Train trips around the world allow you to relax in the picturesque scenery. In Europe, there is no better way to enjoy the stunning views. Riding on the rails gives you a glimpse into some of the most spectacular places on the continent while sitting and enjoying the ride. It is also a very sustainable way of travelling and you can leave all the driving stress behind. Just get on a train and it will take you to your destination, in the meantime, you can read your newspaper, have a bite, play a game with your kids… Enjoy this comfortable way of travelling through Europe and don’t forget to enjoy the views!
This will be the first article of a series of three where Spotted by Locals informs you of the wonderful opportunities of travelling by train. This time we will take you through Italy. A day trip from Florence to Rome, without the stress of driving there, traffic, finding a parking spot for your car. All the spots are located within walking distance of the train station. Taking the train is the perfect way of transport for a city trip, all you have to do is sit back and relax!
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Breakfast in Florence
We start our day in Florence. After waking up and packing your stuff for the day trip, you might want to get some coffee or breakfast in your belly before getting on the train. For this occasion, we have selected Todo Modo for you. This Florence gem is located only 11 minutes away (by foot) from the train station and makes for the perfect stop before getting on the train. This place is both a bookshop and a cafe! Here you can order yourself a coffee and some breakfast or pastries and you’re good to go! Oh and make sure you don’t get lost in the books and miss your train!
Spotted by Francesco Cipriani
Taking the train
For actually taking the train, you have two different options. You can choose to take the Le Frecce high-speed train, this modern and luxurious train will take you straight to Rome in only one and a half hours. Or you can choose to take the regional train, this one takes three hours and twenty minutes. With the regional train, you can really enjoy the views and it allows you to stop along the way in charming Italian cities like Orvieto and Arezzo. Another benefit of the regional train is that you don’t have to reserve your seats (for the high-speed train you do), so if you’re ever up for a spontaneous trip, the regional train is your last-minute go-to!
Optional stopover in Orvieto or Arezzo
The travellers on the regional train have the option to do a stopover in Orvieto or Arezzo (or both). If you want to see a charming Italian city with not as many tourists as Florence or Rome, this is your moment!
Orvieto is a city that was built on a plateau of volcanic tuff that overlooks landscapes of vineyards. The city of Orvieto offers many wine tastings, but this might be a little on the early side if you took the train early in the morning (it’s up to you of course). If you decide to get off the train here, you should definitely walk past the Duomo of Orvieto. A symbol of the city itself, the Duomo is one of the most beautiful in Italy. The Duomo is a magnificent building that brings together Gothic and Romanesque architectural styles. This architectural gem is definitely worth a visit!
The city of Arezzo is also known for its wine tastings, but other than that, it has a really beautiful cultural city center. You can walk to the center of the city in less than 15 minutes and walk past beautiful buildings like Arezzo Cathedral, Piazza Grande, Santa Maria della Pieve. This way you can really experience the Italian culture without all the fuss and without too many tourists. All of these places are located less than 15 minutes away from the train station. If you’re up for a museum visit before getting on the train, head to Museo Casa di Giorgio Vasari. The visit allows you to experience one of the few preserved examples of an artist’s house of the late Renaissance, arranged across three floors and equipped with a roof garden.
Lunch in Rome
When arriving in Rome, you might be hungry and looking for a place to have a late lunch (depending on whether you made stopovers or not). Vittorio Spezie e Cucina is located about 15 minutes away from the Roma Termini train station. This is the perfect place to fill your belly and recover a little from the journey, before heading into the city of Rome! This area is well known as one of the more multicultural parts of Rome, combining classic Roman architecture with street markets and ethnic restaurants. The restaurant and cocktail bar thinks so too, it’s exactly what inspired them to create this spot, which mixes traditional Italian cuisine with “the spices, aromas, and colors of the famous market that characterizes Piazza Vittorio.” Prices for lunch start at €7,00 for a pizza and up, cocktails start at €10,00. This spot has it all: funky decor, great staff, and decent prices.
