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Rail Europe: Top 5 cities in Italy to visit by train

Rail Europe: Top 5 cities in Italy to visit by train

Italy is a country of great passions, its art, culture, and food inspiring people from all over the world to visit in order to get a taste of la dolce vita.

The singularity and character of each city is seen in the playful nicknames they are given, from the Eternal City to la bella. Experience their many splendours by taking a train to one of these top Italian cities. Better yet, travel the country from top to toe to get a feel for just how powerful Italy’s cultural kick really is. Because this is a country so beautiful, even the train announcements sound like poetry.


Equal parts bougie and bolshie, grand and gritty, Bologna is the historic capital of the Emilia-Romagna region of Italy. While Rome is the “Eternal City” and Florence is “la Bella,” Bologna has three nicknames: “la dotta, la rossa e la grassa.” - La dotta,” the educated, doffs a cap to Bologna’s university founded in 1088, the oldest in Europe. “La rossa,” the red, is a reminder of the city’s left-leaning politics and its historic culture of student protests, while “la grassa,” the fat, is reflective of Bologna’s gastronomic grandeur, a city whose food legacy is as rich as the ragu it gave birth to.


Known as the Cradle of the Renaissance, Florence’s wealth of art and culture is breathtaking in its expansiveness. From fresco-adorned churches and museums bursting with masterpieces to 15th and 16th century palazzi practically around every corner, this UNESCO World Heritage city is a testament to Italy’s enduring cultural legacy. When travelling to Florence by train, don’t miss hiking up the 2km path from Ponte Vecchio to Piazzale Michelangelo at sunset. From this beautiful vantage point, it’s easy to see why Henry James once said of this city: “Everything about Florence seems to be coloured with a mild violet, like diluted wine.”


Genoa, Italy’s largest sea port, has a long history of welcoming travellers from near and far. Nicknamed “La Superba” (the Proud one), Genoa has a rich and contradictory history, its architectural heritage reflecting both its former glory days as the Most Serene Republic of Genoa in the 12th and 13th centuries, as well as its history of seafaring squalour. Today, Genoa is a sparkling historic city with an old town full of twisting caruggi (narrow streets), Enlightenment-era halls and a UNESCO-listed palazzi. Genoa is also a gateway to the Italian Riviera and the beautiful Cinque Terre, with a train to La Spezia taking just over 1 hr 30 mins.


A city where money talks, creativity thrives and fashion reigns, Milan is a heady blend of old-world romance and gritty, fast-paced cosmopolitanism. Thanks to its long-standing status as Italy’s financial capital, Milan’s mixture of old and new architectural styles is unlike any other Italian city. Art deco and rationalist buildings sit alongside Zaha Hadid’s additions to a contemporary skyline such as Generali Tower and CityLife Residences. In contrast, the National Science and Technology Museum Leonardo da Vinci, housed in a 16th century monastery, welcomes cultural disciples to The Last Supper. Travel to Milan by train for a fast-paced, high-fashion city where aperitivos are ritual and living well is an art-form.


Travel by train to Naples, a wholly singular city, blending together history and modernity with an energetic intensity quite unlike any other European destination. The birthplace of pizza draws plenty of hungry visitors each year, including those hungry for culture. Naples’ historic centre, a UNESCO World Heritage site, is the largest in Europe, covering 1,700 hectares and 27 centuries worth of history. Aside from exploring its own piazzas, frescoes and food, Naples is also the perfect jumping off point to visit Pompei and the glamorous Amalfi Coast.


South African Airways – 4 Top-Rated Tourist Attractions in Durban

South African Airways – 4 Top-Rated Tourist Attractions in Durban

Durban (eThekweni in Zulu) is South Africa's third largest city and one of its leading vacation destinations, with many top attractions. It's also a haven for surfers.

Golden Mile

A good starting point for a walking tour of Durban is the "Golden Mile." This bustling beachfront promenade is lined with high-rise hotels, entertainment complexes, shops, and restaurants. The broad, golden beaches are a magnet for water sports enthusiasts who come here to surf, swim, fish, or just bask in the sunshine. Lifeguards and shark nets protect most of the beaches year-round.

Durban Botanic Gardens

The Durban Botanic Gardens is the oldest surviving botanic garden in Africa. Set on the slopes of Berea Hill, northwest of the city center, the gardens were established in 1849 for the trial of agricultural crops. Today, visitors can stroll among the indigenous and exotic subtropical plantings, including majestic heritage trees, some of which are more than one hundred years old.

Umgeni River Bird Park

In the Riverside district, on the north bank of the Umgeni River, Umgeni River Bird Park features more than 200 species of birds, and some are the only representatives of their kind in Africa. On a network of paths running through lush landscaping and waterfalls, visitors can observe a variety of indigenous species, as well as birds from Southeast Asia and Australia, including lories, cockatoos, and aras.

Indian Quarter

Encompassing the Victoria Street Market and Juma Masjid Mosque, the largest in the southern hemisphere, Durban's Indian Quarter is now a multicultural mix of sights, sounds, and exotic aromas. Chinese, Pakistani, Indian, and Somali street vendors haggle along the narrow pavements, selling everything from spices and saris to beaded sandals, incense, and intricate handmade jewelry.

