Would you like to see more of Italy, but you don’t feel like going on a road trip? In this Northern Italy by train itinerary, I will show you the most beautiful places that you can visit by train in Northern Italy.
How do you get to Northern Italy?
If you don’t want to travel to Italy by car, there are two options: by train or by plane.
Taking the train to Italy
This Northern Italy itinerary starts in Milan and this city has several major train stations. Milan is very accessible by train from most European cities. You’ll probably arrive at either Milano Porta Garibaldi station or Milano Centrale station. Depending on where you’re traveling from, the journey can be quite long. For example, from Utrecht (The Netherlands) the journey takes about 12 to 14 hours and you have to change trains several times.
Depending on your departure station, you travel to Milan via Germany or France (with a transfer in Paris). Check Rail Europe for your travel schedule and to order international train tickets.
Do you think the train journey is too long? Then you can always take a plane to Milan. From all over Europe, there are daily flights to Milan. Milan has several airports and a return ticket is usually not that expensive. Check Skyscanner to compare prices and book the cheapest plane ticket to Milan.
Northern Italy by train: the itinerary
Do you have about two weeks for your trip to Northern Italy by train? Then this is a great itinerary:
Day 1 to 4: Milan
Milan is one of the largest cities in Italy and you can enjoy yourself here for a few days. Visit the impressive Duomo, view The Last Supper by Leonardo Da Vinci, and discover the most impressive shopping street in Europe: Galleria Vittorio Emanuele.
From Milan you can also go on a couple of great day trips by train:
- Bergamo: a beautiful old city center on a hill.
- Lake Como: beautiful views, hiking trails, and beautiful villas.
Where to stay in Milan
- Hostel: Babila Hostel & Bistrot – cozy hostel in the center of Milan.
- Hotel: B&B Hotel Milano Central Station – a beautiful hotel in a pleasant neighborhood, near Milan Central Station.
Day 5 to 7: Cinque Terre
From Milan, you travel by train to La Spezia in about three hours. There is not much to do in La Spezia itself, but it is the perfect base to visit the Cinque Terre National Park. This park consists of five beautiful small villages along an impressive coastline. You can visit the villages by train or go hiking between the villages.
Where to stay in La Spezia
- Hostel: Grand Hostel Manin – great hostel with a communal kitchen.
- Hotel: The Poet Hotel – modern decorated and cozy hotel.
Day 8 and 9: Bologna
From La Spezia, you take the train to Bologna (usually with a change in Parma or Florence). The train journey takes about three to four hours. Bologna is a pleasant student city with an impressive historic center full of towers. This is also one of the best cities to taste the best dishes of Italian cuisine.
Where to stay in Bologna
- Hostel: Dopa Hostel – cozy hostel within walking distance of the city center.
- Hotel: Hotel Metropolitan – in the city center with a beautiful roof terrace.
Day 10 to 14: Verona
The train journey between Bologna and Verona takes only 1.5 hours, so you’ll be in the city of Romeo and Juliet in no time. Verona has a beautiful historic city center. Here you’ll find one of the largest Roman amphitheaters in the world, which is still in use for concerts and operas. There are also many special frescoes in the city, for example in Piazza Delle Erbe and in Basilica di San Zeno Maggiore.
From Verona, you can go on some great day trips, for example:
- Venice: one of the most impressive places in the world.
- Padua: a pleasant university city with the largest square in Italy
- Peschiera del Garda: go on beautiful walks along Lake Garda
Where to stay in Verona
- Hostel: Posada Verona Hostel – modern furnished hostel, near the station.
- Hotel: Hotel Milano – hotel with spa facilities next to the Verona Arena.
From Verona, you can easily continue your trip through Europe. You might even want to visit Austria or Germany! But you can also easily take the train to Milan (the journey takes about 2 hours) and travel back home from there.
Map: Northern Italy by train itinerary
Below you see a map with the destinations in Northern Italy that you can visit by train. The blue cities are great destinations to use as a base and the green places are nice to visit as a day trip.
About this Northern Italy by train itinerary
To create some tranquility in this Northern Italy by train itinerary, I chose to stay longer in some places and make day trips from there. This way, I had to travel less with all my luggage and I also liked to come “home” every now and then. If you don’t feel like relaxing a little during your trip, you can of course choose to stay shorter everywhere and add extra stops.
Do you have more time? Then you can also consider visiting these places:
- Add Pisa and Florence between La Spezia and Bologna. This way you also visit two beautiful cities in Tuscany.
- From Bologna, you can go on day trips to other places. I can recommend visiting Modena, Parma and Ravenna.
Traveling by train in Italy
The train connections are good in Italy and trains run on a regular basis. Keep in mind that you are taking the right train at the right time. Your ticket is only valid for that train.
You can buy tickets at the station, at a machine or at the ticket office. You still have to validate this ticket before boarding the train, this is possible at one of the many machines. You can also buy an e-ticket via ItaliaRail.
Where to stay
At every destination in this itinerary, I’ve added some great options on where to stay. Are they no longer available or do you prefer something else? During my trip to Northern Italy (September 2020), I booked all my accommodations last minute and that was easy to do. I used Booking.com for hostels and hotel rooms and Airbnb for apartments. There was always plenty to choose from for a reasonable price via both platforms.
Want to read more about Italy?
Order one of these travel guides to get inspired:
Or check out one of these articles:
- Bucket list: these are the most beautiful places in Italy
- 5 cities in Italy you will fall in love with
- Milan travel guide: tips, the best sights & day trips
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