Spotted by Miranda Wadham
Discover the city of Rome
After a late lunch, it’s time to discover the beautiful city of Rome. At Villa Aldobrandini, you’ll feel like you’re in a secret garden. This is the perfect place to see Roman sculptures and experience the culture, without going to a super busy place. This secluded little park is high above street level and overlooks the shopping street of Via Nazionale. It feels like a haven from the crowds and traffic. The park is filled with fragments of statues – a headless torso reclining beneath a palm tree, or a mysterious bust of a man who seems to be stabbing himself in the chest – which adds to the mysterious atmosphere. The southern end of the park also offers great views towards Piazza Venezia, allowing you to appreciate the jumbled mix of architecture, including the Baroque façade of the Church of Saints Dominic and Sixtus, the medieval slanting tower known as the Torre delle Milizie, and of course the big white neoclassical “wedding cake”, the Vittoriano Monument.
Villa Aldobrandini can be a perfect respite from the sun and a place to take a break while you’re sightseeing, in addition to that, the park also gives you a unique perspective of Rome. And while you admire the view, keep in mind that you’re also literally standing on top of history. The park was originally a private garden, built in 1566 on top of the remains of an ancient Roman building.
Spotted by Alexandra Turney
Want to discover some true Renaissance splendor? Head to Villa Farnesina and admire Raphael’s frescoes. If you’ve already visited the Vatican Museums and resented having to push through the crowds to admire Raphael’s frescoes, this is your chance to experience Raphael in peace and tranquillity, in a gorgeous Renaissance villa. Raphael and his workshop painted the festive “Cupid and Psyche”, as well as “The Triumph of Galatea” here in Villa Farnesina. The few people who come are there to see the Raphael frescoes, but every room in the villa is spectacular.
Spotted by Alexandra Turney
Piazza Trilussa is definitely one of Rome’s most famous and characteristic zones. You walk over one of Rome’s prettiest bridges, namely “Ponte Sisto”, and just when you passed its highest point you’ll see a beautiful square up ahead of you, at which top end there are a few stairs leading up to an elegant little fountain from the 17th century. Piazza Trilussa is really a mix of locals and travelers. If you come back here later in the evening, the place will be full of people having a beer or a glass of wine on the stairs, creating a really nice evening vibe! Once you’ve sat down with (or without) your bottle of Chianti on the stairs, you will have a stunning view of the Tevere river opening up in front of you.
Spotted by Matteo Mueller-Thies
Dinner in Rome
Pasta and pizza are all well and good on a trip to Italy, but sometimes you just fancy a change… and if you do, Dar Filettaro is the right place to go. A hole-in-the-wall kinda place just off Campo dei Fiori, it’s usually full of locals. The specialty here is fried baccala, a type of salted cod, which they serve in paper to eat in or take away.
Fried baccala is very traditional street food in Rome. If you choose to eat in, there are a few other items on the menu to accompany the fish. For example puntarelle, a very Roman choice, is a salad made from chicory and a dressing of anchovies, garlic, vinegar, and olive oil. The house white wine, available by the litre, accompanies it well!
Spotted by Miranda Wadham
Evening drinks in Rome
After dinner, you might want to get some drinks nearby. Only seven minutes walking from Dar Filettaro, you’ll find Big Hilda. Big Hilda is one of many bars in this area to choose from. Trastevere is the nightlife capital of Rome. The streets are packed, and on a good night, almost all the bars are full. It can be difficult to find a place that has spare seats and won’t cost the earth!
Fortunately, right in the center, there is Big Hilda. It’s actually a pretty big bar, and even on a weekend night, there’s almost always space to come in and sit down. The best part about it? Between 5 and 10 pm, every day is Happy Hour! Glasses of wine are €3.50 and cocktails are between €4 and 5. It’s a really relaxed pub environment, all this makes it a great spot to have a few drinks, away from the chaos outside. And if you do want to get back to the chaos, return to Piazza Trilussa, buy yourself a beer, and have a seat on the stairs!
Spotted by Miranda Wadham