5 Facts about the Passion Play

5 Facts about the Passion Play

The Danube and the Passion Play, A Perfect Pairing

Do you love history, tradition, exploration and theater? Experience all these on one unforgettable vacation.

The Passion Play in Oberammergau, Germany is a true bucket list experience, made even more perfect when enjoyed before or after one of our Danube river cruises.

5 facts you may not know about Oberammergau and the Passion Play:

  1. The first Passion Play was performed 387 years ago in 1634.
  2. Oberammergau is a beautiful, historic Bavarian town known for woodcarvings, elaborate frescoes painted on many homes and buildings.
  3. After the devastating Thirty Years War (1618-1648), the townspeople vowed to perform a play every ten years depicting the life and death of Jesus, since God spared the town from the plague during and after the war.
  4. Actors begin to grow their hair and beards well in advance of the play.
  5. Almost 2,000 residents, or half of its population, participate in the Passion Play in some capacity.

Alitalia – Florence, The Cradle of The Renaissance

Alitalia – Florence, The Cradle of The Renaissance

A city of art that is truly one of a kind, Florence is a genuine open-air museum thanks to the countless traces left by its ancient masters. In a single stroll you can observe masterpieces such as Florence Cathedral, Brunelleschi's Dome, Giotto's Bell Tower and the Baptistery of St. John. And that's just the Piazza del Duomo!


It is the religious heart of the city, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and packed full with incredible monuments such as Florence Cathedral, with Brunelleschi's Dome - the symbol of Florence - and Giotto's Bell Tower, while in front you will find St. John's Baptistery, adorned with bronze gates created by Ghiberti and Pisano. The square alone makes a trip to Florence worthwhile.


If the Piazza del Duomo was the religious centre of Florence, the Piazza della Signoria was its political fulcrum. Here you will find the majestic Palazzo Vecchio, the administrative heart of the city, embellished at the entrance with a copy of Michelangelo's David (you can find the original at the Galleria dell'Accademia) and Baccio Bandinelli's Hercules and Cacus. On the side of the square you can find another open-air museum: the Loggia dei Lanzi, featuring statues including Perseus with the Head of Medusa and the Rape of the Sabine Women.


One of the most famous bridges in the world, not to mention one of the most romantic spots in Florence. It was the only bridge to have been spared by German troops in 1944, and is today sprinkled with luxury boutiques. Here you will also find the Vasari Corridor, an elevated pedestrian walkway commissioned to the architect Giorgio Vasari by Cosimo I of the Medici. The walkway leads from the Palazzo Vecchio to the Palazzo Pitti, Cosimo's family residence. The Ponte Vecchio, which is especially worth visiting at sunset, is one of the most evocative and most photographed locations in the whole of Florence.


One of the most significant and most visited museums in the world, the Uffizi Gallery is a must during a trip to Florence. Its rooms host the masterpieces of Leonardo, Caravaggio, Raphael, Giotto, Mantegna, Titian, Parmigianino and Botticelli, among others. Standouts among the thousands of works here include Botticelli's The Birth of Venus, Caravaggio's Medusa and Leonardo's Annunciation. The only inconvenience is the rather long queue to get in.

Rail Europe: 3 Cities In 1 Day With Eurostar

Rail Europe: 3 Cities In 1 Day With Eurostar

Most doable day trips

Day trips to Paris
At 2 hrs 16 mins from Saint Pancras station, Paris is very doable as a day trip. The 7:31 train will get you into Paris before 11 am so you'll have plenty of time to for a cup of coffee before heading off for a delicious lunch. Hop on the 39 bus from the Gare du Nord and head to Boulevard St Germain for your pick of traditional brasseries, upmarket art galleries and elegant stores. Or, take the number 65 to the historic Marais and visit the Picasso Museum, then explore the narrow streets of this super-trendy district.

Day trips to Brussels
At just under 2 hrs from London, you'll have plenty of time to explore the centre of Brussels in a day. The 08:19 train from St Pancras station will get you into Brussels Midi at 11:12 am, then it's a short walk or train ride into the centre of town. Head towards the main square - Grand Place - and explore the small streets leading off it.  Chocoholics will be in heaven, with a museum dedicated to Cocoa and chocolate shops on every corner. If chocolate isn't your guilty pleasure, try the waffles.

Day trips to Lille
Lille really is the ideal destination for a day trip at just 1 hr 32 mins from St Pancras station in London. Take the 08:55 train and you'll be in Lille for 11:27, the perfect 14 minutes amount of time to do the short walk from Lille Europe station to the main  Place du Général de Gaulle square.

You know you’ll have a good time shopping for luxury and branded items in Europe, but do you know what’s even better than a shopping spree? A discounted shopping spree! Make sure when you are in Europe, visit one (or two!) of  24 designer outlets in 9 European countries. If you are in Paris, McArthurGlen Troyes is just 2 hours away and McArthurGlen Roubaix is just 3 hours away from Brussels and 15 minutes away from Lille. Enjoy up to 70% discount all year round at these outlets offering your favourite luxury, premium and high-street brands. You are sure to have a great shopping haul at McArthurGlen Designer Outlets! Check out their locations: