14 days in Italy: A complete guide to travelling by train for a whistle stop tour of the country

Discover Italy by train
Discover Italy by train Copyright ale72/Alessandro Lai / Getty
Copyright ale72/Alessandro Lai / Getty
By Hope Brotherton
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The impressive rail infrastructure has made cleaner travel possible at pocket-friendly prices, and it’s fair to say it’s changed the travel map.


Looking for a greener, cheaper holiday to round off your year of travel? Then Italy is the place to be.

The Italian railway network is extensive. In fact, its tracks cover a whopping 25,000km.

The impressive infrastructure has made cleaner travel possible at pocket-friendly prices, and it’s fair to say it’s changed the travel map.

While some domestic flights still operate, the improvements made to the country’s railways mean Italy’s flagship airline, Alitalia, was priced out of the skies last October.

“One-third of the top 150 short-haul flights in Europe have train alternatives that are less than six hours in duration,” one TransEuropa report for Greenpeace states.

Even though a six hour train may sound stuffy, there are some serious perks: the sprawling scenery, a comfortable journey and no stressful security checks, all the while saving the planet and your budget.

What route should you take around Italy?

You’ve probably fallen in love with the idea of the Italian railway, but in a country where every town is a holidaymaker's dream, you might want to know where to start.

Here’s a 14-day guide, to help you marvel at the might of the Med.

View of Lake Como and the funicular, ItalyPhilIntallura/PHILIP INTALLURA

Milan: Northern Italy’s bubbling metropolis

How long to stay: 2 days

Situated in the northern region of Lombardy, Milan is the perfect place to start your journey. The capital of Lombardy is serviced by three airports (Linate, Malpensa and Bergamo). But its train station, Milan Centrale, also greets arrivals from all over Europe.

Once there, make sure to visit the Duomo, soak in the Last Supper, dine in the Navigli district and spend a night at the opera.

f11photo/Getty Images
Milan, Italyf11photo/Getty Images

Venice: The Italian city of water

How long to stay: 2 days

Head east from Milan to Venice. Venice is introducing fees for tourists in a bid to halt the holidaying hordes.

Let that be a reminder to dive off the beaten path and explore the islands of Murano and Burano.

How to get there: Take the train from Milan Centrale to Venezia S. Lucia. Fast trains take 2 hours and 30 minutes, and cost just shy of €20.

Venice, Italynullplus/nullplus

Bologna: Home of hearty sauces and toppling towers

How long to stay: 2 days

Your next stop takes you to the largest city in Emilia-Romagna, Bologna.

It’s a city covered by red, orange and brown porticoes, so make a beeline for the Due Torri (twin towers you can climb for a panoramic view).

How to get there: Direct trains from Venezia S. Lucia to Bologna Centrale take 2 hours and 10 minutes, and cost €13.15

bernotto/maria luisa berti
Bologna, Italybernotto/maria luisa berti

Florence: Where art and architecture combine

How long to stay: 2 days

Hop from Bologna to the Tuscan capital of Florence. It’s a must for any art enthusiasts and architecture aficionados.

Make sure you see the Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore, the Ponte Vecchio and the Uffizi Gallery.


How to get there: A 37-minute fast train from Bologna Centrale to Firenze S. M. Novella will set you back €17.10. A slower alternative costs €9.45.

Vladislav Zolotov/Getty Images/iStockphoto
Florence, Italy.Vladislav Zolotov/Getty Images/iStockphoto

Rome: The city of echoes, illusions and yearning

How long to stay: 3 days

Spend longer soaking in the sites of the Italian capital, Rome.

Make sure you comb the colosseum, chuck cents into the Trevi fountain, soak in the art of the Sistine chapel and much, much more.

How to get there: Trains from Firenze S. M. Novella to Roma Termini take just over 90 minutes and cost €27.90.

minemero/Getty Images
Rome, Italyminemero/Getty Images

Naples: Campania’s chaotic heart

How long to stay: 1 day

Head south from Rome and you’ll arrive in Naples.


If you’re tired of trains, visit Naples’ ports and forts. But if you’re up for more excursions, Pompeii, Herculaneum and Mt Vesuvius should top your day-trip list.

How to get there: Slower trains Roma Termini to Napoli Centrale cost €14.90 for 2 hours

Gian Lorenzo Ferretti Photography/Getty Images
Naples, ItalyGian Lorenzo Ferretti Photography/Getty Images

Bari: For basilicas and beaches

How long to stay: 2 days

Jump across the breadth of the country to discover the off-beat region of Puglia. Come here for less crowds, and stay for the food and fascinating history.

For fairytale scenes, visit the nearby towns of Alberobello and Polignano-A-Mare.

How to get there: Ditch the train and take the €10 coach from Naples (Metropark Centrale) to Bari Centrale. It takes 3 hours.

Sky_Blue/Getty Images
Bari, Italy.Sky_Blue/Getty Images

How much will 14 days in Italy by train cost?

14 days to travel Italy by train will set you back just €95.40.

But don’t take our word for it, just do it.

Tips and tricks on trains in Italy

Before you book, there are a few things to consider. EUrail and Trenitalia have their own train passes. While they may seem cost-effective, they’ll actually cost upwards of €200 for the same trip.

It’s cheaper to book separate, standard and super economy tickets on the Trenitalia website. Trains can be booked weeks, days and hours in advance.

They do sell out so snap up your voyage ASAP.


Make sure your tickets are validated too. Before boarding your train, pop your ticket into the validation machine found in ticket halls and platforms.

Other handy tips for a budget trip in Italy

Stay in hostel dorms and make your own meals to keep costs low.

Slices of pizza, arancini balls and other street food save on cash and food waste.

You can save your euros by refilling water bottles at drinking fountains throughout Italy - if you see a local taking a swig, it’s safe.

And if you don’t want your eco-adventure to end, hop on a bus or ferry out of Bari on the last day. Buses connect Bari to Sicily, Milan and beyond, while a ferry will get you to Dubrovnik in Croatia in no time.

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