When we started planning our trip to Italy, a questioned popped up in our heads instantly: which Italian city should we visit?
We already knew that there is no country like Italy when it comes to its artistic, cultural and historic heritage – in Europe and around the world.
We knew we had to travel with time to really appreciate the country. We had to be in the right mood and with our eyes wide open to appreciate all the enchanting details of its cities.
We knew all of this and that is how we came up with the idea of traveling Italy by train.
This was the best way we found to get to know the largest amount of cities in the most budget-friendly way, always leaving enough time to appreciate the beauty and heritage of each place.
Our train trip ended up being an adventure! We were young, it was only our second trip as a couple, and André managed to get a terrible stomach flu right on the first day! Despite all that, it was one of the best adventures we had to this day and a trip that definitely taught us how to travel.
One of the hardest parts of planning any trip (especially a longer trip with many stops like ours) is making a realistic budget. But, based on our experience, we think you can plan to spend €30 per day per person (excluding hotels and trains) on a train trip like this one.
In Italy, your money will essentially be split into two expenses: meals (which are always delicious and often cheap!) and entrance fees to museums and monuments (which are a lot). In terms of meals, if you’re traveling on a tighter budget you can opt for street food and buy slices of pizza from €2.50, soda from €1.50 and an ice cream for dessert from €3. If you prefer to eat at a restaurant, you should aim to spend around €8-€10 – and that includes a pasta, pizza and drink. Don’t forget that, in most Italian restaurants, the price on the menu doesn’t include a service fee (coperto) and tax!
Each city will also be slightly different. In our case, we noticed that Venice and Florence were more expensive whereas Verona and Milan were cheaper.
If you’re planning to travel by train, then you’ll need to have your train trips booked. You don’t necessarily need to book them too much in advance (André booked everything one week before we left online), but you should at least have some sort of plan to follow.
To travel by train, we had essentially two options: to buy the European inter-rail one-country pass for Italy, which would have cost us €90, or to book our trips directly through Italian train companies. In Italy, there are many types of trains. The faster ones are Frecciarossa, then Frecciargento and Frecciabianca. We didn’t book any of these and instead prefered the regional trains Veloce in the shorter distances and the inter-city trains for the largest distance which was from Venice to Florence. We ended up spending €54 – almost half of what the Inter-Rail pass would have cost us!
Today, for us, it’s all about location, location, location when we’re planning a trip. But, since this train trip through Italy was one of the first trips we took together, we made some mistakes which were definitely learning moments for later.
At the time, we opted for hotels with worse locations to save money but that ended up being more expensive and exhausting! The only exception was maybe in Venice, where we loved the camping we chose (Venice is super expensive so it was completely out of the question to book a hotel in the city). But, today, we wouldn’t even consider not staying in a hotel close to the city center and that’s what we recommend!
THE BEST ITENERARY
Milan – Verona – Venice – Florence – Pisa – Cinque Terre – Rome – Naples
This itinerary, which covers 8 magical places in Italy, was what we had idealized when we planned our first trip together to this romantic destination. But a terrible stomach flu set us back a bit and we had to improvise! We were still able to visit the main cities on our itinerary and now we had plenty of amazing excuses to return to Italy.
Milan – Verona – Venice – Florence – Pisa
DAY 1: MILAN
We began our adventure in Milan and, while walking around the city, the first thing I remember us thinking was: we will not survive this heat. It was almost 40ºC. André was getting sick. We were traveling with our backpacks.
But, by some miracle with stubbornness and filled with curiosity, we headed down the elegant streets of Milan and were able to discover all of the enchantment of this fashion capital. Milan is a very compact city so a day was enough to visit its main monuments and still take a guided tour through the San Siro Stadium – a must for any football fan!
At night, we took the train to Verona and, in less than 2 hours, we were at our next destination!
DAY 2: VERONA
Verona is for lovers and, since this was a special trip as a couple, of course we wanted to make the most of this city. Every detail in Verona is romantic and walking through its picturesque streets was one of the loveliest moments on our trip. Casa di Giulieta is an absolute must for anyone who wants to be enchanted by this great literary love. At the end of the day, nothing felt better than to enjoy a fresh juice at a café while enjoying the golden sunlight shining on the traditional Italian façades that line the streets of Verona.
DAYS 3 AND 4: VENICE
On our third day, we left early in the morning to the train station to reach Venice. But we weren’t the only ones with this brilliant idea! As soon as we got on the train, we immediately realized the next 2 hours would be spent in packed-sardine mode because of the amount of people that filled the train!
But even that couldn’t discourage us! Venice is one of the best known Italian cities and a true refuge for couples in love. The scent of the sea, the sound of the gondolas floating down the canals, the picturesque façades of the colorful Venetian buildings: in Venice, everything comes together to create an absolutely romantic and enchanting atmosphere around us.
Piazza San Marco, the Bridge of Sighs and the Great Canal are just some of the places in the enchanting city that you can’t miss!
DAYS 5, 6 AND 7: FLORENCE
Our days in Venice were perfect to slow down and spend some time together. But in Florence, we sped up the pace again! There was so much to see and so little time to take it all in that we wanted to make sure we visited the main points of interest in the city.
And that we did.
Florence is one of those indescribable cities. We can only tell you that as soon as we arrived, it just hit us: Oh! That’s why this was the city that inspired so many of the greatest minds in art, culture and sculpture around the world!
From its elegant architecture to the breathtaking city views (and never forgetting the kindness of everyone we came across!), Florence left us feeling completely enchanted.
DAY 8: PISA
Pisa was our last stop on our train trip through Italy, but that didn’t make it any less memorable! We had just one morning to see everything so we got to work and started exploring this cheerful city right away. Of course the leaning Tower of Pisa was our first stop but there is so much more to discover here! Piazza dei Miracoli is where you’ll find the majority of Pisa’s historic monuments and it’s one of the prettiest medieval squares we’ve seen to date.
With so much to see, the hours flew by and it was quickly time to head to the airport!
A TRIP THAT TAUGH US HOW TO TRAVEL
After having lunch in Pisa, and as soon as we got to the airport, I have the clearest memory of André and I looking at each other with a look that just said “Mission Accomplished”.
We were so young, we went on that trip with very little planning besides booking hotels and trains, on top of all of that André got sick on the first days, it was unbearably hot (as is common in August in Europe)…
There were many moments on our trip, especially before leaving Venice, where we thought: We’re not going to make it. We’re going to have to give up. We’re going to have to go home.
But getting to the last day of the trip with so many great memories, we couldn’t help but feel a sense of mission accomplished! We were able to see many cities as we had planned, exactly as we wanted to see them, we got to have a sense for what Italy is like, and we were returning home feeling so in love with the country!
Every time we talk about the trips that taught us how to travel, we talk about this trip to Italy. It was with this adventure by train and with our backpacks that we learned about the kinds of unexpected things that we can deal with and how we should plan our adventures.
Italy is undoubtedly a place we would return to again and again (and, in fact, we did just that to visit Rome!). We still have many historic cities and breathtaking landscapes to discover!
honeymooners, Italy 2013 - ∞