Hidden Europe: unique experiences in Europe's cities
8920 · By Katie Shaw
Europe’s cities are treasure troves of culture, teeming with iconic, must-see sights to enthral even the most seasoned of tourists.Read more
World-class art, architecture and gastronomy; Italy needs little introduction. Uncover spellbinding history from Florence, the 'Jewel of the Renaissance', to the centuries of art and culture tucked away in the sacred halls of Vatican City. Of course, there's perhaps no greater way to uncover the culture of a destination than through its food, and dining here is a real treat. Think crispy, woodfired pizza, creamy gelato, and deliciously fresh pasta, perhaps accompanied by a crisp Pinot Grigio or fruity Chianti.
Exploring Italy by train is by far and away the easiest and most comfortable way to see this historic country thanks to an extensive rail network that offers fast and reliable services to the majority of Italy's most desireable destinations. Plus, of course, many of Italy's railways afford a relaxing opportunity to admire Italy's wonderful landscapes.
We've created a collection of Italian rail holidays that cater for every taste, whether your preference is to admire the architecture that has made cities such as Rome famous, or you wish to escape to the beautiful Italian lakes.
Effortlessly captivating and endlessly inspiring, Italy does everything with flair - and we discover it in the most romantic way possible, from its wonderful network of railways.
Italy enjoys an exceptional rail network, with rail still a popular method of travel for thousands of Italians daily. Routes run up and down the country and rail offers the perfect way to experience the wonderful Italian countryside, from the rolling vineyards of Tuscany to the cliffs of the southern coast.
A selection of heritage trains also still operates in Italy. One notable example is the Centovalli railway which trawls through the trees, alongside the lakes and over the mountains of northern Italy. The railway's name means 'One Hundred Valleys', which is taken from the many valleys that the line crosses and passes through on its route.
Italy's cuisine needs little introduction; most travellers will be familiar with classic Italian creations such as pizza, spaghetti Bolognese, salami and minestrone soup. As with other countries, however, Italy's food varies greatly between regions which have different traditions and styles of cookery. In general terms, Italian cuisine stems from the simple combination of fresh and flavoursome produce to create colourful dishes that preserve the identity of individual ingredients yet harmonise flavours perfectly. Pasta, polenta and risotto rice are staples of Italian cuisine and to these a variety of meats, fish, vegetables, herbs and sauces can be added to create simple yet utterly delicious meals. These can be accompanied by Italy's famous and excellent wines which include the white Pinot Grigiot, and the red Chianti.
Thanks to a Mediterranean climate, Italy largely enjoys hot, sunny summers and mild, wet winters where snowfall is relatively rare, with the exception of mountainous regions such as the Italian Alps and the Dolomites. Inland summer temperatures usually average between 82 and 91°F, whilst sea breezes lower the temperature slightly along Italy's coasts. Early autumn brings brief thunderstorms but temperatures remain warm and rainfall is short-lived. As such, waterproof clothing is not required and can be kept to a minimum.
Italian is the original Romantic language, with its roots in the Latin, which preceded it as the language of Italy. Nowadays, Italian is fast-paced, expressive and fascinating to listen to. Helpful Italian expressions include 'buongiorno' meaning 'good morning', 'buona sera' meaning 'good afternoon' and 'grazie mille' which means 'thank you very much'. 'Buongiorno' is pronounced 'bwon- jor-noh', 'buonasera' is pronounced 'bwon-ah-ser-a' and 'grazie mille' is 'graz-ee-eh mee-lay'.
Many festival days have their origins in the Catholic faith. One example is the Epiphany which is celebrated on the 6th of January, intended as a day for the birth of Jesus Christ. This day marks the end of the Christmas season and in many ways has similar festivities to Christmas, including children receiving presents from the Befana, a magical old lady. A particular event to watch out for is the Venice Carnival.
This incredible carnival of masks and beautiful costumes happens just before Lent, and features parades and festivities across the city. In restaurants across Italy, a service charge is normally added to the bill which then goes to the staff. A small tip of €2 or €3 is always appreciated, however.
Italian people are open, passionate and talkative. The city population can tend to be more temperamental and reserved while the country people are often more friendly and welcoming.
Helping you plan your holiday to Italy