Italy rail adventure

Written by Donovan January 7, 2014 Category: Europe, Italy Tags: , , , , , , , , , Comments

For those who are planning to travel to Italy, here is a compilation of tips from myself and my friends who have been to Italy. On this recent trip, I visited Rome, Venice, Pisa, La Spezia (Cinque Terre) and Turin, all travel done by rail. It was worth it because we fully made use of our Italian rail pass and took regional trains to save on reservation fees. For our first journey from Milano to Roma, we boarded a high speed train without a reservation, and the inspector wanted us to pay 18E, but we insisted that we did not have enough money, he threatened to call the police when we reached Rome Termini, but we managed to ‘escape’ because there was no police when we alighted and we just quickly walked away. For the other journeys, we only took intercity or regional trains, which may be 1-2 hours longer than high speed trains, but at least we saved money on reservation fees which can be as expensive as 10E.

#1 Rome (2 nights)

3 days would be better to fully experience Rome! Esp if wanna visit colosseum. Shops can open pretty late, like 11am/12pm.


(via Vittorio Emanuele Orlando 75 (Galleria Esedra), 00185 Rome, Italy)

– Good for cannolo ~3 eur, pretty exp for some items
Rome free walking tour

The Original Free Walking Tour of Rome

– Includes many fountains (Trevi included), churches, monuments, etc.~2 hours

Free walks everyday 5:30pm at the Spanish Steps!


Vatican City & Colossuem

– Can book online for tickets! Queues can be very long if buying on the spot. Very pretty places that are a must go!

– Walking tours are good. ~45eur each

The Vatican is situated between the Ottaviano and Cipro metro stations.
Pompi Gelato

(Via Albalonga | Via della Croce, Rome, Italy)

~ 3 eur


Pinsere Roma

(Flavia 98, 00187 Rome, Italy)

– BEST PIZZA! MUST MUST try: Fig + ham pizza. ~ 4-5eur each

near metro republica
La Gelateria Frigidarium

(Via del Governo Vecchio, 112, 00186 Rome, Italy)

– Good and cheap gelato! Pretty special flavours, nice shops around the area.

near pantheon
Piazza de Spagna

– Nice place!!!! Many street artists.
Take a trip to Ostia Antica – Pompei without having to go all the way there.

#4 Pisa (1 night)

Very small town with great scenery! Nothing much to do after pisa tower though. Accomodation & food prices pretty reasonable.

– DAMN pretty house and good food around.

#5 Venice (1 night)

Food not as expensive as expected. Be prepared to walk abit more cos water taxi quite ex. Many restaurants around! Accomodation very very expensive.


free walking tour MEETING POINT 10:45

Campo San Geremia. It is a 2 min walk from the train station.

  1. Exit the train station and turn left on the main street (Rio Terra Lista di Spagna).
  2. Follow it for a minute and you will see a square on your right.
  3. Meet in the center by the old well

Get your gondola fix by riding in a traghetto, a stripped down gondola at three points across the Grand Canal for only 50 cents.

1.) As you may or may not know; Venice has no roads. Everyone rides on a boat. So, in terms of public transportation, you take the vaporetto. Here’s the site for the vaporetto:

It’s just like a bus, you will see signs everywhere and the maps are very easy to read in order to get from one place to another. Of course, you really don’t need the vaporetto. You can see everything by walking in Venice. You should really just use the vaporetto to go island hopping (Murano, Lido, Jesolo, etc…)

2.) Finding good food in Venice is probably the most difficult thing you can do. Because of all the tourist, many restaurants just sell crap and it’s super expensive. If you look really hard, you can find them. Just follow these tips:

– Don’t go to any places listed as a “ristorante.” You go there at night to eat an expensive meal with a huge group of people. Go to places called “trattorias.” They are places for you to get good meals at a good price. Also, check out “osterias” and “chicheterias.” They have small cheap snacks for you to enjoy while walking around.

– NEVER go to restaurants where so see guys standing around and telling you to come in as well as any restaurant that have menus in many languages. Those are tourist traps and they sell crap food. A real Italian restaurant do not have menus. You ask the waiter “what’s good today?” and he will tell in what the kitchen is cooking.

– Look for old people. They are local Venetians. They have eaten there all their lives and know where to find good food. The more old people the better.

3.) If you want to meet young people at night, go to Campo Santa Margherita. A lot of college kids go there. Unfortunately, they only stay up until 11 or 12 and then they go outside Venice. There is no nightlife in Venice and it will be very hard to meet people after 12am because everything will be closed. Your only chance is going to towns like Mestre and Treviso where they have a few bars and clubs for people to enjoy.

#6 Verona (Day trip)

Juliet’s Balcony

– Can get quite crowded!!

Loacker’s Cafe

– Can buy loacker’s products, some exclusively there only, like loaker spread!

Gelateria Ponte Pietra

(via Ponte Pietra 23, Verona, Italy)

Gelateria Savoia

(via roma 1, Verona, Italy)

#7 Milan (3 nights)

La Gelateria della Musica

(Via Giovanni Enrico Pestalozzi 4 | Non E’ Per Nulla Centro Storico!! E’ Oltre la Terza Cerchia Dei Navigli, 20143Milan, Italy (Centro Storico))



– Quite pretty

#8 Cinque Terre – start off from La Spezia station
Cinque Terre is a national park made up of 5 coastal towns – Riomaggiore, Manarol, Corniglia,
Vernazza and Monteross. It is a popular hiking destination, but during the two days that we were in Cinque Terre, the wet weather spoilt our plans 🙁

Riomaggiore is the southern-most of the 5 Terre. During the day you can hear bell towers chiming and at night the frogs are in frenetic chatter as small boats go night fishing for anchovies and other fish using lights to attract the fish. Riomaggiore also has an ancient stone castello, about which little has been written. An information sign outside explains that first mention of the castello appeared in a document from the mid-500s, which already described it as “ancient”. Its quadrangular walls with two circular towers were built to protect the citizens in case of an attack from the sea. In 800, the castello became a cemetery, and parts were destroyed to adapt it to its new function. Nowadays it is one of the monuments of the Parco Nazionale delle Cinque Terre. Most of the action in Riomaggiore is on the main street, Via Colombo, where there is an assortment of cafes, bars, restaurants, and of course, gelaterie. There are also alimentari shops selling the typical yummy Italian fare: fresh fruit (strawberries, cherries, and nespole), an assortment of salumi (salami, mortadella and the like), cheeses, olives, etc. These are good places to stock up for the hikes into the hills, although all of them are not very far from a town. Bar & Vini, perched on the side of the mountain above the sea, is excellent place for a summer night. The place had the usual mix of tourists and local families with their kids, even well into the night.

Manarola is a town filled with boats, at least on the lower part of it. Covered boats of all kinds line the main street, but it is hard to say when they had last been out. There are many lovely places to eat and drink in Manarola. La Cantina Dello Zio Bramante serves acciughe (anchovies) fresh from the sea, with lemon, olive oil, and fresh, crusty bread. Aristide Café had the cheapest espressi macchiatti (70 cents), the first bar encountered if walking from Riomaggiore (a paved, easy, path that goes by the sea, and takes about 15 minutes or so). It turns out that Manarola also has the best gelateria of all the towns: 5 Terre Gelateria e Creperia, on Antonio Discovolo next to the Farmacia which is next to the COOP 5 Terre. Manarola also has a nice little swimming area. It’s a little cement pier next to some big rocks that you can wade out from, into the blue blue waters. It gets deep fast, so it’s possible to dive off the end of the pier. Plenty of caves and coastline to explore, and underwater rocks. There are also a few more swimming holes farther on, accessible from the Blue Trail, not far from the gate beyond which the trail pass is required. There are stairs going all the way down to sea level, and a small little terrace about half-way down with picnic tables where you can see locals enjoying a simple lunch. There are lots of sharp mussels and barnacles down by the rocks, but otherwise the swimming is fantastic here too, without many people.

Corniglia: Farther along the Blue Trail there is a stone beach that offers much easier access to the water, and also more people. At the Corniglia train station, the path gains height to reach the town, which sits 300 feet above the Ligurian Sea, the only one not near sea-level. The road passes lemon trees, vines, lilies and vegetation of all kinds, and in May the air is full of the perfume of flowers.

Corniglia feels smaller and quieter, but just as quaint as the other towns. Bar Nunzio serves 2 euro glasses of local wine—with a complementary bowl of local olives— under some yellow umbrellas near the statue of Corniglia himself. There is a little piazza with a communal olive press where you can sit and pass the time. There is also a tower, but it is not very high.

As Corniglia is atop a large hill, it is only reachable from the train station by either climbing the 365 steps up the hill (“one for each day of the year”) or also there is a bus run by the Cinque Terre National park that takes people up to Corniglia and back down again. This is a must if you are carrying suitcases. The bus only runs from 7am – 8pm, and starts at 8am on the weekends.

The Blue Trail from Corniglia to Vernazza, the next town to the north, is a dirt path that starts off in an olive grove above the town. It keeps climbing and things get a bit sweaty and steep in some places, with many stone steps and a few switchbacks. Nothing too strenuous though. The trail along the sea affords great backwards views of both Corniglia and Manarola. In half way between Corniglia and Vernazza you meet Prevo, a tiny hamlet of Vernazza, the most high and most impressive spot of Sentiero Azzurro at 208 meters above sea level, that overlooking on the famous Guvano Beach. Vernazza is approached from above and its two ancient towers are in prominent view (they close at 19:00). The town itself has a maze of tiny streets that eventually lead down to the main street. At first sight, Vernazza seems a little rundown. The paint on the buildings around the beach area is peeling off in large sections, but don’t let that put you off. Vernazza is lively and boisterous and has a great night scene, two clock towers, a beach, boats, and a large public space with umbrellas and tables. The beach area is a small sandy strip that is not the best swim spot (there is only a small section of water roped off for swimming, beyond which are boats and then the open sea), but it is safe for kids and free of sharp bivalves.

You can spend the evening having wine along the main street below the train station, lounging on a quiet bench above the town beside hotel Gianni overlooking the sea, or by the sea, watching the mountainous coastline zigzag in and out, hiding Monterosso.

Monterosso is actually two towns, connected by a short road tunnel (used by pedestrians also): ‘old’ Monterosso and the new town (originally called Fegila) developed from the 50s onwards,which has a number of large, modern apartments and hotels. The new town has a quite large sandy beach with lots of colourful umbrellas, and of course, beach-side restaurants and cafes. The old town is similar to the other Cinque Terre towns, though bigger and not quite as steep and has a number of boutiques and other shops. Not to be missed at the end of the beach is a big statue holding a terrace.

It is important to bear in mind that, with the exception of the new part of Monterosso, the streets in all the towns rise steeply from the the harbours/train stations and are quite a challenge if you are carrying baggage. Also, while all the towns have railway stations, mainline trains travelling through the Cinque Terre only stop in Monterosso station.

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