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5 Italian hidden gems you can easily access by train

Make the most of Italy’s great (and cheap) train network by visiting these beautiful under-the-radar cities

Published by
Raph Giacardi·23/03/2023

Rome, Venice, Florence, Naples… Italy has so many fantastic cities that it’s easy to stick to the big hitters. But scratch under the surface and there are many fantastic towns and villages that deserve a visit.

Adventure outside the tourist hotspots and you can expect a more authentic experience – fewer tourists, no souvenir shops at every corner, restaurants serving local food for local people, and prices that are usually much lower.

Of course, hidden gems also mean destinations that aren’t necessarily served by international airports. But don’t let that put you off: Italy has a superb high-speed rail network, ItaloTreno, making all these places easily accessible. In fact, why not tag one of these places on your next Italian city break?

Best of all, unlike the UK, Italian trains are very affordable, so you won’t break the bank.

1) Trento, Trentino-Alto Adige

Set within the Adige Valley, Trento is surrounded by the Dolomites Mountains, which give the place a quaint mountain town vibe. You’d be forgiven for thinking you’ve landed in Switzerland or Austria. But make no mistake, Trento is Italian through and through, as the Renaissance frescoes on the facades of many of the town’s buildings remind you.

Start your visit at Piazza Duomo in the centre of the town, check out the Neptune Fountains and take a look at the surrounding historic buildings. We also recommend Buonconsiglio Castle (with its frescoes and crenellated towers), Orrido di Ponte Alto (a canyon with beautiful waterfalls) and the cable car ride to Sadagna for stunning views of the town.

Getting to Trento by train from:

  • Verona: tickets from 8.90€

  • Bologna: tickets from 8.90€

  • Milan: tickets from 19.90€

  • Rome: tickets from 29.90€

2) Bergamo, Lombardy

OK, this one might be a bit of a cheat, because Bergamo does have its own airport with flights from the UK (Milan Bergamo).

But, it’s also one of those places that, unless you know about it, you would probably file under ‘non-place with a low-cost airline-friendly airport near Milan’. And that, Bergamo is not. Just check out the hilltop Medieval citadel’s Venetian walls (a UNESCO World Heritage Site) – you don’t get these in Luton or Stansted.

The city is divided between Lower and Upper Bergamo, with a funicular linking the two. Start your visit in Lower Bergamo with the Centro Piacentiniano, the Cloister of Santa Marta and the Teatro Donizetti. Then head to Upper Bergamo to check out Piazza Vecchia, the Basilica di Santa Maria Maggiore and Porta San Giacomo.

Getting to Bergamo by train from:

  • Verona: tickets from 8.90€

  • Bologna: tickets from 12.90€

  • Roma: tickets from 44.90€

3) Udine, Friuli-Venezia Giulia

Udine, the second biggest city of the Friuli-Venezia Giulia region of Northeast Italy, is pretty as they come. Surrounded by mountains, with a historic centre and some of the area’s best food, it’s surprising it’s still under the radar.

To discover the city, just go on a relaxed stroll. Start at Piazza Libertà, the city’s 15th-century square. Then, walk down Via Mercatovecchio to Piazza Marconi. Finally, walk up to Castello di Udine.

In the evening, head back down to Via Mercatovecchio for a drink and some food. The town is lively in the evening and you’re guaranteed a good time.

Getting to Udine by train from:

  • Venezia Mestre: tickets from 8.90€

  • Milan: tickets from 16.90€

  • Bologna: tickets from 24.90€

  • Roma: tickets from 44.90€

4) Ferrara, Emilia-Romagna

A superbly preserved Renaissance superstar is how many people describe Ferrara. If you love history and off-the-beaten-path destinations, this one should definitely be on your list.

The city’s historic centre is UNESCO World Heritage Site and its many 16th-century palazzos, imposing churches and perfectly preserved Medieval walls are a delight.

Don’t leave the city without trying the uniquely shaped coppia ferrarese bread, make by cutting the dough into two strips. It is traditionally eaten with spicy salami.

Getting to Ferrara by train from:

  • Venezia Mestre: tickets from 8.90€

  • Bologna: tickets from 8.90€

  • Florence: tickets from 13.90€

  • Milan: tickets from 21.90€

5) Maratea, Basilicata

Think of Italian coastal towns and the name of Positano, Cinque Terra and Sorrento jump to mind – but Maratea belongs in this list too. Only, very few people know about it. This is great – as you can enjoy this undiscovered gem with few, if any, tourists in sight.

Frames by mountains and offering awesome sea views, the city is simply stunning. Start your visit with a leisurely walk around the port – you might even want to stop at one of the many bars and restaurants.

There are plenty of beautiful beaches in the area. And, if you prefer something a bit more active, climb Monte San Biagio to check out the large marble Christ statue, which was donated by textile magnate Stefano Rivetti in the 1960s.

Getting to Maratea by train from:

  • Naples: tickets from 22.90€

  • Rome: tickets from 34.90€

  • Florence: tickets from 49.90€

  • Milan: tickets from 65.90€

Travelling with ItaloTreno

We’ve picked these places, as they’re undiscovered Italian gems. But they only represent a small portion of the ItaloTreno network. Check out the network map to build your own journey.

How to book

The prices are for ItaloTreno’s eXtra MAGIC tickets, which are the cheapest but non-changeable and non-refundable. We found plenty of availability at the lowest prices. But you might need to be flexible with the day and time of travel to get the best price.

ItaloTreno offers discounts of up to 70% to young people, families, friends and older travellers. But these discounts apply to Flex tickets, which are more expensive. Flex tickets can be changed up to three minutes before departures and are partially refundable. If you like flexibility, this might be the better option for you but may cost more.

You can join the Italo Più loyalty program for 5% off your first ticket.

We've also negotiated a 5% discount on the cost of one return ticket when booking before 29 March. The discount applies on the Smart and Prima ticket categories. Use promo code ITALY. Trips must be at least 10 days after they booking date.

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