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Italy Rail & Escorted Tours

The land of the Romans and the Renaissance, of food and fashion and of myths and Michelangelo, Italy is an enigmatic mix of fascinating history and culture. As the center of one of the first true centres of human civilisation in the world, Rome makes for a historical safari of ancient proportions. At its heart sits the majestic Colosseum, the largest amphitheatre in the world and an incredible reminder of the power of the Roman Empire. A short distance away is the smallest sovereign state in the world and the religious hub for the Catholic church, the magisterial Vatican City. Deep within the tangled web of alleys and walkways that make up Rome lies the babble of the Trevi Fountain, featured in the classic romantic film, 'Three Coins in the Fountain'.

We've created a collection of Italian rail tours 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.

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Where to go and what to see

Top 5 destinations

Amalfi Coast

 

  • Rome
  • Venice
  • Lake Garda
  • Portofino
  • Amalfi Coast

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Top 5 sights

Alberobello

 

  • Colosseum - Rome
  • Leaning Tower - Pisa
  • Pompeii
  • Trulli - Alberobello
  • Cinque Terre

Find out more

Expert opinions & guides

Destination information & travelling tips

Currency

Euro (€)

Main language

Italian

Capital city

Rome

Timezone

Central European Standard Time (Greenwich Mean Time plus 1 hour).

Travel times

Eight hours by rail to Northern Italy (Turin). Flight times vary between 3-5 hours, depending on whereabouts in the country you fly to/from.

When to travel

Italy is known for its warm weather and Mediterranean climes throughout the year. In summer, head to the Tuscan hills, the shores of the great lakes or the beaches of the Italian Riviera, where fresh breezes help to keep things cool. Spring and autumn are best for visiting the big cities when the crowds are smaller, and the famous art galleries and museums aren't so busy. In winter, the Dolomites and Alps provide a wintry backdrop to some of the country's chicest resorts.

What to pack

What to pack depends largely on where you go and when. If you're travelling at the hottest time of year (June-August), you'll want to make sure you've got plenty of loose, preferably linen, clothes as well as suncream, sunglasses and a hat. If you're visiting places of worship, make sure not to wear shorts (men and women), while ladies will need to ensure they have something that can cover their shoulders. A waterproof in case of inclement weather and a light jacket or two for cooler evenings are also recommended; don't forget your swimsuit if you want to cool off with a swim! If you're travelling in the shoulder months, then layers are a good idea as they leave you prepared for whatever the weather has to throw at you, and a sturdy pair of water-resistant shoes will keep you comfortable on excursion days.

Local customs and cultures

Religion, food and family are some of the most important traditions across Italy. The country is predominantly Catholic and modest dress is required for men and women when you visit any of its places of worship. While eating out, don't expect the high turnover of tables that you see in many restaurants in the UK; meals here are meant to be savoured, with adults and children alike choosing from the same menu. While there are a few exceptions, even in the big cities, most eateries focus on traditional Italian food, so if you feel like you need a carb break, it's worth doing a bit of research about the different cuisines available in the destinations you'll be visiting. This will also help you ensure you try the specialities of each region you travel through. Coffee drinking has some fundamental rules in Italy, with lattes, cappuccinos and any other milky coffee reserved for breakfast time only, espressos, however, are acceptable any time of day, or night! You'll have no problem being understood speaking English pretty much anywhere you go in Italy, but like most countries, they do appreciate a little bit of the local lingo, so be sure to brush up on the basics before you go.

