for the perfect Italian wine tasting, I've visited Rimessa Roscioli twice and have loved it both times. It can be a little tricky to find as it's tucked away, but it's well worth it. There are some fabulous rooftop bars in Rome too, my favourites include Hotel Minerva and Hotel Raphael.

My Top Tip: Rome!
Rimessa Roscioli
Wine tasting at Rimessa Roscioli is a must-do if you're a fan of Italian wines.

Fifth stop: Amalfi Coast

Breathtaking sunsets and coastal scenery are just some of the highlights of this beautiful part of Italy. The relaxing pace will undoubtedly be welcome after the hustle and bustle of Roma. Tour the different areas of Amalfi and enjoy long and lazy al fresco lunches, with fabulous seafood, excellent wine and stunning views. If you’re feeling a little more active and adventurous, don’t miss Pompeii and Mount Vesuvius (remember to take plenty of water if you’re going in the summer as the heat can be unforgiving!) There’s a tiny limoncello shop once you reach the top of Vesuvius – you’ll need it after the hike!

Positano is beautiful, but be prepared for crowds

If you visit Positano, head away from the crowds and try to get off the beaten track as much as you can. There are some hidden gem restaurants further up in the hills. If you're keen to do Vesuvius, consider booking a private tour (we booked with Walks of Italy). It was brilliant as we were granted access to the areas usually closed to the public.

My Top Tip: Amalfi!
Post-Vesuvius trek hydration.

Sixth stop: Capri

Soaking in the glitz and glamour of Capri is part of its charm. This is especially true at nighttime when the last ferry has left the port, and the day-trippers have gone. You can’t beat watching the world go by and enjoying a pre-dinner aperitivo in one of the many chic bars in the main square, just make sure you get there early to nab a good seat. You never know, you might even spot an A-lister – Beyoncé and Jay-Z frequent the isle every summer. But if you don’t see them in the flesh, almost every restaurant is adorned with photos of their famous clientele. Hire a boat and sail around the island to see the Faraglioni up close, as well as the famous Grotta Azzurra. Then, head up to Anacapri and take the chairlift for dizzying heights and breathtaking views. 

boat capri
Hiring a private gozzo boat is the best way to see the iconic Faraglioni and the Grotta Azzurra up close.

For the food, it doesn’t get much more Capri than an authentic Caprese salad. You're also spoilt for choice when it comes to seafood, and you can't beat lobster spaghetti. Capri is small, so the main restaurants get booked up pretty quickly. Be sure to make a reservation well in advance if you have your heart set on somewhere.

My Top Tip: Capri!
Lobster pasta
We had an amazing dinner at Ristorante D'Amore in Capri

Seventh and final stop: Naples

What’s THE quintessential food of Napoli? Pizza, of course. This is the motherland of pizza, so you know you’ll be in for a treat. The best pizzas can typically be found in ristorantes that don’t even have a menu. The waiter simply offers margherita or marinara, and wine or beer – usually with an uninterested grunt, but don’t take it personally. Naples is a city bursting with personality and attitude, and it’s a fantastic place to wander. You can also tour the fascinating underground Napoli Sotteranea.

Naples always provokes mixed reactions whenever I speak to anyone about it, but we loved the hustle and bustle (and the pizza!)

We did a lot of research when it came to tracking down the best place to eat pizza in Napoli. The best pizzas we found in our tiring research(!) were often served in shabby trattorias, nestled away in questionable-looking backstreets. But if you're looking for something a little more sophisticated, I Dduje Scugnizzi Trattoria Pizzeria was an excellent find.

My Top Tip: Naples!
Pizza, made by the Gods (the photo doesn't do it justice!)
After Naples, head to the airport ready for your flight home feeling relaxed and refreshed after living la dolce vita for three weeks in bellissima Italia... ciao!
Ps. Can you guess how much this mimosa at Café Florian cost?!

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