Featured Holiday Ideas
Italy offers an amazing array of holidays to explore by rail.
Italy enchants with its world-renowned museums and galleries, unbeatable cuisine and coastlines almost too good to be true. And while the Colosseum, Pompeii and the Leaning Tower of Pisa are undoubtedly impressive in person, there's also plenty of unexpected attractions to uncover across the country's many unique regions. Sip limoncello in the shade of a Sorrentine lemon grove, have a go at making your own authentic pizza or travel by rail around the base of Europe's most active volcano. The possibilities are endless.
Also known as the 'Eternal City', when you're exploring Rome, it often feels like you could have eternal moments of discovery. From the remains of the ancient Roman Empire, including the structurally impressive pantheon, the Roman Forum and of course, the famous and inspirational Colosseum, to the Baroque detail of the Trevi Fountain; Italy's capital city is a treasure trove of culture and history. Keeping right up to trend with the modern-day, however, its café culture is not to be missed. What could be better than an authentic cappuccino or espresso served alongside a sweet pastry amid Rome's vibrant street life? In the evenings, the city's at its best, with soft lamplight illuminating the banks of the River Tiber and the gelato bars open until the early hours.
An intricate network of lagoons and canals makes Venice one of the most unique cities in the world. Made up of over 100 separate islands, many with their own niche traditions, the only way to travel here is by boat; efficient water ferries and time-honoured gondolas ply the waters night and day. St Mark's Square, with its Byzantine mosaics, has been a popular meeting place since the days of Galileo and is still home to some of Venice's most rewarding attractions, including the Basilica di San Marco, the Doge's Palace and the Campanile, or Bell Tower. Almost as renowned as its art and architecture, Venice's restaurants serve up some of the country's freshest seafood. Experience it like a local by ordering some cicheti, Venetian tapas, and a glass of the city's signature drink, prosecco.
The largest of the Italian lakes, Lake Garda attracts visitors with its crystal-clear waters, mountainous backdrops and charming lakeside towns. Surrounded by three different regions, there's a beautiful mix of cultures to uncover along Garda's picturesque banks. Discover the vineyards of Lombardy to the west, the Austrian cuisine of the northern shores or the geothermal spa towns in the south. The mainland isn't the only place to explore, however, and with names like 'the Island of Olives' and the 'Island of Dreams', who could resist the chance to sightsee by boat? Isola del Garda is the most prominent and has been owned by the Cavazza family for generations. Here, fragrant acacia and lemon trees frame an extraordinary neo-Gothic style villa.
Considered Europe's most idyllic Mediterranean port, Portofino lies on the Italian Riviera - a pastel-coloured jewel set against the emerald-blue of the Ligurian Sea. The town has a natural harbour, where fishing boats bob in the gentle sway of the current, that leads to the bustling Piazzetta, a quaint square overlooking the water. Follow one of the tempting side streets here that lead further into the heart of Portofino, stopping for a bite to eat at one of the seafood eateries or doing a bit of shopping in the high-end boutiques. For stunning views over the town and sparkling coastline, one of the paths from the central piazza leads through the hills to the 16th-century fortress, Castello Brown.
The Amalfi Coast has, it's long been argued, is Italy's, if not the continent's, best-loved stretch of coastline. And for an excellent reason. Accessible either by boat or by a small, meandering mountain road, the views are out of this world as you travel along jagged peninsulas past towns where elegant houses seemingly tumble from the cliffside into the blue ocean below, terraced vineyards and seaside lemon orchards. Amalfi itself delights with its sun-kissed, café-lined piazzas and diminutive beach, while further down the coast, Positano's chic eateries, bars and shops make for a cosmopolitan destination that also boats an old-world charm thanks to its majolica-domed church, the Chiesa di Santa Maria Assunta.
Perhaps one of the most recognisable structures in the world, the Colosseum has impressed visitors since 80 AD. Designed to be the amphitheatre of all amphitheatres, this was the largest open-air entertainment venue built during the Roman Empire and could seat 50,000 braying spectators. Once playing host to epic gladiator fights that could feature tens of fighters at a time, as well exotic animals, such as bears, rhinos, elephants and even giraffes, one of its other remarkable attributes was that it was watertight. It needed to be to pull off the most elaborate stagings the Colosseum was known for, full-on naval reenactments.
The landmark that put Pisa on the map, the Leaning Tower is probably history's most celebrated mistake. Built on unstable foundations over the course of nearly two centuries, the extremity of the bell tower's tilt has meant steel braces are needed to reinforce it. But while its uneven angle has caused headaches for multiple architects over the years, tourists and scientists alike (in the 1600s, Galileo used the tower to demonstrate the effects of gravity successfully) appreciate the imperfect beauty of Pisa's Torre Pendente.
Having spent the best part of two millennia buried by volcanic ash, the ancient city of Pompeii has been fantastically preserved, giving visitors an incredible insight into life during the Roman Empire. Wander the city streets, popping into what would have once been thriving bathhouses, take-out restaurants and even brothels as the ever-present peak of Mount Vesuvius dominates the background.
In Italy's heel sits the region of Puglia, home to more than 1,400 curious, conical-shaped Trulli of Alberobello. Thought up in the 16th century as a way for residents to evade tax, these white-washed homes are completely mortarless and were constructed using ancient building techniques. These days, the unique homes are UNESCO-listed and bring to life a taste of forgotten Italy as you explore the twisting lanes selling local keepsakes.
The Cinque Terre, or 'Five Lands' is a stretch of five coastal towns on Italy's picturesque Ligurian Coast. Colourful houses characterise the dramatic setting, with Vernazza, Monterosso, Corniglia, Manarola and Riomaggiore each known for something different, whether that's wine production, olive groves, seafood or unique medieval architecture. Connected by a 19th-century railway route, the only other way to visit each village is by boat.
Get a taste of a luxurious Italian lifestyle as you dine like royalty on our Grand Tour of Italy. Head to Palazzetto Pisani, an authentic 16th-century Venetian palace, where you indulge in a delicious meal in the most sumptuous surroundings imaginable - overlooking Venice's iconic Grand Canal. This is a dining experience you'll remember for a lifetime.
Embark on an unforgettable rail journey between Italy and Switzerland on one of Europe's most scenic railways, the UNESCO World Heritage-listed Bernina Express. Wind past mighty glaciers, valleys shrouded in pine trees, and pretty meadows as you journey through the dramatic landscapes of the Swiss Alps, on an incredible route that dates back over 100 years.
Uncover two of Italy's beautiful UNESCO-listed sites - the fascinating dwellings of Matera and Alberobello. In Matera, step back in time in the Sassi district, where ancient caves carved out of a rock face create one of the most spectacular sights in Italy. In Alberobello, discover the Trulli - unusual white-washed, circular limestone houses that date back to prehistoric times.
With its glistening azure waters, rocky coves, and tiny, colourful villages that seemingly cling to the dramatic cliffs, there's no better way to explore the Amalfi coast than from its waters. Soak up the natural beauty of Italy's most famous coastline as you cruise to the unspoilt town of Positano, and Amalfi, the jewel of the Amalfi coast.
Immerse yourself in elegance as you cruise across Lake Maggiore to the Borromean Islands, where stunning palaces and ornamental gardens await you. Visit Borromeo Palace, a magnificent Baroque structure that dominates Isola Bella, where you'll explore sumptuously decorated rooms filled with tapestries, statues and paintings, as well as elegant Italian-style gardens that are home to citrus trees and water-lilies.
Featured Holiday Ideas
Italy offers an amazing array of holidays to explore by rail.
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