Italy is the perfect country to see multiple cities in one trip thanks to its efficient rail network, and what better way to travel than by train? Jo Kendall shares how to sightsee in locomotive style
We first flew into Venice (possibly the most beautiful city in the world) and found it easy to explore on foot.
There’s no need for a map, simply wander the streets and treasures can be unearthed around every corner – we discovered beautiful stonework, intricate bridges and religious iconography adorning the many churches and cathedrals.
Sit-down meals in the city can be overly formal, so opt instead for the more casual, side street eateries.
There are many cafes where you can choose a few items and eat them outside – our favourites were anchovies drizzled in lemon oil and sun dried tomatoes with peppery cheese, all served with freshly made bread.
Nonna’s are often in charge of these family-run establishments, so do try to say please and thank you in Italian!
Our favourite area in Venice was Cannaregio, particularly the old Jewish area, a relic of the segregation the city’s Jews were forced to live under by successive governments.
This understated yet charming district is away from the main tourist areas, so take an afternoon to explore and definitely stop for an Aperol Spritz by the canal.
We stayed in Dorsoduro, the University district, which draws a younger crowd thanks to its informal bars and restaurants. The area houses the waterside Guggenheim modern art gallery and Venetian masterpieces at the Gallerie dell’Accademia, but despite its cultural importance, it retains an understated, laid-back vibe compared to the rest of Venice.
A short train ride south (1.5hrs) lies the city of Bologna. It’s a foodie haven, with specialities including cured meats, red wine and cheeses, all produced locally and protected under food origin laws.
Much of the city is covered by arches and tiled floors, used for protection from the midday sun, which reaches 30 degrees throughout July and August.
Your first stop in the city should be Piazza Maggiore, the city’s main square surrounded by classical buildings and fountains. Prepare to be blown away by the imposing gothic Basilica di San Petronio, complete with 22 chapels.
From the main square, head to the covered market, Mercato Delle Erbe, for delicious and reasonably priced pasta and wine. All the locals swear by Osteria dell’Orsa, in the Jewish quarter, and we weren’t disappointed.
It’s cheap and cheerful, with great quality food cooked traditionally. Served by friendly and helpful staff, we loved the walnut, honey and cheese starter – followed by large bowls of bolognese pasta.
Bologna University is the oldest in the world, and there are colleges and libraries open to the public dotted throughout the city. There are also a number of parks, but Giardini Margherita is the largest and most popular. Grab a coffee and watch the world go by.
Our final stop was Verona, just 50 minutes’ train ride north from Bologna. Famed of course as the setting of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, this compact and beautiful city has bags of character, and can be walked in just a few hours.
Visit the impressive Roman amphitheater, then head across the Ponte Peitra bridge and climb the Piazzale Castel San Pietro steps for stunning views of the city – visit at dusk ready to see the sunset.
The Castelvecchio Museum inside Verona Castle tells the city’s history from Roman times, complete with ancient artefacts, but simply wandering the city unearths a plethora of delights, including statues, convents, cathedrals and archways.
For an evening well spent, San Nicolò Wine Bar offers a wide range of wines and tapas style small dishes. Visiting the respective houses of Romeo and Juliet may seem like an obvious thing to do, but given Verona’s links to the infamous tale, it is still worth doing.
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