Italy is my favourite place in the world. In my opinion, there’s nothing better than sipping prosecco on a sun-kissed terrace in Tuscany, or island-hopping on a crowded, sticky water-bus in Venice. It’s the stuff (my) dreams are made of! I’ve explored Italy by train three times now, and each time I’ve found something new to fall in love with. Here is Part 1 of my Italy by Rail blog post, sharing some tips and ideas for travelling around Italy by train.
Rome is a pretty central starting point, from here you can head north or south, as well as absorbing the atmosphere of this amazing, vibrant city. I hope to discover more of southern Italy in the future, but for starters, I’ll be writing about Rome, Florence, Milan and Venice…
There are plenty of rail passes available online, to cover the duration of your trip, but I’ve found it more purse-friendly and flexible to buy tickets as I go. If you are using a rail pass, it’s worth knowing that on some trains – usually the quick ones! – you’ll need to pay for seat reservations before travelling – it’s an automatic fine if you don’t (and pleading ignorance/grovelling/apologising doesn’t work – We tried!).
Similarly to other European cities, the area surrounding the main Termini train station tends to be somewhere to avoid, particularly at night. However this is where you’ll find a lot of hostels, so if you find yourself staying here, it’s worth being on your guard. Also, like in many big cities, pickpocketing is not uncommon in Rome, so the usual travel advice applies. (Safety first, people!)
Rome is crammed with tourist hot-spots, and there are a gazillion websites devoted to these, but it’s worth wandering off the beaten track to find some hidden gems. If you fancy something different, and uber-romantic, how about taking a picnic to the gardens at the Villa Borghese? Here you can hire a rowing boat, see the Temple of Aesculapius on the lake, and people-watch to your heart’s content! The gardens are on the edge of the main sightseeing area, and it’s worth the walk. The Galleria Borghese can be found here too, so if the weather isn’t playing ball, the museum might keep you entertained.
The Temple of Aesculapius
If you’re heading north, but want to see a bit more while in Rome, you could visit Pompeii in a (long) day. It’s super-cheap to organise this yourself, going by train, and worth the early start. Pompeii is spectacular, and you can spend hours exploring the preserved ruins – There’s no shade at all here, so remember bottled water and sunscreen, otherwise you’ll get ripped off!
For more info about getting to Pompeii independently, by rail, check out this website, which has all the info you’ll need: https://www.rometoolkit.com/whattodo/pompeii_from_rome_rail.html
And this Trip Advisor thread might come in handy too: http://www.tripadvisor.co.uk/ShowTopic-g187786-i1888-k7144993-Daytrip_to_Pompeii_from_Rome_by_Train-Pompeii_Province_of_Naples_Campania.html
If you’d prefer something nearer the city, Ancient Rome is closer than you may think. Ostia Antica is an ancient harbour city, and is easily accessible by Metro and local trains. For more info, check out this Trip Advisor thread with the details: http://www.tripadvisor.co.uk/ShowTopic-g187791-i22-k4763306-How_to_get_to_Ostia_Antica-Rome_Lazio.html
Rome is fantastic, there’s so much to do, you’ll never get bored! If you don’t mind repacking your bags, I’d recommend transferring to accommodation near Vatican City during your stay, as this area offers something completely different – it’s quieter, more residential, and definitely more relaxing.
Next stop… Tuscany!
Remember you can follow me on Twitter: @TBSTraveller