Updated: Apr 23
To train or not to train? This is the question. How I saw some of the most beautiful places in Italy and what mode of transport I recommend to get the most out of it.
I recently spent 3 three weeks in the beautiful country of Italy. From the sea to mountains, city to village, I’ve seen some of Italy’s most beautiful places. Like most things in life, the destination is great but the journey is what made the trip. Here I have 7 ways you can see the best of Italy and the best mode of transport to get there.
1. See Florence by Train
Over the course of three weeks, I visited Florence three times. It’s a beautiful walkable city with lots of tight corners and shops to visit. Florence is such a beautiful city for its up high views of the Duomo and its romantic feel. However, driving to Florence can be a nightmare. The streets are clogged with traffic and taxis are expensive. I would recommend visiting this great city by train.
The Florence Centrale train station is conveniently located and within a short walk of tons of beautiful attractions in the city. The train can connect you to any part of Italy therefore making it super easy and hassle-free to visit Florence. I was coming from a small town just outside of Florence, I would take the train for $2.50 one way and arrive in the city in 20 minutes.
2. See Rome by Foot
The ancient and historic city of Rome is an absolute must-see. When you arrive in this city you feel as though you are walking through a living museum. Ancient ruins lie in unsuspecting corners, fountains with gracious looking marble statues spit ancient waters in your direction and cute restaurants welcome you with eager and exciting menus. I spent most of my time simply walking in Rome. You can walk from the Colosseum to several museums in the city. You can walk to get lunch and walk back to your hotel or accommodation in no time. I was on the outskirts of downtown Rome and a walk to my hotel took about 45 minutes but it was beautiful and historic on every corner.
Much like Florence, I do no recommend driving or even getting a scooter in Rome. Traffic is abundant and scooters are often in harms way if you don’t know how the roads work. The best way to see Rome is by foot. Walk, walk and walk some more. The best parts of Rome are hidden in corners, around bends and in unsuspecting places that a car and scooter often cannot reach.
3. See Siena by Scooter
Siena is a small city in central Italy that is home to several of the Chianti wine vineyards. In the summer months, it’s full of vineyards with fresh grapes waiting to be harvested. Siena is in the heart of Chianti vineyards which gives you some of the best access to high-quality wine in the entire country. I recommend seeing Siena by scooter and taking the adventure through the Chianti hills. I did this with my boyfriend and it was, hands down, my favorite part of my trip to Italy. We rented a scooter from a local shop for 4 hours, jumped on, and hit the road. The roads were clear with very few cars. We were able to pass through villages, small towns, farms and dirt roads as we sought out wine-tastings. We ended up stopping by a wonderful winery in the town of Chianti that gave us an excellent tasting of 4 wines for 10 euros per person. We were floored. The wine was super fresh even though it had been aged for 5 years and the expert really taught us some great local history about the Chianti region. Traveling by scooter provided us a fun and exciting way to tour wine country. I couldn’t recommend it more.
4. See Rimini by Swimming
Rimini is a popular beach town on the Adriatic Sea. It’s most popular in the summertime and has become a place where people from all over Europe come to soak up the sun and do beach time. I came in winter which is not the best time to visit Rimini, however, I can appreciate that being close to the water is the best way to see Rimini. In summertime, the beach town is booming, hotels are swamped with tourists and the beach has umbrella after umbrella full of visitors. This is the place to visit in Italy for a fun, beach experience.
Outside of the summer months, there’s not much to see. Most hotels are closed and clubs are quiet on a Saturday night. Go during the summer months and swim in the Adriatic Sea. Rimini awaits you.
5. See San Marino by Hiking
If you don’t know, it’s important to mention that San Marino is not a part of Italy. San Marino is an independent country that lives within the Italian borders. They are strategically located on a super mountainous part of Italy that effectively aided them in gaining independence. Historically speaking, San Marino had fought off Italian forces for years and finally, through military action, gained its independence in 1862. Since then, it resides not far from Rimini on a beautiful mountainous area. The best way to see San Marino is by hiking. There are several trails that can lead you to the top. It takes about 30-45 minutes of moderate hiking to reach the beautiful castles that lay on the mountains in San Marino.
There are three primary castles that San Marino used to fight off the Kingdom of Italy. They now house museums which for about $10, gives you access to historic weapons, prison cells and military quarters. The castles look like they’re right out of a fairytale. When you enter one, you can feel the history and battles that took place there. It’s pretty epic and definitely worth visiting. If you are physically challenged or cannot hike, there is a $4 cable car that can take you to the top of San Marino and give you virtually the same experience.
6. Visit Cervinia by Car
Cervinia is a small town located in the Italian Alps. It’s most known for its skiing and outdoor recreational activities. My boyfriend and I visited and it was absolutely gorgeous. The Alps have sharp, jagged and exciting spots where you can get in a good day of hiking or skiing. What feels like the top of the world, Cervinia sits at 6,500 ft (2000 m) and offers all of the joys that a mountainous alpine environment would offer. Due to its remote location, I highly recommend driving to Cervinia. There’s definitely trains that can take you there but depending on what activities you want to do, it may be best to drive. That’s what I did and I have no regrets.
A car affords you the fun and leisure of driving through windy mountain roads and seeing the Alps from an inside perspective. You can really get the best view and a super fun road experience by car. It also affords you the flexibility to find a hotel or accommodation outside of the town as some hotel prices within Cervinia can be very expensive. Definitely visit the Alps by car, it gives you the most flexibility and an incredible view during your stay.
7. See Bologna by Sitting
Now sitting isn’t a mode of transport but hear me out. Bologna is an ancient city in north-central Italy that was home to one of the first University’s in the world. Bologna in modern times feels young, artistic and full of creativity. I recommend seeing Bologna by sitting. By that I mean sitting in museums, watching theater shows, sitting in coffeeshops and watching creatives do their work on the street. There’s so much artistry to admire in Bologna that moving too fast (i.e. by car, scooter or train) can actually cause you to miss out. Some places require stillness and observation to be really appreciated and I would say Bologna is one of those places. Sit and enjoy a nice show, museum visit or artist exhibit.
If that’s not your style, just look at any building in Bologna for 30 seconds. Chances are it’s full of graffiti. Yes, you read correctly. Almost every building in Bologna has graffiti on it. Some people find it beautiful and others find it repulsive. Either way, street art and graffiti are a huge part of Bologna’s culture and a direct representation of the artistic energy the city holds. Next time you visit, be sure to sit back, relax and enjoy what this creative city has to offer.
These are the best ways to see some of Italy’s most beautiful and outstanding places. Have you been to one of these cities before? What did you think? Leave a comment and share your experience!