Italy by train

Italy is the beautiful country in Europe that hosts more bucket list destinations than seems possible. From White Lotus in Sicily to the shopping avenues of Milan, Italy is bathed in golden sunlight willing every American to escape, order an espresso, eat endless carbs, and drink wine.

I have been lucky enough to visit Italy 6 times but I have hardly explored what this country has to offer. Most recently in 2022 I traveled to some cities I had never been to before, some famous mountainside beaches, some countryside villages. Each offered something uniquely Italian.

The next time you fly into Rome, Milan, Naples, consider hopping on the efficient, safe, and affordable train and experiencing a different place without the travel company. Below is my itinerary as I traveled from north to south mostly by train.


A true modern city with a mixture of the old architecture with war memorials in parks where the cicadas scream it is summer to the busy streets where workers transfer on the subway and race to their office buildings. I got lost in the sunny streets, stopping for espresso and a slice of pizza. The subway easily took me across town so I could explore the theaters and walk around the Duomo from my friend’s apartment.


My friend, who I was crashing with in Milan, needed to go home for the weekend. She invited me to tag along, I was happy to follow. There was not much English spoken, but there was history, architecture, and countryside. We road bikes to get gelato with the Italian countryside sunset chasing our tires.

Lago Di Garda

The actual largest lake in Italy receives less acclaim than Lake Como. It is a drive from Mantua to the town of Desenzano de Garda to park and then take a ferry to the tip of Sirmione. Beautiful mountains sit in the distance, while swans swim with you in the clear green blue waters. It is a long walk back from the beach to the town but the blooming trees follow your path.


The city that invented tortellini has surprises around every corner. A short walk from the train station takes you through the world heritage arches that cover the sidewalk. There are old steeples to climb with 1000 stairs, making your heart race as you look down and realize the building is leaning. There is a church with 6 other churches hidden inside, you maze through stone passage ways somehow still finding the gift shop. The night obviously ends with a plate of homemade pasta, a glass of wine, and the midnight train home.


9am and I am sipping my espresso with an almond pastry sweating. We were in the town of Modena for the morning. More church steeples tower over the little city. A large stone sits nearby with the plaque listing it used to be the place for public executions and shame-ings. Today I watch 10 tourists stand around with the maps laid out. If only the ancient Italians could see what happens in their plazas. We walk through the narrow colorful streets. Every city in Italy is so walkable it is shocking.


Endless shops and restaurants are to be found on pedestrian only streets. With my stomach full of pasta and my wallet a little emptier and now sitting in my new yellow leather bag, we walked the alleys. The street art in Naples crashes with the ancient buildings. We ditched the sweaty streets and took to the ocean in kayaks. Mt Vesuvius sat stoically above the city, with the lush green landscape running down in to the deep blue ocean.


The ferry from Naples to Positano is worth it just for the views. I tried to speak my mesh of Italian and Spanish and order a beer. The guy smiled at me, and give me a second one later free. The waves splashed as the Italian coastline continued to follow us. Entering Positano was overwhelming. The mountain right there, the houses clinging to its side, and all the tiny tourists struggling below. We had trips to Sorrento for lemoncello, Mt Vesuvius for olive oil and wine, and a boat tour to Amalfi. When our boat ran out of Prosecco I swam to the boat where all the husbands and boyfriends were, stole their wine, and swam a bottle in each hand back to our boat. Feeling like a true Italian mermaid.

Lake Como

The famous Lake Como is freaking massive and is also not an unknown treasure. But it is accessible by train! Unless you are incredibly wealthy or staying there for a month I doubt you will be able to explore the whole lake. During my short stay I took the boat from port to port just in the south portion of the lake. Each area has beautiful views of the mountains around the lake and delicious fresh pasta waiting to be tasted.

The True Winner: The Trains of Italy

It was time to leave after 1 month in Italy and over 2100km traveled, mostly by the beautiful train. I had trained from Milan through countryside towns arriving in Naples. Boats took me around the Amalfi coast. Trains brought me back north before my flight out of Italy to Portugal from Milan.

Go get your ticket, sit window side, and get lost. Andiamo.

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