22 results matching: Italy

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Simply Lake Garda
(67 reviews)
10 days
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  • DestinationItaly, Switzerland
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  • DestinationItaly, Slovenia
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Our customers love our Italy tours
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Gastronomic Piedmont
Mr D Bennett
“Excellent tour. Cameo was particularly lovely and. Or spoil t by tourism. Food very good. Excellent tour guide.
Lake Como & The Bernina Express
Anonymous
“A well organised tour led by a fantastic Tour Manager. The base hotel was excellent being on Lake Como shores, on the main route around the island and within a couple of minutes of the ferry stages. The day trips were well organised and the day trip on the Bernina Express a major highlight. Highly recommend this tour.
Puglia & Basilicata
Mr K Davies
“An excellent company to deal with
Rome, Sorrento & the Amalfi Coast
Mr P West
“thoroughly enjoyable tour
The Magic of Sicily
Mrs A Coleman
“good facilities well organised
Simply Lake Garda
Mr P Collett
“Logistics, organisation excellent little disappointed in location of hotel and did not agree with its 4 star categorisation
Sirmione on Lake Garda
Anonymous
“I very much enjoy the tour but my enjoyment was spoiled by the fact that two people who clearly were unsuited to a tour which involved changing trains and with a 700 metre walk over cobbles to get between the nearest coach pickup point had apparently been told that they would have no problem with this tour. It also involved our rep. and another passenger taking their luggage for them.
Stresa & Lake Maggiore
Mr M Goode
“Overall a good tour but we felt that the food in Hotel Regina Palace was not up to the quality we would expect of a 4 star hotel
The Italian Riviera
Mr C Williams
“The tour overall was fine, as we had done this trip before, two years ago. The Villa Balbi is a very good hotel with excellent facilities and staff. The journey home was not something I would recommend to anyone. It was something that you, Great Rail, could not control; the total cancellation of our train from Sestri Levanti to Milan. We ended up in a coach, driven by someone who in my opinion, was dangerous, and had no knowledge of Milan and the location of our train station at all. We did, eventually, arrive at Mulhouse, after a couple of quick train changes, although rather later than was planned. The following day, when arriving in Paris we thought nothing else could go wrong. On getting ready to get on our Euro Star train we had a last minute alteration to all our tickets as the train had been changed, which meant that we were seated randomly in three different carriages, which spoilt the final journey home. Once again this was out of the control of Great Rail. Let me add that our tour manager, Rosie Sharp, was excellent in calmly dealing with all of the problems we encountered, and also, we were very lucky to have a gentleman on our trip who spoke fluent Italian. This was our thirteenth journey with Great Rail. I have never been superstitious before.?

The Italy outside of Rome is no less impressive. In the south lies the sun-drenched island of Sicily, with its azure oceans and intrinsically Italian way of life, watched over by the brooding volcano, Mount Etna. Up the western coast of Italy is Pisa, where the ever-baffling Tower of Pisa leans nonchalantly over the cathedral of the city. In the north of the country is the one of the worlds indisputable cities of romance - the 'Floating City' of Venice. Set upon a series of islands divided by a number of canals, this wonderful metropolis is home to St Mark's Square and the Doge's Palace. It also has been the set for hundreds of films across the years as well as the location of William Shakespeare's The Merchant of Venice. Travel from Venice towards Milan, and you come across the crystalline surface and charming villages of Lake Garda from where expeditions into the snowy mountains of the Italian Alps can be mounted. 

Italian Culture

Italian culture is a potent cocktail of art, sport and music. As the site of the Renaissance, Italy has produced many of the finest masters of sculpture, painting and architecture in history. Household names such as Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo and Raphael were all born in Italy and many of their works still adorn the monuments and buildings of the Renaissance era including Michelangelo's work on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel and Raphael's work in the Palace of the Vatican.

As for music, Italy was the birthplace of opera and the operatic form, with an impressive list of opera composers such as Giuseppe Verdi and Claudio Monteverdi hailing from Italy. Many of the most famous operas in the world are written in Italian and set in Italy including the Marriage of Figaro and Rigoletto. As with much of Europe, Italy's main sport is football. Italians are particularly passionate about football and international tournaments can bring everyday life to a standstill, especially in the rural regions. Their national side is known as the 'azurri' which is 'blue' in Italian, after the colour which the team wears. Some of the biggest teams in Italian club football include Juventus, Inter Milan and A.S Roma

Italian 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.

Italian Cuisine

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.

Italy’s Climate

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 Language

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'.

Traveller’s notes

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.

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