Fast travel or ‘speed sightseeing’ isn’t for everyone as you can miss out on hidden gems within a place you’re visiting. However, for those of us who have limited holiday or vacation days per year, we have to make the most of what we can see in a short space of time.
When I first started travelling in adulthood, I was determined that I was going to make up for so many lost years of travelling and also put my Italian studies to good use. So, I embarked on a week-long adventure around as much of Italy as I could see during the time I had.
When I look back on it now, I find it extraordinary that I actually managed to see so much and not need another holiday by the time I returned home. I’m also surprised how brave I was to do this as well.
That said, I’m so pleased I chose Italy as my first solo travel destination. The rail network there is fast, cheap, reliable and safe, which helped to show me that travel really can be easy.
For those of you who are thinking that you might also like to embark on a similar adventure or just find out what happened to me during this time, then read on…
Day 1: Check-In & Florence
I’d deliberately chosen Florence as my ‘base’ during this week as the main train station has so many fast links to take you right across the country.
Although I was flying from Bristol to Pisa, it was only 30 mins on the train from Pisa to Florence. Plus, I’d conveniently picked a hotel a short walk from the train station as I knew just how much train travel I’d be doing over the next week.
Once all checked-in and raring to go, I spent my remaining afternoon seeing a few main sights in Florence and hunting for some local Italian food.
Day 2: Florence
My second day was spent seeing all that Florence had to offer – I only had the one day after all!
Following my quick trip around this superb city, I have put together this guide to spending 48 hours in Florence. It contains all of the sights I explored plus a few eateries I’d recommend during your stay.
Day 3: Pisa & Lucca
As Pisa and Lucca are both small towns and only 30 mins away from each other on the train, I thought I would be cheeky and see as much of both as I could in one day. So I spent the morning seeing what Pisa had to offer before wandering around Lucca for the afternoon.
Day 4: Verona
Once I’d spent a few days getting used to the trains, I felt brave enough to venture even further and cross to the other side of the country. I’d booked a one night stay in Verona so that I could spend a day here and a day in Venice before heading back to my main base of Florence.
Verona was beautiful and by far my most favourite of all the places I saw during this week. Despite travelling solo, I was still determined to see all the romantic spots Verona had to offer, seeing as it’s the ‘birthplace’ of Romeo and Juliet after all.
As I loved Verona so much, I’ve dedicated some time to writing a couple of posts about it. The first is a guide to walking through Verona and seeing all the romantic places I did. The other is dedicated to my other half and contains a few love letters that people from around the world have written to Juliet.
Day 5: Venice
I was most excited to see Venice as I remember visiting as a young girl and the idea of tiny little alleyways and canals had me imagining finding hidden gems all over the place.
Although I saw some stunning sights, the sheer number of people here made Venice a little claustrophobic for me. Plus it was the first city I’d become completely lost in and I was absolutely terrified that I was going to miss the last train back to Florence.
That said, I survived and actually saw lots of pretty highlights whilst I was there. I’ve detailed all of them for your reading (and viewing) pleasure here.
And then I hopped back on a train to Florence. Despite it being on the other side of the country from Venice, it actually only takes just under 2.5 hours on their fast trains!
Day 6: Rome
With every day that passed, I was becoming more and more confident on the trains in Italy. So much so that I went right out of my comfort zone and whipped down to Rome in just a few short hours.
I do have to make one little comment here: I was on a train at 5.15am to get to Rome for the morning so that I could have a full day exploring… and it was worth it! I was in Rome by 8am and seeing tourist spots before most were finished at breakfast.
Despite Rome having a decent Metro system, I decided to walk everywhere so that I could try to see as much of this iconic city as I could. Boy did my feet hurt by the time the day was over, but I’m equally pleased I chose to do this. Otherwise I may never have seen the ‘Gladiators’ fighting near the Colosseum!
Day 7: Castiglioncello
After spending the week roaming around Italy and walking ALOT, I decided that my last day should be spent sleeping in and relaxing by the beach. I was reliably informed that Castiglioncello in Tuscany was off the beaten track and would offer me oodles of relaxation and me-time, which was just what I was after.
Travel By Train In Italy: Insider Tips
As you can see and read above, I used Italy’s rail service extensively. So much so that I now consider myself something of an expert on the subject. Ha! Unlikely… but I can at least share my tips for rail journeys in Italy with you:
- It pays to book your train tickets in advance — I booked most of my tickets (especially the longer haul ones) online 3 months before my trip. This allowed me to get some First Class tickets for the same price as a Standard Class ticket! You can book all of your tickets online through the Trenitalia website here.
- Take note of the PNG code before boarding your train — For all pre-booked tickets, you must have a note of the PNG code to show the conductor. You can opt to either show him on your phone or the code will be shown on any print outs of your tickets.
- You must validate your train ticket before boarding the train — This is only necessary for tickets you’ve bought on the day that do not have a reserved seat or carriage. On the platform, you should be able to see yellow or green and white machines which stamp your ticket to validate it. Notice on the ticket that there is a space for the validation stamp – just insert this end into the machine and stamp away.
There you go – now you’re ready to ramble around Italy via their extensive, reliable and cheap rail network. Seriously, I can’t stop raving about how great my experience was on the trains – so much more advanced and cheaper than what we have here in the UK. We really do have something to learn from the Italians.
Anyway, that’s quite enough of my ramblings! Let me know what you thought of this adventure and whether you’d ever embark on something like this in the comments below. Or have you already had a similar adventure? I’d love to hear from you too!
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