Travelling through Italy from top to bottom, along the Venice to Salerno train route you’ll see Tuscan vineyards transform into rolling Umbrian hills, with the chance to hop off the train at any point on your way to the irresistibly pretty coastline of Campania.
To make sure you don’t miss out on some of the best bits of Italy, here are the top recommendations from global travellers.*
Painted shutters and floral bridges in Venice
Though Venice is in some ways typically Italian, its architecture really sets it apart from the rest of the country. For starters, it’s an island city built on stilts. Take a gondola around the maze of canals and Venetian Gothic palazzos and try to take in some of Venice’s eclectic architectural influences; as a historical maritime powerhouse, Venice traded with the Byzantine and Ottoman Empires, and elaborate Eastern mosaics, carvings, and domes decorate the city’s finest buildings.
Residenza Ca' Brighella is an airy and elegant apartment less than 5-minutes’ walk from St Marks Square.
Padova is a youthful, university city
Old Town, Padova
The Renaissance squares, Roman ruins, and medieval palaces of Padova aren’t Italy’s most well-known sights but they’re some of the most fascinating. Though it’s still a working university, you can visit the University of Padova and explore its warren of historic classrooms, libraries, and even operating auditoriums where professors would dissect bodies in front of students. Famous alumni of the university include William Harvey, who discovered and described in detail the circulatory system, and lecturers include Galileo, no less. Visit the university’s botanical gardens, and see Giotto’s frescoes in the Scrovegni Chapel (though you have to book ahead for that one), before wandering the cobbled streets of the ghetto.
Palazzo Mantua Benavides provides palatial accommodation in a historic building in central Padova.
A treasure trove of a deli in Bologna
With one of Italy’s most famous culinary exports, Spaghetti alla Bolognese, named after the city, it’s fairly obvious that food is Bologna’s forte. It’s also the hometown of tortellini, mortadella, tagliatelle, and ragù. Visit the old medieval market, Quadrilatero, and browse the cobbled street sections dedicated to local cheeses, cured meats, fresh fish, and moreish almond pastries.
The interiors at Room Mate Giulia are a pastel palette, mid-century modern dream, and the property is only a short walk from the Quadrilatero.
Visit the Palazzo Pitti in Florence
As an important centre of the Renaissance, Florence was a cultural powerhouse. The local Medici family were the most important patrons of the era, commissioning work from the Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci, and Sandro Botticelli. The legacy of these artists and their patrons means that there is a bountiful supply of galleries and museums that you must visit in Florence; namely the Uffizi Gallery, the Palazzo Pitti, and the Medici Chapel.
Grand Hotel Minerva has a rooftop pool overlooking Florence’s historic centre, and is only a few steps from the Uffizi Gallery.
Rome's remarkably-intact and mighty Colosseum
As the heart of the Roman Empire, Italy’s capital has a distinguished history and it’s nothing short of amazing to stand in the remarkably-intact Colosseum, imagining the gladiators emerging from the gates to the deafening cries of the crowd. But there’s a lot more to see; the Pantheon, the Roman Forum, the Trevi Fountain, the Spanish Steps, St Peter’s Basilica, and that’s only a taster.
The Hotel d’Inghilterra Roma is a 5-star hotel just 200 metres from the Spanish Steps.
You've got to try a pizza in Naples, the origin of the dish
As the birthplace of pizza, Neapolitans do a fine job of upholding the dish’s reputation. One of the most well-known pizzerias is the centrally-located Il Pizzaiolo del Presidente, where you can request any kind of topping but the classic, regional margherita with just the right balance of doughy and crispy crust is the best.
Atelier Inès offers delightful B&B accommodation in the heart of Naples.
Glorious sea views along the Amalfi Coast
The Amalfi Coast is often described as the most scenic part of Italy and the best base from which to explore is Salerno, on account of it being the least touristy of the surrounding towns. Hire a car and drive along the coastal roads looking out onto cerulean-blue ocean and admiring the terraced towns with brightly-painted buildings that lead down the rocky cliffs.
B&B Il Ritratto is a sophisticated B&B with subdued decor in central Salerno.
**Destinations featured were chosen as a selection of all the major destinations along the Venice to Salerno railway route. Then the most popular feature of each city was calculated using internal data.