1. Milan to Bolzano
About the quickest way to travel from one world to another, the route from Milan to Bolzano whisks you from Italy's fashion capital and financial hub to the crisp, clean, alpine air of German-speaking Bolzano (or Bozen in German), nestled in a valley in the shadow of the Italian Alps. The scenic 3-5 hour train ride passes through medieval towns and beautiful countryside as it heads east towards romantic Verona, home of Romeo and Juliet, before cutting up through dramatic alpine scenery towards the breath-taking Dolomite Mountains. Trenord, Trenitalia, Frecciarossa, and Italo trains operate on this route, all leaving from Milano Centrale and changing at Verona Porta Nuova. Journey times vary between 2h 59m and 4h 57m, depending on how scenic a route you choose.
2. The Cinque Terre Express
The best way to visit the Cinque Terre is by train – with the added bonus of eliminating the stress of finding a parking place in these tight, quaint old villages. Aside from the jaw-dropping coastal landscape of soaring cliffs and rugged mountains, the famous Cinque Terre Express chugs through all five World Heritage-listed seaside villages from Levanto to La Spezia – so it's easy to spend time in every village even if you only have a day. As well as getting close-up views of every picturesque town, the super-scenic Cinque Terre Express has great views out to the Ligurian Sea and inland towards the mountains. Nearly 100 trains per day, leaving every 15 minutes 7 days a week, serve this popular route run by Trenitalia, so don't worry about long waiting times.
3. Reggio Calabria to Scilla
Immerse yourself in the heart of the Mediterranean and hop on one of Trenitalia’s regional trains to discover the railway line that connects the city of Reggio Calabria to Scilla, one of the most scenic train routes in Italy. You’ll be surrounded by ancient traditions, legends and landscapes dotted with fishing boats and islets. The ancient village of Scilla is dominated by the Ruffo castle, which stands on the promontory that divides the two beaches of Chianalea and Marina Grande. This vantage point on the Aeolian Islands still retains the charm of the ancient fishing village.
4. Venice to Florence
Chances are that these two timeless destinations are already on your bucket list, so we probably don't need to convince you to visit Venice and Florence. You can either let Frecciarossa, Frecciargento and high-speed Italo trains whisk you underground and through tunnels from Venice to Florence in no time at all or take Trenitalia’s regional trains. If you choose to travel on a regional train, you’ll pass through countryside villages, smaller towns, and some very attractive cities, such as Bologna, Prato, and Ravenna. You'll also travel at a speed at which you can appreciate the gorgeous landscapes as you climb up through Emilia-Romagna and drop down into the rolling Tuscan hills.
5. Rimini to Bari
For a truly scenic journey, we recommend you take Trenitalia's regional train from Rimini Station to Bari Centrale. Tracing almost the entirety of Italy's glittering Adriatic Coast, this train journey will have you gazing longingly out over the ocean, interrupted only by the sight of quaint fishing villages and picturesque towns along Italy's east coast. Some sections head inland for views towards the rolling hills of Tuscany, Umbria, and Lazio. The towns at both ends of the trip are well worth exploring too. Rimini is one of northern Italy's premier beach resorts and Bari, home to Puglia's famous baked treats, is a food lover's dream.
6. The Bernina Express
Among the most famous train routes in the world, the Bernina Express is the highest train in Europe and one of those railway experiences you should try and do at least once in your lifetime. Running between Tirano (Italy) and St Moritz (Switzerland), the Bernina railway cuts through so much amazing alpine scenery that it's a designated UNESCO World Heritage route. Highlights include skirting around three lakes at the railway's highest point through the Bernina Mountain Pass and overlooking the vast expanse of the Upper Engadine Valley after emerging from the Albula Tunnel. There are plenty of cultural highlights and engineering landmarks too, like the unique Brusio Loop circular viaduct, the 213-ft high Landwasser Viaduct, and many tunnels. The Bernina Express has specialised super-sized windows to maximise your viewing experience.
7. Rome to Sicily
If you like the idea of long-haul scenic train routes in Italy, you'll love the direct daily Trenitalia services from Roma Termini station to the island of Sicily. Yes, that's right. This is a direct train route that crosses the water – the train gets carried across the Straits of Messina on a ferry, a unique and memorable experience in itself. Before you get there, though, you have a beautiful journey all the way down Italy's Tyrrhenian Sea coast to enjoy, with sweeping views of the Bay of Naples, Mount Vesuvius, and the rugged rock formations of Calabria. After reaching Sicily, the train continues either south to Catania and Siracusa, or west onto Palermo.
8. The Brenner Pass route
The Brenner Pass has been used for moving people since pre-Roman times, and the Brenner Pass railway connects Venice all the way to Munich over the Austrian Alps. It is often included in lists of the most scenic railway journeys in Europe, and it's easy to see why. One of its most scenic stretches is the section climbing slowly from Verona, up through northern Italy towards the Dolomites and the town of Brennero on the Austrian border. Out the window, the scenery gradually goes from Renaissance villages to sleepy farmlands, then thick pine forests and broad valleys with grazing cows before a climax of snow-capped alpine peaks and rugged rock formations. The direct journey from Verona to Brenner, run by Trenitalia, takes about 3 hours in total and departs from Verona Porta Nuova.
Feeling inspired? The most scenic train routes in Italy are waiting. And it couldn't be easier to book online, so if you're really serious about scenery, we suggest you claim your place sooner rather than later.