Italy is home to so many stunning cities that it can be difficult to decide which one to visit. Do you want to see the historic sights of ancient Rome? Or the romantic waterways of Venice? Do you fancy a city in the Tuscan hills, or on the coastline? Or maybe on an island? Well, the good news is, you don’t have to choose just one!
Traveling between cities in Italy is easy to do, and a city-hopping itinerary can really help you make the most of your vacation. But you need to pick the mode of travel that best suits your holiday style, whether that means zipping from one place to the next in the shortest amount of time or taking the scenic approach.
We’ve laid out the best ways to travel between cities here so you can pick the one that best suits you, and get started building your dream Italian itinerary.
The best way to travel between cities in Italy is probably by train. Italy has an excellent network of intercity and regional trains, and their clean, comfortable and efficient service can connect you with cities and towns across the whole country. And with high-speed trains such as the Frecciarossa 1000, which travels at speeds of up to 400 km/h (248 mph), you can zip between cities without wasting too much sightseeing time.
For example, you can take a train between Milan and Venice in just over 2 hours, and it’ll cost around €40 ($45). If you’re on a budget, take a slower train, around 3 hours and the price will drop to around €20 ($22).
If you have a set itinerary and can book tickets ahead of time, you’ll find the trains to be an inexpensive option. Italy’s primary train company is the government-owned Trenitalia, but you’ll also find privately-owned ones such as Italo. When booking tickets online, you can check each of the individual websites or use a website such as thetrainline.com or Omio, to search all options and find the best deal. Another option is to purchase tickets on the day of travel, at the stations, but this tends to be more expensive.
If you don’t have a rigid itinerary and want to stay flexible, why not check out an Interrail experience? With Interrail Italy, you pay upfront for a train pass and then can take as many trains as you want on each day of travel. Book up to 8 days of travel in the month depending on how many cities you want to see and then use the app to pick your trips.
Another option is to fly from city to city. You’ll find plenty of domestic flight routes and airports in all the major cities. However, we would only recommend this if you want to travel the whole length of the country in one go, or if you’re visiting the islands of Sicily or Sardinia. Otherwise, if you’re traveling from Milan to Rome for example, you’ll find that with travel time to and from the airport, a train will actually get you there faster and often cheaper.
Road-tripping around Italy is a wonderful experience and one that allows you to be in control of your trip. You can view the stunning scenery of Italy’s countryside, veer off the beaten track and stop wherever takes your fancy.
However, there are a few things to consider. First, you’ll need to familiarise yourself with the rules of the road, which are likely to be different from your home country, and the cars, which are likely to be manual, not automatic. Then, you’ll need to be a confident driver because Italians have a reputation for aggressive, fast driving, and the roads can be intimidating. Also, and we cannot stress this enough, you should avoid driving within the big cities! Even born and raised Italians struggle to negotiate the city roads where traffic and parking can be a nightmare.
So, while road-tripping is an excellent idea for exploring the countryside, if your trip is going to focus on visiting the big cities of Italy, you might not find it the most efficient travel option. On the other hand, high-speed intercity trains can do the journey in half the time. Plus, they’ll get you right to the center of the city without any need for you to negotiate city traffic or lose time returning your rental car outside of the city.
Buses and Tours
Buses are also an option although, on the whole, they’re not as efficient as the trains. In Italy, there is no countrywide bus network, rather each region runs its own bus system. So if you are sticking to one area, traveling between small towns, or heading to rural villages, the buses can be your friend. But when traveling long distances between the major cities, we recommend the train.
If you’d rather not worry about the transport at all, then it’s worth considering booking an organized tour. Plenty of travel companies offer package tours taking in several major cities in a week or even just a couple of days. And they include all transport, accommodation and tour guides. We’d recommend this option for people who want to pack a lot of sights into a short space of time. And anyone who just wants to enjoy the trip and let someone else handle the details.
Not all of the beautiful cities in Italy are located on the mainland, so if you want to travel to the wonders of Palermo, Sicily, or Cagliari, Sardinia, then you’re going to need to plan accordingly. There are several international airports on both islands and plenty of domestic flight routes to the major mainland cities, so if you’re short on time, this is the option we’d recommend. However, if you don’t fancy flying then it’ll have to be the ferry.
The shortest route to Sicily is from Villa San Giovanni on the toe of the mainland to Messina in Sicily. The trip will take you 20 minutes and cost €2.50 ($2.80). If you’re driving, it’ll take around 30 minutes and cost you €37 ($42). Or you can travel from several other ports, including Naples (12 hours), Civitavecchia – the Port of Rome (14 hours), and even Genoa in summertime (21 hours).
But if you’re after a unique traveling experience, can we recommend taking the train across the water to Sicily? The Trenitalia intercity trains run directly from the mainland cities to Palermo and when they reach the straits of Messina, they just get on a ferry. Yes, really. The whole train gets loaded onto and taken over to the island before continuing on its journey. Passengers can remain seated on the train in the ferry’s hold or head out and up to the deck to enjoy the 30-minute journey in the fresh air.
Sardinia is located much further from the mainland, so the fastest ferry route is from Rome-Civitavecchia to Olbia and will take approximately 8 hours. But you can also travel from Naples, Genoa, or Livorno and arrive in Cagliari or Porto Torres. Once you’ve arrived on the islands of Sicily or Sardinia the best way to travel between cities is via the trains which are fast, reliable, and inexpensive. Outside of the main cities, you will need to use the local buses which cover the whole island but can run at irregular times so check your timetable thoroughly.
Is it hard to travel between cities in Italy?
Travel between cities in Italy is not hard, and it can make for a wonderful vacation. The country has good roads, modern infrastructure and well-organized public transport to help you get around. And since Italy is no stranger to global tourism and bewildered travelers, you’ll find plenty of multi-language information available online and in all the transport hubs.
What is the best way of traveling between cities in Italy?
The trains are the best way of traveling between cities in Italy. The train system is extensive, easy to use, efficient, and fast. It can also be an inexpensive way to travel if you book your tickets in advance.
How many cities should I visit in one trip?
How many cities you visit really depends on how long your trip is. While we love Italian cities and want to recommend visiting them all, it’s important not to overload your itinerary. Italian cities are bursting with incredible sights and attractions, and you could easily spend a week exploring each one. So make a list of what you really want to see in each city and make sure you allow enough time to do it all. If possible, try and leave your itinerary a little flexible so that you can stay an extra day somewhere if you fall in love with it.